Monday, October 30, 2006

It's a Hard Candy Halloween

It's bigger. It's badder. It's Halloween 2006. Like it or not--and I like it a lot--Halloween gets bigger every year.

Now it's like Christmas' rebelious kid sister. Both have candy. Instead of mistletoe, Halloween has cobwebs. Both have important music written in their honor. Halloween: The Monster Mash. Christmas: A Hard Candy Christmas by Dolly Parton.

But wait...something's missing. Christmas has a meaning: Jesus bringing light to the darkness. What is the meaning of Halloween? This year, I read that the meaning of Halloween is making fun of evil in the world. Evil does not like to be made fun of because it has no sense of humor and thinks it's all that.

This revelation explained a lot of things. Like why my boys--and every boy at our school Halloween Fun Night--were dressed as scary things. Johnny: a giant spider. Richie: a dragon (but now he wants to be a vampire because a dragon isn't scary enough.) Every older boy: a ghoul. Or a storm trooper. Or a soccer player with a bleeding head. That one was surprisingly popular.

I can just see the parents: "Oh, God. Is it Halloween already? Here, put on your jersey and wrap your head in gauze."

This is all new to me. You see, I was a girl as a kid. I dressed as princesses, angels and Pippi Longstocking. One year I was a pig. But I was never a psychoskeleton. Or bad guy of any kind. (Except for the year my dad and I dressed as rural murderers Fay and Ray Copeland for a father-daughter dance.)

Things haven't changed for girls.

Most the girls at the school were princesses, cheerleaders, mermaids or Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. So what is the meaning of Halloween for girls? Glamour, maybe?

Oh, who am I kidding? The meaning of Halloween, for girls and boys, is trick-or-treating. For grownups, the meaning is the candy they bring home. Justin and I tax the kids 10 percent off the top for living under our roof. I also garnish all Reese's peanut butter cups as payment for spending three hours looking for baby boy black tights for a certain bumblebee and a lost cape belonging to a vampire who shall go unnamed.

Of course, seeing how cute the kids look is payment enough...almost. I'll at least need the "picy" red hots that Richie will only spit out anyway and then act like his whole head is on fire.

Well, if a little vampire comes to your door this Halloween, you know how to scare him away--with cinnamon candy.

Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's a Circus Around Here!

This will make you jealous...or feel sorry for us, but when we go shopping, people give us things.

For instance, one day we came out of the grocery store and $20 was on my driver's seat. Underneath was a note that said, "Your boys were so good at the store, they deserve a treat!"

If by good, she meant racing up and down the aisles pretending to be cheetahs, then yes, they were very good.

On the way home, I thought about why she would do this.

Maybe she felt sorry for us because she overheard me telling the boys they couldn't have the Fear Factor popcicles, which cost an outrageous $3.35. They could get the freezie pops instead. When I was growing up, cost comparison was normal. Maybe it isn't anymore.

Or maybe she heard me ask them to FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DIAL IT DOWN and thought I was on the verge of losing it.

Or maybe she was just really, really nice.

Of course, my sons are VERY good, just not at the grocery store.

Then we were at Walmart buying school supplies. A Shriner was outside taking donations for poor kids to go to the circus. As we passed by, I could tell he was going to say something. I was thinking about my answer. Like, "Wish I could help, but school supplies cost an arm and a leg this year..."

Instead, he gave us four of the poor children's tickets.

What was that supposed to mean?

No seriously, the man probably gave them to us because he knew that my brother dressed up as a Shriner one year for Halloween. That opened a lot of doors to shrines for our family.

Long story short, we went to the circus yesterday.

It was fun to watch Johnny and Richie crack up when Wally the Clown played music when he wasn't supposed to. The three grown men sitting next to us--with no children in tow--chanted "Go Wally! Go Wally!" throughout the routine.

We had to leave at intermission because J.J.--who missed his morning nap--declared himself--via body language--king of our section. Every light up toy was his. All his. "Hand them over immediately, you paupers," he seemed to say.

We would have bought our own, but they were sold out. (Ignore the bright shiny lighty things at the concession area children. They are mere illusions. Part of the magic of the circus.)

There's certain things you notice as a grown up at the circus that you don't as a kid. For instance, I can count on one finger the male circus performers who don't have a mullet. And it's a certain kind of mullet. Clean cut. Squared off in the back. The circuis mullet, I guess.

But mostly, the circus really doesn't change. The circuis acrobats still have opposable big toes, which allows them to grip ropes with their feet as well as their hands. The tight rope walker is still incredible. This guy did the Riverdance on a rope. Take that Michael Flatly! That Wally routine was going on when I was a kid. And after the circus, the boys great, great uncle George stopped by. "Did they have the motorcycle?" he asked.

And they did!

The boys' favorite part was the tigers. But Johnny remarked about their trainer. "That lady didn't seem like she liked the tigers."

That's exactly what I used to think during that part. And yet, the tigers never eat her up.

Some things never change. Thanks for the tickets, Shriners. And thanks, Josh, for getting us in good with them.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Plastic All Right?

In the middle of writing a long and drawn out article, I got an urgent need to clean the upstairs and attic. It was like my domestic side was jealous of the career side. Why should she get to have all the nervous breakdowns?

So cleaning out the attic, I found several broken things, which, craftsperson that I am, I was going to make into some sort of collage. That stuff went in the trash. I also realized that we have a whole corner of the attic devoted to storing baskets. Wicker ones of all shapes, sizes and colors, like they had fallen from the heavens. I prayed for "assets" and God thought I said, "Baskets."

We have enough clothing stored up there to outfit an entire village, including a box of clothes that belong to my husband's friend, who left them in Phoenix seven years ago. He has given us permission to give them away. I guess we're waiting for him to change his mind.

After I got through with the attic, I started dejunking the downstairs little by little. Today it was the broom closet, which instead is filled with plastic bags. Thousands of them. Do you do this, hoard those bags just in case every grocery store, drug store and department store, and every other retailer in the land runs out of them? I don't even like plastic bags. I'd ask for paper more often if the grocery sackers didn't get so mad about it.

They're like, "Plastic all right?" All cheerful and fun-loving.

And I'm like, "Paper please, actually."

And they let go of the plastic bag and stare at me like, "What did you just say? No, seriously. What in the hell did you just say?"

And I'm like, "plastic's fine," in the tiniest voice imaginable.

So I threw some of this stuff away, but left just enough to be magnets for more junk. I just can't bring myself to do a clean sweep.

I guess I'm afraid that someday someone will come to our door and say, "Give me 16 baskets--nine of which are pink and seafoam striped and 12 bags of clothing, one of which hasn't been opened in seven years. OR ELSE."

And I'll be like, "Plastic okay?"

Monday, October 16, 2006

The People In Our Neighborhood

Richie listens to a Sesame Street cd with the song "These are the people in our neighborhood."

I remember hearing the same song and, even as a kid, thinking, "Really? Everyone in your neighborhood is a civil servant who loves to do his part for society? What about the neighbor whose burp you can hear from halfway around the block and who decorates his Christmas tree with beer cans? Or the mean lady who confiscates your baseballs when they fall in her yard because they "kill the grass." Or the guys who apparently have full-time jobs as mean-spirited frisbee throwers?"

No...It's "Oh the postman always brings the mail through wind and snow and sleet and hail..."

Today Richie and I ran an errand to the drug store down the street. There was a 50 year old man eating tootsie rolls in the candy aisle. Just unwrapping them one after another and popping them in his mouth. I don't know if he was sampling them or what, but apparently he liked what he tasted and bought a bunch of them along with purple wine coolers. Another lady was staring at trail mix for like an hour. It was like a contest to determine the ingredients without picking up the packages. And I was staring at her staring at it.

On another errand, a man asked me to sign a petition. I said no thanks. He turned back around and said, "Hey, do you want to sign this petition?" I said, "no" again, and a couple seconds later he asked, "Oh, hey, do you want to sign here?"

I could just picture what was going through his head.

"Well, she didn't want to sign. Maybe I'll have better luck with this lady. Nope, maybe this next lady will sign." He really thought I was three different people.

I was ready to say, "Yeah, I'll sign it. I don't know what those other lady's problem is. Snoo-tay."

Then the manager came out and said, "Will you do me a favor? Get off my property."

These are the people in our neighborhood.

The man who leaves his Christmas decorations up until seemingly the 4th of July. Rumor has it his wife left him at Christmas. Here I just thought he was lazy.

The older lady who every time you see her says, "Well, I'll be moving out soon." And you ask, "Where are you moving to?" And she says, "Well, hopefully, I'm going to die." And you look at her surprised, and she says, all non-challant, as if talking about a slot machine, "Honey, I'm ready to cash it in. I'm too old for this."

These are the people in our neighborhood.

The older lady brings us her margerine and candy if she and her ill son don't eat it by a certain date. It always smells like cigarette smoke. And it always has a really lovely, often melancholy note attached..."The flowers are wilting, as am I. Some sweets for my sweet neighbors."

They contribute to society. Just not like in the song. Of course, it would be a pretty awkward kid song if they sang about the people that were really in our neighborhoods:

Oh, George can't wait to get ho-ome
To eat his tootsie ro-olls.

And Bob sees everyone in triplicate
And asks them to sign petitions.

These are the people in our neighborhood...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Glare for the Camera

We got Johnny's school pictures back today. He's glaring into the camera in one. Just glaring. It was like he was posing for an ad on the back of the phone book. "Have you been wrongfully accused? Suffered at the hands of a medical practitioner? Or been caught going more than 70 miles per hour over the speed limit? Call Johnny Heos, trial attorney."

In the other photo, he looks the same, only with his eyebrows raised.

I'm sure the photographer said, "This time, smile," but Johnny heard, "Now I want you to look mildly suprised but, on the whole, indifferent."

"Why didn't you smile?" I asked.

"Because I didn't want to," he said.

"Do you want me to order some of these to trade with your friends?" I asked, thinking, "or to pass out at fender benders?"

I just don't understand kids. They should relish these days of paying $15 to have your photo taken.

Yesterday, an editor needed a photo of me. I went through 300 family photos. I was in three, always holding a baby and looking really wierd. I think in every single one of them I was still on vicadin from the childbirth recovery. So I cut J.J. out of one of his own baptism photos (which seemed wrong somehow) and sent it to the editor. He basically asked if I was kidding him. He said it was totally pixilated, whatever that means. I think it means drunk, which I wasn't...yet. I hadn't even been to communion.

Justin ended up taking a photo of me on our back porch, which looked like my seventh grade "awkward stage" photo with computerized age progression. And the computer assumes that you've spent the last 17 years going through the washing machine ringer.

So, if I had a professional photo taken, I wouldn't squander the opportunity by trying to kill the camera with my laser glare.

No, I don't understand kids. I used to remember my childhood. I felt like I could relate to kids. Now, I feel like I'm dealing with aliens. Surely I never did the illogical things they do.

I don't understand why they would sooner blow their noses on their own shirts than walk 10 feet to the kleenex box. Why J.J. will turn around and go backwards down a one-inch crack in the sidewalk--as if to say, "Better safe than sorry is my motto." Then later he'll dive head first off the couch just for the heck of it.

Or why Richie, when he had a friend over the other day, watched our dog knock down the train track. The friend said, "The doggy broke the train." And Richie said, "The doggie didn't do it. You did it."

Why would you accuse someone of that for the sheer orneriness of it?

No, I don't understand kids. But what would I do without the laughter they provide? I think I will frame Johnny's photo just because his glare makes me laugh.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Star Wars for Prayers

Justin and I went to Las Vegas for a wedding this weekend. It was beautiful. And they have this new service where you just donate $60 to a guy at the door for the Fancy Casino Fund (FCF) and head for the pool instead sitting at a smoky slot machine for an hour. Well, they should have that service.

The only problem is now Richie doesn't love me anymore.

I said, "I love you Richie," when we got back.

Total silence.

"Do you still love me?" I asked.

"No, I don't," he said, matter-of-factly.

"Why not?" I asked.

He said, "Well, Ma loves me. And if Ma loves me you can't love me."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because if you both love me, the girl scouts at the block party will kiss me and their mouths will be spicy."

(Meaning that they brush their teeth with Colgate.)

So, at least there is a logical explanation.

I thought this would pass. But this morning Richie said he loved me, only this time, he didn't love Ma (his grandma.)

It's as if he's saying, "Stand in line ladies, there's only one of me and too many of you to count."

So tonight, I tried to give Richie a guilt trip at prayer time.

"God, I pray that Richie will realize that lots of people love him and he can love lots of people," I said.

"And I pray that mommy won't pray that," Richie said.

"And I pray that Richie's prayer will be destroyed," Johnny said.

It was like Star Wars for prayers.

"Um, I don't think it's allowed to pray against or destroy other people's prayers," I said.

"And I pray that mommy won't say that," Richie said.

Well, I guess Vegas isn't the only place where I can't win.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's Not Whether You Win or Lose, It's Whether You Get a Medal

Richie had his last soccer game Tuesday. In all games before this, Richie's main goal was to make eye-contact with every player on the field and then share a laugh. Richie is his name, making friends is his game. Occassionally, he'd take a break from this to give us the thumbs up or do a superhero move.

But on the last night, I don't know what got into him. He started running after the ball. And kicking it in the right direction. Finally, he dribbled it right over and kicked it about 10 feet into the goal.

This didn't phase him at all because, like I said, while it was a goal, it wasn't the goal. Which was making friends, and looking like a superhero at all times.

His coach passed out medals. Once home, Richie changed into his jammies and put the medal on again.

He read the engraved words to me: "It says, Dear Oggie. Thank you for coming to my soccer game. Amen." Oggie is his friend and teamate.

He climbed onto the couch and I told him how special it was to score a goal in a soccer game. He stared at me blankly.

"Remember when I turned into a machine?" he asked me.

"Yes," I said.

"Look," he said, pinching himself. "I'm back to normal again."

Then he noted, "I only like one vegetable. And it's bananas."

In the car, Johnny was sad that he didn't get a medal. He's not playing soccer this season because I'd always coached him and this year, I didn't get a team together. Plus, he's taking chess lessons and I just figured we'd take a breather.

I responded to his sadness by telling him that he had a wonderful life and should stop feeling sorry for himself.

He said, "But I never got a medal when I played soccer."

"You got a trophy," I said.

"But it was plastic!" he cried.

Yes, when I coached Johnny in soccer, I passed out plastic trophies filled with candy. I didn't know I had a fine metal appraiser for a son! Plus, I couldn't figure out where in the heck to buy medals, like all the other coaches/moms/dads knew by parental instincts, apparently. It was one of many fiascos that year. Such as how the other team's coach would say, "What's the most important thing to remember during the game?" And they would yell, "To have fun!" and I would ask the question and my players would say, "Not to punch anyone!" because one of our players would do just that if not reminded from the get-go not to.

Anyway, you live, you learn. But I always knew Johnny wanted a real medal, and I felt bad that as his coach and mom, I couldn't deliver. I probably had some deadline to meet the day I should have googled "Medals soccer Kansas City."

Still, I reiterated the fact that he should appreciate his wonderful life.

I drove home, feeling guilty that as the first child, Johnny bore the brunt of my parental cluelessness. For instance, come to find out, you don't have to organize an entire team, you just sign the kid up and they put him on a team. With a coach who knows where to buy medals.

The radio played some generic rock song.

I heard a voice in the back seat, which sounded like, "Mama? I ya ma omie."

I turned down the radio.

"What did you say, Johnny?" I asked.

"Mama," he said. "I like my trophy."