Sunday, November 26, 2006

Welcome to Our Christmas Curio Shop

The good thing about having a son with a type-A personality is he takes over pesky tasks like decorating for Christmas. The bad thing is (see above.)

The day after Thanksgiving, I carted down the Topsy popcorn tins full of fake greenery and apples and mistletoe; and Santas and snowmen and angels and ornaments obscurely related to Christmas.

Oh, look: it's the Christmas football field drawn with pen on notebook paper, "laminated" with scotch tape, and hanging by an S-shaped paperclip. That one obviously was crafted by my brother Luke. God deprived him of any art skills whatsoever. Now we know that God's plan was to steer Luke away art school and toward medical school. At the time, we thought God simply wanted us to have the ugliest Christmas ornaments in the universe. My scotch tape laminated notebook paper angel with giant frog eyes, on the otherhand, was magnificent.

Then there are the Scrooge character figurines. Mrs. Cratchet holds a styrofoam plum pudding with a big bite chomped out of it. That was the year Johnny took a bite out of all the fake apples, too. Which makes sense. I mean, as a one year old, he must have thought, "Who puts fake apples on the dining room table? Oh, good god, the tiny plum pudding is a phony, too."

This year, as soon as the tins hit the dining room floor, Johnny tore off the newspaper wrapping and arranged every single decoration in straight lines on the living room hope chest. When you walk in, our house looks like a Christmas curio shop.

Actually, he didn't put all decorations there. He put two little nutcrackers on top of our alarm clock--which will make pushing the snooze button 70 times in the morning a challenge.

Richie and J.J. meanwhile had the Santas and Scrooge and the Nativity donkey and angel candle talk to each other.

With Richie, the conversation went like this like this:

Santa: My mommy said I could have candy.

Scrooge: Well, my mommy said I could have Sprite.

Santa: Well, my mommy said I could have candy and Sprite.

Scrooge: hmph.

Santa: hmph.

J.J.'s went like this:

Angel candle: Roar.

Mary's Donkey: Roar.

Did you ever notice that when kids play with figurines, they have them hop up and down the whole time they're talking. They also conk heads in the middle of the conversation. That's what it must look like to kids when they see us big people talking.

I left the decorations where they were. Honestly, it's the only clear surface in our house.

I realized this year that I'd never bought a Christmas decoration. We have ones that are special because they were gifts, but I wanted to buy something to pass down to whichever child eventually becomes my favorite (kidding! It will be whoever's childhood memories of Justin and me are the most flattering.)

So I bought a Tomie Paola wooden nativity set. That's why J.J. was able to have a growl off between the angel candle and donkey. I'm not sure who won. The angel probably eventually flew away. Now she's sitting next to football player Santa on our curio shop display table.

They're probably growling at each other over a glass of highly coveted and often forbidden Sprite. Merrrrry Chrrrristmas.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Grownups are from Earth; Children are from Neptune

What I love about one year olds is they can walk and talk (sort of) but they just have no clue about how this planet works. They're like short aliens.

Ever since Halloween, J.J. has watched his brothers get candy from their bowls after dinner. He goes over and helps himself to a little box of nerds or a tootsie roll. But then he won't let anybody open them for him. He thinks we'll steal it. So he stares at the candy, expecting to open it telepathically, I guess. And finally, he starts eating the box.

It's the same with everything. He looks at me quizically to find out the protocal. I try to imagine what he's thinking.

"Rocks. Do I chew them up? Just suck on them? What? Do I eat them with fingers? Why is your hand in my mouth?

Okay, now the remote control--that goes in the trash right? I'm cleaning up a little bit. I threw away the portable phone, and your keys and airplane tickets, too. need to thank me. Just doing my part. I rearranged the refridgerator. Figured you'd want everything on the floor instead."

The funny thing is...Richie, at 4, still has these alien tendencies. The other day he found a ball of dried out play dough. Did he throw it away? Leave it alone? No, he nibbled at it like a popcorn ball.

"Does that taste good?" I asked.

He laughed strangely. Maybe my kids are aliens. This would explain why I always start my sentences with "We don't." "We don't smear toothpaste on the walls so that it looks like we brushed our teeth. We don't wrestle in church. We don't go ballistic over Lincoln Logs. We don't fall to pieces over Spiderman stickers. We don't call grownups bubble bottoms. Etc."

It's short for "Here on Earth, we don't..."

Well, the alien-type behavior has its rewards. Scientists think that prolonged childhood is what made us humans the brilliant people we are today. So when our children grow up, they, too, can say intelligent things like, "Remote control not trash. Banana peel not hat. We don't eat rocks."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sometimes a Sandwich is just a Sandwich

Richie and J.J. and I got home from the park today and a book was in our mailbox...Murder 101. Being the reasonable person that I am, I immediately assumed that someone wanted to kill me.

Because, you know, most murder plots start with a book in the mailbox.

It turned out it was from my mom. She had even shown me the book two days ago and said, "I am going to give this book--Murder 101--to you," and I still didn't know what was going on when I saw it in the mailbox. She had removed the cover, so it looked different. Still, it made me realize how I always imagine the worst case scenario.

It's like when Justin and I came home one night and there was a sandwich in our mailbox.

I wondered, "Did someone walk by eating a sandwich and use our mailbox as a trashcan? Or are our friends sharing their leftovers with us."

And then I narrowed my eyes and thought, "Or is someone trying to poison us?"

It's always your friends leftovers. Take my word for it.

And the plastic bag or cardboard box in the middle of the street? Do you always swerve to miss it? Because baby bunnies might be inside? Yeah me, too, but I always see it blow away and it's totally empty.

The moral of the story is things are seldom as tragic as you think. And who better to remind you of this than your children, the most melodramatic people on the face of the earth.

Richie, for instance, burst into tears Tuesday when he suspected that I voted a second time. "You voted again? Without me?" he wailed.

This morning, I spent two and a half hours writing a story that took just one second to vanish off the face of the earth.

"No. No. No. Come back!" I yelled.

"Well, at least you have your family," Johnny said.

Yes. That was true.

"Just call your boss and tell her it will be late," he added.

"Tell her you want the day off," Richie chimed in.

In a panic, I rebooted and shut down the computer and pressed a bunch of buttons. Finally, I stopped looking for it.

"I'm frustrated because I woke up early to write that story," I explained to the boys, who were looking at each other, like, "Can you believe this broad?"

"Well, you could work during the day, you know," Johnny said.

"But then I couldn't stay home with you guys," I said.

"Well, you need to do what your life tells you to do," he said.

Finally, I conceded that this wasn't the end of the world.

"No that would be meteors hitting the middle of the earth," Johnny said.

Conversations like this always amuse me. Especially since last week, our conversation went more like this:

Johnny: gagging

Me: What? Do you have a hair in your mouth?

Johnny: No. I ate a booger that was gross. Most of them are sweet.

Me: The kids at school will make fun of you for eating your boogers.

Johnny: No, they don't.

Me: So you're telling me they make fun of kids for wearing longsleeve shirts but not for eating their own boogers.

Johnny: Yes.

Unbelievable. The lunacy in schools today.

But you know what? The kids were right. I never found the story, but rewriting it wasn't hard. Nobody is threatening us with the old book-in-the mailbox scare. And meteors are not hitting the earth. Not giant ones anyway. Things are never as bad as they seem. A sandwich in the mailbox is just a snack. Nothing else.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Thanks for all the Helpful Phone Call Reminders, Candidates

A lot of people vote on a single issue. Like, "Are you a Republican or Democrat?" That kind of thing.

I, too, vote on one issue: Did the candidate have a robot call me during Lost?

We have a rule in our house: No questions or comments during Lost. And DEFINITELY no recorded messages from politicians.

No seriously, voting on that issue would be selfish. I vote for God's will and the greater good. As opposed to evil and selfishness, like some people. I'm sure you know which side you come down on.

The good side, right?

That's why I limit my Election Day commentary to campaign annoyances. Because when it comes to politics, there's only two sides, My side, and the dumb and the wrong side.

But I wish those candidate messages allowed a rebuttal.

For example, "Yes, I know November 7 is election day. You have called me 50,000 times to remind me. I get it now. Contrary to popular belief among my children, I'm not a total idiot."

In addition, the candidates have sent seven different organizations to our house to ask us if we were going to vote. I swear these people have obsessive compulsive disorder. "Well they said they were going to vote. But let's call them again to make sure. And again. And again..."

Justin calls this The End of Political Ads Day. I don't mind all the negativity. But when they start talking about offshore bank accounts and tax shelters, I get jealous. I don't care which candidate has one. The message I hear is that politicians make so much money that one country isn't big enough to hold it. My husband and I don't make enough to warrant an onshore bank account, let alone an offshore one.

Well, rock the boat and rock the vote, is what I always say. Just don't say which side of the boat you stand on. Because in Missouri, there's a 50-50 chance it's the wrong side.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Hardest Job in the World? Today it Was

People often say being an at-home mom is the hardest job in the world. Yeah, right, I think. Not that it isn't hard, I just think there have to be harder jobs. Being a garbage man in San Francisco, for instance. Running up all those hills while carrying heavy bags and dodging trolleys. Or a snake charmer. A lion tamer. A bullrider. Anything involving animals who want to kill you.

But some days, I get what they mean. This morning, for instance, I would have picked up trash in San Francisco while riding a bull, playing the flute for a snake and with my head in a lion's mouth if it meant getting out of our house. Everybody woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and only got one story done because the kids woke up at 6 a.m. Johnny had all these worksheets he needed help with (which are just for fun but which he stresses out over as though they are his doctorate dissertation.) When I gave J.J. his bottle he threw it across the room. Johnny and Richie were fighting. And someone was throwing a big fit.

Oh, that was me.

It would be like if you walked into your office and everyone started yelling at you and throwing things and demanding you to do x, y and z.

I hate it when people remain calm in these situations. It makes me suspect that they are robots. Possibly evil ones. At the same time, I wish I could remain calm. Rather than sending Johnny off to school looking as relieved as though he escaped a madhouse.

Well, things are nice and calm now. Yes, kids are pretty easy to take care of--when they're asleep.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints (and Candy Sneekers) Day

Richie was a little vampire last night for Halloween. My mom drew pointy eyebrows on him. Richie's own eyebrows are the same color as his skin, so the drawn-on ones looked real. He looked like a cartoon. A cross between Eddie Munster and Lil' Abner. This was even funnier today when he was wearing a turtleneck and jeans. Just a regular 'ol vampire cartoon human, eating his cereal.

He spent three hours today with his candy. Counting it. Staring at it. Asking questions about it.

He held up a pink tootsie pop.

"If I eat this will I turn into a girl?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

He kept it anyway.

Nothing can keep Richie away from his Halloween candy. Or any kid for that matter. Do you want your kid to be a prodigy? Rig up your piano to shell out one piece of his Halloween candy for every new symphony he composes. By Thanksgiving, you'll have the next Mozart on your hands.

Richie had to wait until after lunch to actually eat the candy.

Overtly, anyway.

"I'm going to hide," he told me.

"What are you hiding from?" I asked.

"I don't have to tell you," he said. "Because it isn't a secret."

He hid under the kitchen sink between the trash can and recycle bin.

Oddly, whenever he hid, candy disappeared from it's wrapper. Coincidentally, I found the crumpled wrappers right where Richie had been hiding. (In spite of the fact that the trashcan was only three centimeters away.)

The third time he did this, I said, "Leave the candy on the table."

"But I'm not going to eat it," he said.

"Then why do you need to bring it with you?" I asked.

Richie laughed nervously. Then he tried to sneek a piece from right under my eyes.

I've said it once and I'll say it again. My children think I'm an idiot.

J.J., too, became addicted to candy last night. At first, he wasn't too happy about his Bumblebee costume. It denied him easy access to his own belly. J.J. likes to have one hand on his bare tummy at all times. It's his security belly. Reassurance that he could survive a famine. The bulkiness of the bumblebee costume made this hard.

But he changed his toon when he learned that tootsie rolls were the reward for being a bee.

Johnny, too was serious about candy. He trick-or-treated like it was his job. And he noted, "A lot of people in our neighborhood don't celebrate Halloween."

Indeed, a lot of people, like our next door neighbor, turn out their lights and lock the doors. But sweetheart that she is, our neighbor brought each of the boys a little bag of candy.This allowed her to explain why she doesn't celebrate Halloween: It's because nowadays, most trick or treats are poisoned or filled with razorblades. Not to mention that many jack-o-lanterns are traps set by pedophiles.

"It's a dumb holiday," she said. "And it's going out of style."

So much for Halloween cheer.

We did have a Halloween miracle. Or so I thought. Richie gave me half a bag of skittles. HE GAVE AWAY CANDY! But as I ate them, I noticed the vibrant color was washed off of them.

"Did you lick these?!" I asked.

"No," Richie said, Raising his real eyebrows to the smug height of his fake ones. "Johnny did."

And now the kids won't even give me their spicy candy. They plan to trade it with teenagers. Apparently there is a black market for Halloween candy that us grownups don't know about.

Well, enough about Halloween. Our easy listening radio station is already playing Christmas music today. Before the kids even polish off their Halloween candy. Now that's scary.