Monday, February 26, 2007

I'd Like to Thank the Academy

How many friendships end on the Academy Awards stage, I wonder.

Every time multiple winners take the stage, the first guy hogs the microphone.

First he says, "I wasn't going to tell this story, but I'll tell it anyway."

The second guy in line rolls his eyes.

The first guy finishes his story and thanks everyone he's ever worked with.

The second guy fights back tears as he watches the clock tick.

Finally, the first guy thanks his wife and his mother, who he tells a story about.

The next guy in line makes a mental note to kill the first guy in line.

Finally, the first guy steps aside. The second guy rushes to the microphone. Just then, the music plays.

He opens his mouth to speak, but a guy wearing a tuxedo leads him away by the elbow.

Last night, one poor award winner could only yell, "Linda!" before being escorted off stage.

The award was for something like best technical sound. It was his one chance to be on camera.

Oh well, better luck next year.

But you know what always surprises me about the Oscars? The number of winners who say, "Oh, my God! I didn't even write a speech."

Let me get this straight. They have a one in four chance of winning the most coveted award in America, and they didn't jot down a few notes? I've written an Academy Awards speech. And I'm not even an actress.

I love the Academy Awards, though. Especially the red carpet. It's like a chance to relive prom without actually having to be there, this time.

This year, I thought Ellen DeGeneres was hilarious as the host, especially during the offstage moments.

I also liked when a woman with an accent accepted her Best Costume award and said, "I wanted to win the doll, but I was also frightened."

She called the Oscar a doll. Like it was a Bingo prize. I loved that.

As for the big awards, I missed them. There were only so many times I could watch people win without getting to give a speech.

On that note, I'd like to thank the Academy for the doll. I won something similar at Bingo, but not as heavy. This is heavy! Seriously. I can barely lift it. Anyway. I'd like to thank myself for putting up with everybody at Universal and Paramount. I'd like to thank my mom and dad, my inlaws my brothers and sisters, and their inlaws. I'd like to thank my husband and children. I'm sorry I didn't get to see much of you this year, but it was worth it. For me at least it was...(Music plays, and from behind me somebody leans into the microphone and yells, "Linda!" I guess I wasn't the only one on our team who wanted to give a speech. Oops!)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Our Boss is a Big Baby

Every organization has a head-honcho and then someone who is really in charge. When you're a worker, no one tells you who the real leader is. But you find out soon enough.

Say for instance, you work at a school. The principal hired you. However, during your first week, you get 78 memos from the computer teacher. She also signs your paychecks.

Your co-workers inform you that she is your actual boss. When she is sick, it's your fifth grade student's mother.

Well, in our house, the actual leader is our 1-year-old. Only his preferred job title is "ruler."

If he has one bottle, he wants two. When he wakes up in his crib, and we rush in to pick him up, he throws a fit. He wanted us to get him before he wanted us to get him.

We occasionally laugh at the baby's demands ("Candy for breakfast, ha ha, I don't think so, Tiny Tot.") This makes him livid. To get back at us, he throws the dog food in the dog's water. This makes our whole house smell like beef liver. Another favorite prank: throwing the portable phone in the trash.

All this upheavel requires a lot of cleaning. But who has time? His majesty wants a playmate at all times. And not some kid, either. He demands a grownup, like he perceives himself to be. We play blocks. Then, seconds later, trains. Next books. No, coloring. No, blocks.Trains.Books.Coloring. Blockstrainsbookscoloring. Like a lot of bosses, he has ADHD.

The situation has gotten out of hand. Justin asked the other night how long this behavior would last.

Well, a lot of people think this age is called "the terrible twos" and lasts one year. In fact it's "the terrible toos" because it lasts too damn long. It begins at 18 months and drags on until they're four years old...or forever, in some cases.

I pray to God it's the first option.

Tonight, we were eating dinner. Well, somebody decided he no longer has time to eat with his family. In fact, he tried to drag each of us by the hand into the living room while we ate.

Apparently, he sent out a memo earlier in the day that said:

There is a mandatory staff meeting in the living room at 5 p.m. or whenever you hoped to eat dinner. No food is allowed. If you miss this session, you can pick up your remote control at the city dump later in the week.
Thanx, managememt.
P.S. Come prepared to

He is a very effective boss--he sure keeps us on our toes! But the problem is, we don't need another ruler. As it is, everybody around here thinks they are the boss of everybody else.

So he needs a new job in the family. His skill set includes: Tackling. Eating. Destroying things. Legos. He is good with animals. At times, he acts like an animal. Mostly a puppy. Sometimes an alligator. Other times a teddybear. Hmm. I think he would make a good baby.

Just don't tell him that. He already had new business cards made. They say:

J.J. Heos, master of the universe forever.

Or until age four, anyway.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Midwinter Meltdown

The ground is the last thing to unfreeze during a winter warmup.

First, it's the mittens. Left behind on sledding hills. Sparkling pink and red on the sunkissed slush.

Then it's the plastic dinosaurs. Abandoned in the grass one warm December day, only to be trapped in the ice for the rest of the winter--a cruel reminder of their past problems with climate change.

Next, it's us. The humans.

It is not natural for us to spend our days inside. To run from the front door to the car. The car to the front door. It goes against our stone age brains, which need sunlight--and Omega-3 fatty acids. As someone famously said thousands of years ago, "Me sick of stupid cave. And where's the fish fry tonight?"

For me, the winter creates a lot of anxiety.

I read where you are supposed to greet your anxiety. Being on friendly terms with it gives it less power over you.

"Hello, anxiety," you're supposed to say.

For me, the anxiety usually dominates the rest of the conversation, focusing on past misteps, present finances and future dangers.

I nod politely.

Well, after the winter warmup, I took the conversation a step further.

"I'm going to have to ask you to leave," I said. "You're starting to sound like a broken record."

With that, I drove the boys to the park, blaring Gnarls Barkley.

It wasn't the balmy day we imagined, but we had a picnic anyway. Next, we walked down the sled hill and karate chopped some giant snow balls. Then we watched the water rush downhill under a sheet of icy cover. It pooled in giant muddy puddles.

J.J. kept pointing at them and saying, "Bath."

We got muddy and didn't care. Well, Richie cared. He has become quite the dapper young gent, and doesn't like his color-coordinated outfits to get dirty.

Today we ate "shrimp cottontail," as Richie calls it, on our patio for lunch. The ice on the patio melted. Not surprisingly, the dandelions growing between the bricks survived the 20 below windchill.

But the ground is still frozen. Wondering, Is this for real?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Chocolate Box Map

Remember when you bit into a piece of chocolate to see what kind it was? If it was something disgusting like orange nouget or strawberry taffy with a peanut center, you put it back in the box and chose a new one.

Not anymore. Now, the box lid has a map that shows where each chocolate is located. It's like a toxic waste map. Warning: stear clear of the northeast corner of the box, which contains a maple nut cream disaster.

I wonder why they don't simply stop making chocolates such as "Vermont nut" and "molasses chew." Instead, they could fill the box with everybody's favorite: caramel. Then you wouldn't need the diagram.

Maybe it's because somebody out there loves molasses chew.

Love...what a funny word. It can describe how we feel about chocolate or people.

Johnny brought home a heart-shaped book he made. The cover said, "Things I Love." Inside, he wrote, "I love my family." "I love my pets." And, finally, "I love to eat macaroni."

I wonder if that list was written in any kind of order.

Love means little and big things.

It is written on conversation hearts like this: "Luv u."

And it's written on the hearts of couples who have been married 50 years.

Recently, my grandparents told me stories about their early days of marriage. As their family grew, they moved from little house to little house. At one point, the landlords evicted my grandma and her two babies during a snowstorm. A year was up on their lease and they wanted a deposit from new renters. Though this was during a housing shorage, my grandparents found a new place the same day.

Love can make big problems small.

I talked to a man who helps refugees here in Kansas City. He said that if the newcomers came as a family, they usually climbed from poverty to the middle class by the second generation. They pooled their money and shared their hardships and somehow came out ahead.

Love multiplies your blessings and divides your problems.

I remember learning in school that love doesn't make people happy or whole. But then how do you explain why some people die of broken hearts?

This even happened to a duck I knew. She lived up the street, along with a dog. Though natural enemies, the family pets became best friends. The dog had a mean streak prior to the duck moving in. She'd hunt just for the kill. But the duck gave the dog a purpose. I'd see her running along the fence, guarding the yard. Once, she saved the duck from the talons of a hawk.

But the dog grew old. She could no longer run. So the duck would lay down beside her. Then one day, the dog died. Just a few days later, the duck died, too. At first, the duck needed the dog for protection. In the end, the duck needed the dog, period. That's love.

And yet, we say we love T.V. sitcoms, love chocolate, love macaroni, love shrimp cocktail. Wait a second, I really do love shrimp cocktail...Anyway.

I think we say this because these little things make us happy, just like love makes us happy.

Well, most people. Not Richie, though. He thinks love means being chased and kissed by girls. This happens to him surprisingly block parties, chess club, even in our front yard.

The experience has made him jaded at the ripe old age of four.

On the morning of Valentine's Day, he remarked, "I don't like love."

He didn't, that is, until he sampled one of my Valentine's Day chocolates.

He took one out of the box Justin gave me and bit into it.

Then he pointed at the center. "

What is this?" he asked.

Referring to the map on the box, I said, "Orange Cream."

I waited for him to spit the chocolate out, but instead he stared at the remaining half for a while.

"Do you like it?" I asked.

"I love it," he said.

This in spite of its orange center: Now that's love.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Politics, Octopus, Comebacks and Chess

All right. All right. Kids care about politics. Not my kids. But some kids do. My kids care about Pokemon and potty language, which I am contantly talking about.

Anyway, my apologies to the author of Why Mommy is a Democrat. I shouldn't judge other children by my own. After all, my husband and I never discuss politics at home.

It's not that we don't care. It's just that we can't decide. So I would like to give my kids both the democrat and republican version of a children's book and let them decide, or better yet, see a little good in both parties.

But I can see where, if you felt strongly about something, you would want to share that with your children.

For instance, I feel strongly about the word "Poopy" not being used at the dinner table. It adds nothing. I share that view with my children in the hopes that, one day, they will agree with me.

On a different note, the other day, the school sent home a helpful paper titled, "How to teaseproof your kids."

A second grade teacher did this with his class. He told the kids that when someone teases them, they should give that bully a cool look. Then they should say a one-liner. Such as, "Thank you for sharing that with me."

I told the boys about this, and gave it a practice round.

"Okay, I'll be the big, bad bully," I said.

I looked at Johnny: "You eat worms for breakfast. And slugs."

Johnny gave me a cool look. Then he said, "Well, your mama's so dumb she puts lipstick on her eyeballs."

That wasn't what we practiced.

Still, if I can get rid of the "yo mama" comebacks, I think this will be a really good strategy.

Today, we went to a chess tournament. I spilled coffee in my lap.

"Oh great," I said. "People are going to think I wet my pants."

"If they do, just say, 'Thank you for sharing that with me,'" Johnny said.

See it worked. Try it, moms and dads.

Of course, none of the grownups pointed and laughed and asked if I wet my pants. Because I was wearing dark jeans.

On another unrelated note, at the grocery store yesterday, they were selling octopus for $4.99 per pound. At that price, you can't afford not to eat the slimy monsters.

So we took some home. The beauty of cooking octopus is you do not have to stir them. They stir themselves. No, not because they have eight arms. This isn't a fairlytale. Rather, the tentacles writhe around in the pan like live worms.

"Who put those worms in there?" Richie asked.

I guessed it was the octopus.

Gradually, the octopus turned from gray to purple.

I sauteed it in butter and garlic and served it for movie night.

It tasted like chicken. Intestines. Sprinkled with suction cups.

Johnny loved it. Richie and Justin didn't touch it. J.J. was sick--prior to the octopus incident.

I was on the fence. Until I realized that, with a little parmesan, it was quite tasty. As are chicken intestines sprinkled with suction cups.

Johnny, by the way, won the kindergarten division of the chess tournament--his first ever. Two hours later, he still hasn't put the trophy down.

This blog might seem a little lacking in, oh, I don't know, a point.

The point is, my son won his division in the chess tournament.

Sure, I shouldn't use this blog for shameless bragging about my child. I should use it to complain about my children. But allow me to give some background.

All week, I told Johnny, "You know, the kids there are going to be very good at chess. You might win all your games, but you might lose all your games. The important thing is that you try your hardest and shake hands with the other kid."

But before leaving this morning, Johnny told Richie, "When I come home, I'm going to have a trophy or a ribbon."

"You mean a frog?" Richie said.

He thought Johnny said, "ribbit."

During the tournament, Johnny kept walking over to the trophies and wondering if one was his.

"Probably not this time," I said. "You have to be in the top six."

Johnny won two, lost two, and had one draw.

We sat down for the awards ceremony and Johnny said, "I hope I win one of those trophies."

And I thought, "Well, that hope won't last for long."

Because I've been around long enough to know that hope is cheap when it comes to contests. To win, you don't have to be the most optomistic or have the most heart. You just have to be the best.

Then they said, "And now we're going to give an award to the best kindergartner."

And I thought the prize would go to the kid whose mom yelled at him everytime he lost. He seemed to be doing well.

And I worried that it would dash Johnny's hope that much more.

Then they said, "The award goes to Johnny Heos."

When they announced his name, he smiled so big that tears came to my eyes.

Before we left, I told him to pick up his hat and he said, "But mom, I have to hold the trophy with two hands."

So today, I learned that maybe hope does count for something. Not in my personal experience. But for my son it does.

And when you win that prize, you should hold onto with two hands. Victory is a fragile thing.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What Interests Children

Well, we are officially a leper colony. After almost two weeks, sickness continues to isolate us from the outside world. Today, it's J.J. with a case of a runny nose and major sleepiness.

Johnny, my hyper-active son, has been back to school for some time. I sent him before he was 100 percent healthy, but he didn't have a fever, so the school couldn't prove it.

When you're cooped up like this, everything gets your goat. For instance, I read about a picture book called, "Why mommy is a democrat."

It kind of got under my skin. Not because of the political party. I'd have the same reaction to "Why daddy is a republican." Or "Why your uncle supports tort reform." Or "Why granny thinks private social security is a crock."

What bothered me was the assumption that kids care about what grown ups care about. I mean little kids. Sure, they might ask about the war. Or what the president's name is. But generally, they don't think about politics.

If kids could vote, it would be on the following issues:

How many friends I can have to my birthday party.

If they interviewed a candidate, it would go like this:

Can I have a friend over?
Can we go to a movie?
Do you have any chocolate milk?
What are your thoughts on salad?

Oh well, let people write their books about politics for little kids. They should also write a children's book about how awesome dental floss is. The kids would love it.

Next year, I'm getting the kids flu shots. I read somewhere that they give you autism. But later I heard that standing close to the microwave or heating things up in plastic containers does it.

From what you read, autism is more prevalent nowadays. I think that with all the brain-based research going on, scientists will soon unlock the secrets of the autistic brain. I'd like to find out what's going on in there.

In high school, I worked at a camp for special needs kids. A little boy with autism became attached to me...probably because I, too, am autistic, in some ways. But he asked the same question over and over. And it really made you think.

The question was: "Roast beef?"

I tried out a few different answers, such as "on white," and "with mustard."

But it turned out that the correct answer was to throw your head back and laugh like a hyena.

Hmm. I wonder what it all meant.

Most likely, the boy just liked the ring of those words: "Roast beef?"

See, this is the type of thing that occupies the minds of our children. Politics? Not so much.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Salad Sickness

Johnny is all better...and wondering if they get Groundhog's Day off school.

In domino-like fashion, Richie is now sick.

At first, he reacted to his fever as if he'd been handed circus tickets. He tasted his children's tylenol like it was cotton candy. He lay under a blanket and watched T.V., smiling whenever we said, "Poor Richie."

Everything is a competition between Johnny and Richie, and a fever is no exception. With Johnny on the mend, Richie was winning the race.

He even had his first cough drop.

He walked over to Johnny, who was sipping tomato soup, and said, "In case, you don't have one of these."

And stuck out his tongue.

"In case" is a random sentence starter, like "of course," "at least" and "perhaps."

"Candy?" Johnny asked.

"No, a cough drop," Richie boasted.

"Oh, those taste like lettuce," Johnny said.

"No, you taste like lettuce," Richie said.

And then came the worst insult you can utter in our house.

The boys can tell each other, "Your feet stink," or "You're a baby," or "You have a bubble bottom."

But there's one thing they cannot abide, and Johnny said it:

"Well you eat salad and salad dressing."

"Nooooooo," Richie cried.

Recovering, he came back with, "You're going to eat salad for dinner."

"Nooooooo," Johnny cried.

"You know," I said, "someday you guys might like salad. Around the same time you like kissing girls."

Well, now they both were sick. They fell on the floor, shielding their eyes against visions of kisses stolen between bites of salad.