Tuesday, June 26, 2007


My monthly column runs this week (until Thursday.)

It looks like this time it is in five papers, so I'm excited about that. In fact, the newspapers are being delivered in five different municipalities. The goal is to get a weekly column, though.

The link is:


It's the one about the dandelions.

I'm pretty much reworking blog topics to be columns since that is where all my ideas are. The funny thing is: I can never judge what people might like. Any ideas about which blog I should choose for the July column?

I'm also including a form letter you can send to my editors to encourage them to continue publishing the column:

Dear Editor:

Columnist Bridget Heos is every bit as good of a writer as (circle one: Aesop/Jane Austen/my fourth grader).

She knows how to tackle the big issues of the day, including ants and dandelions.

While reading these columns, I laughed until I cried and wept until I cackled hysterically. I was such an emotional wreck, I couldn't even go to work. (Are you hiring, by the way?)

You should pay her $5 billion for each column. Or $5, at least.

Thank You,
(Your Name)

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Longest Day of the Year

When the boys finally fell asleep last night, I laid on the couch, thinking, "This was the longest day of my life."

Suddenly, the meteorologist came on the news and announced, "Today was the longest day of your life."

Well, actually she said it was the longest day of the year. But close enough.

I had such high hopes for the summer. All the kids would be home. We'd to the pool everyday! Take science field trips!

I'd be Fun Mom. The one who gets all the way into the swimming pool, instead of acting like the earth would spin out of orbit if my ponytail, visor and sunglasses ensemble got wet.

After all, the boys aren't getting any younger. I only have so many summers left with them before I have to go back to work.

I definitely was not going to be the kind of mom who people look at and ask, "What's her problem?"

But since you asked, my problem is that I'm overwhelmed. Outnumbered. And overheated.

It all started at the swimming pool. I know: it's hard to feel sorry for someone who spent her day at water's edge. But I'd like you to at least try.

First, if you are a non-Midwesterner, imagine the hottest, muggiest day of your summer. Well, that's what every day is like in the heart of America. Chicagoans can back me up on this. Our daily humidity is 99.9 percent. It's the next step to actually being under water.

We had gone on a nature hike. My kids love nature hikes. The heat doesn't bother them whatsoever. But it bothers me a lot. Even in the winter, I am sweating most the time. So when we got to the pool, it looked like I was coming from another pool, where you swim with all your clothes on.

I was ready to go off the diving board like a 10-year-old kid. Do a total canonball where I cover my face and splash everyone on deck.

Or at least get my feet wet.

But there's a problem: J.J. wants nothing to do with the water. He's scared of it. It's not that he's afraid of drowning or sharks. It's that he's terrified of getting something on his shoes--which are lime green Crocs. He loves his shoes as much as Oprah Winfrey does. He wants to give a pair to everyone in the audience.

He won't take them off. He won't get them wet. So he sits in his stroller in the shade, fully clothed, like an old man. And with Old Man Heos by my side, it is hard to be Fun Mom to the other boys. I'm more like Mean Lifeguard Mom.

Since I'm not in the water with them, they can't go where the water is over their heads. Which is the only place they want to be. I'm always wheeling the old man over to them and giving the sign language for "Come here this instant." You know the one. Where you point at them and then point to your side without blinking your eyes.

"Didn't I tell you to stay on this side of the ropes?" I say.


"Well, where are you?"

"On the other side of the ropes."

I think I underestimate the power of my "you're in trouble" face because then they start crying. And I feel really bad. Even though it is not that hard to stay on the shallow side of the ropes.

After a while, Johnny wants to swim in the big pool. He's at that age where he thinks he's ready for Olympics, but in fact he struggles to swim across the pool. So J.J. and I stand there and watch him swim. Richie, meanwhile, wants to jump in and have me catch him, but I can't leave J.J. alone in the stroller. So he just has to stand there next to the pool.

Finally, we left the pool.

A side note: getting home from the pool takes some doing. Our car dies whenever we stop or even slowdown. Naturally, only cars driving 15 miles per hour are ever in front of us. And when the car stalls, it rolls downhill and the breaks don't work, so I have to jam it into park. Fast. Again: very nervewracking.

The car simply does not like the hot weather. And I can totally sympathize.

Excited to relax in our air conditioning after a long day of not swimming, I came home to find it broken.

This is after we spent almost $2,000 to fix it three days ago.

I called Justin and he arranged to have the repairman come. He was coming in half an hour. Two hours later, he called to say he'd be late.

We were waiting for him to come so that we could go to the grocery store. If we didn't make it to the store, we'd be eating a can of water chestnuts for dinner.

And Johnny had a baseball game we had to get back for.

And it was 91 degrees and getting hotter inside our house.

Anyway, to make a long story short, when Justin got home, If lost my cool.

"Call him and tell him we have places to be!" I said. "Why is this thing breaking after three days?"

And so forth. It was as if I thought Justin snuck home in the middle of the day, and broke the airconditioner with a sledgehammer--just to mess with me.

The guy finally came at 8 p.m.--after apparently having his own longest day of the year.

It turned out the inner coils were dirty.

By then, the sun was setting. The boys and I sat on the front stoop while the house cooled off.

Evening at last. Everybody made it home safe. Soon the boys were tucked in bed, trying, without fail, not to fall asleep.

On T.V., the meteorologist went on to say, "From here on out, the days will get shorter and shorter."

At first, I was like, "Thank God. There are simply too many hours in the day."

I know this feeling has been echoed through the years.

For instance, I was at a baby shower for my friend last weekend and her Grandma was talking about the early years of having kids.

She said, "I used to pray, 'Lord, just get me through until bedtime. Lord, just get me through until they start school."

But later she said, "They grow up so fast, don't they?"

After my initial relief that days were getting shorter, I started to feel sad. I remembered that my summers spent with the kids might be few. And while my swimming days might be over, seeing the boys smile after they tread water or blow bubbles is something I wouldn't trade it for the world.

While we were on our hike, J.J. took Richie's hand. Then Johnny took J.J.'s hand. And they walked through the woods. And I thought, "This is something I'm going to remember when I'm very old. And it is going to break my heart. Especially knowing that I spent half the time yelling at them to stay with me. There could be mountain lions up ahead."

I guess that's the paradox of motherhood. There are too many hours in the day, but not enough days in the years.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pottery Barn II

The Pottery Barn catalog arrived today and--great news--they brought back the calendars.

This was always my favorite part of the mailing, but for a while they did away with it.

Now, like in the good old days, I can imagine the Pottery Barn calendars--plans and all--are mine. I can pretend, for instance, that we have just one thing to do in June: prepare for Chandler's return from Paris.

Who's Chandler? Who cares! We're just happy he's back. So happy that we scheduled no swim lessons, dentist appointments, work meetings or business travel for 30 days.

Okay, so let's see what my fantasy life looks like this month. I've cleared the calendar for a farmer's market...every Thursday. Good. We're on the right track. Hold all my calls while I buy Swiss chard and what-not.

It looks like we have a couple dinner parties. Then...nothing during the week, except cooking school. Oh, that should be fun.

There's our grocery list scribbled up in the corner. Wine. check. Cheese. check. Bread. check. I. Love. My Life.

On this fantasy list, there are no Gogurts--purple liquid yogurt that I would later find smeared on our wall, which the boys mistook for a towel. No dishwashing detergent. Most importantly, no discount grocery store chicken with an asterick next to "real."

Seriously. Our poultry says Real* Chicken. Then there's some explanation in small print.

This blows my mind every time I see it.

I just always assumed you were either a chicken or you weren't. Because, otherwise, how do you explain yourself in the feedyard.

"Well, I'm kind of a real chicken. I'm made up of real chicken parts, but they were processed. So I'm not really really real. I'm just sorta real. It's like, I'm more real of a chicken than Linda, but Marie is more real than me. But we all need astericks."

I'm assuming that's what you'd say. I have no idea because I'm not a chicken at all. Real or real*.

But the point is, there are degrees of real.

And our grocery list is real perfect. Just wine, bread and cheese. Simple. Elegant. Expensive.

Next we have, oh, what the hell is this? My husband has poker at Harold's on Friday night. I thought he had his Young Entrepreneurs meeting that night. Crap. And we have Martha's baby shower at noon the next day. He better not be hung over.

No wait, the baby shower is Tuesday at noon. Oh...a party on a weekday afternoon. I take it that none of my friends work. The nanny will take care of the kids that day, of course. Yes, we are back on track again.

Thank you Pottery Barn, for planning my real* life.

*Real life for Paris Hilton, that is. After her stint in jail.

Speaking of Paris Hilton, I read today that she was no longer going to act dumb because nobody thought it was cute.

Maybe I'm the dumb one because I never knew it was an act. I thought she was genuinely stupid. Same with her parents.

I figured there had to be brains somewhere in that family. They've got quite a business. But I just can't believe the lack of problem solving among her mom and dad.

If my daughter was that beautiful and that idiotic, I would tell her some lie to keep her out of trouble. Like, "Oh, be back before midnight. Remember that documentary we saw about Cinderella? You have the same disease as the carriage driver. You turn into a horse at the stroke of 12. So okay. See you in a few hours."

And I actually felt sorry for Hilton when she went to jail. Not so much because of her "extremely serious medical condition," ADHD, but because her life did not prepare her to go to jail. It didn't even prepare her to open her own mail, for God's sakes.

But come to find out, it was all an act. She's actually quite brilliant. Which explains a lot. Wait, no it doesn't. I think she really is dumb. For real*.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a pretend errand to run. We are out of wine and cheese.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why Are Clouds White?

This may sound snotty, but I go through most days feeling superior to my children. They may have more energy than me, but I am a lot smarter.

I don't pick my nose, for instance.

And unlike J.J., when someone passes me a jumbo bag of popcorn, I don't assume that it's mine to keep for the duration of the movie. I realize that sharing is involved.

But kids have a way of turning the tables on you.

At some point, they ask, "Why is the sky blue?" or "Why is the ocean salty?" or "Why are clouds white?"

And suddenly, you're Scooby Doo.

You stammer, "Rhat? Ri ron't know!"

We were eating dinner last night--just the boys and I because Justin was running errands after work.

Richie had brought his swim lesson "certificate of participation" to the table. He takes it everywhere, swelling with pride whenever he lays eyes on it.

Some people argue that kids shouldn't be rewarded just for showing up. Isn't that half the battle, though? If grownups were punished every once in a while for not showing up--to an appointment, a playdate, a party--they would see this. I know I'm guilty of this.

Anyway, the certificate means a lot to Richie--probably because he had a crush on his teacher.

Between bites of pizza, Johnny, asked, "What are clouds made of?"

"Ruh," I started.

But Richie saved me. He looked up and said, "Water."

"That's right," I said, remembering the diagram they showed us in school. Water evaporates from ponds and oceans into the sky, then comes back down as rain.

Or so the theory goes. A more likely explanation is that angels see how bad everybody is acting on earth, and weep. Then they go bowling. Hence, thunder. Team photos are the lightening.

The scientific answer was devastating to Johnny, however.

"What?! Then why are they white?" he asked. "Water isn't white! I thought clouds were made out of cotton."

Richie looked up from his paper and said, "I can't talk about this anymore. I'm reading my certificate of achievement."

So I was on my own.

"And water would fall down," Johnny continued. "I've never seen a cloud fall."

"Clouds fall when it rains," I said.

"But rain is not white!" Johnny said.

"Well, I guess clouds aren't really water, they're water vapor. And that's white."

"Why is water vapor white?!"

Finally, I went to my go-to response.

"Rhat? Ri ron't know!"

Maybe he should ask Don, a local meteorologist.

Justin watches his weather report every morning before going to work. Not that they stop working in the rain. But if it's going to be raining on his head all day, Justin at least likes to know ahead of time.

After seeing him every morning, the boys talk about Don, who Richie calls "Fox News," like he's a family friend.

We went to Science City and there was a big ad of the two Fox meteorologist in the lunch area.

"Fox News is here!" Richie said.

"Remember when Don dressed up like Superman on the news?" Johnny said.

"That was so funny," Richie said.

"Don is so funny," Johnny agreed.

Frankly, I'm surprised that I don't know why clouds are white. Everytime a storm rolls in, meteorologist break into the show in progress. And that's fine. During tornados and floods, it saves lives. But then they start teaching meteorology class. You know--how storm cells evolve and what not. And I guess that's sort of interesting.

But next, they start training me and other viewers on how the Doppler Radar works.

"You see, the red zone indicates blah blah blah, but the blue zone shouldn't be ignored because blah blah blah."

I'm like, "Um, if something happened to you, couldn't the weekend guy fill in? I'm not going to actually have to operate the equipment, am I?"

Anyway, I realize they have to stay on the air while the storms move through the region, so maybe they could fill the time by answering basic science questions kids ask, such as why are clouds white.

In other words, dumb it down, weather guys, so that us parents can continue to feel smarter than our children.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Birds Fly...Bullies Give Wedgies

Richie is on the lookout for bullies. He saw some cheezy cartoon about them. Now he thinks about them all the time.

In a good way, though. He is the hero in the bully scenarios he imagines. Richie believes that he will be the one to finally put a stop to the wedgies bullies give.

According to the T.V. show, this is the defining characteristic of a bully.

As Richie explains, a bully is "you know: a jerk. Somebody who gives wedgies."

He has to explain this to me every time he says the word because I can never understand him.
Because of his 4-year-old way of talking, it sounds like he is saying "birdie."

I was shocked in the car the other day when he said, "If I see a birdie, I'm going to punch him in the stomach."

"Richie!" I said. "You don't punch birdies!"

"Not a birdie," he said. "A birdie. You know. A guy who gives wedgies."

To further clarify matters, Johnny said, "Birdies fly. Bullies give wedgies."

As though bullies are a species unto themselves, like canaries.

"Oh. Well, maybe you could just stay away from those guys," I said.

If they even exist. I have yet to hear a real-life story of someone who was given wedgies by the school bully. Or shoved in a locker. Or given a swirly.

Granted, I went to an all girls school--so there weren't the traditional boy-bullies. One senior girl was mean to us, yelling things like, "Get off my stairway, freshman!" But she wore a pink polkadot ribbon in her hair everyday, so it was hard to take her seriously. It was like being bullied by Shirley Temple.

Still, I think that bullies look different than they do on T.V. They might even be your friends. Then one day, they're acting mean.

Or they're a group of people that are snotty. If they catch you on a bad day, you assume that there's something wrong with you. When in fact, they probably just have bad social skills.

Or they're kids who single out the most miserable kid in the room and make fun of him. Eventually, they realize that this is totally uncool. Or they grow up to be total deuschbags. Excuse the expression,but I think that is the technical term for it.

Like many things on T.V., the wedgie-giving school bully seems to be a myth.

The truth is, your average, run-of-the-mill school bully comes in all different shapes and sizes. But you can deal with them all in the same way: Like a bird encountering a human, fly away. Sooner or later, so will everybody else.

Of course, I didn't tell Richie any of this. I'll let him believe that one day he will convince birdies
everywhere to stop giving people wedgies...I mean bullies everywhere.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Endless Summer

Is it August yet? It sure feels like it. In fact, every morning feels like an entire summer.

Johnny is up at 6. He eats about three bowls of cereal (getting half into his mouth.) Then he runs outside and builds a commune for the rolypolies.

Next, he's ready for a science experiment.

They got a new book of experiments from their grandma and were very excited about it.

I can't believe I agreed to this one, though. It asks: What happens when you put a banana in a jar and let it sit outside for two weeks?

Answer: Fruit flies swarm the rotting banana. After some time, they lay eggs, which hatch into beautiful bouncing baby maggots.

But it was either that or the boys' first choice, which showed a picture of an egg on top of a jar and a fire inside the jar. That looked dangerous to me.

Next he waters plants with a squirt gun.

Finally, he creates a time capsul so that humans in the distant future (20 years, in his estimation) will know what kind of toys children played with in 2007.

And...it's 9:30 a.m.

See, when it's just Richie, J.J. and me at home, things are more laid back. For one thing, J.J. is at work most the time. He lines up matchbox cars in a straight line all day. I think he's a valet parker or something for very tiny drivers.

Meanwhile, Richie colors. If something really good is on T.V.--like the Scripp's Spelling Bee--we watch that for a few hours.

But with Johnny home, it's a whole new ball game. Like soccer and basketball and baseball all in one and running on fast forward.

Second, we've blown through a $50 tank of gas already getting to parks and swim lessons.

Speaking of which, Johnny missed three of his lessons due to a fever and I asked if he could make them up. The lady said she'd have to see a note from his doctor.

That's the rule.

And thank God for it. Because somebody needs to keep mothers of young children honest. Otherwise, we'd go around faking that our children are sick all the time.

It would allow us to cancel important work meetings, skip much-needed trips to the grocery store and dispense medicines that increase hyperactivity--all while worrying that our children have a rare and dangerous disease that starts with a slight fever and sore throat.

As the boys wrestled in an arm chair, I mentioned that a trip to the doctor was out of the question. (I get sick just thinking about situations that require my children to sit still.)

She said most moms just called their doctors, who wrote notes without even seeing the children.

I can just imagine those "doctor's" notes:

Dear Swim Lesson People:

Annie has been sick, according to her mother.

Dr. Spock and Nurse Nightingale.

Well, my doctor doesn't write notes without seeing patients. And Johnny isn't even sick anymore. So the swim lesson people win this time.

But next time the pool closes due to "lightning" I'll need to see a note from a meteorologist.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Swimming Lessons

The boys started swim lessons yesterday. It was a beautiful June day--80 degrees. Not so good for swimming. The water suggested melting glaciers.

We stood outside the pool with the other families, waiting for the head honcho of swim lessons--who was about 16--to call our kids' names.

A mom next to me scolded her son for touching a tree. Like monkeys, all three of my sons were swinging from a branch just a few feet away.

When they called Richie's name, J.J. was escaping toward the car. That's his new thing: when he doesn't want to be somewhere, he puts on his T-shirt and leaves. He's like an old man at a party: "Tell my wife I'll be waiting in the car. I want to be home for the 10 o'clock news."

I was chasing him. So Richie stood there looking all around, moving his feet, ready to go...if only he knew where. Finally, we found his teacher, and he followed his class to the shallow pool.

Parents were allowed to watch...from a safe distance on the other side of the water complex. I peeked over to see Richie kicking his feet--managing to keep the rest of his body dry.

It occurred to me that the hardest part of swim lessons is getting in the water. Because parents want their kids to take lessons at the beginning of the summer, and it's not pool weather yet.

But it's like anything, really. You just have to jump in. Learning to breath to the side, lift your elbows and kick your feet the whole time--that all comes later.

At some point, Richie must have gone under water because when I saw him afterwards, he had purple lips and his wet hair was plastered to his forehead and ears.

"We learned how to scoop ice-cream, mommy," he said, showing me with his arms. "And I made a new friend."

His teacher had let him use her "big towel" since, in the hubub earlier, I had forgotten to give him his duckie towel. Now, he shivered as we walked over to his towel.

"Tomorrow, we're going to swim like Superman," he said, smiling.

"He did a good job," his teacher said. "The water was cold, but he got in eventually."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Sliding into Summer

Yesterday was the last day of school.

Today is June 1. The perfect first day of summer. No more homework, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks until...August 16. A little earlier than in the old days.

When I was in school, we started around Sept. 1 and finished around May 31. If we had too many snow days that year, we went into June. At that point, we'd sit at our desks, sweating, playing board games and realizing our teacher was a pretty nice lady when she didn't have to teach us anything.

Not anymore. According to news reports, summer breaks have been shrinking for some time. One reason is that school officials are worried about the Summer Slide, which is not a water park attraction.

It's when students forget four months worth of school over the summer. That's about half of what they learned. This makes what happens at age 22--when you forget all you learned in school-anticlimatic.

We didn't have Summer Slide when I was in school. We kept our brains fresh by playing Super Mario Brothers and watching reruns of The Facts of Life. Unfortunately, today's kids are a lot dumber. That's why they don't learn algebra until first grade. Wait a second. That can't be the correct explanation.

Rather, I think grownups knew about Summer Slide when we were kids and just didn't worry about it. They saw that we--generation x--spent most of our time watching T.V. and playing video games. So they cut their losses.

"Hang tight gen-xers," they said. "We'll call you if a princess needs to be rescued."

Then they pooled their resources for gen-y, who might actually be able to run the country some day. For instance, they made the kids wear a little something called "bike helmets." The first time I saw a kid ride by wearing one of these, I thought he was on his way to football practice.

"Where's your mouthguard, dummy?" I yelled.

Now I support bike helmets wholeheartedly, and in fact I think kids should wear car helmets, too, but that's another topic altogether.

Anyway that's my theory. Whether it's right or not, Summer Slide is not going to happen to my kids.

To prevent it, I started Summer Silence, when my kids will do a quiet activity for one hour. All quiet time is educational--even day dreaming. (Hello? How else do you think I developed my Summer Slide conspiracy theory?)

The kids are really excited about quiet hour. Almost as if I enrolled them in Math Camp or Wellness Camp-where you learn to excercise and eat right. I see these camps advertized everywhere-probably because math and dieting are such a barrel of laughs for kids.

It is Summer Silence time as we speak. And the kids are quietly karate chopping each other outside. See, it works.

Other than that, we have a busy summer planned. Johnny wasted no time in writing up a detailed itinerary for June. On the sixth, for instance, we will "go to poc" (the park). On the seventh, we will go to "siins sit e" (science city.) June 11, a friend will "spid the nit."

I just hope his spelling doesn't slide this summer.

Meanwhile, the boys seem to think I need summer school. This morning Richie wanted ketchup on his scrambled eggs. I held the plastic bottle over his plate and he looked at me.

"Do you remember how to do it?" he asked.

"Do I remember how to...squeeze a bottle?" I asked.

Then I did it.

"You remembered!" he said, as if I was a two-year-old.

Later, in the car Johnny handed me a paper he was working on. We were at a red light, and he wanted me to look at it. But before taking his hand off it, he said, "Don't throw it out the window!"

"Why would I do that?" I asked.

Must be all the years of summer slide I endured as a child.