Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Band

When I picked up Richie from school yesterday, he said, "Hey, I have band practice tonight."

"Band practice?" I asked.

"Yeah, it's at Nick's house. It's rock n' roll."


"So will you drop me off there?"

Figuring that Nick's mother knew nothing about this, I told Richie it was probably some other day. But he was so adament, that I e-mailed Nick's mom, who I've only met once..."Um, are you having some sort of rock n' roll rehearsal at your house?" I haven't heard back from her.

At dinner, Richie talked more about the band.

Johnny, jealous of his brother's impending fame, said, "How can you be in a band? You don't know how to play an instrument!"

"I know," Richie said. "That's why I'm doing the microphone. Drake's doing the electric guitar. Robert's playing the flute."

"What songs are you guys singing?" Justin asked.

Richie took a bite of his chili and pondered that question. "Probably 'There's a Place in France Where the Naked Ladies Dance.'"

"You can't sing that!" Johnny said. "It's illegal stealing! You didn't write it. Kevin did."

(Kevin is their slightly older cousin.)

"Actually, that song's been around since dad and I were kids," I said.

Richie smiled. "Well, it's not appropriate for ladies. Luckily, mom's not a lady. So she can still come to our concert."

"Mom's a lady," Johnny argued. "'Lady's' just a fancy way to say 'girl.'"

"Oh, I thought you stopped being a lady when you had babies," Richie said.

Johnny shook his head. "No, girls can be a lady anytime. Or a woman. But that song's definitely not appropriate for French ladies." He gulped his milk. "There probably won't be any there, though...Unless they were on vacation."

"Yeah," Richie agreed. "Not unless they were on vacation."

So I guess it's settled. Barring any vacationing French ladies, Richie will be kicking off his concert performance with, "There's a Place in France Where the Naked Ladies Dance."

Now if we only knew where and when.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Upside of Busy

Everybody's busy. Busy with work. Busy with family. Busy with committees, a.k.a. the bane of human existance. But you know who's really busy? Toddlers.

If you ever watch them, it's work, work, work. I can just imagine their to-do list: Move stuffed animals from the attic to the middle of the living room. Check. Arrange them in a straight line. Check. Feed them Saltine crackers. Check. Get out a broom and furiously sweep the crumbs until they cover every flat surface in the house. Check. Check.

Honestly, if I owned a business I would hire my three year old because he would get the job done. Assuming the job was to wreak havoc on the office, that is.

I think the secret to toddlers' success is aimlessness. It's amazing what you can accomplish when your goal isn't to accomplish anything at all. Whereas grownups get bogged down by to-do lists, toddlers just do stuff. If they go to the attic for a Captain America costume and find the Easter decorations instead, they'll wear a basket as a hat and call it a job well done.

In addition to getting out everything in the attic known to man, J.J. now has an added job: he's a father.

His cousin Francie had a babydoll at my mom and dad's house, which J.J. took one day and secretly put to bed in the crib upstairs. When Francie was leaving, we all looked for the doll and asked J.J. if he put her somewhere.

And he was like, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

But then he went upstairs to put another babydoll to bed and we found Francie's doll.

He was like, "Oh, you were looking for the babydoll. I thought you said 'favyvall.' Yes, I knew where the doll was all along."

Figuring he must like babydolls, and since it's been my lifelong dream to have a child who is attached to a stuffed animal and/or babydoll, we brought one home from my mom's house.

J.J. named him Ajax, after his cousin in Boston, who is far from a newborn, but it works because J.J. claims his baby already knows how to walk. We all take turns picking up the baby because, frankly, as a three-year-old father, J.J.'s parenting skills are lacking. For instance, if he had to answer this multiple choice question, guess which answer he would choose.

When you bring the baby inside after a trip in the car, do you:

a. Occupy the baby with a favorite toy.
b. Feed the baby.
c. Drop the baby on the floor and leave him there for the remainder of the evening.

Like most toddlers, he would choose c. Which is why "Babies having babies" is a major problem in America.

He is good about taking the baby on outings, though. He and Francie took their babies to McDonald's together, which was really cute. Then, yesterday, we went out for another nutritious meal at McDonald's. Before leaving, J.J. put on his pointy, dark Batman sunglasses, which would be perfect for the batman fan who also happens to have cataracts. Then he picked up his babydoll and was ready to go. To where...I'm not sure. A "Take Your Grandchild to Your Optomologist Day"? A playdate with the Joker and his evil tot? Either would have worked.

Alas, it was trip to the D. When we walked into McDonald's, where we were meeting some families from Johnny and Richie's school, one of the kindergarteners asked loudly, "Why does J.J. have a babydoll?"

I held my breath. Oh, no, I thought, he's going to be embarrassed of his babydoll. His fatherhood days will be over!

Then I looked at J.J., who stared at the boy for a minute. J.J.'s dark Batman glasses rested precariously on the tip of his nose and he held his baby firmly, albeit upside down. Then he kept walking. He had things to do, Happy Meals to order.

That's the good thing about keeping busy. You have no time to worry about what others think. You just keep moving.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The New Year Ushers in Old Superstitions

I don't believe much of what I hear. I often pretend to believe it...just to be polite. But, in truth, I'm a sceptic. Except in one area. Superstitions.

The more outlandish, the more I believe. For instance, while I have a hard time believing that the recession is going to wrap up this Fall, I have an easy time believing that if I eat a spoonful of black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, I will strike it rich.

Most of my favorite superstitions came from childhood carpool rides. Growing up, it was weird when families instigated a seatbelt rule (this was the pre-safety 80s.) But it wasn't unusual for them to have rules such as:

Hold your breath when passing a graveyard so that you don't accidentally swallow any ghosts. Touch the ceiling of the car, hold your breath and make a wish when passing under a bridge. Otherwise, you'll crash. When you see a Texas license plate, touch three shades of blue, and before the day is over, you'll meet your one love true. (Conversely, if you're walking with someone you love and come upon a pole or tree, choosing opposite sides will result in losing each other forever.)

In the interest of not looking crazy, I left most of these practices behind in my youth.

But there's one time of year that I let superstition reign: The passing of the New Year. The main thing you want to do in the new year is throw away anything broken or torn in your house. Some of you might not have broken stuff lying around, but we do. Keeping it invites hardship. Not to mention it's broken, so when are you ever going to use it?

Then you want to rearrange your kitchen cabinets in some fashion, which invites a reversal of fortune (not recommended if you're already fortunate.)

Then, on New Year's Eve, you bang pots and pans. As a kid, I thought everyone did this; all the children in our neighborhood did, but apparently, it's a Polish tradition, which makes sense because I grew up in Poland. Wait a second, no I didn't. I think it's just one of those traditions that spread all over the world because it's free, only takes two minutes and doesn't require any special effort, making it a mother's dream come true.

I always thought the point of this tradition was to make noise, but I've since learned it's to chase off the old year.

This year, we were in Boston and it was subzero but I dragged the kids out there at 10 o'clock (midnight Mountain Time). Richie wanted to ring in the new year by sitting on the couch and staring into space, but I made him join us.

I didn't want to give 2008 any ideas.

2008: Richie didn't try to scare me away, so maybe I'll just hang around for another year.

Me: Uh, as you can see, all my children are out here clanking away, so take your recession and all the other crappy things you brought with you and get the hell outa here.

2008: Oh, all right.

You might be wondering if all this superstition is working. Not yet.

Some say doing the same thing and expecting different results year after year is the definition of insanity. I think it's the definition of persistance.

If you follow superstition persistantly, eventually, something good will happen. Of course, something good will probably happen even if you don't follow superstions, but you will have missed out on the joy of clanking pots and pans, de-junking your house and finally having your cups and glasses located above the dishwasher, which are good things in and of themselves.