Thursday, July 30, 2009

How to Find a Wife

Richie played blocks for about an hour with J.J. today.

"You're so good with him," I said. "Do you think you'll have kids some day?"

"I don't know if I'll be able to find a wife," he said, shaking his head as if exhausted just thinking about it. "How do you find one?"

"You just look under the couch and under any blankets or pillows lying around. Check your pockets..."

"No really," he said.

"I guess it's like making friends. You go places and do things and sometimes you meet someone you want to be your girlfriend. Like if you're in a play in high school, maybe a girl you like would be in the same play."

"And then you'd say, 'Maybe we should get married'?" He asked.

"Um, I wouldn't say that probably. Maybe you could ask her out to eat. And then if you had fun together, you could go to the park one day."

"And drink milkshakes?"


"Or coffee because you'd be old enough?"


"And watch your kids play?"

"Um, maybe a lot later."

"Well, I only have two girls who are my friends," he said. "So I don't know if I'll get married.

He mentioned another girl who would be his friend but is too bossy. "And she's always tired," he added. "Robert is sometimes tired, but I like him because he plays Whiffle ball."

That reminded him of something he wanted to do. He looked around for his bat and ball. He looked in the closet and under the couch and finally outside, where it was laying on the grass. I guess baseball stuff is easier to find than a wife.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Road Trip: Then and Now

Family road trip today.

For you Midwesterners out there, you know that traveling to cooler weather/and or a beach can mean a 12-16 hour drive. Today we'll only be in the car for a paltry nine hours en route to Wisconsin. Plus, since the dawn of technology, road trips no longer are as long as they used to be.

Here is a look at road trips then and now:

Then...We left at 3 a.m. in order to make it to the middle of Kansas just as the temperature reached 90 degrees (at 8 a.m.) Somehow, the wind blowing through our windows made the car even hotter--like a heater blowing on you. We faced the dilemna of rolling up the windows for a greenhouse effect, or leaving them down, for the furnace effect. It made no difference whatsoever which we chose, as both produced the hell-on-earth effect.

Now...We have air conditioning. We drive by cows and think, "Wow. They look hot and bothered. I'm glad I don't have problems."

Then...We entertained ourselves by pointing out any and all animals we saw. "Cow! Horse! Another horse! Another cow! Cow! Another cow! Llama! Llama! I swear I saw a llama!" As our technology improved, we borrowed books on tape from the library. One time, my mom borrowed Don Rickles leaving answering machine messages. You were supposed to record them onto your brand new answering machine, but we thought they were great as stand up routine, as well. When we got bored, we fought. When we got hot, we fought. When we ate too many pancakes at Sambo's and felt sick, we fought.

Now...Kids watch movies on the portable DVD player. When you watch movies all day, what's there to fight about?

Then...We laid down in the hatchback and stared at the stars out the back window. Seatbelts? What seatbelts? Did our car even have seatbelts? We never bothered to find out.

Now...If we see kids on the highway who appear not to be wearing seatbelts, we roll down our windows and yell at their parents, "I'm calling DFS, you idiots!"

Roadtrips have definitely improved, or so I hope. I'll let you know at the end of this trip.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Life's a Beach...until the Seagulls Arrive

Whenever I go to a beach, I think: "I can't believe I'm here." The ocean is literally where the sidewalk ends, so being there is like stumbling on "once upon a time," or "happily ever after," or even "meanwhile, back at the ranch." It has a storybook quality to it.

We went to Cape Cod with our family last week. We climbed a sand dune to a private beach in the neighborhood where we were renting a house. Mostly, it was empty. If I lived near a private beach, I'd haul my couch down there, and the kids would do their homework on the sand, and I'd fill a plastic baby pool with ocean water for J.J., and make it our little hillbilly oasis.

But apparently people who have private beaches work long hours and cannot spend all their time seaside.

It was chilly, so the boys stayed on the sand. Johnny played football. J.J. and his cousin Brendan filled buckets of water and got the sand wet, which is actually a lot more fun than it sounds. Richie wrapped himself in a towel and took a nap. The grownups read books or watched the waves lap the sand.

One day, we fed the seagulls a couple Cheez-its, which in their minds meant, "Welcome, new best friends. Feel free to stare at us from two inches away for the remainder of our seaside visit. Because that's not creepy at all."

They surrounded us, inching ever closer. The boys' Papa picked up a smooth stone and said, "I'm protecting my clan." And they backed off.

Meanwhile a bee buzzed around Richie and me. Richie is a little scared of bees because he once got stung by 14 of them at the same time. I thought the bee might be thirsty, so I tried to pour a little water on our mat to distract it. But I accidentally poured it on the bee. Frightened, he left us alone...or so I thought.

Well, eventually, everybody left, but I stayed behind to read my book.

At that point the seagulls surrounded me like the The Others on Lost.

"What?" I asked. No reply.

The day before, a seagull had pooped on my head while I was walking the kids over to the public beach to get ice cream. And because the public beach was 50,000 hours away and the poop was nostril-level in my hair, I had to smell it the whole time (even after I rinsed it out in the ocean.) So there is no love lost between me and the seagulls. I, too, picked up a stone, but they were like, "Aww, isn't that cute? The lady whose head we pooped on is trying to scare us."

At that point, I noticed that one of the seagulls only had one leg. I felt sorry for him for a while, but my brother-in-law came down to the beach and pointed out that the seagull squawked at the others and hogged the Cheeze-it crumbs. We figured that's why the other birds ended up biting his leg off.

With that mystery solved, I turned back to my book. But suddenly, the bee buzzed back over and stung my big toe. And proceeded to fall over dead. I hope it was worth it. I hope my toe was to die for.

My thoughts turned from, "I can't believe I'm here." to "The animals can't believe we're here." Really. Humans calling this a private beach. Are they prepared to lay down their lives for it, like a bee. Or even one of their legs, like a seagull?

No and no. Which is why every once in a while the seagulls descend on us, letting us know that while we may be bigger and smarter and the inventors of such seagull favorites as Cheez-Its and Doritos, they can fly. So they'll see whose left standing on the beach in the end. Or, more likely, hovering over the picnic basket.

P.S. It's the last day to vote for best local blog; If you'd like to vote, please go to and click on "Kansas City" and "Best Local Blog." Thanks for voting!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Day is Done

Last day of camp.

Johnny bounded out of bed, pulled on his Chiefs jersey and said, "Quick. Let's get this day over with."

Apparently, he had slept in his shorts and shoes and socks. My kids do this a lot to save time in the morning. Often, I'll walk by their room at 9:30 at night, and they are pulling on their school uniforms. Only boys do this.

No matter how early a grownup's morning meeting, for some reason, he never settles into bed wearing his suit and wingtips.

Richie groggily staggered into the living room. "Are we going to Boston now?"

"Tomorrow we're going to Boston," I said. "Today is the last day of camp."

After getting on his shoes and eating toast, he made his way to the car. Clicking on his seatbelt, he asked, "So now are we going to Boston?"

Time has no meaning to Richie. It's one long journey in which sometimes it's today and sometimes it's tomorrow and sometimes we're in Kansas City and sometimes we're not even on Planet Earth. I love that about him.

On the way to camp, Johnny said, "I have more evidence that this is summer school, not summer camp."

As Detective My Mom is Sending Me to Summer School, Not Camp, he is very close to cracking the case.

"Really? Let's hear it."

"I have a test today."


With that, I pulled up to the--oh, all right--summer school, and dropped the boys off.

When I picked them up, Johnny was carrying a tiny flower pot he'd painted to look like a bee. He called out to friends and teachers and said goodbye. A few people patted him on the back and said, "You'll be back next summer, right?"

"Uh, Yeah!" Johnny kept saying enthusiastically.

Richie was smiling big, but not waving goodbye. He was probably recalling his Speed Stack victories of the day. (Richie can stack plastic cups like nobody's business. After hearing him talk about the game for a few hours every day, we got him a set for his birthday. Now, woo-eee, he sets the dining room on fire with those cups.)

Out in the parking lot, Johnny held the pot high and said, "This is my promise to return next year." Then he pretended to throw it to the ground.

"You know what?" I said. "You guys don't have to. You can go to J.J.'s school's camp."

"Actually, I was just joking," Johnny said. "I do want to go to this camp next year."

"I thought you said it was summer school."

"It is. But I want to see the kids I met next year."

To him, I guess it's not where you go but who you go with.

Richie, meanwhile, who loved the camp, especially the Speed Stacking, said, "I might try J.J.'s camp next year."

For him, it's not where you go but how many new people you meet going there.