Sunday, August 30, 2009

Questions You Know the Answer To

Do you notice how some people ask you questions...and then argue about your answer? Like you're a witness and they're the lawyer who doesn't ask questions with wild card answers.

"When does the new Lost season start?"

"February, I think."

"Really? I thought it started in September."

"I'm pretty sure it's February."

"I'm pretty sure it's not."

Well, if you already knew the answer, why did you ask?

I remember Johnny asking my dad a lawyerly line of questions when he was younger.

"Grandad, do you like Shrek?"


"Do you really like Shrek?"

"Yes, I really like it."

"Do you love Shrek?"


"Granddad, have you ever seen Shrek?"

"Well, not exactly."

He was just trying to be polite. You don't want to tell a kid you didn't see the movie that they think is the most hilarious ever made.

J.J. loves asking questions that he knows the answer to. The other day, for intance, he asked me if I have a head.

"Yes," I said.

He smiled big, as if to say, "I knew it."

In church, his baby cousin came in with her parents and sat in our pew.

"Is that Francie?" he asked.


"How did she get here?"

"She, um, rode her bike," I said.

"No she didn't!" he said. "How did she get here?"

"She came with her parents."

He smiled. He knew it!

Whenever a girly toy is advertised on T.V., he says, "Mommy, do you want that?"

"Yes," I say. "I'm going to ask for Bratz pet shop for my birthday."

He nods satisfactorily. He knew it.

Tinkerbell Castle Dollhouse? It's on my Christmas list.

Barbie Blooming Thumbelina? I'm saving up my allowance.

Sometimes I think he takes me for a very tall girl who happens to be the boss of him. I don't have the heart to tell him my Barbie days ended in third grade. Maybe second. It was whenever my friends and I discovered Star Search. The T.V. talent reenactments took all our time. And then one of us always got stuck playing Ed McMahon. Not exactly the role of a lifetime for a third grade girl.

I remember Johnny and Richie asking questions like J.J.'s. It's a kid's way of striking up a conversation.

"Did I have a birthday party today?"

"Yes, and it was fun!"

"Were my friends there?"

"They sure were."

"Did we have a treasure hunt?"

"Yes! And you found the treasure."

I guess grownups do this, too.

When you ask, How are you doing? You know the answer is "pretty good" or, if things aren't going well, "all right."

Unless you ask a good friend. Good friends are never doing "pretty well" or "all right." They're getting laid off. They're going through a divorse. Their baby is biting other babies. Or...they just fell in love! They got their dream job! Their baby is a dream baby! Nothing is so-so among friends.

J.J.'s favorite questions are either/or. "Which do you like better? Salad or ice cream? Potatos or candy? Chicken or chocolate milk? Going night-night or being a pirate?" The questions seem obvious to him...but I think my answers would surprise him, unless he knew that I was an actual adult and not just a girl who looks very old.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Crossing Over to a New School Year

Second day of school. Johnny and Richie watched for the crossing guard's Cadillac to pull in across the street. Then they bolted out the door in their white shirts with no chocolate milk stains and their blue shorts that haven't faded to purple yet. They sprinted past preschool parents walking their shy kids to school, crossed with the guard, and jogged up to their school door.

Yesterday, I assumed I'd walk them to school, but Johnny said, "We're going to try to get there real fast." I guess their old lady would just slow them down.

Richie said he was the only first grader whose parents didn't walk him in. "Were you sad?" I asked.

"No," he said. "I might as well get used to it."

I saw a glint of pride in his eyes. I wouldn't be surprised if he'd said, "I guess I'm the only kid who can get myself to school without a bunch of grownups hovering around me. Maybe I should be in charge of things from now on."

I wanted to be hover, but I settled for watching from our front yard. We're so close, I can see their whole path, which satisfies my parental paranoia. As they run, Johnny waves, without really looking, at everyone he knows, and when Johnny waves, Richie waves. Then Ed, the crossing guard, walks them across the street.

Crossing guards are the best, don't you think? They're always sweet, friendly people, but they cross you; you DO NOT cross them. When drivers get frustrated that they have to wait for children to cross the street, Ed just glances at them, and the driver is like, "You're right. I'm an A-hole. Of course, the children's education comes before me not being two minutes late. If I'd wanted to get there on time, I should have dragged my lazy ass out of bed earlier."

Sometimes, I think he uses mind control. He looks at traffic, and everybody just calms down.

We had a crossing guard growing up with two-inch fashion nails. When she walked she held them out beside her, like she was walking on a tight rope in high heels. Sweet as pie. We would run to the corner just to have more time to talk to her. But if you were a driver, you better have fallen in line, son. She would hit your hood with the palm of her hand as soon as look at you. That stop sign doubled as a Samurai sword. Back off, jack off! I do love crossing guards, fearless protectors of our children.

Anyway, the kids love school. In a few weeks, their white shirts will be sweaty, untucked and milk chocolate. They'll drag themselves to school in a combat crawl, moaning, "Why is school evvvverrrry day?" But for now, they love it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thank You For Your Votes!

Thanks to your votes, Greetings from Waldo won the Nickelodeon's Parents' Pick best local blog in Kansas City.

It is back-to-school season. Richie and I had his pre-conference today, and he was very shy.

His teacher asked, "Do you like science?"


"Do you like reading?"


"Do you know how to read?"


I was like, Wait to put your best foot forward, son. Good thing you're not on a job interview. I also wanted the teacher to ask if he liked joking around. Then she would have seen his can-do attitude.

His teacher told him they were going to learn about money and have little shops in the classroom where they could spend their money.

Now his eyes lit up.

"Will there be slushies?" he asked.

"Maybe we could have a slushy store," his teacher said, jotting it down on her paper. "Do you know how to make slushies?"

"No. But I know how to make Shirley Temples."


"You pour in some cherry juice. Then you pour in some Sprite." He raised is eyebrows as if to say, Nailed it.

People used to ask me, before Richie's birthday, "What is he into?" and I would say, "He just really likes talking." He would have a friend over, and while the friend played with Richie's toys, Richie would lean over the couch and talk for hours on end. Now, I think Richie has found a new area that peaks his interest: buying and selling cherry flavored drinks.

He's already got the buying part down. The boys get allowance for their chores now. Johnny usually saves up for something big, like Madden 2010. Richie, on the other hand, earmarks his entire allowance for the pool snack bar. Slushies are priced at an outrageous $2. (When I worked at a snack bar, snow cones, which have the same ingredients, cost 40 cents. This is what's wrong with our economy today. Well, one of the things. Maybe not the biggest.)

Anyway, Richie brought $6 one day. He bought his friends a round of slushies. My friend was with him and tried to give him money for her son's slushy, but he waved her off. Then he thought about it. She asked if he would at least take a dollar, and he was like, "Oh, all right." With the dollar, he bought a candy bar.

On the way home, I asked, "Do you like buying slushies for all your friends?"

"I don't want to say I like it, but I don't want to say I don't like it," he said.

He said that he liked doing it if he brought enough money, but most the time he was only going to bring $2.25, enough for one frosty malt.

Richie has the prices on the menu memorized. Actually, they all do, even J.J., who tells me he wants $2 out of his piggy bank for a slushy. Two kids Richie's size were standing behind him the other day, and one held a $20 bill. The kid asked me, "Is this enough for two slushies?" Richie turned around and said, "Slushies don't cost $20. They cost $2.00! The most expensive thing on the menu is $3.25! It's dippin' dots." Then he looked at me like, Can you believe these guys don't have the prices on the menu memorized?)

I think he's going to love selling Shirley Temples. Especially when he gets to say, "Drinks are on the house!" every once in a while.