Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Early Summer

Goggles. Check.
Sunscreen. Check.
Swim trunks. Check.
Sidewalk chalk. Check.
Heat and humidity. Check check.

Summer came a little early this year, and I say: Welcome. I'll take the high eighties and 100 percent humidity any May over a lingering winter.

Johnny and Richie get out on Friday, and J.J., next Friday. J.J. has kindergarten graduation on Tuesday. He's not in kindergarten, but has been talking about this since April. I don't know what happens at kindergarten graduation (we didn't celebrate stupid stuff like that when I was a kid) but based on his excitement, it must be a hoedown hootenany of a good time.

Even though J.J. is in preschool, he has kindergarteners in his class. Once they graduate, he'll be a kindergartener, which is the real reason for his excitement, I think.

Every day, he goes to school thinking it is the big day. I picture him waiting, thinking, "After, after, after, tomorrow!" I've told him it's next Tuesday, but what do I know? I'm a dumb 34 year old, whereas he is four and brilliant.

Since J.J. is almost in kindergarten, Justin and I are cracking down on fits. We cracked down earlier with Johnny and Richie, but now we are old and lazy. I know J.J. doesn't throw them at school (or I'm sure his teacher would have mentioned it by now!) But at home: yes. He wanted to wear blue shorts--not tan! Where are his sunglasses! Who stole his chapstick! (Whenever my kids lose something, somebody clearly pilfered it. As if we have a roving thief living in our house.)

Well, from now on, he goes straight to time out when he throws a fit. So there. Now who's the brilliant four year old? I am.

If you recall, last summer, I sent Johnny and Richie to summer camp every day, which Johnny protested by calling "summer school." Richie was put in cheese sandwich debtor's prison because I sent the lunch money in the wrong envelope. This year, I said they could stay home, but they need to occupy themselves. Johnny wants to mow lawns, but Justin wants him to be one year older. I told my dad it would be nice if things were like the old days, and they could sell The Saturday Evening Post, like my Papa did as a kid. My dad said it would be even better if they could work in a coal mine in which the ceiling was too short for grownups, so kids had to work it. Or there's always chimney sweeping.

I'm sure they'll stay busy. Between whiffle ball and Harry Potter, what's not to love about summer boredom? Plus, I'll be here, and I'm a lot of fun. Hey kids, who wants to do a science experiment?

I only have one book to write this summer--about alligator and crocodile babies--A light load. My first picture book comes out in one year. Save the date! Just kidding. I don't even know what the date will be. I am working on the mystery book idea. I've read three kids' mysteries. Just 97 to go. Then I can write my own, theoretically. Happy early summer!

Saturday, May 01, 2010


I was working in J.J.'s school garden yesterday and a mother asked me what country I was from. She said it sounded like I had an accent. I guess my fake Madonna accent is really paying off! Actually, people have said this before, so I think I must have a speech impediment that sounds like an accent. (Like when my brother couldn't say his r's, his therapist asked if he was from the East Coast. He said he had cousins in New Jersey, so that explained that.)

The speech impediment, I'm assuming, is from the birthmark on my tongue, which is real, not something I'm making up to sound crazy. I had the option of having it removed as a kid, but when the doctor described a lazer beam shooting my tongue, I thought, "What if they miss their mark and I lose my whole tongue? Can you eat without a tongue?" Plus, I didn't have a high incentive to have it removed. Kids rarely made fun of me, much to my dismay. Once a girl called me Dragon Girl, and I laid into her so hard, I couldn't wait for it to happen again. Alas...nobody else broached the subject. Then, when I worked at the food court in college, some students would ask me to show them my tongue, but I told them it wasn't that kind of place. It was more of a sandwich/pizza/grill/Chinese food/frozen yogurt place.

I felt neutral about having an accent. But what the mother said next, I really liked. She said, "I think that you're from Brazil."

"Thank you!" I gushed, breathlessly. I've been waiting my whole life for someone to say that. I picture Brazilians to be exotic people who wear bikinis all day. (Though she was probably referring to a Brazilian woman who wears yoga pants all day with the intention of going to yoga but instead tries to think of a children's book series that will make her rich.)

I started convincing myself that I really was Brazilian. "No wonder I don't fit in in America," I said to myself. "No wonder I don't quite 'get' the culture or 'speak' the language. I'm from Brazil."

Now, whenever I feel like I'm different or say the wrong thing, I'm going to say, "Well, it's hard being a recent immigrant to this country. It will take a while to get used to customs such as working outside the home/caring about our yard/being on the ball in terms of Cub Scouts. That's not how we do things in Brazil."

In honesty, I have no idea how things are done in Brazil. Like my brother who acquired his speech impediment by having cousins in New Jersey, I've acquired my knowledge of Brazil from our neighbor, who traveled to Brazil, and described it by shaking her shoulders and saying, "It's so spicy!"

Brazil is just my metaphor for the feeling we all have of "not being from around here" even if you've lived somewhere your whole life. Everybody feels this way, which means, in truth, we are all coming from the same place. Do you like how I so subtly beat you over the head with that metaphor? I just don't want to present myself as some kind of Brazil expert because I also once ate at a Brazilian restaurant in St. Louis.

Anyway, back to the children's book series. As you know, I write picture books and children's nonfiction. Johnny had a friend over a while ago who said, "Mrs. Heos, you should write a series. That's where the real money is."

"You're right," I said.

He follows up everytime he comes over. "Have you written that series yet? If you write that series, maybe you could afford to live in my neighborhood." (They live on the other side of Wornall.)

"What should I write about?" I asked. I mean, I'll write on demand. I do it all the time with my work for hire stuff.

He said I should write about he and Johnny and their friends, who solve real crimes. The Hardy Boys, in other words. Only instead of being brothers, they're friends. How fun would that be: to be a crime fighter in a book?

I wish I could write a mystery. I love reading mysteries. Usually, if you're a writer and you read enough of something, you can write that something. But that hasn't been the case with me and mysteries.

I haven't read kids' mysteries, though, except for my brother's copy of Encyclopedia Brown #14 and some Nancy Drews. I guess my knowledge of children's mysteries amounts to my knowledge of Brazil. That settles it. I will read more children's mysteries in an attempt to get rich. Then maybe we'll move to Brazil.