Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shenaynay Soccer Mom


The first e-mail was from The Mayor's soccer coach...

Dear Team,

Our final game is Saturday at 12:30 on field 10.


Are you interested in staying after the game to have a picnic?


Let me know what you guys want to do...

See you Saturday,


The Coach


Another team member's mother was the first to respond...

Hi team!

Since the game is so late, I am sure everyone will have eaten lunch by then.


What if the snack person brings cupcakes for a little party?


I think that is a good idea, but I won't be able to be there. My parents are bringing my daughter.

Thanks,


Her Mom

Um, excuse me?


What if the snack person brings cupcakes???!!!


Can you guess whose turn it is to BE the snack person?

Hi.


Oh, I know she didn't just volunteer me to BAKE on a Saturday morning.

[Do you see my head rotating on my neck all She-nay-nay-like?]


Let's see... how should I phrase my response?

Dear Her Mom,

Thank you
so much for taking over as snack person this week!

How generous of you to volunteer to make cupcakes and send them along for a game that you can't even attend! Wow!


I can't wait to taste your delicious treats!!


With gratitude,


OTJ

People hear this, I do not bake on demand!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Parade

In the morning, K and I routinely face the Star Wars vs. Cars underwear selection conundrum, the slow dribbling of cereal milk down the front of clean shirts and the guaranteed arguments about brushing teeth.

When we finally (and miraculously) herd The Mayor and The Rooster out the door for the morning commute, they ask,


"Which instrument are you going to be?"

K and I have to choose.

We can pick the drums, the tuba, the trumpet... any instrument that strikes our fancy.

Then The Mayor and The Rooster organize us into a line and we march.

Single file we march out the back door, down the steps and all the way to the car, all the while imitating the sound of the instruments we have chosen.

The morning struggles are forgotten and every day begins with a parade.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So Behind...

Ack!

I am behind.

The Family Joy went to the beach for Memorial Day weekend...

But now I find myself BURIED under pile of work responsibilities.


The best I can offer you?

Our beach photos...




In Motion

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thumb and Four Fingers

Last night before bed, I read The Rooster a book about Gorillas.


"Primates have one thumb and four fingers on each hand," we learned.

The Rooster held up her right hand and counted.

Amazed at the result, she held up her left hand and counted.

Her eyes widened, sparkling.

"Mommy," she exclaimed, "I AM A PRIMATE!!!"

"Yes!" I said. "You are a primate."

"And YOU are a primate!"

"Yes."

"The Mayor is a primate, too!"

She went on to name every person we have ever met.

All of them are primates!

Imagine that!


Good morning, primates!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pillow Talk of the Married


The Mayor has a big, lima bean shaped head.

Last night as I lay in bed, I reached up to feel my own head.

[Oh, what? You never feel your head?]

“I have a lima bean shaped head,” I said to K. “I guess that’s where he gets it from.”

K reached over and felt my huge brain container the bulbous back of my head.

“You DO have a lima bean shaped head,” he said mirthfully.
I looked at him.

“Well. So? You have a HUGE block head.”

“Legume!” he taunted.

“Oaf!” I retorted.
Oh, the love.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pomp & Circumstance

The Rooster, who is two years old, graduated yesterday.

There was a ceremony at her daycare center.

In the fall, she'll move from the two year old room to the three year old room.


Which is, ironically, in the same actual room.

[But on the other side of the tall bookshelf.]


The Mayor graduated too.

He's movin' on up to Pre-K.

[Though he was not awarded a DELUXE apartment in the sky.]

The kids sang fabulous songs in a wide range of decibel levels and each of them brought unique interpretation to the choreography.

I was sitting in the front row so they could see me grinning.

After The Mayor and The Rooster completed their valedictorian speeches got their graduation certificates, they came to sit with me.


The whole event was outside in one of the school's courtyards.

One of the school staff members had gone to a lot of trouble to put together a slide show of photos of all the kids as the grand finale.

Unfortunately, the sun was still shining brightly and the images were almost invisible on the large viewing screen in front of us.

[We could, however, hear each and every word of the accompanying songs from High School Musical.]

Things started breaking down.

The blank screen failed to hold the children's attention (imagine that) and they started to run wild.

Trying to be polite, the adults stayed in their seats pretending to see the almost invisible slide show.

The Rooster seemed to be squinting at the screen. I think she could see some of the faint images.

She got down from my lap and walked closer to the viewing screen.

The closer she got, the more she had to look up at the screen to see so the more her head tilted back on her neck.

A nano-second before it happened, I knew it was coming.

I yelled, "DOH" just a split second before she lost her balance, threw her hands forward and knocked the entire screen over backwards.

I scrambled up out of my seat and ran behind it to set it back up and made the mistake of looking up.

A hundred grown ups and their children were all staring at me.

For a second I froze, then I raised my hand at the crowd and made that nervous smile face.

You know the one...

"Hi. Yup, MY family again, folks."

I set the screen back up and slunk back to my seat.

Do my children really have to graduate from EVERY grade?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Outside Today...

Presenting

Friday, May 16, 2008

Just Ask Her


She planted herself in front of us this morning teetering on her twisted legs like a tree swaying in the wind.

Her teeth trapped her bottom lip inside her mouth.

With elbows locked, she held her thumbs and forefingers outstretched. Her remaining fingers curled into her palms giving her the appearance of a gunslinger.

A strap around her neck held a laptop sized key board with a built in screen for reading digital text.

Like most mornings, she stared at us with something like defiance or urgency… or something else.

Upon encountering her, both The Mayor and The Rooster grabbed one of my hands and snuggled against my legs.

Despite having drawn close, they were both wide-eyed with curiosity.

They see her everyday but have never said anything about her.

Though she’s a teenager, her mother drops her off at The Mayor and The Rooster’s daycare every morning, presumably because it opens an hour earlier than the high school.

I think she has cerebral palsy, but I’ve never asked.

She can walk but to communicate she has to bang away at her keyboard with her outstretched first finger.

While The Mayor and The Rooster huddled against my leg, I realized that I’d better think about a way to talk to them about this girl.

I've had minimal exposure to people with disabilities and lack confidence in knowing exactly what to say.

I worked with a woman with cerebral palsy once.

In reverse of this girl, my colleague could talk but she used a motorized wheel-chair to get around.

When I got used to the way her speech sounded and could easily understand her, I learned that she was hilariously funny.

Sadly, we only worked together for a short time.

Later, I did a consulting project with a state-wide coalition of activists working for equal rights for people with disabilities.

One, a woman with spina bifida, told me that their work was the civil rights movement's final frontier and that as late as the 1970’s it was illegal for “deformed” children to play outside where they might be seen.

That stuck with me. Can you imagine?

Before I left them at daycare, I pulled The Mayor and The Rooster aside.

“She was born with something that makes it hard for her to move her body the way she wants to,” I said.

My children listened, but said nothing.

“She thinks all the same kinds of thoughts as you,” I said, “but she can’t make her body do what she wants it to do.”

They nodded.

I kissed and hugged them goodbye.


Walking to the car, I wondered what else I could have said.

I guess I should just ask her...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

At Home with Ram Dass

K was moving to a town called Somewhere Colder.

Have you heard of it?

[It's north of here.]

For all thirteen years that I've known him, he's been on the verge of moving there.

[Or to Spain.]

Because of his imminent move, he has always been hesitant to commit to this place or to invest in anything close to permanence.

Build an addition on our house?

Perish. The. Thought.

Why would we build an addition when we are moments away from The Big Move?

[Not THIS kind of big move, toilet head.]

Anyway, moves (and movements) aside, K has all of a sudden decided to live here now.

It's his new motto.

Live here, now.

He's decided to treat this town like home.

He's been scheduling appointments with a realtor in order to find what he calls "our last house," the one we'll stay in until the end of this story.

"I only have one move left in me," he says.

Friends raise their eyebrows skeptically.

"Why now? What about the economy? Surely you don't want to get involved in the housing market now?!" they say.

I shake my head and smile.

K is a fussy home buyer and he makes decisions about as rapidly as
plate tectonics shift continents.

We looked at sixty five houses before we made an offer on the one we own.

SIXTY. FIVE. HOUSES.

This time, I'm not looking.

"When you find one you like enough to buy, let me know," I told him.

New house or not, I'm glad he finally lives here... in this town... with us.

It's good to be home.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sleeping with Diana Ross

"Mama! Mama!" she cried.



The digital clock in our bedroom read 4:45 a.m.

I hurried to The Rooster's room to quiet her so she didn't wake The Mayor.

"I want you," she said with arms outstretched.



I climbed into her tiny toddler bed and rubbed her back until she fell back to sleep.

When I heard her breath rise and fall in a steady rhythm I tried to sneak back to my own bed, but she called for me again.

She left me no choice but to squeeze in next to her on the bed's crib mattress.

I fought for my share of the covers and a comfortable position.

I somehow managed to fall asleep and stayed there until K came in and whispered that breakfast was ready.

I gently nudged The Rooster.

"Breakfast is ready, sweet girl. Time to get up," I said.

She flipped onto her side, threw me a squinty look and, from out of nowhere demanded,


"Breakfast in bed!"

Next she'll be asking for a cocktail umbrella in her sippy cup and cereal service on the lanai.

Oh, the DIVA

Monday, May 12, 2008

Awakenings

I have this bizarre faith that when my children are sleeping they are actually hard at work growing gynormous brains.

When they sleep late in the mornings, the world seems GLORIOUS.

Freakish as it is, my children rarely sleep late on weekends.

[What is that about? I’m thinking it's a dag gam CONSPIRACY!]

Regardless, I facking HATE to wake them.

Sleep ON, my sleepy sleepers!

Alas, sometimes
The Mayor and The Rooster have to be roused from bed..

On weekdays, K’s got a train to catch and I have a standing date with the cabana boy lap lanes at the pool.

My hindquarter has lately realized it's potential as a life-saving, inflatable device and I MUST swim.

But oh, to wake them...

-sigh-

My mom used to come into my bedroom and ask me to get up in the mornings.

After asking me 1,000 times, she’d send in my Father.

My Dad would stand at the end of my bed and grab a handful of my covers.

Then he would VIOLENTLY RIP THEM FROM MY BED.

FACK!!!

Startle much?

Oh, how I hated that.

For the last few mornings I’ve been waking The Mayor by wrapping his body in my arms and kissing his little face.

One kiss on the cheek and one on the forehead…

He stretches his arms out straight and rolls over in the bed.

One kiss on the other cheek and one on the chin.

He wraps his arms around me.

Slowly he comes into wakefulness.

This is the way my Grandma, my father’s mother, would wake me when she visited.

She was a fierce, battle-ax of a woman who could (and would) kick your ass from here to next Tuesday in a game of Yahtzee, but she woke me that way every time she woke me – even when I was in high school.

Despite giving Death a noble thrashing, she died in the late nineties.

When I realized that waking The Mayor this way was her gift to him it made me smile, remembering her.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Small Dose of Acceptance

For the last seven months I’ve been a hermit, holed up on my own and keeping to myself.

[You know, doing the whole grief thing.]

Sometime in the recent past I noticed streams of stubborn, persistent sunlight sneaking through the slats of my down-turned window blinds.

Curious, I opened the front door with squinted and adjusting eyes to see that my entire yard was full of people.

At first I hurried back inside and shut the door.

Oh, my GOD! Who ARE all those people and what are they doing in my yard?!!

Gradually I went out among them.

They invited us to their houses for dinners and play dates and we invited them back...

They made us laugh.

They have us out and about, walking around our neighborhood.

"Let's go on an adventure!" The Rooster says.

I like thinking of our walks that way.

The other day we were strolling up a quiet, neighborhood street hand in hand letting the perfect evening breeze billow all around us.

I beamed, feeling happy.

I thought about the new people in our lives and the accompanying new social dynamics.

Do they like us as much as we like them? I wondered.

Then I thought of my Granny... how much I miss her... how much I have missed her.

I started to feel guilty for enjoying myself, but then I felt her presence all around me, everywhere.

Her fingertips were the breeze rustling the flowers from their beds.


“I want you to be happy,” she said.

Later, at the farmer’s market, I bought a pint of blackberries.

They were fat and juicy berries -- my favorite.

The Rooster, who loves them too, got nose deep in the box before we finished checking out.

As I watched her devour berry after berry, I thought about picking berries with my Granny and all the times she made blackberry dumplings for me.

Snapping back to the present, I realized that The Rooster intended to eat the entire pint of berries before we even left the store.

I started to say something but then I heard my Granny again.

“Everything is as it should be,” she said.

The sun is shining and everything is as it should be.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Medical Femininity


My friend was talking to her nine year old son about what he wanted to be when he grew up.

"How about being a doctor," she asked.

Her son rolled his eyes.

"I CAN'T be a DOCTOR, Mom! I'm not a GIRL!!"

She was stunned.

That her son's experience of doctors is entirely female says a lot about the professional strides women have made.

Still, the notion of progress is called into question in that it remains anathema for a boy to envision himself in a role he perceives as inherently female.




Tuesday, May 06, 2008

On The Sidelines

K wasn't feeling well, so I took Roo to The Mayor's soccer game on Saturday.

I taught her to yell,

"GO, MAYOR, GO!!"

The Mayor goes all right.

He runs hell for leather from one end of the field to the other and back again following the miniature soccer herd.

The Mayor appears to be studying the kids with the ball while running, but he never attempts to get it himself.

He just runs. In earnest.

The Rooster grew bored of her brother's soccer game.

"I wanna swing, Mama!"

The swings, so nearby... the injustice of a mother who makes you watch your brother's soccer game!

[Sigh.]

I plied her with snacks as a distraction strategy.

But between mouthfuls of raisins, apple and crackers, Roo turned to say,


"I wanna swing!"

I tickled her.

She took a long pull on her sippy cup.

I snuggled my face into her neck.

She giggled and kept drinking.

Bluebirds flew down from the heavens, landed on our shoulders and whistled happy tunes.

Dude. There were RAINBOWS.

I told The Rooster I loved her.

It was freakin' beautiful, man.

"Where's my Rooster kiss?" I asked?

She threw a look over her shoulder to face me and her eyes sparkled.

Then, channeling Barney Gumble, The Rooster erupted.

"BURP," she said.

The FOULEST belch of all time blew right inside my poor, defenseless nostrils.

I had to laugh.

That is MY girl.



Monday, May 05, 2008

Perfect Gifts

In about a month, The Mayor will be four.

My mom called yesterday asking what he might like for his birthday.

Thinking about it today, I emailed K asking for his ideas.

My e-mail looked like this:

Subject: Mayor Birthday Gift Ideas...???

Ikea Bunk Bed?

Chapter Books?

Membership to the Aquarium?

And K, my darling husband's list of ideas came back like this:

Subject: RE: Mayor Birthday Gift Ideas...???

Dar Vader suit (The Mayor's version of Darth)

Jet Eye (What The Mayor thinks is being said when the word "Jedi" is used.)

Giant piece of cinnamon toast

Jar of dill pickles

All-day pajamas

All-season tank tops (fleece-lined and such)

Pet T-Rex

Pet Great White Shark

T-Rex Underwear

Great White Shark Underwear

Dar Vader Underwear

Season tickets to baseball

Weekly haircut

A fire truck

A dog


No one understands a nearly four-year-old boy quite like his father, eh?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Her Bad Chicky Chicken Shower

My friends Her Bad Mother, Mrs. Chicky, and Mrs. Chicken are about to learn that one plus one equals much more than two when we're talking about short and loud people children.

I'm proud to honor their transition from pseudo-sanity to total and utter madness as part of their virtual baby shower by contributing my useless two cents hard earned wisdom.



House of Joy Rules for
Surviving the Transition from One to Two Children



Neither parent is allowed to leave the other alone with both children until the second child is eighteen months old.

[Don't. Leave. Me. Alone. Noooooooooo!]

The "three-second rule" automatically switches to the five-ten-fifteen minute rule.

[Whatever it takes, sister. Think, "Go little immune system, GO!]

The greatest threat to the new baby in the house is the other baby in the house. Set your personal auto play button to the word "NO!" and be prepared to keep it playing on repeat.

Sigh a lot.

Using your sarcastic voice, say things like this to your husband,

"Oh, the effing JOYS!"

and

"We're LIVIN' THE DREAM, BABY!!"

See if you can convince Grandma to come for the weekend... and then sneak out to a bed and breakfast!

[Thank you, Grandma Seattle!-- When can you come again?]

C, T, and A, I'm thinking of you three and wishing each of you a safe delivery and a beautiful start to this new phase of your lives.

Much love,

OTJ


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Body & Spirit

Last Friday Elke and Michael invited us to dinner and afterwards they turned on a movie so that the short and loud people would go slack for a while.

We talked about what each of us wants to happen to our bodies after we die.

[To hell with small talk!]

Michael said he wanted to be buried in a cemetery next to Elke, but Elke wanted to be cremated and to have her ashes scattered.

K was unsure and I was ambivalent.


"Why does it matter?" I asked.

We talked about various deaths in each of our families and how they were handled.


*****

Michael recently buried his great uncle in a community cemetery where he's surrounded by other deceased friends and family members.

Michael is comforted by the thought of this as his uncle's final resting place.

He imagines his uncle at home in a place where
his eternal neighbors are souls that he knew and loved throughout his life.

*****

Elke’s mother died of lung cancer three years ago.

Bucking Jewish tradition, Elke honored her mother’s last wishes and had her body cremated.

She held her mother’s ashes in the wind and watched as they rose up and then fell across the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

In Elke’s heart her mother’s after life is that of a world explorer following the path of every winding ocean current.

*****

K’s father died when K was a boy of sixteen.

His father is buried in a cemetery in K's home town.

There's a space on the gravestone for his mother’s name and lifespan to be engraved when she dies.

K likes to visit his father’s grave, but he doesn’t get there very often.

No one in K’s family lives in that town any more.

*****

I lost both my Grandparents last year.

They are buried side by side in a cemetery in rural Virginia that overlooks the farm country where they both grew up.




The cemetery is only a few miles from the places they were born.

When I would visit them in Virginia before they died, they would sometimes walk me through this cemetery and tell me stories about my many relatives who are buried there.

We would also visit three generations buried under a tree in the front yard of my Aunt Mabel’s remote, country farm house.

My great, great Granny rests there next to my great, great Grandfather.

They are buried at the feet of my great, great, great grandparents who are, in turn, buried at the feet of my great, great, great, great grandparents.

I remember that once I brought a vase of flowers to this place and sat to talk to my great, great Granny for awhile.

I don’t need to go to her grave to do that though, to talk to her.

The spirit of those that have passed are all around me, everywhere.

*****

Michael thought we should decide what should happen to our bodies after we die.

He thought we should make our wishes clear to make things easy for those that survive us.

“I can’t believe you don’t know what you want to happen to your body when you die!!” Michael said.


“I never think about it,” I told him.

Elke laughed.

“Michael thinks about it all the time. He’s obsessed with his own mortality.”

Our conversation made me think that maybe the decision is less about what I might want and more about what I think my descendants might need.

Maybe the people that The Mayor and The Rooster become will help me decide.

Will they need me to rest beneath a nearby shade tree or fly away on a bird’s wing?