Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making It Right

Just as we were leaving his school for the day, The Mayor purposefully walked up to his best friend Caleb and smacked him hard enough to knock the cupcake he had been holding to the floor.

Caleb burst into tears and, as he wailed, his open mouth and the surrounding ring of blue cupcake icing formed two, perfectly concentric circles.

The cupcake lay upside down on the floor and The Mayor's hand was a guilty blur of icing.

Minutes before, The Mayor and I had been sitting and talking with other kids and their parents.

I was incredulous.

"Why did you do that?" I asked, wiping blue icing from his hand and coat.

"I didn't. It wasn't my fault. I didn't do it on purpose," he said.

"Caleb's Dad was standing right there, Mayor. He saw you. So why did you do that?"

Now The Mayor burst into tears.

"There are going to be consequences for your behavior." I told him.

"What consequences?" he sobbed.

"I'm not sure yet. I'll have to discuss it with your dad."

The Mayor started crying harder until he arrived at full throttle wailing.

He balled all the way home and, even when we got there, he was inconsolable.

"We should do this sooner rather than later," K said. "What consequences should we enforce?"
We decided on a punishment and then went to talk to The Mayor about it together.

"There are going to be several consequences for this," K said.

"First, you're going to have to sleep with out your blankie tonight."

[Harsh, I know, but The Rooster had just suffered the same punishment for extremely rude behavior towards a friend.]

"Secondly, you're going to have to call Caleb tonight and apologize to him and his father."

"Finally, you're going to have take money from your bank, buy Caleb a new cupcake and bring it to him at school."
The Mayor, who had calmed himself enough to listen to his fate, began sobbing anew.

K and I went to the kitchen to start on dinner.

I'm used to The Mayor being alone in his room screaming and throwing tantrums, but this seemed different.

When my kids were babies, other mothers kept telling me that I would learn to distinguish their cries, that I would soon understand the difference between the tired cry and the hungry cry.

I remember thinking they were crazy -- every time The Baby Mayor opened his mouth to cry it all sounded the same to me.

[Oh, how I routinely fail as a mother and a woman!!]

Of course, over time, I did learn the difference between his cries and this cry was different.

I'm pretty sure The Mayor surprised himself.

I don't think he was proud of what he did, in fact, I think he felt terrible.

Also, being four, he probably doesn't have enough self-awareness or experience to recognize -- or even name -- jealousy.

I asked K to finish cooking dinner and went into The Mayor's room.

I sat on the bed with him while he sobbed and rubbed his back.

"Why are you here? Why are you doing that?" he shouted at me.

"I'm waiting for you to calm down," I said. "I want to talk with you."

"Why do I have to do everything," he choked, "and Caleb doesn't have to do anything?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I have to have all the consequences and he doesn't have any!"

"Caleb didn't do anything to deserve any consequences, Mayor. You hit him and knocked his cupcake to the floor."

"But I didn't do it on purpose!" he moaned.

"It doesn't matter if you did it on purpose or if it was an accident. When we ruin or break something that belongs to someone else, we offer to replace it. We make things right. That's what we do."
[We had to go over this particular concept many, many times.]

Still, no amount of talking seemed to calm The Mayor down.

Finally, I suggested we count out enough money to buy a new cupcake from his bank and set it aside for our trip to the market.

He agreed, but sobbed as we dumped all his coins out on the bed.

I helped him count out 10 dimes.

"Is that all the dimes I have?" he cried.

"No, there are a lot more dimes. See?"
He counted the remaining dimes.

"This pile of dimes equals one dollar and it's what you'll need to buy a cupcake. We can put the rest of the coins back in your bank."

"I can keep the rest?" he asked, shocked.

"Yes, Mayor. We can buy a cupcake with only these ten dimes."
Things were looking up! Cupcakes weren't as expensive as The Mayor feared.

When he finally calmed down, we called Caleb's house.

"I'm sorry I hit you, Caleb," he said. "I'm going to buy you a new cupcake."
There was a pause.

"You're my best friend."

"Okay," Caleb said.
The Mayor apologized to Caleb's father too.

Later, at the market, The Mayor picked out a cupcake for his friend and paid for it himself, handing ten of his own dimes to the cashier.

There's a pastry box sitting in our refrigerator waiting to go to school with him tomorrow.

Best of all, I think The Mayor had his first opportunity to learn that even when we make what feels like a terrible mess of our best relationships, we can find a way to make things right again.

I'm feeling awfully proud of him.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Santa's Little Gangstas

"Let's play that we're the sleeping kids and you're Santa, okay Mama?"

"Okay," I said.

The Mayor feigned sleep on the couch and The Rooster prostrated herself on a world map puzzle they had just completed.

"Ho, Ho, Ho!" I jollied.

My children were motionless, waiting for Santa to empty his toy bag.

"Uh-oh," I said. "The children in this house have been naughty instead of nice. They haven't been listening or minding their parents."

[100% TRUE.]

"I'd better skip this house and go on to the next one," I said.

Suddenly my children jumped up from their pretend beds.

"Get him!" they cried.
"Grab all his toys!"

The two of them jumped me.

Before I could react, they stole all my holiday booty and ran from the room.

I sat there stunned, wondering where my parenting went wrong enough for my children to be able to dream up and execute a full-on sleigh jacking.

Monday, November 24, 2008

In The Family Sandwich

On Saturday morning, The Mayor woke up early.

[Like REALLY effing early.]

He opened his eyes, and yelled,


K went running to his room only to find that he was in need of exactly nothing.

He just wanted to inform the household that he was awake.

K tried to encourage him to go back to sleep until he heard The Rooster.

The Mayor had woken his sister.

[Oh, sin of sins! May the greatest punishment rain down upon you! Fie! Fie!]

There is a digital clock in the children's bedroom and a post-it note with the number 7 written on it in thick, black marker is stuck to it's face covering the minutes.

Only the number representing the hour is visible.

"You are not aloud to wake up before the number on the clock matches the number on the note. If you DO wake up before the number is a seven, you have to be AS QUIET AS A MICE until the number is a seven."

K and I have both delivered this speech a number of times.

[You can see how well it's working.]

On Sunday morning, again, REALLY early, K and I heard,


This time it was The Rooster.

K marched sleepily to their room.

"It is NOT seven. It is NOT time to get up. You have two choices: play quietly or go back to sleep, but you may NOT wake up Mommy and Daddy until seven."

He came back to our bedroom and shut the door.

A while later I heard our bedroom door knob turning.

The Mayor and The Rooster crept in and crawled into our bed.

The Rooster stepped on my face to get between me and her father and The Mayor cuddled against my side on the edge of the bed.

"It's seven!" they whispered, triumphantly, giggling.

"We're a Family Sandwich!" Rooster said looking at all four of us in the one bed.

"Daddy and I are the bread," The Mayor observed.

"Yeah! And I'm the cheese and Mommy's the turkey," The Rooster finished.

The turkey?

Oh, tell me about it.

It's early in the morning and Mommy is, truly, most completely and utterly, useless.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Where I Get Schooled by The Mayor

“Mommy! I have to tell you this!”

...and The Mayor told me a story…

[Complete with parenthetical asides. I wonder where he got THAT?!]

Here is what The Mayor told me...

Once upon a time there was a mean King.

[But he’s not there anymore.]

The mean King didn’t let the Pell Grahams go to the church they wanted to so ONE HUNDRED of them got on a boat with rats, mice, goats, pigs, dogs and cats.

The boat was named Mayflower.

[The cats and pigs were for scaring the rats. The rats were ESPECIALLY scared of the pigs.]

The Pell Grahams sailed way, way, way across the Indian Ocean until they came to our state.

They landed on the beach of Georgia and met the Nate of Americans.

The Nate of Americans stood at the entrance to Georgia with guns.

They had heard stories that the Pell Grahams were coming and that they were mean, but they were wrong.

They Pell Grahams were not mean so the Nate of Americans started keeping guard against the Yerro Pee Annes.

[Who were from Yerrope.]

Once the Pell Grahams landed on the beach of Georgia, they built a common house.

The winter was really cold.

All the women and kids of the Pell Grahams stayed on the boat for the winter and the men stayed in the common house.

It was hard for them to survive.

Many of them died.

[But not the kids. Only the grown ups died. No kids died.]

Then, the Nate of Americans taught the Pell Grahams to grow corn.

They showed them that if you plant a corn seed with a fish, the corn grows better.

“I know it sounds crazy,” The Mayor said, “but it’s all true!”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Think She Knows

Last night, after the short and loud people went to bed, I joined a group of my friends for some tea at local restaurant.

We were reflecting on the election and talked about President Elect Obama’s grandmother and how sad it was that she passed away without seeing her Grandson’s victory.

“I think she knows that he won,” one of my friends said.

This led us into a long discussion about what we believe happens to the human spirit in death.

We talked about various ways of thinking about it.

Of course, there’s the traditional notion of heaven and hell but, surprisingly, this wasn’t what specifically resonated or moved us.

One of my friends simply believed that death was the end, that there was no continuation of the life force.

“What’s important,” she said, “is what you do NOW to make the world a better place.”

Another friend talked about the space and time continuum between your past, present and future selves as well as your ‘God self’ – the highest and best form of yourself – the version of yourself that could be presented to God.

My friend Stephanie and I both shared a feeling that, because energy can only be transferred and not destroyed, life force must transfer somewhere.

“Maybe the spirit becomes wind or water,” I said, “or maybe, like Dante described in Paradiso, the soul experiences unification with itself and all things… turned like a wheel, all at one speed, by the love that turns the sun and all the other stars.”
[Okay, so I wasn’t able to actually quote the Dante text verbatim in this conversation, but my Grandfather always told me not to let facts get in the way of a good story, so humor me.]

My friend Gwen talked about consciousness.

We were, after all, speculating about whether, in death, Obama’s grandmother could have known that he won the election.

“There are these weird studies,” Gwen said, “where objects are placed on the floor out of view of surgical patients. After they wake up, patients that had a near death experience are able to report having seen these objects as they hovered over themselves. They wake up knowing about the objects on the floor. It’s hard to explain.”

There was a collective silence, a wondering.

“Maybe,” Gwen continued, “there is a transition period for the human conscience. Perhaps the body dies first but the consciousness lives on for a while and slowly dissipates over time to become part of nothing or everything.”

Though we had differing views about death and after life, we agreed that the things each of us believed had less to do with what was true, as there is no way of knowing, and more to do with what each of us needed to get by.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Matter of Minutes

It was late afternoon on a weekday when I flicked on the television only to find a sex therapist reviewing the... finer points... of the nether regions with a laser pointer on the Oprah show.

I don't know why I was home (and not working) that afternoon, but I suddenly found myself rendered powerless to resist an opportunity to learn more about... increasing blood flow to the area.

[Cough. Cough.]

Later that evening, I decided to share some of my newly won sexual expertise with my husband.

"You know," I started, "the sex therapist on Oprah said that while it typically takes a man FOUR minutes to become aroused, it takes a woman FOURTEEN minutes."

K looked at me.  Then he bent his elbow, threw his thumb over his shoulder pointing it at the bedroom door and said,
"Well alright then.  Get in there and I'll follow in ten minutes."

Oh, the PASSION!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

She's with the Band

"Spin around in circles until you fall down!" the band cried.

The Rooster and her friend Margaux spun like whirling dervishes.

Margaux fell repeatedly and The Rooster weaved like a drunkard.

"Now show us your belly buttons!" the band roared.

Roo and her friend exposed their bellies by pulling their 3T shirts up to their eyeballs.

At the Ralph's World concert we went to this weekend, the two girls were gone like a shot in the first few bars of the first song.

The Mayor sat clinging to my side. He intently studied the whole scene like a budding anthropologist.

The Rooster and her friend on the other hand, were down in front jumping up and down and pumping their fists in the air.

Occasionally, one of the girls would run back to me long enough to take a long pull on a juice box straw and then disappear again amongst her peers in the junior mosh pit.

Before they began their last song, the band invited audience members to join them onstage.

Margaux and The Rooster raced up the stage stairs nearly flattening the two year old set.

At first they teetered at the proscenium's edge squinting into the spotlight for a look at the crowd, but then I lost them in the throng.

The next time I spotted them I noticed they had stolen drumsticks and were banging on the drum kit like two wild animals.

Something tells me this doesn't bode well for the teen years.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Police Work

"She's not being nice!" he wailed.

[Gah! Sisters!]

"Mayor, don't let her take away your power."

Remembering the strategy, The Mayor sucked in a gulp of air and righted his ship.

He is learning to master of his own composure.

The Rooster is skilled at pushing his buttons.

She can make The Mayor cry by saying,

"You're not my friend!  You can't come to my birthday party!"

[Her birthday is in August, but this threat works all year-round.]

Lately, this thing about holding on to your own power has really been working for us.

When Roo has a go at The Mayor, we remind him that she's doing it specifically for the sport of making him mad.

"If you allow her to make you angry," we tell him, "then she wins."

The Mayor, addicted to winning, finds his poker face and steals himself to his sister's wicked taunts.

"Try to make me angry," he dares her.

When she starts in on him again he remains passive and still, unaffected.

"You're winning now," I whisper to him.

He won't betray his game face, but I see the slightest smile at the corner of his mouth. 

His sister scowls, her fun has ended.

[Gah! Mothers!]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

If They're Like Dogs Then It Just Follows That...

The other day at the playground, The Mayor and several other boys from his pre-school class drifted away from the playground and onto the baseball field.

I was standing on the far side of the playground with a man whose name is curiously "Cole's Dad".

The boys were pretty far away from us, but we could still see what they were doing... which was fighting.

They appeared to be ramming each other in the stomachs like four-year-old, big horned sheep.

Their sole purpose seemed to be to knock each other down.

From our vantage point, it appeared somewhat violent.

On several occasions Cole's Dad and K took steps towards the field intending to intervene but then stopped themselves.

The boys seemed completely happy. There were no tears.

In fact, whenever one of them was knocked down, the fallen one rose up to pursue enthusiastic vengeance.

“Boys will be boys,” Cole’s father shrugged.

“I guess,” I marveled.

“We used to play like that,” he said. “Boys are like dogs. We
connect with each other through physical fights.”

He looked wistful remembering his boyhood.

“It was always fun until blood was drawn.”

I glanced nervously over at the field.

“Once there was blood we’d have to figure out something else to do,” he said.

"What? Like humping each other's legs?"

[And after saying this to Cole's Dad, whom I hardly know, I buried my head and my big, fat mouth in sand.]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It Will Be A Long Road With Her

"Do you hear that?" K asked the kids.

"Hear what?" they asked.

K rolled down the car windows.

"It's the Muslim call to prayer," K told them. "Doesn't it sound beautiful?"

They were driving past a Mosque on the way home from a friend's birthday party.

"What is Muslim?" The Mayor asked.

"It's a kind of religion, a faith," K told him. "Muslims pray five times a day in a building called a Mosque. When it's time to pray, the Muezzin leads the call to prayer."

K closed his eyes and listened, remembering our travels in Malaysia and India.

"What's a Muezzin?" The Mayor wanted to know.

"The Muezzin is the person at the Mosque whose voice you hear calling the faithful to pray. Do you hear him sort of singing the words?"

"What is he saying?" The Mayor asked.

"Hmmm... the call to prayer is said in Arabic," K told him. "I'm not sure how the words translate so I don't know exactly what he's saying."

The Rooster (who is only three) suddenly used her best Darth Vader voice to shout,

"Come to the dark side, Luke."

Oh. My. Got.

[Do you think there's a Diversity Appreciation & Political Correctness Trainer for toddlers?]

Monday, November 10, 2008

Privacy Died with the Birth of The Children

"You're a quiche eating old lady!" he yelled.

"You're hag with legs as tall as a house and a butt as big as the planet Earth!" his brother replied.

Our friend Michael suffers from migraine headaches. When his wife was out of town this weekend he came down with one so I took care of the boys. 

I have to say, I had a pretty good time with them.

[I mean, who can resist the fun of yelling elementary school yard insults?]

"You're a giant butt crack filled with potato chips!"

I decided to join in,

"You're a bran muffin eating, big poop maker!" I told the younger boy.

"No, no, no," the elder son said, "I make bigger poops than him."

[Of course. How silly of me.]

"Fine, fine. Then he's a bran muffin eating, tiny pellet pooper!"

"That's the TRUTH," said the elder son laughing.

"Oh, yeah?" the younger countered. "Well, YOU clip your toe nails and fling them behind the sofa."

"No, no, no," the elder corrected. "It's DAD who does that."

Oh, the things our children will tell the world about us.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I Believe

[Oh, yeah... and what she said, too!]

Edited to add: Roger Ebert!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Last night, watching the election coverage on television, I looked out into the sea of faces gathered in Chicago’s Grant Park.

There were thousands of people of all shapes, sizes and colors all jubilantly jumbled together.

Their faces were shining, their eyes filled with joy and hope.

In them, in all their differences and similarities, I saw my America.

That crowd embodied the America that I believe in.

I’ve never been as proud of us as I am right now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sore Loser

It seemed like we had a "Halloween Hangover" all weekend.

The four of us were dragging.

By Sunday afternoon, it was clear that I had a bad cold, the children had eaten too much sugar and K had taken ENOUGH.

After the obligatory use of a Disney film to absorb a bit of Sunday, the children begged to play cards.

K launched a three-way game of War.

"One, Two, Three... DRAW," he said.

The Mayor, The Rooster and K each flipped over a card.

[I watched from my horizontal parenting position on the couch.]

Every time The Rooster lost a hand, she snatched her card back, pressed it close to her chest and wiggled back and forth as if her whole body were saying, 


The Mayor, in a great act of maturity, accepted her idiosyncratic play style and focused on the cards won and lost between himself and his father.

"Rooster isn't playing right," he shrugged.

"No she isn't" K said, sighing.  "That's how your mother plays, too."

[Rooster's not the only one in this family who doesn't like losing.]

Monday, November 03, 2008


The plush head of the horse sat cradled in the crook of her elbow.

In her free hand, a pink plastic pumpkin bucket swayed back and forth.

Her pink cowgirl boots were a size too big and the horse's dangling legs routinely got tangled up in hers.

Concentrating on keeping her balance, she carefully picked her way up the buckled concrete steps.

The lights were on in the house and we could see shelves and shelves full of books inside, but no one appeared to be home.

There were three stuffed zombies sitting on a wicker couch on the far corner of the porch where she stood.

The zombies appeared to be made from straw and pillow stuffing, like scarecrows, but they had frightening masks for heads.

The Rooster rang the doorbell and waited.

No one came.

Then, ever so slowly, one of the zombies started to move.

The Rooster had reached the porch first and stood there alone.  The Mayor and our friend's children were behind her, still on the stairs.

The zombie leaned forward towards The Rooster.

He beckoned her with a rubber clawed hand.

She took a step in his direction and he leaned forward even further.

The zombie seemed to be reaching for a huge bowl of candy at his feet.

Cautiously, The Rooster walked towards the zombie.  

When she reached the monster, she looked him right in the eyes, smiled a gigantic smile and shouted,


She was fearless.