Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Fragrance of Brothers

"Let me smell your breath," The Mayor said leaning towards his sister's face.
The Rooster exhaled.
"Your breath smells like yogurt!" he declared.
"Now let me smell YOUR breath," The Rooster said.
The Mayor leaned in again and this time he breathed on her.
"Your breath smells like BOOTY," she triumphed.
[Oh, The Proud.]

Over the last week, The Mayor, undaunted, has continued to ask his sister to check his breath.

Last night while eating ice cream he asked her to smell it again.
"Does it smell like ice cream?" he asked.
The Rooster smiled and nodded emphatically.
"Yes," she said, "like ice cream............... and butts."
[Thinly veiled parental giggling.]
"Half ice cream, half butts."
Nice.
Happy New Year!

[May your year be filled with sweet, minty breath.]

Monday, December 29, 2008

Conjoined

For Christmas, my Dad bought me a giant stack of books from my Amazon.com wish list.

I uploaded the books on the list more than two years ago and then forgot all about them.

Each book I opened surprised me and I thought,

"What the heck is this?!"

I started reading one about conjoined twins, two sisters connected at the head.

In the story, they are abandoned by their birth mother and adopted by their nurse.

I put the book down to get ready for bed and found myself thinking about adoption.

Before I was a parent, I used to wonder more about whether or not it would be possible to love an adopted child as much as a child that I conceived.

I assumed that adoptive parents grew to love adopted children equally, but, if I am honest, I confess to having some doubt about whether or not this would be true for me.

Now that I am a parent I feel differently.

After all, I find that I'm the type prone to parent them all anyway.
"Hey, you! Yes. YOU. No kicking... and keep your hands to yourself!"

[Etc.]

I now think that if I were handed a child and told that he or she was my responsibility going forward, I would likely love them as much as my own.

There's something about the simple act of parenting that involves or maybe even requires loving fiercely.

Maybe it's the protective instinct that kicks in when we understand ourselves as responsible for another person.

It is my responsibility to keep you safe. I am responsible for you. I will try to protect you.

[My teeth were getting a better than usual scrubbing.]

I went on to ponder what the world would be like if we all felt that way about each other.

I don't mean a world in which we all parented each other.

But one where we all felt responsible for each other.

Connected or obligated... or something.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Quiet Time

"We're having QUIET time now," K said. "Find a QUIET activity that you can do by yourself."
The Rooster looked up at him and SHOUTED,


"WELL, I HAVE TO POOP SO THAT'S GOING TO BE MY ACTIVITY!!!"
[That's my girl.]


*************************************************************

The Mayor had his CAT Scan this morning.
I'll know more on the 31st.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Follow The Star Tonight

I didn't go to church much when I was growing up, but I remember learning the story of Christmas and playing it out with my Grandparent's creche.

After asking permission from my mom and her siblings, I brought my Granny's creche home this summer.

I set it up a few days ago and smiled to watch The Mayor and The Rooster playing with it, as if it were a dollhouse, just as I had done.

"What are the wise men's names?" The Mayor asked me.

"I don't know," I said. "I'll have to look it up."

It's a pity I didn't do it right away because a short while later I listened in on my children's play only to hear The Rooster refer to them as Tom, Jerry and Chumley.



Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pancakes

I don't make pancakes.

I don't even really eat them.

Unless...

a.) I am grossly pregnant, (in which case I eat stacks and stacks of them), or

b.) my mother made them.

Like me, my mother is what pancake connoisseurs might call A Pancake Making Failure.

The edges of her cakes are routinely burnt to a crisp.

[Oh, the heavenly, tasty joy!]

Nevertheless, K asked me if I would handle the pancakes while he cooked eggs and sausage.

[Visualize my incredulous look of surprise.]

"Well...," I stammered, "I'll try, but you know I've never actually made pancakes."

[Who would want to? When everyone else is busy eating pancakes, the pancake maker is stuck in the kitchen, hypnotized by the formation of tiny bubbles in the batter.]

With a great and dramatic sigh, I accepted the spatula.

My first pancake was a harbinger of doom.

I scraped it out, flung it in the trash and poured a cup of oil (more or less) into the cast iron skillet to "re-grease" it.

The Mayor, a practiced pancake apprentice under my husband's tutelage, covered his eyes.
"I can't watch," he said.

"Maybe I'd better take over," K said removing the spatula from my hand.

[Everything is going according to plan!]

Monday, December 22, 2008

Back To The Future

I wasn't particularly popular in high school.

I didn't lead cheers or swing a pom-pon and I wasn't on the homecoming court.

I was a drama club geek in the AP class.


There was a whole universe of high school boys who didn't know that we drama club geek girls from the AP classes were alive.

Now that I am 41, all of these boys are my friends on Facebook.

Which is a little weird.

For example...

In eighth grade, my best friend and I began referring to John Miller as "Mr. Tush."

John was a soccer player and whatever his coach had him doing was totally working for him.

Despite his admirable assets, I'm pretty sure John and I never spoke to each other in the five years between eighth and twelfth grades.

I really didn't know him.

When I became "friends" with him on Facebook I curiously clicked over to his profile to find out how things had, you know, held up.

There were no photo's posted on John's page so, initiating what was possibly our first communication ever, I wrote on his wall:


"WHAT?! No pictures?! I'm going to quit being your friend on Facebook."

To which he replied,


"I'm waiting to get my Park Ranger uniform back from the Dry Cleaners."

Doh!

[What possesses me to publish this information on the Internet??!!]

Another boy that I didn't know at all, never spoke to once, was Ven.

This is a picture of Ven during high school. (I stole it from his Facebook photo album because we are Facebook friends now.)

Initiating my first ever communication with Ven, I left a comment on this photo which said:

"You totally owe me $70."

He wrote back asking why.

Well...

One weekend during high school, my parents went out of town and left me home on my own.

Because I was a genius from the AP class, I decided to throw a keg party in their absence.

Just weeks earlier, my friend Scott had thrown one when his parents were out of town.

Scott's party was really successful.

All the cool kids were there...

... and I drove his parent's car into their garage door; our friend Kevin pulled the ceiling fan out of it's socket; our friend Mike punched a hole in the bathroom drywall; and Corm projectile vomited while spinning in circles on the dance floor (also known as the shag-carpeted living room).

[Good times!]

My keg party was also SUPER successful too.

My parents came home a day early and arrived right in the middle of it!

[Sweet!]

Ven was at my party and do you know what he did while he was there?

Let me show you...


When my parents walked in, Ven was on the phone and he continued to talk even as the party broke up.

I got in big, fat trouble for having the party in the first place, but when my Father got the phone bill with the call to South America, he hit the roof.

I was too intimidated by Ven's rock hair to confront him about his phone bill, so I had to get a job to pay my parents back.

When I told Ven this story he offered to send me a bottle of wine, but I refused.

I decided to go for something a little more vintage.

"It's going to cost you your shirt," I said stealing another image from Facebook.

Ven Halen.


It's only fitting.



Saturday, December 20, 2008

Poker Face

"We make an incision around the rear curve of the ear, then we lift the ear up and operate."
I hardened my face by biting the inside of my lip and nodded.
"The ear drum we've been following has retracted into the small bones of the middle ear where we can't see it. It's time to perform a Tympanoplasty."
The doctor handed me a stack of paper describing the condition and the procedure.

Since infancy, The Mayor has suffered through countless ear aches and he had ear tubes surgically inserted at thirteen months.

Now this.

The otolaryngologist eyed me suspiciously.

Outwardly I must have appeared docile as a cow, slow and uncomprehending.

Maybe he wanted me to react, maybe he was expecting me to have a million questions.

Maybe he was expecting me to break into tears.

I was simply trying not to.

The day after Christmas, The Mayor has to lie perfectly still for a 6:30 a.m. CAT scan.

On New Year's Eve, we'll discuss the "surgical strategy" with his doctor.

"This is treatable," I keep telling myself. "Count your blessings."
Still, the mother instinct is so amazingly strong... I really don't want to do this. I want to demand they operate on my ear instead.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Beautiful

In The Mayor's pre-K class, there is a girl that he loves.

All the boys lover her, in fact.

[And all the grown ups love her, too.]

She was the new kid this fall, breaking into a classroom full of children almost all of whom have been in daycare together since infancy.

Instantly, the new girl was the most popular child in the class.

She has an enormous smile and an even bigger heart.

She's the cutest little sweet-pea you ever did see and, what's more, she's truly a beautiful person.

She's pretty, yes, but that's not what I mean.

She radiates an inner beauty that draws everyone to her.

She seems to be spun from magical threads of kindness, patience and warmth.

When I read this post about how she doesn't believe she's beautiful because she has brown skin, my heart felt as heavy as could be.

I looked for her after-school today.

I wanted to pull her aside and tell her that I thought she was the lovliest young girl I knew.

I scanned the playground for her, ahead of my own children, but she was already gone when I arrived.

Surely, there must be a thousand ways to help make sure she knows that she is beautiful.

Surely, there must be an infinite number of ways for everyone everywhere to teach all of our children that beauty comes in every size, shape and shade.

Surely.

What would you do?

What should I do?

What will we all do?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas

The Mayor and I were out running zillions of holiday errands.

As you would expect, he was bombarded with shiny objects.

"Mom! I want this! Can we get that!"
Because we're not really a church going family, The Mayor hasn't had much exposure to the real meaning of Christmas.

I realized that, for him, the holiday is simply the time of year when we buy a tree, put it in our house, decorated it and, ultimately, open a lot of presents.

I thought maybe I should tell him what Christmas means.

[Remind me never to think again.]
"Do you know why we celebrate Christmas, Mayor?" I asked him.
"Why?" he said.

"Well, you've heard of Jesus, right?"

"Jesus?"

"Yes, Jesus. See, Christmas is the celebration of his birthday."
The Mayor didn't say anything.
"Do you want to hear the story of Christmas?"
He nodded.

"Okay, well... there was this lady named Mary who was pregnant, so she and her husband Joseph were coming to town to have the baby."

[And then, because I am a freakin' AWESOME storyteller, I added...]
"But Joseph wasn't the baby's father, God was the baby's father."
And then I thought...

Oh, great. The next time someone asks The Mayor if he knows who God is, he's going to say,
"Sure. God was Mary's Baby Daddy."
My Christmas story was off to a poor start.

I mean immaculate conception? Forget about it.

I'm not even going to try explaining that to a four year old.

I soldiered on, telling him how Mary and Joseph couldn't find any hotels so they had to stay in a barn with donkeys and sheep.

I said something about wise men, gifts and following the north star.

Then, realizing there was no way I would be able to connect any of it to decorated pine trees or ornaments, the story came to a sloppy and abrupt ending.

The Mayor was quiet for a few minutes.
"Mom, do you know any more stories about Jesus."

"Well, not by heart, no, not really. Ooooh, wait!" I shouted, "I know! There's this one where Jesus walked on water!"

"Was he magic?"

Oops.

So let's see, so far I've invented a magician, born in a barn of a father who was not his mother's husband...

[Are you feeling the true meaning of Christmas?!!]

Later that day, The Mayor told me,
"Mom, if I had to pick only one super hero power, it would be walking on water."
[Are you feeling it now?]

[On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate The Mayor's religious upbringing so far?]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Poseidon's Revenge

Over the weekend we went to a "progressive party."

[All political ideologies were welcome, the progressive part was about location.]

At the first house, there were appetizers and unlimited piles of steamed and raw oysters.

The second house featured a lowcountry boil.

Dessert, three perfect pecan pies, a masterpiece trifle and coffee, awaited us at the last house.

As soon as I arrived, I grabbed an apron, a glove and a knife and began shuckin' like a madwoman.

I proceeded to eat my body weight in steamed oysters.

When my friend Joe suggested that we go slurp down a few raw ones, I started to get a reputation.

"Jessica!" my friend Caroline said, "You've been eating oysters non-stop since they came out!"

[The polite, southern way to say, "Yo, oyster ho."]

[Oh, but they were so BRINEY and delicious!]So I made a gigantic oyster pig of myself.

[Ettiquette schmettiquette.]

I kept grinning at our hosts, drunk on Oyster brine, slurring,

"Thish ish the greatesht party!"
I was one happy-ass honky.

HOW. EVER.

I tossed and turned all night, waking up at what seemed like fifteen minute intervals.

I dreamt of sandy, dry places.

In the morning, I woke up to discover that during the night I had turned into Lot's Wife.

I was nothing but a desiccated, leathery old hag of a woman living in a dried and waterless body.

If I had walked out into a pasture, cows would have gathered 'round and licked me.

A salt hangover?

Are you kidding me?

I am officially old as dirt.

[Where's my water pill...]



Monday, December 15, 2008

Shiner

At dinner K told me that Andy, his childhood friend, had e-mailed him a photo today.

In the photo, K had an enormous black eye.

Andy's e-mail had said,

"How'd you get that black eye?"
To which K wrote back,

"I can't believe YOU are asking me that, Andy!"

"Why?" I asked, "What happened?"


"I've told you this story," K said.


"What story?" The Mayor and The Rooster chimed in.

"When I was in fourth grade, I was on a baseball team," K started.


"When you were MY age?" The Mayor clarified.


"No, not when I was FOUR, when I was in fourth GRADE."


"How old were you in fourth grade, Dad."


"Um... I was nine... like Theo. So I was on a baseball team..."


"Theo is ten, Dad."


"Do you want me to tell the story?"
The Mayor nodded.

"Okay then... When I was in fourth grade, I was on a baseball team."
"You were NINE."


"That's right. I was playing second base and my friend Andy was playing third base."


"Theo is ten."


"I know that, Mayor."


"Tell the story, Dad!" The Rooster shouted.


"The coach was hitting balls and we were practicing in the field. The coach hit one that went past the outfielder, who had to go get it. In the meantime, the coach started a second ball, so I was watching the coach at home plate. Suddenly I heard Andy scream my name from third. I turned and the ball hit me right in the eye."


"Did he throw it at you?"

"No, the outfielder was throwing the ball home. Andy was trying to warn me because it was coming straight for me. I guess if I hadn't turned towards him the ball would have hit me in the back of the head and given me a concussion."


"A concussion?"
[K skipped right over that one.]

"My eye swelled shut and stayed that way for seven days," K told them.

"When I went to mass on Sunday, Monsignor Skelly looked out over the congregation and said, 'There's a little Irish boy here named K and
he's got the best shiner I've ever seen'
."
K stopped going to church when he was sixteen, after his father died.

Years later, when K heard Monsignor Skelly's health was failing, he went to hear him say mass once more.

The Monsignor looked out over the congregation and said,

"There's a young man with us tonight that I haven't seen in a long time. I remember a day when he was just a boy when he came to mass with the best shiner I've ever seen. I want to welcome him home."


Today is K's birthday.
Happy Birthday, my love.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Trust Fall

I tossed and turned in bed.

When I realized that I was intermittently whimpering, I finally threw the covers off and got up.

I crept into The Rooster's room and climbed awkwardly into her toddler bed.

I had been having one of those awful dreams, the kind where something terrible, devastating, something permanently bad, happens to one of your children.

I couldn't shake it off and I was full of fear.

I needed to see her, to watch the simple rise and fall of her breath.

Though she was deeply asleep, she flipped about in the bed trying to get comfortable.

There really isn't enough room for me in a toddler bed.

Eventually, she settled into the curve of my body.

Her arm curled itself around my chin and her hand settled on my cheek.

She stuck her little foot in my hand.

I stayed there, holding her, until I was sure of her again.

This morning, when I dropped her off at school, she stood at the glass door waving at me as I walked back to our car.

As the distance grew between us, I couldn't help sighing, resigning myself to the way parenting is such an incredible leap of faith every single day.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mother Hammerhead

The Rooster and I were reading on the couch while K read to The Mayor in our bedroom.

[You gotta keep 'em se-pa-rated!]

Roo and I finished reading our first two books and waited for The Mayor to deliver that old classic ( and unbearably dull early reader) called "Hungry Hungry Sharks" which he and K were reading first, but The Rooster also wanted to hear.

[Scintillating stuff, people!]

"Where is Hungry Hungry Sharks?" Roo asked.

"Daddy and The Mayor are still reading it," I said. "Listen, you can hear them."



"...sharks have tiny brains..."



"Mommy, let's play a love game while we wait!" she suggested.



"A love game? What's a love game?" I asked excitedly.



"First, turn your head away from me."

[I did.]


"Now close your eyes."

[Uh huh.]


"Close your mouth."

[Okay.]


"Now close your nose."
[????]

I pinched it shut.
"Now stay just like that," she said.

There was a moment of quiet and then I felt it.

My little girl stuck out her not so little tongue and licked me from my jaw bone to my temple.

[Clearly, this Mommy is an easy mark.]

And then...

The Mayor came out with Hungry Hungry Sharks and flung it at us from halfway across the room with such force that when it hit me, square in the face, it brought tears to my eyes.

I screamed in pain which brought my husband flying out to the living room resulting in The Mayor losing the rest of his books for the evening and being taken straight to bed.

There was a tremendous amount of Mayoral screaming coupled with the frequent and violent invocation of the word "NO!"

The Rooster and I soldiered on.


"...sharks have tiny brains..."


And ALL THAT, is what we commonly refer to around these parts as, THE JOYS.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sweet Nothings

"You're going to have to cut your toe nails," I said.

We were lying in bed, going to sleep for the night.
"WHAT? I just cut them!" he balked.

"Every night you flex your foot and scrape your sharp, dagger-like toenails right up my shin," I told him.

"Oh, PLEASE," he said. "You do that to me too."

"I do not!" I insisted.

"Yes you do! Only you don't just innocently flex your foot, you extend your leg and purposefully reach out with it -- THEN you drag YOUR toenails up MY shin."

"I absolutely do not reach out and scratch you on purpose!"

He sighed.
"Is it so hard for you?" he said facetiously.

"It IS!" I insisted, then added, "but I love you anyway."

"You do?" he asked, smiling.

"Mmmm hmmm," I replied, drifting a bit.

He stuck his finger in his mouth and soaked it in spit.

Then he reached out and purposefully stuck it in my ear.

"Do you love me now?"

Sunday, December 07, 2008

What She Believed

Last October, when my mom went all rock star on the conservative Virginian relatives, I found a folded up piece of lined notebook paper in my Granny's house.

Written on the outside fold, in my Granny's handwriting, were the words "My religious beliefs."

I read the note and shared it with my mother, my uncle, and my Aunts.

To me, reading it felt like a kind of gift.

My grandmother didn't keep a diary, not one that I know of anyway.

This note, her musing on faith, made me feel connected to her again...

[Which is, of course, what I want most of all.]

I typed up her note to capture it here for... I don't know what... for later... or maybe for always... something like that, anyway.

My grandmother was born in 1929 and these are her words.

My religious beliefs
Ann Meeler, 1929 - 2007

Do you believe in God?

No, not in the traditional, old man in heaven - a vindictive old man in a nightgown.

God was created by man in HIS own image - not the other way around - he's evolved but of man's need and we've transferred our human conditions and limitations to Him.

How can I believe or not believe in something that can't be defined?

But I do believe there is a finite reality of some sort - there is an ultimate of something - but I certainly find it's beyond ANY man's ability to comprehend.

Something that has no relation to what we call religion?

Yes, if by religion you mean a system of reward and punishment.

I (Ann) feel that more blood has been shed because of various creeds than anything else at all.

[Granny noted four Bible verses and I have added the text.]

Corinthians 1
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

Psalm 39:4
LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days,
what it is: that I may know how frail I am.

Romans XIII 14
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness,
not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not

provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

John XIV 1
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.

I believe, above everything else, in a just God.

I believe that at the end of our lives, or perhaps before, each of us will be dealt with justly.

I believe that the Holy Bible is God's law, but I believe that God's law may be written in other books -- in the Talmud -- or the Koran and in others.

I believe that God's law is also written in the stars and the stones of the Earth and in the hearts of men.

I believe that God gave each of us a mind and that he expects us to use it.

I believe that each human being has a right to interpret scriptures according to his own conscience but that he should expect to be judged on his interpretation.

I believe that God expects us to question each of the teachings of the Bible and to decide for ourselves how they apply to us.

Too many people that say they believe the Bible exactly as it's written - let's call them fundamentalists - but I find they are, each and every one, awfully particular about what passages they select!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Always Pleasantly Surprised

K and I are big on making sure we set our expectations right.

It is not uncommon for one of us to call the other during the work day to say,

"I'm THINKING ABOUT IT, so you'd better THINK ABOUT IT too. I don't want you to reject me later tonight."
[A little advanced notice works pretty well for us. I mean, once you get to thinkin' about it you get all... "who's too tired? I'm not too tired."]

Sometimes on the way to the movies we'll discuss how bad the film is likely to be so that we have plenty of room to be pleasantly surprised.

"Good thing we are paying the babysitter $4,500 to go out tonight because this movie is probably going to stink, right?!"

When I was pregnant with The Mayor, K and I decided to set our expectations such that we'd never be disappointed in our child's performance. We went around chanting,

"My child is going to be average in every way."
So yesterday, I set off for my first ever parent teacher conference where The Mayor's teacher showed me samples of his work.

She pulled out a picture of a granola bar pasted to a piece of construction paper. Next to it, The Mayor had written:


GRNOL BR


A slow, proud smile spread across my face.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dan River Bridge

I have roots in a very rural and conservative part of Virginia.

There were McCain – Palin yard signs posted at the end of their long country driveways when I visited in October.

We traveled there last week to spend Thanksgiving in my grandparent’s home which we have kept despite their passing.

Though I have never lived in this part of the country, I spent a lot of time there while growing up.

When I visit, my relatives say things like,

“I didn’t know you were coming home this weekend.”

I think the idea is that home is where your people are and through them, I am related to what feels like every single person in this rural, Virginian County.

My relatives know I am politically very liberal and usually avoid talking about politics in my presence.

Still, I sometimes overhear them.

Two cousins and an uncle sat on the couch laughing about something Rush Limbaugh said on a recent radio show and my ears perked up.

Overhearing my Virginian relatives unedited political commentary somehow feels like I’ve been granted access to the other team’s secret play book.

I didn’t get the Rush Limbaugh joke though.

Their conversation turned to my Aunt Mabel who is ninety three.

“She refused to vote in this year’s election. As a life-long Democrat, she just couldn’t bring herself to do it,” they giggled.

The next day, we took The Mayor and The Rooster to visit Aunt Mabel’s house.

Three generations of my ancestors are buried in the front yard.

The Rooster is named for my Great, Great Grandmother and I wanted to show her the grave.

The children were more interested in the fact that a beloved family dog is also buried there (complete with his own headstone).

Aunt Mabel invited us into the old farmhouse.

She moved there in 1935 when she married my Uncle Robert who grew up there and still lived there with his mother.

[Aunt Mabel shared her home with her mother in law for fifty one years!]

We joined Mabel in the antique-filled sitting room while my children scrambled upstairs to play with the same toys I played with when I visited as a child.

“So,” she said. “What do you think of Obama?”


“He’s our new President and I fully support him,” I told her.


Her old eyes twinkled in the way they always have and she smiled lovingly at me.


Monday, December 01, 2008

I've Got Nothing

Oy.

The Mayor and The Rooster were sick throughout the Thanksgiving holiday.

Post-holiday traffic yesterday made what should have been a seven hour drive take ten and a half hours.

[Aaaaaahhhhh!!!]

K took both children to the pediatrician this morning only to learn that they have raging ear infections and, trumping that, freakin' pneumonia.

PNEUMONIA!!

Oh, yesirree.

The Joys.