Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Today is Halloween, which means in less than 24 hours Halloween will be over, thankfully. I'm not a fan of this holiday. If there were a Grinch associated with Halloween, I would be him. I don't think I cared much for it even as a kid. I remember looking forward to it and planning, for hours on end, costumes and trick-or-treating routes, but when it came down to the night of the festivities I could take it or leave it. Maybe I'm wrong about that, maybe I was thrilled all through Halloween and hated to see it go, and this morose feeling I have is just a part of my curmudgeonly, though lovable, character. That's why I have a fact checker, though, and if I'm wrong my mother will let me know.

October 31 is for the kids and I will let them have their day. I was excited for them just last July when they picked out their costumes - C is a werewolf, JP is Spider Man, S is a ballerina and GK will be a little lump of drooling matter - and I was thrilled when they colored scraps of paper orange and black, cut them out and taped them to the front of the house with black electrical tape because it was the only tape they could find. These scraps of paper complemented nicely the toilet paper ghosts hanging in the trees. I even carved a pumpkin for them, the older three all huddled as close to me as they could get while I summoned every last bit of enthusiasm for that gourd as I could, though only giving fleeting attention to where that butcher knife made purchase.

It's not just the kids, though. It's 5:38 a.m. as I write this and I know I've got a full day of customers, grown-up people, asking me what I'm going to "be" for Halloween and asking me where my costume is. And I'll have to make conversation regarding the bit of make-up they decided to don or the funny wig and hat they wore to their office for an entire day.

Perhaps I'm a crotchety 85-year-old man for Halloween. Perhaps I'm a mean old man every day of my life. But I'll try to put on a smile this evening as we walk the kids around the neighborhood, begging for candy from strangers, and oohing and ahhing over whatever costumes show up at the front door to collect treats. But come November 1, bright and early, I'm collecting the trash hanging in the trees and taped to my front door.

Here, the kids show the camera what digits they want removed when I'm finished with the pumpkin.

Monday, October 30, 2006

J. Puke

JP eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese pizza and bacon. He drinks chocolate (Ovaltine) milk. This is his diet no matter how much we push. Last night, however, he stepped out of line a bit and had steak. Of course it would be steak when he finally decided to eat something out of the ordinary. We were grilling out at a friend’s house and he said he wanted some. He ate quite a bit, actually.

This morning he drank chocolate milk, and on the way into school he threw that chocolate milk up all over his jacket, shoes and the ground in front of him. When I set GK down in her car seat/carrier thing to help him, he almost vomited on her, too. And when he was finished voiding his belly, he said, “It was the steak!” So I fear that any shot we had at getting a normal diet into JP may be on hold for a while. For a long while.

I don’t like to vomit. I know no one does, but there are a lot of people who willingly do so when they feel nauseous in order to feel better immediately. I am not one of those people. I will fight the urge with all of my being, hoping that it passes. This purge-phobia has carried over into a neuroses of simply being in the vicinity of anyone else vomiting, and it’s taken me almost nine years of parenting to get used to the fluids that come out of my children. For the first few years I could handle a diaper, but had to call in Kristy for anything that didn’t go directly into a receptacle. I still don’t look forward to it, obviously, but this morning I was able to maintain my composure as I snatched GK's blanket off of her to wipe his mouth and nose, and help JP through his ordeal. I realize this doesn’t make me parent of the year, not to any of you other parents out there, but maybe it does to him, and to the rest of The Quartet who looked on in horror as all of that brown erupted from his mouth and nose. Parent of the morning, anyway.

When C was born in 1998, I was overwhelmed by the desire to protect him. This feeling only intensified as numbers two thru four came along. Thankfully, I’ve never had to protect them from any overt, violent harm, though I read the paper every day, watch the news and surf the interweb, so I know the possibilities are out there. There are all sorts of unspeakable dangers lurking, but for today, at least, the danger was comprised solely of chocolate milk, stomach acid and a bit of steak. And I rose to the challenge.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

The mornings really work best when GK sleeps up unitl it's time to walk out the door. She must have gotten wind of this because she's been waking up earlier and earlier lately. This morning she decided 6:30 was good for her, so I did something I've gotten away with not doing for the entire eight years and 10 months of parenthood that have been thrust upon me. I wore a sling. This may not be a big deal in your household, but, believe me, it is in ours. That's Kristy's product there at that link. And yet, somehow, over the years I have never carried a baby in one. But this morning I just needed a full set of hands to get breakfast and clothes and backpacks together, so I let Kristy put one on me. It felt as though I were being fitted for a bra. Once she got it situated and GK was in place, she stepped back and looked and seemed to like what she saw. She assured me that men everywhere wear slings, and then she went into the living room to tell the other kids, "Daddy's wearing a sling," as though it was the funniest thing she'd seen in a long time.

I managed to get everything done as GK drifted off to sleep - I made some waffles and even brushed my teeth, which was difficult to do, but GK should be minty fresh today. I suppose the sling could make a reappearance some future morning, especially if she insists on waking up while it's still dark out. I'm not sure my ruptured disk surgeon would approve of it, however, because I could feel it in my lower back by the time it was time to go. Oh, and I also felt the effects on my machismo as S danced around the house chanting, "Daddy is a lady! Daddy is a lady!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sam Walton & Albert Einstein

I took The Quartet to the Sam's Club tonight, God help me. I have a certain disdain for the big box retailers, as I feel they've done a number on the Mom & Pops of the country. Do not misunderstand me, I'm all for capitalism and the freedom to choose where you want to shop, and I believe if one store is better than another then it deserves to prosper. And I don't begrudge Sam Walton anything, he made it to the mountaintop of retail. I am a small retailer. I'm the Pop in Mom & Pop, and I know from experience that the quickest way to make a dollar in retail is to start with three dollars. But as a small retailer, I also cannot deny the low, low prices of Sam's Club.

I also cannot deny that Sam's Club may have the power to make you smarter. Case in point, we were wandering down one humongous aisle full of bushels and passels of stuff people need when this little nugget of a conversation took place:

C: E equals MC. Did you know that?
S: No.
C: Well it does, doesn't it Dad?
Me: It actually equals MC squared.
JP (jumping and twisting): MC squared! MC squared! MC squared!

Once we discerned that E=mc(squared) is the Theory of Relativity and Bulk Shopping, I pointed out the 36-count box of Twix for S to grab and we headed to the checkout lane.

Schoolhouse Rock

C likes to ease into the school day, so on the way downtown in the mornings he usually has some questions prepared. He also has questions prepared for after school, at dinner, while I'm watching TV or reading, during bathtime and as he's drifting off to sleep, but that's beside the point now.

This morning he asked if there was a president named John Kennedy. I told him there was. "The only presidents I know are Calvin Coolidge, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and George Bush," he said.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Smiling Sickness

Tonight, C asked me if there was a disease some people are born with that makes you always frown or makes you look sad when you're happy. Not that I know of, I said. Why? He said they had a new student teacher start today and she never smiles.

How nice it would be to be eight-years-old again and not know of the pressure and stress of adulthood. To think that if someone isn't smiling, that there must be something wrong with her.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Quotable Quartet

GK: (looking into the live lobster tank at Kroger) Look, daddy, hamsters!


GK: JP, when you go to school, do your teachers and friends laugh at your hair?


GK: When I'm sleepy, everything feels greasy like chicken on fingers.


C could be the new Jerkinator 3000.


What is deja´ vu? It sounds like a foot disease.


Don't push me.


I beat C down to the ground at recess yesterday. All his friends came to watch.


The only thing I don't get about superhero costumes is why they wear their underwear on the outside.


You know those small buses? They have seat belts on them!


C, JP, S:
Are we having cocktail hour tonight?


French is the opposite of Italian.


Only hippies wear ponchos.


I love the way Home Depot smells.


My toes are tiny!

JP: I wonder if that stretchy whale is still stuck to the ceiling at Kroger.


Do you even know who Donkey Kong is?


What's a hoe?


S: I've been playing Mancala since Pre-K.


GK: Me a French fry!


I've eaten 50% of my waffle.


Daddy put mayonnaise in his hair!


Daddy pretty.


Nobody ever died on Dora.


Since it's snowing, I hope we get dismissalled early!


I thought it was called a china!


JP: Two things I don't understand about Robin. One, he doesn't wear any pants and, two, he wears high heels.


Magic doesn't even exist. It's extinct!


I'm the only man around here!


So ... who all is coming to pigtail hour?


S: Reading books stanks!


C: Why does Jerry hate Newman?


City kids know our way around because we have maps and TV.


It would be cool if GK and me were triplets.


C (on history): I wonder if there were bullies in his class that called him "Hernando Dodo?"


JP: Is "Finders Keepers" really the rule?


JP: What the hell is a deer?


S: Who is Elvis?


C: I've got toast in my backpack.


JP: It's a bacon celebration.


JP: Food looks so delicious on TV.


JP: How do people melt?


C: Everything Dad says is funny.


Happy Birthday, K

Today is Kristy’s birthday. It means another year older, obviously, but I’m no fool so I won’t discuss that. Today is also the day, 13 years ago, that I proposed to her. We met 19 years ago in Mrs. Boyle’s drama class at Kirby High School and I can still, to this day, tell you what she was wearing and that she had a look on her face like she smelled something rotten. She probably did, she usually does. But we talked and it turned out she lived around the corner from me, so I visited, and we became somewhat inseparable after that. I said on that first day I saw her that I was going to marry her - I know a lot of people say that, but prove me wrong if you don’t believe it.

For part of 1993, we were on a break. That’s right, we were on a break long before the Friends were on a break. We still saw each other, however, and we finally got back together for good on October 20 of that year. I’m not sure when it dawned on me to ask her to marry me, sometime a month or so before I suppose, so I went to The Occasion Shop, a small antique store that was on Poplar across from Burke’s Bookstore. The ancient woman who owned the store showed me a thin, platinum band with a few tiny diamonds on top. I knew it wasn’t impressive in its own right, but it had an inscription from 1929 and I knew Kristy would appreciate it, so I put it in layaway and paid on it over the next month. I had made reservations for us at Giovanni’s, which was on Cleveland at the time and was what an Italian restaurant should be. It was dark, cozy and had Sinatra and Martin on the sound system. We’d never been there before but had always talked of going. Our table was perfect – a little two-top in the back – and the food, I hear, was very good, though I was too nervous to remember it, or even recall later what I’d ordered. When the time was near I went to the bathroom because the ring didn’t fit in the box so well so I knew it would just be rattling around in there and need to be set right. In retrospect, this means that I must have practiced with the ring and the box sometime beforehand, which seems very geeky. But all went well and the ring stayed in its little slot, though it was difficult to see in the dim light. She was very surprised, as I think all future brides should be. We weren’t even technically dating at the time, though, so it was probably all the more shocking. Afterwards, I think, we went to the Peabody Hotel lobby bar to celebrate and then started the rounds of where our friends hung out to tell them the news.

When I called family members over the next few days to tell them what I’d done, they all asked the same thing, “What did she say?” Well, she said yes, and I’m glad she did. I’m glad every day that she did. I promised some things that night, one of them being adventure, though I’m not sure that has come to fruition as she’d intended. There was our time in Florida and a short stint in New Mexico. There was that awful, awful night in 1996, new careers, a couple of businesses and, finally, four kids. And they are the real adventure now. It may not be sailing the world as we’d talked about, or living in a beach hut, but every day I look at my kids and see Kristy in them I’m glad I did what I did 13 years ago. Happy Birthday, Kristy. I love you.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Virtually Virtual

Last week I inadvertently put my cell phone through the washer. Don't do this. Though your phone will come out smelling springtime fresh, it won't work anymore. So I went to the Cingular store and was shown all of the phones that I could Google with and listen to U2 on and one that would, ironically, do my laundry for me. The saleslady looked at me derisively when I finally decided on one that would simply make and receive telephone calls. I gave my old phone, the clean one, to the kids to play with. I thought they would think this was a neat and unexpected toy, and I was right.

The Quartet's mother is anti-video games. She never played them, has never understood why people may want to play them and has forbidden them in the house. I used to play some games, not a lot, I wasn't one of those kids who spent hours and hours playing day in and day out, but I enjoyed a little Pitfall, Mario Brothers and, eventually, Bionic Commando. So JP doesn't really know the first thing about video games. He's seen some friends and cousins play and seems to enjoy watching other kids play more than actually playing himself. But he's been walking around with the dead phone pretending to play video games and I don't know if this is imaginitive, sad or incredibly manipulative. He wanders around with the thing flipped open saying, enthusiastically, "I'm pretending to play Sonic." It's not as though we deny these kids bicycles or soccer balls or even a TV in their room with loads of DVDs to destroy at will. It's just video games. And real, working cell phones.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Her Left Foot

GK, at only four months, has many friends. There is Satchel and Jiro, Minnesota, and her running buddy, H.S., not to mention her three siblings and a cousin. She has a big time with them and, as far as she knows, they’re all family. As much as she feels for these people, however, none of these relationships comes close to the affaire de coeur she carries on with her own left foot. She holds it, she looks at it, she can fit it in her mouth. She’s named it Lucretia, which means something to Kristy and me, but we’re not sure where she came across it. She even carries on conversations with the foot and this, I believe, is how they go:

GK: How are my piggies today?
Left Foot (Lucretia): You know I don’t like it when you call them that.
GK: What’s your problem today?
Lucretia: Your daddy put one of those things on us this morning.
GK: A sock?
Lucretia: It didn’t match the other one. Again.
GK: Sorry, he’s not very bright.
Lucretia: No. He’s not.
GK: Well, come here and I’ll give you a big ol’ smooch!

Some time ago we broke down and sought out a pacifier for GK. And when I say “we” broke down, I mean “Kristy,” because I would give my children a rawhide bone to suck on if it would keep them quiet and tone down the fussy. But they didn’t sell these at the Main Parenting Store, so we went to the Other Parenting Store, Ike’s, for sweet, sweet relief from the crankiness. She loves her pacifiers, but not on the level of her left foot. The pacifier, I imagine, doesn’t have the saltiness, the meaty feel on the gums, of a left foot. There’s no danger of dropping the foot on the disgusting floor while being held and conveyed from room to room. The foot is always with her and that must be comforting on some level, to have that security so readily available, so dependable, so very edible.

One day that left foot will be ready to perform for her, to be placed in front of the other just as the song says, and Lucretia will find her way into a shoe. It will be a stylish shoe, to be sure, and will probably, more than likely, be one half of many, many pairs of shoes. Until then, though, she can hold it and gum it and, late at night, whisper to it, When you fall asleep, I’m going to eat you up. You and your little piggies.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Inside Joke

We had our grown-up evening last night with dinner at Dish and post-dinner drinks and revelry at Celtic Crossing. I won't bore you with the details, mainly because I have little memory of most of the details, and what details do come back to me paint a sordid picture. Not a picture so much as a Saturday Night Live skit. One of those rare funny ones from recent years, written by Tina Fey with a recurring character of Will Ferrel's, hosted by Steve Martin or, perhaps, Peter O'Toole. The musical guest would have been Billy Joel or some techno group I've never heard of. Anyway, it wasn't the usual Norman Rockwell picture I normally paint for you here, so I'll just keep it to myself.

However, there was an announcement made that turned the evening into a celebration of sorts. It seems there will be an addition to our little family. Yes, someone has been working on this for a while and the fruits, so to speak, of labor have been realized. She gushed and shared and even the proud papa beamed because he actually has something to do with this one. I'm talking, of course, about yet another blog from Stacey. She already has this one and this one and now, Chop Fayn, which is all about Warren's cooking. No pressure, Warren, but now not only do you have to feed your family, but you have to feed the internet, and keep me entertained and amused. So welcome to the family, Chop Fayn, you make three. Jeez, doesn't she know what causes this? I know she does, actually, it's all she talked about last night.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Kids? What Kids?!

Tonight is the night we all lock our kids in a closet, slide a frozen pizza under the door and tell them we'll be back "soon." Tonight we are going out with our friends and leaving our children behind. It will be a Monkey Convergence without the monkeys. This happens almost...never. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever spent any significant amount of time with these people without kids around, without having to stop a conversation every three minutes to answer a question, tend to a scraped knee or hurt feeling, or take someone to the bathroom. This will be the chance to see if any of us can still hold up our end of an adult conversation. Instead of discussing sleep schedules, daycare or Elmo, we have the opportunity to talk about grown-up things - North Korea, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, the Tennessee Senatorial race (I hope we don't talk about any of those things). It will also give me the chance to find out the punchline to this joke: An archaeologist, music professor and tobacconist walk into a bar...

The dinner itself should be nice as well. We're going to Dish in Cooper-Young and, if everything goes right, there will be no chicken fingers on the table, or Styrofoam cups with lids, or Crayons. I'm not sure what Dish serves, and I don't care, but I know we'll have our appetizers and our highballs of Manhattans and Tom Collinses, perhaps a martini. The line-up includes Kristy and me, and the captains of Team Greenberg-Oster as well as Andria and The Admiral. The roster is not random as these people either all have birthdays in October or, like me, are married to someone with a birthday in October. And we all have the strongest locks on our closets.

It all seems very decadent, though it's simply a night out for dinner and drinks. Nevertheless, I plan on scanning the papers and internet today for adult conversational topics, showering after work, shaving above the knee and putting on clean socks for these people. At the end of the night we should all be refreshed, our batteries recharged and ready to face the reality of family again. There will be talk about how we should do this more often - once a month, even, and we'll make plans for it, though it probably won't happen regularly. We all, without doubt, have too much going on in our day-to-day lives.

As much as we all love our children, it's just normal to want to get away. And that's what we all want and we all need, just a few hours away to be completely, selfishly, adults again. So tonight I'll raise my glass to all of the parents out there who are getting away for a spell. Enjoy yourselves, forget yourselves, everything and everyone will be there for us when we get home at the end of the night. I just hope I don't have to take any of these people to the bathroom tonight.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Real Bad Hurt

I returned home from work this evening to face one of the many fears that a parent harbors - my daughter was injured. When I dropped S off at school this morning she was fine, well, as fine as S can be at 8:20 in the morning. But she was undamaged and that's what is important. It seems that at some point during the day she was dancing around and fell, hitting her teeth on a chair. Her teeth seem to be okay, they hurt, but aren't loose and she still has them all in her head. Her upper lip, however, looks as though it's gone a few rounds in a middleweight fight. It's all swollen on the inside, making it protrude out like there's an orange rind stuck up in there.

As difficult as this is to see, a hurt child, what I read regarding the injury was almost as painful to my brain. The adults running the program she's in - this daycare that prefers to refer to itself as a Pre-School - write up an Incident Report when one of their wards has an accident. This is what was written there:

S and Kevin was dancing around to the music and she tripped and hit her mouth on the chair.

Colloquialism I get. I realize that conversational speech will bend the rules a little. I understand, too, that people take short cuts with E-mail and instant messaging and text messaging. But when you're putting something in writing to the parents of a child you're supposed to be educating, shouldn't you double-check things like subject-verb agreement? I think so.

I feel bad for S, especially after sitting with her all evening while she cried about her teeth hurting, but my heart also aches a little for simple English grammar, which was dealt a blow to the teeth as well today.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Playground Etiquette 201

After writing my post of yesterday, Playground Rules & Etiquette 101, I took those same three kids to the same park. I feel that more should be said regarding playground etiquette and, more to the point, the etiquette of the parents at the park. So here now I will list my rules for the playground, not for the kids, because they're kids and are in the process of learning how to behave. You, however, have no excuse. You are old enough to know better. You know who you are.
  • Keep an eye on your kids.
  • If you're trying to impress your children, or other parents, with your acrobatic ability on the monkey bars, be aware that there are small children about. Watch your big, clumsy feet.
  • If there are swings and slides and a jungle gym in the area then you are at a playground for human children. Leave your dog at home.
  • Do not pull your car up as close to the playground as you possibly can and turn your car stereo up. No one else cares to listen to your bass.
  • Do not spread your McDonald's dinner out on one of the only two benches for sitting and then leave it to wander around. Not unless you want me to eat your food.
  • Be aware that if your child brings a riding toy to the park then he or she will be expected to share with the other kids. Explain this to your child before you ever get to the park.
  • If you see trash on the playground, pick it up, your kids play there.
  • Again, watch your kids, even if it means putting the cell phone down for half an hour.
I'm sure I'll add more, and feel free to comment with your own rules for playground etiquette.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Playground Rules & Etiquette 101

Kristy teaches high school, which makes the fact that she had to work last night suspicious to me. She claimed there were some sort of parent/teacher conferences going on and she had to be on hand to tell parents how smart or how dumb their kids are. She does that with me all the time. If not for the fact that she took GK with her, I would have accused her of lying to get out of a Monday night at home with its bathtime, dinner preparation, cleaning, and all of the other events that are akin to stuffing square pegs into round holes. Kristy would never do that anyway because she wouldn’t know what to do without the rest of us. At least that’s what I keep telling myself, and that’s what I told C, JP and S last night. Lying to get out of school night preparations would be unthinkable, it would be against the rules.

I was faced with the proposition of taking these three home to tackle laundry and dinner and baths, or taking them to the park, where they could run free and be supervised by other children’s parents. The decision was an easy one.

Peabody Park was overrun with children. It looked as though some sort of child dam had broken upriver and flooded the playground with its supply. My kids fall right in to playing with strange children, for which I am grateful. Not just because it means they’re out of my hair when we go to the park, but because one of the things I like most about being the father of an 8-year-old and others who are younger, is watching them interact with other people of the same height. I enjoy how they refer to each other – the boy with the orange shirt, the kid with the brown skin – and watching how they resolve disputes, which is amazingly quick and friendly. I also appreciate it because it is not how I was as a child. I was shy, still am, and I’m sure I missed out on a lot of fun because of it. I think that even as a child, though, I liked just sitting back, watching the action, though I know it would have been great to just jump right in and organize a game of tag or hide-and-go-seek the way C does. I think I turned out alright regardless.

I was pushing S and another little girl (how did I get stuck with an extra child?) in the swings yesterday and watching C and JP play tag with a group of kids, the game being run by another dad with quicker feet and a better back than I. It occurred to me that, along with not yet having taught C to ride a bike and never yet having taken my kids fishing, both things on my Bad Parenting List, I may have also inadvertently forgotten to teach them the rules and etiquette of playground play. Specifically, that if you get tagged, then you are IT, and there’s no way around that. I first saw JP get tagged, obviously tagged, and him immediately denounce the game. He wasn’t playing anymore. Then I saw C get tagged. Now this wasn’t quite as clear, as he was in the stretch for home base at a pretty good clip, but I think any referee on the field would have called him IT. I did. But he insisted he was on base. He would live another day without being IT.

And what’s so wrong with being IT? I realize the goal of the contest is to Not Be IT, but when you’re IT you get to terrorize all of the other kids. They run from you, screaming, afraid for their very lives, it seems. At home, The Quartet is always IT. Kristy and I hide, and when they find us, we run. They always seem to tag us, though. Sometimes they’re sneaky and it’s with a hug or a kiss. But sometimes it’s with a shoe thrown from the living room couch.

I sat down at the park with JP, because he wasn’t playing anymore, and explained to him that when he’s tagged, then he’s IT, and that’s just the way it is. All he can do is run as fast as he can and tag some smaller, slower child, maybe that one over there with the eye patch (run at her from her left!). He didn’t respond, just looked at me like I was crazy. “I’m not playing,” he said. And that was that.

The game was eventually called on account of extreme thirst and dinnertime, and we went home so C could ask questions. Home, where the rules are more clearly defined. Where when you’re tagged, you’re IT and where there is no lying to get out of nightly chores, even if you do take a kid with you.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Alms for the Poor

When I got to work Saturday morning, just before opening the shop, I walked down the street to see what remained of First United Methodist Church after the horrendous fire the previous morning. This was one of the churches which feeds the multitude of homeless that downtown Memphis boasts. As I approached the block where the church is, a woman, obviously indigent, was coming from the location and told me they weren't handing out box lunches, but they had muffins and good coffee. What, exactly, must I look like as I walk the streets downtown? Sure, I don't have a lot of money, but do I look like I'm in search of free meals? Is my family letting me leave the house looking homeless? Perhaps it's time for a make-over.

photo by E.W.A.

Art & Psychology Sunday

Last night I was lying in my bed, listening to my favorite jazz program on the radio and trying to read, when I noticed a sudden influx of little people. C, JP and S had come in with their notebooks, their journals, and were all drawing, so I made a game out of it. I would tell them what to draw and they would do so. I really enjoy these fleeting moments when I'm in charge. Here are a few of the things they drew and their individual takes on them. I'm not sure what it all says about them, if anything, other than they really know how to intrude on a person's peaceful Sunday night. Perhaps if there are any psychologists among my readership you'll know better.

Smiley face
C: Winking face
JP: Crying face
S: Mad face

C: Rattlesnake
JP: Harmless snake
S: Curled-up baby snake

Favorite thing to eat
C: Cinnamon roll
JP: Bacon
S: Yogurt

C: Bird in the tree
JP: Nest in the tree
S: Nest with an egg in the tree

C: Drew a door on the mountain
JP: Drew a floating mountain
S: Drew windows in the mountain

C: Time was 9:25
JP: Time was midnight
S: Time was 2 a.m.

Artist's pick
C: Mountain
JP: Door
S: Cube

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Report Card

Today is report card day. C got his and it’s just as expected, it’s just as it has been since kindergarten. He got all As and Es and made the principal’s list again. He was also cited for his good citizenship. We are very proud.

Part of his homework tonight is to read a story aloud to an adult, so he read to us during dinner and he did a great job. He can pronounce even the larger words and his elocution is first-rate. C is a good kid, both in school and at home. He follows directions well, too. For instance, I require the kids to change out of their uniforms after school because they’re rough on clothes and I’m not made of money, despite what they think. So tonight he’s hanging out around the house in just his underwear. Well, he took his uniform off at least. But he also has temporary tattoos all over his torso and arms, including a couple on his chest and one that encircles his scrawny little bicep. With his pasty skin, tighty dinosaur briefs and tatts, it was like having an 8-year-old meth addict, or Max Cady, read to us about bugs. It also gave us a brief glimpse into a possible scary future. As parents, our waking hours are full of wondering what our offspring will grow into – doctor, entrepreneur, scholar, athlete? But what if they turn into adult meth heads, wearing that same pair of underpants, who won’t leave home and insist on reading to us aloud about bugs while plotting to steal my VCR?

This won’t happen, of course. C is intelligent and has a good head on his shoulders, and we’ve got that head in a vice at least until he’s 18. But there’s always the what if to think about. What if he takes the wrong path? What if he never moves out? What if we’re actually still using a VCR in 10 years? Scary thoughts…now, back to the bugs.

By the way, JP got his first report card ever today. Perfect attendance!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bath Time

I've heard of things like parenting classes. I can't imagine they're worth whatever exorbitant fees are charged or however much time they take up. Teaching someone to be a parent would be like explaining brain surgery to someone as they stood in the operating theater for the first time, tidy white smock on, face mask, latex gloves and scalpel in hand. I would imagine the outcome would be about the same as parenting, too - digging in and seeing things you never thought you'd see, amazed at first by the miracle of it all, followed by an overwhelming wave of nausea, vomiting and possibly passing out.

I'm not sure about the entire parenting course, or how long it would have to be, but I'd like to audit the class when they teach you how to teach your kids to bathe. Or at least get my hands on that chapter of the textbook. The three older kids have been bathing on their own for some time now - for a long time together, though C has just recently begun taking his own bath or shower. Oh, and, we have one bathroom. You read that correctly, but in case you can't believe your eyes, I'll type it again: ONE BATHROOM. And five people are using it. I realize this is unheard of in this day of the average 2,500 square foot home and two and a half baths at the least, but here we are. So when bathtime rolls around every night (or other night), the surf seems to be up and you better have your snorkel on. I'm not real sure what's going on in there, but it looks like they've turned the place into some sort of water park. I went in this evening, after JP & S's bath, but while C was still in there, because I had to use the bathroom and, again, this is the one and only place to do that, so this is quite frequent in our house. There was water on the floor, on the vanity and wall, and some spray on the mirror. There were clothes scattered about, a pair of scissors on the floor, towels strewn here and there and toys. Oh, the toys. What was going on in there? Do I even want to know? What I do want to know is if they got clean doing it. I don't see how they couldn't. It would be like walking through a car wash and coming out the other end as dirty as you'd gone in.

It probably shouldn't surprise me, now deep into my eighth year as a father, as it did tonight, but sometimes I'm just caught completely off guard. I walk into the little bathroom and my socks are immediately soaked and I just look around in disbelief, thinking to myself, Where did this water come from? Is something leaking? Why is there a shoe in the sink? Where did all of these kids come from?

Such a simple task, bathing. All you need is soap and water, both of which should stay in the tub. It's not brain surgery. Maybe that class could at least teach me how to teach them to use a mop and sponge when they're done.