Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Tell-Tale Pants

I picked my second born, JP, up from piano practice at school this afternoon and was greeted in the hallway by a guttersnipe in khaki pants with both knees ripped out. I asked him what happened and he told me nothing, that they were like that when he put them on this morning. I stopped him and said (for my sisters, they should imagine Mom saying this because I could sense her presence talking to me 30 years ago), "You mean to tell me I took those pants out of the laundry this morning, folded them, and set them out for you with the holes in them." And he said, "Yes." I asked if he was sticking to that story and he said, "Yes."

As we waited the 15 minutes or so for C to finish play practice, I made a point of staring at his knees so that he would catch me, and then he would cover them with his hands and look away. I plan to leave those pants out here at home where he will consistently see them and he will consistently be reminded of the story he told me until one day he just can't take it anymore and he'll crack and tell me what really happened. And by then I'll probably yell at him that I don't know what he's talking about but he'd better get his pants out from the magnets on the refrigerator.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


This is the 400th post on Urf!.

I don't really have much more to say about it. I'd like to say that there are 100 posts for each of my four kids, but that's not completely true. There are a lot of posts just about me, some about movies or music, television or school, and a few are simply photos. But all 400 posts have one central theme: me! Not really, it's all about family - the silliness, the poignant, the profane and, of course, the good times and frustrations.

I hope you've enjoyed reading these first 400 as much as I've enjoyed writing them. And if you haven't lately, you really should go back to the beginning and re-read all of them. Go ahead, I'll wait ...

Monday, February 25, 2008

RJA and Kristy Plus Four

Occasionally I find myself in front of the television flipping through all 11 channels of our substandard cable package. If The Simpsons isn't on, then the TV usually lands on TLC. I find one of their shows fascinating. It isn't the one about the midgets or the tattoos or the house renovations. This is the show about a couple with eight children, six of whom are the same age.

I don't watch this family to feel bad for them or to laugh at them. I watch it because I envy them. These 10 people are always going places! They're traveling in their cool, large-capacity van, and they're traveling on airplanes. I was thinking tonight of all the places Kristy and I have traveled with half as many kids. We've been to Greensboro, GA, to visit Mimi & Pop; Statesboro, GA; and the Gulf coast a few times. And that's it. We've never even driven to Naperville, IL, to visit Favorite Aunts Carol and Lauren, for some reason. Never been four hours away to Murfreesboro to see Johnny and his girls. And we've certainly never been on an airplane together. I once looked into flying us all to the swamps of Southern Florida to visit my mother and the cheapest flight was close to $2,000 for us to drive to Nashville and fly out of there.

I watch the TLC program, and here is this family jetting around the country, so what I figure the Urf! contingent needs is a producer. We need a producer to put these trips together and wrangle some advertising money. I'll dress my kids in Nike or Coca-Cola or NASCAR or whatever you need to get us all out of town on your dime. We know we aren't reality TV worthy with our measly four, un-inked, average-height kids, and we're okay with that. We don't need to be on TV, we just need to get out from in front of the TV. And the farther from our television the better.

The Religion of Cute

I was raised in a Catholic family and in a Catholic school. One thing I always remember from my childhood is that my mother would make the Sign of the Cross any time we passed a Catholic church. It was never anything I learned specifically to do at school, though I was only 14-years-old when I left for public school, so I guess I assumed crossing yourself was something the Apostles had done whenever they drove past a church. No matter where in town we were, when we passed a Saint-anyone, Mom would make the Sign, it was the most reckless act of driving I would witness until cell phones came on the scene. Yet it was also somehow comforting to know that she was always thinking of where she was and, I suppose, where she’d come from.

I always counted on that simple motion just as I’ve come to count on something else as a parent. When out in public with my youngest child, GK, I expect strangers to stop when they pass and comment on her remarkable cuteness. It happens everywhere we go, people stopping to cross themselves with her beauty. I’ve even witnessed a genuflection here and there.

Another lesson learned from my mother was respect and tolerance for other religions. And I am both respectful and tolerant in my adulthood. But something happened today that I’m having a difficult time holding in high regard. GK and I were at the Home Depot (she’s thinking of repairing the leaky bathtub faucet herself and wanted to browse their selection of diverter stems) and people were stopping as they do to comment on her winsomeness to each other or to try to engage her or even just to smile at her. But then she walked in front of a middle-aged couple that didn’t stop or look away from their shopping to admire her. They ignored her! What kind of beauty atheists were these people? GK was even walking, and if you’ve ever seen her toddle then you know that it’s impossible not to adore it. I almost went back to these people to ask them what their problem was. Ask them if they even saw my daughter, or if Lucifer had pitchforked all aesthetic sense out of them.

I usually give people with their own kids a pass. I have four kids and I certainly never stop to ooh and ahh over some stranger’s snot-nosed urchin. But, again, that’s because I have my own. These Godless people looked to be two of that breed that have no children of their own by choice. They probably hate children. Or beauty. I have no idea what they were buying at the Home Depot, but I’m sure whatever they’re renovating or constructing will be ugly, pointy and dangerous, and probably best left ignored altogether.

Friday, February 22, 2008

One Through Six

Kids today. The Quartet and I have already reached a communications barrier, but it's not over the rock-n-roll or the new math or the designated hitter. No, it's over Star Wars. They've been watching the series over the past few nights, and they insist on calling Star Wars, the first Star Wars where we're introduced to Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan and R2-D2, "Number Four." And the third one, with the Ewoks, is somehow now known as "Number Six." There's no talking to these kids, they act like I was born in another century or something when I try to explain it to them.

Will I ever be able to talk to my children about the truly important things? About drugs and sex and relationships. About how in 1977 the computer technology just wasn't there to make Mark Hamill even a decent actor?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm Starving!

You've read about their food abhorrences. You've learned what foods will not be tolerated by

Sassy Molassy
Steph Chockleyblog
Mrs. Katherine

And here is my own list. This is my list of things that aren't even food! You shouldn't eat these things even if you wanted to. Non bon apetite.

this calculator
this cigar cutter
that chair
my shoe
your shoe
recyclable water bottles
the remote
$1.25 in nickels
this ink pen
the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle
the front rotors and brake pads I just had replaced on the Volvo 740
this losing lottery ticket
a 40-watt light bulb
tiny little golf pencils
the Apple iBook G4

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Politics and Poop

Sunday politico program conversation:

Me: What are you doing my little snookum-wookum?

GK: Senators Obama and Clinton's campaign managers are making the rounds of the news programs and I'm considering both. Obama makes a strong case and has a good base with a large war chest to carry him forward to November.

Me: GK, dear, let me try to explain some things to you that you may not, in your 20 months, have comprehended yet. In this day and age, in this post-9/11 world we live in, we need a leader who can protect our country. We need someone who isn't scared to do and say what needs doing and saying. And there's only one person for that in this race, only one clear choice. It was a rallying point, a great day for America, when he rescued all of those hostages from what he thought was a gang of terrorists at Nakatomi Plaza. And that man single-handedly saved every soul on those airplanes that needed to land in Washington, D.C. Not to mention the passengers on the New York subway and the guy from the Apple commercial. How can you even think liberal in this time of war and strife? In this house, we vote one way and I expect you to remember that in 17 years.

GK: McCain, doofus. Senator John McCain of Arizona. M. C. C. A. I. N.

Me: Ohhh, I see. Nevermind.

GK: Hey, Russert, what say you change me now? I've been sitting in my own filth through your entire speech.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

He Seems To Know Me

C has been cast in the role of "Peasant" in the production of The King in the Kitchen that the 4th Grade is putting on. (Spoiler alert!) The Peasant wins the princess.

I picked up my little Bobby De Niro after his first practice yesterday and he talked and talked and talked about the play like he does. He told me they were working on two plays that day. I said, "There are two plays?" And quick as he could, he said, "Yeah. But you only have to go to one." I think we understand each other.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Numbers, Words and Fire

I always had trouble with word problems in math class in school. I was good in math and I could read well, but when you put the two together it's like I was dyslexic. Whatever was being searched for in those riddles was beyond me. So I felt especially helpless tonight when C was trying to tackle a problem for school and asked me for assistance. Here's the problem:

Kate is 4 years older than Margaret. In 7 years, the sum of their ages will be 70. How old are they now? How do you find Kate's age using Margaret's?

I came up with the right answer, but I can't figure out how to explain how I got it, and the instructions ask for a table to show your work.

Parenting is hard enough with having to teach your kids right from wrong, to stay away from strangers, and which is their right foot and which is their left. But then you throw word problems in and it makes it only that much more difficult. It makes it about x times more difficult.

This evening I was also unable to teach GK how to use a Zippo. I blame this on her weak thumbs, which is going to be something she'll have to deal with her whole life. She gets weak thumbs from her mother.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tears Among The Backpacks

As we pulled up to school this morning, JP said, "See that kid with the green backpack? That's Harold. Every morning he goes to the backpacks and cries and I go over to the backpacks and look at him." I suggested he should be nice to the boy and he said he is. "He's always okay by the afternoon."

JP is curious, but he has a big heart.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Par For The Course

On this fine, sunny Sunday morning I found myself out in the front yard with GK, mug of coffee in hand, watching her toddle around, ride the myriad tricycles and big wheels, and laughing at her as she implored me to ride the child-sized scooter. I knew that on the other side of the front door, the other three were wasting food, spreading debris around the living room, arguing, possibly crying and losing the remote. Again.

I leaned against the Volvo and watched as the three college-age guys who live three houses down stood around their upright golf bags and open trunk, no doubt discussing their plans for the day or remembering the highlights of their night before, whatever that might have entailed. They looked at me, I looked at them, they looked at me, I looked at them. I'm pretty sure they were envying my life.

At their leisure, they loaded those bags into the trunk, adjusted their windbreakers and ball caps and climbed in, heading off for a day at the course. I took my daughter up in my arms and headed inside.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mud Angels

I can remember being a kid in February and holding out hope against hope that it might snow so that we would get the day off from school. Some days, though, it was only bitterly cold in the mornings, yet dry. But then, miracle of miracles, the sky would open up sometime during the morning and enough snow would begin falling to whip Memphis into a frenzy. All school work stopped and pandemonium would ensue with kids running around, looking out the windows and waiting on their parents to come and release us from the clutches of our teachers. Those were exciting times indeed.

I just got back from picking up my kids from school early. It's 75 degrees here now on the 5th of February, and there are some potential thunderstorms on the way which could hit here anytime between now and 10 p.m. I'll say that again: The powers that be closed Memphis schools early because it might rain. I think it's great that the schools now have computers in them and it's really wonderful that somebody at the top has bookmarked, but having parents leave work early to rush around and pick up their kids, who then may have no place to stay, because of a thunderstorm seems a bit over the top.

And right now is telling me that there is a wind advisory for the area. So it seems schools closed early for wind. Breaking wind, which may reach 25 mph. My brother, down in the swamps of southern Florida, gets out of school for the threat of wind sometimes, but their wind is generally guaranteed, and it's usually 74 mph or more.

The Quartet is at home now with Big Mama, who is a teacher in the city schools, and I have this Rockwellian image of them drinking hot chocolate, bundling up until they can hardly move, and then walking outside to be blown over into the mud in the front yard.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


My family is large enough that we have a calendar put out each year with everyone's birthday listed. All of the little squares for each month are almost filled up now with names. We're very prolific in our baby havin'.

When you look at today's date, February 3, you see that it is my cousin Dennis's birthday. But this square also tells us the year of his death, 2002. Dennis would have been 27 today. When I think of Dennis, I can't help but think of a day when a few of us were getting together at Aunt Jeannie's house. Dennis's young body, at that point, was already ravaged by MS; he was on steroids and swollen, and he walked with a cane. But he came in and the first thing he did was to ask me how I was feeling. I'd had some stupid sinus infection or something and he'd heard about it. And he asked me how I was feeling. But that was Dennis. He was always interested in how everyone else was doing. He was a good kid, loyal to his friends, he loved his mama and sister, and adored his nephew and niece.

Dennis left our lives like a landslide and he is dearly missed, because no matter how full that calendar gets, the gaps are just too big to be filled.