Thursday, December 25, 2008

Some Un-Assembly Required

Mr. and Mrs. Claus went to bed late last night trying to wait out C and S falling asleep. It took another half hour - or two glasses of wine - after the traditional Christmas Eve viewing of It's a Wonderful Life for the low, rhythmic snoring to begin in earnest.

What was nice this year, though, is that there was really no assembly required. We've had assembly for many years and it's not so easy when you're very tired from the wine.

Assembly, however, has been replaced by un-assembly on Christmas morning. It takes me forever to de-wire all of their toys from the packaging with scissors, pocket knives and expletives flying. And I've had very little wine by 8 a.m.

I usually end up frustrated and just yank the thing out, pulling with it scraps of cardboard and plastic attached. And then I thrust it at the kid, "Here! Here's your damn toy!"

It's like something from Currier & Ives & DHS.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and peace on Urf! from all of us to all of you.

When testing out your new computers and iPhones and whatever else the internet lives on, be sure to dial up The Commercial Appeal and read my latest column.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yes, Virginia ...

I believe in Santa Claus. Of course I do. But I don't believe that Santa coordinates all those elves and toy making and delivering. No, that would be Mrs. Claus.

Luckily, I have a Mrs. Claus here at the house. She does the planning and the buying and the baking and makes the gift decisions. I ... carry the tree into the house. It's a lot of responsibility, really.

Oh, and then, after Christmas, I carry it back out and dump it on the street.

But Christmas around here happens because Kristy makes it happen, and without her, well, all we'd be celebrating is the winter solstice. Maybe we'd make some popcorn, or watch a little TV. Perhaps a trip to Walgreens so the kids could pick out their favorite size of battery. It certainly wouldn't be the time of year filled with wrapped gifts and cookies and a decorated tree.

So, thank you, Kristy. And Merry Christmas to all the Mrs. Clauses out there who, I know, are the busiest and jolliest of the elves.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

True Believer

We all went to Davis-Kidd Booksellers today to get out of the house and do a bit more Christmas shopping. And to find out what 29-degrees feels like.

Davis-Kidd has a great area for kids and I grabbed a book and sat there with everyone watching my kids, as well as several other plague-infested children, run around. There was a kid with a glistening nose and upper lip having a grand time playing alongside my own little typhoid-riddled girl.

But it's that time of year, so what are you going to do? I don't know, and neither did the kid in the t-shirt with his name, or a name, printed across the chest. Yes, Frank and I were at a loss for how to keep the germs at bay.

There's no fighting it. My only advice to you is to not purchase any books from the children's section of Davis-Kidd. If you do, boil them before reading.

It was while sitting there among the Jack-in-the-Boxes, pop-up books and phlegm that I learned that Nick Hornby will no longer be penning the column "Stuff I've Been Reading" for the Believer magazine. This column is a kind of book diary where Hornby writes about books he's bought, books he's read, books he hasn't read and why he has or hasn't read them. It's smart and funny and the writing of it must be, without a doubt, the greatest job ever.

So, since the column has no author now, I'm officially throwing my name into the hat. If there is a hat. Believer magazine, if you're reading this, give me a call, or an e-mail, and let's talk. I'd be thrilled to write for your magazine about books and bookish things. I write now and I consider myself funny. At times. For more money, I could be funnier. I could read more and write longer. I don't know what you paid Hornby, but I'd be willing to take a little less, as I've not (yet) had a novel published, or won any awards. Or had any novels adapted into movies. Or become friends with Sarah Vowell.

So, let's say you're paying him 150,000 pounds (Nick Hornby is British and bald). I'd be willing to go less. Say, 110,000 pounds. I'm no good with weight conversions, but what is that? $300 per column? That seems fair.

Anway, you think about it, I hate to see the Believer caught in a lurch like that. Meanwhile, I'll be over here in the children's section. Just Frank and me, awaiting your call with covered mouths and anti-bacterial-soaked hands.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hocus Pocus

Has anyone seen my eldest? I haven't. Not in a few weeks. He's been away at Hogwarts, where young people go to learn about being witches or Hobbits. Or whatever.

I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books because, well, I'm an adult. This doesn't explain, though, why Kristy has read all of them. Several times. C has read five of them in about three weeks. If you're looking for him, he's right there, at the end of the couch underneath the lamp. Reading.

Or he's in the passenger seat of the Volvo, on the way to school. Reading.

Or he's in his bed. Reading.

Or he's eating a bowl of cereal at the table. Reading.

I don't mean to complain about his new favorite past time. Since we started having kids, I've always hoped they'd become readers, and I always wanted that day to be sooner rather than later. I know that, as a kid, I did the same thing, plowing through book after book without a care as to what went on around me. But I'd like to have a conversation with my son again. And I'd like for that conversation to be about something other than whether or not Edward Cullen won a game of Quidditch in the third book. Or whatever.

Is it wrong to tell your kid to stop reading and watch TV for a while? I suppose I should have him go outside for some fresh air, at least. He could read on the front porch.

He's watching the Harry Potter movies, as well. He reads a book, watches the movie, and denounces that movie as nothing like the book. So he's building that disdain for Hollywood that all readers have, which was inevitable. He's also able to eat a meal without looking at his food, simply staring at the page while his fork goes from plate to mouth, just like a real reader. And he's staying up late to read. He would stay up late anyway, but at least he's reading and not watching reruns of Sanford & Son.

All in all, I'm glad he's reading. Constantly. I just hope those books of witchcraft aren't teaching him anything dastardly. I have enough on my plate with these four kids, I don't need one of them being able to travel to other dimensions via a wardrobe. Or whatever.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Because I Said So

It took me the same amount of time to write my latest column for The Commercial Appeal as it would to run 26.2 miles. Most of a weekend.

Monday, December 08, 2008


I did not like to wear a coat as a child. Or, at least, one specific coat. It was a pea coat with large buttons which may have had an anchor design on them. The collar was huge and the inside red. It looked feminine and what does a 10-year-old boy need to maintain more than his masculinity? So if I could get out of the house without it, then I would, regardless of the outside temperatures. And that is how I found out that wearing a large-buttoned, naval-themed, possibly woman’s, pea coat isn’t half as embarrassing as looking up to see your mother standing at the classroom door with said coat in hand.

The temperature has finally nosedived and it seems that winter has settled in for the duration. With this downrush in the mercury comes the one thing that can slow getting four kids out the door and to school in the mornings. Neither ice nor snow or a slow-starting 17-year-old car is any match for what this time of the year brings. I’m talking about winter coats. And not the red- or blue-approved colors of the city schools’ uniform that may be worn all day long, but the big, oversized, fleece-lined armor that Memphis kids really only need for approximately eight weeks out of the year.

We’ve been in our morning routine for about five months so far this year and have breakfast, dressing, lunch-making and leaving the house timed down to the second. The whole drill looks like a special ops force rescuing hostages as we spill from the house and pile into the car to speed off.

But when these kids add something as foreign as a coat into the mix, everything comes to a halt. It’s as though I’ve asked them to build the engine for the car that we’ll be escaping in. With mittens on.

There are zippers, the reversible linings, a hood that snaps off, suggesting it may or may not be necessary, and then the problem of just finding the coat. It may have been left at school, or in mom’s van or … what coat?

I think it may make things easier and speedier in the mornings if I dressed them all in a layer of Under Armour the night before and a simple furry Russian hat on the way out the door. I’m pretty sure muskrat is approved wear in Memphis City Schools.