Saturday, October 31, 2009

S is for Stinky

I spend a lot of time and vocabulary defending the Memphis City School system, both here and in my column. But last night, S came running into the room and asked us if "stinky" is a word. It went like this:

S: Is stinky a word?
Us: Stinky?
S: Steeenky.
Us: Stinky?
S: Steeeenky.

Finally, C came in to help us out.

C: She thinks it's "stanky."

And she did, too. We set her straight. One of those lessons better learned at home, I suppose.


For Halloween, JP dressed up as a mad scientist ... or as The Commercial Appeal's own Michael Donahue.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Socks and snot

Is it wrong to enjoy your child being sick?

Wait, no, that is wrong. Now that I see that written out, I can see where I may be misunderstood. Munchausen by proxy and all that. Call off DHS while I explain.

GK was up most of Tuesday night with fever and coughing, so I kept her at home yesterday. Sure, there were eruptions of wanting mommy, but she spent most of the day curled up next to me watching her cartoons and refusing the juice I implored her to drink every few minutes. And, sure, I spent much of the day being coughed, sneezed and farted on, but mostly she was just sweet and a bit pitiful. It's one of the only times she will just sit with me and let me rub her back and that she'll ask me questions and wait for, and listen to, the answers. She needed her daddy and that's a rare thing around here with such a good mommy in the line up.

Certainly I don't wish her, or any of my kids, to be sick, it's just that she's a different person when she isn't feeling well. She's suddenly not so 3.

Kristy took her to the doctor in the afternoon and it's a respiratory thing with a lot of sinus drainage. A little antibiotic will fix her right up and she was already feeling better and eager to get back to school today, back to her normal old self again. She was certainly well enough to throw a rousing, healthy fit about her socks, which was timely since that is precisely what my column in The Commercial Appeal is about today: socks, seams, toes, timing and GK.

Normal is good since I do have work to do. I did, however, while nursing her to health yesterday, manage to conduct three phone interviews, write one story and finish another, do dishes and the laundry, and cook dinner.

Other than the heartache of seeing my kid ill, and socks, this parenting thing might be getting ... easier?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Corner Kids

My kids are homebodies and I was remarking to my mother the other day that I almost wish they would go out and get into some trouble. Instead of venturing out, they're drawn to the comfort of our house or the coolness of their parents or, probably, the warmth of the television set. Whatever it is, they'd rather be right here - right here with us, all the time - than anyplace else.

Saying I want them to go out and find trouble is an exaggeration, of course. I don't want anyone to get hurt or any laws broken, but a little mischief wouldn't be so bad. A little mischief elsewhere, that is.

Having said this, we were at the park on the corner last Saturday and there was a Memphis City Schools security car parked in front of Richland Elementary. And then a police car showed up. And then another ... and another ...

A total of seven police cars rolled up ("rolled up" is an everyday verb in Memphis) on a group of kids milling about at the corner of Oak Grove and Melvin, across the street from Brennan Park. They weren't doing anything, just standing; gathering, as kids will do. However, before they'd gathered, they'd been running the hallways of Richland Elementary. On a Saturday.

So, the kids all got a ride home, or to juvenile court, from the police. It was like an East Memphis, middle-class episode of The Wire, where children loiter on 70-degree days at locations with names like "Oak Grove," "Melvin" and "Brennan Park."

I'm not so anxious any more for The Quartet to run the neighborhoods, meet kids and find mischief. I'm quite happy with them sitting in the living room, watching Disney and not rolling up into our driveway with Five-O.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tell Me About It

I write a lot about being away from my children, those precious nuggets of time when they're out of earshot and I'm left to the peace and solitude that all parents crave.

But then there are times, like this morning, when I wouldn't mind being included just a little more in their lives. I watched them across the street as they headed to school and, once on the opposite sidewalk, they fell into conversation and laughter. I wondered what they were talking about and wished to be included in the talk and the jokes.

There's a good chance that I was the joke, I don't doubt that. I don't want to be included in all of their conversations, I know they need their own dialogue, topics and inside jokes. All siblings have their own way of communicating and it's great to see my kids getting along so well, it's just that they seem to be so much fun sometimes and I'm just a tad jealous of that.

I hear them at night, just before they fall asleep, talking about I-don't-know-what, and I'm curious, though I know I don't belong. I guess there's always that small part of us, even as parents, that wants to sit at the table with the cool kids.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

First Nine Weeks

We watch our kids throughout the school year studying and getting their lessons, as my great-grandfather used to say; we look over their graded papers, read e-mails from their teachers and discuss the progress reports with them.

So we have a pretty good idea where each child stands with their schoolwork and report cards should not be a surprise. When JP stood across my desk from me last night and handed me a manila envelope with his name on it, I had a pretty good handle on what I was to find inside. I was ready to shake my head, wring my hands and berate him for letters that were a little deeper into the alphabet than I'd like, for unacceptable conduct grades and everything from missed opportunities to a failure to study to leaving the fax cover sheets of the TPS reports.

I opened it, slid out the paper and found myself with a parental dilemma I was not expecting. I was confronted with As and Bs. I was stymied by the ribbon that came along with the report card announcing inclusion on the honor roll and was faced with the task of not looking surprised.

Agog is what I was, yet I couldn't show that. I had to act as though it was exactly what I'd expected, that any less would not have been tolerated, but that was never going to be the issue.

It's not that JP is dumb, mind you. Not by a long shot. He just ... masks his intelligence in a youthful exuberance that involves jumping, skipping, falling down and running into walls. He does his homework like a Tasmanian devil, blowing in and whisking his pencil around before leaving the room again in a flurry of folders and notebook paper. He forgets to have papers signed, turns things in not quite on time, yet pulls it all off somehow.

I'm proud of him and I am surprised. I'm surprised that he seems to have gotten the hang of 3rd grade much quicker than I'd expected. So much sooner than I'd given him credit for.

It's up to me to encourage, acknowledge and reward him during each grading period, and for the last nine weeks I'd give myself a D with so much room for improvement.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Right Back At You

S's teacher has been off work the past couple of days. I asked S today if she was back and she said that no, she's sick. I suggested (jovially) that the cause may be that the teacher had seen S's face. To which S replied, "Maybe she read one of your articles."



I met her in September of 1987 and a month later she turned 15. Since that fall, we've dated, married, had a child, bought cars and a house, had another child, changed jobs and careers, moved, had another child, laughed, cried, had another child, traveled and loved.

And through it all, things keep changing and that's what it's all about, isn't it? Evolving together, learning and helping each other to grow, change and become better people?

She's made me a better person and she's grown into a beautiful, strong and smart woman, friend, wife and mother. It's been an adventure since the first birthday we spent together and I look forward to spending the next 22, and beyond, with you.

Happy birthday, Kristy, I love you.

Cash Strapped

Money making idea:

If someone were to put an ATM in our dining room, they'd probably do pretty well. The fee charge per transaction would add up every morning the kids, just before walking out of the door for school in the morning, tell me they need money for this field trip or that fundraiser.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Today's Tom Sawyers

Had Mark Twain chosen to write his classic in 2009, the story of Tom Sawyer would contain much more whining and arguing than it does. Twain's fence-painting tale would be filled with children who expect immediate gratification and refuse to wait their turn. Waiting is unheard of.

We finally got around yesterday to painting our cornhole boards that Uncle Johnny made for us (and if he's reading this right now, he's shaking his head because he made that game for us a month and a half ago and we're just now painting it. However, that is about a year sooner than I expected. Actually, what I expected was for the boards to be left out in the rain several times and to become warped and unplayable, and then I would have to build new ones to look exactly like the ones he built should he ever come around to play).

For those of you who aren't familiar with cornhole, it's played with two plywood boards set at an angle with holes drilled in them. The boards are placed a certain distance apart and the two players attempt to toss beanbags (or, cornbags - they're full of unpopped popcorn) into the holes. Score is kept, money is wagered.

Anyway, it was the day to paint them, the sun was shining and Kristy had stopped by Lowe's for exterior, high gloss paint. She also bought one Fisher Price-sized roller and a 4" brush.

There were six kids, each of whom wanted, needed, to paint something white. They pleaded for a turn, they argued, they snatched and they whined ... they whined a lot. The roller was rolled through the grass, which ended up in the paint and on the boards, and the tiny kids wielded the oversized brush as though it were Excalibur. An oversized Excalibur.

It was the loveable, timeless story of Tom Sawyer writ irritating.

Now, I'll take my leave to go fix yesterday's work.

[By the way, I am undefeated on my home course in cornhole. I'll take on all challengers.]

Friday, October 16, 2009

Choosing Battles

There is way too much going on around here for me to correct every bit of behavior or reshape all habits. We have to choose our battles.

One thing the kids do that drives me crazy, but just doesn't seem worth the constant reminding, is that they'll finish their milk and set the glass on the counter like they're supposed to, but they'll put it at the far end of the counter. The very counter where the sink is, mind you, but just out of reach so that I have to take a step or two to get to it when I'm doing the dishes. I've pointed it out to them without getting upset about it because it just isn't that big a deal. I think, at this point, that they're just messing with me.

Another infraction also takes place in the kitchen (I think I'll keep this to "kitchen battles" so as not take up too much of your time). We have one of those garbage cans that pulls out of the cabinet. It has little wheels and a track and it glides out smoothly, but you do have to exert some energy and pull on it. My kids have no energy, so instead of a full garbage can, I pull it out to find garbage piled up on the little lip around the can right in front. The can itself is mostly empty and most of whatever is piled up - Pop Tart wrappers, paper plates, used napkins, half-eaten fruit - falls to the floor.

Like I said, some things aren't worth the constant screaming and nagging, I just have to figure out if these are two of those things or not.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Candy Corn in the Pipeline

GK called out for me this morning when she woke up so I picked her up and carried her to my office. We sat on the couch and she fell back to sleep curled up in my lap while I read. I wish I could have stayed right there the rest of the day, partly because she's very sweet when she's asleep and partly to procrastinate even further on things I need to do.

I have 13 stories in the pipeline, plus That Other Thing, and the pipeline appears to be plugged someplace. I think the blockage is probably me napping in a fetal position because nothing is getting through. The paid writing (and napping) is also why I've been ignoring this blog, I suppose.

So today I have to find a globe and figure out where England is, then go to Cooper-Young to interview some kids from Nottingham, England. I've done five interviews in the past week and haven't written any of them up, so there's that. I was trying to work out lunch with Kristy, but her job is keeping her unconscionably busy lately. I need to nap.

I should vote for mayor today, too. I wrote my column in today's Commercial Appeal about that very thing, so I feel obligated now. I'm not taking GK, though, because she eventually woke up, crawled out of my lap and put on a dress with a shirt over it.

The shirt has a picture of candy corn on it and reads "Sweet." She says it's because candy is sweet, but I think it's because she is.