Friday, November 30, 2012

Heart bursting love

I called my children to say hello tonight.

Coen answered.
"Hi Mommy."
"Hello Coen!" I said. "I miss you! How are you?"
"I ran real fast today, Mommy.  I ran real fast and I jumped real high."
"Really? Sounds like fun! Were you in the gym?"
"No, on the playground after school.  Lucy wants to say hi.  I'm kissing the phone.  I love you."

Then it was Lucy's turn.
"Hi Mommy.  What are you doing right now?"
"Hi Angel! I'm just sitting on the bed in my hotel.  I just ate."
"I'm eating Kid Cuisine tonight.  Pasghetti.  With a brownie!"
"You are? Sounds good."
"What are you going to do after you eat, Mommy?"
"Probably watch a movie.  I can't wait to see you tomorrow."
"I love you, Mommy. I kissed the phone."
"I love you too Lucy."

Simple conversations.  But hearing their little voices, which always somehow sound an octave higher over the telephone than they do in person...  My heart felt like it was going to combust with my love for them. 

Being a parent can be really...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My mortality

I've had a lot of cause to think about my mortality lately.

A week ago,  I attended my uncle's funeral.  It the wake of a sad event, I got to spend time with the grown-ups of my childhood.  I felt like ten years old again.  I got to go back there.  Today, I'm sitting in the hotel room in New Jersey for the sex ed conference. Last year when I was here, Harald called me to let me know that the radiation had not worked on his brain tumor. 

The week before last, I took my kids to the dentist.  It was a few days after my uncle died.  As we pulled away, Coen said, "Mommy. Know what I realized?  Last time we came to this dentist, you told us that Harald died.  Now we're at this dentist and Uncle Boobers died."
"Oh, wow.  Yeah. That's true, Coen." I said.
"This is a bad luck dentist!" Coen said.  "I wonder who's going to die next time we come."
"Well..." I started.
"Maybe you, Mommy." Lucy piped in.
"No!" Coen said, "Not Mommy."
"Well, you guys, I'm not going to die next time we go to the dentist." I said, hopefully reassuringly.
"Who will die next time Mom?"  Lucy said.
"Well, probably no one honey." I said.  "It was just a sad coincidence.  Not a bad luck dentist. I don't think anyone's going to die."
Coen and Lucy spent the rest of the car ride throwing out names of people who might die next time.

But in the weeks that followed the funeral, both kids were spooked, particularly at night and we talked a lot about death and dying and what it all means.

And I have to tell you, when I fly without my family, I get TERRIFIED.  I start thinking of how I should have let them know how much I loved them or at least left the password names for Tad to all our accounts. Last night, I couldn't fall asleep because of the rising anxiety.  On the plane, when there is turbulence, and particularly during take-off, I am a wreck. I grip the sides of my seat and I am pretty sure I make some noises.  I have to quell my urge to stand up and shriek "We're going down!"  Which, if I did that, would be terribly horrible.  And horribly funny.

But I'm here. I made it.  And I'll make it home.  And I know that death is part of life.  It's what I tell my kids.  We all born and we live and we have a limited time on this spinning earth. And we die.  But I plan on making the most of it... the time I have.  And teach my kids to do the same.

Do you realize, that you have the most beautiful face?
Do you realize, we're floating in space?
Do you realize that happiness makes you cry?
Do you realize, that everyone you know, someday, will die..

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, 
Let them know you realize that life goes fast...
It's hard to make the good things last...
You realize the sun doesn't go down;
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round. 
                                                                                                          --The Flaming Lips     

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

hotdogs, homework and handmade hilarity

Last night was something else. It was an ordinary evening, but it was something else...  I picked up the kids from school. They complained about the snacks I brought them in the car.  Lucy said hers was "duschusting."  Coen said he didn't really like those bars anymore.  Then they both ate them, leaving their wrappers on the seats.  At home, they had a light saber battle outside and wanted me to join in.
"I don't wanna!" I whined. "I'm cold!"
"But Mommy!" Lucy said, waving her purple light saber around, "If you move around, you'll warm up!"
True.  So I battled Coen at Lucy's side and she told me that she was Princess Leia and I was Princess Abidabi. 

After a while I left them there to play while I made dinner.  Squash soup and pigs in a blanket made with chicken sausage from Outpost instead of hot dogs.  This was also proclaimed "duschusting" by Lucy, but she did like her macaroni and cheese.  (Made for those who don't like squash soup, approximately half of our family-the smaller half.)

After dinner the cable guy came to fix our ailing internet.  Tad and I told Coen he had to do his homework and he slunk down on the couch with his Star Wars book, his bones suddenly seemingly melted away in anguish.    But he settled in and Lucy joined him.  Tad and I listened to Van Morisson and offered occasional subtraction and addition help.

And something about it. The music playing and the kids working together, showing each other their problems.  Sitting with Tad in the warmth of our house. The cable guy chatting amicably.  It just felt impossibly cozy and lovely and wonderful.  Just being a parent of kids doing homework and having household repairs done and being together.  I felt in love with my life.

And the kids finished their homework right when the cable guy finished fixing it up and they wanted to show him what they'd done and we chatted about his kids and their homework. Then Coen took him in the playroom and he so very kindly obliged a tour of Coen's Lego creations.  He showed us a picture of a Lego Batman he'd made.  And as I took Lucy up to bed, Tad got on the phone and called the cable company to compliment the service and personality of our technician. 

As Lucy picked out her clothing, she got upset because she wanted to wear a sweatshirt with a pocket that went all the way through but NOT the Packer sweatshirt and that was the ONLY sweatshirt with a POCKET that went ALL THE WAY THROUGH! 
"Can you sew me a heart and a star over the Packers?" She asked me.
"Well, I suppose I could." I said.
"Can you cut the hood off? I don't want a hood." She said.
"Sure." I said.
"Okay. Can you do it now?"
But I did do it then.  I tucked her in bed and she was still awake when it was done so I showed it to her.  She snuggled happily under her covers and I kissed her goodnight.
Coen, inspired by Lucy, asked if I could make him a shirt.  "Of a Chic." He said.  Coen is nine and talks in strange words and there a lot of talk of a Chic and a Moose and a Mole in our house.  And it's running rampant through Ms. Wendy's class. 
"Well, you'll have to draw me a chic." I said.
And so he did.
And I made him a shirt, by his design.

Here are my kids, in their creations, this morning before school.  I hope someday in teenagerhood, they remember this evening of creativity...and that it affects them.

Tad laughed on his way out the door this morning. "If there's any monkey business in school today due to that shirt, Miss Wendy will know who to blame!" He said.
"There won't be any monkey business, will there Coen?" I said.
"What!" Coen protested.  "Me? Monkey business?!"

I guess we'll see at 3:30 if the boy doth protest...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Holler House

You might recall my conversation between me and the lady at Holler House about our Bowling Party..

We cashed in on that party on Wednesday as a day before Thanksgiving celebration.  We got to Holler House on 20th and Lincoln around 5:00.  We entered to find a woman on crutches, two old timers with tumblers of booze, and an ancient woman bartender. 
"You got a party, Marc ?" one of the guys said. 
"A party?!" She said incredulously before looking up and seeing me and Lucy. 
"Hello." I said. "I was the one who called about a bowling party for eight?"  I handed her my gift certificate. 
"Oh we're not equipped for kids to bowl here!" She said and started reading the certificate.
Tad took over and talked to her about his memories of having been there once before and she seemed to warm to us. 
"We ordered Ned's Pizza." Tad said.
"You ordered WHAT?"
"Yeah, we ordered pizza for delivery here from Ned's." I added.
"Oh sure! You can order Ned's. They'd deliver right here." She said, helpfully.
"We did." I said.
Our friends joined us then and we set the kids up with dinner.  And Tad loaded five dollars on to the jukebox.  After dinner, we all made our way to the basement to bowl on the two lane basement alley while the pin setter took a seat at the end and waited for us to start.

The kiddos eating their pizza dinner by the "juicebox"

Scary how at home my daughter looks at the bar
Then we bowled.  The kids bowled on one lane and us on the other.  We got our shoes from a disorganized pile under the stairs that smelled of stinky feet and cat urine.  The four children went crazy, dancing to the music, screaming in reaction to anything from a gutter ball, to one pin falling, to a strike. 

Marcy was pretty ready for us to leave halfway in, however. When Tad went up for more water, she said, "How many more games are you going to bowl?!"
"We're on our first one still!" Tad laughed. "But we'll go after this one is over."
"Well don't forget to tip the pin boy." She said.

She proceeded to remind each adult in our party at least once to tip the pin boy.  We did have a great time.

And we remembered to tip the pin boy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My kids in church.

Tad and I are raising our children as good little agnostics.  Good little agnostics who give to others, and help people who need it, who believe in goodness and kindness and the power of love and faith in each other and in the larger spiritual world around us. 
Coen and Lucy have Christian grandparents and Raised-Christian-Agnostic grandparents and Jewish cousins and lots of friends of varying beliefs and religions.  We try to give them a well-balanced story about all the different beliefs out there and that includes stories that Tad and I both were told as children, stories from the Bible.

So yesterday evening was my Uncle Boobers' funeral.  Coen and Lucy joined us there and came gingerly up to the front of the church, holding my hands to see Uncle Boobers in his casket. They had many questions about how he looked and where he was now.  We talked about how his soul was no longer in his body which makes him look very different. And how we don't know exactly what happens but that we believe that his spirit is still with us and all around us and certainly reunited with the spirit of my Auntie Patsy-his wife and love who died twenty-seven years ago.

When we entered the church there was a statue of Jesus and Lucy ran up to it, exclaiming, "Is that GOD?!!!"   Later in the church,  Lucy pointed up at the crucifix and said loudly "Why is that fake guy hanging on the wall?"  Coen told her that Jesus was God's son and that was him hanging on the wall.  So they sat in their pews and asked about the kneelers, trying them out.

During the service, Lucy asked "What's this song about?" for every Psalm.  Coen marvelled at the ritual of the Communion, asking incredulously if Daddy and me (who don't drink) were actually going to drink the wine?  Lucy sat nestled between my parents making them laugh with her questions and at one point leaned to my mom and whispered, "Why are we here?"

My dad gave Uncle Boobers' Eulogy and it was funny and perfect.  But in keeping with all the people who wanted to share their stories and memories, it was a bit long.  During one point, Coen whispered to me, "What part of the story is this?" And I said, "What do you mean?" And Coen answered "Is he still alive in this part?"

My kids were entertaining and curious as always, but when the casket was taken out of the church and my mom broke down, saying goodbye to her brother, I ran over to hug her and both of us cried.  Coen came over and he was crying too.  I sat down on the pew and held on to my sweet, sensitive boy, who had his head wrapped around the sadness and reality of this event and held him tight.  Lucy, who had been dancing on top of the pew to the final organ-played song, jumped off with her arms out in a well-timed finish and joined Coen, my mom and I in a "Family Hug."

My kids may not be baptized as Christians.  They may not go to church every Sunday. But they are loving, giving, kind, little souls full of all of the right kind of light.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Head Lice

Okay, I am finally ready to write about this.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that Coen had head lice.

Let me back up.  It was going around school. We'd had notes. And calls. But I was determined that it would not happen to us.  I remember as a kid in school when the nurse would come in and dig through our hair with straws, wearing those big goggles.   And I'd be silently praying Please not me. Please not me.   And it never was me.

But Coen and Lucy were both itching their heads.  And finally one night, while Coen was in the bath, I started to inspect.  And I found one. And two. And three.  After Coen was dry and sitting at the table, poring over a Star Wars book, Tad ran out and bought some lice killer.  And we scrubbed. And waited and rinsed and put more stuff in and combed and combed and combed.  And I snipped and Coen sobbed.  And then another rinse. And another comb through. And finally off to bed.

Five loads of laundry later, at 2:00 a.m., just before Tad and I finally went to bed I just thought I'd do a quick comb through Lucy's hair as she slept.  I took the comb to the bathroom and sure enough, there was a crawling one right on there.

Is how I felt.

So we spent a week of washing all the hats, coats, gloves, mittens, blankets, sheets, and bedding and clothing in the house.  And daily washings of the outerwear. Daily dryer runs of all the sheets and pillows and blankets.  And daily hair comb throughs with bribes of Halloween candy.  And a second treatment on day seven.  And the discovery of newly hatched lice babies in Lucy's hair that night and one louse baby in Coen's hair the following day.  And more combing and washing and drying.

And I took them both for haircuts and silently prayed that they would not tell the haircut lady that they had had lice.  It was over by then but they didn't seem ashamed to talk about it.  When my mom came over and I was combing through Lucy's hair, she said matter-of-factly "She's looking for bugs".  No shame there.  Coen was slightly more affronted by the idea of the whole thing. 

And finally....we are lice free.  I feel like I've never done so much laundry and combing of hair in all my life.  But we made it. And all said and done, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.    I even made a public service announcement.  You can watch it below.

My Puppet Public Service Announcement about Lice

 Oh what a happy day it was when I checked on day 21 and nothing nothing nothing.  Lucy drew balloons on paper and said we'd have a lice free party.  At the store today, walking down the aisle, I said something about Christmas lights.

"Christmas lice???" Lucy shouted.  I saw a few people stifle laughs.  Oh if they only knew. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Grammar isn't everything...but....

The above photo is of an advert I saw tacked to a coffee house bulletin board in Chicago.  Call me shallow, but that grammar mistake right there might deter me from calling a person to take care of my kids. 
I don't know...maybe it's my English Major. Maybe it's my very grammatically correct parents. I knew how to avoid ending my sentence with a preposition at age six.  My dad taught me a word a day when I was little.  Erudite was the first of those.  I learned that one around the age of seven or eight and used it regularly.  Being called "precocious" when I was twelve, to me, was the ultimate compliment. 
In fact, the photo below, quite nicely captures how I feel about grammar.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What was that now?

Conversation between me and the woman who answered the phone at Holler House Bowling Alley (The oldest bowling alley in the country!)

Me: Hi. I won a bowling party for eight at Holler House and I'm calling to see if I can reserve it.

Her: What was that  now?

Me: I won a bowling party for eight at Holler House and I was calling to see if I could reserve it.

Her: Eight what?

Me: Eight people.  For a bowling party?

Her: A bowling who?

Me: I wanted to see if we could come and bowl there. I have a gift certificate.

Her: And when did you get that?

Me: When did I get it? I got it at a Greendale Historical Society fundraiser this summer.

Her: And when was that?

Me: Oh! It was in August.

Her: August! Oh no, you can't come bowling in August. It's WAY too hot down there in the basement in August.

Me: No. I won it in August. 

Her: Nope.  No bowling in August or July. Too hot down there.

Me: No, no, I want to bowl next week

Her: Next week?  Oh! Well let me see what we have open. Next week's Thanksgiving you know.

Me: Yes. I was hoping to bowl on that Wednesday actually.

Her: Well, that Wednesday is the day before Thanksgiving you know.

Me: I know...would that be okay? Are you open?

Her: OPEN! (Starts laughing.)

Me: (Silent)

Her: Okay honey, next week Wednesday. I'll see if we have a lane open.  What time?

Me: Would 4:30 be okay?

Her: Let me have your phone number and then if you CAN'T come, I'll call you. If you don't hear from me, you can come.

Me: Okay (giving her my phone number).  So if you don't call, we'll be there.

Her: Now, it's $4.00 a game and shoes are extra.

Me: Okay. But we have a gift certificate for a bowling how does that work?

Her: How does what work?
Me: The gift certificate. What does it cover?  For the bowling party.

Her: A bowling party!  Well, we'll just have to talk about that when you get here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

More fantasy-related blogging.

The other night, Tad and I went out on a date.  As a partnered person with children, I put a LOT of stock in these date nights.  I put all my eggs in the date night basket, I'm not ashamed to say.  Because how often do you get to have a night alone with the person you love so much you created children with, without said children saying things like:
Excuse me. Mommy? Excuse me? Mommy? MOMMY?? EXCUSE me!
What? Who are you talking about?  Who did (insert inappropriate thing here which you should not be talking about in front of children.)
Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? .... until you finally stop remembering what it was you were saying to the other person because even though, there was a day when you stared into your sweet baby's eyes and thought I can't WAIT until he calls me mommy.  Now you think, PLEASE stop saying that!!!!!

Anyway, so yeah, a lot of stock in date night.

And the other night, we had a date night and Tad was being kind of moody.  And he seemed a bit cool to me and I got PISSED.  I just wanted a little attention and a a little affection.  So naturally, I acted like a petulant child.  That does it, right?  So Tad assumed I wanted him no where near me so we were staying away from each other.  Then I tried to explain, but then got mad at him all over again about something he said. 

While we were standing around, he checked his Fantasy Football stats on his phone.  I started to seethe.. But then I thought of something.  Changed my mind.  And I took out my phone, and sent him a text message.  My text is in blue-his response in white:

And everything was all better after that.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My fantasy team.

I am sitting here with Tad whilst he watches Thursday night football. First of all... THURSDAY night football? What gives?!!!  We got Monday night football, Football ALL OVER SUNDAY, and later in the season Saturday night football.  Why does it have to take over Thursday nights too?

At any rate, Tad is watching because a couple of his fantasy players are playing tonight.  I am eating caramel corn.  Tad went to the store and I texted him with a request for caramel corn.  My phone always changes Coen to Corn.  And this time it made my text say "Caramel Coen would be good."
Tad texted back "Coen? Caramel?"
I texted back "ha ha ha ha Caramel CORN!"

So I'm sitting here with football on, eating caramel corn.  And I'm thinking... Who would be on MY fantasy team?

I was going to think of real people but then it would be like my mom and my dad...and you know, it would fill up real quick.  So then I thought, famous people but then I thought of  Martin Luther King and Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt and Ellen Degeneres and I decided that I should narrow it down.   So here's my fantasy team of TV show characters.

Barney Stinson from "How I met your mother"
Basil Fawlty from "Fawlty Towers
Kenneth from "30 Rock"
Dr. Robert Hartley from "The Bob Newhart Show"
Tootie Ramsey from "The Facts of Life"
Cliff Huxtable from "The Cosby Show"
George Michael from Arrested Development"
Vickie the robot girl from "Small Wonder"
Punky Brewster

Play Ball!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 6, 2012

Taken during the 2008 campaign

Tomorrow my little girl turns five.  Tomorrow we also vote in the 2012 presidential election. 

This is how we'll celebrate:

Lucy and Coen will dress in Lucy's room in front of Lucy's space heater. We'll all go downstairs to our table where Lucy will find a gift, wrapped and placed at her spot. 

We promised breakfast on the go as the four of us will head to our polling place and Tad and I will vote.  I'll drop the three of them off at Highland and go to work.

At lunchtime, I'll go back over to school and we'll do Lucy's classroom birthday celebration.  In Ms. Pat's class, the children get to have their parents come in and share photos and stories of them when they were babies. They then get to walk around the table with the sun on it, holding the earth in their hands, singing "The Earth goes around the sun, tra la la, the Earth goes around the sun. The Earth goes around the sun, tra la la and Lucy is five."  And then they get to bring in a CD of music to have a dance party.  Lucy's choice: Dreams by the Everly Brothers. It is going to be hilarious watching the children try to dance to that! 

After school, I'll pick everyone back up and we'll go to the Build-a-bear workshop (much to mine and Tad's chagrin) because that is what Lucy wanted most for her birthday.  She's going to make a Hello Kitty that she gets to choose the clothes for herself!  She is so excited.

Just like all the Independents and the Socialists and the Libertarians and the Democrats and the Republicans..... we will look at election results when the children are safely tucked away in bed, kissed and read to.  And we'll be hoping upon hope that our candidate will win.

And whether he does and whether he doesn't....We will still wake up and the sun will rise and we'll still be in the America where we are raising our kids.  And I hope when our kids grow up, they have a better system in which to raise theirs.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Serenity later

Picture this scene, drawn by Lucy.

Picture birds singing and that song playing that always plays in cartoons when everything is peaceful and happy.... 

Then picture an evil knight swooping in to attack this nice girl!

That's what happened next, depcited in chalk by Coen.  Lucy was understandably upset.  I mean, who would want to be attacked by an evil knight in any situation, drawing or otherwise.
So then Coen drew a ninja next to Lucy to protect her.  The ninja was her friend Zef.  In a ninja suit.  Because he likes ninjas. 

This happened after we were upstairs getting dressed and Lucy began the day by refusing to wear the T-shirt to advertise Coen's school circus that is happening tonight. His feelings were hurt. She wouldn't budge. At first.  But then it came out that she felt the shirt was too long so we conducted some T-shirt surgery, cut it shorter, and off to school she went.

On the stairs, on the way up to Lucy's classroom, Coen kept getting in her face, making loud, odd noises.  "Is this bothering you?" I asked Lucy. It was certainly bothering me.

"Yes." she said matter-of-factly.

"Coen. That's bothering her. Please stop." I said.

"I didn't hear her say it's bothering her." came his reply.

Honestly, what is it about siblings? Why do they insist upon torturing one another?  And I know, because I'm a sibling too, and I remember very well playing the "who touched who last" game with my sister.  I remember deriving satisfaction from telling her, in the morning, that I snuck in her room while she was sleeping and " touched her last." And the wail that marked her upset and my success.  Awesomeness. What is that?

Perhaps it's the understanding that you actually have power over someone.  Perhaps it's a safe way to learn what happens with the give and take of relationship dynamics and antagonism.  Perhaps it's just fun. 

But at any rate, power or fun, it is the way siblings relate in their youth.  I know someday Lucy will call Coen on the phone.  "God. Mom is so annoying." She'll say. 

That's fine with me. I'll be at the movies. Eating popcorn. Enjoying my serenity.