Friday, August 25, 2006

Tía Elizabeth

We recently learned that Elizabeth has been selected to paint the 2007 Memphis In May poster. The honored country will be Spain. The Quartet could not be more proud of their aunt. We all are.

For those of you in other cities around the country who may not know about Memphis In May, it's just like if your city had a big, month-long festival which honored a different country each year. During this month there would be a huge music festival on the bank of your river that lasted an entire weekend; the largest Bar-B-Que cooking contest anywhere would happen on another weekend; and the last weekend of May would bring an outdoor symphony. That's exactly what it is like.

It's a big month for Memphis and a big honor for Elizabeth to be creating the official poster for the event. We love you, Aunt Elizabeth, and are very happy for you.



Photo taken without permission from Click(Daily).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Stuff Memories Are Made Of

Today is JP's first (real) day in kindergarten and it went pretty well. We got GK off to the sitter's on The Island and then I drove over and parked to walk them all in to school. All three in red shirts and blue pants. We took JP as a group first since the other two are old pros by now. Did I mention that there's an autistic child in his class? I assume it was that little boy this morning who was screaming at the top of his lungs and laying on the floor with a beet red face. Perfectly understandable considering the situation he's in, though I was worried it may freak out the other kids, especially JP. Thankfully it didn't seem to and I'm sure he'll get used to things as time goes on. Did I mention that this particular child has his very own teacher and that, apparently, this is the norm? I'm not familiar with autism and how you manage it in a small child day by day, but does it involve having the special teacher yell in the poor child's face about it being the first day of school and that he needs to calm down? Because that's what I saw and that's my memory now of JP's first day of kindergarten.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Best Laid Plans

As we were eating dinner tonight, S pointed out the "pretty castle" on her cup, which also featured images of Cinderella, Snow White and others. "I wish we could live in that castle," she said. "I could be the princess. C could be the prince. Daddy could be the boss. And Mommy could clean the place."

(Not sure where JP & GK end up in this scenario)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Do I Amuse You?

GK laughed for the first time last night. It's always a milestone when the funny noises start coming out of the other end of your baby.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Dadurday

(thanks, Andria)

Nobody has any consideration for my feelings. Most of the time I get walked all over by people who purport to care about me. They obviously don’t. For years now, Kristy has taken The Quartet (well, first The Solo…then The Duet…The Trio…etc…) to her parents’ house on Saturday afternoons. The kids play with their grandparents, watch cartoons on cable TV, run around the backyard, play with their cousin, watch some more cartoons, eat, more cartoons, for the day and into the evening. They enjoy themselves immensely and look forward to it at the end of every week. I’m glad they look forward to it and have such a grand time. I’m glad they’re so preoccupied because on Saturday evenings, when I close up shop and call it a day at work (my sixth day of working), I get the evening to myself. It’s Me Time. It’s roughly four hours of whatever craziness I want to get into. Usually I sit somewhere – a local coffee shop or someplace – and read or write, or work a crossword or Sudoku puzzle, because that’s how wild I can be, and about all I have the energy for. I have used this time productively in the past – doing yardwork or getting some projects done at work that I didn’t have time for during the week, but mostly I sit. Sometimes I just stare into space, relishing the quiet and the solitude. But that’s all over. My in-laws have sold their house and are moving into, well, they’re moving into someone’s garage. Call it a carriage house or guest house if you’d like, it’s all semantics now. The gist of it is, their new living quarters aren’t big enough for this Quartet to spread out, so there are no more trips to grandma’s house on Saturday. So now I’ll be expected at home after work, just like any other day. My Saturday has become another Tuesday. What’s more, this backhouse they’re moving into is in our neighborhood. There is a good chance that they will be at my house on Saturday nights. I may be expected to hold up one end of a conversation, I surely can’t get away with burying my nose in a book and acting like I don’t recognize them the way I do when I see people out at the coffee shops. Sweet, sweet silence, I hardly knew ye.

I know this seems selfish. I know there are other dads out there reading this, cursing me for complaining when at least I had this time. I realize it’s like complaining that the steak is too tender, or the scotch is too single-malty, or that Angelina Jolie sat too close to me on the plane. And trust me, I’ll feel bad about it later, but right now I have to plan out the last couple of Saturdays I have to myself. Let’s see, find a very quiet place to sit…

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

S is for Sea Change

There is something strange going on at my house and I’m not sure about the cause of it. And it’s been so long since I’ve seen The Exorcist that I can’t remember how the little girl was freed from Satan’s stranglehold, but I’m thinking it may have had something to do with entering Pre-K. This is because the only dramatic alteration in our lives lately has been the commencement of the school year, where S has been introduced to institutional-style education. I had been planning all summer for her to be a holy terror when school started because, well, why would she change? Instead, she has become a real sweetheart. She wants a lot of hugs and to hold hands when we walk and she’s very forthcoming about her day and what she’s done at school. She even tells JP and C she loves them when they go their separate ways in the morning. My thinking is that these days away from her parents and siblings, confined to a classroom where she’s told what to do and what not to do, has made her appreciate us more, and the comforts of her home and the leniency that’s found there. Or, perhaps, she’s enjoyed her time away, her freedom from our watchful eyes, and has already put down a security deposit on an apartment and is looking for an economical, but dependable, car for herself, and this is her way of saying goodbye to us. Either way is fine with me, because these first few days of the school year have been far more pleasant than I ever could have expected.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

100 Things

But perhaps you’d like to know one or two or 100 things about the person who fathered and writes about The Quartet:

(List is subject to change)

1. I was pulled out with forceps in 1970.
2. If I’m in control of the situation, there will always be music playing.
3. That music will almost always be jazz.
4. I have circumnavigated the globe alone in a 32-foot sloop.
5. I was caught in a boat prop in 1997 which sliced my right leg from calf to thigh.
6. The furthest I’ve ever run at once is six miles.
7. I’m six feet tall.
8. I met my future wife 19 years ago.
9. I knew immediately I would marry her some day.
10. I envy my sister’s artistic ability.
11. The first girl I ever kissed lived across the street from me.
12. I’m Catholic.
13. I own three businesses.
14. I got my only tattoo on my 25th birthday.
15. I’m prone to anxiety and depression.
16. I’ve had back surgery to remove a ruptured disk.
17. I have extra bones in my mouth. It's genetic.
18. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.
19. As a chauffeur, I drove Halle Berry, Courtney Cox, LL Cool J and The Kids in the Hall, among others.
20. As a chauffeur, I was unwittingly present when several marriages were consummated.
21. I would like for one of my children to become a naval architect.
22. I’m nearsighted.
23. Had I not had any children, I’m certain I would have joined a military service on Sept. 12, 2001.
24. I like Tanqueray with tonic and Bombay in a martini.
25. I was in a band once that broke up because I was so bad.
26. I have a drawer full of rejection slips for short stories from various magazines.
27. I’ve developed a fear of heights as I’ve aged.
28. I tend to overthink things.
29. I should be paid to parallel park.
30. I once foiled an armored car hold up with just an umbrella and a three-week-old copy of The New Yorker.
31. I once collected a menagerie of reptiles and kept them in a room in my house.
32. I lived in Taos, NM, for four days in 1997.
33. I don’t like to fly but won’t let that fear stop me from going somewhere.
34. I would like to learn to fly an airplane.
35. I’ve read A Moveable Feast no less than half a dozen times.
36. Though I love it, I can’t bring myself to read A Moveable Feast again.
37. My eyes are hazel.
38. The first concert I ever attended was Cheap Trick.
39. I met Dave Brubeck.
40. I have lost more sleep worrying about money than I care to think about.
41. I envy my wife’s optimistic attitude.
42. I was in New Orleans two weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit.
43. I have never lived in the same house with my youngest sibling.
44. I believe I’m a better carpenter than I actually am.
45. I can juggle.
46. W. Somerset Maugham is one of my favorite writers.
47. I have installed bilge pumps on a 64-foot cabin cruiser.
48. I can’t drink bourbon any more.
49. I was a domestique in the 1999 Tour de France.
50. Miles Davis takes my breath away.
51. I have a grandfather who invented a cotton picker and a great-grandfather who won the Pulitzer Prize.
52. I would find it very difficult to ever work for someone again.
53. I have a double espresso every afternoon at work.
54. I have no feeling in my right shin or the top of my right foot.
55. I once spent a night in jail for kissing a white woman on the lips in Alabama.
56. Three movies I can’t turn off when I come across them: The Godfather, Big and Die Hard.
57. U2 is the soundtrack to my high school years.
58. I went through nine years of Catholic school.
59. I have a tendency to blush.
60. My wife and I once played strip poker with two other couples.
61. I feel intensely protective over the women in my life.
62. I fight the urge to vomit no matter how sick I feel.
63. I’m curious.
64. I was six feet tall and weighed 140 pounds when I graduated from high school in 1988.
65. If I could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, that person would be Groucho Marx.
66. I was hit in the face with a ceiling fan in 1983 and received three stitches in the bridge of my nose.
67. A masseuse once stopped in mid-massage with me to tell me she wanted to quit that profession.
68. It’s my voice that can be heard in the audience screaming over all others on the album Elvis Costello Live at The El Mocambo.
69. I am repulsed by bathroom tile.
70. I’ve been to Mardi Gras.
71. I prefer to travel by train when possible.
72. I enjoy playing craps.
73. The only time I’ve ever hunted was when I was 15, for dove.
74. I spent my 16th summer living and working for my uncle in Naples, FL.
75. I got my driver’s license at 17.
76. I cried when each of my kids was born.
77. I would like to be a better cook.
78. I have written for the local newspaper of record.
79. I am the fourth generation to have a byline in that newspaper.
80. Three guilty pleasures: Prince, buffalo chicken wings and The Simpsons.
81. I still regret going pro too early.
82. I procrastinate.
83. My favorite part of every day is coming home and hearing my kids scream, “Daddy’s home!”
84. I’m still not sure I’m the man I intended to be.
85. The worst night of my life took place in a hospital, though I wasn’t hurt at all.
86. I got caught shoplifting in 1987 (this is the first my mother has ever heard of this).
87. I’m a smartass, but it’s genetic.
88. My wife and I plan to live on a sailboat one day.
89. I’ve never sailed.
90. I make things up, though only six items on this list are fiction.


And we'll now close with the 10 questions made famous on "Inside The Actor's Studio," which James Lipton stole from the French series, "Bouillon de Culture," hosted by Bernard Pivot, because the French are notoriously bad at defending what’s theirs.

Q: What is your favorite word?
A: Curiosity.
Q: What is your least favorite word?
A: Cocoa.
Q: What turns you on?
A: Optimism.
Q: What turns you off?
A: Bad grammar.
Q: What is your favorite curse word?
A: I can't, my grandmother reads this shit.
Q: What sound or noise do you love?
A: Billie Holiday’s voice.
Q: What sound or noise do you hate?
A: Children crying, unless it’s just after birth.
Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A: Novelist.
Q: What profession would you least like to do?
A: Furniture sales.
Q: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?
A: Wow, you’re old.

First Day Of School 2006

Morning:

When we take our children to school for the first time, it seems as though our thoughts should be focused on their short time left as children. At the rapidity with which our little babies are growing and how, soon enough, they’ll be wandering off on their own, finding their own interests away from us and making their way in the world. We should be happy about this, happy that their life is beginning and we get to be there with them as it unfolds. School is the first major step in that direction. They’ll make new friends, they’ll learn to look up to their teachers as they do their very own parents, they’ll learn to do things for themselves, at their own pace and with their own initiative. As we pack those first lunches, put on their new, crisp uniforms and walk them through the doorway and into their future, these are the things that normally would be at the forefront of our consciousness. And I’m sure some, or all, of this was on my mind when I took my first son to school on his first day. But that was then. I’ve got three more in addition now and I don’t have time for that crap at 7:30 in the morning. Not that I love the last three any less than the first, it’s just that they’ve made certain times of my life more difficult – like that time that comes before 8:30 in the morning. That time when I’m driving down North Parkway, weaving in and out of traffic, and doing the calculations in my head, “If I can make the next three green lights and drop GK and JP off in the next 10 minutes, then five minutes over to the school, walk S in and spend a few minutes with her, and then find C’s room…” Well, we left our house at 7:38 and, after making all the stops, I walked out of the last drop-off location at 8:22. Not too bad, though I feel we can do better. Perhaps S doesn’t need to be given so much time to eat breakfast, and I could probably spend less time wrestling with JP’s cowlick.

Afternoon:

Kristy and I went together to pick C & S up from school this afternoon, hoping for the best. Hoping that Pre-K was the most fun she’s had since GK’s first fart. Apparently it was not. From the moment S saw us she had a scowl on her face, her shoulders were hunched up like an angry cat as we walked down the hallway together. She wouldn’t speak to us, wouldn’t answer our questions, wouldn’t even look at us. If she’d had the money, I feel certain she would have preferred to take a cab home. What had I done to my daughter? She was safe and in comfortable, familiar surroundings, and then I dropped her off with strangers in a cinderblock warehouse for an entire day. “Do you want to hold Daddy’s hand?” The answer came not even as an entire head shake, but more of a twitch from side to side that let me know, “Not only do I not want to hold your hand, but I’m hoping that hand is lopped off in that heavy door up ahead. Here, let me hold that door for you.” We walked through the school, out the door (safely), into the heat and down the sidewalk without so much as a glance in our direction from our tiny, blond 3-year-old, her ever-growing attitude moving the mass of just-released-from-school kids out of our way. When we got to Madison Avenue, with its quick-as-lightning trolley cars, I insisted she hold my hand to cross. Still no eye contact, still no speaking. Once on the other side of the street she jerked her hand out of mine and continued her gait, walking just behind me and to the left – eyes forward in a frown, shoulders hunched up, the occasional hands on hips. We got in the van and they took me back to work where I was left wondering if we’d ever speak again.

We found out later that she was promised a treat by her teacher after naptime, but we showed up just after nap and she never got her treat. It wasn’t us she was mad at so much as her teacher and her paucity of Fruit Roll-Ups at the moment. I stopped on the way home from work and got her a treat because she’s my daughter and I want her to be happy. And also because I’m scared of her, of her animal-like glower and the fact that I’ll be alone to deal with her tomorrow morning with just the other three to help me…or her.

S is for Super

According to S, these are her five superhero powers:

1) Run really fast
2) Super strong
and
3) Climb things really good

Apparently math is not in her arsenal.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Post-It Post

The other day, in a fit of creativity … or boredom … the kids took a whole pad of hot pink Post-It notes and stuck them all around the house, and then C drew eyeballs on all of them. They’re on the walls, doors, doorknobs, cabinets, appliances, mirrors, windows, furniture, anywhere you could think to put a Post-It note. Now they just laugh and say they’re being watched everywhere they go.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

More Pains In My Backside

This week has been such a whirlwind that I forgot to mention my trip back to the neurosurgeon for yet another MRI on my back. There is still pain and the good doctor, Dr. F, wanted to make sure there were no "residual fragments" or "disk crumbs" back there pressing against the nerve that is sending pain up from my right leg, but nothing at all from that foot. So I went in for the MRI, which I did without xanax this time, by the way, which may have been a mistake. It wasn't too bad, but radiologists appear to be on some sort of quest to make MRIs more uncomfortable. Once you've had surgery, they have to inject you halfway through the procedure with some fluid that will help contrast the scar tissue. Halfway through she pulled me out of the tube, stuck a needle in me and then shoved me back in. I was basted. After that came the X-rays. I was X-rayed from the front and side, bending forward and arching back. Then I waited some more until I was granted an audience with the doctor who saw nothing in the MRI. Nothing. No herniated disk, nothing pressing against that long, useless nerve. I kept wanting to look closer, to get in there good with a magnifying lens, thinking maybe this is all stress-induced and that somewhere in that grainy, black and white footage there would be four, smirking, peanut butter-encrusted faces leering back at me. If not that, then dollar signs at least. But, alas, nothing. It makes me feel like the doctor thinks it's all in my head. Like I make up this pain as a way to get MRIs and spend three hours (THREE HOURS!) away from The Quartet or business or anything productive at all. But he did prescribe me a week's worth of steroids, which he says won't make me buff (buffer?), or help me win Le Tour de France, or get me kicked out of Major League Baseball (or become the all-time hits leader, whichever the case may be).

I'm thinking of self-medicating if nothing else works. Perhaps once a month I'll lie under my bed for 20 minutes, have Kristy stick me with a needle at the 10-minute mark, spend the next two hours just sitting and being unproductive while I read a magazine from Fall 2005, and flush my co-pay down the toilet. Unless the steroids actually have a different effect and I have to get an agent and hit the batting cages before next spring.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Rest Of The Week...

Wednesday:
In real life I’m just a big sentimental softy. I didn’t want The Quartet to remember the end of their summer as being a time fraught with forms, discipline, government institutions, more discipline, Daddy stressing over tax troubles and still more discipline, so I took them to the zoo on Wednesday. And you know what? They were good. They were very good! By 10 in the morning it was already 98 degrees, but we had a nice time anyway just meandering from shady spot to shady spot. They were minimal with their list of demands, but we did ride the carousel and have some shaved ice. On the way home, they even thanked me for taking them. I took them back to return them and find my kids, but it turns out these were mine. Who knew?

Thursday:
Dropped them off at a friend of Kristy’s to play with her kids for the day. They were very excited by this prospect, but not as excited as I. I did end up back at the health department to get JP’s birth certificate, which I did. I got to stand in line behind a woman and her daughter and, apparently, cousin, who went by the moniker Stank. They treated the small area we were in like a playground, the same behavior my kids were exhibiting a couple days before that caused me to leave.

Friday:
S had to go get tested this morning for the advanced program in the Pre-K at Downtown Elementary. We went to yet another government institution and the nice doctor lady took her into another room for about 45 minutes. When they came out, S wouldn’t tell me what went on. I know she went through some sort of questioning, but she wouldn’t give it up. The picture in my head, though, is of her being asked if she likes movies about gladiators.

They’re at work with me right now and they’re upstairs being quiet…almost too quiet.

[This is my 100th post!]

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Downtown Monkeys

Stacey, over at the best blog in Memphis, has been reading my posts on my week with the kids. She read the piece about being downtown and eating with them at Elliot's and she begged me to review it for Dining With Monkeys. It was pretty disgusting the way she groveled and whined about a review, so I took pity on her and now you can read all about it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

S is for Sorry

Today was the day I had to take the boys to school to register. As a model of inefficiency, I was made to fill out duplicate forms for two kids with the same parents, address, phone numbers, insurance information, emergency numbers, etc. The only differences between them are their social security numbers, ages and grades. But the bureaucracy that is Memphis City Schools needs to have as many forms as possible to look at and hold and rub all over themselves. While I was filling out form after form (times two), C, JP and S busied themselves chasing each other around the lunchroom, pinching, hitting and generally bugging the hell out of each other as loudly as possible. I threatened and threatened, but to no avail. After filling out the many forms (times two), I was told they needed to see JP's birth certificate, which I didn't have. I didn't have it because the Memphis City Schools website did not list it as a required document to bring to registration. So, I had to take these three kids to the Shelby County Health Department to get a certified copy and prove that JP was, in fact, born.

Now, I don't know where many of you people are from...actually, I do, thanks to statcounter.com. You're from such far away and exotic locales as Blacksburg, VA; Oak Harbor, WA; Arvada, CO; Fleetwood, PA; and internationally from France, the UK, Australia, and even Vietnam. And I don't know what your health departments are like, or if you even have one, but I can tell you that Shelby County boasts a block long Petri dish festering with flu, STDs, West Nile and the people in which they fester. You know by now how I feel about bathrooms and the excreta that necessarily attaches itself to children, so you can imagine how I felt about taking my kids to the health department. It doesn't help that the Gorgons in charge of stirring up this kettle of germs is kin to the very bureaucracy that controls the Memphis City Schools. But we parked a block away and walked in the 105-degree heat index to stand in the endless line for the birth certificate. It was almost time for Kristy to go to lunch, so I called her to come by and pick up the kids from this cootie swamp. Or, I tried to call, but cell phones don't work inside the building, I found out - it must be the funk-incrusted walls. I had to send C outside to call her. In the meantime, S wouldn't leave JP alone, and he ran around me trying to escape her until I'd had enough and snatched her up, grabbed him by the hand and we left, without the certificate. Tempers flared in the heat and, to be honest, the episode wasn't a model for parent/child relationships.

It weighs on me when discipline is meted out swiftly and without much thought - I find it counterproductive. We went straight home and everyone was separated. Kristy came home to get the kids and take them back to work with her, as we had planned. So everyone ate lunch and then they left, but as they were leaving I told the kids to behave with their mother, and S stopped at the door, turned, smirked at me and shot me the thumbs up. All was forgiven, on both sides.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Teamwork

I think I’ve been tricked. In a previous post, I wrote, “The other three will spend the week with me, a week in which I reassert my authority…” and then I wrote, “…we may go through a week of the tough stuff, just to shake off the lazy summer, ensure they’re awake and that I’m in charge…” Today was day one and I’m afraid the kids are working together now like a gaggle of Velociraptors. I’m not in charge, I’m like a sciatica-impaired shepherd, trying to corral a bunch of Guinea Pigs. Not cute and cuddly Guinea Pigs, either, but calculating, evil Guinea Pigs. Velociraptorguineapigs.

The plan today was to wake them up earlier than they’ve been waking up this summer and then, eventually, make it in to work where they’d have to hang out for a few hours before Kristy was off work. There are two rules when the kids go to work with me: 1) When I’m with a customer, don’t bother me and, 2) do not go up in the loft and yell down at me to look at you. I added a third today – do not ask me when it’s going to be time to go. They broke all three of them after the first 10 minutes. They spent the first 10 minutes going up to the loft, then back down, then down to the basement, then back up, running behind the counter and in between customers. Then they broke my rules with a fervor and gusto that I haven’t seen in any other endeavor in their young lives, except going in and out of our front door at home. They were intrusive and loud and demanding and it is too damn hot here for all of that behavior. So I took them to lunch. Their Aunt Elizabeth came by and walked over to Elliot’s on Second Street with us. C actually ate his burger and the other two picked at some fries. They spent the rest of the time playing tag or just punching each other, I never could understand the rules of the game. I kept telling them to stop touching each other, but this fell on deaf ears. Finally I made what was probably a poor parenting decision and poked S with a plastic fork to get her attention. Instead of a silent, jarring stare as I’d expected so I could make my point about not touching each other anymore, S yelled, “You poked me with a fork!” as loud as she could. So I, in a semi-loud adult voice, made what was probably my second poor parenting decision in just those few minutes and blamed it on one of her brothers. Regardless of who poked whom, they continued to badger each other with their own fingers and fists. So we went back to work to continue their triathlon of running the stairs, shouting at me and asking, “When are we going? When are we going? When are we going?” Until, thankfully, their mother showed up to whisk them away to…well, I don’t really care where the hell they went after all that.

The point is that this was a week of reasserting my domination of morning schedules and I was overwhelmed. These little huns used the summer, their period of hibernation, to organize and learn that there is strength in numbers and that the ability to annoy can increase proportionally. They’ve turned the tables and made me wish desperately for school to start instead of the other way around. I have to get a game plan for tomorrow because it’s only Tuesday and, frankly, I’m scared. All I need to turn the tables is a good strategy, three Guinea Pig cages, some extra forks and the element of surprise.

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

On the way out the door this morning C was carrying his pad he'd been sketching in:

JP: He's going to look for something interesting at your shop to draw.
Me: I'm interesting.
S: You're weird.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sucking In The Summer

Do you hear that giant sucking sound? That’s the sound of the last of my summer leaving me, the end of Daddy Time. And what a summer it was. The Trio became The Quartet, I had back surgery, we traveled through four states, and scattered in among all of that were leisurely mornings in which I didn’t have to think about waffles or cereal or socks or little clothes matching. I left for work most mornings before anyone else was awake - and without having to share a bathroom - and spent my mornings with a leisurely cup of coffee and the newspaper. It was quiet and solitary and just what I needed to help break up the year. Most nights I fell asleep before anyone else because I was the only one with any sort of objective the next day. I hope The Quartet enjoyed their time off as much as I did. GK spent the majority of her first summer nursing, pooping and napping, which is really the way to spend vacation time. The kids met with friends for playdates, spent time at the library, jumped through sprinklers, and generally relaxed between sporadic adventures in and out, in and out, in and out the front door (my utility bill should see a break with school starting). And best of all they got to re-establish their bond with Momma, a bond which, surprisingly, didn’t involve handcuffs or gaffing tape.

They don’t actually begin school until next week, but will be eased into the school year routine this week as Kristy starts back teaching and GK learns what a sitter is and is not. The other three will spend the week with me, a week in which I reassert my authority, remind them that there is life before 11 a.m., and we all become reacquainted with Caillou, Snook and Bert. It’s not going to be easy, and others have suggested that we slip them into it over several weeks, inching their “bedtime” back a half hour every night. Nah. I’m throwing them into the deep end. It’s sink or swim time, waffle or toaster strudel, red shirt or white. I’m going to assign tasks, scream out encouragement on the quarter hour, denounce all whining and march them out the door single file every morning. I’m going to make them glad to see their school for the respite it gives them from the real world. This is the plan I spent the summer coming up with, a sort of a.m. boot camp, and it all sounded pretty good a few weeks ago while I was sipping espresso with not a child in sight, but those of you who know me, or have been reading Urf! for some time, know that I don’t have the stamina or attention span for daily reveille. This post from back in April is the tried and true guideline I'll be using. But we may go through a week of the tough stuff, just to shake off the lazy summer, ensure they’re awake and that I’m in charge, and that we all realize that the main goal every morning is still to keep Daddy sane.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Hammock

Did I tell you about the hammock? When we were in Statesboro, GA, last week we spent most of the days at my Uncle Aldo’s house around his pool and in the stifling heat. He had a hammock in the backyard that JP took a shine to. This hammock was much like Wonder Woman’s absurd “golden lasso” in that whenever JP was in it, he talked. And talked. And talked. JP is my quiet one, blessedly quiet. Yet he and I sat in that hammock for two hours one day while he told me all about the movie Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I know that movie backward and forward now. Not in order, mind you, but I know every scene and the gist of the plot. For the rest of the week he looked forward to our daily lounging in the hammock and he would plan the night before what movie he might tell me about. That movie usually ended up being Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, but that was okay with me because this was the longest stretch of time JP has ever talked to me. It was the highlight of his week and, I believe, of mine as well. Through my own stupidity, I managed to get sunburned on the first day in the pool and was uncomfortable and miserable the rest of the trip. This hammock was in full sun much of the day but I couldn’t let that dissuade me. I had to hear how a machine got Wallace dressed in the morning and how funny it is that Gromit is a dog that drinks coffee, and a dog without a mouth.

We had a great time seeing the family and spending time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but it may be these few hours of the week spent with JP that I’ll remember the most. Kristy has wanted a hammock for years and this may just get her her wish. All I need to do is find a spot in the backyard for it, under a shady tree, and preferably near an electrical outlet so we can relax and actually watch Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit together.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Write That Down

We've just now returned from our 1269-mile road trip, and what a trip like that does is give me time to think. The Quartet is right there behind me, so I usually start thinking about them and how they're being raised. I've decided that there is one thing I should teach them above all others. This one thing, I learned on this road trip, is more important than being polite, or being responsible or loving thy neighbor. This one thing is that the damn left lane is for passing only! Write that down.