Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year's Eve

Four things I accomplished in 2006, in no particular order:

  1. Welcomed a daughter into the world.
  2. Opened a third of a bookstore.
  3. Had back surgery.
  4. Started a blog.

I don't do new year resolutions because I believe it's just setting myself up for failure. Besides, I only knew of one of the items on the above list at this time a year ago.

Tonight, by default, our friends are coming over to our house. I will eat homemade sushi by Warren and drink clear spirits. Welcoming the new year in with friends and family just seems right.

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year's Eve and a prosperous and happier 2007.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Reading Is Fundamental

It’s Thursday night, which can mean only one thing – Thursday Night Dinner With Elizabeth & Toby. It’s been that way for years, and so it was tonight. After a dinner of muffaleta, gyros, hummus and falafel, Elizabeth played Candyland with C, JP and S. And after that, naturally, the kids wanted to play another game with Aunt Elizabeth. However, Elizabeth wanted to sit and talk with the adults, so JP found a game to play with just his siblings, but C didn’t want to play without Elizabeth, so JP and S were going to play by themselves. Now, here’s the problem, and here is where it gets difficult for me to talk about it, for no parent wants to admit to the shortcomings of his own offspring. This game had cards with directions that would need to be followed, but neither JP nor S can read. In fact, neither can GK. That’s right, three out of four of my kids are illiterate. I don’t know what the current national average is, but it seems that three-fourths of the kids in one house not knowing how to read is pretty high. I’d like to blame the schools, their teachers, but the truth is I first have to look at myself, their father. And then immediately at their mother, who is also a teacher! She should know better! She teaches kids all day long, you’d think she’d be able to teach her own four-year-old how to read a simple sentence. C can read just fine, I should mention, and we’re all very proud of him. Well, his mother and I are proud, his sisters and brother just think it’s funny when he holds the papers with the funny black spots in front of his face and silently moves his lips.

Kristy and I are avid readers, and we’d like to think that our children will be just as enthusiastic about it, but the truth is we’re off to a slow start. We don’t expect them to jump right in with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ayn Rand or Somerset Maugham, but something a little more difficult than being able to recognize a picture of Queen Frostine would be welcome. Especially for JP, he’s five for Pete’s sake! I can see it coming, no matter how far off it seems, though. Why, just tonight, GK was slobbering all over the latest issue of The New Yorker, and we all know it’s just a small step from gumming a magazine cover to pretending to understand the cartoons within those covers.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Franny, Zooey and Me

Could a day be any lazier? On the third day of my Christmas “vacation” and the fourth day of what is being called The Two Weeks of Big Daddy, in which I am not required to get The Quartet up, dressed, fed and to school/babysitter in the mornings because their mother is a teacher and off the same two weeks for Christmas that they are, I woke up at almost 10 o’clock. Unheard of. Shortly after that, our regular plumber showed up to snake the pipes, thus relieving me of the clogged drain headache for a nominal fee. And the rest of the day? Well, I spent the better part of the morning and afternoon listening to Miles Davis and reading, for the 538th time in my life, the Zooey portion of Franny and Zooey, and I couldn’t have been more pretentious if I’d sat down to actually pen a letter to the editor of The New Yorker. The old paperback copy I have is worn, tattered and stained in places, and has traveled with me as much as Kristy has. More specifically than simply reading, though, I thumbed through to the lists and the portions immediately surrounding those lists. I love a good list and Salinger is tops when it comes to this. There is the scene in the bathroom with Zooey and Bessie Glass, which I find a very touching mother/son exchange even though he’s being an ass to her, where she takes inventory of nearly every item in the medicine cabinet. It’s almost a full page and though anyone who knows me will tell you I don’t want anything intimate to do with any bathroom anywhere, there is something very familiar and comfortable about this list and this location. There is also an itemization of articles found in the two large pockets of Bessie’s kimono. It reads like any junk drawer catalog found in any kitchen in any house. Is there anything more reassuring than a kitchen junk drawer? The final list of goods – furniture, knick-knacks, wall hangings, bric-a-brac – is to be found in the Glass’s living room. It may seem like so much clutter to some people, but to me the room has always felt lived in, lived in by a close and familiar family. No matter how many times I read this book, I look forward to walking into the Glass’s living room and feeling welcomed.

So that’s how I spent my morning and early afternoon. A bit later, Team O-G came by bearing food, so we let them in and sat around talking about our Christmases and families. We planned out New Years and admonished the kids for running in the house, being too rough, not sharing, being too loud and eating what they shouldn’t where they shouldn’t. These verbal warnings have become part of our conversations, like punctuation, just as unnoticeable as it is necessary. I've barely left the house in the past 72+ hours, yet we’ve spent much of this time with friends and family, and it is exactly as this time of year should be.

Another part of the book that has always registered with me is the scene where Franny is talking to Zooey, as Buddy Glass, on the phone. She mentions Zooey’s cigar smoking and Buddy (Zooey) says, “The cigars are ballast, sweetheart. Sheer ballast. If he didn’t have a cigar to hold on to, his feet would leave the ground. We’d never see our Zooey again.” Our friends and their family, and my own kids, have become my ballast, keeping me sane, balanced and grounded. We’ve all had a good year together and I look forward to 2007, to the visits, the conversations, the good times and to the unexpected.

Monday, December 25, 2006

One Last Piece of Christmas ...

I'm afraid I'm breaking a confidence here, but this is the note C left for Santa last night:

Dear Santa,
There is food for the reindeer in the lawn. Santa, last year my dad said a man with a big white beard gave him money for us. Was it you?

Circle
Yes No

P.S. Merry Christmas!


The backstory:

I can't remember if I wrote about this in an earlier post or not, but with 205 posts to look through, I'll just put it down here again. Some time back I had a customer in, an older man with a white beard. We chatted as I rang him up and I must have brought up my four kids because when he paid, he put the money in my hand, turned around and walked towards the door. I realized he'd paid me for what he'd bought but also given me a $100 bill. When I called him back to tell him of, what I assumed, was a mistake, he said, "Spend it on your children," and left. I had never seen him before and haven't seen him since. That night I told the kids the story of the Very Nice Man and took them to the bookstore for them to pick out what they wanted.

To tell you the truth, I forgot all about this episode until I read C's note to Santa last night. He not only remembered it, but placed that man as Santa. How about that? As I pondered his note, I wondered what to circle. What Santa should circle, Yes or No? Do I prolong his believing that there is a Santa and that he is with us year round, or do I circle No and let him know that there are randomly good, generous, people in the world? It seemed like such a simple question and I probably read too much into it, overthinking it, as I usually do. I believe I circled the right one, though I believe I'll keep some things just among C, Santa and me.

I'm Moe Green!

Christmas mostly went well today. I didn’t get much sleep last night, so morning came a little earlier than it should have, but The Quartet was excited about their visit from Santa. They dragged their toys around the house, ripped open paper and oohed and aahed appropriately. For much of the morning I lay on the couch with my pocket knife and the patience of Job as I opened boxes, cut tape and untwisted those damn ties that keep toys in their packaging. I talked to family on the phone, sipped coffee and read Dickens. And then Kristy did a load of laundry and, just like that, I was ready for the season to be over. In just a few seconds all the planning and anticipation for this day ended when the washing machine drain backed up, sending a torrent of water all over the kitchen. I wanted the toys put away, the Christmas music turned off and the tree hauled away. It was as though the real world rushed in on that waterfall and washed the Most Wonderful Time of the Year away. Perhaps I should back up, though. Back up to last night and the steady rain that lasted All. Night. Long. Because, you see, when it rains here, it doesn’t just saturate the yard and soak the front porch. No, it leaks into the living room. This is a wonderful new development that caused me to wake up every 15 minutes or so last night just to make sure it was still raining and that what I had put under that leak to catch it was still doing its job. So, we had water coming down and water coming up, and if I’m going to live surrounded by this much water, I might as well move onto that sailboat that I plan on living aboard someday.

The washer overflowing did get me out of traveling to Kristy’s grandmother’s house, though, as I elected to stay home and tend to the mess. I ended up straightening the whole house, which I found cathartic after two days of being as sloppy as the season calls for. Later, GK and I settled in bed to watch one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Godfather, and we both agreed that our favorite scene is when Michael Corleone protects his father in the hospital after he’s been shot. (Last night she watched It’s A Wonderful Life for the first time and we both agreed that one of our favorite parts is when George Bailey tells his father that he’s a great guy. And then today she understood it completely when I grumbled about how it was “Another banner day for the A’s!” and questioned why we have to live in this “drafty old house anyway …”) Oh, but first, today, I took time to hook up the new DVD player that Kristy and I received for Christmas so we could watch our movie. Now, years ago I built in 8’x8’ bookshelves with adjustable shelving, and some of this had to be removed and rearranged in order to take the old player out and put the new one in. While I was doing this, the TV fell to the floor, followed by a shelf and a large selection of CDs. Almost all of my Elvis Costello CDs, in fact. Does anyone know where I can get jewel cases that hold a bonus disc? Several of those broke.

But, again, it was Christmas and the kids had fun and that’s what really matters. I should probably apologize to them, though, for being so short-tempered. An apology, also, to Kristy. And to Aunt Katherine, Elizabeth and Favorite Aunt Carol, all who called after the washing machine flooded us out, taking all of my patience and cheer with it. Merry Christmas to all of you while it lasts, because it’s technically over in just under two hours. A time, we know, when elves take a vacation, but all plumbers, hopefully, go back to work.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers from across the map, from places like Port Hueneme, Albuquerque, Naples, Marlborough, Chicago, Memphis, Coppell, Fargo, Palaiseau, Staten Island, Blacksburg, Cincinnati, Springfield, Fort Collins, Guadalajara, Weesp, Chagrin Falls, Lake Zurich, Aurora, St. Louis, Tallahassee, Tulsa, Tucson, Roseville, Alameda, Bristol, Chalgrove, Westchester, Atlanta, and one, curiously, from the North Pole. I wish a safe and happy holiday from my family to yours.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

My Favorite Things

Here we are, Christmas Eve Eve. The holiday season, which began sometime back in mid-September, I believe, is almost over. In years past, by this hour of the festivities, I’m so ready for it all to be over that I could scream. But I took a different approach this year, I began with my head in a different place. Being in retail, this time of year is about one thing and we all know what that one thing is so I’ll try not to harp on it because it doesn’t have much at all to do with good tidings, figgy pudding, peace or joy. This year, though, I tried to focus more on family and friends and fun. I put myself in the mindset of The Quartet and saw this time of year, truly, as the most wonderful time of the year. We decorated, we baked, we laughed and we sang. We talked about Christmases past and about what Santa might be inclined to drop off this year. I let the business handle itself because it always does whether I worry about it or not and, as of close today, it did just that. So I’ll take the next three days off to play with the kids, visit with family, be Santa Claus and watch It’s A Wonderful Life. As much fun as the season has been this year, however, I will say this, if I hear Barbra Streisand sing “My Favorite Things” one more time I’m going to cancel what’s left of this holiday. And as I sit down tomorrow night to read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas to the kids, I’m also thinking about putting on John Coltrane’s 13:47 version of the song from 1960, one of the best recordings ever, and have them listen to it as the only version which should ever be played, whether it’s Christmastime or not. Though fun should be the norm this time of year, there also needs to be a few hard and fast rules in this house – no blinking lights on the tree, all cookies should be chocolate chip, Daddy eats Santa’s cookies and no Streisand. Ever.

Amy

We received a Christmas card yesterday from Kristy’s oldest friend, Amy, who I found out reads this blog, which surprised me. Kristy has known Amy since high school, since before she even knew me, and I’ve known Amy as long as I’ve known Kristy – 19 years. In fact, they came as a pair when I met them, inseparable, and I felt I had to get Amy’s approval to date Kristy, even more than I had to get Kristy’s father’s approval, which it would take me seven more years to get, once we were married. Amy moved away to Illinois before they graduated, and I remember comforting Kristy while she cried as though she’d lost a sister, because that’s just what had happened. They grew older, married good men and had beautiful kids, and they still stay in touch. They don’t see each other much anymore, which is too bad and a little strange for someone who has entire summers off, but they’re both talkers, so they call a lot. In fact, wherever Amy is right now, I’m sure she’s talking. Kristy is too, as I type and nod.

We went to visit Team O-G at their house last night. Stacey lit the menorah and included us in a bit of their Hannukah tradition, which also included beer and homemade treats. The Quartet seemed fascinated, partly because it involved fire, I believe, but mostly because it was at their friends’ house and they love nothing better than visiting friends and their friends’ toys. After the lighting, they ran around and played and argued over Candyland. Candyland should be the Switzerland of childhood, yet they managed to argue. But this passed, as all arguments pass, though it makes me wonder, as they grow, what they will continue to argue over. Bicycles, girls, boys, grades, whose turn it is to drive, who will pick up the check, who got drunk at the annual Christmas party and said something inappropriate to whose wife. There’s no guarantee that our kids will stay friends with Satchel and Jiro, or Miss M or M(Click) or Clara or the Chockleyblog Kids or anyone else we’ve corralled them with, such is the fickleness of friendship, but it’s a good start. They’re learning the importance of friends, whether they know it or not, and they’re learning how to deal with peers, whether their parents realize it or not.

Certain friendships were just built to last, like Kristy and Amy’s. Will JP stay Butch Cassidy to Satchel’s Sundance Kid? Only time will tell. But so far it seems to be a friendship that can survive even Satchel moving JP’s piece back a few spaces on Candyland when he knows he shouldn’t have.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Magic?

Here are a few concepts The Quartet can’t seem to comprehend: my desire to sing, dinner, quiet, bath time and, apparently, Christmas. Kristy went shopping the other night, and told them she was going, but when she arrived home they asked – nee, demanded – to see what she’d bought. “They’re Christmas presents,” we explained, needlessly, one would think. But they wouldn’t have any of it, especially S and JP, who whined and cried. Then, today at work, I received a big box of goodies from Aunt Katherine down in the swamps of south Florida. When I brought it home and it was opened to reveal brightly wrapped Christmas gifts, The Quartet, again, wanted to know why they couldn’t open those gifts now, now, now. How did this all start? When did they start expecting gifts just because it’s a Wednesday near Christmas day?

JP didn’t want the gifts because it’s almost Christmas day. He could care less when Christmas is, he just wants whatever is inside that paper because it’s something for him, something he needs. This attitude brings me to the conversation we had last night where he tried to convince me there is no Santa Claus. I assumed it was a rumor he’d heard from his buddies, though he wasn’t giving up any names. I assured him Santa is real, he is watching yet wouldn’t deliver to any kids who didn’t believe, and that even his mother and I believe in the fat man. I think he may have drifted off to sleep rethinking all of this, if not the magical aura of a Santa and what he means to kids all over, then at least the fact that he may not get any loot if he doesn’t play along. And loot is what that boy wants.

The other day, at my wit’s end, I threatened S with calling Santa if she didn’t stop doing whatever it was she was doing at the time, or didn’t start doing whatever it was I wanted her to do, I forget now. She laughed, goaded and called my bluff. So I picked up my phone, flipped it open and dialed my store. I was closed so, thankfully, no one answered, but I pretended to leave a voice mail for Santa explaining that S was not behaving and should, therefore, be left off any Nice list he might be compiling. She’s jaded and didn’t seem to buy it. What I’m wondering now is if it’s okay to forgo just one Christmas to make a point. If one of the kids gets nothing for Christmas for just one year as an example, then wouldn’t it make all subsequent years more pleasant? Like in The Godfather III when the Andy Garcia character shoots one of the guys who broke into his apartment to get the other guy to tell him what he knows. I’m not suggesting anything so drastic, or quite as violent, but you see the connection? It’s all about proving a point. By making an example of one kid, one year, all other Christmas seasons could be virtually hassle free.

I know this isn’t Currier & Ives, but things just seem to be getting out of hand and I’m wondering if it’s not time to make these miscreants an offer they can’t refuse. I’m not going to give the whole Commercialization of Christmas lecture because we’ll hear plenty of that over the season, but these two are four- and five-years-old. Shouldn’t the anticipation of the big day be as exciting as the day itself and all of its promises? I also understand being a kid and just wanting the presents, I know I did as well, but I knew instinctively that they weren’t to be opened until Christmas morning and that was a big part of the magic.

I still have a few days to instill that magic into the kids. I’m not sure how to do it. I’m sure, though, that I won’t have Andy Garcia shoot one of them, that’s out of the question. But perhaps on Christmas Eve we’ll make some cider and popcorn, gather around the TV and, instead of watching It’s a Wonderful Life as has become our tradition, we’ll watch The Godfather III. Maybe they’ll glean a bit of holiday magic from an elf named Vincent.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Open Letter

Kids,

Can I renounce my fatherhood? Not for good, mind you, but just while I feel like crap? While I have this cough and my sinuses feels like they’ve been stuffed full of those tiny little infant socks that are found lying around the house, rendering me unable to breathe? I’ll come back to reading at bedtime and getting you ready for school and changing the diaper and outfit you just destroyed as soon as my throat stops hurting, I promise. I’ll also stop snapping at you for every little thing, probably, although maybe you could meet me halfway and stop acting simian for just 10 minutes. Don’t jump from couch to chair, and there’s really no reason to put an empty cup in the refrigerator. Ever. Stuff like that. Things that may or may not be getting on my last nerve due to my illness. I know you all like it when I cough that stuff up in the morning. It’s like a magic trick, like when I pull a coin from your ear, but it’s not so magical – is kind of gross, in fact - and I’ll be much more fun when all of that stops.

I know that none of you are doctors (yet) but there may be a way you could help to heal me, though it involves quiet, something you will presumably learn about in medical school one day, assuming any of the four of you are capable of learning that concept. You may also be able to help by staying away from me, approximately 1190 sq. ft. away.

Give me just a few more days, kids, because this usually doesn’t last too long, and it only seems fair considering you brought it home to me. All of you with your hands caked in snot, some yours, some once belonging to other kids, and hacking up whatever it is your buddy was hacking up a week ago. Once it passes, I’ll be the same old lovable Daddy who occasionally gets irritated for no good reason at all. And isn’t that really what we all want?

Sincerely,
RJA

[This is the 200th post on Urf!]

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Belated

Let me begin by saying Happy Birthday, Aunt Carol.

They say when a person loses his sight, that his other senses are heightened. I wonder if it works that way for social skills as well. If, by ignoring one aspect of your life, it will make you better, more competent in another. My day to day life is so full of me that I seem to let almost everything else fall to the side, or so it feels. I’m not saying that what I do is extraordinary, anything that anyone else doesn’t or wouldn’t do given the same circumstances, but from the minute I wake up in the morning I’m responsible for my kids – feeding, dressing, homework gathered up, out the door to school – from there I go to work, to a business with my name on it and which I am solely responsible for. After work it’s home to laundry and dishes and baths and bedtime. While all of this is happening, people around me, friends and family, are achieving goals, reaching milestones and suffering problems that I’m not there for. Sometimes they’re having significant birthdays, as Aunt Carol, one of my favorite people in the world, did two days ago, the day I meant to call her and say, simply, Happy Birthday. But I didn’t. I forgot. What makes this even more unbelievable is that my family, being so large, has its own calendar with everyone’s birthday listed. In the back of this calendar is a listing of everyone’s contact information. So what’s the excuse? I was busy. That’s always the excuse. Work, kids. Is it a good excuse? Not at all. People deal with all of this on a daily basis, it’s called Life. Some people, obviously, have a better handle on theirs.

Again, I’m not looking for pity. I try to be a good father, husband and businessman, but there are times when it all becomes overwhelming. I’m lucky to have a partner in all of this, though I tend to heap the burden on my own shoulders, unnecessarily, most of the time. I would like to be there for the milestones of today, no matter how large or small, instead of concentrating on what needs to be done tomorrow. These are times when the best thing I could do is just step back and listen to the music instead of feeling the need to be the conductor.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

JP Lassoes N

Today, JP brought home an N in conduct from kindergarten. And as I write that, I picture the mother in A Christmas Story whispering over the phone to his friend’s mother the unthinkable word that Ralphie had exclaimed earlier that night when the lug nuts went flying. And I picture all of you screaming in horror as you read it, your tinny voices coming through cyberspace to let me know you feel my pain and share my horror. Now, it’s not all that bad, an N, it simply means Needs Improvement (I think, but it could also mean Numbskull or Nerd), and JP, of all The Quartet, needs improvement. He seems out of control lately, being more physical than normal and he’s developed this lovely habit of asking “What?” after everything we say. But back to the N. The little note in his folder says he forgot his homework, which was complete, yet sitting on our dining room table – apparently you don’t get credit for that – and being “ugly in Spanish.” I’m not sure if he was misbehaving in Spanish class or if the Spaniards simply consider him unattractive, but it apparently pushed him over the edge of S (Satisfactory) and into the land of N. So I sat him down tonight and explained that I know he can get Es (Excellent) in conduct because he’s gotten plenty of them and I expect him to get more of them from now on, and no more Ns. I’m pretty sure he understood because he said “Alright” after every sentence I spoke. And then he chewed on his sleeve and walked out of the room on his toes.

I wouldn’t dare tell JP to second guess his teacher or that what she says in her classroom, much like a ship’s captain, isn’t law. But she, and the school, do have some inane rules. When he’s gotten an S in the past for breaking one of these, I haven’t said much at all because, well, they’re stupid. One rule that really irks me is that they can’t talk in the lunchroom. No talking in the lunchroom? That’s what lunchrooms are for! It's where you talk about how crappy the food is, how stupid your teachers are and how pretty the girls are … eventually. It’s the chance every day, along with recess, for these five-year-olds to blow off some steam. So when he says he got an S for talking in the lunchroom, I give him that stern, fatherly look, but what I really want to say is, “Really? What did you talk about?”

Tomorrow is another day. Another chance for an E. I feel a little bad about putting so much pressure on him. He’s just learned the alphabet and now we’ve already got him loathing certain letters. But it’s better he learn it now, we don’t want him walking out of that first performance appraisal with the multi-billion dollar corporation he’s gone to work for just out of college (on scholarship!) to find out that, though he met his fiscal goals for the quarter, he got an N in conduct and that, really, is what matters.

Other things N might stand for:

Narcoleptic
Nudist
Nappy
Nowhere
Nabob
Ne’er-do-well
Naval
Navel
Newhart
Nerf

Monday, December 11, 2006

Real Life

Some nights aren’t so fun. Some nights are laced with tension and raised voices. Sometimes parents spend that time between work and bedtime imploring the children to be quiet, to stop touching each other and for everyone to respect everyone else’s space. Nights when a third-grader spends three hours working on a project for Science class and all they can do with the six-month-old is stand up and hold her because she won’t allow them to sit down or to put her down because she is the one actually running the show around that house. She is the wizard behind the curtain. But then when The Wizard does finally start to drift into sleep, they need the other three children to just. be. quiet. And they won’t. They won’t because it’s not in their genes and because they know that that is the precise moment when the parents really, really want them to just shut up for a few minutes. And this is exactly how it is put forth. This would be the same night that the five-year-old shoves the eight-year-old in the back, propelling him forward, headfirst into the bookcase in the living room, causing it to rock back and forth and threaten to tip over. Shoves him even though he was just told not to touch his brother. This act causes the father to lose it and use a word he probably shouldn’t while sending the five-year-old to his room. Later, when the father and five-year-old are sitting together on the couch watching television, they’ll discuss bad words and the five-year-old will make the father laugh out loud. The six-month-old is snotty. Still. And coughing. Again. And the father wonders if this is the 19th Century and she has the TB for which the only respite is taking the fresh air. He thinks this because he doesn’t understand medicine and, for having four children, doesn’t really understand children. Not tonight he doesn’t. He doesn’t get why they won’t eat, listen, stop touching each other or just do what their mother and father tell them to do. Why, when you tell the four-year-old something is black, she insists it’s white. Why the infant insists on rubbing snot all over her face like an unguent. Tomorrow night it might be clearer. Tomorrow night it will probably all make sense and be something for him to laugh at and write about on his little blog. But tonight, real life has gripped him with all the stress and tension of being a parent. Tomorrow night will be different.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

MRD

I spent last night at the roller derby. Seriously. Not just me, though, but Midtown Memphis seemed to move en masse to the Funquest in Collierville to witness The Legion of Zoom take on the PrissKilla Prezleys in a Memphis Roller Derby pre-season match. It was loud, fast and more fun than I expected. I still don’t understand the rules or how the point system works, but there were a lot of points, final score was something like PP 12,349 and LoZ 11,958. Anyway, the Z Girls lost, which is too bad because my sister is on that team. So is Stacey, who also took away a broken fibula and tibula, which shows you how rough these ladies can be. I was surprised that it was Stacey who broke a bone because I really expected the break to belong to Elizabeth. When we were kids, none of us was really athletic, but certainly not her, and when she skated out onto the floor for the first time last night, the look on her face took me back to our childhood when she was trying to ride her bike for the first time or playing any sport or just, you know, running. And then she got out on the rink for the introductions and her team had this little choreographed number where they all rip off their oversized blouses to reveal their more revealing roller derby uniforms. I didn’t care for that part at all.

Also last night, through the forces of good beyond our control, we found ourselves with only one child for the weekend. The three older ones were in Nashville, which is just a hair west of the Funquest in Collierville, with their grandparents. After the big show we, along with pregnant Andria, took GK to a bar because we know what good parenting is all about. It was fun to watch all the pretty people at Bosco’s look on in horror as we walked in with a 6-month-old to interrupt their bad dates and cell phone calls. But she was good. She had just been to a roller derby bout and that made her just a little more hip than the rest of them, despite what they thought about themselves.

It was a very interesting, very raucous time. Not too raucous, though, it being Collierville and with every other person at the bout wearing a black T-shirt stating they were SECURITY, as though there was some trouble to be expected at the Family Funquest this night. But the spectators there were good, enthusiastic Midtown people. People like us, Click, Mr. and Mrs. artbutcher, S.A.M. and The Admiral featuring Miss M, The Saucier, Harry from Elliot’s, Mel, Heather, Julie, Warren and the rest of Team O-G, and the Chockleyblogs (technically from East Memphis, but not that far east!). Everyone was there to cheer on Moxie Dynamite, Smashimi, Angelina Rolie and all the other funny names. We look forward to the next match but hope that the Memphis Roller Derby is able to find a venue closer to home so we can keep the scales from tipping too far east.

[editor’s note: I just spoke to Stacey who spent the night in the hospital and is due to have surgery any time now to put a metal plate in her leg. She’s the Bionic Blogger now. Good luck, Stacey!]

[Photo of Elizabeth by Click(Daily). Photo of GK by Sassy Molassy]

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Yes, Ma'am

The Quartet was running through the house this evening, which is one of their favorite past times. Kristy and I keep talking about needing a larger house, and here these little people are able to get up a good bit of speed while doing lap after lap through the rooms. Kristy was in the kitchen preparing supper - a lovely casserole - when the kids came tearing through (lap number 16, I believe). "Stay out of the kitchen!" she said, in that soothing voice of hers. And one by one, the kids answered back, "Yes, ma'am!" Yes, ma'am? While we try to teach our children to be polite, we've never stressed that they should address us with yes, ma'am or yes, sir. Where had this come from? Then I realized they were mocking us. It all made sense, because they absolutely learned that from us.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mustaches For Kids

It was brought to my attention today by my brother-in-law, The Quartet’s uncle, that there is an event underway in the great city of Chicago called Mustaches For Kids [editor’s note: it was also brought to my attention this evening that this topic was brought up last Saturday night well into a couple of bottles of wine with friends and family. It became much more clear today].

Brave men citywide will collect pledges from friends, family and colleagues to benefit Off the Street Club, Chicago’s oldest boys’ and girls’ club. All the participants need to do is grow and maintain a classic Magnum P.I.-style mustache for a month.

I, for one, think this is a fantastic idea and should quickly be franchised to the Memphis area. My wife, however, does not. For more than a decade, I’ve sported some sort of Van Dyck or, more recently, full beard on my mug. But there was a day, just before we got married, that I shaved. Shaved almost all of it off. All but the ‘stache. She walked into the house that fateful day, got one look at me lounging on the sofa in my robe and hairy lip, turned around and walked back out of the house. She opened the door just enough to tell me to go shave, that she wouldn’t look at me until I did. So I did – I was young and na├»ve. And I’ve never tried it again, although there was the briefest mention of it on a train ride back from New Orleans with that same brother-in-law, but that’s another story for another day. The fact is, I believe it may be time again. Not now, but next fall when the mustache-for-charity season begins in earnest.

I’m pretty sure The Quartet would like to see me in just a mustache. They’ve never seen me without a beard. GK, I know, would be confused by it as it would be less hair for her to try to pull out of my face with her tiny little, vise-like fingers. They have no idea who Tom Selleck is, but they’re all big fans of Groucho Marx and Gordon, from Sesame Street, has always had a mustache. And, besides, it’s for charity! Who can say no to that? The Quartet’s mother, that’s who.

From the Mustaches for Kids website:
Mustaches for Kids is an international volunteer-run, Mustache-growing Children’s Charity. In eight fulfilling years, the Mustaches for Kids proposition has enjoyed steady expansion throughout the US and Canada - continental progress not unlike the measured, deliberate growth of a Mustache. In that time, Mustaches for Kids, owing to the efforts of an impressive community of Growers, has raised over $150,000 for various children’s charities.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Independent JP

One of the things we’ve been working on with JP lately, and when I say “working on” I mean “harping on and teasing relentlessly,” is his being more independent. Now, we don’t expect him to work or fend for himself totally, or even help out with rent. He’s only five-years-old, so he’s got another five years before he has to think about that. But there are certain things he should be able to do without us – get his own cookie, get out of the bathtub, and find his own clothes in his drawer, for example. C is good about doing things on his own, once he’s reminded that he can. S can, but refuses. That’s just S. JP doesn’t seem to have any clue that he is capable of walking into his room on his own and locating a pair of socks because his feet are cold.

Tonight I happened on him as he tried on this new-found independence. He was getting his own drink of water from the kitchen sink. I watched him from the dining room as he hoisted himself onto the sink, holding himself up on just his elbows. His legs swung from side to side as he traded the cup from hand to hand and turned on first the hot water, then turned it off, then the cold water, traded the cup back to the other hand, filled it, and turned the water off. He looked like a 1980s-era Soviet gymnast fighting to keep his balance. Either that or one of those people who are born without any limbs but have learned to live on their own regardless of their limitations. But that may be demeaning to the people with no limbs because they are surely more capable than JP is right now. He is the one most likely to come to me in our 1200 sq. ft. house and ask where someone else is. Chances are he had to step over or around that person to get to me to ask his question.

I have no doubt he’ll grow into his own independent nature, and I know it’s not right to put so much pressure on him. It’s just that there is a lot to be done around here with four kids so we tend to expect them to help out, by helping themselves if not each other, at an earlier age. The sooner JP can help himself to the simpler things, the easier life will become for us and him. And the sooner we know that he can care for himself, the sooner we can send him to the Czech Republic to begin training for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Four Families

I can’t seem to get tradition off the brain lately. When I was young I never thought I’d be one for tradition, though I enjoyed the elements without really realizing what they were at the time. I think I saw tradition as a rut, something to avoid more than something to embrace. As I grew older and became a parent myself, as you’ve read, I learned to love what our family is about.

My great-grandparents had four children - Joe, Charlie, Jeannie and Shirley. These people are now The Heads of the Four Families, families of Zanones, Fachinis and Hollahans. Among them they’ve bred and raised a legion of kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. Every year the Heads of the Four Families get together for a Christmas feast at the home of one of the siblings. It rotates from year to year. This has become their tradition. This year, they are in Memphis and I would love to be a part of that dinner, but, alas, I’m not invited. No kids are. No grandkids. No great-grandkids. No one is even sure what they discuss at these dinners, whether it’s the best way to get their fortunes safely into offshore banks, what new land acquisitions were made the previous year or who needs to be “dealt with.” But most probably they talk about us. Not me, particularly, but their offspring and their offspring’s offspring and their offspring’s offspring’s offspring. And they laugh at us. I know they do. I would. It is our God given right, as parents, to laugh at the little people we produce and to laugh at them for as long as we feel is appropriate. My sister and her husband live nearby and our tradition is, and has been for years, dinner together on Thursday night. When we get together we laugh at The Quartet, our four little jesters, and I know this will never change because they are funny and we are just a little bit cruel.

So tonight The Heads of the Four Families are having a feast over at Aunt Jeannie’s house and they’re reminiscing about their very long lives and discussing investments and, knowing them, sharing cooking tips. But they’re also laughing. Laughing and enjoying each other’s company, which I think is great and the most wonderful tradition of all, even though much of that laughter, I’m sure, is at our expense.