Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Lack Of Focus

I need to focus. I need to focus before all of this slips out from under me.

On the way to school this morning, C told me how his schedule at school has changed and how much more confusing it is now switching from this class to that at this time or that on this day or that. This should be a post about that schedule and what my fourth-grader has to deal with every day. But the truth is I didn't really pay attention. Okay, the real truth is that a song I like came on the radio and I tuned him out. The sad part is I can't even remember what that song was now. Oh, and then somewhere near the end of his explanation I saw a Volkswagon Beetle so I punched him on the arm.

These kids are growing fast and things are changing at lightning speed, I really should start paying attention to them. Right now, though, I'm just thankful that C is able to concentrate enough to drive us all downtown.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

الجمهورِيّة اليَمَنيّة

On the walk today from school to my store, C told me a story about recess. He said he and his friends were playing Four Square on the playground but kids kept running through their squares, so they took their ball out to the field to play but "some kids, I think they're from Yemen, took our ball away from us." And then those same kids, who already had a football, started throwing their football at C and his friends. Yemenese! I never saw this coming. Raising kids in Memphis, TN, trouble with the Yemenians isn't the racial discourse you imagine being a problem.

I wasn't quite sure how to handle this situation so I began by making sure I understood him correctly. "These were Yemenites, I asked?" He assured me they were. "That surprises me," I continued, "because Yemen, officially the Republic of Yemen, is a Middle Eastern country located on the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia. And with a population of about 20 million people, Yemen is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the North, the Red Sea to the West, the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden to the South, and Oman to the east. Furthermore, Yemen's territory includes over 200 islands, the largest of which is Socotra." Okay, I didn't say any of that because I only just now went to Wikipedia to study up on Yemen. Okay, I didn't actually study, but I did skim, and one thing that didn't stand out was anything on the Yemenials' great love, or hatred, of Four Square, so I feel this was a random act of playground frivolity between two cultures that no one could have guessed would come together in downtown Memphis, much like Bono and Sam Phillips, who I've heard loves Four Square.

C went on to tell me that such-and-such teacher talked to so-and-so in the fifth grade and what's-his-name in the fourth to get the facts objectively, and that there were two options, though C quickly saw that there were three: 1) No more playing outside, 2) Play outside, but everyone has to get along, and the elusive, inferred 3) Play outside but with no equipment. In what grade does the whole Mock U.N. stuff begin? Because this has the stink of the United Nations written all over it, and if I find out Angelina Jolie was at that school and no one told me then there's going to be hell to pay!

Tomorrow is a new day. It's a Thursday in Memphis, I have no idea what day it will be in Yemen, but I'm sure that these kids will all work it out on their own as kids on playgrounds all over the world do. It isn't until adulthood that they actually take up arms over something so silly. The young Yemenheads probably just didn't quite understand the concept of Four Square, though I'm sure they'll catch on quickly. Either that or they're just very excited and overzealous about Evacuation Day, which Wikipedia tells me is an actual holiday in Yemen on November 30.

[I copy and pasted that title up there over from Wikipedia. I think it means "Yemen." I hope it does. If, instead, it means something derogatory then forget what I said, we're not really located in downtown Memphis.]

Monday, November 26, 2007

First Day. Again.

Yesterday my baby girl went to her first day at school. Sure, it's a Montessori school, but it's the closest she's come yet to any type of formal education or, as we call it, daycare. The fee to get into this institution is steep, steeper than what we were paying her sitter on The Island, but it isn't just the money that's on my mind, it's the gear she has to pack in to her new wilderness. It's the confusing amount of ... stuff she needs to attend this school. She had to take crib sheets, blankets, a jacket that stays there, a hairbrush, a toothbrush, four changes of clothes and three pairs of shoes, among so much else. That doesn't even include the cloth diapers we don't have yet. Cloth diapers, I don't even know where to begin. Apparently, though, sometime in the 1950s with a giant safety pin and clothesline would be a good beginning point.

She did well yesterday, walking around and playing while I was still there before getting upset as I went to leave. The teachers told Big Mama when she picked her up that she did great the rest of the day, though, which I knew she would. This morning she was excited and happy up until we walked into her room and then she lost it, again, as I knew she would. The first thing to be done was to change from her sneakers, or "outside shoes," to her softer "indoor shoes." She has three pairs of shoes at the school, which is one more pair than I own. I just hope they all match the four outfits she has. I'm not sure if she's going to daycare or if she's involved in a Cher concert. The teacher spoke to a crying GK in soothing Montessori-ese while I sat there holding her and thinking "Take this child from me and calm her so I can leave!" A mom who was in there assured me that "it will get easier" to which I thought-replied "This is my fourth child, lady, and you know what? It doesn't get easier." I've dropped these kids off at every daycare, sitter and school they've ever attended every morning of their lives and they cry almost all the time and it's never easier. I know they're fine as soon as I walk out of the door, but that doesn't make it easier. I'm leaving my offspring with strangers and they're not happy about it. And I'm not either. JP, just last week, in his sixth year of life and third month of first grade started crying in the mornings out of nowhere. What the hell is so easy about that?

I know GK will get used to the new morning routine. I know that she'll make some little friends and get to know her caretakers and that the Montessori Kool-Aid will go down nice and smoothly, but that doesn't really get me through the day when the first thing in the morning I'm leaving a tear-streaked, seemingly inconsolable child behind. Again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

McTheory vs. McReality

Kristy and I decided late Sunday night to make the drive to Georgia on Wednesday to visit my grandparents for Thanksgiving. It was as spontaneous as a family of six can be. I'm glad we did. Despite the three hours of constant downpour that began the trek, arriving to a house full of family and good food was well worth it.

Long drives (this one was about nine hours) give one pause for introspection. It's a good time, a long time, to think about life and what it is we strive for, what is important and what we'd like to eventually accomplish. This trip, in particular, showed me that my hopes and dreams, or the visions of my life as I perceive it now and in the future, may not, in fact, be as they truly are.

For instance, my dream is for my family to one day live on a 40+' sailboat exploring the Caribbean seas and South American coastline, yet in reality I have two kids who become ill riding in a Mazda minivan. The dream also stipulates that these four kids will be my crew on that sailboat, however, S, my navigator, asked as we drove through Alabama, on the way to Georgia from Tennessee, if we were in California yet. The Quartet wanted McDonald's for lunch and, despite their complete lack of skills with the sextant, managed to locate one with an immense indoor playland. I was starving, but it seems that hunger is relative, because when we walked in and I saw the advertisement for something called a McSkillet Burrito, I was suddenly much less hungry.

We'll be returning home on Saturday and I can't imagine what dreams and theories that I harbor might be shattered. Or supported, as I've only just now decided to allow S to show me the way home, and to feed her nothing but McSkillet after McSkillet on that journey because I have a theory that they just may settle her seafaring stomach.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hey, That's Not Funny

Ask any parent anywhere what their favorite sound is and they'll tell you: the sound of my child(ren)'s laughter. Well, first they'll tell you the sound of silence is their favorite, but then, pressed for an actual sound, they'll say the laughter of kids. And isn't that the truth? Is there nothing better than knowing your children are happy by the sounds of squealing and giggling and all-out guffawing?

Yes and no. For all you new parents out there, you should understand that there is good laughter and bad laughter. In case your kid is so new that you need help discerning the two, here are some suggestions.

Good laughter is laughing at:
  • Funny faces made by parents
  • Knock-knock jokes
  • The Marx Brothers
  • Tickling
  • Urf!
  • Farts

Bad laughter is laughing at:
  • A sibling getting hurt
  • Hurting a sibling
  • Mommy's tantrums
  • The Holocaust
  • Daddy's bank statement
  • Two and a Half Men

So encourage your offspring to laugh, because it truly is the best medicine (sick kids, not funny), but be aware of what they're laughing at. And remember what Alan Alda said, "If it bends it's funny, if it breaks, it's not funny."

Monday, November 19, 2007

2007 Vintage

Kristy returned from the grocery the other day with, among other things, some new “hot chocolate” flavored Pop-Tarts, and JP treated them as though she’d delivered a cask of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. He uncorked the box with a certain amount of tenderness, broached the outer foil layer and removed his treasure. He held the pastry up to the light, peering at its brownness, he sniffed at it. He, eventually, licked a corner. And then he bit into that Tart and let the hot chocolatey goodness melt in his mouth. He pronounced it, “Good.”

And then he left half of it on the couch for me to sit on, ruining my sweatpants.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just Saying

This is an actual conversation I had with GK last night:

"Yeah," she said.
"Yeah," I said.
"Yeah," she said.
"Yeah," I said.

I won't bore you with the rest because it went on like that for another 10 minutes or so.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Every year it begins earlier and earlier. Our society seems content to leave it up to Wal-Mart and Macy's to tell us when the holiday season starts. This year, I think it was somewhere around the end of July. Well, I've decided it's up to me from now on, I'll decide when the holidays begin.

The end-of-the-year holidays to me mean spending time with friends and family and remembering what may have been forgotten throughout the rest of the year, the really important things in life. I have decreed that the holiday season henceforth will begin on the day we make the Zanone Family Ravioli, and that was this weekend. So, actually, the holiday season this year was set in motion on the day when my sister said, "Let's make the ravioli on Saturday, Nov. 10." And we did. And we had our friends over just as we did last year to help and to visit and talk and laugh. And just like last year, they did a great job putting together the pieces that make a meal worthy of such friendship. I thank them and my family thanks them.

My family spends a lot of time with our friends on a weekly, often daily, basis, but there is something about this time of year when the closeness feels concentrated. I don't know if it's the weather or the food, but having a house full of people feels even better than it does the rest of the year.

The temptation, of course, is for me to declare the holidays earlier in the year the way Mattel does and have everyone over in the heat of August to work and sweat into the pasta, but it just wouldn't be the same. I need the crispness in the air, I need the richness of the Chianti and I need these people around me as one year tapers and the unknown looms ahead.

[Thank you, Chip, for the photo. Thank you, Elizabeth, for the wonderful gravy. Thank you, everyone, for the wine!]

Thursday, November 08, 2007

International Space Silliness

I've come to the realization that my kids could never have been in charge of initiating and operating the International Space Station. Here are a few reasons:

1) Well, first of all, I laid their uniforms out for school this morning and then noticed as we were walking out the door that S and JP had accidentally put on each other's pants. This may be more reason why the two of them should not be allowed to leave the house more than fly into space.

2) At some point the International Space Station would need to be resupplied and if The Quartet scheduled the supply shuttle to blast off at, say, 8 a.m. one morning, then they would wait until 7:58 a.m. to even begin looking for the things that needed to fill up that ship.

3) I have the feeling they would spend the budget of billions on one gyroscope for stability and direction and blow the rest on televisions, DVDs and cheese pizza for their stay aboard.

4) Immediately upon arrival at the Space Station, the engineers at mission control back on Earth would have to endure the question "Where are we going next?" for the duration of the stay.

5) These kids are clumsy enough with gravity, zero gravity would be a whole new problem for them.

6) The International Space Station is located way too far from their mama.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

King Rat

I found myself at the Sam's Wholesale Club this evening picking up supplies. While there I also picked up a copy of the new Ratatouille DVD for The Quartet. I am The Most Popular Person In The House now. Oh, sure, Kristy made their dinner for them, bathed them, helped them with their homework. And, yes, she gave birth to them all. But I bought them something. Not just something, though, but something to watch on TV. I am king. I win.

While I have you all here, let me just say this, Pixar blows Dreamworks SKG out of the water. It's The Munsters vs. The Addams Family, the Cubs vs. the Sox, Sean Connery vs. Roger Moore, Minneapolis vs. St. Paul (I ran out of examples). Shrek was amusing, sure, but it's no Toy Story, Shrek II can't hold a candle to Toy Story's sequel, and Shark Tale isn't even in the same league as Finding Nemo. Okay, Cars is crap, I'll give you that (sorry, Connor), but that's the only stinker in the bunch. When it comes to story and animation, I'll pick the Pixar canon 10 out of 10 times.

The kids don't recognize these differences, of course, they're just fans of animation. They'll understand it later tonight when I explain it to them, though. Remember, I'm currently TMPPINTH, and they will believe anything I tell them because they have no choice. So tonight they learn that Apple is better than Dell, gin is better than vodka and that this family will take Buzz Lightyear over Donkey any day of the week.