Monday, January 28, 2008

He's A Character

I've been getting these kids up and ready in the mornings and dropping them off at daycare or school for 10 years now. Shouldn't it be getting easier? I'm not even talking about actual drop-off, I'm talking about getting them out of the house. Don't I deserve a baby who doesn't mind being set down so I can tend to the 50 things I have to do each morning? Or a 5-year-old who will get herself dressed? Not one who can dress herself, mind you, but one who will dress herself. Isn't it my turn to leave the house without a kid crying for ... some reason? All I ask is one morning where I can walk out of the house with four happy kids following and a cup of coffee in my hand.

Throughout my life, upon any little hardship, Favorite Aunt Carol would tell me that that obstacle would build character. Whether I have any character left is debatable, but if I do have some, I would be willing to trade just a bit of for a kid who could wake up and find both shoes upon command.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Overheard On The Davenport

JP: Hillbilly.
C: You don't even know what a hillbilly is, do you?
JP: No.
C: It's, like, somebody who doesn't go to school and says stuff like "Yes'um."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dining With A Monkey

I would like to invite you all to dine with me at Dino's Grill. I would like to, but the fact is that I've seen your table manners and I'd rather not be a party to any of that. So you'll just have to read my review of Dino's over at Dining With Monkeys. I'll reimburse each of you for the cost of your box of wine. Mangia!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Nostalgia runs rampant on the interweb.

It has been brought to my attention that my boyhood home is for sale. This is the home, in the 38117 zip code of Memphis, where I lived my seventh through 14th years of life. From that point it was less than a mile to school at St. Louis Elementary, where I spent the second through eighth grades. There was a magnolia tree in the front yard that probably still has my initials carved somewhere near the top, a dogwood tree, a gravel driveway and a rope swing in the massive Oak in the back. I had my own room, a bathroom across the hall, two sisters in the room next door, and my father eventually enclosed the screen porch in the back to make an additional room with a brick floor. The girl across the street was my age and who I spent most of my time with, running and playing and laughing, until sometime in the seventh or eighth grade when she became a woman and stopped speaking to me altogether. I had friends and family close by and what felt like all the time in the world. I was allowed to run and bike and travel as far as my imagination could take me.

I have mostly happy memories there. And this is why the most difficult part of the real estate listing is in the description of the house, which reads: Tear down house for lot. Tear down house for lot. It might as well say, destroy childhood memory for profit. Every so often, if I find myself in East Memphis as I did just last Saturday while shopping at the Home Depot, I will drive by my old house, visit my childhood. I find it somewhat comforting to see the house and the yard and to know that part of my past is still in tact even if the house has undergone changes making it look like only a notion of the structure I once lived in. It was still there and I could drive my kids past it and say, "Look, that's where I come from."

But not for long. Not unless I can come up with the $214,700 it's going to take to buy it and preserve it, much like Graceland, as a shrine to me and to the era of 1977 - 1984.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

GK Says

Every once in a while I'm reminded that this blog is a place of record for my kids and their leaps and bounds. So I need to say today that over the past week, it seems, GK has begun talking. It is her birthright to talk - a lot - as she comes from a family of talkers. She's been taking gradual steps toward verbosity, but the past week has really seen a torrent of new words and sentence-like structures. I attribute this to the near-constant din in our house and needing to be heard above it, and the tutelage of Miss A. and her Montessori ways.

Here is a list of GK's vocabulary at 19 months in no particular order (except the first one):

woof woof (her term for dog)
meow (her word for cat, though it's pronounced ew)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Know What? He's Right

Conversation just now on the walk from school:

Me: JP, tie your shoe.
JP: I don't know how!
Me (to C): Aren't you supposed to teach him that?
C: That's your job.

Meanwhile, Over At Listwork ...

This is what I do with my time when The Quartet gives me a moment of peace.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Air Supply

When I left work this evening, I noticed that one of the tires on the Volvo was nearly flat (of course it was!), so I stopped at the Shell filling station at the corner of Union Ave. and Belvedere in Midtown to fill it up. It now costs 75¢ to buy air, in case you didn't know. 75¢. So I was filling up the leaky tire and afterwards noticed a sign on the pump declaring that kids under the age of 16 are welcome to free air and to simply see the clerk inside the station.

Free air! I'm not even sure what that means for me, but I've got four kids under 16 and they're all entitled to air at no cost. They have plenty of air now, and it's free, but they also have plenty of DVDs, which were all free as far as they know, yet they require more and more. Granted, The Quartet places value on items based on whether or not Daddy's money was spent, but they also enjoy pushing a lever and hearing a hissing noise, so their prospective level of excitement is up in the air. So to speak.

Free air from a major oil conglomerate, this is almost too much. I believe I need to think on this some more, right now I'm still giddy that there is something free for my children just down the road.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm Out Of Order? You're Out Of Order!

Sometimes I think NetFlix is messing with me, sending me crap that there's no possible way I asked for. Movies that there's no possible way any studio green lighted. Last night, GK and I found ourselves watching Two for the Money, starring Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey and Renee Russo. At some point about halfway through, we had this exchange:

GK: Hold on, is that Michael Corleone's father?
Me: No, that's Michael Corleone. Al Pacino.
GK: How the hell does one go from being Michael Corleone to starring in this unwatchable piece of pap?
Me: He's just making a living, sweetheart. And don't use that kind of language.
GK: Don't tell me how to talk, old man.

And it went on from there, I won't bore you with the rest of it. I know the leading theory is that Pacino just plays himself in movies now, so the directors all know what they're getting before shooting even starts. But come on, this is Dog Day Afternoon we're talking about. He's Tony Montana, he's Serpico! And now he's what's-his-face from Two for the Money?

The general theme of the movie, from what I could glean, is that money isn't everything and true happiness should be found inside each person. Perhaps that's expecting too much from this film, though. But the fact is that I was trying to point it out to GK while explaining that Pacino is, in fact, simply picking up a paycheck now and it must have been very confusing for her because she pooped in her pants.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I'm scared. There, I said it and I'm not ashamed. For the first time ever, both adults at Castilo Urf! are sick and the kids are not. Big Mama and I are in a bad way and I'm afraid that The Quartet will seize on this advantage, pack together, and take us down like gimpy wildebeest on the Serengeti, leaving our bloodied carcasses strewn about in front of the television and, of course, under the couch.

The other thing that concerns me is that the dishwasher broke last night (of course it did!) so The Quartet has no clean dishes to eat our meat off of. And as certain as I am that they will work together to bring us down, I am equally as certain that they will never come together to hand wash dishes. The very idea of washing a dish in the sink would be more foreign to them than the idea of eating their own parents.

I suppose I need to go home tonight and, in my feverish state, try to repair that appliance. You people all know how much I love to repair things around the house two or three times. I just hope I can concentrate on the drain pump when I know four hungry children are just behind me, pacing, waiting, and licking their chops.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Paging Mr. Herman

C's birthday was last Saturday, just two days ago. We've known it was coming up since his last birthday which was on the exact same date last year, yet we still didn't have a present ready for him on that day. I came up with the excuse that we wanted him to pick out his own bike for his birthday, because the alternative - I'm a bad parent - just didn't sit right. There are enough reasons for guilt when trying to raise children, yet birthdays are a given from year to year. All we can hope is that our kids don't remember those days as we do when they're older. And that their therapists aren't all that bright and are unable to extract these long-buried disappointments. I spoke to my mother yesterday and she told me a story about a particular birthday of mine that she still feels guilty about to this day, it's something I have no memory of whatsoever which makes us both feel better. Now I just have to keep C from reading this, ever.

As it turned out, C was also sick on his birthday and didn't even feel up to bicycle shopping, so we went the following day. We went to Target (if one more person tells me that Wal-Mart has a better selection of bikes, so help me I will turn this blog around right now!) and he picked out the one he wanted, which wasn't the one on sale for $40 off in the sales circular from the paper that day because we couldn't find that particular model anywhere. We brought it home and he rode it around and when I got to looking at it I noticed something wasn't right. The back wheel was slightly bent, causing it to rub against the brakes.

Tonight, when I got home from work, I loaded The Quartet (all of them) and the flawed bike into the Volvo and went back to Target. There was only one other bike matching his in the store and it had the same defect. The one in the ad, the one one sale, was out of stock, and that was just the one he wanted. So I took all four kids up to stand in line at the return/exchanges counter to get a refund and a rain check, the whole time listening to S alternately whine about some candy she wanted and watching her soak the front of her shirt at the water fountain.

When the lady at the return/exchanges counter gave me the rain check, she also printed out all the stores that had that particular bike in stock. And then, in a shining moment of patience, and to assuage my birthday guilt, I drove all four of those kids, at 6:00 at night, through the Walnut Grove/Humphrey's Blvd. intersection (you locals will understand that) and out to the Super Target in Cordova. And there was his bike. And there was my $40 savings.

When I was about C's age, maybe a bit younger, I got my first 10-speed. I don't remember it being the coolest bike in the neighborhood, it was brown on brown, but it was the late 70s and who didn't love brown back then? But I rode that bike all over the place, it was my transportation, it was my steed. C's bike is a 21-speed and it truly is the coolest bike in the neighborhood, with black on silver and shocks and grip shifters. It's a bike he can grow into and then some, a bike to get him around, get him away for a bit and discover what's out there all on his own. I hope he enjoys it, I know I'll enjoy watching him on it.

Back To School Regurgitation

Today was the return to school for The Quartet, a day I've been dreading since two weeks ago when they first got out for the holidays. We have very little structure in our house during the school year and when the kids and Big Mama are out of school then there is even less, if you can imagine that. The older kids have their TV and the joy of staying up late and sleeping in, and GK has her mama. Twenty-four/seven she has her mama. And then, suddenly, she doesn't and she's being left again at some place she only vaguely recalls, some place she thought she was finished with forever.

The truth is, though, GK did great. She was so happy and so much fun this morning before we left the house that I wanted to buy her a pony. She fell asleep in the car on the way to school and, once there, seemed a bit confused and just the slightest bit upset, but when I left she was curled up in Miss A's lap, quietly snuffling. She'll be just fine, I know.

C, however, is with me today. He'd been feeling puny for a few days, even on his birthday, but he seemed over it by yesterday afternoon. There is a report, though, that apparently hasn't been turned in at school and hasn't really even been worked on, and I thought this may have something to do with his relapse this morning. It was either that or, judging by the sounds he was making while laying on the couch this morning, he's at about seven centimeters. I was going with the theory that I was being scammed, but I didn't really have the time or patience this morning to argue the point with him. So I was short-tempered and demanding as I told him to just get dressed and go to work with me, but that I couldn't believe he was missing his first day back after vacation. Then I just now heard him throwing up upstairs here at work. Do you have any idea how the sound of puking resonates in all this tile and 25-foot ceilings? Sounds like he's expectorating a GK-sized hairball up there.

Sick or not, he needs to be coughing up a report on Sebastian Cabot because he will be at school tomorrow. I, however, may be out riding GK's new pony.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Decade of C

Happy birthday, C.

I've been a parent for a decade now, ever since the birth of C, a day that is burned into my brain. I don't have the best memory, yet I'll never forget the moment C emerged. He looked really gross. And beautiful. He was a difficult baby, but he's grown into a very helpful, smart and funny little boy with talents and potential as large as his smile.

When C was only four-years-old, he and I took a trip on the train up to Chicago, just the two of us. The train north runs at night and I hadn't thought about how to sleep on board, but once he fell asleep in the empty seat next to me, I realized I couldn't comfortably sleep without worrying that he'd wake up in the middle of the night and wander off or be carried away by some crazy riding the rails. So I draped my legs over him and dozed for just a few minutes at a time throughout the night. We rolled into the city the next morning in tact, stopped in to see our Favorite Aunt Carol and then I took him to the Field Museum of Natural History to see an actual T Rex skeleton. And, to make the day more exciting, he took his his first ride in a taxi. And then I took him to a cigar shop. We spent that weekend with family and C had a great time running around with his cousins. He was upset every night at bedtime because he missed his mother, and this may have been the greatest test of the weekend for me. It wasn't easy being a solo parent and navigating a child from Memphis to Chicago, then around that city, making sure he'd eaten and gone to the bathroom and was having fun. But it really wasn't easy seeing him upset at night at this young age and trying to make him understand that his mother was just at home waiting on him, that she missed him, too, and that he'd see her again in just a couple of days.

We made it through that trip unscathed and well-bonded. And we've made it through these first 10 years the same way, I hope. It hasn't been easy, but it's been a load of fun, and every day has been a first for him, Kristy and me, as we try to figure out how to make our way.

Happy birthday, C. I love you.

Ten things C enjoys:

  • Riding his bike
  • Reading
  • The Marx Brothers
  • Drawing
  • Spending time with family
  • Staying up late
  • The Simpsons
  • His friends
  • Ravioli
  • Talking

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Dream Weaver

As told by Aunt Elizabeth:

One morning in Florida over our Christmas vacation, Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Katherine and S were sitting around enjoying their coffee when Elizabeth began telling them about a dream she'd had the night before. S chimed in with, "My daddy had a dream that a hamburger was eating him!"

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

One Man's Trash

You know how if a tree falls in the forest when no one is around then it doesn't make any noise? Or how if you're on a golf course and no one sees you kick your ball onto the green then it doesn't count as a penalty? Or how when I was only 14 I made out with that really hot, older girl on vacation who then went back home to Canada never to be heard from or seen by any of my friends? Well, The Quartet is still on Christmas vacation for the rest of this week and I've often wondered what it does when I'm not around. Okay, not really, but this evening I came face to face with the answer - it makes garbage, copious amounts of the stuff. A new bag was put in the trash can just last night and I know for a fact that no garbage was made during the night, and everyone was still asleep when I left for work this morning. Yet when I came home, that can was full to overflowing. So I surmise that these kids spent the whole day sitting around watching cartoons and generating garbage organically. And they made noise. Even though I wasn't in this forest today, I know there was noise.