Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eating Well

When I was just entering adolescence, there were nights my mother would look at me across the dinner table and say, "I hope you never order spaghetti when you go out on dates someday." What she was witnessing must have been an awful sight. I'm sure all I thought at the time was, I hope I have a date someday.

I now know exactly what it was she was seeing. When C eats, it looks like an animal grazing, his face a mere inches over whatever it is that's for dinner. Only this animal can use its hands. Or, rather, this animal has hands, but they're somewhat vestigial. More like flippers, really. With his elbows on the table, he's able to bring the pizza or chicken or forkful of pasta up to his face and very, very close to his mouth. What results is a face covered with gravy or sauce or an oil of some kind, like a praying mantis trying to eat a fish. It truly is an awful sight.

I kid him in this way because I know this will pass, and because I helped make him and kidding him is my right. Over time he'll learn manners through our gentle reminders and fake vomiting sounds. We may make him start eating in front of a mirror, or using a bib. I may take dinner in the other room until he's 30 or so.

It passed for me, this mastication mess. I learned how to eat properly, eventually using a napkin and getting that fork in there the first time. And now I almost never order spaghetti on my dates.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cat 2

I’m not sure how it happens, I’m usually too busy to study it in the mornings, but sometime between the kids waking up and us all leaving for school, the house becomes landfall for what appears to be a category 2 hurricane.

As we walk out the door, I survey the damage like a president making an official visit. Blankets, cups, toys, books, articles of clothing and a paper plate or two are strewn about. Water has collected, there’s a smell, and our getaway begins to look like an evacuation. The house is uninhabitable for the day. I’m not even sure how we make it through the morning.

In the afternoon, Kristy will appear like FEMA to clean and sanitize. Or at least push the debris to the side so the pathways are passable. They’ll have to be so that supplies can be brought in and replenished. We’ll need more provisions to get us through the night. And it would be best if all of those rations came individually wrapped so that those wrappers can be blown about tomorrow when, inevitably, another storm will wreck havoc.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I've been hearing a lot about change lately. Every time I turn on the television it's "change ... change ... change ... change, change, change ... change ..." And change is good, my kids are always asking for change.

There's a lot changing with me right now and you'll find out more about it when I'm ready to speak of it. Until then, enjoy my latest column in today's The Commercial Appeal.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reading is Fundamental

Sometime back, the powers that be over at The Commercial Appeal did away with the books page in the Sunday edition. Oh, sure, there's still the back page of Viewpoint which is handy for a short listing of literary events in and around the city, and a few book reviews written by faceless people far from here, but there's no room to spread out, to delve into story and character and theme. No space to shake the dust off a classic's jacket.

However, all is not lost for the literary-minded. A ragtag group of Montags have overtaken a corner of the CA's website and named it "The Shelf Life." It's a place where the spines are aligned and no dog-earing is allowed. Try not to spill your espresso on the keyboard.

Occasionally I have time between all the lunch-making, laundry, lawn mowing, chauffering and working to read a book. I recently read Paul Auster's latest novel, Man in the Dark, and I wrote about it for "The Shelf Life."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Funny Boy

Last night at dinner I was telling everyone about a story I'd heard on NPR on the way home about a Harry Potter lexicon that a fan was seeking to publish, but which had been blocked by a New York judge, saying it was too close to the original work.

Kristy began explaining the lexicon and Potter lore to us. There is a lot of information about Harry Potter to grasp, apparently. More than I needed to know, anyway. More than anyone living outside of their parents' paneled basement needs to know, really. But Kristy has read all of the books at least twice and is a font of Harry Potter knowledge.

In my own sarcastic, sardonic manner, I referred to the lexicon as a "nerd-clopedia." And, without missing a beat, C said, "Did you get yours yet?"

The comment caught me off guard and, as my chest swelled with pride, all I could do was laugh. Even though it was aimed at me, it was very funny, smart and timely. Smartass comments are practically a rite of passage in this family and he nailed it.

C took a brief step out of childhood last night, just like that time that Harry Potter made that potion ... or used his wand or whatever to put that spell ... on a Hobbit or Sleestak ... or something like that.

Friday, September 05, 2008

JP & Me

Back when C was the only kid we had at Downtown Elementary, I would pick him up from school most afternoons and he would come back to work with me. At least once a week we'd stop on the way home at a Midtown coffee shop and have an espresso and a hot chocolate, and we'd usually play cards and talk. It was a nice way to get a little one on one time for each of us.

JP started piano lessons again yesterday. I'll be picking him up on Thursday afternoons and I thought yesterday it would be nice to spend some time with the boy.

We stopped by a different coffee shop and I had a double espresso while he enjoyed a chocolate milk. And we both sat staring at each other. It's not that we don't like each other, of course, just that neither of us are very good conversationalists, I guess. I'm better with people closer to my age and he's better with the aid of a television or with his brother nearby. So we just sat, somewhat awkwardly, looking like I was about to have the talk with him. Or he with me.

I asked him about his day and the field trip he'd taken. And then we sat some more. I think I said something like, "This coffee is hot" and he nodded.

Finally I asked him if he wanted to play a game on my phone and he leaped at the chance. We were both relieved, I think.

I'm sure he appreciates the time alone, or will grow to should we keep it up. Maybe over time we'll come up with our own inside jokes and an easy conversational style together.

Or maybe I'll just get him his own phone.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Because I Said So

Somewhere beyond the sea
Somewhere waiting for me
My lover stands on golden saaaaaands
And watches the ships that go sailing ...
There is little The Quartet loves more than my mellifluous singing voice. "Just like Bobby Darin, Daddy," they say all the time.

The only other thing they like as much as me singing to them is me spending long stretches of time away from them, and that's what I wrote about in my column for today's The Commercial Appeal.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


We took The Quartet to the Memphis Redbirds baseball game yesterday. It was fun, but as is JP's nature, he's always thinking about that next thing. What are we going to do after this? He was unhappy, pouty and said he didn't want to be there.

Rather than saying out loud that he'd rather be at home playing computer games, however, he seized on the episode last April when his sister was hit by a foul ball at AutoZone Park, and said he was scared he was going to get hit by a ball. I told him that was highly unlikely. I told him that if a baseball hit him that day then I would buy him his very own computer.

And then I spent the rest of the afternoon prepared to throw my body in front of that kid, because I could take a contusion much easier than I could the bill for an Apple.