Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Three Little Birds

Our house is square like a doughnut.

That doesn't sound right, but there is a hole in the center of our house. It's a courtyard. In this courtyard there is a crepe myrtle tree and I've noticed some finches sitting in the tree lately and looking around as though they were expecting something.

I like to watch the birds. Sitting on the sofa and watching them alight and look around is soothing to a father of four's nerves. I would even like to attract more and, with this goal, I went to Lowe's the other day and bought a couple of bird feeders and some finch food. I installed these feeders and waited.

And waited.

Eventually the birds showed up despite the new, odd ornaments hanging in the tree, and then they would just as quickly fly away. There is nothing less soothing to the nerves than a bird flying in and flying away, and flying in and flying away, and flying in . . .

Is it the food? I wondered. Were these wild birds so picky that the 2 lb. bag of seed wasn't to their liking and they couldn't be bothered to eat it? Because if that's it then they can starve for all I care. I've got a house full of kids who routinely turn their nose up at well-cooked meals placed on a table, not hanging from a tree.

It's cold out. I thought these birds might appreciate a meal that was easy to get at, free of any predators or dangers.

The predators. Of course. They play Wii, they watch television, they run from room to room to ask questions and tag each other. They aren't predators in the sense that they would ever kill and eat these birds, nothing so productive, so fraught with initiative. Making their own peanut butter and jelly sandwich is so much exertion for them that they'll often choose hunger as an alternative.

But there are large sliding glass doors on three sides of the doughnut hole and as these kids flit past one, then the other, then another, then back again, they must scare the hell out of those poor birds. The cheap food I bought certainly isn't worth all that stress and worry. It's much better to risk life and limb out scavenging for food among the neighborhood cats.

Maybe I'll make the kids start eating out in the courtyard. Hang their pizza and meatloaf from that crepe myrtle and every time they reach for a bite we'll jump out of the doors and scare them. Perhaps seeing these kids nervously trying to have dinner outside will both help them appreciate the food they're given indoors and soothe an old dad's nerves.

Monday, February 15, 2010

On A Roll

I don't know what she's doing with them, and I don't know what urgent need there is for such a thing or where they end up, but 3-year-old GK has got to have a wet paper towel.

And she needs it right. now.

We know a few things for sure: she's not cleaning anything, she's not stanching any bleeding, there is no evidence of her flushing them (yet) and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight of her need for wet paper towels.

Only occasionally will she ask for a dry one after asking for a wet one. I've almost decided to just buy her a package of Brawny for her very own and keep a bucket of water on hand just so I'm not constantly called into service.

"I need a wet paper towel!" The urgency is such that we actually go running for one, thinking something might need to be cleaned or bleeding might need to be stopped.

So far, nothing. Nothing cool, anyway, just a bunch of water droplets all over the floor.

Not even a surprise sculpture of me has turned up - arms outstretched with an empty cardboard tube in each hand - fashioned out of wet paper towels.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Career Day

S has asked me to be a part of Career Day at her school next week. Actually, she asked her mother, but Kristy is a teacher and is at work during school hours. Besides, those kids spend their whole day listening to teachers.

So S turned to me where I stood grinning, expectantly awaiting my invitation, giddy with anticipation.

"Okay," she sighed, "you're up."

How to convey the exciting and glamorous life of a freelance writer to a room full of second graders?

The Presentation: I'm signing up for the 7:45 - 10:20 a.m. time slot, so I figure I'll show up about noon in my bathrobe, mug of coffee in hand. I will then spend half an hour or so on Facebook, read some blogs and tweet. Then, as they all look on, I'll pull out a legal pad and #2 pencil and write 500 words making fun of them all before stretching out on the floor to rest my eyes.

And then I'll eat one of their lunches.

I look forward for the opportunity to mold these young minds into something only slightly more moldy next week. If any of S's classmates' parents read this blog, you may want to consider a "snow day" next Thursday.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


I took C to get a physical yesterday so he can try out for the soccer team at school. I took him to the Take Care Clinic at Walgreen's because I figured that would be the quickest way to get him in and out of what would be a routine check-up.

It was not quick at all, nor was it so routine. He failed the physical.

It seems he can't see. It was the first test of this routine procedure and the doctor climbed her way up the chart until she got to 20/60 before stopping and calling an optometrist she knows to see if he could fit C in last night.

The whole ordeal was unnerving. It's not bad that C is going to have to wear glasses. I wear them, plenty of his friends and our friends' kids wear them. It was just unexpected to stand there and hear him say wrong letter after wrong letter when he's never once said that things are blurry or that he's having trouble with his vision.

On the short drive home, I was faced with having to discern whether the sulking lump in the seat next to me was upset because he may not get the chance to play soccer (in true House of Urf! fashion, we're waiting until the last minute to get all of this done - tryouts are on Monday) or because he just had to stand there while a stranger at the Walgreen's told him something is wrong with him.

Now, again, it's not any big deal and Dr. Stranger didn't put it in those words, but we're dealing with a 12-year-old, a boy on the awkward and uncomfortable precipice of adolescence where everything seems just a little larger than life. And then, suddenly, he was dealing with having to wear larger-than-life rims on his growing face.

We had been sitting in the tiny waiting area for nearly two hours (again, not a quick visit) with me telling him that once he gotin to see the doctor, it would be really quick because this was all just very routine and "pretty silly when you think about it." So, maybe he was slouched down in the passenger seat thinking about what an idiot I am for saying all of that. He is 12, so that's always a possibility.

Not knowing C couldn't see so well and the likelihood of him not trying out for soccer because I waited too long to take care of this all feeds into the guilt I feel as a parent on a daily basis. Which is what my column is about today! Be sure to put on your reading glasses and read 'Because I Said So' in The Commercial Appeal.

There is also a brand new 'Because I Said So' fan page on the Facebook, so stop by there if you're a Facebooker. And, really, why wouldn't you be?

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Right Note

C wrote a note this morning and left it in S's lunchbox for her to find during the day.

It read: Hey, honey, I love you. He signed it from "Mommy."

S thought it was funniest, most clever thing she'd seen all day so, of course, she took it to its next, illogical step and has already penned a note to him and put it in his lunchbox for tomorrow.

It reads: Don't come home stupid. She signed her own name.

However, she misspelled her name at first, crossing out an errant "w." Further, she had to ask me how to spell "stupid."

Everybody has the right to be fascinated by the simple, and kids certainly have the right to make mistakes, but don't commit them to paper and pass them along to your older sibling. That's just stupid.