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  • Polar Bears and Bullies

    February 27, 2006

    I came across a news story recently about a woman who attacked a polar bear that was threatening her child. A couple of years ago, this would have seemed completely insane. Now, attacking a polar bear to save my child seems completely reasonable. In fact, going after a pint-sized obnoxious bully at McDonalds seems reasonable.

    After two solid days of rain last week, I decided that Sean and I needed to get out of the house for a few hours to improve my attitude. In an act of desperation and in violation of my own principles, we ended up at McDonalds. I wasn’t the only mother in the metroplex with this great idea. The place was aswarm with screaming kids and pods of 20-something moms wearing tattoos and Juicy Couture sweats.

    Sean and I found an empty table over in the corner where I cleared away the remains of someone’s lunch they had so graciously left behind. Sean sat across from me swinging his dangling feet and dipping the same French fry in ketchup and licking it off over and over. I watched him watching the kids play. Like his father, he is by nature, an observer. In a new situation, he will hang back quietly and size things up before venturing forth.

    It quickly became apparent to me, which inmate was running the asylum. A bigger red-headed boy had set himself up as Ronald McDespot. He body-blocked the entrance to the tubes and determined who would pass and who wouldn’t. At one point I saw him at the higher end of the slide eye a smaller child below trying to get off. Wearing a wicked grin, McThug launched himself downward like a rocket hitting the smaller kid squarely in the back, knocking him face down to the ground. As we ate lunch, I watched this scene play out again and again. It was confounding — it was as though no one else but me saw any of this. McThug received not one word of correction from anyone.

    After Sean was through eating, I said a prayer and held my breath as he ventured into Playland where McThug was holding court. As Sean tried to gain entrance to the slide, McThug put his hand on Sean’s chest and pushed him. Sean reeled backwards a few steps and looked at me with a hurt expression, as though he couldn’t understand why anyone would do such a thing. And I wouldn’t have had an answer for him, except to say that some people are just like that and that there will always be people like that everywhere you go.

    Like a jack-in-the-box, I reflexively kept standing up to go to his rescue, but then thinking better of it, sitting down again. Deep down, I knew that now was as good time a time as any for Sean to learn how to deal with a bully. I was congratulating myself for managing to to restrain myself from swooping down into Playland and kicking some McThug bootie like an insane polar-bear-attacking mom when I saw McThug put his foot out and trip my little boy. Sean fell spread eagle to the ground and started crying, not because he was hurt, but because he was frustrated. That was enough. I silently came up behind McThug and bent over him with my hands on my knees. I lowered my voice and whispered into his ear in my best Clint Eastwood, “You touch my boy again and I’m going to make your day. Do you hear me?” I could see the back of his red head nodding in assent before he scrambled off to sit next to his mom.

    I picked Sean up and we headed out, but not before stopping by McThug’s table where I leaned in with a Jack Nicholson grin. Looking the boy right in the eye, I said dripping with syrupy sarcastic southern charm, “You have a nice day now, ya’hear?” And then I lingered one uncomfortable second too long just to watch him squirm. Then I shifted my gaze to McThug’s mom who looked at me like I was insane.

    When it comes to my boy, she would be right.

    The Sean Salon

    February 24, 2006

    Today, Antique Daddy came downstairs to find me sitting on the floor with Sean who was engrossed in combing my hair with a vacuum cleaner attachment. Antique Daddy stood there for a moment wearing a slight scowl before he said, “Um, Sean, where’s your football?”

    The Silver Skates

    February 23, 2006

    As I mentioned in a previous post, I was first introduced to figure skating while watching Janet Lynn compete in the 1968 Olympics on television. It was love at first sight. Something about the way the skaters moved across the ice resonated deep within me.

    I readily identified with Lynn. Like me, she was a small blonde girl from Illinois with a bad pixie haircut. I immediately began imitating the spirals and spins in front of the TV on the hardwood floors in my socks. I knew it was just something that I had to do. I intuitively knew it was something I could do. But what was an 8-year-old girl to do? I had no skates and I had no money. Ask Mom.

    My mom was the master at making impossible things happen. I might have just as well asked for the moon as a pair of skates — there just wasn’t money for that kind of thing. With the powerful combination of prayer, resourcefulness and $2, Mom found a pair of skates for me at the local thrift store that fit me exactly. For some reason unknown, they had been spray painted silver, but I loved them. Then she drove me to the neighborhood park that had a makeshift ice rink (an asphalt rimmed basketball court that they flooded in the winter) to try out my “new” skates.

    As I sat in the car lacing up the silver beauties for the first time, Mom gave some basic instructions: Hold your hands out for balance and try to fall on your butt and not your front teeth. And so I hobbled out of the car wearing my snowball hat and my silver skates and made my world debut as the next Janet Lynn to an audience of one. Skating was as natural to me as walking. By the end of the session I was confidently skating backwards and fearlessly trying the jumps and spins I had seen on television.

    Figure skating is not a sport for the economically challenged. Over the years, Mom managed to cobble together enough money for some lessons and competitions and eventually some good skates, but it was always tough. Most of the girls I skated with had a wardrobe of expensive costumes and the finest gear. I didn’t know at the time the serious sacrifices my parents made so I could do this thing that I loved. I even got to compete once at Wagon Wheel in Rockton, Illinois, Janet Lynn’s home rink. I skated as much as money would allow until the middle of my high school years when other things, like boys, began to seem more important. But being a figure skater remains central to the core of who I am.

    I still love the cold stale smell of an ice rink. I still love to skate, although I’m not as fearless or as flexible as I used to be. And while I did not become the next Janet Lynn, I did get to live out a dream to the best of my ability and resources – thanks to my resourceful mom and the silver skates.

    Giving Thanks

    em>Scene: Dinner table, House of Antique

    AM: Okay Sean. It’s time to eat. Fold your hands please and bow your head.

    Sean: (Drops head and for dramatic effect bumps it on the table. Chuckles to himself.)

    AM: (Lowers voice an octive to indicate reverence) Dear G –

    Sean: Aiaaaya-mahn! (Looks up over folded hands smiling)

    AM: Sean bow your head please. Ahem… Dear God, tha-

    Sean: Aiy-ya-Mahn!

    AM: Dear God, Thank you for this food and –

    Sean: Moo!

    AM: … thank you for the moon.

    Sean: Sun, Mommy.

    AM: … and the sun. Thank you God for the moon and the sun.

    Sean: Staaaaws!

    AM: and the stars

    Sean: Mr. Monkey!

    AM: Thankyouforourfoodandeverythingwehavebecauseweknowthatitallcomesfrom

    Sean: Aiiiy –

    AM: you. Amen

    Sean: Mahn! Oh man! Oh man!

    AM: Amen indeed. Let’s eat.

    The proud owner of…

    February 20, 2006

    sixteen gorgeous sharp little teeth. Sean’s first dental appointment went well. It helps when your uncle is a pee-pee-ack-ick denter, as Sean says.

    Sunday Morning Quarterback

    February 19, 2006

    This morning after Sunday school, I hurried down the hall to get Sean out of his class. Before he saw me in the crowded hallway, I spotted him tentatively coming towards me carrying his little Bible. He was wearing a worried expression. A big tear was on the verge of tumbling down the sweet terrain of his face. All of the other children had been picked up by their parents and he was the last one.

    When he saw me, his face lit up with recognition and he ran towards me. I bent down on one knee with my arms open wide, ready to swoop him up, lips puckered ready to shower him with kisses and promises that I would never ever forget him or leave him behind.

    And like a quarterback running for the end zone, he tucked his Bible under one arm and straight-arm blocked me with the other, knocking me out of his way. As he sailed past me, I heard him calling with unrestrained glee, “Gigi! Gigi! Gigi’s here!”

    I picked myself up off the floor and unpuckered my lips just in time to see Godmother Gigi getting my kisses.

    Gigi 7, Antique Mommy 0. Good thing we’re on the same team.

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    The Fine Art of Goofing Off

    Here in the northern reaches of the great state of Texas, it was 85 degrees on Thursday – a wonderfully warm winter day perfect for doing nothing in particular. Sean and I took the opportunity to get out and about in the neighborhood where I hoped to instruct him in the fine art of goofing off.

    Goofing off is best done in pairs. My dad and I, who are similarly wired, have always liked to goof off together. Whenever I’m home, Dad and I still head out to the garage and make something with whatever we find out there. And then we paint it. We won’t know what it is when we’re done. We won’t even know when we’re done, unless someone hollers “Dinner’s ready!” Then we’re done.

    The memories I have of just hanging out with my dad and doing nothing mean nothing and everything at the same time. Nothing in that nothing extraordinarily memorable happened, everything in that we spent a lot of time together over the years (doing nothing) and that means everything. Today they call that quality time, a term I cannot bring myself to use, in the same way I cannot substitute the term dialogue for talk. You may dialogue. I talk. You may have quality time. I goof off.

    Now that Sean is two, it’s time he claimed his heritage and learned how to properly goof off. And Thursday was an excellent day for that. Since Sean is still too little for power tools and paint, we set off together out the front door, hand in hand, with no plan and no purpose, just to see what we could see.

    It wasn’t long before we found a very nice big stick. People skilled in the fine art of goofing off recognize the treasure in such an item. It was perfect for poking into gofer holes, perfect for swatting against the trunk of a tree and perfect for carrying like the staff of Moses. Sean was thrilled with the find. “I gotta cane! I gotta cane!” he exclaimed. “Papa George have a cane!” he reminded me, brandishing it like a saber as he kangaroo-jumped over the sidewalk cracks.

    As we continued towards the pond on our unplanned adventure, we saw a man and his son fishing. Sean held up his stick and a light bulb lit up over his head. “I do go fishin! I do go fishin!” So off we went to the pond to see what we could catch with this fabulous stick. He cast his imaginary line over and over, long and deep, imitating the man and his son. He reeled in a bounty of invisible fish that we pretended to eat. We both agreed that they were the most delicious fish either of us had ever eaten.

    As the sun began to set and the wind turned from the north, I hoisted him onto my back like a mother Koala and we headed back down the path towards home. He wrapped his arms around my neck and as he pressed his face into mine and I felt his eyelashes flutter against my cheek. It reminded me of the first time I felt him move in my womb. It had been a good day.

    When we reached the end of the driveway, I set him down and stole a hug. Instead of pulling away and running off like he usually does, he leaned into me and looked into my face, in a manner beyond his two years, as though he was searching for something. I wondered what he was thinking. Could it be that someday he will remember how his mother looked on this warm winter day? Probably not. Perhaps like me, he will remember nothing in particular, only that we never missed an opportunity to do nothing together. And that will mean everything.

    Violins, Violence, Poo, Pooh

    February 13, 2006

    This morning, as I drove Sean to school, he called from the back seat: “Mommy! I got Poo Pants!”

    Oh, no. My heart sank. I was hoping to drop him off and make a quick get away for a 45-minute mini-spa at Starbucks. Yes, it’s to the point that when I can drink a cup of coffee and read the newspaper in peace for 45 minutes, I consider it a “get away”.

    But now with the Poo Pants announcement, I would have to park the car, go into the school, Half Nelson him out of his coat and into the bathroom and onto the changing table. And undoubtedly he would want to take off all of his clothes. Is it just Sean or do all two-year-olds insist on taking off all of their clothes to change a diaper or practice on the potty? I’ve tried to explain to him that in this country it’s customary to remove only whatever clothing is necessary only to the extent that is necessary. He remains unconvinced.

    I was daunted knowing the extraordinary lengths to which I would have to go to prevent a streaker incident while preventing a poo-flinging incident while preventing an Antique gasket blowing incident all within earshot of his teacher, Ms. Kathy who is always polite and cheerful and not the gasket-blowing type. Even when you launch a chocolate cupcake laden with three inches of icing directly onto her pink pants she is still cheerful. I know this from experience.

    When I factored in my YTD caffeine intake, I realized I was badly disadvantaged and it wasn’t looking good for me. Perhaps I could pretend I didn’t know about the poo pants and just drop him off? I was seriously considering that option when we pulled into the school parking lot. I parked the car and as I walked around to the other side to get him, I practiced my inflection under my breath: I — don’t smell anything. I don’t SMELL anything. I don’t smell ANY thing. IDON’TSMELLANYTHINGWHAT’SWRONGWITHYOUPEOPLE???

    As I’m unstrapping the carseat, he points to an embroidered patch featuring Winnie the Pooh on his pants and cheerfully announces, “Mommy! I got Pooh Pants!”

    Oh. Well. That’s different. Never mind.

    Do as I say, sort of…

    February 11, 2006

    Our house looks like Christo broke in. Everything is wrapped in plastic from floor to ceiling. We are having some of the rooms in our house painted which has made for an interesting week with Sean, Antique Daddy, five painters and me all sharing the same space and huffing latex.

    Yesterday, since it was cold and rainy, I took Sean to the mall to get away from the paint if only for a few hours. We headed to the indoor kiddie play area where I figured Sean could bounce off the walls, floors and ceilings and spend all that pent-up two-year-old energy. I figured wrong.

    The first thing he did was grab a book from the reading area and curl up in my lap and ask me to read to him. As I was reading I noticed the other mothers looking my way and whispering to each other behind their hands. I imagined they were saying things like “What a good mother she must be to raise such a well behaved and smart little fellow.” What they were probably saying was “How nice for his grandmother to take him to the mall. I wonder where his mother is.”

    I pried Sean out of my lap and encouraged him to take advantage of all the cool things to do – a sliding board, tubes to crawl through, a miniature fun house, little toy cars and airplanes to sit in, OTHER CHILDREN. We have books at home, but we don’t have other miniature human beings! Sounding just like my mother, I ordered him to “Go Play!” My mom used to add “And don’t come back until after dark!” but the other mothers were already whispering about me, so I restrained myself.

    Finally he did venture out. One begrudging little baby step at a time. But within 10 minutes, he’d forgotten that I ever existed and was running around like the maniac that he is at home. Since I am his primary playmate most days, I was enjoying watching him interact with the other kids. Until he started interacting with the other kids. And then I didn’t like it so much. Because those other kids aren’t as well behaved as I am. Those other kids have bad habits. They cough and pick their noses. And those are skills you should learn at home from your own parents.

    It wasn’t long before he fell under the sway and influence of a boy whose behavior was way beyond the scale of pent-up toddler energy, more like pent-up TNT. If the Koreans are looking for spent nuclear fuel rods, I suggest they check this kids stool. Dynomite Boy mostly enjoyed body slamming himself into other children and immovable objects, belly flopping off the cubes and blocking the slide so no one else could use it and making rude noises that could be heard as far away as Nordstroms. I couldn’t blame the boy. His mother was sitting on the sidelines yelling into her cell phone and filing her nails oblivious to her two other children who were trying to kill each other with one of those Guggenheim drinking straws. She would occasionally break to holler benign threats in the direction of Dynomite Boy who totally could not care less.

    That’s when I called to Sean, “Sweetie, why don’t you come over here and we’ll read some books. Or we can go home and play with the painters.” He raised both of his hands with an indignant gasp and just looked at me with an expression of confusion and exasperation. I felt badly because he had done exactly what I had asked of him. I said go and play with the other children, but what I meant was the other well-behaved children.

    Kindergarten is only a few years off. This isn’t going to get easier, is it??

    One step ahead

    February 10, 2006

    In Sean’s two years of life, I have done a number of stupid things that could have landed me on the nightly news.

    There was the time I turned my head for a nanosecond and he did a back flip with a double twist in the pike position off the changing table. By the grace of God, he landed on his hands and feet like a cat. He didn’t even hit his head on anything on the way down. Miraculous. He just looked surprised – or maybe he was reacting to the look on my face. The one that I always wear when my heart stops.

    Then there was the time he opened the door to the garage — which we always keep locked except that one time – where he was free to mingle among the paints and pesticides and lawn tools and large heavy things that could fall and flatten him like Flat Stanley. And beyond that, the garage door was up making it an easy toddle down the driveway and into the street – yet nothing bad happened. He was just out there in the garage, crouched down like a baseball catcher examining a dead bug. There is a God — and a merciful one at that.

    The incident that really makes me cringe is the time we had a get-together at our house and everyone thought someone else had him. He wasn’t walking yet, but he was cruising and he made his way up the stairs and into my art studio where I found him among paint and paint thinners and sharp sculpture tools. As if that alone weren’t bad enough, he had pulled himself up on the PAPER SHREDDER where he could have easily moved the button to the on position. The possible scenarios beyond that I can’t bear to even think about. When I saw him standing there all safe and sound, I thanked God and all the angels and saints and anyone who had even been near a church of any kind.

    But I’ve never driven my car with Sean in my lap. And I guess that puts me one step above Brittney on the motherhood ladder. For now.