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  • A Big Conversation

    February 4, 2012

    We have a number of friends who home school their children and one of the traits that AD and I have observed in these kiddos that we admire is their comfort and poise in speaking with adults.  We are impressed with how they look us in the eye when speaking to us, how they speak in complete sentences, how they thoughtfully and appropriately engage us in conversation, both contributing and inquiring.   

    Of course it would be a gross over-generalization to attribute this solely to homeschooling but that seems to be the common denominator in our limited experience.  It could just be that our friends have terrific kids. 

    Most kids – and I’m sure yours is an exception - will answer in choppy one or two-word sentences when engaged by an adult and then look around nervously for an escape hatch. 

    All that to say, we have been working with Sean to help him to become a comfortable conversationalist.  We think it is a valuable life skill, one that we want him to develop.  For some kids this may come easily, for others, like mine, it will require some practice.

    So the other day, we were driving up to Tuna to see some of our relatives, whom we don’t see often enough, and we were preparing him to greet his great aunts and uncles and so we were role playing as a way to practice.

    Me:  Ok Sean, let’s pretend I am Aunt Doris.  And I say something like, ‘Why hello Sean.  You sure are getting big!’ – What would you say to Aunt Doris? 

    Sean:  You are too! 

    On second thought, maybe it would be better if he just said “Yup” and then hid behind my skirt. 

    Disclaimer:  Doris is NOT big, we don’t think Doris is big, no one at our house has ever said Doris and Big in the same sentence, ever, not once.

    The Value Of A Good Coconut Tree

    October 10, 2011

    Sunday was a slow and rainy day, very much welcome as we have not had rain here since 1996.  It’s true, ask my lawn.

    Rain brushed against the windows and falling acorns made the sound of popcorn popping as the wind shook them from the trees onto the roof.  Football noise filled the house and AD dozed on the couch in front of the TV.  Which left Sean and me with a wonderful afternoon of nothingness to fill.  It was a perfect day for artsy people like us, so we called up our inner-Picassos and sought out something creative to do.

    I recently found a box that had been stashed away for years, and inside was a bunch of artsy crafty things like markers, craft wire, beads, fancy papers and four small blank puzzles among other things.  I handed the bag to Sean to dig through to see what elements would inspire him. He chose the blank puzzles.  He wanted to make a puzzle to give to his dad to solve at such time as he awoke from watching the game. . .

    Before I even handed Sean the puzzle, I knew exactly how it would play out.  He would make three or four marks on the puzzle and then heave a big sigh of regret and slump his shoulders and hang his head – the posture of tragedy and lamentation.  He had messed up, nothing could be done to salvage the project.  It was not perfectly executed. There was no hope, none.  It was hideous and must be destroyed and hidden from view of the world.

    I remember doing the very same thing when I was about his age.  I would sit down with much creative energy and an artistic vision in my head, one about seven clicks beyond my skill level.  I would make a few marks on the paper and then feel disgust at what I saw.  It was not perfect.  Not even close.  Then I would wad up the paper and throw it in the trash, wanting no one to see.

    I would wad up paper after paper as I sought artistic perfection which never came.  And my mother let me.  Maybe she didn’t care about the wasting of paper or the environment, not very many people did in the 60s.  Or maybe the wadding and tossing of paper kept me busy which meant she could keep reading her book.  Nonetheless, I remember the frustration of not being able to perfectly transmit my idea to the paper and the dissatisfaction of never completing a project, never having anything to show for my time and effort.

    Unfortunately for Sean, I am not as easy going as my mother.  I don’t allow wadding and tossing.  I make him finish what he started.  He doesn’t like that I make him do that, but he lives under a momocracy and Queen AM decides the fate of all paper and art supplies around here.

    So I knew before I even handed Sean the puzzle that this is how it would go. That he would make a few marks and then heave breath and hang head and beg for a do-over.

    Therefore, I  preemptively gave my little speech on how he needed to think through and consider what he was going to do before he made one single mark.  Oh yes!  He knew exactly what he was going to do! He didn’t need a sketch or a thumbnail!  That is for amateurs!  He had an artistic vision! I said that was awesome that he was so far advanced, that even DaVinci made thumbnails.  I reminded him that this was a one shot deal, no do-overs, that he was required to complete the project no matter what.

    He decided that he would make a tropical scene, a palm tree with coconuts.  Unfortunately, about 63 seconds into the project, he decided that the coconuts didn’t turn out as he had hoped, which set off the heaving, hanging, slumping and lamenting.

    He looked up at me with the practiced expression of hopeful, yet sad watery eyes.  Might he please, possibly, please have another blank puzzle?

    And do you know what I said? I said No.

    I said you figure out some way to make the composition work – that is the creative process – figuring out how to make your mistakes work.  No one makes perfect art.  But those who make good art, have learned how to do so by working through the failures.  Those who keep wadding up paper and throwing it in the trash hoping the next effort will be better, never get better.  Art is about making something good out of your mistakes.

    Or maybe I was talking about life.  I don’t know.

    He didn’t like that I made him finish his coconut tree puzzle.  He said it was a terrible coconut tree and he frowned a sad frown.

    I don’t really enjoy making my child frown sad frowns (although it is kind of cute) but I know that some day, because I insisted, he will grow up to make good coconut trees, and you can’t really overestimate the value of that.

    Jackets Lost And Found

    October 4, 2011

    So far we have had two chilly mornings.  So far Sean has worn a jacket to school two times. So far Sean has lost two jackets.

    So this morning, as he put on his 3rd and final jacket, I said to him that his first order of business today was to locate the other two jackets.

    “Mom,” he said, “If the jackets are not claimed within so many days they give them to someone who does not have a jacket.”

    “Sean,” I said, “That someone without a jacket may be you if you don’t come home with your jackets.”

    And I was not kidding.  I am a big proponent of Love & Logic parenting. If he comes home with no jackets today, tomorrow he will be mighty chilly as he walks to school.

    After seven years of parenting, I have yet to discover how to teach this child to keep track of his stuff.  I have tried to teach him that when you do not return things to their proper place, they become lost.  When you just put things down wherever you are done with them, they are not in their proper place and therefore — become lost.  When you do not put mommy’s scissors back in her desk, the proper place of scissors, they are not there when mommy wants to use them, and they become lost.  And that makes the vein in mommy’s neck bulge just a little.

    The constant losing of stuff is a source of aggravation to me for two reasons.  1) It somehow becomes my job to find or replace the lost stuff, usually at the very inconvenient 11th hour and 2) I am not now, nor have I ever been, one to lose stuff.  I obsessively keep track of my stuff.

    I grew up with not a lot and if I lost my stuff, I would have been transferred from the “grew up with not a lot” category into the “grew up with nothing” category.  There just wasn’t any getting more stuff.  Period.  Papa Ed and Vivian practiced Love & Logic out of necessity, long before it was a parenting philosophy, long before people said stuff like “parenting philosophy”.

    Last fall, Sean lost his jacket the very first day he wore it.  It was a very distinctive beige and black plaid jacket that I loved that someone had handed down to us.  I had an inexplicable sentimental attachment to that jacket — probably because when he wore it with the hood pulled up, all I could see was my own 1st grade face and that melts my heart like butter on a hot waffle.

    At any rate, several times a week I would go up to the school and rifle through the lost and found box of MIA lunch boxes, jackets and water bottles looking for that jacket.  And let me tell you, that is not an especially pleasant job.  That lost and found box falls into the category of “smells not that great.”

    Finally I gave the jacket up for lost, grieved it and went to the resale store and bought him a bright orange jacket for $5.  I figured that maybe he would be less likely to lose an orange jacket, and if he did, I was only out $5.

    But then in the spring time, when it warmed up, Sean came home with the brown and black plaid jacket.  Which was now too small.   I could never get clear how the jacket resurfaced, if Sean checked the box again and there it was or if at the end of the year, some kind soul looked through the box and saw his name in the jacket and returned it to him.   If the jacket could talk, I’d ask where in the heck it had been all year.

    And maybe the jacket would say he went home to spend a season with a little boy who was growing up with not a lot.

    School Dazed

    September 27, 2011

    The last time I wrote here, Sean and I were coming to the end of his of first grade year of school.  I say “Sean and I”  because, really, it was not just his first grade – it occupied a large share of my time and my thinking and my emotional space too.  It was my first grade experience by proxy; a much needed do-over of sorts for me.

    It seemed to me that first grade would be a pivotal point in Sean’s academic career.  In that first school year, he would either decide school was a good thing or not a good thing, and it would have everything to do with his teacher.

    I had a sour, joyless and surly nun for first grade named Sister Edwina.  I decided early on in that first grade year that school was an exercise in misery.  That’s a rotten way for a six-year-old to spend seven hours of a day, hating it.  Thereafter, I pretty much hated school and I was a cruddy student with a cruddy attitude and the grades to prove it.  All that changed when I was 30 and became a professional student, but I don’t want that for Sean.

    For Sean, I wanted a teacher who would make him toe the line in terms of behavior, as we do at home. I wanted a teacher who would appreciate his creativity.  I wanted a teacher who would not allow him to get away with doing the least, as he is wont to do.  I wanted a teacher who wanted to be a teacher, whose nature it was to be happy.  And, as important as anything else, I wanted a teacher who would not make me feel like “that mom” or a big fat bother any time I had a question or an issue.

    We got the teacher for which we prayed. She was Sean’s advocate, and for me, she was an encourager and adviser and even a friend.  It was a terrific first grade year that came and went in a flurry of papers and projects and lunches and parties and jackets lost and found.

    And now, here we are at the top of the second grade school year and I’m still having trouble saying second grade instead of first grade and Ms. W. instead of Ms. S.  And by the grace of God and the awesome ladies who run the school, Sean was assigned a second grade teacher who is picking up right where the first grade teacher left off and we are off and running on our way to another exciting write-it-all-down-in-your-diary kind of school year.

    One of my favorite quotes is that education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire, and thus far, all of Sean’s teachers have been pyromaniacs.  May it ever be so.  I’m sure it won’t ever be so, but may it ever be so at least until his learning spirit can’t be easily broken.

    The other morning, Sean got up and got dressed for school and came to the breakfast bar for the most important meal of the day.  I asked him if he had had any dreams.  He said he knows that he has dreams, but that he never remembers them.

    I stood on the other side of the bar wringing a dish towel in my hands for no reason and watched him eat his toast.  I noticed the jelly marking the corners of his mouth and how he is still unable to resist the urge to use his shirt for a napkin.  In the haze of a morning-minded fog, I saw not a long-legged soccer-playing second-grader, but my kindergartner, the one I could still carry on my hip, the one I picked up from school at 1pm and took with me to the grocery store in the afternoon.

    “As soon as I open my eyes,” he said, “the dreams rush out of my mind, like the tide, and I can’t catch them.”

    I loved how he said that, loved the imagery.

    I thought about how that is exactly how it is with each passing school year – dream like and slow motion and mixed up when you’re in the middle of it, and then before you know it,  it rushes away and you can’t hold onto it.   And when you look back, even from a short distance, you don’t really remember it.

    You just know it was.

     


    excels at soccer, second grade and being seven

    Why There Are No 1st Graders In The Secret Service

    May 25, 2011

    As he walked towards me, I could see that something wasn’t right.

    That is not to say that I saw anything unusual, but my momtennae went up. There was something about his posture and his expression, something that telegraphed that all was not well.

    His hair was a crazy mess.  Nothing unusual about that.

    He had a red popsicle ring around his mouth which matched the red splotches on the front of his t-shirt, also not so very unusual.

    I took his backpack from him and slung it over my shoulder.

    “Hi dude! How was your day?” I asked as we turned and walked towards the car.

    “Okay,” he said unconvincingly.  I noticed the spring in his step was missing.  He did not run off and play tag with the other kids as he usually does.

    Instead, he heaved a heavy sigh and watched the ground pass under his feet as he walked.

    I decided not to push it and instead wait to see what he would offer.

    He reached up and grabbed my hand as we walked along.

    I looked at his fingers interlacing mine – dirty jagged nails, scraped knuckles, long slender fingers, red and sticky with popsicle and marker and who knows what all else.

    I reflected back to the days when those same hands would reach up for my face as I cradled him and gave him his bottle.  He would gaze into my eyes as though he were trying to figure me out and play with my chin as he slurped and gnawed on the bottle.

    When we got to the car, he confessed.

    “Actually Mom,” he said, “I had a bad day.  A reeeeeallly bad day.”

    “Oh no,” I consoled, “Tell me about it.”

    And he did.

    He told a friend at school a secret, that he liked a certain girl in another class. The so-called friend didn’t keep the secret, but blurted it to everyone instead.

    The bandwagon was a 1956 Chrysler, big and wide, with room for everyone in the 1st grade class, save one little boy named Conor.  There was chanting and teasing.  He said he started crying, so he pulled his sweatshirt up over his face.  He said he cried because he was embarrassed.  I don’t know exactly how it all played out but the teacher sent Sean and Conor for a slow walk around the school while she chatted with the class.

    We sat in the car and talked about what happened for a long time.  As painful as it was for Sean, for me it was a gift – a golden opportunity to talk about trust and compassion and other important things, all wrapped up in a real life experience.

    We talked about the importance of trust, of figuring out who you can trust and the importance of being someone who can be trusted. I told him that at school, at least, if you don’t want everybody to know everything, don’t tell anybody anything.  I told him that first graders are notorious blabbers and that’s why there are no 1st graders in the Secret Service.

    We talked about compassion, about how it felt to be teased and what a good and noble thing it was for Conor to choose not join in the teasing.  I told him Conor’s mom and dad could be very proud of him and that is exactly how I would want him to respond if someone else was being teased or picked on.

    We talked about how sometimes you have to just not care what other people think, that there will always be people who don’t like you or what you are doing and want to make you feel badly about it.  We talked about how you can’t control what others think, you can only control your own response. Although I was quick to admit that that was a hard one, one he might have to work on his whole life if he is anything like his mother.

    Then I told him the true story of how one time when I was in 1st grade, I had to go pee, but I was afraid of the nun and too scared to ask to go to the bathroom, so I just pee’d right there in my seat and it puddled on the floor by my desk and ran clear down the row to the back of the room. When the other kids saw it, there was a mighty uproar as they all laughed and made fun of me.

    “What did you do?” he asked aghast.

    “I cried,” I said as a matter of fact.  “I pulled my shirt up over my head and cried.”

    We both laughed about that just a little, because after 45 years, the humiliation has worn off a little bit and it’s kind of funny.

    He looked me in the eye and squeezed my hand.  His eyes shone softly with compassion.

    “Mom,” he said, “I’m sorry that you pee’d, I mean, you know, that that happened to you.”

    “Yeah, thanks buddy,” I said.  And I squeezed his hand back.

    And I tried not to cry.

    Mother’s Day

    May 6, 2011

    When I picked Sean up from school today he thrust a handful of papers at me along with his backpack and took off up the hill to run and play with his friends.   When we got home, he saw that I was looking at the papers he had handed me. “Mom!” he cried, “Don’t look!”

    “What?” I said, “You HANDED them to me!”

    “Okay, you can look,” he said, “But don’t look at everything.  Just pick the one thing you want.”

    So I agreed to that and chose this lovely portrait of me.  He said he drew me in that one pink fuzzy shirt that I have.  I am quite sure I don’t have a pink fuzzy shirt, but maybe I do.  Please, as you gaze upon this portrait, do not hate me because I am beautiful.

     

     

    After I gushed sufficiently over the picture, he asked if maybe I’d like to open just one more thing. No, I said, I think I’d like to wait for Mother’s Day.  No really, he said, just open one more thing.  So I opened the letter which you see below.

     

    It reads:  My mom is very special. She’s 51 and very beautiful. She does a lot of foatoshop. She loves me and I love her.  She buys suff for me like little models on stands that are real models.

    It is a good thing that I don’t care if people know how old I am or how much I weigh for that matter.  Mental note to self:  Don’t let child see tax returns.

    Aside from all that, I was touched at how he tapped into the raw truth about me in his essay, starting with my beauty.    Beauty of course is in the eye of the beholder and the fact that the beholder in this case gets suff at Walmart is probably irrelevant.

    Random thought:  If there are no ugly babies it stands to reason that there can be no ugly mothers.

    He also noted how much I love him and how much he loves me and how I do a lot of foatoshop.  I’m sure some of the other kids wrote about how their mom’s cook fabulous meals and keep a spotless house or have paying jobs, but Sean’s mom does foatoshop!

    Well since we were on a roll, he decided that I might as well go ahead and open the 3rd thing, so I did and inside was this exquisite brooch, hand-crafted of semi-precious plastic jewels and foam stuff.  Don’t covet it y’all, it wouldn’t be right.  I will wear this with my pink fuzzy shirt. If I actually have one.

    And not because I was so well loved today, but because I just can’t stop myself sometimes when it comes to that boy whose freckles make my heart ooze stupid goofy irrational love, we went to Walmart and I bought him suff like little models on stands that are real models. Just because.

     

    It’s all true, especially that part about the freckles.

    * * * * *

    Happy Mother’s Day all!  Do me a favor and maybe take some time to look around you and see who might be on the fringes and not feeling the love this weekend.  And be extra kind.

    * * * * *

    BREAKING NEWS:  I was wrong.  It turns out I actually do have a fuzzy pink shirt. I foatoshopped on my brooch so you could get the full visual affect.

    Photobucket

    The Machine Kicker

    May 3, 2011

    Not too long ago, Sean was invited to a roller skating birthday party.  It was at a big roller skating rink where several birthday parties were held at the same time making it unclear which kid belonged to which party. It was one big crazy mass of rolling kids all jacked up on icing which makes for good times indeed.

    Much to my dismay, my son does not have the skating mojo.  Skating to me is the equivalent of say, walking or breathing.  It is unthinkable to me that anyone could not automatically know how to skate.  Or swim for that matter.  I understand that mathematicians feel the same way — how can one not know how to do math?  I don’t know but I don’t. My brain don’t bend that-a-way.  So in theory I understand that some people can’t skate.  In practice, I do not.

    Be that as it may.

    Unfortunately, Sean does not understand that he does not have the skating mojo. He imagines that he does.  I think this imagining comes with the Y chromosome package, the delusional tendencies towards overestimation about ones looks and abilities. But I have no scientific research to back that up.  Along with sweeping over-generalizations and invented facts and other bad habits, I digress as well.

    Anyway, Sean wants me to go along side of him and “help” him skate.  What helping means is that he slips and slides and flails and twists and clomps along as he claws at my clothing while I wrench my back trying to “help” him stay upright. This is not fun. For me. It is exhausting is what it is. And after about 5-minutes of this I am somewhat not having fun.

    So at about the 6-minute mark, I go sit down and send his father in as my replacement so that he might partake of the fun as well.

    As I’m sitting there watching the swarm of seven-year-olds circling the rink like a pack of drunken and disorderly bees, I notice that none of them seem to have the skating mojo and I wonder if this because kids today (anytime you use the phrase “kids today” you are automatically OLD) don’t get out and roller skate on the sidewalk like I used to when I was seven.  Probably because of all the newly discovered dangers of CONCRETE and the need of helmets and pads and whatnot.

    But then my attention is turned away from the swarm and towards what sounds like a wrecking ball.  I see a boy about Sean’s age wearing in-line skates standing in front of a video machine of some sort.  The machine has apparently trespassed against this boy and he is kicking the skunk out of it with his skates. Not just a little tap-tap, nudge-nudge, but an all out repeated whacking with the toe of his skate. (Yeah, I know. He might have issues. I shouldn’t judge.  I should give him a hug and help him explore his feelings. Gotcha.)

    Had it been one of Sean’s classmates, I might have hollered, “Hey Dude! KNOCK it off!” But I didn’t know this thug child and I was kind of shocked to see such a fearless display, such a blatant abuse of public property.  I was stunned quite frankly and so I just sort of stared at him and I tried to make sense out of what I was seeing.

    I looked around to see which gal was is his mother, which gal was going to swoop in on her broom and open up a can of Crazy Lady on him.  Because that’s what I woulda done had it been Sean.  That is what any mother I knew would do, so I assumed that Machine Kicker was with one of the other skating parties, not ours.

    But no mother swooped in and he continued his rage against the machine, giving it a proper beating.  I did notice a gal nearby watching him in a disinterested manner as she chatted away on her cell phone.   Perhaps she was calling the authorities.  Perhaps like me, she was stunned and had no idea who this kid was.  Perhaps his mother had dropped him off and he was here by himself, free to express his feelings.  Perhaps.

    Later, as the party is wrapping up, I see my friend who is hosting the party chatting up the woman on the cell phone and standing next to her is Machine Kicker himself, thanking the hostess for a lovely time.  For the second time that day, I was stunned.  I could not believe that Machine Kicker was one of us!

    And that’s just the problem.  All the machine kickers are one us, on some level, and we don’t quite know what to do about it.

     

    A Smashing Dinner Party

    April 25, 2011

    I love to have people over for dinner.  I think hosting small dinner parties of four to six, is about the funnest thing you can do.  But, in all honestly, since Sean was born, I have not done as much of that sort of thing as I like to do.  I am out of dinner party shape.  But now that Sean is getting older, it’s a lot easier and so I have been trying to get back in the swing of entertaining.

    If you did not know, I am a bit of a foodie.  I like to feed people.  I love to buy food, I love to talk about food, I love to learn about food.  I read cookbooks for entertainment and about the only television I watch is the Food Network.  So it was weird that as I was planning my little dinner party menu, I was stumped.  I could not think of one thing to fix.  Even foodies get in a food rut from to time.

    Someone suggested that I make Lazy Chicken. Frankly that didn’t sound all that great for some reason, and I think it was just that the name evoked unpleasant imagery.  As does yogurt.  I don’t really care for yogurt and I think it is because the word yogurt is an ugly and unappetizing word.  Yogurt just doesn’t sound like something you oughta eat.  They should call it buttery creamy caramel toasted stuff. Then I would like it.

    Anyway, I looked around on the internet and this Lazy Chicken had a pretty good reputation, except for you know, being lazy.  So I went with it and followed the recipe without deviation.  But I had a not-so-good feeling about this dish all along.

    If you are interested, here’s the recipe:  Take a bunch of spices and coat the chicken, either frozen or fresh, and then bake it at 350.  So that’s what I did.  But when I pulled it out of the oven and tested a piece, my not-so-good feeling was confirmed: this chicken was not-so-good.  I just couldn’t serve it.  So I rinsed off all the spices, smothered it in salsa and covered the pan with heavy foil and set it aside to rest, to take a little power nap.

    I then said a little prayer that through a baptism of salsa, the not-so-good chicken might experience a trans-substantiation of sorts and turn into something not-so-bad. Salsa can cover a myriad of culinary sins.  And with the guests set to arrive in 10 minutes, there was nothing more that could be done.  I had to move on.

    And if the chicken wasn’t so great, then at least I had prepared other things.  Lining the counter and ready to go was some hummus I had made for an appetizer, a spring salad, creamy au gratin potatoes, clover leaf rolls and pretty little homemade cobbler topped with a dusting of sugar which sparkled in the glow of the under-cabinet fluorescent lights.  Pretty much, my entire meal was setting out on the counter waiting to be served.  All that was left to do was make the tea so I boiled some water in the microwave.

    When the microwave beeped, I popped open the door and retrieved a small pitcher of bubbling hot water.  But as I did, the pitcher caught on the heavy12-inch glass platter that rotates inside the microwave. And out it fell.  It first crashed onto the granite counter top and busted into a zillion pieces and then the rest of it crashed to the porcelain tile floor and busted into ten zillion pieces.  Granite and porcelain tile are not forgiving surfaces.  Keep this in mind should you be thinking of remodeling your kitchen.  One unfortunate incident and your grandmother’s china is history. As well as any food you may have prepared.

    When I opened my eyes there was glass everywhere. Every. Where.  For weeks after, I found bits of glass all the way into the breakfast room and even the den.  There was shards of glass in every dish I had prepared — everything that is except the stupid lazy good for nuthin’ chicken which was covered tightly with foil.  And my guests were set to arrive any minute.

    I wanted to cry big fat sloppy unappetizing snotty tears.  And I also wanted to bust something else and stomp my feet and maybe even shake my fist.

    But I didn’t do any of those things. I screamed for Sean to go get his father to help me clean up the mess.  My plan was to first clean up the glass and then figure out how to prepare another meal in six minutes.

    While AD swept up and wiped up and vacuumed up glass, I dumped all the food into the trash, dish by dish, making up new curse words in my head with every scrape.

    Then on to Plan B.  I always have a couple of blocks of cream cheese and crackers on hand, so I think I poured Somethingoranother over the cream cheese and put out some crackers and called it an appetizer.  Then I made a pot of minute rice and seasoned it with a leftover packet of Somethingoranother that I found in the freezer.  Then I opened a couple of cans of green beans, also seasoned with Somethingoranother and for dessert I pulled a Sara Lee Somethingoranother cake out of the freezer.  If you don’t stock Somethingoranother and salsa in your pantry, you really should.

    As luck would have it, our guests got caught in traffic and were a few minutes late and I magically pulled a meal together in time.

    When the guests I arrived I tried to forget about the fact that I had glass dust floating in the air, and just relax and enjoy their company, which wasn’t hard to do as they were a fun couple, good conversationalists with entertaining stories.  When they complimented me on the chicken I didn’t quite believe them because, in my opinion, it was really not very good. But they did clean their plates, so maybe they were sincere.

    I guess as is often said, all’s well that ends well and no sense crying over shattered glass in your entire meal and if it ain’t broke, then Antique Mommy hasn’t touched it. Whatever.

    So then, for a truly smashing dinner party, stock up on Somethingoranother and have Plan B. And maybe a dustpan handy.

    Little Kids and Big Kids and Lessons In Community

    February 25, 2011

    When kids are of a certain age, generally speaking, they don’t want to play with the little kids.  It’s fun to run away and hide from them and that sort of thing. I know this from observing Sean and I know this from personal experience. I was the youngest, and even worse, a girl.  I spent the better part of my early childhood chasing after my older brothers, hoping to be allowed to play.  Either of them would have rather eaten a pencil than let me to hang out with them.  In their defense, I may have been somewhat annoying.  Somewhat.

    And of course all the little kids want to play with the big kids because it makes them feel big and important and one of the gang. Deep down inside, I think I still want that. Just a little.

    Anyway, in the last year or so when Sean is with either of his two good neighbor buddies, both of whom have younger sibs, they think its quite fun to exclude the younger ones.  Collectively, we moms do not permit this.  When this happens, I threaten suggest to him that if everyone can’t play together then we will have to go home.  I am hoping that at some point he will absorb this exhortation and do it out of a heart response and not under duress.

    So then awhile back, Sean had a day off of school, and since it was was a nice day we went to the park to throw around our Nerf football.  I’m quite good with a football. I can throw it with laser precision and get that pretty little spiral on it.  It’s pretty impressive and you wouldn’t know that I could do that by looking at me.  I bring that up now because there has never been another opportunity.

    So we were throwing the football back and forth and a young boy, maybe a 3rd or 4th grader, wanders through the park.  He stands off to the side watching, probably admiring my football spiraling skills or perhaps my tremendous beauty, I’m not sure which.  I ask him if he’d like to play. He does, so I toss him the football and step aside.  Sean and the boy throw the ball for awhile and all is calm, all is bright.

    Shortly thereafter, two other boys pass through the park with a basketball.  They are 5th or 6th graders, I can’t tell. I can only tell if someone is a 1st grader.  They invite us to play a little b-ball (that’s basketball for you who are not as hip as I) and we set up teams; Sean and I and the 1st boy against the two 5th graders.

    Aside: I can’t dribble a basketball to save my life. I do not have the basketball mojo. Never had it, never saw it, never been anywhere near it.  If I happen to make a basket it is a fluke of the laws of physics.  Tip:  If ever you are choosing up teams to play basketball, do not choose me.  I will understand.

    There was something about the bigger of the two 5th graders. I could just tell that he was an oldest child and that maybe his mom had issued threats and made him to play with the younger kids and that at some point he had taken it into his heart.  He made several well-veiled “flubs” and allowed Sean to get the ball and take it down court.  I really appreciated that.

    It wasn’t too long after that these boys grew weary of having to play basketball with me and decided to play Monkey In The Middle with the football.  Back in the day, we called it Keep Away.  I begged off and sat off to the side to watch.

    The two fifth graders put Sean and the 3rd grader in the middle.  Sean had a great time running back and forth and trying to get the ball.  But the 3rd grader didn’t like it. It seemed to bruise his pride.  He threw a bit of a hissy fit which all the other boys ignored.

    Eventually the 3rd grader had enough and stomped off, which left just Sean as the monkey.  The older boy would again discreetly flub from time to time and allow Sean to capture the ball and get to be a ball thrower instead of the monkey.  But it wasn’t long though before the big boys were ready to move along.

    “We gotta get going,” the big boy said to Sean.

    He gave him a knuckle bump and thanked him for playing.

    Sean beamed with importance.

    I winked at the older boy which I hope he correctly interpreted as a nod of thanks and not some creepy-old-lady come on.

    As we walked home, I noticed a little extra spring in his step.

    “That boy that stomped off, what did you think about that?” I asked.

    “Not good.  That’s being a bad sport,” he said.  “Dad doesn’t like that.”

    “Yup,” I said, “Neither do I.”

    I was pleased that he recognized that.

    “That felt pretty good, didn’t it? That those boys wanted to play with you.”

    He nodded.

    “Maybe you could remember that next time Kendall and AJ want to play.”

    He nodded and skipped ahead of me.

    Two lessons in one day.

    Probably more effective than 100 days of motherly exhortations.

    So to all the moms of big boys out there who have gone to the trouble to teach them to look out for and include the little boys – thank you.  Thank you very much.

    That’s called community.

    There’s A Good Reason Driver License Pictures Are Bad

    February 16, 2011

    Because I have super sharp powers of observation, I quickly realized that things probably were not going to go well.

    You see, as I pulled into the parking lot, it was jam packed with cars.  Most of the cars were missing hub caps, some had windows covered with garbage bags secured with duct tape and others were missing the passenger seat.  And their owners were loitering in the parking lot smoking cigarettes.  Not that my car is new and fancy by any means.  But it does have hub caps and windows and all the seats.

    So I artfully wedged my car into the last remaining spot, sucked in my gut and then I turned myself sideways and slithered out of my car and into the parking lot of loiterers, ostensibly there hoping to do business with the Texas Department of Public Safety.  Just like me.

    I got a letter several months ago saying it was time to renew my drivers license!  I put that exclamation point there to imply I was on a fun adventure.  Did I convince you?

    I procrastinated for two months but finally I could procrastinate no longer; I had to go.

    I checked the website to make sure that I knew exactly where I was going and that I had everything I needed.  I needed ID, I needed proof of my social security number or a passport,  and most importantly, I needed to pay them $25 either with a check, cash or a Visa credit card. Check, check, check.  I had all those things.

    I did not need proof of insurance or vehicle inspection or voters registration or any other hoop-jumping papers.  I realized that I would have a long wait, but I didn’t want to wait an hour (An hour! Hahaha!) and then have my number called only to have some clerk tell me I needed some sCrap of paper that was at home.  So I made every effort to secure all the required documents as specified on the web site.  I think ahead.

    I made my way through the dirty parking lot and into the dirty building which was at or near the maximum occupancy rate.  There was not a teaspoon of air to breath that had not already been breathed by someone else.  I am more than a little claustrophobic and I felt myself getting a little woozy.  But this had to be done.  Finally it was my turn to get a number. It was number #80.

    With pleading eyes and a wavering voice that implied I could go postal, I asked the young man behind the desk, please sir – is there was any way, any way at all, that I could do this any other way?  I was on both knees in the prayer position, head bowed, hands clasped, begging for mercy, intercession, a miracle, anything, anything at all.  He looked at my letter and my driver’s license and yawned.  Yes, he said, I could make this go away over the phone and then he wrote a number down across the top of my official DPS letter and handed it back to me.

    “Really?!  Are you sure?” I asked incredulously.

    He nodded.

    I was elated.

    But I also knew, deep in my heart, that he was wrong.

    Nonetheless, I was going to enjoy my delusion and false elation for as long as I could.

    I took my paper with the phone number, waded back through the icky parking lot of discarded diapers and cigarette butts and wedged myself back into my car and went home where I dialed the number, followed all the prompts and was told I could not complete my transaction over the phone and that I should present myself in person at my local DPS office.

    I groused and stomped about and heaved heavy sighs of exasperation that my false elation was false.   I whined and complained to AD (who is immune to my whining and complaining).  And then I cursed the DPS and all of big government in my head.  And then I got back in my car and drove to another DPS office 20 miles away.  I believe that is the definition of psychosis – when you do the same thing hoping for a different result.

    When I got to this DPS it was much better!  The parking lot was reasonably clean and I was able to get out of my car without first vaporizing.  I peeked in the windows of the building and there was hardly anyone there! This was going to be GREAT!  I followed the signs which pointed to the entrance several doors down.  When I walked through that door there were 632 people inside all of whom either a) were talking loudly in a foreign language on their cell phone or b) had a screaming baby standing in their lap, or c) both.

    Awesome.

    So, once again, I made my way to the front desk and got a number – 49!  That was pretty good, much better than 80.  I would just have to wait it out.  A chair even opened up; no one made a move for it, so I snagged it and sat down.  I pulled out my iTouch and started a game of Scrabble.  An hour later I looked up and they were on numbers 986, 343 and 299.  Clearly I did not understand their numbering system, but then again this was a system engineered by the same people who bring you the IRS, so it made sense in that it didn’t make any sense.

    I looked up another hour later and they were on numbers 37, 461 and 128.  At about that time, I noticed a message flash on the screen that said they only accept cash at THIS location; no checks, no credit cards.  That was not mentioned on the website or by the person at the window who gave me #49 two hours ago.  I panicked for a moment wondering how much cash I had on me.  If I had waited there two hours and couldn’t complete my transaction because I had $24 but not $25, I might blow an artery.  Luckily I had the dough and so I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to playing Scrabble for another hour.

    Finally, three hours from the time I arrived, #49 was called. I jumped out of my seat and fist-punched the air. Woo-hoo! I ran up to the window like I was on the Price Is Right. Come on down!

    The gal behind the window found all my documents to be in order.  She asked me to take a vision test which worried me a little bit because after playing Scrabble on my itty bitty iTouch for three hours, I was just about cross-eyed. She apologized that she didn’t have any Clorox wipes to clean the eye machine.  I was disgusted to have to press my face into the same machine that everyone else had pressed their germy noggins into but I just went to my happy place and read the fifth line as requested, which is hard to do when you are holding your breath.

    She then had me stand behind the blue line and smile for the camera. I didn’t even bother to put on lipstick. I wanted the DPS to see what they had done to me.  I forked over $25 and I was outta there.  If I was lucky, I would get my official license in the mail in six weeks.

    I hold out little hope that will happen efficiently or timely or even at all, because you know, the postal service, DPS and the IRS are all brought to you by the letters U, S and A.  But I choose not to think about it for six-weeks.

    I went home and took a Silkwood-style shower and prayed that Jesus would come back before my license expires again.

    * * *

    I love my USA I do, I do, I do. I hate the exasperatingly inefficient bureaucracy.