Big Guy’s big ouch not so bad after all
Tue, 12/08/08 – 6:17 | Comments Off

“The only thing we have to fear is the fear of fear itself.

OK, so that’s not exactly the way Franklin Roosevelt put it. But he would have if he’d met Big Guy, who learned a lesson last week about fear feeding on itself.

I’d promised Big Guy he wouldn’t have to go through allergy testing again until the fall, but under the “”three barfs, you’re out”" rule, his bout of birthday sickness earned him an early trip. It was the third time he’d thrown up after eating hamburgers, and since nausea is one possible sign of a food allergy, I wanted to have him checked.

He’d actually looked forward to the trip, figuring the early testing would be worth it if he could go back on his burger binge. Plus, during our last visit

9to5to9: The Calamity Kid takes up residence
Wed, 6/08/08 – 6:58 | Comments Off

“I spent three summers in North Carolina, so I know the damage a hurricane do.

Nothing — not watching street lights sway as winds howled through the parking lot at work, not simmering for three days without electric — could have prepared me, though, for the storm that’s roiled our house recently.

Witness the past few days:

  • A kitchen flood caused by an inability to know when to say when at the water dispenser. Hint: Stop when it starts slopping over your hand.
  • Various bathroom disasters triggered by an inability to calculate accurately the proper ratio of toilet paper needed to deal with “”much poopy.”" Hint: Half a roll is too much.
  • A refrigerator bin collapse resulting in a quart of marinara splaying across the white floor. Hint: Just because the yogurt drink has a monkey

9to5to9: Who ordered a pizza 35 years ago?
Tue, 5/08/08 – 6:21 | Comments Off
9to5to9: Who ordered a pizza 35 years ago?

There’s a reason no one in my mother’s family ever throws away anything — 35 years down the road, someone might need it.

OK, so that’s not the real reason. The brutal truth: We’re all obsessive-compulsive pack rats who are going to die surround by cats and 1986 editions of Ladies Home Journal, recipes carefully paper clipped so we can make them some day. Or maybe that’s just me.

Today, though, my — and my mother’s — pack-rat OCD came in handy when I was starting dinner and Big Guy remembered the stack of six-inch pizza pans I’d wrested from Mom a couple years ago.

“”Hey, I want to make my own pizza! Where are those little pans?”" he asked.

Ordinarily, a request from

Ansel Adams step aside — Big Guy’s shooting
Mon, 4/08/08 – 6:29 | Comments Off
Ansel Adams step aside — Big Guy’s shooting

So why does my 5-year-old have a $200 digital camera?

Because, well, uh … I couldn’t help myself. And because I was trying to spare my $500 model.

At least, that’s my rationalization. I’m not spoiling him — I’m being practical. I’m sure there are those who would argue that I should just tell him “”cameras aren’t for kids”" and be done with it, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Not that Big Guy’s hand-me-down would cost anywhere close to $200 today, if you can even find one at an anorexic two megapixels. My phone camera is three megapixels, and it’s close to 2 years old. I think 2 megapixel models come in Cracker Jack boxes these days.

But six years ago, ay

Three trips to Circuit City and I still don’t have a flat screen monitor
Fri, 1/08/08 – 6:09 | Comments Off

“When Little Guy woke up today with eye boogers gluing his lashes together, I knew he’d never make it through day care inspection. After the Great Pink Eye Plague of 06, the guards are vigilant on that issue.

When Big Guy woke up today and found out we were staying home, I knew he was going to nail me. I’d told him I would fix their computer Sunday — the monitor’s been flashing “”no signal”" for months — but never got to it.

“If we’re not going to school, then you can fix it today!” he smiled.

Oh, joy. I was hoping to spend more time with a computer, particularly a balky 1998-through-2001 model. Nevertheless, I agreed. What could it take, an hour, two at most? Might as well get it out of

9to5to9: Killing 56 bucks, the ants and (almost) the kid
Thu, 31/07/08 – 7:25 | Comments Off

I try to teach the guys to accept responsibility for their actions, so I must accept the blame for today’s misadventure.

Trouble started when I annihilated the 11th Commandment — thou shalt not go to the grocery store hungry. I paid for my sin, to the tune of $56 for items I could carry into the house in one trip.

And for that sum, I slaughtered a dance company of ants and damn near killed Big Guy, too.

It started as a quick trip for essentials: Milk, two gallons for $6.19; orange juice, two cans of concentrate, $1.89 each; bananas, two pounds at 78 cents a pound.

Then I moved to the “”pricey these days but important”" aisle: Coffee beans — French roast on sale for $6.99 a pound; strawberries, $3 a pound; Nestle Quik, industrial

9to5to9: It’s a Wubbzy world — I just live in it
Tue, 29/07/08 – 6:00 | Comments Off
9to5to9: It’s a Wubbzy world — I just live in it

I’ve torted turtles and iced engines. That’s how you know the guys are serious about a relationship with a fictional character — they want it immortalized in frosting.
So when I asked Little Guy what cake …

The battle of busted knees
Mon, 28/07/08 – 19:33 | Comments Off
The battle of busted knees

Big Guy’s weekly laundry death toll: Seven pairs of jeans, only two survive with both knees intact.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have invested heavily in Levi-Strauss stock five years ago. Not that he wears Levi’s — the way he shreds pants, I can’t afford them. Couldn’t even if I owned the company.

And I just bought four pairs of jeans a couple of months ago, about the same time I dug five size 4 regulars out of the “”save for Little Guy”" boxes after Big Guy outgrew his size 4 skinny butt models.

Sorry, Big Guy. I can no longer afford your kamikaze jumping habit without some sacrifice on your part. I’m going to have to resort to something I

The Big Guy curse kills the Mountaineers
Mon, 28/07/08 – 14:33 | Comments Off

The No. 2 curse didn’t kill West Virginia – the football team, its national championship hopes, half the state – Saturday.
It was the Big Guy curse, a far more powerful phenomenon.
I thought we were over …

Cell phones, kids and the cancer scare — is it real?
Mon, 28/07/08 – 6:59 | Comments Off

“When I was a kid, 12 was the magic number.

I was 12 — closer to 13, actually — when Mom let me pierce my ears. I remember walking through a grocery store that frigid January day as the numbness wore off and my lobes caught fire.

I was 12 when I was allowed to have a “”real”" stereo in my bedroom, instead of the kiddie Show ‘N Tell record player. Albums were censored, though, and Cher was banned.

My friends were 12 when their parents let them get phones in their rooms. None for me, though that was about the time we were able to get off a party line. And, yes, I also had to walk to school in three feet of snow, uphill both ways.

Some parents still hold those lines. Seems there increasingly is

He says he’s not a baby, but …
Sun, 27/07/08 – 17:44 | Comments Off

Some days, he looks just like Baby Big Guy in his crib all those summers ago.

The art of the compromise
Sun, 27/07/08 – 6:36 | Comments Off

“You talk and talk and talk, wondering if any of it is sticking between those cute little ears.

Then one day you can practically hear a choir of heavenly angels singing.

Yes! He’s been listening! Yes! He gets it.

Big Guy has had a burr up his butt lately about being called “”baby.”" It’s an occasionally recurring theme that’s flared again since he became Big Kindergarten Guy. It particularly galls him when I do it in front of his two new best buds. “”Don’t say that!”" he’ll hiss-whine. But then he’ll tug my hand toward his classroom, leave and immediately return for more kisses and hugs. That’s when I know I have a few more good years of “”baby”" left.

Tonight, though, he decided it was going to irritate him.

We were watching a “Wow Wow

9to5to9: The perils of the potty at school
Fri, 25/07/08 – 7:54 | Comments Off

“We hadn’t been in the car five minutes this evening when Big Guy made a pained pronouncement: “”Mommy, I gotta go!”"

Aw dang it, I responded, more sharply than I should have. In my defense, it was the end of a long day — at least, the end of the office portion of it. Plus, he’d made the same plea roughly 15 minutes earlier, as we were leaving day care.

No matter. When you gotta go, you gotta go. I pulled off at a McDonald’s where the restrooms usually are clean, put on my Stern Mommy face and lectured. “”Guys, we’re not getting food.”"

It took 15 minutes to get back on the road. He really did have to go.

And that’s been a pattern with Big Guy this week. Every day, during our noontime kindergarten-to-day-care shuttle, he’s started moaning. “”Mommy, I gotta go!”

I didn’t think much of it — eating lunch can sometimes, well, force these issues — until I mentioned what I thought was just an odd coincidence to a teacher at day care.

Happens all the time, she said.

When balloons are outlawed …
Thu, 24/07/08 – 5:24 | Comments Off

The guys aren’t much into political news yet, but a recent item would have led to much rejoicing had they seen it: The California Senate has abandoned its effort to ban mylar balloons.

As far as I’m concerned, the ban should have been implemented in June, before I bought Little Guy a musical Thomas balloon for his birthday. Sure, it looked cute in the store, but try listening to a train whistle “”Happy Birthday”" a few million times. No, I wasn’t the one who popped it, but I won’t pretend to mourn the loss.

I’m sure now that the weighty matter balloon is solved, legislators can move on to trivial things. Such as a budget that’s more than a month overdue and has led Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to threaten slash state workers’ pay to the

Phases of the moon never fail to faze the guys
Wed, 23/07/08 – 6:14 | Comments Off

Friday was a picture-perfect night at the ballpark. Breezy but not chilly, warm but not oppressive. And perched over the left field wall, like a backdrop from a Broadway production: a round, orange moon.

“Oh, look, Mommy! It’s beautiful!” Big Guy gasped.

And it was a gorgeous full moon. Full moon? Oh, crap.

We did a story almost 20 years ago when I was at a small southern West Virginia newspaper on moon phases and crime, looking at a year of police logs to see if misbehavior increased proportionally to the moon’s girth. It did.

Either we picked an aberrational year or we really are different in West Virginia. Although there are some national studies confirming our results, most scholarly works find no correlation between full moons and full jails, according to a University of Washington

The guys don’t want to sleep, I’m dying to. Guess who wins
Tue, 22/07/08 – 7:50 | Comments Off

“I just googled “”strait jacket”" and children and was disappointed. I’d hoped to find a retailer on Instead, I came up with stories about an overly medicated society.

Too bad. I could use a set right about now, sizes smaller and smaller. Maybe in a Thomas pattern for Little Guy and Batman for his brother.

Aw, forget it. Child Protective Services probably would frown on use of restraints to keep your kids in bed. (If you’re reading, CPS, I’m not serious. It’s humor — get it?)

It wouldn’t work anyway. Big Guy, at least, is as creative as he is determined. And then he’d help his brother get out just to show me.

The problem of late has been his brother, and it’s like deja vu all over again. Actually, it’s not deja vu

Barfing on your birthday — no fair!
Mon, 21/07/08 – 6:35 | 2 Comments

“I won’t say it’s always unfair to be sick on your birthday.

I’ve had my share of sick birthdays, the most notable being my 24th. My roommate had made shrimp scampi — this was before my seafood allergy had fully emerged. I took one look and hurled.

That was my fault, though. I don’t think Big Guy had near as many whiskey sours yesterday as I’d had the night before my 24th, so that makes what happened to him today officially unfair.

Unofficially, it makes it frightening. It’s the third time Big Guy’s lost his lunch when lunch has been hamburger or steak. And the third time wins him a doctor’s appointment. I’m praying it’s not another food allergy.

The day started out bright and sunny, as a birthday should be. Not that today was Big Guy’s actual birthday, but it was

9to5to9: They say it’s your birthday — three times
Sun, 20/07/08 – 7:24 | Comments Off

“It’s after midnight the day before … er, make the day of … Big Guy’s alleged birthday. So what am I doing — why, waiting for the cake to come out of the oven.

I’m not even going to rant at myself this time for procrastinating, because I do it before every holiday, from Valentine’s Day to Halloween, plus birthdays to boot. My intentions always are good but, well, you know.

Instead, I’m going to complain about the three-day Big Guy Fest. Not complain, actually, as much as laugh at myself for the crazy lengths I wind up going to. It blows away my tough-gal image. Steel-coated marshmallow, I am.

Day 1: Family party at Pizza Hot, as Big Guy calls it. A few friends from school invited as

Avoiding a ride on the homework helicopter
Fri, 18/07/08 – 6:52 | Comments Off
Avoiding a ride on the homework helicopter

I seized up in sickened horror the second I saw the sweetie in the flowery pink dress holding a mom’s hand outside Big Guy’s classroom. The gold sequins on her frock mocked me as they flashed in the morning sun, her bright smile taunting.

Dear God, it’s only Tuesday. How could that kid have finished the week’s homework assignment already? It’s not even due until Friday.

A cacophony of guilt roared in my head. Slacker mom! Why didn’t you jump on it the first night? How could you even think of letting Big Guy color his own manilla folder gingerbread man when this mom had lovingly cut a fabric triangle to fashion a dress? Don’t you love your kids? Don’t you want his first homework assignment to look as cool as his classmate’s.


Financial literacy not part of the curriculum here
Thu, 17/07/08 – 7:31 | Comments Off

It’s not often I get to play the sage parent. The chance arose today, though, when a co-worker mentioned his 5-year-old’s obsession with his credit card.

“”You think that’s bad, wait until he goes to school,”" I said. “”They pay for their lunches with debit cards.”"

“”Debit cards? You’re kidding!”" the astounded father gasped as 16 eyes riveted on me. Make that 14 — one woman has a teen-ager, so she knew the drill.

“”Yep. My kid came home from kindergarten last week really impressed with the set-up. He was thrilled they gave him milk he didn’t have to pay for.”"

All of which reminded me that I had promised a fuddy-duddy rant about how cow juice on credit deprives kids of a chance to learn money realities.

Here it is, as promised:

What in the name of

Nice to meet you, Little Guy
Tue, 15/07/08 – 6:24 | Comments Off

From the time he was born, there’s been one constant in Little Guy’s life: Big Guy.

Big Guy, who tried to dump him out of the stroller before he had lived his first month. Big Guy, who developed a sudden affection for formula and pacifiers and snatched his brother’s every chance he got. And Big Guy, who would gently caress Little Guy’s head with a consoling “”it’s all right”" as I warmed bottles.

Little Guy has lived few seconds of his life outside Big Guy’s shadow, and it’s quite a prodigious shadow to be in.

Big Guy, you see, is an “”it”" kid. The type of person who captures a room’s attention the second he enters. “”Madre de Dios! Face of an angel!”" a woman exclaimed in Wal-Mart when he was about 7 months old

A bribe by any other name convinces Big Guy to read
Mon, 14/07/08 – 7:29 | Comments Off

Big Guy roared through the door with a fire up his fanny, barreling past me to the bookcase. He picked the biggest volume he could find — a 13-book Dr. Seuss compilation — and lugging it to the living room.

“”Mom, I almost forgot. We have to do a reading lesson every day now — teacher says.”"

His next words, though, wiped the Chester Cheetah grin off my face. “”I have to learn to read so they’ll give me a book.”"

Uh-oh. Four days of kindergarten under his belt and the school system already had corrupted him with one of my pet peeves: The bribe.

I readily admit I’m a bit — no, a lot — sanctimonious on this point. No one bribes me to do my job every day — the state of the newspaper business of

It’s always a bad hair day for Big Guy
Sun, 13/07/08 – 7:26 | Comments Off
It’s always a bad hair day for Big Guy

“Two years ago, Big Guy thought it was sweet that his grandmother had given him a special gift. But he was only 3 and newly in love with the idea of presents of any sort.

Wasn’t it nice of Mawmaw to give me a cowlick? he’d say.

“Fast-forward to this summer, when the kiddie pool faces a sliding glass door and Big Guy has become obsessed with trying to tame the Dennis the Menace dip that tops his head. He’ll pat, smooth and pound, only to have the thicket spring back the second his hair starts to dry.”

“Is my cowlick straight down yet? he’ll ask. Then, not trusting my opinion, he’ll peer into the door-mirror again and begin another round of futile patting and smoothing.”

“Part of the problem now is a particularly bad hair cut — and for the cowlick crowd, scissors that miss by a sixteenth of an inch can spell disaster.”

“Big Guy’s hair has to be either buzzed microscopically enough that no individual hair can stand up and be counted or left long enough that the cowlick sits down and shuts up. Anything in between is torturous, and the woman who cut his hair a few weeks ago refuses to accept that.”

Which is why Big Guy grilled me again today about the gift from his grandmother.

Big Guy meets the Milk Lady
Fri, 11/07/08 – 6:21 | Comments Off

Day Three for Big Guy at the Big Kids School, and he bounded out of the cafeteria to greet me with his classic bear hug around the knees. Whew! Signs of my sweet 4-year-old. I’d feared the backpack-toting stranger who was too cool for kisses had permanently replaced him.

“”Mommy! I had chocolate milk for lunch!”"

“”Chocolate milk?”" I gasped. “”You’re kidding! They have that at your school? Sheesh, I wish they’d had that at school when I was a kid.”"

He nodded, once and firmly. “”Yes. And I bought it myself!”"

I already knew that, because I’d peeked through a window as he finished lunch, just as I’d done the previous two days. Except this time, I saw a tiny brown carton in front of him. At last, Big Guy had figured out the Milk Lady.

For Big

Big Guy’s first day at the Big Kids’ school weird for everyone but him
Thu, 10/07/08 – 7:04 | Comments Off
Big Guy’s first day at the Big Kids’ school weird for everyone but him

Long before the guys came along, I’d dream of the moment:

A freshly scrubbed 5-year-old trudges up the sidewalk on a crisp September day. He reluctantly loosens his death grip on my hand and heads for the classroom door. He turns and waves hesitantly as I flick aside a delicate tear. My baby’s first day of kindergarten!

I’m not capable of dreams wild enough to conjure up Tuesday’s reality:

Four-year-old Big Guy bounced out of bed on a 96-degree July morning, cheering, “”It’s time! It’s today!”" I swiped at the chocolate milk on his face, but he was half-way down the block on his scooter before I could catch him.

As we waited outside his classroom, he did his “”ants in his pants”" dance and incessantly asked how

The horror of hamburgers at home
Mon, 7/07/08 – 7:29 | Comments Off

Say what you will about McDonald’s — and I’ve said a lot, only to take back most of it on a Friday evening when the guys are clamoring and I’ve forgotten to take dinner out to thaw — but you have to give Ronald credit .

That clown is on the ball when it comes to listing ingredients, thus earning the eternal gratitude and frequent patronage of any family with food allergies.

That’s why I was surprised that crack cocaine isn’t listed as a hamburger ingredient. I know it’s in there. How else do you explain Big Guy willingness to gobble one, sometimes two, while refusing a burger lovingly prepared by mom?

It couldn’t be because he’s stubborn and averse to trying new foods. Drug addiction has to be the answer.

I knew this afternoon we were in

The $500 prize that should have been mine
Thu, 3/07/08 – 7:28 | Comments Off

She’s a dear friend with good intentions, which is why I’ll some day find it in my heart to forgive her. For now, the bitterness lingers. I can’t forget the way she screwed me out of $500.

N meant well when she took it upon herself to degunk the inside of my car last week. We’d just gotten home from Little Guy’s birthday party and N had stopped by to help me unload his presents.

What she saw must have shocked her down to her shoes.

Art projects in rainbow hues, from Valentine’s Day pink to sunny summer yellow.

Three cruddy jackets — no, I don’t know how a woman with two kids winds up with three jackets scrunched up on the floorboards.

Baggies with Cheerio and Cinnamon Toast Crunch crumbs. Enough trains to keep Sir

A gem of a night for Little Guy at the baseball diamond
Sat, 28/06/08 – 14:33 | Comments Off

Ran into a recently retired co-worker friend Friday at the ballpark — literally.
It was during the first Little Guy escape of the night. He had bolted from our seats one row back from the field …