Red Beard the Angel and other ethereal creatures among us
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:33 | Comments Off

Forget the image of angels who flit about in froofy gowns.

I’ve had a number of ethereal encounters of late, and not one has fit that stereotype.

Angels such as the neighbor who anonymously toted my trash to the curb tonight after seeing me drown in guy-induced chaos. Or the lady who fashioned four paper airplanes to entertain the guys during a lengthy wait. Or the parent who readily admitted having a kid fond of crying “meanie” – Big Guy’s latest retort to virtually anything displeasing – and offered just the solution for talking him down from the ledge.

The best-disguised angel, though, sported a thick auburn beard and blue security guard’s shirt. I don’t think he was even aware of his heavenly qualities. But he said just the right thing at just the right time, and it made my day. My week, even. I’m still basking in the afterglow.

High stakes arguments about nothing
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:32 | Comments Off

“I’m swinging higher!” Big Guy chirped.

“No, I’m swinging higher!” his 10-year-old cousin countered, pumping her legs harder.

“No, I’m swinging higher!” Big Guy insisted, his face contorted and red with effort.

“I’m swinging higher!” she returned.

Big Guy jumped off his swing and turned toward her. “Lookit, this is an argument about nothing. Can we just stop?”

If I were the fainting type, I would have swooned on the spot.

It’s not unusual to hear your 4-year-old echo your words, but they’re usually the four-letter ones you shouldn’t have said. Rare are the times when they repeat something that you’ve been harping about for weeks and thought they never would get.

9to5to9: Summer messes win, muddy hands down
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:30 | Comments Off

Before the Fourth of July, I’m sure someone will remind me of my brashness, but I’m going to climb out on the limb anyway: I can’t wait until summer messes are back.

Except for muddy footprints in the kitchen, down the hall and in the bathroom, summer messes are so much tidier than winter chaos. And if by chance things do get out of hand, in the summer, I simply hose the guys off and then let them back in the house.

Not so in the winter. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life of late putting Hot Wheels, Thomas trains and puzzle pieces back where they sort of belong. It’s a futile pursuit, really – I know every night that I’ll be doing the same thing again in 24 hours.

And that’s if I even see the toys through my end-of-the-day haze. Oftentimes, I won’t find them until my pre-dawn wake up the next morning, usually when they impale my arch. “Oh (word I don’t say in front of the guys)!

I’m going to throw every one of these (word I don’t say in front of the guys) trains in the garbage.”

In the summer, though, there’s nothing to pick up.

Random thoughts at 44
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:30 | Comments Off

I had a birthday recently. No. 44, which also is roughly how many people asked me if I was turning 29 again.

Nope. Forty-four. Don’t you dare take away a single year. I earned them all, and I wouldn’t go back to 29 for anything.

I hated 29. No one believes you’re 29 anyway, probably because everyone walks around asking 44-year-olds if they’re 29. And your professional credibility grows exponentially in those 12 tiny months twixt 29 and 30. The “aw, you’re just a kid” remarks immediately cease.

I am 44. I am no longer a kid.

I still act like one at times. I eat ice cream for dinner on Fridays and know most of the songs from “Lion King.” I get to play with Play-Doh and color. For my money, “Max and Ruby” is the funniest show on television.

My body reminds me constantly, though, that youth has passed. A knee destroyed in a teen-age car wreck screams a little louder every day. The fine print is harder to read without arm extenders.

I am 44, and I am not their grandmother.

The beating that’s worth it at bedtime
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:27 | Comments Off

A new neighbor, whose house is behind ours, was shocked during her evening walk recently to meet us and see the guys.

“There are only two? Really? It sounded like there are at least four.”

Some days it feels like it. Like today. My injury toll:

Mild concussion from a Little Guy head butt. Accidental, I think, resulting from a delusion on his part. “Power Rangers, Jungle Fury. Spirit of the Cheetah.” How he could enunciate that perfectly is beyond me – usually, F’s come out sounding like P’s and R’s like W’s.
Dislocated jaw from basketball with Big Guy, who figured out that if he couldn’t get around me he should instead shoot over. Except he doesn’t like the small basketball that came with their kiddy hoop, so he plays with a soccer ball. It hit me in the face, as visions of Rudy Tomjanovich danced in my head.
Sprained neck after Big Guy jumped off the back of the love seat and (almost) over me as I took too long getting Little Guy’s shoes on.
At least I got something out of it when they decided my back would make a grand drum. Those tiny fists worked all the tightness out of a chronically sore shoulder that no doubt has something to do with carrying a 30-pound purse.

After the neighbor left, I couldn’t decide if her comment was reassuring (good! it’s not just me who thinks they’re rowdy and loud) or embarrassing (if I were a better parent, they wouldn’t be such hellions.)

Memories of a role model from long ago
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:26 | Comments Off

Sometimes, the oddest things can send me on 20-year jogs down memory lane.

Today, a story about Carme Chacón launched the trip. Chacón, 37, recently became the first woman to serve as Spain’s defense minister. She’s also seven months pregnant. Yesterday’s photo op included images of Chacón and her baby bump inspecting troops.

Which reminded me of Liz Martin, a lady I crossed paths with a lifetime ago.

Back in Liz’s child-bearing days, a baby bump wasn’t shown off. A gym teacher at the time she became pregnant with her first child, she was forced to resign the second she started showing. Not take a leave of absence, but resign. Liz was so slight, she was out the door shortly after her third month ended.

Liz – and she was always just plain Liz, never Delegate Martin – was in her 50s and her second career when I ran across her. She’d gone to law school and settled with her growing family in Morgantown, W.Va. Once the children were reared, she turned her attention to politics, winning election several times to the state Legislature.

I was a nervous 19-year-old student reporter covering a subcommittee she served on when I met her. One by one, the political hotshots blew past. No time for a snot-nosed college kid.

A news song for Big Guy to play over and over and over and …
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:24 | Comments Off

Kids love repetition.

Kids love repetitive repetition.

Big Guy loves repetitive repetition over and over and over again.

Which is why I’m happy we live in a one-story house. That way, it won’t hurt too badly when I jump out a window the next time I hear the opening chords of 3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite.”

“If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman? If I’m alive and well, will you be there a-holdin’ my hand.”

If I go crazy? It’s rapidly becoming a question of when.

Big Guy’s latest obsession sprung from his longest-running preoccupation: Airplanes. He loves watching crashes on YouTube – which worries me, since he wants to be a pilot. I’m hoping that before someone lets him step in a cockpit, he’ll learn that most passengers prefer their jet not burst into flames.

Airplanes met super heroes when we found an MD-80 video with “Kryptonite” playing in the background.

It was the perfect song by any Big Guy standard – heavy guitar, thumping drums and Super Hero lyrics.

He loved the song so much he wanted to quit looking at airplanes and find out what “the concert players” look like. When he actually saw the 3 Doors Down video of the song, though, he didn’t get.

10 months late, Little Guy hits the Terrible Twos
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:23 | Comments Off

Missing: One sweet kid, answers to the name of Little Guy.

There’s someone hanging out at the house who looks a lot like him sometimes – can work those baby blues hard enough to melt your heart, and if that doesn’t do it, he’ll throw in a 1,000 megawatt grin. But the attitude’s changed.

Maybe the last haircut, which took him from borderline Goldilocks to a tough-guy buzz, did it. Perhaps it’s too much pirate play – he can “grrrrrrrr” with the best of them. Or perhaps he’s simply been having a huge laugh at my expense all these months, making me think I was going to skate on the Terrible Twos this time.

I know better now.

Today, the kid who used to greet every morning with a beatific smile pounced into my bed bright and early with a shriek. “Want orangine cones! Want orangine cones!”

I broke the news that there were no scones, orange or otherwise. He quickly switched gears. “Wanna watch Thomas! Wanna watch Thomas!” he wailed. Thomas isn’t on the TV in here, I said. More wails, followed by an alternating chorus of “Mommy, huggy” and “Mommy, no huggy” when I reached for him.

Your brother taught you that, didn’t he?

Six healthy months could be a sign of an immune system
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:22 | Comments Off

I knew it couldn’t last forever – eventually, even Lou Gehrig bowed out and Cal Ripken took a seat.

Not that the guys’ string of healthy days was anything close to Iron Man-like. Still, if you overlook Big Guy’s days out due to surgery last autumn, six illness-free months is a decent run. Even the four-plus months of perfect attendance since surgery is stunning.

I held my breath all winter and was amazed when spring arrived with sick days unused – that hadn’t happened since Big Guy was born.

It came to an end this week, and the only surprising part is that the asthmatic king of the ear infection wasn’t the one who closed the streak.

Instead, it was Little Guy. The kid who never gets sick, whose non-routine doctor’s visits I can count on one hand. Sniffles turned into snotterfalls turned into some undefined infection. Which turned into a 102-degree temperature.

A big birthday for Big Guy — and it’s not even his
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:21 | Comments Off

Big Guy’s been excitick since he saw the DayGlo orange envelope clipped to his sign-in sheet at school last week. Even not-quite-5-year-olds can figure out that bad news never comes wrapped in DayGlo orange, so he couldn’t wait to rip it open.

“It’s a pirate!” he gasped as he gazed at the card inside. “What does it say? What does it say?”

“It says C is having a birthday party next Saturday, and you’re invited,” I told him.

He flopped to the floor, eyes rolling, tongue lulling in what’s become his latest “I’m so excitick I can’t stand it” pose.

“A birthday party! C’s birthday party! WOW!”

For Big Guy, the significance of the event is far bigger than a celebration for a friend reaching legal kindergarten age. It also will mark an important social debut – his first non-relative birthday party.

And for me, it’s another chance to relive vicariously in the land of unbridled joy.

Becoming the Switzerland of the food wars
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:20 | Comments Off

As a rule, I never intervene in other people’s parenting traumas, mainly because I hate it when strangers stick their noses in mine. Few things in life are more grating than unsolicited advice when you’re already in the weeds, and even if the intervener means well, it’s hard not to come off as a snot.

But the poor dad at McDonald’s last weekend looked so tortured, so pained that I broke my rule. And I’m glad it did – it helped show me how idiotic I’ve been for years, as I’ve willingly engaged a strong-willed toddler in a picky eater’s food war. It’s a battle, I’ve come to realize, that no one wins.

Tortured dad entered the restaurant playground in the late afternoon with a 3-year-old and a Happy Meal.

The theme this month is pirates, and the kid’s eyes immediately locked on the ship that came with his food.

“Eat your hamburger so you can have your toy,” Dad said, drawing a thin-lipped scowl from his son.

“What about your fries?” he ventured. The kid shook his head and grabbed his soda.

Dad switched tactics and gave up the ship. “Here’s your toy. Now eat.”

When that didn’t work, Dad went back inside and bought an ice cream cone. “See this ice cream! He’s happy to see the nice little boy. And if you eat your food, you can have it!”

Of course that didn’t work either. Dad looked ready to cry, and I wanted to weep right along with him at the memories of playing out similar scenarios all too many times with Big Guy.

Big Guy has his first sleepover
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:17 | Comments Off

It’s been an obsession with Big Guy since a schoolmate regaled him last spring with tales of her sleepover, which I think must have been as glorious as a day at Disney combined with a trip to the Jelly Belly factory.

“Mommy, when do I get to have a sleepover?”

I’ve always managed to come up with avoidance excuses, including some good, honest reasons. None of his school friends lives close to us, and there aren’t any kids his age on our street.

Sometimes, though, I say “yes” simply because even I get tired of hearing myself say “no.”

No, we can’t go to the park after school.

No, you can’t have a TV in your room before you’re 30, and I don’t care who else has one.

No, you can’t have a pet lion.

So when Big Guy and his favorite cousin, Nina – the baby Big Guy version of her real name — started hammering me the second I got home from work Saturday, I impulsively agreed to a sleepover. I instantly wondered what I’d gotten myself into and hoped Nina’s mom would say “no” and save me from myself.

No such luck.

Boredom, take me away!
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:16 | Comments Off

It practically smacked me in the face last week at the gas station – no, not the sign that says, “please leave your first born as a deposit before filling up.”

I mean the monitor right above the pumps that loops commercials nonstop. Maybe it’s to distract you from the grand larceny you’re willingly submitting to. Or maybe it’s because we have grown so accustomed to being wired, connected, in touch and hooked up that the simple act of fueling your vehicle requires supplemental entertainment.

Blessed boredom, you are a lost art.

I’ve been thinking a lot about boredom lately, since reading a story about how afraid we are these days to be alone with our thoughts.

I couldn’t relate at all. You’re bored? You’re lucky.

Grandma Antsy’s Captain Dave
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:14 | Comments Off

“Momma, why does Grandma Antsy have a blue star in her window?” Big Guy asked during a visit last spring with one of my dearest friends.

“Because her son is a soldier. And she hopes he gets to come home soon,” I replied.

“Will I get to see him?”

“Not this time. But maybe someday.”

The first time I saw Grandma Antsy’s son, he was scrawny teen-ager in pictures his mom was showing off at the office, photographs from his kid sister’s prom.

Some evil guy had dumped Becki close to the date of the dance, so Dave dutifully donned the monkey suit and escorted her. Most 19-year-olds would rather dress in drag than go back to high school with their sister, but there he was. He even smiled in the pictures.

He walked two seemingly contradictory paths after that: College and the National Guard. He’d known since he was a boy that he wanted to be a soldier, but he wanted an education, too. There were no affordable schools close by that offered ROTC programs, so Dave made up his own.

Batman wins the super hero smackdown
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:13 | Comments Off

For about six months, there’s been a Super Hero smackdown at our house.

SpiderMan was the early winner, claiming the Halloween costume contest in October. Then Superman pulled ahead, as flying trumped web-slinging.

Now there’s a new favorite, courtesy of a long-forgotten trinket from a fast-food meal almost a year ago.

“Hey, Mom!” Big Guy yelled after a rousing session of toy-box trashing unearthed the toy. “Look! It’s Batman! I love him.”

Good. Because I’m crazy about him, too.

Batman, you see, is the only real Super Hero. The others rely on supernatural powers – emphasis on super, not natural – bestowed either on a strange planet or by dumb luck.

Free Treffly Coyne! Free Treffly Coyne!
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:12 | Comments Off

Notice to the police: I’m running low on gas and will have to refill in the morning. Depending on the pump-ATM-astronomical alignment, I might be a yard or so away from the guys for a split second. But I promise I won’t take my eyes off them, so please don’t cuff me.

Sound preposterous? Something very similar to that scenario happened to an Illinois mother around Christmas, after she left her 2-year-old sleeping in the car for mere moments on a cold, sleety day while her two older daughters dropped $8.29 in coins in a Salvation Army kettle at Wal-Mart.

A Crestwood police community service officer then proceeded to arrest Treffly Coyne. The suburban Chicago mother is scheduled to go to trial tomorrow on misdemeanor

The end of the nap era
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:09 | Comments Off

I should have taken a picture today of the two tiny heads smooshed together across adjoining sleeping bags in the living room – why they insist on two sleeping bags and then wind up entangled like conjoined twins is beyond me.

It might well be the last time it happens. Big Guy, it seems, is outgrowing naps.

I hate that, and it has absolutely nothing to do with a longing for my long-lost baby. It has everything to do with longing for my long-lost sleep.

It happened two days in a row last week at school. “He didn’t take a nap today, so good luck to you,” a teacher said as we left Friday.

I was as shocked as anyone when I didn’t need good luck. Big Guy was

This kiss, this kiss — it’s criminal
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:07 | Comments Off

It was sweet and innocent and precious three summers ago when Big Guy, overcome by his feelings for little Snow White, had to express them with a kiss.

But, then, this was a daily occurrence for those two. From the second he started at day care, she was at his side, tracking down his lost Bear and dissing her daddy to kiss him goodbye.

Good thing they’re not going to kindergarten in Denver next fall.

Both would wind up spending more time at the police station than they would in class.

According to a recent article in the Rocky Mountain News, Denver Public Schools referred two 5-year-olds and their parents to the local Human Services Department after they kissed in

When you (and your kids) are strange
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:06 | Comments Off

For three straight days, Big Guy wouldn’t wear any shoes other than his soccer cleats at home. When we went out, he’d put a SpiderMan shoe on his left foot and a lace-up tennis shoe on his right. With his purple soccer socks.

And these people at the Wonder Time Web site think their kids are weird?

I wonder how many of them rush home to clean windows. Or live to vacuum. Or refuse to throw away a bubble-bath bottle – there are six guarding the tub right now.

Granted, there are some genuine strange agents among the Wonder Time set, too.

  • A 3-year-old who sleeps with a rolling pin.
  • A 4-year-old who wears only horizontal-striped shirts – at least they won’t make him look fat.
  • A kid who’s

Amana Dry Erase fridge makes you wonder why
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:04 | Comments Off

From the files of  “tell me again why I need this:

Amana’s new Jot Fridge — 17.6 cubic feet of storage wrapped in a Dry Erase board.

I supposed the capacity is acceptable, though 17.6 cubic feet is starting to look skimpy now that the guys are downing almost a gallon of milk a weekend. And its suggested price — $549 – is the same as a non-white board model that’s less than a foot bigger.

Still, as I look at the guys’ marker-marred kiddy table and the pencil streaks down Little Guy’s door,  I wonder if any parents in their right minds would deliberately make the world’s largest temptation the centerpiece of their kitchen.

What’s even funnier than the notion that this is a good idea

Can you teach them how to be sick in bed?
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:02 | Comments Off

I’ve scoured child development books since before we knew baby Big Guy was going to be a guy, but I’ve yet to find the answer to this one: At what age do children master being sick in bed?

My childhood memories of being sick – and I was sick a lot until about age 12, with chronic sinus-ear, you name it infections – involve dozing fitfully and occasionally waking to demand more buttered toast. If I was only moderately sick – temperature of 100 or so instead of 104 – I’d lounge on the coach and catch up on the soaps I missed during the school year. Funny, but it never took more than a day to catch up.

None of that from Big Guy, though. He

Sleeping double in a single bed and the nightly riot
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:02 | Comments Off

Almost from the beginning, the guys and I have followed the same nightly ritual: stories, songs, cuddles and lights out.

Except lately, we’ve added a step: Big Guy’s long trudge down the hall to his own room.

The great bed-sharing experiment – if you can call something an “experiment” that’s gone on for 10 months – started last spring when Big Guy decided Little Guy’s new bed was far superior to his own.

A month later, I conceded that they were roommates and moved Big Guy’s dresser down the hall. I had an ulterior motive — I’d love to reclaim one of the bedrooms for my computer, which I’m tired of tripping over in my own room.

A month after that, we went through our first bout of Death

Two haircuts, no tears!
Mon, 2/06/08 – 5:00 | Comments Off

Some days you just want to preserve as the “Groundhog Day” of parenting, not because you want to repeat them until you get them right, but because they were right.

Days like today: 45 minutes, two haircuts, not even a whimper, a smiling stylist and two faces sticky from lollipops.

Life is good.

I was unreasonably nervous heading out for the guys’ semiannual shearing today. The fact that their haircuts are designed to last almost six months tells you how bad the experience can be. Plus, I’d never taken both guys by myself, without a second in case one or the other broke bad.

Big Guy broke me in – and almost broke me down – when he was about 10 months old. I was too chicken to brave a

A torture chamber where once there was a kitchen
Mon, 2/06/08 – 2:40 | Comments Off

 I love to cook.

 I have a three-foot-by-three-foot bookcase in my kitchen, filled with everything from the classics – “The Joy of Cooking” and old reliable “Better Homes & Gardens” – to whims. “Southern Living Plain and Fancy Poultry” – what was I thinking?

 The recipes folder on my computer has 80 subfolders with thousands of creative, new ideas. I have stack after stack of cooking magazines, paper clips marking interesting dishes.

 If I were to go out tomorrow and buy every gadget, appliance, pot and bread pan on my dream list, it easily would eat up a pay check.

 Invite a dozen people over for a multi-course meal? Where can I sign up?

 I hate to cook.

 If I have to slop out one more spaghetti or macaroni and cheese

He shoots! He scores! Or maybe not
Mon, 2/06/08 – 1:50 | Comments Off

Big Guy might or might not have scored his first goal Saturday. It’s been a raging controversy in our house for the past 30-some hours.

The facts to which Big Guy Sr. and I agree:

Big Guy led the charge down the field, and he was actually running in the same direction as the rest of his team and going toward the right goal. That in and of itself was a major accomplishment.

He got within a yard of the goal, hesitated and then kicked softly. The ball bounced off the left post.

By that time, the defense had caught up to him, and he and a player from the other team kicked the ball, the air and each others’ ankles. The opposing player finally kicked the ball in.


It’s beginning to look a lot like panic
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:35 | Comments Off

Based purely on anecdotal evidence – and a sprinkling of wishful thinking – I’m seeing a pretty good Christmas coming.

Or, at least a more affordable one. At least until New Year’s Eve, when I’ll have to explain why I’m confiscating toys Santa just delivered. “Well, it’s like this guys: The elves screwed up and used paint that could poison you. Santa’s sent them to timeout, so they can think about how to be nicer elves.”

In the past two weeks, I’ve:

* Read not one, but two, email blitzes from Fisher-Price. This followed on the heels of the free DVD in the mail.

The first offered free shipping for $50 orders. I was mightily tempted, but mighty glad I resisted, when the Go Diego Go! Animal Rescue Boat

Screaming for discipline
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:28 | Comments Off

This just in: According to a new article at, kids want discipline. They’re practically begging you for it.

Ah-HA! So that’s why Big Guy screamed half the way home tonight.

I could have sworn he was shrieking, “But I want to go to the park. I won’t say bad words tomorrow. Let me GO!”

I couldn’t tell exactly, though, because after the first minute or so I turned up the radio to block it out.

And there’s always auditory distortion when the pitch reaches ranges only dogs can hear. After reading that article, I’m sure now he was saying, “Oh, you’re right, Mommy! I shouldn’t have said those things, and I know that now. Thank you SO much.”

I did feel bad – but only a little

9to5to9: No polka dots tonight, dear, I have a head ache
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:26 | Comments Off

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about trying to get two octopuses – or is that octopi? – dressed in the morning, the Swedes have come up with another complication.

First, I learned to avoid solid red or blue – gang colors.

Then I learned to make sure their clothes were comparable, if not identical, because heaven help me if one is wearing a Lightning McQueen shirt and the other isn’t.

But now, apparently, I need to shun stripes and polka dots, too. It seems those patterns could give their teachers migraines – as if the guys’ presence alone weren’t enough to trigger massive headaches.

That’s the latest word from Sweden, where a preschool has banned children from wearing stripes and dots after a