“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Monday, October 31, 2011


Halloween has arrived.

As a teacher, I hate Halloween.  As a Mom, I love it.  As a person, I am scarred by memories of my mother's disdain for it.  I won't get into the traumatic childhood memories, but let's just say that when I was seven I wanted to be beautiful and my own mother sabotaged me.

Joey and Noah have been busily readying for Halloween since early August.  Noah's first impulse was to be Buzz Lightyear again, but when I suggested he try something new, he instantly (and oddly) clung to the notion of being Wolverine. We don't watch X-Men, Noah had never seen Wolverine in his life, but he loved the picture in the catalogue so much I had no choice.  Unlike my mom, I'm a firm believer that Halloween is all about what the kids want.

Joey was also pretty quick to choose.  I had to do a little fast talking with him to steer him away from anything bloody, slimy, or malicious, but after that it was an easy choice.  Harry Potter all the way.  We got Joey's First Day of School Haircut on August 31, and he's been growing it out ever since for the big day.  Today.

Both boys went to sleep like angels (well, almost) and woke up with smiles (pretty much).  Joey came flying down the stairs and announced, "HAPPY HALLOWEEN! It's HERE."  He also had big plans.  "I should leave my wand at HOME, Mom.  Can't have anything happen to it at school before tonight.  You know how kids are."

I was especially pleased about his costume because it meant he didn't have to change his clothes at school (something that causes me inexplicable stress--Gym Day is the bane of my existence).  Harry wears a uniform quite similar to Joey's, so all he'd need to do was throw on his cloak and glasses and Ba-BAM!  HP in the House.  Joey leaves for school at 7:45.  He was ready to go at 7.

Noah takes issue--every day--with the fact that Joey goes to school and leaves him behind.  (He also takes issue with the fact that Joey comes HOME from school every day and steals my attention away.)  Today was especially difficult, since Joey got to prepare for a Halloween party first.  Just the same, Noah satisfied himself with Second Breakfast and a good book.  At long last, we realized it was time to get dressed.

Noah barely remembers last Halloween, except that it in his foggy memory come vibes of joy and inklings of candy sweetness.  So when I went to put clothes on him BEFORE his costume, we had a minor argument.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" was pretty much his side of things.

Just the same, he had to recognize that there was a gaping hole at the back of his costume that might leave him chilled, so he finally conceded.  I suggested "sporty pants and a cozy shirt."  He decided on, "Jeans, of COURSE."

It's also important to note that the above claws are not those which came WITH the costume.  In the catalogue, cleverly pictured right next to the Wolverine costume, were these upgraded claws for only an additional ten bucks.  Noah was all over this, and quite persistent in reminding me that he absolutely NEEDED the big claws, not the "baby claws."  As you can see, he wasn't really expecting them to be so...well, big.

I'm not sure I can actually walk the walk this year for trick-or-treating, since I can barely manage walking upright from one side of my house to the other, but, unlike my Mom, I will not follow my children through the streets of town in my heated car.  I will not roll down the power windows every twenty feet and holler, "Are ya DONE?" until they want me to melt into nothingness like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Rest assured, I will be out in the night with my camera, doing my best to lock every minute of it away in my memory.  I realize every day how fast Joey and Noah are growing up (especially since they themselves remind me of it regularly), and there won't be too many more years that I'm invited.  I'll take what I can get, kidney stones or not.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Little Men

"Mom, I got this."

This is the sort of thing Joey has been saying a lot lately.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but with Joe out of town this week and me not feeling well, my kids have fallen victim to TV, computer games, and "quiet" games in the playroom without Mommy.

I usually consider myself a "hands-on" parent.  I like to play with my children, I like them to know I'm present.  They are aware that their father and I are actively involved in everything that happens to them, and I believe that this will help them to be strong, family-oriented, and generally terrific people.  So far, I think it's working.

Lately, however, I've been forced to become a bit more hands-off.  I can't physically chase them right now, and I can't do creative crafts and projects.  Pretty much resting, cuddling, and watching movies is the best I can do.  

But Joey and Noah are actually doing okay.  I'd like to say it's all because of the type of attitude and environment Joe and I have worked so hard to foster, but honestly think it's all owed to Joey and Noah.  I think they might just be the best of both their parents, and are really cool people.

I rest on the couch, and Joey lets his little brother pick out a book to read.  Joey reads the whole thing cover to cover, using funny voices and asking Noah (strangely) great questions: "What do you think will happen next, Noah?" and "Can you BELIEVE this?  Why do YOU think he's acting that way in the story?"  

Joey is teaching Noah how to work the laptop, and helping him with reading and coloring games on Sprout Online.  I actually heard him say once, "Yeah, that DOES look fun, Noah, but I don't think it's appropriate for us."

Joey, because he's doing so well as a reader, has taught himself how to work "On Demand" cable.  He knows there are some things I don't like him to see, and goes directly to the Disney Channel.  Then he lets his little brother pick out the show they will both sit and watch.  

There's no way that I can stay on the outside of our daily activities for much longer.  My sister says there must be something wrong with me, but I actually miss spending time with my kids after even a short while.  But it's a good feeling to know that so far, they're everything anyone would wish their kids to be.

P.S.--They certainly have moments of trouble and mischief, too.  But right now, they've earned their right to shine. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Having kidney stones means you're in a club.  I don't like being a part of it.

People in the kidney stone club are always sure their experience has been the worst.  The very FIRST question I'm asked by fellow KSC members is: "How big is your stone?"

My grandpa is a particularly competitive member.  I think it's worse because he's in his eighties, and can't remember that he just asked me thirty minutes ago how big my stone is, and I already told him.  My mom and dad think I should say, "I hear they get smaller with age."

The next question asked is, "How many do you have?" followed by, "Which side?"

"How bad does it hurt?"

That's what the on-call nurse asked me last night when, after four weeks of suffering with a stent and being barely able to function, I called the emergency hotline.  I am tired of these people changing the word "Pain" to "Discomfort."  I am tired of them telling me, "It's pretty normal."  I am tired of them saying, "Well, you're not alone.  Lots of people deal with this."

So I said to the on-call nurse:
"Listen.  I have had two children.  I have had surgery several times, including lithotripsy.  I have had severe migraine headaches all my life.  I even passed a 9mm kidney stone while pregnant.  And I am telling you that right now, I am in the WORST PAIN I HAVE EVER BEEN IN.  Could you just note that in my file, please?"

Here's the thing.  If you have kidney stones, and they are being a problem (because you can have them and not even know it if they're just hanging out in your kidneys), they hurt.  I don't think it matters how big they are, if you've had them before, or how many there are.  What matters is that it's really, really horrible, debilitating pain.

I am grateful that it's me who's in pain, and not my children.  I am grateful that aside from all this, my life is close to perfect.  I am grateful that my mother, father, and sister live across the street from me and are willing to help so much.  I am grateful that last night, when I was sent to Immediate Care for treatment for the pain, my Dad sat next to me in the exam room and made me laugh over the Bob Newhart show we watched on the TV.  I am grateful that while my husband is at work, he sends me texts that say, "I love you" instead of "How are you?" because he knows which one will make me feel better.

But for the record, I have more than five stones in both kidneys, and they range in size, all the way up to 9 mm.  In my left side right now, a 4 mm stone is obstructing my kidney and I have had a stent in since September.  I can barely walk from the pain, I have no appetite, and the nausea is overwhelming.

I think I win the club contest.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hopper Balls

Today as I changed the kitchen garbage, I heard thuds coming from the next room.  Then I heard THUMP!  THUMP! and a scream.  There was a time I would have panicked at these sounds, dropped what I was doing and gone running.  But today I simply finished pulling the filled garbage from the can, tied the knot on the bag, and replaced it with a new one. Then I slowly moved to the next room, bracing myself.

You know those hopper balls?  The big balloon shaped things with handles that kids sit on and bounce around with?  Well, my two sons were beating each other with them.  It wasn't a vicious game; both were giggling wildly as pictures flew off the walls and things came crashing to the ground around them.  But, in the moment that I took a deep breath before yelling, "STOP!" I thought to myself, "Why would anyone DO this with their hopper ball?"

In grade school, I always thought it was so stupid when the boys would use their pencils like swords.  Hellooooo???  Clearly dangerous!  Did they not hear the teacher tell the story of the kid who poked his eyes out?  

Joey and Noah have pencil sword fights.  They usually end with me shrieking hysterically that they're going to poke their eyes out.

The worst, the ABSOLUTE WORST, is the potty talk.  It's insane!  No matter what I do, say, try, tell, or teach them, they think poop is hilarious.  Anything, from a ketchup bottle to the real thing, that sounds even remotely like flatulence sets them to fall over on the floor laughing.  Butts are a riot.  And here's one I just don't get: armpits.  Why are armpits funny?  Joey is six and Noah is three.  What do they know about armpits?  

They throw things in the house.  They never walk, they only run.  They leap off the furniture.  They never use the bottom step.  Everything is a race or a contest.  They yell.  They whoop.  They try to fly.  They burp.  They pass gas.  They tell me how big their poop is.  They lay in their pajamas with their hands down the front of their pants.  They think blood is awesome, and kissing is gross.

I now live in a house where the bathroom is a scary place to be.  

In my moments of despair, where I feel like a princess not in a house filled with knights but with dragons, Joe says, "Yes, it's all true.  But you know what?  They like me.  They want to hang out with me.  But they need you."  

I never would have guessed that in all their mischief, these little boys would stop, mid-run, and whisper in my ear, "You're beautiful."  Without my little boys and all the strife they bring me, I would never know the magic of one of Noah's "Teeny Tiny Kisses," where he becomes completely still, turns his head, and gives me the sweetest little boy kiss ever.   At night, when Joey is afraid and can't sleep, there is no one he wants but me, and is not satisfied until I have covered the room in "Mommy Magic" to make it safe for him.  When they are daunted by new things, they look over their shoulders to see if I am watching, to hear me say, "It's okay.  You can do it."  It is their wild absolute boyishness that makes these moments of softness more than special--it makes them, well, heart-wrenching.  Like someone is squeezing more love into my heart than was ever meant to fit.

Sometimes when I talk with friends, they ask me, "Do you think you'll try for a girl?"  I always believed I was meant to have girls, but now I know better.  If God wants me to have a girl, I will love her and love the chance to raise someone who will probably be much different from her brothers.

But truthfully, it's not in the plans.  When I look at my two little boys with their messy hair and shiny eyes, my cup runneth over, and I need nothing more than what I have.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


10 Reasons Why Joe is the World's Best Husband (WBH):

1) He's super good looking.  It makes it much harder to stay mad at him than it would if it he didn't have those twinkly, mischievous eyes.

2) He makes me laugh every day.  The best joke he ever told was, "Once, there was this doctor who worked reeeeeeeeeeally slowly.  Then one day, he lost all his patients."  It still makes me giggle.

3)  He has zero tolerance for stupidity.  Once, someone said "irregardless" in a sentence, and Joe froze.  Just stopped talking altogether.  The person waited patiently for him to respond, so Joe collected himself and said with embarrassing emphasis, "REGARDLESS, yes."  He's still not over this (which also makes me laugh every day).

4)  He is an excellent dancer.  He can dip AND flip partners of all shapes and sizes--and I've seen him do it.

5)  He is a wonderful father.  He comes up with ways of explaining things to children that seem simple and natural, yet I'd never be able to do it.  That's why I put him in charge of all the Penis Talk.  Plus, I don't have one, so.

6)  He loves spreadsheets.  I know you're thinking, "Seriously, that seems like it'd be pretty annoying."  Oh, it is!  But it means that he's really good at managing bills and money, and that I don't have to ever use math.  Ever.  So in high school, I was right.

7)  He always tells the truth.  And if he's not saying the bad thing because it would be too impolite, I can tell he's thinking it.  Like if someone says "irregardless," you can just watch his eyes.  They'll close for a fraction of a second too long, and then his nostrils flare because he's doing deep breathing to keep it all under control.  But usually, impolite or not, he just says it.

8)  He goes to Tim Hortons every morning to get me coffee.  I'm not kidding!

9)  He bought special wireless headphones that go to the TV so I can read at night while he watches annoying/noisy movies.

10)  He knows everything about me and loves me anyway.  Does it get any better than that?

I'm inspired to write this out for two reasons.  One is the obvious one, that Joe has been working out of town a lot lately, and it turns out, absence really does make the heart grow fonder.  I kind of already knew that, because he worked out of town a lot the entire summer we got married, and once when I went to visit him in Chicago I broke down sobbing in front of the cab driver who got really annoyed with me, handed me McDonald's napkins to wipe my nose, and told me to settle down because HIS wife lives in India and he only gets to see her every three months.  Even then I couldn't stop crying (I don't cry these days--usually I watch my favorite TV shows and go to bed early and luxuriate in all the extra space in the bed).

The second reason is because last night, I saw the movie "Hall Pass."  I don't recommend it at all if you think you're anything like me, because it's loaded with really graphic bathroom humor.  After the movie Joe asked excitedly, "What was your favorite part?" and I honestly didn't have one because, though it apparently makes me less fun than other people, I don't like bathroom humor very much.  I get it, it just doesn't make me laugh, and sometimes makes me cringe or gag.  But we watched it because Joe wanted to (and he ALWAYS watches the movies I want to see, even Jane Eyre and The Jane Austen Book Club), and I admit I did like the premise behind the story.  A couple has been married awhile, has small children, and have kind of stopped feeling the magic.  The wife decides to give her husband (Owen Wilson) a "hall pass," or a week off from being married.  He can do whatever he wants, pretend to be single, etc, for a whole week.

Of course the movie took all kinds of insane turns, but in the middle of it, Joe commented, "I'd really just want to hang out with my friends, play video games, and eat chicken wings.  Seriously, didn't those chicken wings looks amazing?"

Like I said, Joe is always honest, and I can tell when he's holding back.  And if you know him, you know he really meant what he said.  And I looked at him, and I loved him, and I said, "I really do have the best husband."

And I meant it (even though sometimes I want to light him on fire).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Memory Lane, Episode 1

It was a Friday. I attended Mount Mercy Academy, the all-girls high school of South Buffalo, New York. It was a long brick building located adjacent to the park and across the street from the hospital. The city street was lined with old trees and large city houses. In the fall, the red leaves on the trees mirrored the color of the brick school.

On this day in particular a group of my friends and I were thinking about going to a dance at a boys'  school in North Buffalo.  Canisius High School.  It was not in close proximity to us at all, but we went to an all-girls' school.  Any invitation to a place filled with boys was exciting.

I was becoming chummy with a girl named Sara who was inordinately tall and, if you noticed, did not spell her name with an H at the end (a trend I've always found bothersome). Sara heard our plans for the dance and cheerfully invited to transport all of us both to and from Canisius via her parents' roomy station wagon. I am not an automobile snob, but I do hate station wagons. It's the name. I think it forces me to imagine cruising down a highway in a Radio Flyer, which does not seem altogether safe. It's nightmarish, really.

All the same, our plans were complete. All that was left to do was go home and prepare.

Readying for the dance was a big deal.  Getting ready for dances was always a big deal for me because of an embarrassing incident called "The Skirt" which I won't go into here.  That night I was wearing a sage green tee shirt and jean shorts with Keds sneakers.  Keds were all the rage back then, the little white canvas shoes that you weren 't supposed to tie or wear with socks.  My hair was chin length, freshly straightened, and probably looking too big for my body, a situation I never knew was an issue until my brother pointed it out to me years later.  That night I felt, as every fourteen year old girl does before a dance, fresh and ready to go.

The main reason we had decided to go a Canisius dance, I suppose I should explain, was not just because it was a place to find boys. It was actually because my good friend Alice had a boyfriend who went there. So upon arrival, the first thing we needed to do was locate him.  Once that was done, we entered the dance.

The gymnasium/auditorium (Gymnorium? Auditasium?) was dark, and not as crowded as other dances we 'd been to. The sound system was staticky and too loud. The other girls in attendance were not from our school. They seemed to know all of the boys. This put us at an inconvenient disadvantage and made us uncomfortable, but, as I 've already said, we were really only there because of Pat.

We immediately fell into a stereotypical circle of side-to-side dancing. There was Kristin, of the long curly hair, and Carolyn, my closest friend from grammar school. I don 't really remember anything about Sara other than the station wagon, and of course there was Alice in the arms of her beau. And there was Kelly.

Kelly became a Best Friend to me some time during my freshman year. She was always on top of the world, even when it was falling down around her. She was the girl in high school that that everyone knew, who was always surrounded by a crowd from the second she entered the room.

After about an hour, a boy with blond hair and blue eyes and a striped shirt appeared. He approached us with great deliberation, and I felt my heart race. He greeted Pat. He was wearing a Notre Dame baseball hat. He had enormous feet and a very...nice way about him. I don't mean nice as a euphemism. I mean that in high school, boys are good-looking or athletic or smart, but it's not so often you mean one that just looks like a really nice person. And this one, in addition to being good-looking (and clearly athletic, he is making me add), appeared to be a truly good guy. I instantly whispered my claim over him to myself.

He stayed in our circle from that point on, not really dancing so much as talking to Pat. I continued to eye him, every so often doing what I thought was a playful tug on his arm and telling him in what seemed like a Fun and Exciting voice, "Dance with us! Dance!"   Fun and Exciting were two words that meant everything to my image in high school. What I did not realize, of course, and what I wish I could share with all fourteen-year-old girls trying to nab a guy, is that I was annoying. Instead of teasingly tugging at this poor guy's arm, I was actually yanking wildly on it. Additionally, my fun way of urging him to dance was more of a whine, which isn't at all Fun and Exciting. It's a bit Grating, actually.

I suppose then that it should not have been a surprise when Kelly danced in on me. She was so smooth, I don't really know how it happened. You could never tell with Kelly because she was natural about things like this. One minute I played my yank and nag game and the next Kelly grooved in the arms of My Mr. Wonderful. He wasn't exactly grooving along with her, but an alarming vibe of togetherness was established.

I clearly remember marching up to Alice and Pat, deeply involved now in some sort of intimate embrace, and announcing, "Kelly has stolen your friend from me."

Pat was very mellow, and intelligent. He said mildly, "Stolen?"

"Yes,"  I insisted.

"Really?" asked Alice. She furrowed her eyebrows while fighting off a smile.   It was an expression she used often when speaking to me. "What 's his name?" she pressed.

It probably should have fazed me that I could not answer this. However, it was starting to feel like an Emergency as I glanced over Pat's shoulder and saw that Kelly had now taken Mr. Wonderful's hands in hers and was twirling him.  Kelly was the sort of girl who got away with twirling guys.  She was just so darn smooth (and tall).

Pat seemed to sense my growing panic.  He smiled gently and said, "His name is Joe.  Joe Bielecki."

Looking back, it could have just been meshed together with a million other innocuous moments of my life, a million other moments I saw a boy and thought he was something special.  But this moment, this one moment...it changed my whole life.

I had an emergency chat with Kelly, who backed off instantly.  Pat got the low-down: no girlfriend.  Carolyn, as she always did for me in Emergencies, gave overt and enthused compliments about how Fun and Exciting I was.

And then, in the strobe-lit, smelly Auditasium of Canisius High School, I slow-danced with Joe Bielecki.

On the way home that night, I rode in the back of Sara 's station wagon staring out the hatch window at the stars and wishing with all my heart that Joe Bielecki might fall in love with and one day marry me. I know it sounds lame, but I think in every girl's life there are moments equally lame.  Doesn't every girl long for a nice beautiful romance?  Though I might have been a bit more naive, a bit more literal, I really just wanted to fall in love like anybody else. And on this night, I wanted to fall in love with Joe.  So I did.

Luckily, it all worked out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Genetic Germophobia

Joey is sick. He is so sick, and so sad, that I actually called the doctor and agreed to bring him in. I don't usually, because I think doctors' offices are super gross. Joey even proved today how right I am, though the story doesn't end there.

Joey did not want to go anywhere. He wanted no part of changing from pajamas to sweatpants, or of going for a ride in the car. He was gray-faced and watery-eyed and he croaked at me in his weak little voice, "Let's just go tomorrow."

But I had made the appointment, and honestly I was afraid. I'm always afraid when my children come down with something I don't immediately recognize. This hoarse, dry cough and high fever seemed unusual to me, and I needed professional medical affirmation that he was okay.

He threw up as soon as he sat down in the waiting room. I was mortified. The nurses and receptionists were kind and understanding, and assured me it was absolutely normal for them to see a child puke in the waiting room.

Awesome. Really awesome. I should honestly get the neck sign made: "I am a germophobe, and you are freaking me out." Of course, I couldn't escape that I was responsible for the germs this time, so I accepted the kindness greedily while honestly trying not to cry for Joey, who was understandably upset.

I comforted Joey and cleaned up what I could before we were rushed in to be seen (I hate to admit it, but not waiting was a major perk of public vomiting).

Once in the exam room, all color returned to Joey's face and he entertained himself by reading all of the posted signs in the room. He had read all about GERD, asthma, and the latest car seat regulations when my least favorite doctor entered the room. Dr. Joe.

Dr. Joe is young and good-looking with perfectly spiked hair. I mean there's really no question that he individually gels each spike into place every morning. He's trim and wears flat-front khakis and says things like, "Hey, there. It's me, Dr. Joe." I imagine he practices this in front of the mirror before work every day.

Since I don't like him, it automatically follows that he's Joey's favorite. "After all, Mom," he said, "we have the same name." Right. Perfect grounds for choosing your medical health care professional.

Dr. Joe did the routine things, and I was relieved when Joey allowed him to do a strep swab (without vomiting, which, according the nurse was all my fault because I'd given him milk--I totally hate myself).

Finally, Dr. Joe concluded that Joey just has a cold. Isn't it great that I dragged my miserable child out in the cold rain, let him vomit in public, and paid a copay for "Just push fluids and make sure he gets plenty of rest." Why can't they at least give out fake medicine? I'd be happy if they handed me a pack of Smarties and told me they were felix felicis, but no. Nothing.

As Dr. Joe was about to scurry from the room, Joey stopped him. "I think you should know," he said in his sick raspy voice. His eyes were tearing from the strain of speaking. "My mom had a birthday."

A birthday. A birthday. Please don't let him explain that Mommy had three birthday parties because she is...

"She had a birthday, and her cousin came, and she was sick."

"Oooh," said Dr. Joe, looking from Joey to me and back again.

Joey held up a hand, signaling he had more to say. "She was very sick, and--"

"Joey, honey, you weren't even near that cousin," I interrupted.

"NO!" he insisted. "She came into the kitchen and she leaned against the table and then I ate at the table. " He leaned forward and focused his eyes earnestly on Dr. Joe. "That's probably why I'm sick."

Dr. Joe turned and looked at me. Oh, dear. I could tell he was thinking it was a little strange that a six-year-old kid would have put so much thought into how he contracted his illness.

If I hadn't been holding in my laughter, I probably would have been embarrassed. But honestly, I just love Joey. Even in sickness he's still Joey.

P.S.--If you're thinking this is my influence, you should meet Noah. They are who they are, people.

P.P.S.--Okay. It might be genetics. I'll give you that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's Time to Meet the Muppets...

Today Joey was home sick from school. We filled our time with movies, DVR episodes of our favorite shows, and reading stories.

During a down moment on the Disney Channel, there was an advertisement for the new Muppet movie. They played Noah's current favorite song, "Mana mana." Then it happened.

"Mommy," Joey asked, "who plays Gonzo?"

"No one," I said. "He's Gonzo."

"No," Joey said, waving away my stupidly naive response. "Which actor plays him?"

It was so near impossible to hold back my, "UGH" of disgust.

"No one plays him," I said. "He's a Muppet."

You see, when Joey was three, he began having horrible nightmares. I think he has an overly active imagination, and he had discovered the concept of good vs. evil, and his mind just would run away with him night after night. However, it led to us constantly explaining the What and Why behind everything.

"That's not real, honey, it's just a robot."

"Oh, don't be afraid, Joey, it's just someone in a costume."

When he was five, we took him to Disney World. He had an unexpected meltdown in front of Pirates of the Caribbean, where the Explaining took on a life of its own. As Joey curled into the fetal position beneath a particularly enthusiastic torch, people were starting to stare. Was it the music? The stucco walls? What? WHAT? What was freaking him out so bad about this ride that he had been excited about, seen pictures of, viewed videos of, and had even written out the entire word "Caribbean" on his "Disney To-Do List"??

"Joey," said his father, my husband. "It's all fake. There's nothing to be afraid of, because it's all robots and music. None of it's real, it's just meant to be fun."

I know why he said it. If he hadn't I probably would have myself. We were desperate. Desperate, I tell you, for the staring to stop, for fetal position to straighten out, and for Joey to say, "Okay, let's rock this," which he ultimately did and was glad for it. (And so were we.)

But from that point on, Joey has pretty much questioned the What and the Why of anything, well, questionable. It has become a rather contentious point for me now, long after the Pirates of Caribbean Incident (as it shall forever be named), boiling in my chest and my stomach with each new question.

My child has lost the magic.

So today, when he turned to me and said again, "But who is playing Gonzo?"

I was absolutely indignant as I said, "It's not an actor. It's a Muppet."

Joey said, "Yes, but they are puppets."

"No," I said pointedly. "MMMMMMMuppets."

"But they're puppets, Mom."

"No. They're Muppets."

And we continued in this ridiculous circle until he finally threw his hands in the air and said, "Whatever you say, Mom."

YEAH. You betcha, kid. I win, and I'm going to lie my pants off to you for a good three years, and make sure you believe in something. I want you to have your moment of truth where you realize how you've been wronged and misguided and deceived. I want you to overlook how wonderful and thoughtful I am and believe Santa brought you your Christmas gifts. I want you to believe that it is absolutely necessary to leave out carrots for the Easter Bunny. You WILL believe that your Uncle Pauly is the real and true Superman (even if he did NOT get up to help Grandma Judy with the grill fire that nearly singed off her eyebrows and all her hair). And you WILL believe that Muppets are NOT puppets.


Monday, October 17, 2011

First Grade Ain't Easy

Tonight at bedtime, Joey confided in me. He said that the kids at school must think he's a pickle-nosed pickle head. His little chin lifted up into his bottom lip, the way it does when he's trying not to cry. I now understand that when my mom said, "It hurts me, too," she wasn't kidding.

When I asked why, he said all the kids "laugh at him."

Can I just say I completely understand why?!

Joey is the funniest person. He tells really good jokes because he just GETS things, he loves to be goofy, and he loves to behave like a six-year-old stunt man. That's just funny stuff. And I've seen him interact with his school friends dozens of times. EVERYONE likes him--a LOT. In fact, his kindergarten teacher told me at the parent conference last year that he's everybody's friend, and is THE social butterfly of the class.

I asked him then for an example of what he meant. He said, "Well, like today. YOU forgot to give me my belt for my uniform, and everyone pointed and laughed that I forgot."

This was awful for two reasons (neither is that I forgot the belt--he forgot, too, so I don't really feel bad about that). The first reason is that I know that these first graders are not intentionally making fun of Joey. They genuinely like him and are just joking around with him. He'd likely do the same if the situation was reversed. Again, I know for a fact he's well-liked.

Secondly, I also completely know why he feels hurt by this. Joey loves being the funny man, but only when he MEANS to be funny. He doesn't understand that you can be unintentionally funny, that it's okay to laugh at yourself. I don't think I figured it out for myself until I was almost in college. I don't want him to feel self-conscious like that for so long. I remember that feeling; I'd do something equal to forgetting a belt, and watching my friends giggle about my mistake. The thought in my head was never, "This is humorous; it could happen to anybody." It was, "Oh, my God. They know the secret to being cool, and just figured out that I DON'T."

Of course I told Joey every lesson we've seen in every episode of Full House and Good Luck, Charlie, but I also knew from my own experiences that it meant nothing to him. It was probably worse when I said, "Well, I think you're cool," even though it's totally true. But I think it was worst of all when it became clear that I couldn't fix it. That it was past bedtime, that Joey was probably a little overtired, and that my Bob Saget advice was lame.

So I had to smooth his hair, kiss his forehead, and just promise him tomorrow would be better though I don't really know how tomorrow will be. But I'll tell you. If I find out someone really DOES think my baby is a pickle-nosed pickle head, this Mommy won't hold back.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On the Night You Were Born

Yes, I did receive the Sweater Blanket.

But tonight I got the greatest present of all.

It was NOT when Noah stuck his arm down the hole in the toilet this morning (Joe's fault).

It was NOT when I was presented with a chocolate cake I could not eat (Mom's fault).

It was NOT when my mother called me to tell me she made me a SECOND cake, invited me over, and we realized it, too, was chocolate and I could not eat that one, either (She made me a third one; quite delicious).

Nope. It was at bedtime tonight, when Joey pulled a book off his shelf and brought it over to our beanbag chair for his nightly story. It's a book called "On the Night You Were Born," and it's one of those books that makes me all misty when I read it to Joey because it's all about how unique and magical and special it is that he exists. I always read it on his birthday, but I like to read it occasionally Just Because. Tonight he said, "I will read it to you, Mommy." And he did.

I hope I can always remember the way the lamplight lit up his blonde hair and the way he put his forehead against mine and giggled through the sillier parts of his rendition of our story. It sure made my world tonight.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sweater Blanket

So my birthday is in two days. I let Joey and Noah know the expectation: all celebrations begin on Friday and last through Sunday night, Monday if we (I) feel so inclined.

I have learned the hard way that if I have high expectations for my birthday, it's best to just let everyone know exactly what those expectations are. I only get one week for myself a year, after all, and it's pretty much the only time I get away with being, well, completely myself.

One of the most important aspects of this is just flat out TELLING my husband Joe what I want. I was once one of those silly girls who just waited stupidly for her fella to "just know" what she wanted, and then felt horrible when I was presented with socks from The Dollar Store (last year's gift).

Joe is a pretty remarkably intelligent person, and I often credit him with this bit of brilliance, something he shared with me years ago (and has since regretted): "Birthday gifts should be something you WANT, not something you NEED."

This year, I decided I really want the cream colored cable knit blanket for Pottery Barn. It is a blanket that looks like it is made out of a sweater. Hence, I call it the Sweater Blanket.

For the record, pretty much anything from Pottery Barn could be a birthday gift. Let's face it. No one really NEEDS ANYTHING from Pottery Barn. (Unless you NEED an antique jute rope.)

I mentioned the Sweater Blanket to Joe a couple weeks back, giving him plenty of time to process its frivolity, its price, and its potential to be a gift from ANYONE who said, "What does Mary Pat want?" It didn't have to come from Joe.

But this means that Joe probably forgot the Sweater Blanket by now.

Today, I sent him a subtle email that read simply, "Did you make sure I'm getting the Sweater Blanket? My hopes are on it." He replied with, "Gee, I hope so."

On the phone this evening, I said with less nonchalance, "I REALLY can't wait for my Sweater Blanket!"

Joe burst out laughing. "What?" I asked, not understanding the response.

"It's just so ridiculous. Who makes a BLANKET out of a SWEATER? If you're cold, either put on a sweater OR a blanket. Who wears both?"

"Who do you know who is cold enough to wear both at once?" I said pointedly. Joe only laughed harder.

Let him laugh. As long as I get my Sweater Blanket, Joe can laugh all he likes. Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My "Fun" Little Boy

I'm sitting at my sister's kitchen table, feeling quite delighted to have received the invite. My children feel Jane's house is akin to Disney World, so it's something that keeps that very busy and equally happy for an extended period of time. And as I have been chasing Jane's attention and affection, I do so love when she actually is interested in spending time with me.

So there I am, waiting to be offered lemonade or something delicious, when Joey comes flying up the basement stairs and into the kitchen screaming, "Noah said the F word! Noah said the F word!"

There is no question that this is probably true. There is also a good possibility Noah learned it from his mother, who may, from time to time, blurt this word out during frenzied family moments.

Still, "fart" is considered a bad word in my house and sometimes so is "fun," so I feel the need to clarify.

"Joey, which F word?"

"Oh, man. THE F word, Mom. The baddest one. You know, fuuuuuuuuu--"

"Okay, okay," I say hastily, getting up. Clearly, Noah isn't going to be voluntarily speaking up on this one.

I go down the stairs, and stop Joey just before entering Jane's basement play area. "Sweetie, are you SURE you know what the F word is?" I ask, because, hey, maybe they never noticed it being said anywhere in the universe. Or our house.

"Mom, do you WANT me to say it IN FRONT OF YOU??" Joey asks, aghast.

"Well I don't want you to say it when I'm NOT around!" I say. I lean down and cup my hands around my ear for Joey to whisper.

He hisses with whispered enthusiasm, "FUCKIN."

I scrunch my eyes closed and grimace. "Okay, don't EVER EVER EVER say it again!!!"

I move over to where Noah sits happily playing with my nieces. He knows what is coming, and has a smirk the size of Texas on his face. He glances up at me casually.

"Noah, did you say a bad word?"

"Yup," he says. His tone says, "Whatever." His eyes say, "Do something about it."

All eyes are on me. My nieces, my nephew, and my two sons.

"Okay, then," I say calmly. I take Noah by the hand and lead him toward the stairs. "I guess you have a dirty mouth then. And dirty mouths get washed out with soap."

"Okay," says Noah cheerfully. We both know I am bluffing. I do NOT want to be on the 6 o'clock news for killing my child by soap. Being on the 6 o'clock news is one of my greatest fears. It's why I am neurotic, controlling, germophobic, and overprotective.

But he is walking along beside me with such boldness I know I am going to have to at least pretend to follow through on my threat. My sister looks up from the kitchen sink where she is starting to prepare dinner. She has heard it all and is trying not to laugh.

"Noah," I say, leading him to the bathroom even though I have no idea what I'll do when I get there, "saying bad words is just not allowed. And you said a very, VERY bad one. We just don't do that, and I have to punish you." Just say sorry! I say mentally.

"Okay," he says, like I just asked if he wanted ice cream or a balloon.

I sigh, and try to hide my nerves. We stand in Jane's bathroom, a wide variety of soaps before us because she, too, is a germophobe.

I pick up a dispenser shaped like a Jack-o-Lantern. May as well be festive about it.

I turn to Noah. He smiles, and opens his mouth wide.

"Jaaane?" I call, holding the Jack-o-Lantern aloft. Stalling.

She appears at the door. She gestures to the sink, indicating I should water the soap down and go ahead with it. "I've done it," she mouths. "He'll be FINE."

I take a deep breath, and pump some soap on my hands. Noah is still open-mouthed, daring me. I am cringing inside, knowing how horrible this will be for him. I picture Ralphie from A Christmas Story, blinded and pathetic in his own traumatized fantasy. I turn the sink on, and water down the foam on my fingers, and then quickly turn and put it on Noah's extended tongue.

I wait.

"Mmmmmmmmm," he says emphatically, and rubs his tummy. Then he runs off to play.