St. Patrick’s Day

The boys’ teacher introduced them to St. Patrick’s Day for the first time, specifically the magic of Leprechauns. Apparently, a tricky and fast Leprechaun named Lucky has spent the month making mischief in room 4. He has apparently stolen pencils, moved chairs, and done silly things in the class. Mrs. Bowman sent home a note, suggesting that kids set up ‘traps’ for other wayward leprechauns, and further suggested baiting those traps with gold.

The boys and I decorated our trap with rainbows, because leprechauns love rainbows, and we baited the trap with some of the boys’ Mardi Gras coins in lieu of gold. The trap was simple, a box and stick trap design. I tried to set expectations, reminding them of how fast and wily Lucky was, so they wouldn’t be disappointed if they didn’t catch the leprechaun. During this work, I asked what they planned to do if they actually caught a leprechaun. Braxton wanted to keep the leprechaun as a pet. I submitted that leprechauns are like little people and keeping people as pets wasn’t the thing to do.

Anyway, this morning, the boys excitedly went to check their trap, noticing immediately that the trap was sprung but it was quiet. Malcolm opened the box and immediately noticed a note. Using their rudimentary reading skills, they deciphered the note to say, “No Luck This Time. Liam Leprechaun”. The Mardi Gras coins were gone and in their place were 8 shiny quarters.

Malcolm was excited and happy. Braxton cried! Not only did he not get a pet leprechaun but his Mardi Gras coins, which Ronise brought him back from New Orleans, had been stolen. My response: If you bait a trap for a quick and wily creature, don’t be surprised if you lose your bait.

Legs

I am fascinated with the boys’ legs. It’s been the case since they were infants – especially Braxton’s. He’d kick and kick his legs for long minutes, tirelessly, soundlessly kick-kick-kick-hold-kick-kick-kick on his back or on his stomach. We called him Chief Crazy Legs.

As the boys have grown, I’ve continued to watch their legs; first smooth and fair and soft – defined, knobby joints and peach fuzz with that delicate patch of skin behind the knee. Then, scratched and bruised and stained brown with sun and dirt. I love to see their long legs, sturdy beneath their shorts, pumping and churning while they’re running, or lying at crazy angles while they sleep, wrapped in dinosaurs or camouflage, trucks or jets. You can see all their strength and vitality and boyness in those legs – when they climb or ride their bikes or sit, Indian-style, while watching TV.

I track their growth by their legs. The baby smoothness and lack of definition has given way to lean muscle, faint lines from skinned knees and cuts, and a fine down of hair which presages their adolescence. They make me smile and frown at once; missing the baby, reveling in the preschool years of drama and discovery, and dreading the coming years when they can no longer wrap those legs (and arms) around me while I carry them to bed or snuggle them on the chair.

Re-Post by JD Roberto “The Best Parenting Advice I Never Got”

JD Roberto

Writer and TV Host, How To Get The Guy and Outback Jack

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 The Best Parenting Advice I Never Got
Posted: 8/2/11 11:43 AM ET
I got a lot of parenting advice before my first child came into the world. I think people feel obligated to bestow their wisdom on expecting parents and, overall, I guess that’s a good thing. Still, the advice I got – though well meaning and thoughtful – was almost entirely useless once the actual odyssey of being a dad began. Phrases like “life changing” and “wonderful adventure” came up repeatedly, but no one bothered to tell me I should go see a movie. These days, going to a movie involves two weeks of planning and forty bucks worth of babysitter — and that’s before you pay fourteen bucks for a ticket and six bucks for some Twizzlers.

Sleep was high on the recommendation list. “Get as much sleep as you can!” is what they tell you, but that particular pearl of wisdom seems entirely backward to me. What you should really be doing is training yourself to function on less sleep or sleep that is frequently interrupted. I guess you could try to stockpile sleep but, trust me, when you’re up all night with a sick four month old, knowing you got a solid nine hours back in June doesn’t help.

A few times, kindly grandparents summed up their parenting philosophy with something along the lines of, “Just shower ‘em with love!” It’s a heartwarming sentiment but I have yet to figure out how an exhausted parent is supposed to apply such sage counsel when his two-year-old is howling, spread eagle in the grocery store because he won’t buy a pair of Elmo shaped oven mitts.

The most common phrase I heard in the run up to parenthood was the seemingly benign, “It’s a tough job but it’s all worth it.” This is both true and diabolically misleading at the same time. Something about “it’s all worth it” suggests a proposition where some small majority of the time things will be blissful. “Yes,” you’re led to believe, “it’s going to be tough forty-nine percent of the time, but don’t worry because the other fifty-one percent it is great.” Guess what, it’s not. The ratio is frequently twenty percent enjoyable to eighty percent aggravating. Some days clock in at fifty-four percent bearable with thirty-five percent maddening rounded out by a dash of bewildering. I’ve been through entire weeks of eighty-seven percent exasperating, and experienced good-night cuddles that are one hundred percent ecstasy. It’s not balanced, it’s bipolar. It’s worth it not because it’s easy as often as it’s difficult, but because the perfect moments are so overwhelmingly sublime, you somehow forget the maniacal pajama tantrum you endured the night before.

If I could go back and give myself some more practical advice it would look something like this:

1. When they nap, you nap. Don’t send emails, don’t catch up on work. Nap.

2. Travel with your children when they are very young. At six months old it’s just as easy to keep them entertained in Cozumel as it is in Cleveland. You might as well get a tan out of the deal.

3. Buy a rechargeable, cordless hand vacuum. Your floors and cars will thank you.

4. It’s perfectly acceptable to make an entire dinner in the microwave.

5. In every parent-child relationship someone has to be the grown up. Try to make sure that someone is you. A two-year-old has the right to act like a child, you do not.

6. Take everyone who volunteers to babysit up on the offer. Repeatedly.

7. Buy everything you can second-hand.

8. Make time for the other relationships in your life — seeing you in the role of good friend or devoted spouse teaches your kids way more than a Baby Einstein marathon.

9. There’s no such thing as using too many wipes.

10. There will be times when you’re sure you are a terrible parent and, secretly, wonder why you ever had kids in the first place. This is normal. Forgive yourself these occasional moments of self-doubt and, from time to time, let yourself mourn your life pre-parenthood. Then have a healthy glass of wine, get some sleep and get back to work. After all, as you’ve no doubt heard, it’s a tough job, but it’s all worth it.

Oh, and go see a movie while you still can.

Follow JD Roberto on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jdroberto

Free Ranging

As you see from my blogroll, I follow Lenore Skenazy’s blog, Free Range Kids. I discovered it after listening to her on the radio, defending her decision to allow her 9 year old son to ride the New York subway to a friend’s house with $20, knowledge of the routes, and instructions to find uniformed personnel in the event of a problem. People were predictably outraged and I was struck by the idea that the kid riding the subway shouldn’t be a big deal, but felt like it.

Like a sore tooth, I poked at my instinctive reaction, trying to understand it and eventually decided that I wanted to let my kids range free, even though the decision felt/feels scary. Statistically speaking, letting one’s child out of our watchful eye isn’t as dangerous as putting them in the car for 20 miles twice a day.

Anyway, I recently read Lenore’s blog post about Leiby Kletzky and, much like Lenore, I had to remind myself and re-affirm, that, despite isolated tragedies, Leiby’s parents did nothing wrong, Leiby did nothing wrong, and most likely nothing so heinous will ever touch my family.

For the 4th of July, we decided to take the boys to see fireworks for the first time. Ramona has a big production every year, with fund raising by the Rotary club taking up advertisements from January to July. This year, the location was Olive Pierce Middle School, where we schlepped our chairs, lemonade, and snacks to a big grass field. It reminded me, very much, of summers in Milwaukee, going to the park or the lake for fireworks; everyone you knew and the odd stranger packed onto a field of chairs and blankets, waiting for dark. This year, the Rotary had jumpers and slides and an obstacle course, along with sack races and balloon tosses and vendors with food.

We set up our chairs close to  the entrance and wandered to the rear to buy tickets and check out the activities. After a while, we decided to just give the boys their tickets and retreat back to our chairs. With the admonition that they stay together and check back often, we let them do their thing. Keeping the extra tickets helped. Of course, we didn’t have much fun, Ronise and I. The entire time, we scanned the crowd, the jumpers, and the slide for the boys; we strained to keep an eye on them through other kids and from 75 yards away. We had to scold a few times, when one boy returned without the other. This went on until their tickets, thankfully, ran out and visibility was reduced by the crowd and the gathering darkness.

It was the boys’ first real taste of big boyness. They even abandoned us to sit with some much older boys (10-12) on the blanket behind our chairs. They discussed their new school, fireworks, and general boy stuff. It was way sweet and a real foreshadowing of our near future. (A special thanks to the generosity of those boys, who were genuinely kind and welcoming when they could have been dismissive.)

While it is scary, I think the boys should be able to enjoy their community without fear. We’ve tried to find a reasonable safe and close-knit community for them to grown up in. That doesn’t mean we are safe from predation and tragedy, but I don’t want them to live in fear of something that most likely won’t happen. I try to remind myself that Danielle Van Dam, Chelsea King, and Amber Dubois (along with Leiby Kletzky and others) are anomalous, even though North County San Diego has been hard hit by such crimes.

Spider Scare

This morning, we were laying in bed, chatting and procrastinating, when blood-curdling shrieks came up through the floor and vents from the boys’ playroom. Both of us leapt up and raced out of the room. I was sure there would be blood and perhaps protruding bone. I was already thinking about the ER and how to arrange my work day.

When we got there, Malcolm was still screaming and Braxton was explaining that a spider had climbed onto Malcolm’s back. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing, and my relief was strong. His lips were turned comically far down and he looked to worried and distressed.

Still, better than a compound fracture.

Rapunzel

Malcolm has a little love affair going with Rapunzel right now. It’s frequently a bedtime story request.

Tonight, we were snuggling and I was commenting on how much my hair has grown and that it is once again getting long.

Malcolm: It’s not as long as Rapunzel’s

Me: Nope. It’s not. I wouldn’t want hair that long. I would trip on it and fall down.

Malcolm: Rapunzel doesn’t trip on her hair.

Me: How do you know, you don’t see her all the time. Maybe when you’re not seeing her, she trips.

Malcolm: Mom, it’s just a cartoon.

LOL

 

Ricky Gervais on celebrating the holidays

The original article was about a lot, but this answer was really touching and I thought I’d share.

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/12/22/does-god-exist-ricky-gervais-takes-your-questions/

 

How do you plan on celebrating Christmas?

 

Eating and drinking too much with friends and family. Celebrating life and remembering those that did, but can no longer.

 

They are not looking down on me but they live in my mind and heart more than they ever did probably. Some, I was lucky enough to bump into on this planet of six billion people. Others shared much of my genetic material. One selflessly did her best for me all my life. That’s what mums do though. They do it for no other reason than love. Not for reward. Not for recognition. They create you. From nothing. Miracle? They do those every day. No big deal. They are not worshiped. They would give their life without the promise of heaven. They teach you everything they know yet they are not declared prophets. And you only have one.

I am crying as I write this.

It usually gets me this time of year. That’s what’s special about Christmas. It’s when you visit or reminisce about the ones you love. And reflect on how lucky you are. How they helped shape you. I remember the first time my mum took me to see a movie. I’d never been to a cinema before. I can still remember the place to this day. Everything seemed carpeted. The floors, the walls, everything. I had sweets and Pepsi and the biggest screen in the world, I thought. I was blown away. I lived a life in a couple of hours. When I thought Baloo was dead I was sobbing uncontrollably but trying to hide it. My mum was consoling me but didn’t seem as distressed as me. Then when it turned out that Baloo was still alive I was f—ing euphoric.

But it made me think. On the way home I asked my mum how old I’d be when she died. “Old,” she said. “Will I care?” I asked worried about my far off future feelings. She wasn’t sure what to say. She knew I wanted the answer “no” in some ways but as usual she chose honesty. “Yes,” she said. “But it won’t happen for a very long time.” That was good enough for me.

When I returned to school a few weeks later we had to do a little presentation about our holidays. I proceeded to act out the entire movie using the other kids in the class. I told them where to stand and what to say, filling in the action with narration. Eventually the teacher had to stop me because I was taking up the whole day. Now I’m a real director I never make that same mistake. I’m home by 4 o’clock on any movie I do.

I haven’t seen the film for 40 years so I’m not sure how good it is but it’s still one of my fondest memories because it was a gift from my mum. My mum died when I was 40.

 

She was right by the way. I did care. But luckily 35 five years before, I’d learnt the bear necessities to get me through.

 

Just like Baloo, she’s still with me.

Dad’s are pretty cool too. Mine was a man of few words. He let me make my own way. He taught me one important lesson though. That it’s OK for a man to cry. He only cried once in his life. Just one time. When his mum died. Luckily for him all his children out-lived him. Otherwise there would surely have been a second.

I hope you are with your loved ones at this wonderful time of year. That’s what will make it wonderful.

Peace to all mankind. Christian, Jew, Muslim and Atheist.

 

Victory

Malcolm: Mom, why do giraffes use their long tongues to get leaves?
Me: Because they don’t have hands.
Malcolm: .. I don’t eat leaves.
Me: If you did, you’d use your hands to get them.
Malcolm: long pause followed by a grin and a hug

Victory

Some do, some don’t

We went hiking in the Open Space preserve behind our house this morning. Hiking is a favorite activity of the boys.

On the way back, Malcolm noticed one of the many ant holes along the trail and he watched the ants’ industry for a while. I commented on it, telling him that the ants were working hard to collect food for the coming winter.

Malcolm: Yeah.. they’re going to get COLD.

Me: Yes, that’s right.

Malcolm: They should get jackets.

Me: o_O *longish pause* Malcolm, ants don’t wear jackets!

Malcolm: Some do, some don’t.

Me: Malcolm, no ants wear jackets. Where would ants get jackets from? (I’m still befuddled, which is why I’m participating in such a ridiculous conversation.)

Malcolm: From the ant store.

(DUH mom!)

Me: *sigh* Malcolm, ants don’t have money.

Malcolm: Some do, some don’t.

I was silent after this statement for several minutes while we were walking back home. I mentioned that we would stop and take a water break at the picnic table near the opening of the preserve.

Malcolm: I didn’t know that hiking places had tables.

Me: Some do, some don’t.

 

Park, part II

Gramma: Braxton, what are you doing?
Braxton: I’m checking her out.
Gramma: Braxton, come here. What are you checking out?
Braxton: I’m checking her out. She looks pretty good. I like girls, but I LOOOVVEE Rachel.