Archive for the ‘my daughter’ Category

Letters to my children

October 27, 2013

When I was starting out in the newsroom I edited obituaries.

It skewed my perspective on mortality. A good number more than you’d think are young people.

People my age died everyday. They died on the freeway, and they died of heart disease. One woman who went to high school with me died of AIDS. Another had an unexpected seizure. They left behind babies.

I was not yet 30.

It began to occur to me that my chances of survival on any given day could be good, could be bad.

I stopped taking the freeway to work.

I filled out my own obit form with my history and favorite charity. I wrote down the song I wanted played at my service.

Then I wrote letters to my children, just in case. They offered comfort, love and acceptance. They revealed what I saw in them that was good.

It wasn’t enough. I wrote more letters.

I wrote letters to be opened on their wedding days.

It wasn’t enough.

By the time I was through, there were stacks of letters for each child. They included graduation, first home purchase and first baby. Then I had to write letters for  in case one of them didn’t graduate, get married or have a baby. There were some to be opened in the event of unexpected pregnancy or in case they were gay.

I went completely round the bend thinking of circumstances I should lend a voice to.

I was writing to sophisticated people I didn’t even know. During this frenzy, my kids were 3 and 5.

Now they’re almost 15 and 17. I can throw most of the letters out. They know I would support whatever they decided to do about a pregnancy. They know I don’t care if they’re gay. They know I’m proud of the people they’ve become, and they have the strength and confidence to choose futures that make them happy.

They’ve had the benefit of witnessing my values as far as marriage, parenting, drinking and humor. I’ve taught them both how to cook, sew and play poker.

Thanks to this blog, they even have all the family stories.

I’m not ready to die, but tonight I’ve decided something close. I’m ready to relax.

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The comma argument

October 13, 2013

My family spent my mother’s birthday dinner in a heated argument about a comma.

I’m aghast that anyone would take a stand against me on this issue.

I am a linguist and an editor.

I may be so confused by science I believe there are little people inside my TV box, but it would be impossible to know more about punctuation than I.

The mark in question is the one often erroneously placed before the conjuction in a simple list: He picked his guitar, friends, and nose.

Today after school one of our closest family friends was attacked by my children. “What’s your opinion on the comma?”

“I don’t care.” Poor kid. He was wondering why he is our friend.

“You must.” I don’t know why they valued his support so strongly. This is a child who pronounces the ‘L’ in ‘talk.’

My daughter, by the way, is for the comma, as is my mother. My son and I are on the side of reason.

The children began to present their positions — simultaneously. My son called me in to define the rule. I used my voice of authority.

“You put a comma before the conjunction in a list only if the last item has a conjunction in it: Myles listens to Hannah Montana, The Jonas Brothers, and Donny and Marie. This rule is for clarity. It’s a favor to the reader.”

Myles gave me an ugly look.

My daughter insisted, contrarywise, that it’s using the comma indiscriminately that adds clarity. She began to expound, “If I ate macaroni and cheese first, then potatoes,” (big pause) “and steak….”

“Wait a minute!” I interrupted. “No vegetables? You won’t have to worry about commas. You’ll end up with a semi-colon.”

The children sent me back out of the room.

A restaurant review

July 28, 2013

Every summer I gotta go to Big Bear. It’s a couple hours away from me, but I will get up and drive there to eat bacon-and-cheese waffles for breakfast at The Teddy Bear Restaurant, or to roam The Village for jewelry and boots.

I discovered this place when my husband had a three-day conference there on my birthday years ago. I tagged along, intending to stay in the hotel, as I always do when he has a conference. I spend his conferences in the tub with a book.

We stayed at the Northwoods Resort, which borders The Village. I wandered out looking for breakfast and found a row of small businesses that could have been planned for me as a birthday surprise.

First there was a bath shop. I bought bath oils, bath beads, soaps and lotions. These are my favorite things — right up there with chocolate and books.

Then I looked down the street and saw several coffeehouses and chocolatiers. There were three bookstores, too. I may have cried.

After a quick morning buying myself gifts, I climbed into my oiled bath with a novel and some tri-tip. An hour later I was by the fire with red wine and chocolate-dipped things like strawberries and pretzels. It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.

My husband returned to find a wife with a totally balanced chi.

My husband had this conference every August for a few years, but last year there was nothing. It was gone, and it wasn’t coming back. We went up on our own twice. I just needed to smell the place.

Today I couldn’t stand it. I’ve been missing that town so much I can’t concentrate, so at 1 p.m. I put the kids in the car and went.

About 4 o’clock we walked past a small, tucked-back door that said “Pizzeria.” I was Book-and-Bean bound, and didn’t give a fig about the pizzeria, but I noted that I didn’t remember seeing it there before.

Then around 5 the kids got hungry. They said they had a craving for pizza. I was surprised by this, because we almost never eat it. More surprising, they were both in the mood for the same thing.

I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes. Last night we had pita, stuffed with vegetables, chicken and cantalope and topped with a tarragon mayonnaise. I guess I understand why they were in accord.

So I pointed them toward the doorway I’d noticed. It was Saucy Mama’s Pizza. We walked past some umbrellaed tables in the narrow space between two buildings, and entered the place, which was mostly behind an ice-cream and fudge parlor.

It had a great atmosphere. I love a pizzeria with red-checkered tablecloths. A guy was tossing a big circle of dough in the air. We chose the table with tall stools.

My daughter ordered a vegetable calzone, and my son and I split a Hawaiian Delight pizza, which had Canadian bacon, pineapple and regular bacon chunks on it.

I have rambled on all this time to get to this sentence: This was the best pizza I have ever eaten in my life.

We packed up half the calzone and two slices of pizza for Daddy. My son and I almost wept, denying ourselves those last two slices.

Back at home, we presented the food to my husband like begging dogs at his feet.

He shook his head at us, “I can’t believe it’s as good as you guys are saying. It’s just pizza. You three have built it up so much, there’s no food can live up to your description.”

He bent over his plate and took a bite. Then he looked up, met my eyes, and nodded.

“Oh my God.”

The kids and I started cheering and hugging. We were crazed with the greatness of this food.

Then the dam broke, and my husband would not shut up. “The crust is sublime. These people must be from New York. This sauce is fantastic….”

So there it is, my first post as an amateur food critic. Get on a plane, wherever you are, and fly here so you can eat at Saucy Mama’s Pizza.

If you want my family to sit at your feet and watch you take your first bite, we’ll be happy to make the drive up the mountain.

The yelling story

June 12, 2013

Happy happy birthday to my favorite girl in the world, my beautiful wonderful daughter.

This is my favorite story about her, because it shows how very cool she is and always has been.

We moved to California when she 2 and a half. My husband became a stay-at-home dad and I left to work two jobs.  

Something happened one night. I don’t know what. I wasn’t home.

My husband apparently lost his temper at The Baby. He said he just blew his top and yelled himself out at her. She had never been yelled at before.

She stood there unblinking, looking up at him throughout his tirade. 

When he stopped, she put her index finger against her lips and went, “Ssshhhh.”

She had him trained in no time.

The tornado story

June 10, 2013

Five tornados touched down in Colorado the other day. This reminds me of two months before we left Boulder, when a tornado was a block from my house.

I was home alone with the kids, who were 2 and 4.

There were siren horns in every neighborhood, and of late they had been testing them, in anticipation of the 100-year flood. In an actual flood, the sirens would sound continuously, alerting us to get as high as we could, (which in Boulder meant different things to different people.)

Suddenly the sky went dark. I was folding laundry in the living room, which had a whole wall of windows and had been awash in natural light. Within a moment I could see only the flickering of The Magic School Bus.

Then the sirens sounded — continuously. I called the newsroom to find out what was going on, and learned a funnel cloud looked about to touch down around 30th and Iris. That’s where my house was.

I was told to get under my house. Fine system they have, I thought, where the same siren either means to get on or under your house.

I called my husband and unfairly begged him to come home. He was in the middle of getting a sixth-grade science class into the hallway in the center of the school.

I sent my kids into the area that was too deep to call a crawlspace and too shallow to call a basement. They took the cordless phone and a flashlight while I scurried to gather supplies. I tried to pretend this was a fun adventure. I showed up in one minute with kid chairs, shoes, books, snacks and the potty.

I read to them by flashlight, but could barely contain my fear. It was so totally dark, and the sirens were so loud.

After a half an hour of books I shone the light around. I had never been under there before. There was a lot of space. We had dining chairs stacked that I had forgotten about, and some old baby furniture.

My son said, “Want to see where Daddy and I fixed the pipes for the bathtub?”

“I do,” I said as I offered him the flashlight.

“I don’t need that.” He walked past me and flipped the light switch.

For Pete’s sake, I should have put him in charge in the first place.

Death

June 6, 2013

I had an emotional conversation with some of our friends this morning. They’re putting their dog down today.

Since we got our first dog I’ve imagined his death. I calculated how old my children would be if he lived an average lifespan. I pictured calling them home from college to say their goodbyes, all of us lying spoon-style on the dog bed, which would be wet with tears.

We had to put our family cat down when the kids were 3 and 5.

We stroked the cat and spoke soothingly, gathered around the cold, steel table in the veteranian’s office. We pretended not to see him tap tap the side of the syringe.

My son maybe shouldn’t have been in there. He was darting his eyes around and feeling helpless. His first word had been ‘cat.’

My daughter was unfazed. I suspected she didn’t understand.

The next day I discovered one of our rabbits, Hare-ica Jong, was dead on the bathroom floor. I think she had had a fight with Cyndi Lop Ear, because there was blood on her neck.

The day after that, I was calling around the house for my husband. I said to my daughter, “Have you seen Daddy? I can’t find him.”

She shrugged without looking up from her toys. “Maybe he’s dead.”

Suspicion confirmed.

A phrase of our own

June 3, 2013

I was reading in a journaling article that every family has inside vocabulary. The magazine recommended people record their terms and the stories behind them in their family history albums.

I rushed to record ours. For my reading audience, I’ve culled all but  my favorite.

When my daughter was a preschooler we had to remind her to chew with her mouth closed.

One night my tongue got tied, and I told her “Chew with your mouse clothed.”

Forevermore in this house people understand the warning, “No naked mice.”

Call 911!

May 31, 2013

My daughter loved A.A. Milne poems. One evening while my son and husband were at Little League practice, she was reading When We Were Very Young — My Oldest Friend’s favorite book, which she gave as a welcome-baby gift.

The Baby was cheerfully reciting Rice Pudding.

She stopped abruptly. She was struck with an idea. “Can we make rice pudding?”

I called Mom, the knower of how to make everything. She came right over.

I opened the door to see red splatters across her T-shirt on her abdomen. She was urgent, ‘I’m bleeding! Call 911!’

I must introduce you to my mom here. My mother is not a practical jokester. She’s not even a laugher at practical jokesters. What she is is a worrier. For instance, she can’t watch when people on TV go up high. She begs me not to let my teenagers ride roller coasters. You get the picture.

I yelled, ‘Oh my God!’ and she smiled. Then she bent to pick up a dripping flat of strawberries.

Who was this woman?

I don’t know what made me remember this story, but it visited me early this morning.

Later I had to call Mom about something else. Before I hung up, I asked,  “Mom, do you remember that time you came over to make rice pudding–”

“No.”

“–and you had some strawberries–”

Laughter.

“You’re laughing?”

“That was a good one.” A good one? It was the only one.

She defended herself,  “I didn’t plan it. I noticed that juice looked just like blood. It was spontaneous.”

Spontaneity makes it OK to scare my intestines clean?

“You had such a look of horror on your face . . . ,” more laughing.

“Well, yeah. You scared me.”

‘”Yeah, that was a good one.”

Vocabulary

May 27, 2013

In the English class I taught today, I made a list of big words and gave meaningless bonus points to students who could define them. It’s amazing how badly children want imaginary points.

I pulled from former ‘word-of-the-week’ terms at my house. I used to put a vocabulary word on the fridge every Sunday — ignominious, wan, penultimate. If my kids used the word 10 times that week, they got to choose something out of the prize drawer.

This was right up my daughter’s alley.

My daughter was loquacious right out of the womb.

Her first word was a sentence: Read-a-book.

By 18 months she was conversing clearly. People who heard her for the first time always whipped their heads toward me in surprise.

I confess I cheated. During her infancy I was finishing my linguistics degree, with a focus on language acquisition. She had better have spoken early.

When she went to the doctor for her 2-year check up, the nurse tested basic mental and motor skills. She asked her to point to the balloons on the wall. She asked her to hold up three fingers.

Then she gave my daughter a piece of paper and a pencil. “Can you draw circles?”

My daughter nodded, “Side by side or concentric?”

“Nevermind,” the nurse said. “I got what I needed.”

So did my daughter. I have it in her baby book, under first bonus points.

This is what’s in a name

May 17, 2013

I was born with an unusual name. It’s not an uncommon word, but it was spelled differently so teachers mispronounced it.

I hated the way kids and some adults felt they had to make a comment when they were introduced to me.

Often people would say, “That’s your name?” which was always followed by “Where are you from?” or “What nationality are you?”

I was from here, same as Jennifer and Suzy.

Once, in elementary school, I was getting a drink at the fountain and a boy I had a crush on said loudly, “See that girl? Her name is  (insert name here.)” The boys laughed and I cried.

I started trying to get people to call me different names at age 3. I was Rose, Mary, Linda and Dianne. At age 10 I found one that fit, and it’s my legal name today.

I had a normal name for 13 years, and then I married a man with a last name people giggle at. It was destiny, I guess.

My children are great sports.

Last week my daughter performed in a concert. There were thousands in the theater.

The woman to my left said, “Look at this kid’s name.”

Her son looked at her finger on the program and read my daughter’s name aloud. They tittered.

I imagined identifying myself, which made my ears hot and my heart pound. I am a great big chickenpants.

An hour later my daughter’s group took the stage.

The woman said, “Here comes that kid with the funny name.”

The boy said her name. This was my chance.

I turned to her and said, “That’s my daughter.” My heart was thudding and I was breathing funny. I’m not cut out for confrontation.

“Who?”

“The child you’re laughing at.” I faked calm.

“Chivus?”

What? “No,” I said my last name.

She effected a puzzled face. “We were talking about Chivus.”

She’s insulting me with denial now?

I didn’t respond. She turned toward her son, put an arm around him and kissed his hair.

I debated telling the children what happened, but I can’t have a story inside me and not tell it.

They took it well. They asked, “Where was she from?”

Here, obviously, but I wish I had asked her anyway. Meow.

The kindergarten craft story

May 10, 2013

On Mothers Day when my daughter was in kindergarten, I got a matchbox on a ribbon. It was a necklace.

My daughter had glued heart-shaped pasta to the outside and a photo of herself on the inside, locket style. The box and pasta were sprayed gold.

It made a perfect lanyard for my press ID. I wore it everyday.

One night a month later there was an evening school event. The kindergarten teacher threw her arms around me.

Unbeknownst to me, her husband had been getting a haircut when I took my son to the barber that afternoon. He saw the necklace dangling over my suit.

She explained to me that her staying up late spraypainting the projects gold irritated him. He suggested it was a waste of time .

My going to the barber earned her an apology.

Happy Mothers Day back atcha.

Destiny

March 12, 2013

During our big kitchen remodel my potpourri disappeared. The bowl was there, but all the little citrus slices and nuts and stuff were missing.

The mystery was solved when I swept behind the couch in the parlor. There were mice droppings and dried citrus rinds. About this time my daughter yelled from the powder room that she saw a huge mouse scurry into the game closet when she turned on the light.

We found a hole going to the driveway where the electrician had run new wires.

My husband wanted to get traps. The ones that cut the mouse in half made me sad. The ones that glue the mouse to a board until he starves made me sad. Poison made me nervous. I closed the game-closet door.

After about a week my husband and I were in the kitchen space. It was bare but for wood floors and wood counters, which we were leaning against.

A big rat sauntered in, brave as you please.

A screaminger, hoppinger woman you never saw. I tried to get up on the counter, but my husband was yelling at me to get out of the room. I think he just wanted a minute of quiet.

He told me the rat could climb up on the counter. But the rat was by the door. I was trapped, hopping from one foot to the other, going, ‘Ah ah ah. I don’t like it.”

The next day I asked the contractor to fix the hole, put out those traps that cut the rat in half, put out the gluey boards, and sprinkle poison everywhere.

And on my way home from my daughter’s school I went to the Humane Society to get a great big cat. I would come to regret my choice of companion.

She went straight to the cage that held a pair of black-and-white kittens.

Oh, no, we’re not.

Here’s where my fear of destiny screwed me. My daughter asked the bad lady who was telling her that little kittens’ scent would keep rats away what their names were.

I ended up taking those stinky, useless kittens home.

They were News and Paper.

link to photos

The standing on my desk story

March 5, 2013

During the year I subbed, or as I refer to it, Hell, it was on this date I finally got a job for my daughter’s class.

My daughter wasn’t there.

She was with her teacher at the school’s talent show.

At the end of the day, her friends said, “Your mom told us a story about standing on her desk.” She told me she heard this 30 times. 

As many times she said, “Yeah, I know that story.”

My daughter doesn’t think I’m as entertaining as I do.

I had to tell it after I introduced myself, because one of the children said, “Instead of calling you by name, can we just stand on our desks to get your attention?”

Middle school kids think they’re entertaining.

The first week of high school my geometry teacher was beginning a lecture on finding the measurement of an angle when I butted in, “Can’t we just subtract the other two angle measurements from 180?”

In hindsight I get that his point that day was to show us a different way to get the answer. His response to me was “I never said the angles equal 180.”

Yeah, but don’t they?

“Show me where it says that.” Silly me, I thought he really wanted me to.

He went back to his lecture.

I found it in the book and raised my hand.

He went on with his lecture.

Undaunted, I stood on my chair.

At this point it was a showdown. I sat toward the front. He couldn’t pretend not to notice me.

He pretended not to notice me.

I stood on my desk.

He no longer had the class’ attention. He dropped his chalk hand to his side and shrugged as if to say Uncle.

“Yes Miss C?”

“Page 94!” I was proud.

He didn’t seem proud of me. He went on with his lecture.

I never did learn the other way to find the measurement of an angle.

Smoking

February 27, 2013

One summer a few years back my husband followed in my footsteps. He spent a summer semester in Mexico.

He did it to learn Spanish, though, not to chase some hot guy.

In Cuernavaca he lived with a wonderful family, whom I have since met. The son is now living in Costa Mesa. The mom of this family has come out to visit several times, and is out visiting now.

We last saw her in August, when we went to Long Beach to see them both. The son was competing in an archery tournament.

During a break in the shooting the son took my son to a target and let him try out the bow and arrow. The mom waved my daughter and me away from the field to keep her company while she smoked a cigarette.

Her cigarettes had come from Mexico. They were Marlboros, but they didn’t look like the Marlboros sold here. The bottom half of every side of the box had bold black letters saying ‘This will kill you.’

It said this in English.

We chatted, the three of us, about how much she likes Disneyland and how hot it was on the archery field. Mostly we were talking in Spanish, and my daughter couldn’t follow.

Then she addressed my daughter directly.

“You shouldn’t smoke,” she looked somberly at my daughter’s face and pointed with her smoking cigarette to the area where our chairs were, “over there.”

I burst out laughing.

“Really,” she defended. “They will make you leave.”

Aye caramba.

The Devil?

February 25, 2013

We’re a Texas-Hold-‘Em family. I’ve been playing with a group from my newsroom for years, and my children each started playing with us at about age 10.

When my daughter was 11 she and I participated in a charity tournament at my mom’s church.

There were 41 players, who were allowed to purchase more chips when they got knocked out.

Everytime she sat at a table she took all the chips there. She cleared out three tables before my league’s leader, Scotchie, labeled her The Devil.

By the time she was at the final table it was her official nickname.

She took first place. Scotchie took second. Another from our league, who had just played in the World Series of Poker, came in third.

Almost a year later Scotchie organized a heads-up tournament for our league. This means instead of sitting at a table of players, all games are one on one until only one is left standing.

I outlasted about half of the players before my daughter eliminated me. From there she sat down against Scotchie’s brother.

Scotchie came up behind her and teased, “Look out for this one, she’s The Devil.”

“I’m not afraid of her,” Scotchie’s brother was all smiles. These boys taught her everything she knows.

She rolled her eyes and dealt out three cards face up — 6, 6 and 6.

Scotchie’s brother’s smile dropped. “Maybe I’m a little afraid.”

He folded.

Disneyland

February 2, 2013

Recently I went to Disneyland with my mom and grama, because my daughter was performing there. Fun fact: My daughter spotted Orlando Bloom in line for Grizzly River Run, and then to her surprise he was seated with her on the ride.

My daughter’s marching band kicked off the parade. She was right in the center of the front rank, and I had to cry a little bit as they went by.

She’s still itty-bitty, but at least she’s allowed on the rides now.

In 1999 we took all my son’s friends to the park to celebrate his 7th birthday. My daughter had turned 5 the week before, and was a wee 3 feet, 3.75 inches.

This little girl loved to be sped, scared and startled, but she didn’t meet the height requirements for the exciting rides.

Disneyland insists you reach 40 inches to ride Star Tours. Now, I understand not wanting to put a wisp of a child in a Space Mountain seat, but Star Tours is basically a movie. The ride is the illusion of movement.

It broke my heart for her to stand waiting at the entrance, watching younger children run excitedly toward their place at the end of the line.

She never complained once that day, but when I turned back and looked at her, she was watching the boys at my side in line,  and I saw tears in her eyes.

She would have done me a favor to whine and stomp.

She was so close to reaching the requirement, I was cursing myself for not teasing her hair. You wouldn’t have fit a slice of cheese between her head and the bottom of Mickey’s glove. My husband tried to persuade the attendant to let her through. No go.

But halfway through the wait, a tiny hand slipped into mine, and I looked down into a huge smile.

“Daddy put folded park maps in my shoes,” she whispered.

My husband had seen a new attendant start her shift and took action.

The force was with us.

link to photos

Honking

January 31, 2013

This morning I drove my daughter to a rehearsal. She’s been accepted to play flute in a band made up of the best in the county, and it was important we be on time.

We had enough time to get there, but we were cutting it close.

On a narrow road that leads out of our neighborhood, a woman was stopped right in the street, chatting through her open window with a woman in another car.

I waited.

My daughter said, “Just honk at them. Why won’t you ever honk?” So I told her.

My Oldest Friend and I were newly licensed at 16,  driving through a nearby small town where her grandparents had a shop. 

It was a beautiful day. We had the windows down in her hand-me-down Datsun that you could start with a nickel if you didn’t have the key.

She was driving, and she upset another driver.

He blasted his horn. My Oldest Friend threw her head back and laughed. She called, “Ah ha! I made you honk.”

I was totally impressed.

This struck me as profound. That guy gave her the power to make him angry, but she wasn’t about to give her power away. She was so cool, she was amused.

I haven’t honked since — until this morning.

A happening

January 20, 2013

In my lifetime, today happened.

My daughter asked to miss school to accompany me to a brunch this morning, where people were gathering to watch President-elect Obama be sworn in.

It was an emotionally charged morning. I sat at a table between my parents, across from my grandmother and my daughter, and watched a black man become my president. I tried to eat, but I couldn’t swallow. I guess there was too much proud in my throat.

When the oath was finished, and President Obama said, “So help me God,” we cried. People stood and clapped. And embraced. Celebration drove a need to hold one another.

I love what happens to us during historic moments. We have happenings. People came together to watch Neil Armstrong set the first footprint on the moon. We came together to grieve on Sept. 11 2001. We came together today. We gather to watch, to rejoice, to share awe or fear, to support and to touch.

On the way home, my daughter, who is 14, said, “It must be a bigger deal than I can understand that he’s black.” What a beautiful statement of how far we’ve come.

It was only a year away from being in my husband’s lifetime that Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing racial discrimination in schools and employment — and in public. It wasn’t until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act enforced blacks’ suffrage. That was within my husband’s lifetime.

And now today happened. And my daughter doesn’t see a black man; she just sees a man.

Today, as always, I celebrate being an American. Today, as I do every four years, I celebrate the right to participate in my government. And today, for the first time, I celebrate that the people of my country chose to turn to a man for leadership, who in my parents’ lifetime would have been legally beaten in the doorway while watching his light-skinned brothers register to vote.

At dinner with my family tonight, I will raise a glass to the following people: every American soldier who has shed blood or was willing to shed blood protecting my right to vote, read a newspaper and choose my own church; Harriet Tubman; Dred Scott; Rosa Parks; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson; and President Barack Obama.

I salute their courage — and as I was reminded this morning — their hope and virtue.

The fight story

January 11, 2013

As far as fighting siblings go, I’m a lucky mom.

But last night while I was in the kitchen I could hear those voices that get right under the nerves between my shoulder blades. They use these voices when they’re doing their little dance between outright being bad and not making any effort to keep peace. It involves a ridiculous volley of saying the other person’s name in a warning tone, and making an overly innocent expression.

I can deduce what was going on. My son adores his sister, but he makes sport of annoying her. I’m pretty sure he was doing something with her calculator he thought was funny. He’s funny, but she doesn’t always think so.

My daughter is calm, patient and smart. She stands a lot of button-pushing before she responds, and that she does with flair.

The first time she lost her temper she was 4. Her brother was 6. I don’t know what they were on about, but I walked in the room to see her tiny hands fisted and her face red.

“That’s it!” she exploded. “The next time I have poop on my finger, guess who I’m gonna wipe it on.”

Knocking on sunshine

December 30, 2012

I’m not a fan of the knock-knock joke.

The first half is a pointless script. It’s a ritual. Don’t waste my time.

If there were some method by which you could say the third line and see if the other party could guess what you meant to add to it to make it funny, that would would be a better joke. I’m in.

But today on my morning radio program a guy called with one and cracked me right up.

Then I was driving home listening to old episodes of Barney Miller on my car’s back seat DVD player, and Nick spent the whole show trying to get someone to say ‘Who’s there?’, which I thought was funny, and which reminded me about the morning joke.

So I walked in the door and said to my husband, ‘Knock Knock.’

He said, as you know, because it’s the pointless ritual, ‘Who’s there?’

“Smell mop.”

He responded and I waited. He cracked up.

My son came in. I told it again. He called in my daughter. I told it again.

We were all cracking up in the kitchen.

In the middle of dinner I couldn’t stand it. I called Mom.

She said hello I said knock knock.

The family was laughing. She was laughing.

I had just spent two hours in the driving rain and stifled traffic, but there was sunshine in my home.

I love me a knock-knock joke.

Whoops

December 22, 2012

My daughter and I went to the grocery store, and there a was an advertisement on the cart with a woman’s picture on it.

The woman had on a tragic hat, her head was painfully cocked and her eyes were opened unnaturally wide.

I don’t know what the ad was for, but it was distracting in its bizarreness. We almost walked into a rack of fruit.

My daughter said, “Do you imagine that woman saw this photo and approved it? Like, she had a choice, and said, ‘This is the image of me I want people to see?'”

I was wondering the same thing, and was trying to think of how to answer as we approached the kiwis.

I looked up to select some. Guess who was behind us.

I gave my daughter a small kick and a frown, and indicated the lady with my eyes, as if to say ‘ixnay.’

It seems impossible to me, though, that this doesn’t happen to her every time she shops.

My daughter is paying attention

December 11, 2012

One evening when I was picking my daughter up from her piano lesson, the instructor gave her some kind of certificate. Across the top it said, “Reach for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

I’ve seen this phrase before. I’ve never found it particularly inspiring.

When we got in the car my daughter said, “What a dumb certificate.”

I looked over at her. She had it on her lap, and wasn’t wearing any expression on her face.

“You don’t like it?”

“The moon is much closer to us than the stars.”

Oh yeah.

The die story

November 26, 2012

A few Thanksgivings ago my baby cousin Sterling and his girlfriend came down from Washington. At dinner, they announced their engagement.

Wee hooo! I love a big announcement on a holiday.

After dinner, we pulled out the party games. We were going to play one of my favorites, Scattergories. Sterling’s affianced had never played before.

For this game, you have 12 categories, and a letter. You have to think of something in each category that starts with that letter.

Fun stuff. I always win.

I started passing out pencils and category lists, and we realized the die wasn’t in the box. I had left it in my bag of tricks for the Journalism Club I ran at the elementary school.

Alison said, “No worries. I have a die in my purse.”

We tried to stop her. “It’s not a regular die. It’s a many-sided die covered in letters.”

She kept walking toward her purse. Sterling’s fiancee doesn’t listen, I thought.

She came in rummaging through her little purse. Me, I carry a backpack. Between my canister of Wet Ones and my novel, I have no use for Louis Vitton.

“Here’s a die!” she said. I shook my head at her.

She pulled out a hand-carved wooden 26-sided die with letters on it.

My son yelled, “Welcome to the family! You pass.”

click for photo

Jaws

November 23, 2012

Beatle George has an 8-year-old son. They were over for Monday Night Football tonight.

My son discovered with an outburst that the child has never seen Jaws.

How does this happen? I’ve insisted George bring the boy to me Wednesday so I can fix him.

To my mind, 4 is the right age for Jaws watchin’.

This decision came by happenstance. Uncle Jer and I were upstairs in the Boulder house, flipping through the channels on a Saturday afternoon, when we saw that the movie was about to start.

We looked at each other with excitement. “Pop some corn!”

Then my son wandered in.

Badda bing badda boom. Four was the right age.

We initiated him carefully. We told him what to expect. “Hear the music? That means you’ll see some red spots in the water. Here’s a scary part.”

Then I couldn’t wait for The Baby to turn 4. I stood by the set with the unpopped corn counting down the days from her third birthday.

We had left Uncle Jer behind in Colorado, but acquired the flick on VHS. My son and I popped corn and brought her into the club.

Now it’s Bennett’s turn. 

My kids know the routine by now. We’ll pop the corn, give the warnings, and as one, we’ll shout, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!”

I’m thinkin’ since the kid’s 8, we’ll have to watch it twice.

The engagement ring story

October 26, 2012

You don’t want my daughter in on your secret.

We were in the car this week, looking for the new high school, and my daughter said to my son, “Remember you drove there before? Myles was with us.”

My son made a low growl at her.

“You drove Myles when you had the car?” I was shocked.

A louder growl, with a dirty look at sis.

In California, a newly-licensed 16-year-old cannot drive a non-sibling teen to band practice.

I’m not as strict about this rule as I am about talking to non-siblings’ moms before I allow my son to drive them anywhere. I had not yet talked to Myles’ mom.

I was more surprised than anything. I thought my son was perfect.

But this story is about my daughter and her loose tongue.

I had been a pregnant college student when I got married.

We had no kind of money, and I had no kind of engagement ring.

For our fifth anniversary we planned a weekend alone in the mountains.

A few days before the occasion, I had worked late. This was during my husband’s two-year turn as the stay-at-home parent.

After dinner I dragged myself into the bathroom to brush teeth. My daughter followed me in. She was 3 1/2.

My son, then 5 1/2, was trying to drag her off to get jammies on.

They were both acting strange.

I pulled out the lotion box I kept my jewelry in to drop in my earrings. She snatched it away and rummaged through it.

“Come on,” said my son

“Wait.”

“Let’s go.” Pulling on her arm.

“Wait! I wanna see the diamond ring Daddy bought today.”

I froze. My son pulled his own hair. My daughter said, “What?”

I begged her not to tell Daddy she blew the secret, but she is who she is.

She ran into the kitchen and tattled on her own self.

June Lockhart

October 12, 2012

Today is my mama’s birthday. One year for her birthday we went to Los Angeles to see the Phantom of the Opera.

I had made my daughter a fancy ball dress of  ivory taffeta and lace.

We got to the theater a little bit early, and had to wait in a line for admittance to the lobby.

I had to pee.

We were toward the front of the line, but a classy-looking lady walked right up to the front of the line, bold as brass, and got let in. She turned to my grama as she ducked in the door and explained, “I have to pee.”

I was aghast. “Who does she think she is?”

June Lockhart,” my dad said. I made a face of not understanding. “Lassie‘s mom.”

Ah, she was on TV in black and white.

I was thinking of all the things I had done in my life more honorable than acting on a sitcom, but there I stood needing to pee.

Finally we were heading into the ladies’ room. Queen Lockhart was coming out, and she spotted my daughter. I made a face of not liking.

“Wow!” she froze. She knelt down to my little girl’s level. “That’s a beautiful dress.”

OK. I forgive her.

Daddy’s girl

October 4, 2012

My daughter went shopping with a girlfriend today. I planned, out of consideration, to swing by an ATM and get her her allowance first.

She was shocked.

“I’m supposed to go shopping with only $20?”

“That, and the money you’ve saved for occasions like this.”

That sat well.

When Daddy wandered in the room the conversation had turned to what defined ‘necessities.’ She was arguing that when he took her shopping for her eighth-grade formal dress, he bought her two of them, and she didn’t have to pay.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t have done that.”

“I should have gone to Daddy this morning.”

This is when my helpful husband disclosed he would have given her $200 and told her to have a good time.

My son and I cried Daddy’s-girlism.

I had to remember the room-painting story to them.

When The Baby was 4, my husband and I spent a long day stripping her wallpaper. This was in a 100-year-old house. The wallpaper was stuck in places to drywall, wood and concrete.

We textured and painted the walls, and finished at about 4 p.m., just in time for me to primp and leave for work.

I went in to kiss my husband goodbye. He was coming down the ladder, two steps from the bottom, and was exhausted. He was glad to be done.

My daughter came in on my heel. She looked around the room with a big smile.

Then she said, “Daddy, will you make me a pink checkerboard ceiling?”

He gave me my kiss and switched direction. He never reached that first step from the bottom.

I got home eight hours later to find him washing up.

The checkers were perfect.

He was wiped out. He curled up around her little finger and went to sleep.

The time my daughter went missing

September 15, 2012

The story of Jaycee Lee Dugard is tormenting me.

I must watch or listen to every drip of news coverage I can find. My husband seems to be avoiding it.

Once we were in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and a woman went past us in the hall looking frantic and calling a child’s name. My husband took in a steadying breath, went glassy eyed and dropped my hand to join the search.

He was emotional when he came back. He told me he can’t handle seeing a parent looking for a lost kid. He said it puts him right back in the moment when he lost our daughter.

She was 2.

I had gone to a party at Kevin’s house. Kevin had been one of my closest friends before I left the Sink and had a baby. We ran into each other in town after my plans to move back to California were set.

He told me he was having a to-do at his parents’ house. It was a reunion for us, and an unusual kid-free afternoon for me.

I came home before evening. Everything seemed normal.

Later my husband and I were watching TV. He hit the mute button suddenly, and told me he had had to look for the baby while I was gone.

He said he had tried to call me on Jer’s cell phone, which I had taken with me for some reason.

I hadn’t kept close to my purse at Kevin’s. This was before caller ID and cellular voicemail. This is one of two times I had had Jer’s cell.

My husband put the sound back on the TV and the night went on.

When it was time to go upstairs, he turned the set off and put his forehead on my shoulder. “My God, I was so scared,” he said. He started sobbing.

This was uncharacteristic. I became scared.

He told me he had realized the baby wasn’t there, and checked around the house. The yard was empty, so he walked our quiet block calling for her. Ultimately people all over the neighborhood were searching.

She had wandered next door and was trying on another little girl’s roller skates in a garage.

It was the worst suffering my husband has ever known.

A riddle

September 6, 2012

Today my son found a kids’ riddle book in the glove compartment. I don’t know where it came from.

He read us the riddles, and some of them were funny, but many were groaners.

My daughter and I took it as a challenge to come up with better punch lines than the book offered.

Then we abandoned the book and the three of us  invented our own.

Here’s our favorite, made from scratch, for your entertainment:

What is the  favorite sandwich of common people?

A Plebian J.

The road trip fight

September 5, 2012

In the summer of 2001 we drove up the west coast for vacation.

It was two weeks of heaven, with one day of hell tacked on the end.

Our last stop was the Monterey Bay Aquarium. By then we had seen Hearst Castle, Carmel Beach, the California Redwoods, The Santa Cruz Boardwalk, the Rogue River, Seattle, Victoria Canada and San Francisco.

We were tired. The kids were 6 and 8.

Several hours from home they started this:

“Stop saying OK!” “OK!”

They didn’t stop until they fell asleep 40 miles from our driveway.

They did this naturally, but only because I didn’t have access to chloroform.

click here for photo