Archive for the ‘my son’ Category

The spider story

November 15, 2013

My son has always been a sensitive little thing.

When he was 5, he helped me paint his room before we moved into our first house in California.

We stood side by side on his desk while we readied the window up high. I reached into the corner with my brush and cleared out a spiderweb.

“Oh, Mama!” He pointed to a spider on the wall. “He just watched you destroy his home!”

So I picked up the newspaper, rolled it and smashed the homeless spider.

“There. Now he’s not sad anymore.”

Are you all glad I’m not your mother?

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.

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.

The magic trick story

September 3, 2013

I hate a magic show.

To me, it’s like someone coming up and saying, ‘I know something you don’t know, and I’m gonna make you want to know it, and then never tell you.’

The only tricks I’ve enjoyed are the ones my son did when he was a small boy. I liked those, because I knew how they worked.

But his magicianship came to an abrupt halt after one bad experience.

We had flown to Colorado for a friend’s wedding. The groom bought my son a $35 trick coin.

One side of the fifty-cent piece popped off, revealing a centavo.

The trick was to show the two pieces and make as if you were putting them both in someone’s hand, but really you snap them back together and give them the trick coin and a quarter, which was hidden underneath. When you ask them to close their eyes and hand you the centavo, they find there isn’t one. See a video here

My son improved on this by planting a real centavo on a dupe. This way he could add a little surprise at the end, pretending the coin jumped into the watcher’s pocket.

He practiced his routine in Colorado, and was ready to try it out on the airplane coming home.

It was perfect. The flight attendant leaned across him to give my daughter a ginger ale, and he slipped a centavo in her apron pocket.

He waited until she came by later to attempt the trick. She didn’t have time for it.

Several times he tried to get a moment with her, but she was too busy.

She started getting short with him. He realized he had become an irritation and abandoned the effort, but he wanted his centavo back.

I persuaded him to consider the coin a loss, and promised we’d round up another one when we got home.

That’s when he realized he had put the trick coin in the flight attendant’s apron.

At that point, though, she was aggressively avoiding him, and he had to hail the flight attendant in the front section for help.

She called to our lady while standing next to our row. Now our lady was downright snippy. “I told him I don’t have time!”

“He dropped a coin in your apron for a magic trick,” she hollered the length of the aisle.

So much for trying it on a passenger.

And so much for the $35 fifty-cent piece. He got it back, only to accidently spend it within a week.

The playland tubes story

August 25, 2013

I recently heard tell that the ball pits that were popular when my kids were babies have been removed from all fast-food playlands.

I once sneaked into one as an adult — they didn’t have stuff like that when I was a kid — and regretted it. I took a flying leap into the pit. The balls are hard. It hurt everywhere.

Being a California native in Boulder, Colo., I struggled with preschoolers and snowy days. I used to call my friend Katherine up, and we would drive to Broomfield for a field trip. There was a McDonald’s there with the biggest Play Place I ever heard of.

It was indoors, but the walls were all clear plastic, so you could see all five stories of colorful crawl paths from the freeway. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the tubing structure had its own ZIP code.

I was such a rude costumer, I would feed the kids at home, and then just take them to play. I knew it was wrong, but it was 10 degrees below freezing and I felt wronged by the world. I spent winters feeling indignant.

The structure was intimidating, both in size and population. My son was pretty shy about it. He lingered around the little-people area, popping peek-a-boo through cut outs in padded plastic, or throwing the little balls that escaped the pit of pain.

One afternoon when I was almost nine-months pregnant with my daughter, he braved up and went into the maze of tubes.

For reasons passing understanding, he waited until he was in the center of the topmost tube path to decide he was frightened.

He called to me through the windows of his tube. I called back, “Crawl out!”

He could neither figure out how to turn around, back out the four miles he had traversed nor understand that going forward meant a short downhill path to freedom.

I had no choice. I crawled in to get him.

Picture an eight and a half-month pregnant woman in several layers of thermals and wool sweaters wriggling through a habitrail lined with dry, gummy ketchup.

The McEmployees were not pleased.

They scolded me, “The Play Place tube maze is for children only.” I supposed it was for customers only, too, but didn’t mention that.

Since then I’ve seen many things, such as the Internet, and learned that those playlands were said to be chock full o’ dirty diapers, vomit and used hypodermic needles. I read terrible tales of children getting trapped and killed in the depths of the ball pits.

The moral here is plain: never live where it gets cold.

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 trip to the emergency room story

June 29, 2013

My Oldest Friend’s baby took a random toddler spill and ended up in the E.R. with a broken nose and battered mug. Today there is also a gruesome black eye.

Mr. Oldest Friend is across the country on a business trip.

I feel for her, balancing an injured baby on one knee and keeping her preschooler from feeling ignored on the other; and for Mr., seeing ghastly photos of his little girl on the monitor — unable to be there offering strength, comfort and protection.

I’m an hour away from her, and I feel helpless, so I’ll bet he’s crazy with it.

Being a parent is much more painful than being a kid in pain, I say.

Here’s how I know.

One afternoon we bought a steam cleaner. That year we had adopted a puppy.

My 8-year-old son saw an opportunity in the empty box, which, as it happens, slid beautifully over the carpeted steps.

And which, he discovered with delight, he fit inside.

He went up to the landing halfway between the third floor and second, climbed into the box with his bed pillow and rode belly down and feet first to the bottom.

When the box hit the landing, the top swung over. The back of my son’s head hit the hardwood floor with a sound like when you drop a watermelon.

He lay there, noisily. 

I had been making chocolates when I heard the launch. I ran to him, but didn’t know what to do. He wouldn’t lift his head. I’m not good in a crisis, it turns out.

I called my husband, who was shooting pool in Uncle Mike’s garage.

I told him our son went down the stairs in the steam-cleaner box. My husband laughed. “That’s hilarious!” he said. I was in no emotional state for his not getting it. He proceeded to say the wrong thing: He told me to calm down.

Then he said something productive: Check his eyes to see if the pupils are the same size. They were.

“Let me talk to him.” I handed the phone to my son on the floor. He had calmed, and wanted to hear about Mike’s new pool table.

He’ll be fine, my husband said. He’s just stunned.

After lying there a while my boy got up and started moving around the house. He ate a few chocolates, but he wasn’t right.

At 6:30 p.m. he lay on the couch and said his vision was blurry.

That was it. We were off to the emergency room.

My husband met me in that little room where they check blood pressure, weight and temperature. My son got off the examining table, puked my chocolates into the sink, and lay back down. He went promptly to sleep. We couldn’t wake him.

A doctor was summoned. He said something about checking for bleeding on the brain and used the word ‘fatal.’ We were off to a CAT scan.

It was much ado about nothing. My husband was right. After about 15 hours of sleep the blurry vision was gone and so were the rest of the chocolates.

I wasn’t so quick to recover.

Thinking of my girlfriend sitting in the emergency room from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. brings it all back.

So I write this in empathy for her, so she knows I know that sometimes, you just gotta hang your head and cry.

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.

The dog-in-the-street story

June 9, 2013

You cannot unread this story. Probably you should surf to another blog today, or read one of my better stories, like The Special Day Class or The Pregnant Teenager Story.

This will conclude my three-day series of stories non gratae.

We were about two blocks from home when my son looked out the window and saw a little dog running alongside our car. “He’s racing us.”

The dog’s legs were short, but he was fast. We thought it was funny.

We lived on a wide, busy street. As we pulled in front of our house, my husband said, “We oughta get that dog before he runs into traffic.”

My son ran to the sidewalk, crouched and patted his thighs. “C’mere b–”

We heard thu-thunk.

My son says the dog turned and looked at him just as a truck caught him. The truck drove off.

I held my son while he repeated, ‘Oh no.’ I hated that he saw that.

The kids and I went in the house while my husband went to see if the dog was alive.

When he hadn’t come back after an hour I called his cell phone. He was sedate, “Yeah?”

“Where are you?”

“In the garage.”

The dog had looked dead, but when my husband moved it to the sidewalk it started jerking.

Silence. Then, “I’m looking for something to kill it with, but I can’t do it. I don’t think I can do it. I’m just standing here. The dog’s on the sidewalk. It’s thrashing. It’s in too much pain.”

I was so worried about my son, it hadn’t occured to me to worry about my husband.

I called the animal hospital for advice. They told me to bring the dog in.

By then the dog was dead. Can I bring my husband in? He needs a shot of whatever you were gonna give that dog.

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.

My prom story

May 22, 2013

Tonight my son’s friends are throwing a private prom at my place. They strung little white lights in the wisteria arbor overlooking the orchard. It empties onto the carriage house deck, which they made into a dance floor.

My son will put on a tux to stay home.

I hope it turns out better than my prom experience.

Here’s what happened. My boyfriend didn’t have the money to ask me to the dance, and my best friend was between beaus.

She and I grabbed a can of Pam cooking spray and beach chairs and went to Whitewater — a creek just outside of Palm Springs — for some after-school tanning.

Our friends Craig and Eddie showed up on Craig’s motorcycle and asked us to go, as friends, to that night’s prom.

Eddie and my best friend went back in my car, and I hopped on the back of the motorcycle.

The boys left us girls at my house, where we put on our leftover homecoming dresses.

They picked us up on time. Mom took pictures. We were off.

We drove to Rancho Mirage, parked and walked up to the door of the prom facility.

That’s when the boys admitted they hadn’t bought tickets.

We leaned across the open door to exchange waves with people inside, got back in Craig’s mom’s Camaro and went to Carl’s Jr. for dinner.

Then they took us home.

It was awful.

Though he won’t say it with regret, my son and I will both be able to say we spent prom night all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The James Bond theme

May 19, 2013

My son and husband just rented Quantum of Solace. They’re doing their guy thing in the living room, while my daughter and I make baby clothes for my brand new niece.

We have Grey’s Anatomy on. It’s making us cry. We are not doing the guy thing.

I have never seen a James Bond movie. It’s my son’s first.

One Christmas I got the game Cranium. My son and I were a team, and I drew a name-that-tune card. It was the James Bond theme.

Shoot, I didn’t know the James Bond theme.

So I hummed the Mission Impossible theme.

My son yelled, “The James Bond theme!” and we won the game.

Yeah, we’re that good.

A proud moment

May 13, 2013

On Oprah, which I now tape and watch, thanks to my grama, they had an episode about children who commit suicide because of bullying.

It was heartbreaking.

But then there was one woman who shared a bright story, about a group of kids who saw a child being bullied and stood up in a circle around her. Their standing up for her, the psychologist said, gave her the confidence she needed to handle taunting in the future.

This reminded me of a phone call I got when my son was in second grade.

A man I didn’t know called and asked if I was my son’s mother.

Uh-oh.

He identified himself as Alyssa’s father. He wanted to know if I had heard what happened at lunch.

Uh-oh. “No, sir, I haven’t heard a thing.”

He was quiet a moment. Then when he started talking, I could tell he was trying not to cry.

Alyssa had gone home and told him some kids were calling her names like ‘gay,’ ‘nerd’ and ‘loser.’

Awwww. Alyssa was a sweet, tiny, timid thing who wore glasses.

He said Alyssa told him my son stood in front of her and yelled at the bullies. He told them to stop it. He said to be nice to her. He said Alyssa was his friend.

By that point the dad had given up trying not to let the tears come.

Me too.

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.

The blood-drive story

April 29, 2013

My son called me Friday at work, asking to forge my signature on a permission form for the blood drive, going on that minute. In the few weeks before I was kicked out of my law class, I learned that signing someone’s name with permission — and a witness to the permission giving — is not forgery. I gave him my grace by speaker phone and had done with it.

Naturally, I have a story about giving blood.

I’m afraid of needles, and have been delighted always to be ineligible to participate. You have to weigh at least 115 pounds and not be pregnant.

One evening I came home with a Band-Aid on my krelbow. Fun fact: The word ‘krelbow’ is the word in my house for the inner elbow. I came home to Boulder from a visit with my family in California showing off this new term. My husband, who taught anatomy at the time, laughed at me. ‘Where did you get that?’ I learned it playing Scrabble with  my aunties. ‘How much is the K worth?’ I was suckered, but my pride demands I continue using the word.

My husband pointed at the Band-Aid and raised his eyebrows.

“I gave blood today.” The blood bank used to hold drives every season in the conference room when I worked at the paper.

“Sure you did.”

I did. I lied about my weight, because I wanted the free booklight. Also the cookies were chocolate chip.

My husband shook his head chucklingly. “And how did it go?”

After some sadist with gel in his hair took the needle out, I stood up and swooned. They made me lie down for a half hour with cookies and my novel. I liked that part.

Imagine, after all I went through, my husband having the nerve to tell me the booklight was too bright.

How we got our piano

March 16, 2013

My daughter is in Washington, D.C., for spring break.

When we went there on a family vacation we got a big thrill. A twin to our piano is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

We have an antique quarter-grand Chickering. It has amazing sound, which we are told will continue to be true for generations.

We almost didn’t get it. When we found it in the classifieds, it was advertised at $2,500. We figured it was old; we’d have a tuner look at it and offer what it was really worth. If the old lady selling it let us pay a little every month we could pay off two grand in a year.

This plan began to fall apart when the tuner said it was worth more than she was asking, and completely unraveled when she told us she underpriced it, because she wanted the money right away.

It was a humiliating afternoon. My son was testing out the goods with a Bach piece when she threw us out of her powder-blue living room with a huffy ‘well I never!’

This was a month after his second surgery — the one to remove the disfiguring tumors.

Because whatever was wrong with him had never been seen before, the Discovery Channel did a Medical Diary episode about him. All of the local papers ran a story about the local boy who was on TV.

The day after the show first aired we got a call from the old lady we offended. She knew there was something special about that boy, she insisted.

She wanted us to take the piano for $2,000, pay for it as we were able, and accept the bench, lamp and sheet music to boot.

We had too much pride for that. We would pay the full price.

And by ‘pride,’ I mean money from my mother-in law.

link to photos

Tormenting

March 11, 2013

For all of my son’s life, when he said from the back seat, “Hurry home, I need to go to the bathroom,” his parents would torment him.

If he was doing the pee-pee dance, we would say, ‘Whatever you do, don’t think about a waterfall.’

If he was doing the squirm, we would say, ‘Remember this morning when you were sqeezing the toothpaste out of the tube?’

Tonight I helped my son avenge his dad. My son was in the bathroom, and my husband was banging on the door in urgency.

Now before you feel sorry for him, he could have used my daughter’s bathroom if he had to go that bad. He could not go where I was about to take a bath.

I called out, “Honey? Don’t think about the log ride.”

This made him buckle over. Now he’s clenching and laughing at the same time.

“Remember when I gave birth, and the head started coming out?”

Harder banging on the door.

“Honey?”

He stopped me right there. He started heading for my bathtub room. He had all the power.

The beauty of this family is that no one ever takes vengeance on me. The miracle of this family is that no one has ever ruined his pants.

A ribbing

March 3, 2013

This morning my husband screwed something up, and my son and I were having fun at his expense.

We wouldn’t have ganged up on him, but my husband let his pride goeth before he attacked the whole system he failed at.

“Honey, you’re just wrong,” I said. He argued.

I called for a vote.

This sent my son and me into giggles.

My husband played along, “We need our daughter here for quorum.” He pronounced it ‘corem.’

My son said, “What’s corem?”

I said, “It’s an apple-orchard term. You’ll find it in the technical book with juicem and pickem.” We were all cracking up.

My poor husband tried to join in, “And sellem.”

We stopped laughing. Then my son and I spoke at once.

“You went too far.”

“That’s one more than we needed.”

We started laughing again. I said, “And if you say ‘eatem,’ I’m leaving.”

“Eatem.”

I left to take a bath, but I could hear my husband add, “Thank God that’s over,” and my son respond, “Well Dad, we still live here.”

I would hate to be teased so. Thank goodness for the double standard.

The phone cord story

March 1, 2013

I can’t go having an I-am-an-idiot category without telling this story.

Like most babies, my son used to like to play with the phone. Maybe today’s babies play with cell phones; their mamas can’t tell this kind of story.

To prevent calls, I would slip the cord out of it.

One night he was doing this on the couch with Uncle Jer and me.

The baby abandoned the buttons and reached down to the cord, which was still plugged into the wall. He put the end in his mouth.

Then he gaped, ready to wail. It was one of those wails you know is going to be bad, because the sound follows the expression about five seconds later. Usually the delay of sound was proportional to the loudness of the wail.

I was puzzled by his reaction. I knew phones worked when the power was off. Surely there was no electricity.

I closed my mouth around the end of the cord. It hurt.

I pulled it out and went, “AAAAHHHHHH.”

“Really?” asked Jer, who picked it up and put it in his mouth.

Idiocy loves company.

My son’s tumors

February 18, 2013

This morning I have to take my boy to the doctor for a physical. This is a requirement for high school athletic teams.

We have a long history of doctor visits, this boy and I.

I’m a little nervous telling this story. The experience was tedious and stressful. The story may be so too. I’ll do my best.

When my baby was 2 he had a CAT scan because he had bulges on his temples. We were told it was nothing to worry about.

When he was 5 one side grew noticably bigger than the other. We had moved from Colorado to California, and I was pushing the doctor.

“If it makes you feel better, we’ll order an MRI.” The doctor seemed certain it was just a case of children’s growing disproportionately.

My son was afraid of the MRI. Weeks went by waiting for appointments. Then we would come home without having had the imaging. He wouldn’t get on the machine. Sedation didn’t work on him. I was falling apart.

On the third try we went to UCLA Medical Center. A nurse named Julie Lopez put him in a swivel chair and kicked it into a spin, talking casually to him about little boy things. She took away his fear. She was magic.

After an agonizing 10 days the results came in. Our doctor asked me to come in. I begged him to tell me on the phone.

I was alone in my hallway when I heard, “Your son has at least three tumors in his head. Two of them are outside of his skull. The others are intracranial.”

I’m ashamed to admit I felt a little relief. They had identified the cause of the deformity. They could fix it now.

Children at school were being cruel to him. He seemed strong enough to handle it, but I wasn’t.

This was early December, a couple of weeks before his 6th birthday. We didn’t know how to tell him. We took him and his friends to Disneyland as a salve to all our emotions.

This was followed by months of “We’ll know what’s wrong with him after….” There was an x-ray and another CAT scan before the doctor threw his hands up and said he needed a biopsy. “That will be the definitive diagnosis tool,” he said.

The insurance company said no biopsy. We fought. It was long and painful. We won, and we got to go to UCLA, where the magic people work.

My son’s biopsy was on a Monday in July. It was supposed to be two hours. It was six. There were extra layers of inpenetrable stuff on his skull the surgeon couldn’t drill through.

The tumors were drawing the bone into them in spicules.

We would have a diagnosis by Wednesday.

On Friday morning the surgeon told me they still didn’t know what my son has. The biopsy wasn’t revealing. Doctors in Europe were being consulted. No one has seen anything like this.

On Saturday morning my grandfather had a heart attack and died.

At some point the doctors gave up and named the condition after my son. The good news is that the tumors were benign. The bad news is that they couldn’t tell me what would happen.

In a year they would remove the extracranial ones, but they didn’t think they could get inside my son’s skull to get at the others. At least he would look normal.

I have to live with knowing that for a moment in that hallway I felt relief.

link to photos

Holding hands

January 28, 2013

My son is 16.

When he was an infant in my arms, I showed him off to one of my husband’s co-workers. Her son was 16 at the time.

Teary-eyed she told me she had realized the other day that he doesn’t hold her hand anymore.

“I wish I had known, that last time, that it was the last time,” she said.

This haunted me.

When my son was old enough to hold my hand, I ordered, “Warn me before you stop holding my hand.”

Everytime he held my hand he would say, “Don’t worry Mama, this isn’t the last time.”

I just realized the other day, one of those times was a lie.

The dirty bootie story

January 26, 2013

My oldest friend is who persuaded me to blog. We e-mail each other in the evenings. Last night, this educated woman who has a baby and a preschooler asked me, “How do you have time to post a blog every day?”

“My kids wipe their own asses,” I said. Oh old friend, your time will come. But this reminded me of a story.

Will you believe I have an ass-wiping story?

We used to listen to these children’s songs tapes, which included the catchy “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

One night my son was sitting on his training potty, singing this song loudly. We could hear him from the kitchen. Then it was quiet.

Then we heard, “Wipe me up, my bootie, bootie. Wipe me up down there. Don’t be rough or I’ll start whining. Wipe me up with care….”

There was more, but my husband and I were laughing and we missed it.

My son cracks me up

January 25, 2013

When my son was in first grade, and my daughter in preschool, we bought a three-story, turn-of-the-century house. It was 4,000 square feet and had ornate woodwork throughout.

My kids had heard me excitedly telling family or friends about the house we were buying, and started repeating my words in a way that made them sound a little too proud. It made me embarrassed.

One afternoon my daughter’s friend was in the car with us, coming over to play. I was afraid the kids would start in about the house, so I said, “I hope you were warned about our house.”

“It’s more of a shack,” I said, and went on to describe a pretty sad but survivable place. “In fact, we don’t have a bathroom. We use a cup.”

“But good news!” chimed in my son, who had been quiet to this point. “We each have our own cup.”

link to photos

Dinner talk

January 13, 2013

My son reports that his high school drama department announced this year’s musical.  It’s called, ‘Once upon a Mattress.

“I know that one,” I said. “It’s the story of The Princess and the Pea.”

“It sounds like a porno,” he said.

“That version would be the story of The Princess and the Penis,” I said.

Our stint as babysitters

January 5, 2013

One week the studio where I used to do my dance workouts begged a boon from all the members. They needed people to donate time in the childcare room.

My son and I volunteered to do it for one morning class.

Early in the hour a little boy came to me with untied shoes. I knelt and tied them.

He smiled proudly, reached for the laces ends and pulled them both free.

I tied them again. He untied them again. This went on until I realized I was an idiot and sent him to my son.

Toward the end of the hour he came back to me with untied laces.

“Tie shoes please.” He could speak? Who knew? I tied his shoes.

He untied them while saying, “Imp.”

I looked over my son, who was smiling proudly.

Who’s the bigger imp?

The Little League coach story

January 4, 2013

During the years my husband was the stay-at-home parent, he coached our son’s soccer and baseball teams.

Another father was a Little League coach of badness. He demeaned the boys, and encouraged bad sportsmanship. When they were in the outfield they would boo and yell insults at the batter and pitcher.

He was friendly to my husband and me, but I always dreaded playing his team. It made me sad.

One cold night I was watching practice before one of these games. His team had already warmed up on the diamond. Parents were beginning to fill in the bleachers.

One of the dads sat next to me and made small talk. “Big game tonight.”

“Yeah, and the mood will be crabby over here, you know, with the usual tsking about how mean that coach is, and how negative the team is.”

I should really look at who I’m talking to. It was the other coach, come over to wish me and mine luck.

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.

Naming the baby

December 28, 2012

My grampa and I were close. He did little things all the time to show me he loved me.

For instance, whenever he knew I would be stopping by the house, he went up to A&W and got me a vanilla shake. I only like chocolate shakes, but I so loved that he did this for me that I never told him.

He used to say all the time, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.”

My first baby was due on Dec. 20, and Grampa had brought my family to Colorado to be with me. They got there Dec. 13, just in case.

By the 23rd I was jumping in the snow, trying to hurry things along.

Grampa came out with a cup of coffee and sat down to watch me. “What will his middle name be?”

“It’ll be my husband’s name, unless he’s born on the 28th. If he’s born on your birthday, Grampa, I’ll believe fate wants him to have your name.”

Grampa made me stop jumping. “Hold that kid in five more days!”

My son was born the next day.

While I was in the bed, my husband filled out paperwork.

“I named him after Grampa anyway,” he announced. That baby-naming maverick.

But the truth was, I was happy he wanted to make Grampa happy.

I would do anything for him, too.

My son’s birth

December 24, 2012

When I was seven months pregnant with my son, people not only thought I was ready to deliver, but that I likely carried twins.

By the time I was in my ninth month my size was downright unreasonable.

My bottom left rib hurt. My back ached all the time. The baby kept getting hiccups. I was a  miserable pregnant lady.

More than once I thought raising the child had to be the easy part.

A week before I was due I heard “Silent Night” sung in harmony from  my porch. My parents and grandparents were standing in the snow, announcing their arrival from California.

The due date felt like it would never come. Then it passed right by.

On the morning of the 23rd I had my regular appointment with my CNM  (a midwife with medical training who works out of a hospital.) The hospital was in Denver, an hour away. After a nap at home, I woke up to an invitation to lunch at The Harvest.

Oh boy! A carob shake was in my future.

Ooh. Cramp.

Throughout my shake having, I had periodic pains. This is the last thing I wanted to say out loud in front of my mother, so I sneaked looks at my watch and kept track of how far apart they were. I watched the little airplane second hand fly around the map of Southern California on my Swatch.

After a time my dad said, in a ridiculously loud voice, “How far apart are they?”

Imp. Observant imp.

For dinner my mom and grama made albondigas. There’s good eatin’ when Mom and Grama come by.

Come dinner the pains hadn’t grown much larger or closer. But toward the bottom of my bowl I had one great big pain that didn’t stop.

I ran to the downstairs bathroom. There was something yucky and shake-like in my future.

Dad was there. I ran upstairs to the bathroom. Mom was there. Halfway down the stairs I couldn’t go up or down. I sat and screamed. Mom came out.

My husband got me into the bathroom and called the midwife. She said to draw a bath, light some candles and have some wine. It was time to relax. It would be a while.

I tried. Couldn’t. I was still with the big pain that didn’t stop.

Mom was all a-dither. We went to the hospital.

As we entered I started in with ‘I want an epidural,’ (I say ‘started in’ as if I hadn’t been saying it for nine months already.) I said it to the people in the lobby, the guy in the elevator and some nun handing out booties she’d knitted.

I was told it was too early. Hours of badness passed. I kept saying it.

I threw up my albondigas.

Finally I hit the magic number of dilatedness and my midwife came. I told her I wanted an epidural. She said it was too late.

Hours of hell passed. At some point I escaped everybody and locked myself in the bathroom. There was a lot of door pounding. I sat in the Jacuzzi and ignored them. I hated my nurses. I hoped their dogs died.

When I came out I was in trouble and didn’t care.

My midwife told me to push. There was no urge, but I pushed. I kept pushing. I got in trouble for pushing when I wasn’t having a contraction.

There was a break between my contractions? I had only felt one long pain since dinner.

At 6 in the morning, because it was either pass that baby or die, my body let that baby out. He was purple and limp. Me too.

I sound heartless, but I didn’t listen for the cries, or notice the glances of the staff looking at a seemingly dead baby. I couldn’t tell it was over. I was still with the pain.

As they worked to get him breathing, I began to feel some relief. I later learned my son broke both the hospital’s record for head crown size and my pelvis.

Now we’re both fine, but can you imagine my panic when I learned I was pregnant with my daughter?

The dinner party surprise

December 7, 2012

There was a guy who came to work at the Daily Camera when I was there. We hit it off right away.

After he was there a couple of weeks he came over to my desk.

“I’m not coming on to you.” For the record, this is never a good thing to say to me, because it makes me wonder why the hell not. “But I gotta tell you that you feel familiar to me. I feel like you’ve been my best friend for years. It’s weird.”

We became great friends. He got along with my husband. We shared a lot of laughter, and when he met the girl for him, I gave him advice behind the scenes.

One night they came over for a dinner evening. We thought it would be fun to make it a formal event.

I cleaned and decorated. I made a tremendous meal. I fixed up a beautiful table.

But when we were having wine and conversation in the library, my 4-year-old son came in and stood near the center of the visiting.

“I think I found a clue,” he announced.

He was looking down at the center of my Oriental rug.

There was a big dead mouse there that none of us had noticed. It had cat-teeth punctures in its side.

Scott made a face of considering. He nodded, “No, buddy, I think you’ve solved this one.”

That was it. The playing grown-up had cracked. We burst into laughter, and in my gown and rhinestones, I scooped up the mouse and burped.