Friday, October 31, 2008

Tricks and Treats

Costume parades, sugar rushes and night night walking is all beyond compare. Halloween is connecting us with neighbors and family and dear devils who delight us with their unbridled joy, mock fear of fleecy dorsal fins, and enjoyment of all the wonder and surprise that childhood represents.

I love how Halloween brings out the sideways glances in the boys who can't really believe that this is for real. Costumes! Candy! Walking OUTSIDE at NIGHT! This could NOT get any better! And yet it just does and does and they keep peering to us and to each other as if they can't really trust that this will continue to be so fun.

The boys are a sea of getsitement and stirring even in their sleep. I am reveling in the memories of my own fascination and childhood delight with this holiday of dress-up fantasy. Like so many aspects of parenting, I find myself immersed in the experience and yet only half experiencing it in real time. The other half is being replayed in the reel of my own silent and scratchy home movie; not quite in focus and playing the same scenes over and over.

It's a candy bag filled with childhood friends, costumes of tuille and tap shoes, flashlight walks through the neighborhood of my youth, and finally the sweet satisfaction of Starburst and SweetTart sorting, exchanges and bartering.

Yes, Halloween is bizarre and awkward and a mountain of work if you're stupid enough to try to take on costume preparation while home alone for 10 days with two preschoolers. But like so much of this chapter in my life, the sweetness far outweighs the salty and the bitter. And isn't that what Halloween is really supposed to be all about? Letting the sweetness overcome us while acknowledging the scary, the dark, and the fantasy? While never, ever letting anything win out over a roll of Smarties, a miniature Hershey's bar, or fabulously over-the-top attire? Life lessons, I say, all wrapped up in a plastic mask and wax lips and pure chocolatey gooey goodness.

Tricks and Treats to all!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Couger and her cub

In Mr. Wonderful's absence, my main man Max took me out to dinner on Friday night. I had planned on going out to eat with both boys, but after chatting with the kind of friend who knows when to stop you from doing something horribly stupid, it was decided that Sam should opt out. Dodi and Aaron graciously offered to entertain the wiggly two-year old so that I could spend some quality time with my Max.

I suggested pizza, and he said he knew the perfect place..."Costco!" Considering that it was my birthday, I wanted something without cement floors. High maintenance, I know.

My date was charming, witty, very affectionate and enormously appreciative of the opportunity to be alone with me. Every date should go this well. Except, of course, that I drove and picked up the tab. Hmm, kind of like college all over again.

It's probably in bad form to take a video while on a date in a restaurant, but I couldn't resist:

Ahhh, saved by the arrival of the good ship lollipop beverage delight.

Table manners aside, it was a wonderful date.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sharkskin Sweatshop Closed Due to Poor Work Conditions

AP News Feed: Authorities report that the chief seamstress at the Monkey Ranch Sweatshop has closed her shop due to poor work conditions and possible shark sightings. It is not known at this time what made the operator of the one-woman sweatshop throw up her hands in victory and yell "DONE!", but speculations abound. Perhaps it was the disastrous condition of her working environment, as evidenced by the piles of laundry, legos, blocks, Thomas the Train parts and roving dinosaurs scattered throughout the operator's shop. It is also presumed that when the bags of recently-sorted items destined for Goodwill were discovered and dismantled by the two minors employed as reluctant costume models, the operator may have issued some obscenities and considered closing her shop at that time. In addition to unusually late work hours, authorities are also concerned about the hygiene of the work space. Dishes in the sink may have been there for quite some time and it is believed that the seamstress may not have received a hot meal in days. When asked why she would attempt to operate under such conditions and without adequate supervision or assistance, the Sweatshop Owner had only this to say, "Trick or Treat!"

Friday, October 24, 2008


I could not let this day go by without some heartfelt and way overdue gratitude.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for caring for the little keiki while we sunned and snorkled. Your gift was immense and will be treasured always. Now go sleep.

Thank you, Mr. Wonderful, for saving the tiny umbrellas from our Mai Tais and promising to return them to me in the dead of winter when I'm rainlogged, overrun by muddy and stir-crazy boys, and my eyeballs are receding into my skull from the absence of sunshine.

Thank you, Max and Sam, for understanding that Mommy and Daddy needed some time to finish their sentences, meals, thoughts, and laughs. We even managed to talk about a few things other than the two of you.

Thank you Ocean, for your soothing sounds, salty silences and tireless reminder that the constants in our world roll back to us like waves. Some days are gentle and warm, others are fierce and chilling in this limitless sea called LIFE. Waves return, though never in equal form, and it all rolls on.

Mahalo nui loa.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Mother Road is Paved in Good Intentions

It was a spontaneous click, a little "just to let you know I was thinking about you" purchase I made last week.

I never intended for it to go so horribly wrong.

Nemo and his brother needed turtleneck shirts to wear under Halloween costumes. While at the virtual check stand, I saw some cute little underwear with dinosaurs on them that I thought the Maxosaurus would get a kick out of, so I tossed a pair in my virtual cart. And what with bundled shipping and my moral obligation to keep the economy rolling because obviously neither the free market nor our government can handle this mess alone, I grabbed a few other shirts for holiday gifts and voila!, my internet shopping was done and never a tear was shed.

Ahhh, so much easier than actual shopping. No strapping balls of butter in and out of car seats, no tug of war with fragile arm sockets and slippery hands in a parking lot of racing SUVs, no chasing of toddlers through open spaces and cranky crowds. The right size, the right color, and right to my door. Ahhh, so much easier.

I should know better.

While exalting in all the glory of today's sun and mud and tractor Tonkas, the boys were delighted to have their ears perked to the sound of a truck rumbling down our quiet road. The truck of brown goodness slowed at our driveway and the jumping began!

"It's for us! It's for us! We got a PACKAGE!!!"

Faster than you could ask what could Brown do for two getsited little boys with a truck! in their driveway! that delivers packages from places like Bubbi! And Santa! And toys! And TOYS! and Remote Control Dinosaurs!, I found myself simultaneously working on a signature, repelling the knee nibblers, and attempting to manage dinosaur-sized expectations. I told the boys that this was part of Sam's Halloween costume (since Max's size was on back order), a little something for Max, and the other items would be gifts for our cousins.

Never, ever did I utter these words: Remote or control.

I might have mentioned dinosaur.

The package got opened, the color for Nemo was a little off but certainly workable, and the size of the cousin gifts seemed within range.

The dinosaur underwear...not so much.

Did you hear the shrieks? At about 12:45 this afternoon? Yeah, that was what will forever be known as the "The UPS truck brought a shirt for my brother and all I got was this lousy pair of dinosaur underwear" Storm of 2008.

It was pathetic, it was loud and inappropriate, and it was funny as hell.

Once the crying slowed down and the breath began a regular pattern of inhale, I learned that there had been very high hopes for a remote control dinosaur. Tyrannosaurus Rex would be best, of course, but Stegasaurus or Triceratops would be fine, too.

Apparently Brown did not deliver. And neither did Mama.

Later, once the emotions had been thoroughly exhausted and discussed, we rode off to preschool.

"Mom, it's a good thing those guys are long necks on my new underwear", Max offered chirpilly.

"What's that?" I asked without the benefit of context or cohesive train of thought.

"I said, it's good that those dinosaurs on my underwear are longnecks because that means that they are plant eaters. I wouldn't want meat eaters down there where I couldn't see them."

Meat eating underwear: a very bad thing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Form Follows Function

Nope, it wasn't created out of worry about the economic downturn, although that is certainly on my mind.

Nor was it my concern over saving our precious planet from the enormous Yeti-sized carbon footprint of trade-deficit inducing, pieces of crap, decidedly un-green and unfairly labored Chinese-imported plastic badness.

I wish I were that noble.

Instead, I tossed some pieces of cardboard packing material into the recycling bin, more concerned about calculating my garbage day strategy than being virtuous.

The boys saw opportunity.

For mess.

Er, I mean ART.

One man's box is another man's racetrack.

The racetrack transformed to a beach that sharks could jump out of, or dinosaurs, or whales. "Race car" yelled Sam, so Max suggested that race cars could jump out of the ocean, too, if they are blue like blue whales. Or, white like Belugas. But not red, like McQueen, since whales aren't red. **

A born negotiator.

Ocean meets up with the jungle and a surfin' safari is born. A surfin' safari with big-engined cars. I think The Beach Boys produced a similarly themed album circa 1962.

Fun, fun, fun 'til Mama takes the paintbrush away.

** You're right, Max, whales aren't red, except when they're harpooned, I thought. But I didn't say that out loud. I'll wait until they're in kindergarten before I go all Greenpeace on them.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Today was Sam's day to be Special Person at school, which involves a little extra craftiness, coordination, cooking and pulling things together at the home front. After completing a three- dimensional photo montage of his life and moments worth remembering, I wasn't up for making the meatballs that he wanted to bring for snack (who is this kid and why isn't he asking for cupcakes?). But I jumped at his suggestion of oatmeal.

Yep. It went over like a lead balloon with the preschool set.

I'm figuring their unhappiness with 4 grams of applicious fiber had less to do with the old family recipe than the fact that the weary toddlers were tapped out from it also being Picture Day. Picture Day for a classroom of two year olds.

I'm pretty sure that feline portraiture is more rewarding.

At any given point for nearly two hours, there was at least one child screaming, shrieking, wailing or heaving sobs of despair. Another mom and I referred to the photo room as the "torture chamber" when selecting who should be next to sit on the adorable red wooden chair with 4000 watts of flashbulb aimed at chubby cheeks streaked with tears.

They should put Advil in the apron pockets for parent volunteers on Picture Day.

After we were home, settled, napped and fed, the boys and I took a nature walk to discover the changing of scenery. We take these walks regularly and they generally involve lots of gathering of sticks, leaves, slugs, prickly stems and other foliage items that later require large dosages of Benadryl.

Today, I suggested we bring the camera and take pictures of what was changing around us. Here's a little of what Max captured from his unique perspective on Autumn:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose...

But you can't pick your friend's nose."

A little wisdom passed down from Grampa Tom. Not really all that enlightening, but it was a guaranteed giggle or groan inducer when I was seven. At thirty seven, I still find myself thinking it and mentally smacking my head back and forth to make the rhyme go away.

And yet.
It's there.

Max and I had a rough bout before bed last week that involved a re-occuring toileting issue that just grosses me out. I'll spare details, but the boy got to learn how to clean a toilet seat. Enough said.

Needless to say, I think he got pretty down on himself and he felt ashamed and I felt badly. So for a bedtime story I read a favorite book of his and then picked "I Like Me!" by Nancy Carlson. Generally not a favorite of his since it involves a pig in cute tu-tu outfits and frilly dresses and absolutely no excavators, but the theme is sweet and I thought offered the right "tone" after our little feud.

The theme of the book is the pig is her own best friend, takes good care of herself, and has a healthy body image. I asked Max a few questions and got something like this in response:

Me: Do you have a best friend, Max?
Max: Sammy. Sammy's my best friend.

Quick, grab a bowl, a towel, something! I need to collect this melting pool of my heart off the floor. I'm wrenching from the tenderness, the love, the blatant and effective attempt to bring me back into his camp.

Me: Look, (pointing to a picture in the book), She's brushing her teeth and taking good care of herself. You do that!
Max: But... you do the best job of taking care of me, Mom.

Okaaaaay, um melting, tender, and feeling really sad that I upset him earlier. Yes, fiddle, I am being played like you by a 4 year-old maestro.

Me: Piggy likes her curly tail and round tummy. What do you like about your body?
Max: How my finger fits right in my nose. (Demo follows)

I am now a giggling seven year old. A giggling seven year-old being played like a fiddle and loving the sound of our song.

Pick your nose, pick your seat, pick your battles.

But I just couldn't pick a better kid.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Unmodified - Genetically or Otherwise

Corn has been KING near my grandparents' farm since I was a child. Perhaps (gasp) even before that. But in the age of ethanol and high-fructose corn syrup and corporate farming and corn subsidies and sugar tariffs and a myriad of other modern developments that may eventually lead to our downfall, corn is now higher than any elephant's eye and is everywhere. Regardless of how one may feel about genetic engineering and the decline of the family farm, even our youngest family member is noticing that something peculiar is happening in America's heartland.

I made this little video while out for a drive with my grandparents last month. My brother quietly drove, my grandfather told him where to turn, sometimes without words and only the point of a thumb, and my grandmother gripped Sammy's delicious thighs and kissed his chubby cheeks with the silence of a cat tracking a mouse.

Sam, as you can see, does not subscribe to the virtue of a peaceful Sunday drive.

And for that, and so much else, I am truly grateful.

Picnic in the Potty

There's something about the evil combination of returning from a family funeral with a nasty, energy-sucking, chill-inducing head cold that brings out the pushover in me.

PJ's until noon?
Fine with me.

Little oatmeal for breakfast?
Don't fight about flavors, pick the ones with the most sugar, and dump half the packet on the floor.
I'm good with it.

Marathon Backyardigan's session?
I'll bring the blankies.

I was even ready to let Max pull his favorite black glow-in-the-dark spider shirt out of the dirty clothes pile to wear to school for "black" day. Except Mr. Wonderful had the energy and efficiency to wash every item of clothing in our household (and fold it!) while I was gone. No one come over for dinner until December, though, because it will probably take me that long to get it off the dining room table.

I'm not complaining.

I'm not complaining about the little things right now, and when the boys asked for popcorn for dinner last night, I didn't say "no". They looked at eachother, slowly, as if to make sure that they'd really heard me right, and then giggled hysterically.

Partly it was the lethargy and absence of any form of taste bud in me that said "yes" to popcorn, but also part of it was nostalgia. My grandfather ate popcorn every Sunday night, since that was Grandma's one night off from cooking. He'd pop a big bowl, pour enough salt to fill the Utah desert, and go sit in the living room and watch football or 60 Minutes or Hee Haw or whatever.

Popcorn for dinner.

Max, being the crafty little negotiator that he is, suggested that popsicles might be a good dessert.

Sure, I offered, we could make it "p" day for dinner and only eat things that started with the letter "p"!

Then, pizza got thrown in, and I was all ... Yah! Pizza! There's tomatoes and cheese in rounds out our meal perfectly.

And they started jumping and laughing and thinking who is this crazy lady in her pjs at 5 pm who's saying "yes" to everything? We LOVE her! Which is just what I was aiming for.

Let's have pizza and popcorn and popsicles as a picnic!

Laughs, giggles and craziness ensued.

And then, the cold medicine made me a little goofy and I said "Let's have pizza and popcorn and popsicles at a picnic in the POWDER ROOM!"

And they looked at me with cocked heads and Max said "What's a powder room, Mom?" And I should have just shrugged it off, but I told him that's what some people called the bathroom.

Picnic in the potty - who wouldn't love that???

Not me. My laziness only goes so far and there are standards and eating in the bathroom is just a little too "preparing for the hurricane-y" for me, so we sat at the table.

Popcorn for dinner.

I think the old man was on to something...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sailing through the heavens

Today we buried Grandpa.

We lay him into the fertile farmland not ten miles from which in came, in the very month that gave him life 89 years ago. We set him down in the cemetery surrounded by family and brown corn stalks tinged with the memory of green. We listened to Taps on a lone bugle, serenaded by the whistle and hum of the 2:20 train. He would know that train. He would tap his watch to that train. He would mimic its whistle, as if to announce that which we'd already heard. Just as the VFW did when they presented Grandma with a perfectly triangulated flag on behalf of a grateful nation. It was so long ago, so deeply buried, and yet not. Still fresh. The whistle of a train. Still stuck in sorrow and honor and the knowing of that which has just passed.

My soft, sweet, gracious and ever-loving grandmother said goodbye to the good man who had held her for seven decades. The man who opened the door for her and wore the sailor's uniform of a grateful nation when she was a wavy-haired young mother standing in front of a Buick with the excitedly constant movement of her four year old boy, just as I do today. She poured her heart into that tender child and give him all her love and nutrient and heart and let him know that he was the light and love of their lives.

Together, they raised that sweet boy who would become my dad. They guided and loved others that they collected along the way; continuing to feed and harvest the fruit from their own family tree. Grandpa, with the arms and hands the size of tree limbs and the strength of a machine, could hold and hug and laugh and dance as if it were his last. And yet, it never was.

Today, as the autumn sun angled lower over the last of summer's red-ripe fruit, we put Grandpa back into the very earth that had borne him and sustained him. We honored him, loved him and recollected about him. And in that honor, we acknowledge those who created him, molded him, loved and accepted him. Those who escorted him into the dark days of passage and made his farewell a gentler goodnight.

And yet, we also say good morning. To the four year old boys who love tractors and snow plows and horses and harvesters. Good morning to the sisterhood of widows who will hug, and hold hands, and pour over the recipe books of family memory and life not yet lived.

As the County road intersects with the State highway, I merge onto something new. Just paved, fresh and dark and unmarked. The rear-view mirror reminds me of the cornfields from which I have been and the dark clouds through which I have passed. Tick, tick, tick, tick. The blinker acknowledges my airport exit and I say goodbye.

Fair winds and following seas, Grandpa Ralph. Much love and laughter to the original R.W.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Trails

Grandpa Ralph
October 29, 1919 – October 8, 2008

“Happy trails to you,
Until we meet again.
Happy trails to you,
Keep smilin' until then.”