Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I've learned a lesson about naming children. I picked two American name brands for my children's names -- historically surnames, and thus, fairly 'ol fashioned English professions. They are easy to yell. And easy to shorten without creating swear words. I text them as CPR and MSN -- also pretty easy to remember abbreviations.

But, what I didn't take into account is that Cooper would love finding his name on the side of tires and cars. And Mason wouldn't really like jars nor aluminum carports that much.

The search for equality, well we strive for equitable circumstances, is a daily struggle and source of colossal contention. And one of the most heated debates is over who should get to carry stamped mail to the mailbox.

I try to stay out of this fight and generally only stick my nose in if there is blood. Tears flowing the boys came to the conclusion that one brother can carry it to the mailbox and the other must trail along behind so as to be available for the handoff when brothers will handover/receive envelope and deposit it in the mailbox. Complicated if you ask me.

Do you know how they decide who will carry it? Rock, Paper, Scissors. Which, of course, is the universal solver of all problems.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Good Party

Taking Mason to birthday parties makes me nervous. I don't mean the simple, two or three friends over for cake parties. I mean the huge rent a bounce house/paint pottery/build-a-bear/karate birthday parties. These parties often result in Mason standing at the front door begging to go home. He's usually uncomfortable in these large, noisy, lots of people settings. And that makes me uncomfortable.

Sometimes we just skip parties like this. I literally don't tell the kids they've been invited and we do something as a family instead. But recently -- for a very good playmate -- we chanced it. It was a Tae Kwon Do party. My children had not experienced martial arts before and I was curious how they would respond. In particular I wanted to see how Mason dealt with the experience.

First and foremost, the head-chopping-kicking-master-guy was really loud and basically yelled everything he said. Boy did he have all eyes on him -- my boys included. Little Mason shrugged himself up straight and tall, sucked in his stomach as tight as possible, kept his chest lifted and arched. If I had to guess, I bet his butt was clenched.

Next, the head-chopping-kicking-master-guy lined everyone up in rows by age or height or weight or willy-nilly. I don't know what his system was. But Cooper was in the back row and Mason was in the front row. I usually try to put them together. But Mason clearly did not need Cooper by his side.

Then, the head-chopping-kicking-master-guy lead the kids in some kicking-punching-striking-ducking kind of moves. Mason did great! There was a little trouble with the breaking a board with your very own foot exercise. But Mason and Cooper both broke their boards, eventually.

There was only one activity that Mason would have no part in. Wearing a sparring helmet, strapping a huge pad to his belly, and charging an opponent. Cooper loved that. Mason would have rather eaten a rolley-poley.

Finally, the head-chopping-kicking-master-guy had the kids line up in a single-file line and ask for their own cake and pizza. Mason usually crumbles in these on-the-spot, you-must-make-a-decision, and speak-for-yourself situations. I did not step in (neither did Cooper), and he did just fine. Even said, "Thank you"!

Mi favorita has recently given me some very good advice -- I don't know if it was intentional or not. She was describing how she felt about trying to control wether or not her twins were in the same class in school. And for her it was a matter of control. Control that clearly did not matter to her. She wasn't going to ask that they be placed together and she was going to see what happened and how they grew to deal with it. And an idea unfolded itself in my head. I can let life teach my children. I don't have to do everything. I don't have to control the situations that shape them. They can shape themselves in the situations they find themselves in.

That is not to say that I don't have a very big job. I have the job of preparing them, repairing them, and supporting them. But controlling them, limiting their choices, and even choosing for them -- in the name of protection -- is exhausting, fruitless, and cancerous.

And anyway, I think Mason just chose Tae Kwon Do. A good choice.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Strange Places I've Visited

We visited the Aquarium with some friends. Fun day wandering and viewing some seriously exotic and big sea creatures. Then we ate in the restaurant -- no, none of us ate fish. As we walked out of the aquarium toward the car I asked the kids what they liked the best -- remember they had touching a pygmy devilray to choose from -- Mason said, "I liked the bubbles." The bubbles? Yeah, the bubble machine outside the aquarium that the kids enjoyed for 2 minutes while I was buying tickets. Oh glad I spent money on admission.
And folks, I include this picture merely to tell you one more smart aleck thing Mason said. When I was editing my pictures I asked Mason what he was doing in the one featured below. He said, "Ellie farted. She is tooterific." Oh my gosh! I guarantee she did not. But Mason has to put a comedic spin on everything.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tied with Christmas

And now I can say I have seen what amounts to the graduating class of M.I.T. 2027.

I can also report we were the first in line. The LEGO event clearly tied with Christmas for popularity. Before the velvet rope was drawn back the boys were chatting up the LEGO guys in aprons and fancy LEGO shirts. While I was admittedly excited, I tried very hard to watch my children interact with other kids and the event organizers. I genuinely wanted to see what they would do, left to their own devices.

I have a few conclusions. Cooper focuses on speed and likes working independently. Short of being rude, but just short, he shooed away any official LEGO engineers who offered to help him. Mason likes teamwork and often checked in with an engineer concerning his progress and quality of work. You could say he likes to be micro-managed. Together they probably were responsible for more than 35 bricks.

The bricks were made of about 50 small LEGO bricks. And were then used to assemble the large Buzz (8' feet tall). The smaller Buzz -- shown in picture -- was the map used to build the Buzz to scale. Very cool process and my boys both enjoyed watching the master engineers put the big Buzz together and building the bricks.

Of course, we spent a lot of money. I found myself in a crowd of mothers from team LEGO. Very interesting crowd. We swapped ideas of good birthday parties for LEGO lovers, where to buy the best LEGO shirts, and talked about the best way to leverage the space in the "pick a brick" tubs. (If you didn't understand any of that, don't worry, it's a LEGO thing.)

Just days later when Cooper's teachers gave him the assignment to draw an oceanic creature he had never seen before he told me, "I could just build a narwhal out of LEGOs and then trace it on the paper. Would that work, Mom?"


PS -- Did you know one of the top 10 schools for mechanical engineering is Cooper Union?

Friday, May 14, 2010

We'll Be Back

We're off to a LEGO master builder event. Yes, that's right, our mother is taking us to "help" build an 8' tall Buzz Lightyear. We'll be back shortly and report fully.

Monday, May 10, 2010


My first born will enter kindergarten this fall. This is generally considered a big deal. I'm looking forward to this event. I know he will enjoy it, too. I just wish I could help him understand that the first friend he makes is the most important.

I mainly believe that he will go on to make other friends. Perhaps friends who will know him better. A friend that will make the team with him. Another may move away with him to attend college. Another still might be the best man who drives him to the church the day he gets married. But nothing replaces the first friend. How do I know this? Because I was just reacquainted with my first friend.

Here's the thing that my first friend probably never realized. After I moved away I stood on that new playground, at the new school with no friends. But I stood up straight and smiled my best smile because in my heart I knew someone had liked me once and surely someone would like me again. All thanks to the confidence I had from meeting my very first friend.

It had been about 30 years since I had last seen my friend. Three decades ago I'm pretty sure my last words to her were, "I don't think they have stamps in Wyoming (the God-forsaken location my parents moved me to)." But the minute we started talking I was so happy to be with her. Hearing where her path had taken her was an introspective action that I very much enjoyed.

Remember your first friend and know that because you had a first, you will have many more.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Mom Went to Vegas

You know those tacky shirts that say, "My mom went to Lake Tahoe and all I got was this stupid shirt"? My children didn't even get one of those stupid shirts. I went to Vegas -- sans kids and husband -- and all I brought back was this stupid photo.

I didn't come home with a tan.

I didn't come home with scores of cash that I won playing slots/poker/baccarat/placing bets on the derby.

I didn't come home skinnier.

I didn't come home with ticket stubs from a show.

But I did come home. And that is saying something. It's not very often that I get to escape my day-in-day-out responsibilities of loading the dishwasher, folding those damned fitted sheets, and walking the kids to school. (And lest you think I do more than that, you're mistaken.)

I did reacquaint myself with my dancing bone. (Please don't make any porn-y jokes. I just went out and shook my backside to the beat of some questionable music. That's all.)

I did have a relaxing time with my friends by the pool, if by relaxing you mean I laid really still and pretended not to worry about how far my gut was sticking out, how many sunspots I was acquiring, and where my next drink was coming from.

I did make a new friend who I proceeded to give a scandalous nickname -- which will not be repeated here because as is true with most things coming out of Vegas, you really had to be there.

I did meet up with a very old friend. Well, she's not really old so much as my first friend I ever made. Or something like that. The main point being, we're still spring chickens, seriously.

Anyway, what's important here is that I didn't buy that stupid shirt. I just posed stupidly for this stupid picture that I thought my kids would find awesome. But in fact, they didn't recognize the gigantic wax guy. Coolness fail.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Problem Solved

Let it be said that my boys are inventive. Not to be deterred by his earlier mishap in the restroom, Mason has come up with a new position. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Dear 16-Year Old Son,
I don't know you, yet, but I'm writing to inform you that it has been a pleasure watching you catch bugs this afternoon in the year 2010. I figure 13 years from now you will have shed your 3-year-old's ways and won't find it so interesting. In fact, at 16 you probably never think to leave the house with dirty fingernails, without your shoes, or in sweats. But right now, I expect nothing but.

I also want to remind you that no matter what you think of your mother today, once upon a time you liked me very much. You would tell me almost 20 times a day that you loved me. LOVED me. That's right. You love me. Try not to forget it. And I'll try to give you every reason to remember.

By now your sweet little toddler voice is probably all changed up. You might even be a baritone, but I hope you still sing because I know it brings you peace and calm to hum a little tune. (I even think the roley-poley bugs like it.)

Anyway, happy hunting, be it bugs or babes -- or whatever your 16-year-old self is interested in. And thanks, very much, for a nice afternoon.

Your mother, who is not going to admit how old she is.