Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wherever You Go

The safety of an older brother is one that I will never know. I've got brothers to spare, but I'm the oldest. And so, I walked into most birthday parties of my childhood on my own.

My Mason, however, has his Cooper. The Coop. Never a fear has flitted across his determined brow when bravely he strides into a birthday party. Regardless of who else is invited, The Coop just shows up and has a good time. Mason does not. He is anxious far ahead of the moment we cross the threshold to said funhouse. He tries to hide and mutter and shuffle into a corner -- hoping no one is the wiser for him having arrived at all.

But wherever Cooper goes, Mason will follow. Or rather, sometimes he is too uncertain to follow and it is then that I rely on Cooper to draw little Mas-a-roni out. Taking his hand and leading the way the two plunge into the fun that is meant to be had, but that Mason cannot find on his own.

It will be so hard for me to protect Cooper from the obligation of always assisting Mason. But I must remember that eventually, and some of the time, Cooper will want to go his own way without a tag-along. And Mason soon enough will bravely speak up for himself, I hope. Be loud and proud little brother, loud and proud!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What I Learned

So, here's the straight facts about what I learned when I "went back to school". First of all, you should know I didn't actually go back to school. I signed up for one measly seminar at the local community college. The class was titled, Get Published.

On the first night of class the instructor -- I use this term loosely -- asked each of us why we were taking the class. I lied. I said that people sometimes tell me I should write a book and so I thought I would come and see what all the hubbub was about. The truth is that my mother had an idea for a children's book. She told me the idea. I thought it was a good idea. I have from time to time wondered what it would take to get it into print.

Here is where the truth about the class came out. It was a class about Self Publishing. I am so glad I took this class.

I learned that I likely do not ever want to publish a children's book. And no matter how good my mother's idea is, she will likely never have a book published in the traditional sense. Why? Because she is not already a celebrity and because something like 1000 books are published every day. Every. Day.

Truthfully, the very best book ideas probably never even see the light of day. I am in no way suggesting that I have one of the best ideas. Nor that my mother does. I'm just saying, there are some very talented writers in the world that will never -- not ever -- be published (in the traditional sense of the word). This is sad.

But I know it now and I can put that dream to rest without any regret. Honestly. I feel a huge wave a relief.

Self publishing, on the other hand, is a very real possibility for a lot of talented writers. But those talented writers must be talented marketers of themselves. Tricky.

What I learned is that I just MIGHT like to be a part of the process of publishing some one else's book. Like I might want to help someone edit their manuscript. Or better yet, I'd really just like to receive advance copies of other people's books and write reviews. That's all... free books and criticism. That's more my speed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Return of the Halloween Costume

Ummm, excuse me, what day is it? Yeah, how hot is it outside? Hot? That's what I thought. But guess what my kids are doing? Lounging in their Halloween costumes, and eating cheese.

Through the years I've gone up and down about my feelings about costumes. And now I really -- I do mean honestly -- have no shame or embarassment to take a child to the grocery story though he be in full regalia. I am, however, exhausted. It's been a full three years of dress-up, people.

Dress-up play is great. But it makes a colossal mess. First you must decide how to store the costumes. Then you must decide how to clean them. Then there's the whole debacle of a play date when every child in the neighborhood is fighting over the pirate's hat and the turtle's slippers. Not to mention the mess a gaggle of toddlers can make in a dress-up chest.

And really, I should have thought about these things WAY before I introduced costumes into the house. You accidentally set precedents on how many costume changes a child is permitted in one day, how many costumes they can wear at once, and how many days in a row they are allowed to wear them. In a word: exhausting.

Do you suppose there is a parent's handbook on dress-up clothes? That is a manual I could write.

Aside from the complaints, there is certain amusement to be had along the way. I have genuinely relished shopping with Batman and standing in line with Darth. After all it is the closest I'll come to celebrity.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Let The Good Times Roll

Hints of perfect weather are peeking through in our state. And we're so grateful.

It is time for playing in the street (please drive slow in my neighborhood), yelling over the fence for BBQ tips, and picking through the garden.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dear LEGO Engineers

Someone at my house is desperate to be featured in the LEGO club magazine. This is like entry no. 7. It's not that his creations are any better or worse than those featured, it's just that well, I suspect thousands and thousands of kids send in pictures each week.

In his desperation he's taken to art directing the photos I take. This is a really good example of what he thinks looks really "cool". (My pictures are "lame".) So anyways, don't hold your breath little man.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Trip To The Dentist

We have a seriously creative kindergarten teacher. She and the other classes included an edible car race in their science unit this past month. Cooper loved participating. (In fact he's still making things out of food a month later.)

I learned a lot by volunteering during this event. So, if you're a teacher and you're interested in what parents think of this event, read on! (Otherwise, it's going to be pretty boring.)

1. Increase the brag factor. Remember that these kids spend a lot of time and their parents a lot of stress putting these cars together. Encourage older students, other teachers, the principal, and other parents to stroll around the car tables before the event begins asking children questions about how they put it together, what materials they used, and how they think they will do. If you have a lot of time have each student say this into a microphone before they push their car down the ramp.

2. Timing the cars in not necessary in this age group. Seriously. Just mark the ending point on the track with a Sharpie and write their name next to it. Likewise, having a "leader board" is not necessary. And if you don't have a winner -- but awards for every student -- don't mess with this at all.

3. It doesn't take that long to have each child push their car down the ramp. So, make a big deal about announcing who it is and encourage all the kids to cheer each individual competitor. Maybe have them slap the floor for a drum roll before and during each car rolling down the ramp.

4. Use dark colors for the ramp paper. I used yellow (and this was my bad) and it throws every picture out of whack. It was highly reflective and made for some serious color saturation. It is intrusive to all the pictures. I thought it would be high contrast to the cars and really make them stand out. But it didn't. Use dark or muted colors. Don't use white!

5. Set up the refreshment buffet table to have two sides. This creates two lines and moves children through a lot faster. And if you're group is bigger than 30 set up two buffet tables so that there are 4 lines making it through the food.

6. Don't bother with a medic table. We thought this would be necessary to help children who had broken cars. But if you only run the cars once, it doesn't matter. And we found that overachieving parents showed up with their own supplies and helped their own children. Our medic table was mistaken as a treat table and we had kids picking at other student's car parts all morning.

7. For awards, elevate the ceremony. So, if you can, put the kids on a pedestal or a stage. This is the thing the parent paparazzi goes crazy about and every picture will suck if the kids are down below the gigantic grownups.

OK That's about it. Good luck and start buying up appropriate edible car parts and hoarding them. You won't be able to find a good candy cane in March, believe me.

It should come as no surprise that Cooper's award from the edible car race was, "A Trip To The Dentist".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Farther From the Truth

So, it's that time of year. The time of strangely festooned characters marching in front of retail tax businesses reminding people that April 15 is just around the corner. One such fixture of strip malls in this area is Liberty Tax. They have paid young men to dress as the colossal neoclassical sculpture given to us by France.

When Mason saw this for the first time he shouted, "Hey mom, It's the Statue of Libya!"

Oh boy. Libya: the war-torn pustule of North Africa. Not a lot of liberty there. I found myself defining liberty to my 4-year-old. And explaining why Libya was not at liberty. And found that I was just as confused as my 4-year-old. If only the ways of the world were as simple as a gawky teenager dressed as a huge woman earning $80 a day to entice drivers to visit the road-side accountant before April 15.

Also, don't forget my birthday.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Merchandising 101

On the day the housekeepers come I try to make myself scarce. So when I return to the house with the boys, Mason -- my 4-year-old -- races up to his room and flops himself on his bed and coos, "Oh mom, I love it."


He likes a neat bed. He regularly sleeps on top of the covers so he doesn't mess up his bed. Very strange child. Recently he sought me out with a special request. "Will you take a picture of me on my bed for my teacher?"

Ummmm... this is a weird request. Right? Just re-examine those last three words. For. My. Teacher.

Anyway, I followed him back to his room where he had painstakingly arranged his stuffed friends. He then climbed to the middle of them, affixed himself into what he deemed a photogenic posture and asked me to take the picture. I'm not kidding. I wish I were, but I'm not.

I took an additional picture so as to remember the care he had administered to one pet in particular. It is tucked into the covers