Friday, May 28, 2010

The Things That Are Lost

Tragedy struck us last night. Thieves stole through the darkness and broke into our car (broke perhaps isn’t the right word since I left it unlocked) and took my purse and brand new GPS.

Things they did not take:

Box of Gobstoppers.
Spiderman bouncy ball.
The horse blanket my sister brought me back from Guatemala.
Change in the ashtray.
One white jellybean stuck under the driver’s seat.
Water bottle.
My Cher’s Greatest Hits CD.

Things in my purse:

My new camera. (The replacement camera for my last stolen camera.)
My wallet with license and debit card.
A pair of Ella’s socks.
A Spiderman action figure.
My Wegmans Shopper’s Club Card.
My Subway Rewards Card (two more ‘til a free sub.)

Ella’s heart.

I am full of the anger.

Between the GPS, the camera, the fees for a new license, and the $15.00, we are out a good $300.00.

I’m feeling very, very sorry for myself. And guilty. I left my purse in the car. I left the doors unlocked. Apparently, our strange visitor visited 30 others houses in our neighborhood last night. The police stopped by and took my statement, detailing the things I had lost. The serial number to the GPS. The canvas texture of my green Fossil purse. The pictures of Ben grinning on his brand new bike. Me kissing his cheeks.

Ella’s heart.

The Stolen Camera

Since the camera was stolen,
everything is a photograph –
pink bloom against white stucco,
serious face of the potato chip man
leaning over his cart.

In the square, gypsies with brilliant skirts
twirl among palm trees.
I reach for the camera, to hand it to you,
but it is gone, stolen by a thief
who knows nothing of lenses.

Are you thinking of the camera?
I ask you once,
and you nod.
You will not mention it.

Two days ago you caught
the shrivelled saint who kissed your hand,
the twins of Bougainvillea laughing
in their windowsill.
Your camera had careful eyes,
and now the pictures are stolen inside it,
babies who will never be born.

How would I feel if they stole my pens?
My lips would go on making words,
when I crossed the dappled street,
words everywhere, steps
or yellow leaves.

Today we pass the monastery silently.
maybe we are soaking up light,
brief angles of sun on stone.
Mabe tonight when we sleep
all we have seen will arrange itself
inside us, quick trails of stars,
and we will wake glowing,
the world in our eyes.

Popayan, Colombia

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from Words Under the Words

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I've got one hand in my pocket and the other one is teaching my children to speak directly

I’m trying to teach Caleb and Ben to be less passive-aggressive. Passive-aggressiveness is like a limp handshake; both make me squirm. (Daniel and Ella do not have this problem. They are bold about their requests. Probably a bit too bold, actually.)

Today, I took the kids to the Walmart to get Benjamin a bicycle. Tomorrow is his preschool’s annual bike rodeo, and I didn’t want him to be the only kid riding around a Big Wheel. Nothing like waiting ‘til the very last minute; the kid can’t even ride it that well and would probably have more fun in the Big Wheel, but darn it, I don’t want him to be, God forbid, DIFFERENT.

I realize I have issues.

I promised everybody I’d get a special treat for the ride home. Have you noticed how ridiculously inexpensive Oatmeal Cream Pies are? 1.42 at the Walmart. For a whole box.


I put the kids in the car and shoved Oatmeal Cream Pies in their mouths so I could listen to Alanis Morrisette in peace. (On a side note, Ella loves Alanis. She likes to sing “Everything’s gonna be fine fine fine!” I don’t play her that other song. You know what song I’m talking about. It’s the song I sing to John when I’m feeling bitter but empowered. Actually, Alanis may be the perfect example of a woman who does NOT suffer from passive-aggressive behavior.)

The kids consumed their pies before the song was over. Caleb piped up from the far-reaches of the mini-van, “I really wish I had another Oatmeal Cream Pie.”

I did not answer. After all, it was not a question. It was an irritating passive-aggressive prompt. It was like nails on a chalkboard.

He said it again.

I ignored him again.

Finally, he asked, “May I have another, please?” My method is obviously working and I am obviously brilliant.

I grinned at him in the rearview mirror. His eyes lit up and he leaned forward with eager anticipation.

“Nope! One’s enough,” I said.

The problem with training kids not to be passive-aggressive is this: when they are finally direct about their desires, the answer is almost always no.

Here are some common statements I’d like the boys to modify:

A rainy day is a good day to Play Xbox… (Accompanied by plaintive look.)
Modification: May I please play Xbox?
Answer: No.

I guess I’ll never ever go to Disneyworld. (Big sigh.)
Modification: Can we go to Disneyworld for vacation this year?
Answer: If you can pay for it, sport.

It would be nice to have candy for snack today. (Hopeful glance.)
Modification: May we have candy for snack?
Answer: Sorry, buddy. Mommy ate all the candy about an hour ago.

And all of the Oatmeal Cream Pies, for that matter.

(I guess I’ll never ever be skinny now. Accompanied by plaintive stare.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Proof that Raising Twins is as Hard as Training for the Winter Olympics. Sort of.

I have verifiable proof that raising twins is just as hard as training for the winter Olympics. My health insurance carrier told me so in this short informative video:

Did you catch the "these are really hard things" montage? I, of course, zoned right in on this all too familiar image:

Not only are they twins, they are b/g twins!!!!

Raising twins is also as hard as these things:

Riding a bucking horse
Surfing a 10-foot wave (Is a 10-foot wave considered high in the surfing world? I want to make this sound REALLY hard.)
Riding a tiny car thing on a dirt road
Olympic skiing

I know raising twins is as hard as these things because they were all in the SAME montage. And ExcellusBlue, which just so happens to be our healthcare provider, is an honest establishment that only feeds the public the TRUTH.

Today was hard. Today, the twins unpotted a plant and made sure the dirt got really ground into the rug. They dumped a box of cheerios all over the floor and shrieked when I swept the cheerios up because they were, um, eating them. As I made lunch, they pulled all the books within their reach off the bookshelf. One of them tore a page out of C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain. Each blamed the other, probably because they understand too well the contents of that particular book.

I took them outside. They spilled bubbles all over their clothes and then rolled in dirt. They fought over a Cozy Coupe, even though I bought TWO Cozy Coupes to avoid this very problem. Ella threw sand and got some in Daniel's eye. Daniel retaliated by hitting Ella atop the head with a sand rake.


Daniel, who was a very dirty little boy by the end of the day, announced he was yucky yucky yucky and requested a bath. Ella was playing happily and quietly in the sandbox, so I brought Daniel inside to give him a thorough washing. (To clarify- John was home at this point and in the back WITH Ella, lest you think I left her alone in the yard to fend for herself against the rabid bunnies and red ants. The wheels in your head are turning. Though it may appear I'm negligent in my parental duties due to the shenanigans my children get into, I assure you I am a capable mother! Generally speaking! I admit that today was a doozie. Days like this, thank God, don't come along very often.)

Back to our regular scheduled program. Daniel was about to get in the tub.

He refused to get in the tub. "I want Lella," he insisted. "Lella too."

So freaking cute.

In the not too distant future, they will no longer be able to bathe together because it's just not done once boys and girls get past a certain age. What is that age? I would imagine 4 is pushing it.

I'm going to call the people at ExcellusBlue and ask them for advice on this matter. Because, from what I can tell by their excellent informational video, they totally get it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Three Parts

On Friday evening, I headed off to my once-a-year singing gig with at the Conservative Party Banquet right here in Rochester, New York. The Conservatives, being relatively conservative, do things the same way year after year. Therefore, I know every May I can make $100.00 singing Gershwin and Cole Porter tunes at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. I get to sing with my dad, which is lovely, and Joe, a saxophonist who was also best man in my brother’s wedding, and this year a bass player I’d never met before. I’d love it if we were a real band. Sadly, we’re a once-a-year phenomenon. My dad is threatening to quit altogether, even though I came up with a great name for our would-be jazz ensemble. It’s… wait for it… Improversations! (Improvisation and conversations put together.) It came to me in a dream. I thought I was incredibly witty for coming up with it on my own; I then found out Michael Scott from The Office first coined the term. (The subconscious is a strange vault of information.) Nevertheless, I think it’s a name that would look good on a drum. (On a related note, Improversations could use a drummer.)

This year we made the evening news.

I am famous. Again. Surprisingly, the phone calls aren't pouring in.

You can see me and Joe a few seconds into the segment. I am singing Porter’s “Let’s Misbehave,” which is always an appropriate pick for any political event. (Though our gigs so far have been limited to right-wing political events, don’t be fooled. We would be happy to play at your wedding or bar mitzvah.)

On Saturday, Caleb and I went with my dad and stepmother to see Peter Pan in Stratford. This was Caleb’s first theater experience, and he loved it. After every scene ended, he turned and asked if the play was over. He wondered if the pirates were actually real pirates, because they certainly looked real. He clapped loudly when Peter Pan implored the audience to help save Tinkerbell’s life. He gasped when it appeared the Jolly Roger would sail right into the audience, and stared amazed at the starry sky from which Wendy, John, and Michael flew home.

It was a fantastic performance, despite the fact that Tiger Lily and her Indian friends were turned into Amazons. (Political correctness is destroying the theater!) The Amazons were all female and looked an awful lot like Xena Warrior Princesses.

It was a treat to spend the whole day with Caleb. Speaking of treats, my dad and Sigrid stuffed that kid full of sweets- cookies, hot cocoa, ice-cream, and candy. And, when Caleb had to use the potty five minutes after we left Stratford for home, my dad didn’t scold him. Not even a little. I’m only mentioning this because it’s not how I remember my dad acting when Holly-of-the-very-wee-bladder had to stop some place to use the potty on car trips.

Before the play, we took a walk by the river. This couple was making out in a disgusting fashion. So I took a picture. (That'll learn 'em.)

Caleb, oblivious to the couple on the bridge, is excited about feeding a mass of swans.

Here's the boy in action.

Yesterday, we had a full day of church, naps, and an evening visit from friends. I went to bed last night feeling full of warm fuzzies. I love my children. They are good people.

It is my job to check on them before I start my own getting into bed process, which is long and complicated. Sometimes, I don’t check on them. I climb into bed, start the process, and John says, “Did you check on the kids?” I sigh and get out of the warm covers and take a peek at them. Inevitably, Ella is stripped down to her diaper, though on occasion, her diaper is off completely and that, of course, needs to be remedied.

Why doesn’t John check on the kids? I’m not sure. He seems to think it’s his job to remind me to do it. It’s strange how over time couples get relegated to specific, inane roles. For instance, it’s John’s job to fill up our nighttime cups. When he’s out of town, I reach for my cup and feel disoriented and confused when it’s not filled with fresh, cool water.

My bedtime process consists of adjusting the covers just-so, applying hand-lotion, taking my happy pills, drinking my cool water, flossing my teeth, and then reading until I get sleepiesh. I must wear pajama bottoms to bed and the sheets must be tucked in correctly.

This is why I don't get my kids. When I go to check on them, they look like this:

Daniel has completely removed his sheet, and is lying on top of, instead of under, his quilt. His feet aren't even on his bed.

Ella's feet are hanging out of the crib. Note that she has stripped out of her pajamas. Her blanket, at least, is not covering her face like it usually is.

So, last night I dressed Ella, put Daniel in a position that made me fairly certain he wouldn't wake up with a neck cramp, and went to bed, still filled with the warm fuzzies. A lovely weekend.

Monday, May 10, 2010

On Mothering

On Mother’s Day, which kicks off Mother’s week, of course, John gave me the gift all mothers want but feel guilty asking for: time away from their children. He allowed me to sleep way late. While I slumbered, he made the kids clean the entire house. When I finally meandered downstairs to eat breakfast, Ben set off to clean our bedroom. I went up to find my slippers neatly placed against the wall and my bra (which had been on the floor) draped over the ironing table. (“Because that’s where you keep that thing, right mom?”) That’s right, son.

I’m not going to lie to you. This has been difficult year of mothering. These people are not making it easy on me. They have issues. Like, serious issues. They’re not always normal and charming, like I am.

We’ll start with Caleb. This is a good kid. He rarely gets in trouble. However, on the few occasions when he does, I may feel compelled to raise my voice ever so slightly. When this happens, he immediately dissolves into tears and moans, “I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore!” Statements like these make it difficult to punish him. I mean, I could sit there and assure him of my love and then say, okay- go sit in timeout for telling Ben he smells like monkey poop, repeatedly, until Ben howled in protest, but somehow it never turns out that way. Instead it ends with me holding Caleb, telling him how much he means to me. I always seem to come out of it with a damp shirt, feeling rather taken.

Sometimes I think they’re training us instead of the other way around.

Benjamin and Daniel have responded really well to 1-2-3 Magic. This is a book that provides a very effective non-spanking disciplinary method for children ages 2-12. My middle boys are (there’s no other good word for it) naughty. Ben is dramatic. Daniel has anger issues. They have both thrown epic tantrums in their day. Now, all I have to say is “that’s 1” to get Ben to shut up and to make Daniel look afraid.

No, Ben and Daniel are trying me with their “hobbies.” Ben's hobby is... unusual. Daniel's is just frustrating.

Ben has taken up what he calls “arting.” Arting definition: To make art. His form of art? He draws superheroes on paper, colors them in, and cuts them out to play with. You may call them paper dolls; we call them paper action-figurines. We have at least 200 of them. Somewhere, a mother tree is weeping the loss of her child.

Lately, Ben has taken arting to a whole new level with his recent scotch tape discovery. Paper superheroes need capes and swords that can be attached and reattached, apparently. I bought him his very own roll and told him that’s all he would get for the whole month. (That was a week ago. It’s gone.)

There are paper scraps all over the house and pieces of tape stuck to my socks. And the paper guys? I caught one staring at me while I was going to the bathroom today. The whole thing’s gotten out of hand and Ben shows absolutely no signs of giving it up. On the bright side, he is the very best scissor-cutter in his preschool class. And his arting has certainly boosted his self-esteem. He recently told me, “Mom, I’m very, very good at art. I make art like a man.”

Daniel’s hobby, if you can call it that, is playing with all of his toys at once and then not picking them up. There are two types of behavioral training methods in 1-2-3 Magic. First, you learn how to get kids to stop their bad behavior. Then, you learn to train kids to start good behavior. An example of “good behavior” is cleaning up your messes. Daniel is good at stopping his bad behavior. When it comes to starting good behavior, however, he is a big fat failure.

He is stubborn. The other day, I stepped on an army guy. An army guy! I thought moms only stepped on army guys and then cursed about it in movies. It hurt like a you-know-what. I 'm fairly certain that I’m doomed to become a 35-year old hunchback thanks to the constant picking up of blocks and legos and rogue army men.

Ella. Ella. Ella. Light of my life, love of my heart- she sucketh the life frometh me. It's a known fact that when children can’t communicate verbally, they communicate in other ways. Like screaming as loud as a banshee. Ella’s very vocal indignations and frustrations come in three levels:

Level A: She says No! No! No... No! in a sing-song voice. And then she runs away. This occurs when I ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do or when I ask her something she doesn’t understand. It also occurs when I or one of her brothers asks her for something she has that doesn’t belong to her. (Ella steals stuff and then hoards it. This perturbs her brothers.)

Level B: She squawks like an angry chicken. One afternoon, she was running to the swingset when her much faster older brother whizzed passed her and beat her to her favorite swing. She ran right up to him and squawked so loudly that he got off the swing and warily backed away.

Level C: This is bad. I am now partially deaf in my left ear thanks to Level C. This is a full-fledged tantrum that is impossible to stop without either a) giving in to her demands or b) locking her in her room until she falls asleep. The neighbors know about Level C. The mailman knows about Level C. Congress has been alerted to Level C.

There are t-shirts for sale that say "I Survived Level C."

But of course it’s all worth it, in spite of all of these things. These days are going by so fast. Caleb can ride his bike, which means he’s just one step closer to pedaling away from me to spend time with friends. Soon, hanging out with me won’t be cool.

Yesterday, I taught Daniel to give me Eskimo kisses. (He calls them Elmo kisses.) Someday, I’ll brush my lips against his cheek for a quick kiss, and I’ll feel stubble. And my heart will break.

Little Ella. Last evening, when we drove home from Lockport, Ella woke up from sleeping and went into a full-fledged Level C tantrum. I couldn’t get her to stop for anything. When we got home, I stuck her in time-out. She persisted with her high-pitched screaming. After a few minutes, I retrieved her from the time-out chair, angry and exasperated, and stripped her down to change her and put her in her pajamas.

Her legs were covered in hives. (I can only attribute them to the strawberries she had a few hours earlier.) Though she had not been itching them, she became frantic when I put my hand over them. I think they were hurting her.

My sweet Ella. I can look past these times of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Not being able to communicate has got to be more frustrating for you than for me. To get through this, I remember that one day you might get married, and then your husband can deal with Level C.

Benjamin Bear, who has a wonderful way with words, told me he loved me very, very much the other day. “And my love keeps getting bigger and bigger!” he said.

Funny- mine does too.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Oh, How I've Loved Being Lost

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to write about a stupid television show. And I feel a little icky doing it, but this stupid show has consumed many hours of my last six years. Thanks to the wonder of the DVR, I haven’t been subjected to commercials of any sort in years and years, but I’m always a little bit ashamed when I admit I love a TV show. Because I’m a snob.

Freaking Lost.

I’ve watched the thing since the first episode. Only missed one. (Again- the wonder of the DVR.) I was hooked by the previews. A lover of the film Swiss Family Robinson, I have always been drawn to a good shipwreck, or in this case, plane wreck on a deserted island, story. Now, it's almost over and I feel like I need some time of reflection and closure. And what better place to share reflections and closure than on the internet? So here it is: my thoughts on being Lost...

Lost started off rather slow. It was intense, but slow. The first season developed the main characters, including the island itself. The show’s two main characters were Jack, a doctor and a man of science, and John Locke, an invalid miraculously cured by the restorative powers of the mysterious island. Jack was the Scully to Locke’s Mulder. They were science to faith, Nietzsche to Kierkegaard, Han Solo to Luke Skywalker, atheist to believer. Locke never tells Jack he was paralyzed before the crash; he wants Jack to believe in the island. It was probable that Jack would try to rationally explain away the miracle, anyway.

The first three seasons fluctuated between character flashbacks and what was happening on the island in the year 2004. Jack and Locke are the leaders of the motley crew of survivors, constantly at odds with one another. Secondary characters include Kate, a convict; Sawyer, a con-man; Sayid, a former Iraqi Republican Guard with a penchant for torturing people; Hurley, a lovable, overweight guy who had just won the lottery; Sun and Jin, a Korean couple with marital issues; Michael and his son Walt, who have just recently met; incestuously involved step-brother and sister Boone and Shannon; Charlie, a drug-addicted musician; and Claire, a very pregnant Australian who was on her way to give her baby up for adoption. There are other survivors who skulked about the beach being generally useless. Some were later introduced as regular characters, most remained in the background.

Lost had something for everyone. For the girls, there were love triangles, unrequited love stories, love surviving against all odds, etc., and plenty shots of Sayid and Sawyer sans shirts. There was an abundance of weird science-fiction lore for those interested in subjects like quantum physics, time travel, and parallel universes. There was violence and adventure and dark humor (like when poor Arzt blows himself up with dynamite- I’ve got Arzt all over me!) and paranormal activity. The ever-rational Jack begins to see his dead father; the survivors hear weird, unexplainable whispers in the jungle; a fast-paced pillar of smoke picks people up and smashes them against the trees. A man name Desmond is discovered in a hatch. (He’s been pushing the same series of numbers into a computer every 108 minutes for the past three years. Trapped on the island, he is separated from the love his life, Penelope, which is not coincidentally the name of Odysseus’ wife from the epic poem The Odyssey. What happens if the numbers aren’t entered in the computer? Planes crash into the island, that’s what happens.)

At the end of the first season, we get our first glimpse of the “Others.” A group of people on a fishing boat inexplicably kidnap Walt. (It was a shocking season finale.) In season 2, the “Others” are introduced as adversarial island natives, obsessed with children and pregnant women. We have no idea why. Their gang-leader is an insipid-looking man named Ben, who takes his orders from a mysterious and seemingly invisible man named Jacob.

The flashbacks continue. New characters are introduced; new flashbacks are required. Viewers got accustomed to the flashbacks. Reliant on them. It threw me for a loop when the flashbacks ceased at the end of season 3. The season finale shows us Jack in the future, a drunken mess of a person with no friends, no family, someone Kate pities.

I hated that episode. Jack, though a bit of a tool, was at least reliable and confident. He fixed things- his presence was reassuring. The episode left me unsettled, bewildered, and unhappy.

It was a brilliant episode.

The flash-forwards last a full season. In season 5, time is no longer sacred, and the characters left on the island jump back and forward through time, eventually settling in 1974.

Season 6: flash-sideways. After all, there are only four ways to go: up, down, right, or left. The characters are shown living alternative lives. Their plane does not crash. Kate is still a convict. Sawyer is a cop. Jack is still a doctor. Jin and Sun are not married, but want to be. Hurley and fellow survivor Libby experience strange “memories” from the island. Passengers of Oceanic 815 keep bumping into each other, their lives intricately connected in some mysterious way.

Throughout the series, the writers dropped clues through literary, biblical, philosophical, and mythical allusions. John Locke’s name symbolized his fresh start, his “clean slate,” if you will, after landing on the island. Comic books read, books carried around, all of these things were plot clues. What was the island? Purgatory? Pandora’s box? Never-never land? The lost world? Oz?

The show hasn’t been perfect. There have been some ridiculously irrelevant episodes. Remember Jack’s Thailand flashback? And Kate’s flashback- when she barged into a bank to steal a toy plane? (How come that whole incident didn’t come up in her later trial, by the way?) Overall, however, it’s been a very satisfying ride.

Finally, things are wrapping up. It has been a truly existential trip. The smoke monster? He’s the adversary of the man Jacob- an evil entity who can take the form of the deceased (he was the image of Jack’s father), and who can also take the form of an indestructible pillar of smoke.

Before this final season, the only person who had seen the smoke monster was Locke, briefly, in the abandoned shack in the middle of the jungle.

That episode terrified me. Locke enters a ramshackled, abandoned cabin in the jungle to meet up with Jacob. Things get paranormal. A rocking chair starts rocking. Things fly about the room. If you played the scene very slowly, you could see, for just an instant, the image of a man- Jack’s father- rocking in the chair.

Did Ben know the difference between Jacob and Smokey? Did he believe he was taking orders from Jacob when in fact, it was the other one; the evil entity; the Satan character, if you will, he was taking orders from?

It’s all very confusing. However, Ben, who stabbed Jacob to death, strangled Locke to death, who allowed his own daughter to be killed, finally recognizes his empty, worthless existence (as he has driven away every person in his life)- and is forgiven and accepted by Ilanna, a woman who is very close to Jacob.

It’s ultimately been a show about redemption. As the main characters have been plucked off the island one by one, they’ve gone down heroically. Eventually, all of the candidates will be eliminated but one (just revealed to be Jack Shepherd.) In the last episode, Sayid sacrificed himself by running off with the bomb. Jin sacrificed his life to try and save his wife’s. Through their sacrifices, these Lost characters are eventually found, redeemed.

The sadness of each death is lessened knowing they live on in their sideways lives. It’s like believing in heaven; the blow of losing a loved one is softened when you know you will see him or her again after this life is done. Each death is no longer agonizing because it is not an end, but a release. And in that way, Jacob, who has allowed these bad things to happen, seems to be working things out for a greater purpose- a purpose we don’t know about yet.

Ben asked Jacob, right before he killed him, why Jacob had ignored him. Ben, like Judas, had taken everything Jacob had given him and manipulated it, relishing the power behind his knowledge of the island. Jacob did not seem surprised when Ben killed him. He didn’t struggle. Like Obi-wan when Darth struck him down. Like Jesus after Judas kissed him on the cheek. Miles insists that Jacob ultimately believed Ben would do the right thing. In the very end, I think Ben will do the right thing. He will be redeemed.

In the finale, I don’t think Jack will end up taking over for Jacob. Here’s my prediction: Jack’s conversion to team Jacob helps rid the island, and the world, of the malevolent evil that is Smokey. Once evil is vanquished, Jacob is able to rise from the grave, so-to-speak, and continue doing whatever it is he does. Perhaps Jacob will live again in Aaron. I don’t know. Desmond factors into all of this somehow, too. Jack will die, but will live a happy sideways life. Maybe he’ll even reunite with his ex-wife (who I think is Juliet. They met in medical school.)

I guess we’ll see in a few weeks.

My Lost Memories:

Favorite episodes?

First favorite: The first Locke-centric episode (Walkabout) where we discover the island healed Locke’s paralysis. (Tuesday night’s was pretty amazing too, when Jack acknowledges (after pushing Smokey, who is wearing a “Locke suit”) into the water, that Locke told him to believe.)

Second favorite: The one where Desmond goes back and forth in time (The Constant) and cures himself of time-travel sickness by finding his one true constant, Penny.

Least favorite episode? The one where that couple gets buried alive. (Expose.) It added absolutely nothing to the story-arc.

Favorite characters?

10. Hurley
9. Desmond
8. Jack
7. Kate
6. Sayid
5. Juliet
4. Daniel Faraday
3. Sawyer
2. Benjamin Linus
1. John Locke

Only episode I haven’t seen: The one where Sayid tortures Sawyer. And quite frankly, that’s okay with me.

Your favorites? Least favorites? Other thoughts? I know I’m not the only Lost geek out there.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why It's Probably Best We Don't Homeschool

Caleb loves the Star Spangled Banner. He used to sing it all of the time. Lately, he's taken to writing it down on his Magnadoodle, erasing it, and starting all over again. A while back, we got a book out from the library detailing the history of the flag flown over Ft. McHenry, the same flag that inspired the National Anthem. Whenever we passed a large flag at a car dealership or a town hall, Caleb wanted to know if that was the flag from the song. We explained over and over again that it was not, that the McHenry flag was now locked away in a museum.

Now it’s a running joke. Whenever we pass any flag, he jokingly asks if that’s the flag from the war.

I think John has become tired of this running joke.

Last Sunday, on the way to Caleb’s piano recital, we passed a Red Lobster donning the American flag. True to form, Caleb asked, “Is that the flag they flew in the war?”

“Yes,” said John. “That’s the flag we flew in Germany after we defeated the Germans.” (Caleb contemplates this.)

“Is that a German Restaurant?” (His logic always astounds me.)

“Yes. We fly the American flag over German restaurants so that they remember we won the war and don’t cause any more trouble.”

Caleb, silent, accepts this as fact.

The saddest part of this story is that I did not interject with the truth.

Caleb hasn’t asked us about any Rochester-area flags since then. He’s probably contemplating the wide prevalence of German cuisine in our city. When he does ask again, I think we’ll tell him all car dealerships are run by the British.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Springeth Commenceth

Two weeks ago, with the exception of the Chinese guy that lives on the corner, we were the only people in the entire neighborhood who hadn’t mowed their lawn yet. (The Chinese guy couldn’t care less about his yard. Or his house. He lives alone and drives an early nineties Toyota Tercel that looks even worse than his lawn does. I think the car used to be grey. It is now a rusty copper color. He keeps a large house only because he needs a place for his large family to stay when they visit from China. I know all of this because the neighbor across the street told me. He’s become sort of my hero. The Chinese man, I mean, for not succumbing to suburban convention.)

We have been in contact with our trusty sixteen-year-old lawn boy and he has since been over twice. I am currently seeking a landscaping intern who would like to work on our flower beds. We can’t pay, but we will write a wonderful recommendation for a job well done. I will also provide lemonade: not homemade, but Country Time. I like their commercials. I want that house by the pond with the willow tree and swing. Life is easygoing at that house. No one worries about getting their lawn mowed.

Spring is in full swing. I know this because my nose itches and runs like a faucet. The kids spend most of the days in the backyard. Ella found a grease puddle left behind by our old grill. She painted herself with sticky brown grease. It’s probably safe to say that the clothes she was wearing are ruined. The boys freak out if they get dirt in their fingernails, but Ella- give her a mud puddle or a grease puddle or a gravel pit and she is the happiest girl alive.

We went to the Red Wings (baseball team) opening day two Saturdays ago. It was 39 degrees outside and it rained intermittently. We hung out for four innings before the whining commenced. (John threatened not to bring me next time.)

There is something lovely about baseball. It’s a subtle sport. I love watching my brother watch baseball. He keeps meticulous record of the stats during the game and scrutinizes each pitch, each swing, each catch, each slide into first.

I wish I was that passionate about something.

The only person I know who loves baseball as much as Josh is, of course, Caleb, who still cheers for the St. Louis Cardinals. He has currently taken up throwing his baseball against the chimney outside; it bounces and he catches it. We have lost two pairs of pants to grass-stains because Caleb loves to slide. In our grass. You know, the grass that was just recently cut.

It's been a rough spring in the clothes department.

Everyone has praised Caleb’s baseball prowess since he was two years of age. I’m afraid he’s gotten a rather large head about it. It’s been a source of embarrassment for me. Today, my friend Lydia came over for dinner. He told her he was very, very good at baseball.

“I’m very, very good at baseball,” said Caleb.

“What’s the hardest part about baseball for you?” she asked.

“I’m really good at hitting and catching.”

”Yeah- but we want to know what the hardest part about baseball is for you,” I said.

“Hitting homeruns,” he admitted. “Because I’m a small guy.” (I’m aware that we may have a very serious Napoleon complex developing here.)

He’s most proud about his baseball abilities, but boasts about other accomplishments, too. Whenever we have visitors, he pulls out his baseball medals, his piano trophy, and mentions that he is in a special enrichment program at school. “For the smart kids,” he says.

It’s so mortifying.

We’re working on teaching Caleb humility. But how do you go about telling your kid he’s not actually the greatest thing since sliced bread? After you’ve been telling him for years that sliced bread has nothing on him? Do you bluntly say, “Look, kid- there will always be someone better than you are????”

I tried to explain what “humble” means. I’ve been meaning to get a children’s dictionary, but in the interim, I took Caleb to the computer and logged onto an online children’s dictionary.

Humble: 1. Not proud, modest. 2. A pie formerly made from the edible organs of a deer or hog. (Ew. A pie made of venison or pork would have worked just as well, I think.)

Modest: Not thinking too highly of oneself; humble.

Note how the child’s dictionary used modest to define humble and humble to define modest. Not cool, children’s dictionary creators. Pure laziness.

But I think Caleb is starting to get the picture. He’s a smart kid. Not that smart, but just smart enough. I’m not bragging about my kid.

Caleb is also quite proud that his two of his pictures from art class are going to be displayed in the school district art show.

“My two pictures are called Self Portrait and… and…” he couldn’t think of the second name. Today he remembered. “Self Portrait and Landscape!” he announced. One of these evenings, we are going to truck out to the art show to see Self Portrait and Landscape in all of their glory.

But we will not be telling him he’s the next Matisse (we’ve learned our lesson since assuring him he’s the next Albert Pujols.)

Pics from spring thus far:

March: John taunts me with friends' baby. "See this Holly? You can't have one. Ha ha ha ha!!!!"

We take a hike to see how syrup is made.

Caleb drills stump: does not find sap.

April: Ella makes an egg. Eureka.

We are troopers.

Winter has left Daniel most pallid.

Ben swings.

And skateboards.

Caleb plays the theme to Star Wars at the annual Pops recital.

Afterward, we take him out for ice cream. Caleb uses his straw to get every last bit. I think this is ingenious and plan to do the same next time I have ice cream. Have already bought straws from store.

May: Daniel and Ella view a farm animal (I forget what it was) at Springdale Farm.

Ella pets fuzzy bird creature after stealing my water bottle.