Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Not too bad

I had steal myself that there would be hourly meltdowns during our family vacation to Philadelphia by each of us during waking hours (and a few when everyone should be asleep). Much to my surprise, there were only a few (by each of us) during the entire trip. That includes the two 6+ hour train rides. Let that be a lesson. Set the bar incredibly low and voila you'll be pleasantly surprised. Kind of like me envisioning the flower girl picking her nose during the ceremony. She didn't and therefore my wedding was a smashing success.

The primary reason to go to Philadelphia was for the King Tut exhibit at the Ben Franklin Institute. I was not disappointed. Even though we had a timed ticket, they further controlled the crowd by grouping people into smaller groups. We stood in a holding area and watched a 90-second video showing the Nile basin, pyramids and 1920's archaeologists. Then, a curtain rose to an illuminated statue of Tut's head. It was just thrilling.

My 43 pound daughter spent the bulk of the exhibit on my shoulders. While at times very painful, it kept her in one place and also gave her a vantage point to see the artifacts. She loved pointing out all the scarabs. However there were some patrons that didn't appreciate the constant "LOOK MOMMY ANOTHER BUTTERFLY!!!"

My sons went through the exhibit with my husband in record time. (My honey's text message read: We are in the gift shop at the end of the exhibit. They just gave us an award for the fastest tour. We beat the 130 folks. Our tickets were for 3:30.) One little guy was particularly impressed with the CT-Scan of Tut's mummy. The other thought the little kid chair was cool. They both will tell anyone who listens that intestines look like sausages and were put into a special jar for the afterlife.

Other highlights include the huge Games Pieces spread all over a plaza near City Hall, the giant heart my kids ran inside at the Franklin, and the war ship from the Spanish American War.

Oh, and the hotel pool, constant junk food and the little guys having their own television. Unlimited Cartoon Network. They thought they had gone to heaven.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Brotherly Love

Think it will rub off?

We're getting on a train tomorrow morning for a 6-hour trip to Philadelphia, The City of Brotherly Love. Once we enter the city limits I hope my sons will look over at each other and declare permanent peace and harmony. And include their 2 1/2 year old sister in that mix.

Hey, its a vacation and I can dream.

So I've got the goodie bag already packed. Snacks for the bottom of the hour and a new book/activity for the top of the hour. And before you jump on me for being hyper organized, you try to travel with 6 1/2 year old twin boys and a toddler. One friend commented after spending some time with the boys that "they have enough energy to power a small village in Africa." And she had been to small villages in Africa so she knows something about the power necessary to keep things running.

The big reason for going all the way to Philly in February is to see the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute. I saw the exhibit when it came to my city in the late 1970's. I was 9 years old and it was thrilling. I dreamed about ancient Egypt for years after and still hope to visit the pyramids one of these days (thanks to the various conflicts it will probably be one of these decades).

So while I would love to think that after seeing this exhibit my kids will be enthralled with mummies, hieroglyphics and pyramids, I'm really hoping we all can get through this trip with a few happy memories.

And knowing these kids, those memories will revolve around the hotel pool and when I let them have junk food.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Three different days in three different places. Pure winter joy.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy Mardi Gras

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

Are you sick of all the news coverage about Mardi Gras? Do you think the media is making too big a deal of "the recovery"?

I graduated from college in 1991, spent a month hanging around my parents' house then jumped into a 1973 Dodge Dart with no air conditioning or FM radio to drive across the country with two guys I barely knew. I'm still wondering what my parents were thinking. I spent the summer teaching in Los Angeles before being placed by Teach for America in New Orleans.

I moved to the City that Care Forgot in August of that year. If I had been placed in Los Angeles I would still be teaching. New Orleans just couldn't be bothered to teach its children. Or provide health care. Or basic safety. I'm being incredibly cynical and certainly there are many people who do care about these things. But certainly not for the poor. Or black. And that was over 80% of the city.

But it is a town that knows how to throw a party. For that day before Lent. For Jazz Fest. For the beginning of crawfish season. For someone's funeral (you haven't lived until you've second lined in a housing project - the music truly goes into your soul). For the Miss High Hair Pageant. You name it, there is a party for it.

Which is why I am so angry at both the "how can they party?" comments during the Mardi Gras coverage. Easily. They party because they are alive and because they can.

And I am also angry at the "get over it" comments. WHAT?!?!? Our government allowed a major US city be destroyed. I knew in 1991 that if a category 4 hurricane came up the Mississippi River and went into Lake Pontchartrain it would destroy the city. And I am a Yankee (as in Northerner, not the baseball team). If I knew that, surely the government did. But then our government "knew" there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

One Mardi Gras tradition that we've introduced the kids to are King Cakes. The bakery we get them from includes little porcelain figurines symbolizing Mardi Gras. In years past there has been a Flambeau Carrier and a Mardi Gras Indian. I love that they haven't switched to plastic figures.

We have ended up with four king cakes this year and the bakery has three figurines for 2007.

CAPTAIN BLUE ROOF... a.k.a 'sub-sub-sub contractor'

KATRINA....lady? OR a hurricane?

And, my favorite, The FEMA Trailer they will live in.

Laissez-les bon temps roulez New Orleans.

If you haven't already given money to the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans or would like to give again, please consider donating to the New Orleans Musician's Clinic or the NO AIDS Task Force.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Never say never #4,702

That "never say never" list is really long.

Like my kids would never watch more than one hour of television a day.

Or they would always eat healthy foods and never, say, have cereal for dinner.

Or that I would never allow the boys to leave the toilet seat up. Now I just hope they get the seat up before the stream starts.

Then there are shoes. Specifically shoes with laces.

I vowed when I gave birth to my sons that they would never, ever, wear shoes with Velcro straps. They needed to learn how to tie their shoes. By age 3. After they swam the English Channel but before they discovered a new planet. I was going to give them until age 7 to win an Olympic Gold medal. In fencing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Last week I was prepared to give up on helping my sons create Valentine cards for their classmates. Up till now they had only given hand-made cards. I can attest that some part of each card was made by them through the years.

But this year the idea of getting them to each make 19 to 20 cards was enough to make me want to run to the local drug store to buy pre-made cards that essentially advertise a show or movie.

Much to my surprise both guys wanted to make their own cards. One guy asked me to write Happy Valentine's Day on each heart while the other did it all on his own. All 40+ cards for the two kindergarten classes pretty much ended up like this one.

That lovely portrait is not Thomas with dreadlocks. It's me. I thought you would like to know how I've aged since my protesting days. After carefully making a rendition of me, my guy decided his friend wouldn't want a maternal portrait so he made another card. And those large things under my hair are ears. He worked very hard on that part of the portrait.

So what did my kids get? Candy (these parents have got to be kidding - obesity, allergies, the current trend to give children way too much crap - can't these folks just let kids give each other written words?), temporary tattoos (groan), stickers and cards like

Nothing says love like the green and red Power Rangers.

Of course, I am amazed that Hello Kitty is still around.

Or the one that gets the "I'm a better parent because I make the card for my kid" award:

Two different card stock, a ribbon glued on the middle with a puffy sticker on the middle. There was even a candy bar artfully tied to it. Of course, he didn't notice the card. He just tore off the candy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Misbehaving boy

We're getting to our wits end with one of our guys.

His sweet 24-year-old teacher desperately said to me one evening "do you think he's tired"? She is so nice she doesn't want to imply that perhaps my kid is being a royal jerk.

Last week, my husband had to work late (like most nights) and talked to the guy on the phone. He "helped" him write an apology to his teacher.

This is how it turned out:

He wrote "I am sorry for misbehaving tobay. I will try to bo better."

Oh so wrong. If you are going to apologize, it needs to be sincere. And look nice. So back to the pad. This time with me in charge.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Team photos

We got our basketball photos on Saturday. In January each guy had his portrait taken holding a ball with a backdrop of fans at a game. Then I had one taken of the three of us so I could put it on a keychain. Lastly, the entire team had their photo taken on the court we actually play on.

I played basketball growing up and briefly tried both soccer and field hockey. Something about people gunning at me while kicking or wielding a thick wooden stick just struck me as insane. I remember the fear I felt in elementary school as some girl came down the field with a soccer ball. How I managed to raise two boys who genuinely like soccer is beyond me.

But I played basketball the full 6 years I could in the town youth league and never once was there a day when professional photographers took our portraits. We never had a team photo taken. And we certainly never had the option to put those images on keychains, water bottles, afghans, clipboards, shirts and on and on.

Keep in mind, my guys play soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and both soccer and baseball in the spring (don't give me grief about "over scheduling" my kids - they are called The Tornadoes for a reason). That means we could have two kids' images on soccer balls in the fall, Wheaties boxes in the winter, and baseball bats in the spring. All for a small fortune.

But we don't buy all those things. They get a team photo and a set of playing cards, complete with their "stats". As many statistics a 6 year old can compile.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Plotting an escape

"Mom, don't work on the computer and don't watch the Daily Show. You need to go to bed right away."

OK. Why?

"Don't ask. And don't go into our room."

So during bath time I did the equivalent of reading the journal. I opened their bedroom door. Their backpacks were packed full of stuffed animals, underwear and light sabers. I returned to the bathroom and nonchalantly asked what was going on it there.

"We're meeting [6-year-old friend's name] outside the house after you go to sleep. We're going to walk to the train tracks and look for bears!!" with all the excitement 6-year-old twin boys can muster (in case you don't know - it is a lot).

Deep breath. Count to ten. Think of this as a test for when they tell me as 14-year-olds they've been invited to a party with no parents in the house. They are trusting me not to lose it.

After (calmly) explaining that it isn't safe for children to be alone outside in the dark, its too cold, they are too young to make plans like that without parents ["But you can come!"], the plan itself was dangerous and, finally, the clincher that I thought their friend was just being creative and dreaming up a scheme that would never happen. Through all of this there was lots of rationalizations, yelling, pleading and crying.

I even called the friend's mother to make sure he wasn't walking on some interstate highway on his way to our house. He wasn't. He hadn't even talked about it with his mom.

Which led to this heart-breaking, bone shaking sob from one guy.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Singing Fool

He won't stop singing.

He sings at dinner, loudly.

He sings when we need to get going. He sashays down the stairs, down the hallway singing a made up song about shoes or looking for hats or how his sister has smelly toots.

Loud opera voice, goofy country style, cheesy Disney, old standards. He hasn't discovered Gregorian chants but some day those will be in his repertoire too.

At one point during our trip to the even colder North, he was loudly singing in the bathroom. My husband was worried he was disturbing our neighbors so I went to knock on the door and just ask him to sing softer.

I found him singing naked in front of the sink mirror. (Well not completely naked. He had socks on.) His arms outstretched and he belting out some tune.

He froze when he saw me.

I started to laugh. He started to laugh. We couldn't stop laughing.

Finally I closed the door. And he sang a little quieter. But not much.

Monday, February 05, 2007

They can see

I had everyone in the van barreling home last week. An old van was on the street with us with its lights on in the back. It was one of those vans that has huge windows on the side in the back. There was a girl, about 8 or 9 years old, reading a book.

She was surrounding by stuff. It towered over her. I couldn't really tell what it was but I thought - smugly - that at least my car didn't have that much junk in it.

Then I was asked from the back,

Do they live in their van?

We talked about how some people don't have enough money to pay for rent or a house. Sometimes people do have to live in their cars, or with their family or in a homeless shelter. I said that we shouldn't assume the people next to us were living in their van but that was a thoughtful question to ask.

So much for being smug.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

In another voice about a mundane topic

Today I was suppose to be visiting another blog but something happened to my hostess (I hope she's o.k.). The charge was to write in "another" voice. Can you guess who?

I’d be so proud
If the kids had found
That eating green vegetables
Would make them strong.

I don’t like cooking
I just stand there looking
At the limp raw chicken
Sitting in the kitchen.

But a diet well-rounded
The doctors have all hounded
Should be aspired
And highly touted

And hiiiiiigh-ly touted!

I don’t usually write in rhyme but this month’s charge was to write in a famous person’s voice. Can you guess who I am copying? When not attempting bad lyrics, I am a working mother with three kids and often pine for those days in middle school when I sang in operettas(really the only thing I enjoyed about middleschool). Go to http://www.theblogexchange.net/ to learn more about the exchange.