Thursday, May 27, 2010

The World's Most Beloved Toy

My son's heart belongs to a little stuffed elephant. They've been together for years. You've all heard stories about the dog that waits for his master to come home, or the kid who loves his blanket, or the undying affection of a faithful friend. Kid C's love for Baby the elephant eclipses them all.

You may think I'm joking. I'm not. Adoration is too weak a word for this child's feelings. He snuggles Baby, talks to Baby, sleeps with Baby, and pets Baby. He even wears Baby around on his shoulder like an emaciated parrot.

The only time they're apart is when we pry Baby from his fingers just before Kid C steps on the bus. Then Baby waits by the front door for his return, and Kid C's first words when he steps off the bus are, "Where's Baby?"

They go to church together. Kid C smuggles him into the store, takes him to the swimming pool, parties, the movies, everywhere. They're inseparable. It's as if the entire capacity of my son's heart is invested in this small stuffed animal.

That is why we have a problem. A big problem. Here is Baby.

Baby is dying. And I'm afraid.

What you can't see in this pic are scars from the scores of times Baby has gone under the knife for emergency surgery. This little guy has had more stitches than a shark attack victim. But you can only mend fabric so many times before it breaks down and shreds. Baby is beyond shredding. He's disintegrating on a molecular level.

We had a new "Baby" made because we foresaw this bleak day. But new Baby lies abandoned and alone in the depths of Kid C's closet. There is no love for new Baby. You can't transfer feelings like this from one toy to the other.

My mom suggested we place Baby's remains in a cardboard box and hold a service in the back yard. I can't do it. The grief would be too much. So we'll stand by and watch as Baby loses limbs, or more likely his whole torso. I have no doubt Kid C will then carry Baby's head around on his shoulder and love him all the more fiercely to make up for Baby's loss.

I don't know what we'll do to make up for Kid C's loss when Baby's fibers finally collapse into a dingy pile of dust, but we stand by with new Baby and hope it will be enough.

What favorite toys have your children loved and lost? How about you? Do you have memories of a cherished friend?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

End of School and My Kids' Awesome Teachers

It's here.

The end.

Not of the world, but of school.

Usually I quake and tremble at the mere thought of school letting out. Usually I crawl out to the bus in my fuzzy slippers, drop to my knees, and beg them to keep coming. I make visits to the teachers and implore them to stay in the building teaching my children.

Why would I do such a thing? Because when school ends, the lovely yellow bus won't pull up at my curb and take my children away. The teachers all go home. These are the stuff nightmares are made of. I know because I read the ingredient list.

I also know this sounds bad, and that several of you may be nominating me for a mother of the year award right now. But let me explain. My children will be stuck with me. All summer. All day. Every day.

Let me say that again. They'll be stuck with me. They won't get services. None. No speech or physical therapy. No highly trained, talented teachers that use their magic touch to crack the shell around my kids and let them escape from their disability for a few precious hour a day.

How could I not want that to go on all year long?

So in my own twisted way, this is a shout-out to all the teachers, assistants, therapists, peer tutors, bus drivers, administration, lunch ladies, librarians, and custodians who help shape my children's lives.

We love you. Yes, all of you. I know words are poor and flimsy compared to the hours, weeks, and months you dedicate to my children, but they come from the heart. You are a vital extension of my family, and we couldn't do it without you.

So, thanks for loving the boys even when they refuse to shower and smell. Thanks for loving them through long fingernails and temper tantrums. Thanks for caring even when they throw things, break headphones, or flush sack lunches down the toilet so they can eat pizza at school. Thanks for loving them even when they growl at you or refuse to leave the room because there are clouds outside.

Thanks for teaching them to read, count, and tell time. Thanks for teaching them to do all the thousands of little things the rest of us take for granted. I know it's slow going and hard, but each small triumph is huge. Every word, figure, or number is a miracle to us. We feel your impact here at home. And for the first time, I'm not scared of summer because your influence has been so lasting in their lives. For the first time I don't want to dress as the Grim Reaper on the last day of school.

For the first time I'm excited for summer.

So thank you for my children. Thank you for everything.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another First Page

Awhile ago, I posted one of my first pages, and recently I participated in a first page contest. The idea behind a contest like this is to discover if your few lines are gripping enough to get the agent, editor, or reader to turn the page.

The contest forced me to think about every word on my page. Then to rethink every word on my page. I'm not sure if I'm there yet, but half the joy of this whole process is in the mind-bruising struggle.

After much internal debate here is one of my entries. And no, I'm not going to tell you how I fared in the contest. :)

EDDIE AND THE MAGIC STAFF (Mid-grade Contemporary Fantasy)


Eddie cringed as his mother pulled up to Quinten Middle School. A sick feeling churned his stomach. He scrunched down into the seat and stared at his shoes.

“All right, Sweetie,” his mom said. “I’ll pick you up after lunch.”

Eddie didn’t look at her. Instead, his gaze swung toward the school. Kids streamed up the stairs like a swarm of ants. He didn’t move. “B-but T-the D-dragon,” he stammered.

His mom sighed, a worry line creasing her forehead. “Greg Paster is not a dragon, even if he calls himself that. We’ve been through this before. He won’t hurt you. I’ve talked to the principal and, he’ll get suspended if he does anything.”

“C-can’t I s-stay h-home?”

“Sweetie, you need to be here. We’ll be gone for two weeks visiting Grandma and Grandpa. Besides, you know I have to run errands.” She paused. “Did you pack everything?”

He nodded then clenched his hands. Once more his gaze raked the school. Don’t you see? It will happen. Greg will happen. Greg always happens.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hush, Hush Winner, and Who Brings A Rooster to the Redbox?

First off, the winner of Hush, Hush is, (please insert imaginary drum roll here) Blake! Several woots to you, Blake, and thanks for playing. I'll get this out to you right away.

Who Brings a rooster to the Redbox? Rooster Man, that's who. My hubby and I made a quick trip to pick up a flick Saturday. As he scrolled through the available DVDs, I sat in the car and people watched. A man and his wife parked next to us. Just an ordinary couple . . . until I looked closer.

The man sat in the passenger seat cuddling something. Yes, I said cuddling. This something was large and feathery. And by large, I mean huge. I stared at them, blinked, then stared some more. So did everyone else in the parking lot. I know it's rude, but this is what I saw. You'd stare, too.

This is not an actual photo, but it's close. I swear.

Okay, maybe it was more like this, but bigger and cockier, and bigger. Did I mention it was huge?

Seriously. I really saw a man, who will live forever in my mind as, Rooster Man, with his arms wrapped around this feathery thing that was larger than my neighbor's dog. My first thought, right after, What the heck? was, Where's my phone? I have to take a picture.

I patted every pocket, searched the depths of my purse, cursed my forgetful self. No phone. No pic. No proof. How could I leave my phone home when Rooster Man made an appearance? I felt like I'd missed my opportunity to capture Big Foot on film. You don't get a second chance at a thing like this.

What strange things have you seen? Rooster sightings? Bizarre pets? The Loch Ness Monster? Drop a comment and share the story with us.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Sun Is Fire and Did Someone Say Free Book?

Yes, the sun is fire. My six-year-old told me so. This morning she sprawled on the carpet in a patch of sunlight and said, "Doesn't the sun feel good?"

To which, as a sun-lover, I replied, "Yes. It's delicious!"

She sat up and stared at me. It was not an attractive stare. I think it's intended effect was to help poor Mom realize how dense she was. It almost worked, but I held out because I'm strong and am immune to this kind of mental warfare.

When I didn't retract my statement in shame, she said, "How can it be delicious? You can't even eat it."

Now, perhaps I should have been proud of her for her logical analysis, but I wasn't. My thought was, At what point do children begin to understand literary devices? How can my own daughter not realize I was expressing myself with verbal creativity? What have I done wrong?

I then reminded myself she was six, and it would probably all work out right in the end--until she went on to explain about the sun. It is fire. She said so. You can't eat fire or you will die. Again, I know this because of her fine scientific lecture on the properties of the sun. It is also far away. Farther even than California, and that is far. She knows because it took two eternal days of driving to get there. It is also too big to eat, even though I have a big mouth.

"So the sun can't be delicious." She folded her arms and did the little head jiggle thing to prove her superior knowledge.

I smiled, winked at her, and said, "Yes. Yes it is. More delicious even than sleeping in."

She just stared at me and shook her head. Clearly, I can't be taught.

I have a hankering to give away a book. How about, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick?

Yes, for free. To you guys. Well, not all of you, just one of you. There are several ways to enter this fabulous contest. You can A: Become a fantastic, beloved follower of my blog.

OR, B: Post a link to my blog on facebook, twitter, or another social networking site, then post a comment here telling me you have done this great deed. In fact for option B I will give you two entries, because I'm just that nice. AND If you provide a link to your link so I can check and see if you are telling the truth, I will give you three entries.

OR, for the great peeps who are already followers, option 3: (Which is different than option C) Post a comment telling me you posted a link for my blog on facebook, twitter, or some other social networking site. Which is pretty much the same thing as option B, but listed separately to make you feel special. Is it working?

If you do all three, I'll give you a entry for each.

I'll put all the names in a giant pot, stir them twelve times, then have my six-year-old pick the winner. The name of the lucky person will appear on next Tuesday's blog post. Good luck.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Texts and A Related Memory

We're home from vacation. It's good to be back, but sad, too. So, to counteract the sadness here are some of the texts I got from a friend while we were gone, followed by a memory they invoked.

Day 1: What day should i expect yr caravan to return in case i need to call the police?

Day 2: You should have seen all the hung over cats dragging outa yr house this morning....Shameful how they're misbehaving. So disappointing.

Day 3: Fragrant haze circling your house...lots of stoned cats....The police have only been by once.

Day 4: I'm not even going to tell you this one...

Day 5: I checked in...the cats have peed in all your pans.

Now, first off, for those of you who don't know me, we don't drink or do drugs. We don't even drink caffeine, just saying so you know. Second off, text number five deserves an explanation. Third, this particular friend wasn't the one watching my cats, so no, my cats didn't pee in all my pans. In fact they didn't pee in any of my pans, although one of them was very naughty and left something in the shower. Grrrr. And on the frog's tank. Double grrrr. The culprit shall be dealt with. How I don't know yet, but it will be dire. Like a diet. I know they're mad a being left alone for ten days, but really, rules are rules, and leaving smelly presents is high on the list of absolute no-nos. Sheesh.

Anywho, the pee in the pan thing reminded me of an event a few years ago that did involve pee in my brand-new pan. Here's the story. I'll try to keep it short.

It was summer, and my kids broke one of the window screens. Before we could get it fixed, the cats found it and decided it worked great as a cat door. At first I was upset, but then...well, lets just say I didn't have to open and shut the door all day long for the cats. I know this makes me seem extremely lazy, but there you have it. One broken screen equalled less door opening so, I let it stay. Sad, I know.

About a week later, I was punished for this. At two-in-the-morning there arose such a clatter. I leapt from my bed to see what was the matter. (I never realized until now, how useful Twas The Night Before Christmas could be to tell stories, but I'll stop now so you'll keep reading.) Okay, so at 2:00 a.m. a very distressed cat whizzing around my front room like a demented pinball, knocking knickknacks off the shelves and trying to climb the walls, windows, and everything else, woke me from a sound sleep.

It was not one of my cats.

After I blinked the sleepy blur from my eyes and engaged my brain enough to realize what was happening, I yelled at the trespasser, and out the window he flew. I rushed over and slammed it shut.

We fixed the screen the next morning.

Over the next week my cats behaved badly. They slunk through the house like hunters stalking prey. They hissed a lot. They left smelly presents. A lot. I yelled a lot.

Now, despite the two recent presents they left while we were on vacation, they don't usually do this. Really they don't. They're good cats. Really they are, so this present leaving was strange. And ugly. I chastised. I cleaned. Then I chastised and cleaned some more. Then I woke to find a foul yellow liquid in my new pan. I banished them. Enough was enough. They could live outside. Forever.

Then at two-in-the-morning, (why is it always two?) I was once again torn from sleep by my deranged cat flinging himself around my front room. "How did you get in?" I yelled as I, too, went berserk.

I grabbed the broom and chased him around the house, yelling threats the whole time. At last I cornered him under my daughter's bed. And yes, she was now awake and staring at me with a rather frightened expression. I dropped to the floor and glared into my cat's green eyes, and then I realized something. My cat didn't have green eyes.

It wasn't my cat.

As we stared each other down, my mind rewound over the past week, back to the intruder. Everything clicked into place. The strange, stalking behaviour. The naughty peeing. The intruder cat never made it out the window. I'd locked a feral cat in my own house and never realized it. Only the cats had. They'd tried to hunt him, but I yelled at them for it. He'd left nasty messes, I yelled at them for it. He'd been here all week.

My daughter netted him with a bathroom towel. Out he went. I let my cats back in and apologized.

But not this time. This time they are to blame for the smell and the mess, and dire consequences will follow.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Seaworld and Full Body Workouts

We had a great day at Seaworld. The kids loved the fish, sharks, and whales. Whales brings me to the Shamu show and Kid B. I've mentioned before that Kid B and C have Fragile X Syndrome. What I haven't mentioned in depth is how this disability affects their behaviour. They don't handle crowds, noise, or new things well. At all. Kid C does much better, he's more outgoing and brave. Kid B . . . not so much.

We went early to Shamu stadium to get seats and avoid the crowd. My hubby took the girls down into the splash zone while I sat with the boys in the disabled seating. At first we got a lot of looks because they aren't in wheelchairs or anything, but then, the looks changed. To pity. It all started with the show.

The trainers and whales came out, and so did the fear in Kid B. Now, Kid B is more afraid of being afraid than he is actually afraid. Does that make sense? Anywho, he tried to run, screaming like a girl, from the stadium.

Picture this:

Me at five-foot-nine trying to wrestle down my thirteen-year-old man child, who is almost as big as me. For the whole show. Well, not the whole show. The last three minutes he decided it was great and stopped screaming.

What was kid C doing this whole time? Cheering, jumping, and loving the whales. I had to alternately stop him from trying to run down and join the trainers, while still tackling Kid B. It was an adventure. An intense full body workout.

As soon as it was over Kid B, the one who was screaming like a girl and trying to escape, raised both fists into the air, pumped them three or four times, and yelled, "Awesome! Best show ever!"

I sank into my seat and panted a laugh.

Hubby and the two girls soon joined us, and we declared Seaworld a success. We are not going back today. I can't take that kind of workout two days in a row.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oceanside and the joy of crossing Nevada

My family is on vacation in Oceanside, California. It's great to be here, but driving through Nevada was less fun. A lot less fun. I don't think anyone likes driving through Nevada . . . if there is anyone, they have medication for that. Really they do. I think they're called anti-psychotics. Just saying.

Anywho, the kids did pretty good, thanks to the DVD player. That thing logged more hours than a slot machine in Vegas. It was humming. I think it has finally cooled down.

Just a few tidbits from the fam before we run off to Seaworld.

Kid A: I should probably do something with my hair. (She is fifteen, after all.)

Kid B: We're going to see whales and dolphins. (But when asked if we were going to the ocean replied, "No. It's closed.")

Kid C: Legoland. Legoland. Legoland. (Repeated non-stop since last Monday.)

Kid D: Can we go swimming in the pool? (She's all about water.)

Anyway, this is a short and somewhat lame post, but I only had five minutes, so you get what you get and you don't throw a fit. Wait, that's what I told my kids all through Nevada. It may be a recurring nightmare.


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