Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's Not About The Bon-Bons

Thanks to my buddy who sent me to this post about the bigger picture on staying home!

'Splain me

Chaos is 5'6" and weighs 174 lbs. (<- linebacker)
Mayhem is 5'1" and weighs 78 lbs. (<-beanpole)
According to these charts both of my sons are in the 75th percentile in height compared to boys their age. Chaos, however is in the 90th percentile for weight and Mayhem is in the 5th.
90th. 5th.

I realize they are two years apart in age - but still...
I feed them the same things in roughly the same amounts! (In fact, if I had to say, I'd put Mayhem at being the one who eats more at table most every night.) They have roughly the same activity level. They both do karate, walk the dog together every day, and when they play outside - they usually play together.

They both have great self-images and often josh around with each other. Chaos will call Mayhem skinny and Mayhem will say, "No, that's SLEEK, bucko." Or Mayhem will try to steal Chaos' food saying he needs it more than Chaos and Chaos will snatch it back claiming he has achieved the exact right level of beefiness and needs to maintain. Luckily we have a whole range of body types in our family. (Wouldn't it suck to be the only chubby one in a whole family of willowy creatures? Or to be the only scrawny one in a family of buff types?) Chaos and Mayhem just happen to be our extremes. But I see them side by side a lot - and it makes me wonder.

How does this work? Same food+ same calorie burning activity = wildly different results. I know, I know. The answer is "different metabolisms" which if you think about it is a fancy way of saying - there's something mysterious going on inside my kids that takes the same external factors and produces different results. It means that what works one way for one kid, works a whole different way for another kid. It means that, as a parent, my goals of 'healthy' and 'consistent' are moving targets. There is no fixed position to shoot for. I have to fly by the seat of my pants. All. The. Time. (And? That I have to fix a lot of good food.)

Peace. Happy Halloween. And Merry meet, merry part. Have a good Samhain.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stress Ball

I am a stress ball, dipped in panic, dredged in worry, and then deep fried in "Oh, Lordy! How am I going to get through this week?!" Y'all were warned.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Yesterday our friend Tiffani was in town and came by to visit. She lived in Knoxville, then moved to Connecticut for a couple of years and has just moved back to K-town. We've seen her a few times at different events, but the kids haven't seen her since she was at our house last four years ago. Four years ago, she had an internship (or was working on a grant or something) and she would drive up and stay with us two days a week for about six weeks. I was pretty sure all of the children except Havoc (who was only 3 last time) would remember her. The Ninja Princessa gave Tiffani a bright hug. Chaos shuffled up and gave her one of his shy, crushing, bear hugs. Havoc (clearly not remembering her) decided to hang back and wave. Mayhem? Snapped his fingers, got an Ah-Ha! look on his face and blurted out, "You left your peanut butter here!" THEN he hugged her. We all laughed. He explained later that he remembered her because he hadn't been allowed to eat her food and he'd had an eye on her peanut butter. It had a "T" on the lid which meant it was off limits to him. Of course that made him want it more. Never mind that we had plenty of peanut butter in the house, he wanted to have some of THAT peanut butter.

I'm thinking I should label the veggies 'off limits' in the fridge. Do you think Mayhem might be more willing to try them if I did that? And also, since all of his cognitive functions seem to be cross-wired to food-cravings, maybe I should attach a food value to remembering vital chores. "Remember (for once!) to make your bed? Two graham crackers for you." With any other child I don't think that would be healthy, but I'm at wit's end with Mayhem forgetting things! If the boy can remember a specific jar of peanut butter from four years ago then I'm thinking this is the way to go. Oh, the wacky mommy-ness of it all!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Self Discoveries

It's weird the things you find out about yourself. I have just realized that I can't write without my bra on. You would think that I would know something like that already, wouldn't you? But I just discovered it. I guess, since the only time I go bra-less is when I sleep and I don't usually write in my sleep, it makes sense that I just figured it out. I have no idea what connection forms in my brain when the boobs are supported - but apparently it's kin to an on/off switch. I did a little experiment. If I'm in my jammies with my bra on I'm good to write - but no matter what outer clothes I have on (jammies, jeans + tshirt, or workout clothes) if I eliminate the bra, my brain goes back to sleep. Some people need coffee to tell their brain it's time to wake up. Me? I need my bra. C-r-a-z-y.

Aren't you glad you read my blog?


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I am NOT a Beta kind of girl. (Sidenote to Blogger folks - I don't know a thing about the Blogger Beta. This is a general rant.) Sweet Hubby is running a Beta operating system and it's driving ME crazy. I don't know how he stands it. Do you know what Beta means? It means broken and buggy! Yet truly geeky folks salivate at the thought of getting to be the first ones to use broken and buggy software. The shit crashes! And eats your work. Or inverts it and puts spaces between every other word for some machine logic reason of it's own. But all is forgiven because it's Beta!

Hmmmm. Hang on. Geeks go into the Beta process accepting that there are going to be flaws. They are patient. They work around the broken bits without trying to fix them. There is no recrimination! It's Beta!! They explore all the nooks and crannies of the Beta software. Then they trade it in for the Beta version of something else. Damn! Things were looking good for a 'that's why geeks make great partners' analogy until that last bit.

Oh no! I just thought of something. What if I AM a Beta kind of girl??
Accepts my flaws as is - check.
Is patient with me and my broken bits - check.
Explores my nooks and crannies :D - (tmi but) check.
Trading me in for some other 'Beta' - no, no, and HELL no.

I hereby declare myself the production model! I pledge to work well with other 'software' but I'm the operating system, baby! Capiche?


Monday, October 23, 2006

Uh Oh.

I heart Natalie Dee so very, very much!
As a mommy blogger of sorts, I have to admit that this one made me snarfle my afternoon coke:

And as a former knit shop co-owner who ended up leaving the shop to her business partner (= mother) due (in part) to a conflict of vision (i.e. her vision = traditional, old ladyesque knit shop did not mesh with my vision = hip, fiber store for artists and knitters alike) I LOVE THIS ONE! It's called "hats for tats"! Bwahahahahaha.

Hello Monday!

You know it's Monday when...
  • -Mr. Tapioca Head (the ex) calls to say he can't bring the kids back because his car is dead.
  • -Mr. TH then says, "Since you're coming to get the kids anyway, could you help me jump the car battery?" You say you don't have jumper cables, but he says no problem he has some. (So much for that excuse. Good try though.)
  • -After racing to throw on something, anything and get out the door in time to help fix the ex's car AND get the kids to school on time - he calls when you're about 100 yards from his apartment to say, "If you haven't left yet, don't bother to come, a neighbor helped me out." Meh.
  • -Since you're almost there, you get the kids anyway.
  • -You try to come up with a reason not to bash your ex with the jumper cables he's given you as a 'thank you gift' and also "in case [he] should need a jump some other time." (Reason 1 not to smack him = kids are standing there looking at you. Smile. Reason 2 = probably against the law. Reason 3 = probably look bad at the child support/custody review hearing next week.)
  • -You take the greebles to school - hearing about their tummy aches the whole way.
  • -You check for fevers (=none), ask what they ate for breakfast at dad's(=crap, as usual, but you don't react at all - not even eyebrows or inflected voice or anything b/c that is soo unfair to the kids), and decide (against your mommy instinct which wants to snuggle them up) to send them to school even though they feel terrible (with the sop to your mommy-ness that you will find time this afternoon with each one of them separately to find out if something happened or is bothering them to make their tummies hurt.)
  • -You end up making double trips to school - one for drop off and one for pick up - because after only an hour, the tummies hurt too much to stay at school. The only boy left at school is Chaos (14) who apparently had an extra side of surliness for breakfast instead of the poptarts the others had - because he wouldn't say anything in the car. You wonder what's up with that.
  • -You tuck sick boys into their beds with hugs and kisses and stall about what to do next because, what should you do???
  • -You run around and around and around in your head about the right way to treat tummy aches that might be a result of anything from indigestion to unknown/unknowable drama with their dad to a virus.
  • -You try not to be cynical and think that no matter what you do, it won't be the right thing. You try to stay positive and get ready for the day.
  • -In short, you now prepare for a very different today than the day you thought you had in front of you.

Yep, it's a Monday all right.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I'm not sure what to do with anniversaries that aren't anniversaries anymore. Well, technically, I suppose it still is an anniversary but it's not one I celebrate. Just one I remember. You see, 17 years ago today, I married my first husband. We'd been dating just over 3 months; we were young and very foolish; and we decided to get married. Both of our families were in total turmoil (impending funerals and graduations, siblings in crisis, etc, etc.) It didn't seem like an auspicious time to plan a big family wedding. We (patient twentysomethings that we were) decided to go ahead and get married for us and then do the whole church/family wedding thing for them later. So we did. Seventeen years ago today, we stood up in front of a JOP in a gorgeous garden in Alexandria, VA and said, "I do." Twelve years later we said, "We don't," but that's a whole 'nother blog post. Now October 21st just a weird day for me. I'm not sorry we got married - if for no other reason than for the fact of my amazing sons. I'm definitely not sorry we got divorced - although it was absolute and unmitigated hell to go through.

I love my life. I'm happier now than I could even envision back then. Still and all...today is weird. It's like the scar left after a tattoo is removed by laser. Happy non-iversary to me.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Didn't You Know?

Turns out that setting crazy big goals for yourself entitles you to buy stuff. Who knew?

Not me. But I now believe with all my heart that somehow this new, lavender weight bench is going to help me reach my goals. Ahem. It was on sale (huge sale), it matches my studio walls, and er, well - I wanted it really, really badly.

In truth I almost got a (boring) weight bench in June. I did get the weights. I have used them a few times - but not as much as I thought I would. I LOVE to lift at the gym and I cannot afford either the time or the money for a gym right now. (My gym used to be open 24 hours and I would work out at 4:30 am and be home by 6. They've changed that and in addition to costing significantly more a month, now the gym doesn't open until 5:30, which is waaaay too late for me to get a work out in and be home before my family wakes up.) I thought that if I got weights I would work out at home - but a bed (especially one your husband is still sleeping in) and an office chair do not make good weight bench substitutes. So, obtaining an actual weight bench has been on my list for a while. I thought that by putting it out there to the universe, a free or at least relatively cheap one would happen my way. And I kept coming close. Two or three times I found out about someone giving one away the day or the week after they finally dumped it.

Yesterday I decided to go check out the new sporting goods store that opened last week. (It opened directly across the street from the old sporting goods store and Mayhem's comment was that the old store was sure to be pissed. He told me that we should find another street to drive on. "??" said my raised eyebrow. "Mom, I don't want to be in the middle of them! They both sell HUNTING equipment!") I braved the potential feud. The new store is fantastic. It is clean, open, well lit and well stocked. There were people to help me find the right section, there were people to answer my questions and BONUS, the people who answered my questions actually knew what they were talking about! Also, did I mention that my new weight bench was discounted 70% off retail? <--I realize that means my actual savings was probably only about 15%. However, I only paid about $30 more than I was going to pay for a flat (big, black) bench with no weights. This one is smaller, yet sturdier; it transitions easily between flat, incline, and upright; it came with the weights; and do you see how purple it is?? I LOVE that it's purple.

The Ninja Princessa and Havoc both helped me put the bench together and unpack the weights. We decided (because we're geeky like this) to add up the weight and Havoc's eyes LIT UP when we got to the total - 56lbs. "56 is my favorite number!" he declared. "It is?" I said. "Didn't you know that?" "As a matter of fact, I had no idea. Is this a new thing? And why, exactly, do you like 56 so much?" "Mom, it's been my favorite number since the Ninja Princessa and Mayhem were in the third grade!" (Translation= "Since FOREVER.") "56 is so cool because 7 times 8 is 56 AND 8 times 7 is 56. Lots of people have trouble with that. And now 56 is even better because two 10's plus two 8's plus two 5's plus two 3's plus two 2's is 56! 56 is awesome."

Chaos was unimpressed by either the grand total of 56 lbs or the purple. I don't think he'll be begging to have the weight bench moved to his room. Mayhem cannot be bothered to pay attention to anything inside the house. "Uh. Cool. Can I go ride my bike?" The purple was a bonus for the Princessa and she asked if she could lift weights on it 'sometime' and then wandered off to write in her journal. Havoc? The second we finished assembling it, he wanted to work out. I let him. I showed him one exercise and we talked about proper form. He adjusted the bench just so and then earnestly began hoisting 3 lb weights. "Hey Mom! SIX pounds total!" Look out Arnold Schwarzenegger!

And Lilymane? We-e-e-ll. I have to say I was too self-conscious to lift in front of my family, but they're all gone now and just as soon as I finish this post I'm going to turn on some music and see if I remember how to work out!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I once heard a Bishop talk about BHAGs - Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. I didn't much like the Bishop and 'BeeHag' is not the most euphonious word out there but still? BHAG stuck in my brain and is now making itself manifest. Apparently this is BHAG week in Lilymania because not only have I signed up for NaNoWriMo (see the icon-->) but I have also signed up for the the half marathon. Yikes. It's been gray and rainy for five days, I've spent three in bed with a migraine and somehow this motivated me to sign up to write a 50,000 word novel and run 13.1 miles?? NaNo is free and I saved $10 by signing up for the half before the 22nd - but that's not much of an incentive, really. And NaNoWriMo? You don't even get a cool medal for that one! I'm scared about both of these BHAG's. They seem very B, and H, and quite A. But the process! VBGF is going to be here this weekend for our first official training run and I'm scheduled for the all day NaNo Write Out on the 1st. I'm excited sick in my stomach but hooked, completely hooked. Turns out my best friends are BHAG pushers! They are very best kind of friends to have.
Psssssssst - St. Ann, you wanna run a half marathon??

Monday, October 16, 2006

Paltry Pickings

Not much to offer today in terms of cohesion - but hey, when has that stopped me?

I read a FASCINATING article about the deterioration of human-elephant relations, the disintegration (destruction) of healthy elephant society, and the parallels between human and elephant communities. It's worth going through the free sign up process just to read this one article.

I'm a total goob when it comes to drug culture - and had to look up adderall when I saw a reference to some stupid starlet taking it to lose weight. This article totally weirded me out. Who knew? If that was going on when I was in school then I totally missed it!! (Not that I'm sorry about that.)

Also - I'm glad the Saints beat the Eagles. I like the Eagles a lot (especially given that they're an NFC team up in the Northeast!) But the Saints? How could you not like what they're doing? They are playing with passion and purpose and they're bringing all the hope and pride to New Orleans that football can. They've been underdogs for a long time. It's so good to see them doing well.
**One more thing (tangentially) related to the Eagles: I have to say that there's a difference between not minding that the Eagles lost and not NOTICING. I must have gotten all the football genes in the family because not only was my Wonder Twin St. Ann not watching the Eagles game last week (which was IN Philly a couple of miles down the road from her) - but she and John the Magnificent actually called me to cackle with guilty glee about the fact that when they went out to eat they purposefully avoided places that had the game on! I'm not even sure they could tell you what T.O. stands for. It's hard to believe we're related sometimes.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

I So Caved

The boys were with my ex, my daughter was at a friend's house, Sweet Hubby is in Chicago on business and last night, that left me alone (gloriously alone) in the house overnight. This is such a rare occurance that the only time I can remember it happening before is Thanksgiving two years ago. Don't get me wrong. I love my family. I love our wild times when we gather around the table talking and carrying on. I love the games we play, the work we do together, and the quiet Sunday afternoons watching football. (Quiet is relative. I suppose I am not the most stoic football fan around.) As much as I love all we do as a family, I absolutely treasure my alone time. I'm grateful for the time I get when the kids are at school. I use it wisely in between doctor appointments, grocery runs, volunteering at the school or with scouts, etc. But nothing, NOTHING is the same as a whole evening stretching out in front of me. Something about the dark, getting to soak in the tub with a glass of wine and a good book, and going to sleep whenever I want - with no stories to tell, breaths to check for the telltale toothpaste smell, or permission slips to sign - that's just heavenly.

But last night was even better than my night alone two years ago. Last night, my furry buddy Wasabi padded along from room to room with me. He slept at (and on) my feet as I wrote. He stretched out companionably in his cave under the bathroom cabinets while I took a bath. He kept watch out the windows, peeking his head between the curtains when I read in bed. He gnawed quietly on his rawhide and looked up at me adoringly. That's right. I totally caved and gave him a forbidden rawhide. I just paid $100 to the vet bcause of some strange allergy. The vet said it could be an allergy to his food (even though it's the good stuff) or it could be to grass (GRASS? The green stuff that is EVERYWHERE???) It could even be to fleas (which he doesn't 'have' as we are religious about the frontline) - but it's something. Some strange allergic reaction is making my dog chew the hair off of his back legs and tail. We got new food, and ointment, and even have finally had to resort to one round of steroids to break the allergy cycle. And we got told not to let him have anything (ANYTHING) except the new kibbles. Wasabi is on a strict diet - NO exceptions. But I guess his diet (like mine) is just going to have to start on Monday because I absolutely couldn't take it. We'd walked through the kitchen about six times and every time my sweet dog had looked hopefully at his treat drawer. Now, if he'd been obnoxious or tried to make me feel guilty - it wouldn't have worked. But he wasn't expectant, just hopeful. He'd been the perfect buddy all afternoon. He had even barked quietly, like whisper barking, when he saw squirrels outside. He totally deserved to munch away on a sticky, icky rawhide for the rest of the night. And I totally deserved to be adored by my dog. Monday may suck for the both of us - what with no treats for either of us and rawhide-slimed patches on the carpet to clean up - but it was so worth it. So. Worth. It.
(Remind me of that tomorrow?)


YAY! My winless Titans - who have really played better ball than their record would show - won. And they won by playing good football! Lamont Thompson made some critical stops. Travis Henry did some solid power running and absolutely deserved his career high day. I love football - even from the rock bottom of the league.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Smushed Pennies

Apparently folks in the know call them 'elongated coins' and it's big business in some parts but around here - we call them smushed pennies and it's a quiet affair to collect them. For several years, I tried to get my kids interested in them. No takers. I finally had to give in and admit that I am the one who is fascinated by them. (Sidenote: I'm not so great at the business of collecting. St. Ann can detail how long it took me to have more than one mermaid in my mermaid collection - and the four I currently have is a result of our concerted shopping efforts in several major ports and on at least two islands!) Smushed pennies have turned out to be muuuuuch easier for me to collect. I have five. As souvenirs I think they are perfect. They cost very little (51 cents usually), they remind you of where you got them (tiny picture pressed into them right then there), and obtaining them is great fun (you get to select the image and then crank it out yourself!) I especially like the fact that, when they first come out of the machine, the pennies are hot in your hand from being stretched. My delight in smushed pennies far exceeds any rational expectations.

Now I know why. I got a new one this past weekend. It is my very favorite one. It was a present. It's shiny and stretched but has no picture. It is perfectly smooth and curls up on the ends. It won't fit into a cute, plastic, pressed penny collector's book. This one was made the old fashioned way. Last Saturday, at the funeral, the younger generation of cousins did what we used to do as kids in California and Florida. They hiked up to the train bed and stuck all the pennies they could find on the tracks. One of my older cousins said he hoped they didn't see the little ones in the woods, because smushing pennies is probably considered an act of terror now. One train did slow almost to a stop right as it passed the section where the pennies were. Little Brittney's eyes were huge with fright as she came tumbling down the hill and out of the woods to hide behind her mother. The older boys had told her the engineer had probably seen her pink shirt and was calling a report into the authorities. Her step dad had to hold her hand and walk her back up to find her pennies after the train finally moved on.

Havoc and Mayhem let me have one of their smushed pennies - and it made me cry. When Havoc put that penny in my hand (still hot from the train wheels running over it) I realized what my delight with the machine-pressed pennies connects to. I'm from a train family. My grandfather and my uncle (the one who just passed) as well as two of my great-grandfathers and one of my great-great grandfathers all worked for the Santa Fe. The sound of train whistles in the night has always been comforting to me. My engineer great-grandfather had a whistle code to tell my great-grandmother things like he loved her, he had to work late, or he was bringing someone home for supper. My dispatcher grandfather could tap out messages into your hand in Morse code faster than you would believe. My childhood was peppered with weird words like 'hogshead' and stories from my father about the one year he had the back breaking summer job of laying train tracks. I soaked up the family stories and to this day I love train lore - but my only personal participation in the train world lay in the childhood adventure of making train smushed pennies. I remember the daring feeling of running up to the tracks and laying out the pennies just so. I remember waiting and waiting for the train to come by, hiding because some adult (older cousin?) had told us not to do it anymore. We really didn't believe the then-ignored and now-forgotten adult who told us we could make the train jump the tracks with our pennies - but there was a frisson of fear anyway - and hiding from the engineer was all a part of the process. I remember shrieking when the train finally came by. I remember the serious business of calculating how many pennies you had to lay out in order to be assured of getting at least one back. You see, the pennies get shot out and scattered about by the wheels so you don't always find them all. And of the ones you do find, many of them turn out only halfway smushed and don't count. The object is to get one fully pressed. If you're too stingy with your pennies on the front end, you run a big risk of having nothing to show for it all in the end!

Havoc and Mayhem managed to smash one perfectly on their very first try - and they gave it to me. They ended up with several - and even offered me a smushed quarter later. I told them thanks but no thanks - that first penny was exactly right. Absolutely the thing. They smiled at my tears and suffered my kisses before running off to play in the field with the herd of cousins and dogs. This smushed penny in my hand? I think it's my favorite souvenir ever.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Car Smarts

I bought my little sister's 14 year old, ragged out, Subaru Legacy wagon from her. She won't need it in France; it isn't worth paying any storage fees for; and hey, I have two sons who are fixing to drive (YIKES!!) so it's perfect. Except for the part where VBGF and I found out the morning we were driving said Subaru from Vermont to Dixie that the air conditioning doesn't work, the keys don't lock or unlock the doors, the back hatch won't open, the rusted out places on the floor boards are strongly reminiscent of the Flintstone mobile, and the odometer doesn't work. Flummoxed. That's a good word for how I felt, standing there in her driveway.

My sister is normally somewhat sane, but that particular morning is the morning I realized that she was near catatonic in the face of her upcoming move out of the country. I have described before how she had rented her house to a family with four kids who were at that moment driving across country expecting a clean, empty house to move into. My sister, whose husband has been in France since June and who works full time and has a one year old son, had packed NOTHING. Not one picture frame, not one plate, not one book. Nada. Her house was filled to the brim with all of her crap (despite her reassuring us all that she had everything under control.) I actually flew back the next week with my godmother and we got her out by the skin of our teeth.

We couldn't joke about it then, but she's in town this week for the funeral and to show off her baby before going off to Europe. I thought she might have enough distance by now to laugh about how strung out she'd been in July. I tried tonight to tease her about the odometer. That morning (THAT morning), when I had pointed out to my sister that broken odometers were illegal - she said, "Oh. I'm glad you reminded me! I have a replacement dashboard with an working odometer for you. " She rummaged around in the garage and produced a whole nother dashboard. Her instruction to me? "When the mileage on the one in the Subaru matches this one, just have your mechanic take out the old one and put this one in instead." The mileage on the one in the Subaru said 121,598 that morning (THAT morning) and the one she handed me was at about 144,300. THIS morning? The odometer in the Subaru still says 121,598. Get it? The odometer doesn't work at all. It's not just dead, it's really most sincerely dead.

Did my sister think this was funny? Did she laugh at herself? Um, no. She said (I shit you not) "But when I bought the car, that's what the guy told me to do. Replace it when the mileage matches." "Tidge, did you know the odometer didn't work AT ALL when you bought the car?"
"YES! I'm trying to tell you that it's not hard to fix - and it's not breaking the law as long as you wait until they match. The only reason it's against the law is because they don't want people turning the mileage back and cheating people. This way, if you wait, it'll just be like it was never broken."

I didn't know what to say to my sister who (it turns out) must have packed her brain and left it in storage with her household goods. Sure hope she doesn't need it over there in France.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Out There

Look what today is. And here's a new guide for supportive folks. I think that's pretty darn cool. Peace.

More Words

I love the word crepuscular. If I am ever able to work it convincingly into a piece I write, then I'll be over the moon. I'll feel like a real writer. I may be the only one who notices, but I'll gloat about it to myself for ages. I might even give myself a sticker.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Things That Died

In September of 2002, I found a piece of paper on the floor of my son Chaos' bedroom. He was ten at the time and the previous year had seen some big changes for us: the divorce, a move to a new small town, new schools, 9/11, and the loss of my beloved grandfather. It's a lot of grief for a small boy. On many, many levels Chaos held up exceptionally well. His counselor said he was doing real and honest work dealing with it all; his new teachers loved him; and he made the best friend he's ever had that year. But grief is still grief and it leaks through in surprising ways.

Here's what the worn, folded piece of notebook paper said:

Things that Died

ant Joe
ant Bob
ant Fang
ant Chatt
ant Jack
ant Jhon
ant Luke
ant Pat
ant Alex
ant flint
ant lilly
ant Alec
ant Nick
ant A.J.
ant Dillon
cat Himingway
Horse Beroll

(And I wish I could show this but I can't get it to work on this screen! Way over to the right at the top it also says - with a few smears - )

Great Grandfather

Chaos was mourning in the very best ways he knew how- expressing his grief in writing and carrying it around. The horse was actually my sister's horse from her equestrian days in high school. He died when Chaos was six and while it made Chaos sad, B-roll passed peacefully after being quite the happy, old man of the pasture for some time. Same with the cat. Himalayans typically don't live to ripe old ages and at 13, Hemingway's passing was sad but not tragic.

The ants? You'd think my son had an ant farm in his room or something, but no. These were 'wild ants'. They lived on our rock wall when Chaos was seven. The week after we'd told the boys about the impending divorce, Chaos' teacher took me aside and said she was so sorry to hear about our family's loss. She said she could tell Chaos had been close to his aunt. Er? If you ask Chaos to name his favorite person on the planet, he would - without a nanosecond of hesitation - say "TIDGET!" but my sister was (and still is) very much alive and well. It took us some moments to clear up that Chaos' dead Aunt Lilly was rather more his dead ANT Lilly. My sweet boy couldn't cry and tell his teacher that his world was falling apart because his parents were getting divorced and he had to move - but he could chronicle the terrible, tragic rash of ant death on our rock wall. Chaos' teacher smiled but had tears in her eyes when we finally sorted it out (divorce, move, dead ants and all). I loved her for that. Chaos later told me how much he'd loved her for listening so sympathetically for all of that story hour. Apparently moms and second grade teachers are some of the only people who take ant death seriously.

(Here I should point out that Chaos did not kill any of the ants. He has normal anger issues but he's never been one to stomp insects. To this day he hates having to be the one to 'deal' with bugs in the house. He'll scoop them up and take them outside. Except he won't go near spiders. He blames at least one unrecovered ant's death on spiders. As far as I could tell from the two ant funerals Chaos let me be a part of all those years ago, the ants' demise had more to do with drought than anything else.)

So two years later, that piece of paper had a new addition. "People." This one with with some tear smudges. I tried to give Chaos back his list when I found it. (He knew I wasn't 'snooping'. We have a system to protect important things from the vacuum cleaner.) He told me to keep it - he'd made another one when he couldn't find that one.

I came across this tiny testament to big grief today when I searched an old wallet for my voter's registration card. It is one of those coincidences that makes you sit back - whoosh. My family spent this past weekend mourning the loss of my uncle - whom I last saw four years ago, at my grandfather's funeral, the week this list was written. My Uncle Denny, my mother's big brother, succumbed to cancer a few weeks ago, just days after his 77th birthday. Although he'd lived across the country - in the Arizona desert - he'd wanted to come here at the end. He'd wanted to be where his father had spent his last days. We couldn't work that out - medicare and frail bodies being what they are - but we brought his ashes out and gathered the family from various corners far and wide. Our group was thirty (forty?) some odd people strong this weekend. This particular configuration of cousins and such hadn't managed to all be in one place together for 24 years - and that gathering was a beach house party to honor my maternal grandmother's unexpected passing at the young (for my family) age of sixty. No longer having a beach house in the family, we spent four days at my godmother's retreat center - the gorgeous, crisp, sunny, chilly October weather and the huge harvest moon setting the tone for our music and stories and drinking. (We tend towards red heads and wakes in my Irish descended family.) We celebrated my uncle's life with liturgy and revelry, with laughter and reminisces. We plunked the gold box of Denny's ashes in the center of the table as we feasted and toasted him. My children were amused to hear stories of that beach house gathering in 1982 - when I'd been exactly Chaos' age. My cousins and I were astounded to realize we aren't the rowdy generation anymore. (I think our children AND our parents out did us this round!!) This time, instead of guitars there were iPods for the music - and crunchy leaves on the windy walk down to the river instead of salty waves and sunburns. This time I was in the middle instead of on one generational end of the spectrum. This time things were very different, yet the same: grief and family, hugs and teary eyes, celebration and nostalgia - there is a timeless healing in the whole of it. Thank Heavens.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Breakfast Experiment

Know what Havoc had for breakfast?
He had a bowl of Cheerios with milk. And then he added yogurt. To the bowl. And then he mixed in one packet of fruit snacks. And after that three maraschino cherries one at a time so he could get the maximum cherry juice with each one. He topped it all off with a few M&M's. He said, "Mama, it's a concoction." "It sure is," I said. He ate the whole bowl. I'm glad parent-teacher conferences were LAST week.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Word of the Month

This disturbs me:

My son's elementary school has a huge sign out front where the administration posts not only upcoming events but also inspirational items, like the word of the month. This month's "word"? Pursuit of Excellence. The irony? Havoc's second grade class is studying the difference between singular and plural nouns. Grrrrrr.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

And I Thought Pacman Jones Was Horrid

Albert Haynesworth's actions against Dallas Cowboy Andre Gurode horrified me. Haynesworth is 6'6" and 320 pounds! He viciously stomped on the side of another player's unprotected head! With cleats on! What if his stomp had slashed Gurode's eye? What if Haynesworth's cleat had punctured Gurode's temple?!! On top of that - Haynesworth had the gall to argue with the official about it! While Gurode's face was streaming a bucket of blood onto the playing field, Haynesworth was protesting being given a penalty! Haynesworth didn't get thrown out for being a vicious thug on the field. He got thrown out of the game for slamming his helmet down on the field protesting the penalty against him.

Everything about the incident was disgusting. I don't care how contrite he is. I don't care how much money he's going to lose. I think he should be banned from football. Forever. I think he should lose his career. I'd never heard of him doing anything remotely out of line before this (and therefore last night thought he should get a HUGE suspension but not necessarily be banned for life). But NOW the reports surface about his temper. It turns out that he's been protected from the consequences of his behavior before. He's been given chances to get help and change his ways. He's changed nothing. He's gotten worse. Now he has seriously endangered another player and he has damaged his team. He has undercut the whole league's push to have football players be leaders in charity efforts. He has betrayed his fans and his very own family. If I was horrified to have my children witness such brutality - what about his kids??? There is no place for him in football. (Havoc said, "It's like that guy in the World Cup, only worse, isn't it?")

I wouldn't have cared if it were the game make or break play in the last Superbowl ever to be held on earth and Gurode had been verbally taunting Haynesworth for hours calling Haynesworth's mother and sister every name in the book - there is no excuse, cause or reason for that behavior. And for anyone who doesn't want to follow the link - I want to make it clear that there was no provocation whatsoever for this attack: no verbal excahange, no questionable call with points on the line, nothing! The Cowboys played good ball and the Titans sucked slimy rocks. There is no way to make this make sense.

And I HATE that. One of the many reasons I watch football is to get away from things that don't make sense! Like my ex. And like this, and this, and this!

Where is the antidote? I think I'm going to go for a run and play outside with the kids this afternoon. I hope that helps put things back into perspective for me!