Tuesday, March 30, 2010


My heart is so heavy this morning after reading this article over at CNN about an 8-year-old boy in Texas who tried to commit suicide because of excessive bullying, and the school did nothing except require his parents to have him sign a no-suicide pact, per their standard policy.


And yes, of course the poor child should have counseling. And yes, there's likely more going on at home than the article reveals. But the school and the teachers are equally responsible and should be held equally accountable for the health and welfare of a child in their care.

I mean, nevermind the fact that that term shouldn't even be in a child's vocabulary yet (or ever), but that this is the school's first line of defense -- that they evidently don't insist on no-bullying pacts or keeping-our-students-safe pacts or any other kind of pact that doesn't just perpetuate this horrendous movement in our society to continually victimize the victim, is just reprehensible.

And I'm looking at the school pictures of my own kids -- my 7-year-olds -- on my laptop, and can't even believe this is the kinda shit their having to face now. Kids setting other kids on fire -- for a video game. Kids beating other kids to within an inch of their lives -- over harsh words. Kids sexually assaulting one another -- just because they can. Kids stalking, and torturing, and ruining other kids' lives -- as well as their own -- with little to no sense of right or wrong, no remorse, no comprehension of the gravity of their crime -- here, here, here, and here.

These are moral and ethical crimes against humanity.

And I'm not saying I didn't pull my share of mean girl crap. I have my own little skeletons to deal with. But every single day it seems like there's something more unbelievable, more jaw dropping, more repulsive than the last.

How did we become such a barbaric society? Why is it only getting worse? How do we turn the tide before it's too late?

Or maybe it's just Florida.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


You remember them. You know you do. Those games that you'd make by folding and refolding and refolding a square piece of paper, and then numbering the tabs and writing on the other side all sorts of silly answers or people's names or how many kisses you were gonna get under the bleachers.

They must have a name. Please, something better than "paper finger game," which is what I labeled the video, and am now all self-conscious that I may have revealed just a little too much about my personal life.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Our kids are not big TV watchers. But it's a virtual marketing inevitability that the Bumble Bee Tuna commercial will come on while they're watching cartoons on Saturday morning. You know the one I'm talking about. You know you can't that tune out of your head either.

The thing is...my kids don't really like tuna, but oh my word, do they love that commercial. They don't quite have all the lyrics down yet. She insists that it's "humble bee," for example -- which, hey, could be another marketing angle for them, you know? But here are our monsters, nonetheless...live and in person...with their rendition of the Bumble Bee Tuna song:

Friday, March 26, 2010


God love her. She's freaking adorable. She's got the most gorgeous waist-long hair, beautiful strong legs, and a killer smile. But the girl does not like to dress up. At all. Ever.

Getting her to brush her hair takes an act of Congress these days. And I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am for skorts because at least there's the illusion of something cuter than just jeans or leggings every single day.

But the thing is...she's just not a girly girl. She's just not. And she's made no bones about it. Despite all my Manolo-lovin', oversize bag totin', Style magazine-subscribin', all things shiny, glimmery, and gold adorin' ways, she has always, ever since she was little, preferred comfort over (gasp!) fashion. I know, I know, the horror!!!

So, we find ways to compromise. Not because I need her to dress prissy. But because we don't leave the house looking unkempt, not put together, or like we just rolled out of bed. We just don't. So I give in a whole surprisingly helluva lot just so long as she pulls something, anything, together -- and mostly because she's just so damn cute in anything she wears anyway, and, truthfully, watching her hunt and peck for just the right combination of clothes to both appease me and work for her, just makes me smile.

So, I stopped buying her little purses when she was, like, 3. And we only got her ears pierced (with tiny gold hoops) because she specifically asked to do it before she started kindergarten. And we never -- never -- buy her anything pink or flowery if we can avoid it. I gave up on buying all those cute little bangle bracelets and necklaces. She's just too rough and tumble for them. But when she asked for a little locket for her birthday, her Mommy ran right out and scooped one up for her.

And I love this about her. I do. That she's her own kind of girl. That she's not like me. And she's not like Mommy. That's she's bits and pieces of all the women she's ever known, and the rest, well, she's kind of making it up as she goes.

So, you can understand how for someone like me, who loves to dress up even on Sunday afternoons, who's favorite pair of casual shoes are 4-inch versus 6-inch heels, and who readily admits that there are indeed clothes and bags in my closet that still have the tags on them just because I couldn't bear to leave the store without them, it came as an utter and complete shock to me when Saia asked if she could buy a fashion design book she saw at Barnes & Noble last week.

"What for, baby?" I asked, genuinely surprised.

"To draw, Mom," she says.

"Well, I know that, hon, but what I mean is that I've never even seen you draw a t-shirt, let alone a whole outfit. I never would've thought you had any interest in that at all."

"It's just that I can't draw the mannequins," she said. "And this book already has the mannequins in it."

Hmm...okay then. It was on sale. The pages could be repurposed if she decided after the first day that she didn't like it (which is where my money was). So, we got it.

And then...

She went and did all this:

And, yes, I know I'm a little biased 'cause she's my baby and all, but, I'll be damned if I wouldn't wear every single one of these.

I think she's really got something here!!! Project Runway, here we come.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


It should really come as no surprise that our boy's lanky frame pains him. Constantly.

Well, ok, not constantly. But at bedtime, for certain. And in the middle of the night. Just as I've started to drift off, usually.

And, unlike his sister who'll suck up pretty much anything for the sake of someone else, he truly has no consideration for anyone or anything when he's sick or in pain. So, the fact that she's fast asleep in the bed right next to him is really of no importance whatsoever, and so he screeches and screams as though his legs were being gnawed off slowly by a very large, very hungry Chago-eating shark.

So, I stumble out of bed, grabbing the Arnica gel from their bathroom as I go, plant myself beside his bed and begin massaging his shins. And I think...every single time...jesusagechrist, how much taller is this boy gonna grow? And he kicks and harumphs and knocks his blankets to the floor, but eventually the yelling subsides, and he rolls over and back to sleep.

But, yes, just long enough for me to crawl back under the covers and begin to drift...

So, after the third-or-so episode, I bring him back into my bed with me because as much as she is strong, she's a holy terror if she's awakened prematurely, and we will not be risking two screaming meamies tonight.

But he huffs and puffs and tosses and turns.

"I can't get comfortable," he says.

"My legs hurt," he says.

"I don't wanna go to sleep," he says.

And I'm running out of arguments.

Enter the visualization therapy.

We're on a boat, on the open sea, the waves are rolling, but it's not rough. We bounce along, a cool breeze on our faces. The mist dancing off our eyelashes as we sail towards the sunset.

And depending upon how long it takes for him to calm down, we've often ended up in Australia or China by the time he falls asleep again, but it's a pretty powerful tool, and one that Amy's long used on me whenever I got really bad migraines.

It does take a little more effort than popping a pill or sipping some grape-flavored medicine, but I'm truly hoping that somewhere along the way he's learning a valuable coping skill.


How do they know? I mean, really, someone please tell me how all kids seem to just know when exactly you've gone to bed, got your socks off, got the covers pulled up just right, and the pillow fluffed perfectly, and the curves of your body all snug and tucked into the forgiving dimples of the memory foam...

Your eyes finally close, the sleep begins to set in, and you have that wonderful rapturous fleeting thought that you really could just stay in bed forever, when... MMMMAAAAAAAMMMMMMAAAAAAA!!!

The life and death screams ripping you from the brink of bliss as you instinctively (because, Jeebus, you've been doing it now for 7 years) throw back the blankets, trip on your slippers, slide on the hardwoods in the utter blackness -- not because there aren't nightlights on, but because, for crissakes, you haven't even had the chance to open your eyes yet...

And you scramble over the Legos and Bakugans, and the seemingly endless river of beads, skillfully navigating the obstacle course like a Green Beret, finally swooping over to his bedside, to the rescue, to be his savior from all the bad and scary things that go bump in the night...just in time to see him roll over and go back to sleep.

And aww, isn't that sweet and everything, but fuckingshitifyouaren'twideawakenow!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

wordless wednesday (with lyrics, so sue me): pages of my letters

This is the last time I'm gonna write this down
Must admit I've gotten used to you not being around
You were always better
In the pages of my letters

I don't talk to God the way that I used to
No hard feelings he's just got more important things to do
Than hear my broken records beating in the pages of my letters

You should know that I don't blame you
For breaking in and not following through
Somewhere I know it's true
That to be with you can never measure
To the pages of my letters

I guess the hardest part of all of this for me
Is that I was the one who built you up to be completely better
In the pages of my letters

You should know that I don't blame you
For breaking in and not following through
Somewhere I know it's true
That to be with you can never measure
To the pages of my letters

I think you'd wanna know
When I didn't know where to go
I would imagine what you'd say
Then I'd try to go along your way
I don't blame you
For not following through

Somewhere I know it's true
That to be with you can never measure
To the pages of my letters
[lyrics by Keri Noble]

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


It was some time after midnight. I was zombie-ing up from downstairs where I'd fallen asleep on the sofa. Again.

Made my usual detour into the kids' bedroom to pull up the blankets everyone always shoves onto the floor, scoop up stuffed animals and return gently to their under arm sleeperholds, turn the radio down (which somehow always seems to get louder after I've put them down for the night), change the radio station (which seems to always magically slide off the classical station and jump over to hip-hop), check that everyone's still breathing (yes, still), and plant a final kiss on their foreheads before I stumble off to bed.

Sat on the edge on of Chago's lower bunkbed, leaned over him to kiss the back of his head, breathed in the scent of his hair, and WWWWHHHHAAAAMMMM!!!!!!!!!

He must've felt the hairs on the back of his head move because he jerked his head backward so fast and so hard that he busted my puckered lip right open AND THEN I proceeded to slam the back of my own head into the bottom of his top bunk as I tried to flee.

So, yeah, here I am today with a ball on my upper lip and one to match on the back of my head.

And no, there's no picture. Shut up.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Friendship bracelet kits for Saia.

Kit"S." Plural. As in 3.

She's got yarn and string and cardboard guides coming out of her ears.

"What am I gonna do with all this, Mom?" she stares up at me in dismay. "I just don't have that many friends."

"Well, hon, what about your Mema, and your Grammy, and all your Tias?"

She nodded, but still looked really perplexed.

"Maybe you could sell them," I say nonchalantly.

And, seriously, I could almost see the little green dollar sign icons popping out of her head and floating through the kitchen, cha-ching! cha-ching! cha-ching!

Then she says, "Umm...Mom...I have an idea. What if I make some for my real real friends, and then their other friends will see them and ask where they got them, and they'll say from me, and then I could charge them $1 for one, and then THEIR friends will see see them and ask where they got them, and I'll just keep them in my backpack and sell them at recess 'cause soon everybody will be wanting one and I don't want to have to be making them every night..."

"That's called word-of-mouth marketing, baby," I interject. "It's the best way to get your stuff out there."

But she wasn't listening. She was already counting gold bars in her head.

[Yep. We start 'em young 'round here.]

Saturday, March 20, 2010


After softball practice that morning, we raced home, quickly grabbed a bite to eat, and headed back out to the mini-golf place to begin setting up for the party.

We were barely able to get the plates down, the cupcake towers loaded, and the balloons tied before people started to arrive. I still have unwrapped streamers, banners, tablecloths, and party signs in a bag in the truck that went completely unused, for crissakes.

And although I'm not a huge fan of parents hanging around just to chit-chat, and wasn't really looking forward to socializing, it certainly seemed to me that there were an inordinate number of parents that just chose to stop, drop, and run this time around.

And some with extra siblings, too.

Which, normally, at an enclosed place, like those pizza party places with the indoor gyms and arcades, you're in a confined space, and assigned several hosts to help you corral the rowdy brood. But not here. We had one. One lone very scared looking little chicky who, after handing out their balls and putters, was never seen nor heard from again.

So, here it is...just a regular California Saturday. It's sunny and gorgeous, and the place was PACKED!!! It was, therefore, truly shocking to me that parents we don't even know so eagerly bailed.

I. Just. Would. Never.

Obviously, there were a few parents we know very well, and are very familiar with their children, and so had no problems at all taking them in for a few hours. But, geez, Louise, people, there's no waiver, no guarantee, no contract that we sign that when you drop your kid off with me, that they're gonna be in one piece or, heaven forbid, even HERE, whenever you decided to come back for them. I mean, ANYTHING could happen.

It's just such a huge freaking burden to place on other parents, particularly when those parents are really wanting to devote all their time and attention to the party that they're already having to manage for their own children that, you know, they would kinda like to spend some time with.

But I found myself counting heads...over and over and over again. We had a total of 17 kids at the party. It was like herding cats. Wet cats. Wet cats on acid, even.

And, seriously, thank goodness for the parents that did stay because had it not been for them, I don't know how we would've managed. They were able to watch over the tables and gifts and all our things while we took the kids through the course. They helped serve and clean up, and even helped move us from our "reserved" location up to the picnic tables after the manager realized they had double-booked us. Oh...yes.

But the spread was fantastic, with way too much pizza, veggies, and fruit, as usual. The cupcakes turned out delish (and pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself)! And the kids even got sung happy birthday separately. (Saia first, of course. She IS 2 minutes older.) And the three hours really just sped right by.

When the wayward parents eventually came back to collect their spawn, I couldn't help but feel a knot in my stomach that maybe I had missed one. It was really an awful feeling.

But all ended well. And the monsters graciously handed out their treat bags, and we sent everyone home with a balloon. Saia and Chago even took it upon themselves to donate the leftover treat bags to another party that was just setting up as we were leaving.

We were so proud of them for behaving themselves, and for being good to their friends, for being thankful to everyone for coming, and for allowing themselves to just have a good time and enjoy everyone's company.

They haven't stopped talking about how much fun they had. And I really am glad. But you know what, if I can convince them to go to Disney World next year instead of another party, we are sooooooo outta here!!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

i don't wanna think about sandra bullock today

I can't.

It pains my heart.

That they're suggesting that she should've known. That he was always a player. That she thought she could change him.

Therefore, somehow, when it actually happens, that she should've expected it.

And even worse, that they're suggesting that she brought this on herself. That she was filming on location for The Blind Side for 11 months. That, therefore, must give him carte blanche. How could she expect him to remain faithful for that long? How could she expect him to stand by her side, support her, have her back? I mean, come on, people, it's not like they were filming on the moon.

The nerve of her.

She fought the media when they first got together. Defended their bad boy/good girl relationship tooth and nail.

She stood by his side through all the controversies with his ex. Has loved his children like her own. Gave him a life he probably never would've had.

And for what? Because the betrayal is one thing. The loss of trust. But feeling like a pendeja....there's no coming back from that. Not for a Southern girl.

Putting herself out there. Standing up in front of the whole world and holding him up as her rock. And let me just be very clear that it has nothing to do with this other woman. And it's annoying as hell to hear people talk about her like, "I can't believe he left Sandra for THAT" -- because what she looks like, what she appears to be, what she is or isn't in her real life is not nearly as important as what she represents.

And what she represents is this massive societal shift towards expecting and even condoning the breaking of the sacred pinky swear.

Because that's all this is about. A broken promise. Not being a man/woman of your word. And not having the balls to say out loud the things that make you put your boots under someone else's bed BEFORE you actually take them off.

And I'm sick of hearing women say, "All men are dogs!!" 'cause, please ladies, ALL men don't cheat. And it's completely unfair to lump them all into that group.

And, let's not forget, that this isn't just about men.

I have a gigantic lump in my throat as I write this today. But am so grateful for the two little Oscars I received despite and in spite of my own blindside.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Was gonna write this long drawn-out post about the kids' birthday, but seeing as it's now almost a week later and I'm just now able to get to it, I think the fact that it's a bulleted list says more about our newly turned 7-year-olds than anything else. :)

So, here goes...
  • first, sang Las Mananitas to them in bed to wake them up
  • they gave each other "their" gifts (that I picked out, but which they praised one another for giving them "just what I wanted!")
  • they were surprised as they came downstairs and saw all the little balloons that I blew up the night before (and for which I had sore cheeks for two days) and a few little gifts from us
  • then they chose eggs in a nest with berries, syrup and bananas for their birthday breakfast
  • then he showed me his leprechaun trap at school (although his was "more of a hotel" because he didn't want to trap the leprechaun so much as he wanted to "make it feel so comfortable that it would stay on its own" -- hmm...think I've been to that hotel!)
  • then I personally dropped off their Edible Arrangements fruit bouquets in time for morning snack to avoid the extra $12 surcharge apiece
  • they had enough fruit leftover at the end of the day to share with their afternoon chess class -- note to self: a smaller bouquet won't make it any less special next year, Ms. CannotContainHerself!
  • then met Mommy at our favorite little restaurant where they got fawned over by everyone because it was only obvious it was their birthday because they insisted on bringing in their giant mylar happy birthday balloons in order to advertise it!
  • and for his special birthday lunch he special ordered a bowl of their new potatoes and a bowl of refried beans, and they totally catered to him
  • then one of our favorite waiters was fiddling with Chago's balloon and accidentally set it free ("I hope it pops!" Chago said, with a pout on his face, so that no one else could enjoy it.)
  • then they got called out at karate by their Chief Instructor for yet another Happy Birthday serenade (maybe the 5th one that day)
  • And the Instructor asked him, "Santiago, are you different today?" Hoping, probably, that he would say no, but he's one of those kids that always jumps to the punchline before the joke's over, and he says, very matter-of-factly, "Yes, I'm 7 today."
  • then I stopped by the grocery store to replace his escaped balloon, and the only one he would even consider was this gigantic mylar 4-leaf-clover that said "Kiss me, I'm Irish," which he just thought was hilarious because, you know, he's Mexican!!
  • then we stopped by the local ice creamery for a school fundraiser and they each got a single-scoop cone, which i was forced, oh, yes, FORCED to hold and lick all the way home. Hey, someone had to do it. It's a brand new vehicle, people.
  • then they played with all their new spy gear and had alarms beeping and blue goggles flashing and very uber-secret message writing all over the place
  • then they opened some great gifts and cards from Tia Sonia and Lizzy (thank you cards are on their way)
  • the UPS guy still has their gift from Grammy Marie, which, from the card, sounds like it may be a real live keyboard...with volume...and speakers...and everything! (will update later with video)
  • then we had dinner and angel food cake with berries, candles, and lots more singing for dessert
  • and, finally, we read their new bday books at bedtime, Someday and On the Night You Were Born, which, apparently, made him have a complete meltdown about never ever ever ever wanting to leave home ("not even when I'm 18," he said very specifically), and then he proceeded to mourn our impending deaths (you know, like 50 years from now), and then there was just no stopping him, and he cried about Ryce dying (she hasn't yet), and Saia going off to school, and having to sort through all his toys to give away the least used items to charity, and it just went on and on, eventually ending with, "[sniff, sniff] I just can't believe my birthday ended on such a saaaaaaad note."
  • oh, god, i really just need to soak in a vat of margaritas with a giant swirly straw. happy st. frickin' patrick's day.
And just in case you didn't quite get enough, here they are singing Happy Birthday...to themselves:

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Inspired by Denise's post over at BlogHer, we're celebrating National PI Day today in full force.

In my very weak and feeble attempt to explain PI to 6- (almost 7, they would immediately correct me) year-olds, I began by quickly sketching a crude picture of the Greek mathematical symbol for PI, it's value, 3.14, and its relationship to the diameter of a circle. Sorta.

Not surprisingly, it didn't take Chago very long to connect the oh-so-hazy dots I was trying to draw and figure out why today (also 3/14) was, in fact, PI Day (and also Albert Einstein's birthday, by the by).

So before they realized that I really had no inkling about that which I was purporting to assert, I offered to make apple pie to mask my ignorance, which always goes over like Christmas in my house (the pie, not my ignorance). And food is, of course, a proven diversionary tool.

So, 2 hours later, we're knee deep in warm, homeade, Granny Smith, double-crust, apple pie WITH whipped cream, and totally claiming it as a teachable moment.

Yeah, buddy. Score one for math!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


My poor poor baby girl.

While I was off giving a social media presentation to a phenomenal non-profit organization called Project Open Hand (ooh, two shameless plugs in one!), Saia was falling face first onto the tanbark at a local park just minutes before her softball practice.

Tough cookie that she is, though, she let Mommy get her cleaned up and back out onto the field for a full practice.

Here's her interview the day after.



So, a little over a month ago, I wrote a scathing review, of sorts, of the 911 system, and, more to the point, their incompetent operators.

I do still stand by my proposition that we should train convicted criminals to man the 911 phone lines so that they're 1) not getting a free ride, 2) giving back to the society they betrayed, and 3) we don't have to rely on underpaid, untrained, incapable gits who couldn't master the phrase, "Do you want fries with that?"

But it's important to reiterate what I also said then... that there is a handful of really amazing 911 operators, who have gone above and beyond, despite the tragically sad pay and the equally ridiculous level of training, to provide not only quality service, but genuine comfort, and, above all, help.

This morning on The Today Show, they had on one such operator, Monique Patino. It should be noted that she's a mother of a 7- and a 5-year-old, which, in my opinion, does give her a heightened sense of awareness, and which, also in my opinion, allowed her to not only react in a timely manner, but respond to the caller in exactly the right way. And no, it's not really surprising at all that a mother already juggling a full load would still be able to pull this off, but it's terribly sad that we have to overtap an already maxed out resource in order to ensure there's someone level-headed enough on the other end of the line when an emergency arises.

By far, the most phenomenal part of the story, is the 7-year-old boy (Carlos) who, by calling 911, saved his entire family from armed intruders. What's so terrifying, though, is that had it been one of those 911 operators I'd written about previously, the ending to this story could've been horrifically different.

If you missed it, here's the clip. Of course we turned this into a teachable moment this morning. And we'll be running a 911 drill this afternoon. Especially because I password protect my iPhone -- and have no frickin' intention of giving them access -- so they need to know how to use those really archaic thingies that are plugged into the wall and gathering dust, or, at the very least, how to get to the OnStar button in the truck.

For my kiddos, though, their favorite part of the clip by far is at the very end when they ask the little boy if that was him heard screaming on the tape:

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


You know, I can admit it. I was a little frightened to see how easily they took to the idea of writing up a list of people to invite to their party, cutting off the low-hanging fruit, and whipping together a final headcount in less than 5 minutes without ever even batting an eye.

But dammit, that's just not something that can be taught, people. That's a priceless skillset. A lifelong tool. This is basic Sneetches with Stars kinda stuff, folks. And we all know how THAT ended.

Anyway, here they are, doing exactly that. You should probably look away if the cold detached (figurative) chopping of innocent heads is not your thing, though.

Monday, March 08, 2010


Finally. Finally.

It's been months. Literally, 6 months of AGONY with a capital A. With both of them complaining and groaning and bellyaching and moaning about, of all things, their effing socks!

Yes. Really.

And never -- let me repeat that -- NEVER at some random time of day, or, say on the weekend. No. Always. Let me repeat that -- ALWAYS -- as we're heading out the door on the way to school.

As they sit on the stoop putting on their shoes and we're starting up the vehicle and loading up the back, locking up the dogs and locking up the house. And still they're fiddling with their shoes. Huffing and puffing. Cheeks turning red. Yanking the shoes off and flinging them across the garage. And one or both of us will make an effort to remain calm and get down on one knee, look them in the eye and talk them down from the ledge.

Just move your sock around, babe. It's just the seam, honey. Loosen the laces, bubba. Wriggle your toes around, mija.

But nothing. Nothing! NOTHING!!!!!!! was working.

And then I saw this commercial last night, and I actually laughed out loud. Not because it's funny because, really, it isn't. But because, oh my God, it just hit soooo close to home.

And out we went, bought them new socks, and LO AND BEHOLD, the whining has ceased!!!

Well, no, not entirely, and, undoubtedly, just temporarily, but at least it appears as though the bitching about the socks in the immediate future has in fact stopped. And not a teaspoon of Elmer's glue had to be sacrificed in the process.



And not one comment about the Christmas decorations piled up in the back there, you hear? Not one!!

Sunday, March 07, 2010


Talking with the boy after his shower about his body, as usual. Answering random questions about why this bone sticks out here, and why that piece of skin is there but not here, and why does this look like that, and how many moles does he have?

And it comes up again that his vidalias have another name, a real name, a non-produce name that he may hear, you know, in science class someday. But he can't quite remember what it was. That it started with a "t," but that was about it. So, I say "testicles," and he nods his head knowingly. And then I carefully begin to wade in...and say that lots of people call them different things, and he may have heard people call them other names before. And then...he smirks.

And I'm immediately terrified.

"Have you heard someone call them something different, Bubba?" I ask.

He nods.

"Someone at school?" I prod.

And he smiles sheepishly.

Strapping on my brave Mama vest, I say, "Was it balls?" (Which, seriously, coming out of mouth just can't sound like anything that doesn't end in puh-rrrum-pum!)

But he nods again.

"That's okay, you know?" I continue, "To call them that. If that's your nickname for them, that's fine. I just wanted to make sure you knew what the real name for them was, too. That's all. Okay?"

He nods again, but is still looking down...at what I'm pretty sure weren't his toes.

"Was there something else?" I ask warily.

"Yes, but I don't wanna say."

[And my heart just sinks. I immediately think the worst. My mind replays the million heartwrenching movies and headlines about child molestation and all those other horrible things Kate Jackson does to children on Lifetime.]

"Was it something else you heard? Something you think is bad?"

"Yes," he says. "I'm afraid you'll get mad."

"Well, if you're asking me whether or not something is okay to say, then it's okay to say it in that moment, or else how will I know?"

And without another moment's hesitation, he quickly spits out, "Evan told Ricky to 'Suck my balls!'" And then in the very next second, without giving me a chance to digest the first, he adds, "What does that mean?"

[Go ahead...just TRY to picture my face here.]

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


I can hear them singing from the bathroom as they ready for bed this evening. I can't quite tell what it is, but they're almost whispering -- which is NEVER good.

So, I move a little closer down the hallway, still folding my clothes, you know, so that I'm not actually eavesdropping or anything, I'm just close enough to accidentally overhear. [Yeah, don't judge me. I have twins. They'll take over the world if I'm not careful.]

And then I hear him trying to pull off this kind of gruff Joe-Cockerish voice, as he sings, "Gimme the beat boys and free my soul..."

And then she jumps in, and they're singing a duet, and I can only imagine that they're both standing in front of the mirror in their jammies, holding hairbrushes up to their mouths as they belt out, "I wanna get lost in the rock 'n' roll, and drift away..."

And then she says to him, "I really love that song," in a sorta wispy sounding voice that really should've been both preceded and followed by, "man."

And then they decide, evidently, to put it on a loop because, you know, they're 6, and when you're 6, every little thing is just the coolest thing in the world, and in this particular moment, man, the chorus is all that matters. And it so obviously means waaaayyyy more to them than I could ever possibly imagine because as they sing the refrain over and over again, they begin to get louder and louder, pushing it out from their gut, feeling it from somewhere, and -- a little eerily -- in all the right places.

And I'm cursing the fact that my FLIP is downstairs in my bag right about the time that they come out and see me spying...er...folding clothes.

"Hey guys," I say as casually as you can when you've been busted by your children. "So, where'd y'all hear that song?"

"It's from Mr. S, our P.E. teacher. He's teaching us how to keep the beat with it," she says.

"Do you know it, Mom?" he asks.

"Yeah, babe," I say. "It's an old song. It's been around for a long time. Since your Mema was young."

"Woooooooooooooowwwww!!!!" they say in unison. "We didn't know it was THAT old!"

Monday, March 01, 2010


Day one of their new chess class was nothing short of amazing. The instructor was firm, but fluid. Managed to keep 25+ kids of varying age ranges and skill levels engaged and attentive. And everyone left that day feeling that they'd learned something new.

But he was the substitute.

The following week, the "real" instructor arrived.

We were not pleased. And immediately after class, I wrote a letter to the chess club (who are not affiliated with the school), and cc'd the principal of our school. Here are some of the...er...high points of that letter:

  1. We have not received any sort of outline or curriculum for this session. Teaching anything is difficult enough without a plan, but teaching chess to children without even a roadmap is just not responsible. The children, and their parents, should know what to expect to learn from week to week in order to ensure everyone is progressing adequately in the class. If this could be remedied at the next class, that would be great.

  2. Mr. Eric, although we do understand was the substitute for the first class, was an excellent instructor. He was able to maintain control in what could easily have been a very rowdy class. He was firm, but kind. He was clear in his instruction, included the children in the learning process, and laid out his intentions, expectations, and plan for the class from the get-go. As a result, the class moved quickly, but no one appeared to be left behind (even new students), the children all learned something new, and even the free play was organized, calm and productive.

  3. Today we had the permanent instructor, Mr. Morgan. Stating that today was the exact opposite of our first experience would be too kind. It was simply unbelievable, chaotic, and truly unacceptable on so many levels. Here is just a small list of my concerns stemming specifically from today's session:

  • the instructor was late -- and neither bothered to apologize to the children for this disrespectful happenstance, nor I'm certain does he intend to refund all of the parents for the time he was not in class
  • the instructor clearly had not discussed with Mr. Eric what happened at the last session, and after a very slow start, decided to start at the very beginning with what the pieces are called simply because one (out of 20+) students indicated that she had not played chess before. For the next 20 minutes straight, he proceeded to speak to the board with his back to the class as he randomly moved pieces here and there, jumping absent-mindedly from topic to topic, never once turning to check in with the children nor realizing that not a one of them, including the child to whom he was apparently speaking, were even listening
  • when he finally decided to pull out the chess boards, they were all wet and smelled moldy. He indicated that they had gotten rained on and to try to "just ignore the mildew smell." I certainly hope none of the children were allergic to mold
  • the room was chaotic and uncontrolled -- the children were loud and unruly -- and the instructor made no efforts to calm or organize the situation at any point during the entire session
  • once the children began to sit at the game boards, there was no attempt to pair them up according to ability or basic skill level -- despite the parent volunteer expressly explaining to the instructor that a child who had never even played chess before was matched up against a child who had clearly been playing for a while. The young girl was frustrated and being picked on by the boys at her table, and complained of a headache for being rushed and pushed by her opponent to make moves she had not even learned yet. Why he didn't divide the class into novice and intermediate from the beginning is still beyond me.
  • the instructor then proceeded to spend the remaining time walking around drinking what I can only presume was coffee out of his thermos as he casually glanced and sometimes interjected his comments into the children's games, which is PERHAPS a good approach for the more advanced children, but in no way helpful for those who are still learning the basics.
  • many children complained of the gentleman's extremely unpleasant body odor, and I myself had difficulty speaking to him because of it.
  • because there was no goal for the day, no lesson to learn, no actual information imparted, the children walked away empty-handed and frustrated. I could have easily done that for them at home.
Extra-curricular classes such as this are typically selected by parents because they want to enhance their child's existing academic/social experience. And particularly with the economy in the state that it is, one would think that there would be a greater empathy for the fact that every single penny counts. These classes are not inexpensive. The expectation is that they are actually teaching what they claim to be teaching, and not just glorified babysitters. And while I understand that this instructor is some sort of chess champion (because he mentioned it at least 3 times during class), that means very little to me if he can't teach -- because that is what I'm paying for.


ANYWAY...I'm very pleased to report that their response was swift and effective. I heard from them the very next day. They thanked me for detailing our experience so thoroughly (although I'm certain they were cursing me under their breath the entire time), which allowed them to deal with a situation it sounded like they were ready and just waiting to deal with already. They assured us that the substitute would become our permanent instructor beginning with the very next class and that they would divide the class by skill level, so that Mr. Morgan, the other one, would only supervise the most advanced children in an entirely separate classroom.

Since then, the kids have been flourishing. Saia, in fact, will be competing in her first chess tournament this coming Saturday. And, hopefully, a few of those parents who've been wasting their hard-earned money on a dog-and-pony show are now seeing some real results, too.

[Man, I really need to get back to work.]