Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wild Beast

I've been meaning to write about one of my piano student's younger brother. I have written about the piano student in a earlier blog, and I referred to him as the Reluctant Pianist. His little brother is a handful, and I shall refer to him as Wild Beast. I'll never forget the first piano lesson with Wild Beast peeking around the corner staring at me to see what I was doin' at his house. He was sportin' a devilish grin, and he has turned out to be as impish as he looked that first time I saw him. He did something today that probably has been done a hunerd million times by some little kid to some adult, but it's just that I'm an elementary school teacher who has never had children and am not around preschoolers that much, so I was caught off guard.

I hate to use my client's bathrooms. I go in their house every week for a piano lesson, and I don't want to make a regular habit of dumpin' or whizzin' my load in their house every time I arrive, so I make sure I relieve myself BEFORE the lesson. That way I have a little class and I don't potty every time I'm there.

Except I had a cold. I'm fightin' this one off with everything I have. Expensive juices, VSC, NyQuil, DayQuil, NoonQuil, and lots of liquids of every kind. What this means is, my kidneys and bladder are workin' overtime. So I'm at the Wild Beast's house preparing his older brother for his first piano recital when all of a sudden I realize I'm not going to make it. I check my watch for the amount of time left, the rapidly swelling bladder, and it doesn't take Stephen Hawkings to calculate that I won't make it back to my house, or possibly even my car. So I ask the mother if I may please use their restroom, and she graciously says yes.

I'm in their bathroom taking a relatively long time because I am in my post radical prostatectomy eager bladder and minuscule urethea days, when the little Wild Beast yells out, "HE'S IN THERE PEEIN'!!" I realize that Wild Beast is standin' outside the bathroom door announcing what I hate to do at any client's home and that's use their bathroom. The one time I do it, it's being announced by a kid with vocal chords stronger than a Bose MAX 6000 public address system. I feared he'd start givin' a play-by-play!

"He's unzippn' his britches! He reaches in and pulls out his _ _ _ _ _ _, grabs it in his hands and makes sure it's pointin' in the right direction because the one time you don't want to aim wrong is at someone else's house. He's holdin' his _ _ _ _ _ _ in his hand and is now lettin' it fly. Oops! It's more of a dribble. How come it's not shootin' out? I bet he's bein' careful not to let it dribble on his pants. He'd have to stay in there for a long time if he wets the front of his pants. Boy, this is takin' some time. I'd be done by now. It's slowin' down. Say, Mom, I think he's almost done. The flow is slowin' down now. I just hear drops. Uh-oh! Here comes more. What is with this geezer? Folks, it's a pitiful display of excretory muscles. If it warn't fer gravity, this pee-pee would never come out. Wait a minute, everybody! I think this is it. He's probably giving it a good shake now because the last thing you want is to reposition your _ _ _ _ in your pants before it's all finished. Grown men hate leakage. He's takin' his _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ and shovin' it back in there. I hear the zipper goin' again. It's official! He's done!!!

When you're at the Reluctant Pianist's house, you don't have to worry about being embarrassed all by yourself. The whole house is in on it, thanks to Wild Beast.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It's Because All of Her Nicknames Are Food-Related

You know by now that Olivia is little. She is all of twenty-eight inches in length and a whopping 16.5 pounds as of her One Year Old Checkup. And that 16.5 pounds includes a saturated diaper that I hadn't changed since eighteen hours before to get her statistics at least "on the charts" in her file. I felt like that episode of Andy Griffith my father loved so much, the one in which Barney couldn't meet the weight requirements of a deputy. They ended up putting the whistle he wore around his neck on a ten-pound industrial chain and he just squeaked by.

The nurse told me that if she hadn't grown in length since the last visit, she'd be worried. But she still had a look of consternation as she left the room. However the doctor succeeded in allaying my fears where she'd failed, adroitly pointing out that with Eric's 5'8" and my 5'4" and 112 pounds, how big were we expecting her to be? My little ballerina.

He queried me on her eating habits and I had brought a hastily scribbled diary of her typical food schedule.

6:00 a.m.: seven ounces of formula
8:30 a.m.: bowl of oatmeal and jar of fruit, sometimes a scrambled egg with that, and if we go to Starbucks together, a croissant.
10:30 a.m.: second bottle, seven ounces
11:30 a.m.: lunch--meat and vegetable, fruit
1:30 p.m.: third bottle, seven ounces
2:30 p.m.: snack (fruit, cheerios)
5:00 p.m.: dinner--meat and vegetable
6:00 p.m.: final bottle, six ounces

The doctors eyebrows confirmed that I was, in fact, giving Olivia enough nutrition. I even omitted the snacks she enjoys throughout the day: just that morning I had fished out of her mouth some carpet, some stickers, a sunflower seed (shell intact), and a portion of Jake's list of classmates . The point is, Olivia eats. She eats, and then eats, and then craves a little more. And woe be the person who traipses by Olivia with their own sustenance. She wants yours, too.

She'll get bigger, inevitably. And we all live in our house quite accustomed to her appetite. As Jake said the other day--without looking up from his homework--as I searched and called for Simon: "Olivia ate him."

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I am reasonably sturdy regarding my baby Olivia. If kids want to gather round her and touch her little hands, I don't completely sieze up like I used to when Jake was an infant. I feel confident that a side benefit from breastfeeding O for eight months is a killer immune system that could tolerate a bag o' spinach. We won't discuss whether that is fair compensation for the fact that my breasts now require an engineer-designed pulley system tucked neatly into my Wacoal's.

The other day tested my germ-compatability to its limits. I was in line at the airport to get a Coke to drink, and noticed that there was a woman in front of me alone with her little toddler son. He was repeatedly sticking his hands down into the backside of his pants and furiously digging around. "Mommy," he whined. "My butt hurts." She kept retracting his hand and checking for a poopy diaper--if I had wanted a hamburger at this point all desire would be squashed--and trying to distract him. "Justin," she whined back. "Please keep your hands out of your pants." Out of your dirty behind. She made no move to exit the line and hit the bathrooms which to me seemed an appropriate decision.

"Justin, look at Mommy. Uh, Justin look at the lights. Oh, oh, Justin," and here's where apparently my family steps in to assist her, "Look at the baby!"

Justin turns to see Olivia and I behind him. O, in her stroller and unaware of the E-coli incident occuring directly in front of her, smiles and waves. Justin rushes towards us, hands outstretched, and without hesitation, I whip her stroller around me so fast that Olivia goes lurching backward into the seat.

"Justin, don't touch the baby." Her words were on my side, the side of reason, logic, and propriety, but her glare at me showed how she really felt about me. She threw me some really nasty looks until my coke arrived and I ran off with Olivia to board the plane.

And you of course know the rest, that she was on my plane and two seats behind me.

Word to the wise...if you have a ticket on Continental, seat 19B, bring some Lysol.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Reader's Digest Material

Some literature is frowned upon by persnikety snobs, and Reader's Digest is a likely candidate for criticism. However, it was in a Reader's Digest that I read the short story, "The Year the Yankees Won the Pennant" which was the inspiration for the Broadway musical and the movie "Damn Yankees." To a nine year old boy, that short story was a revelation, and I was captivated by it and exposed as a shameful Yankee fan. As my Boston Red Sox brother Jack once said, "Rooting for the Yankees is like hoping that Bill Gates wins the lottery." But I digress.

Lately I have been writing cute comments that belong in Reader's Digest. Just remember....I am a Reader's Digest fan. Here is the latest entry:

Today during spelling in my fifth grade class, I asked the kids to put one of the spelling words in a sentence. "Who can put magnifying in a sentence? Yes, Tanner."

Tanner seemed sure of himself but he said, "I magnified an ant in the sun."

I was skeptical that he knew the correct usage of the word. "Tanner, what do you mean by the word magnify?"

"Well, it's when you burn up ants." (Appropriately, the class laughs.)

"No, I don't think so, Tanner. Magnifying means making something appear larger in size. A magnifying glass makes things appear bigger than they really are. You were using a magnifying glass to fry the ants. Magnifying does not mean frying."

Akira politely and helpfully pipes up, "Well, Mr. R., maybe Tanner was magnifrying the ants!"

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Little Getaway: Lost in Good Food

My wife and I rarely go on a real vacation, but we do go to Taos, New Mexico for little getaways. They last three or four nights, and we go three times a year if we're lucky. We recently went on one of our little getaways this last Labor Day and savored the sleeping, the dozing, the cable TV, and most of all, the exquisite cuisine. Here is a PalmPilot (low quality) digital photo of the almond crusted baked brie at the Apple Tree Restaurant. It was better than it looked.

We also enjoyed the locally grown chantrelle mushrooms over puff pastry topped with fresh asparagus at the Trading Post and the wilted spinach salad and the ravioli with a red pepper coulis at the Downtown Bistro. In fact, everything at the Downtown Bistro is superb, and the Bent Street Deli serves the best Ruebens we have ever had. For snacks I would eat Taos Cow ice cream which doesn't have the cute names that Ben and Jerry have, but the ice cream is heavier and less foamy. It's incredible, and I wish I was holding a scoop each of: Pinon Caramel, Cinnamon, and Cherry Ristra (with cherries, white and dark chocolate chunks, and nuts). Three scoops, by the way, takes two hands to hold. The stuff is heavy (figuratively and literally).

But we're home now and it's back to fat free cheese, turkey bacon, low-fat yogurt, fruit, vegetables, and salads. D!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Melissa Says The Darndest Things Part lll

Melissa, my clever piano student, was on another roll yesterday during her lesson.
I am planning a program for all my piano students that will be held in September, and I am adding a very brief biography about each performer. I asked Melissa to tell me about herself, what interests she has, etc.

"Well, I like using up money. And if I had three wishes, the first one would be to own the Cottonwood Mall. And I really enjoy going to the beauty salon and having my nails done."

"Melissa, I'm not sure we want to put that in the program. Can you tell me more about yourself, about the real you?"

She batted her eyes and said, "We wouldn't want to tell anyone TOO much about me, would we?"

Then, later in the lesson she was playing "If I Had a Hammer."

"Melissa, you need to play 'If I Had a Hammer' with more enthusiasm. Let's look at the words.
'I'd hammer out danger! I'd hammer out a warnin'! I'd hammer out love between my brother and my sister! I'd hammer out justice! It's the bell of freedom!!' You have to play the song like you mean those words. When you play this song, you should be crying out for justice. You should be crying out for it because there is no justice in this world; there is only law and order."

Her face lit up and she cried out, "Yes, and it's been on for seventeen seasons!"

According to the website, she is correct. Seventeen seasons!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Because I Just Don't Believe That The Up And Coming Language Is Chinese

Eric decided that we were being remiss in Olivia's development, so he asked me to purchase a book and DVD on Baby Signing. The book has pictures of how to sign words that are essential in your baby's daily communication, like "milk", and "more". All this of course prevents your child from rendering tantrums in the checkout aisle of Publix for that pack of Gatorade Gum because they are no longer frustrated from not being able to get their needs across to you. As I have a similar problem as a wife, I am waiting for the Marital Aide on Signing to come out soon.

Olivia's favorite object right now is light. So we immediately turned to the extensive glossary to find the word and open up the secret of that universe to her. There was no hand-signing translation for light. I poured through the entire glossary searching (lamp? light? bright?) and ascertained that while I have the tools before me to teach her to say, "Look Mother and Father, the saxophonist is on fire, can I have some more milk?" there was no reprieve for the fact that she is willing to say "wha's zat?" as she points to the overhead one thousand times in a row.

The book outlined for us the way to teach her this new language, and that the future advantages of her communication were extensive. Children that learn to sign at a young age, the book claims, are showing a better overall ability to communicate when older, are higher performing at school, and are exhibiting an ability to hang around the hearing-disabled children at a party and be invited to share their cocaine quicker than the kids who are unable to sign.

Believe me, Olivia seems quite skilled daily in getting her point across without the signing. Much like the time I had Botox on my forehead and one of the mothers--who was a psychotherapist--
pointed out she was concerned about a society that would be unable to get across their emotions and I implored her to trust me, Jake still is conclusively aware when I am angry, I ask that you trust me that I do not unwittingly change her diaper when she is merely screaming for her dinner. But I applaud Eric's commitment to his daughter's contentment. I just wish he were as committed to teaching Jake to sign and perhaps I would get a little peace and quiet around here.

Olivia refuses to say the word Mommy. We have tried everything, and she will oblige with all other sounds. "Rooooaaaar," she says when prompted what does the tiger say. "Shoe", "table", "shit", "woof", "daddy". No problem, Eric convinced me, as he demonstrated the sign gesture for mommy repeatedly.

The fifty dollar investment has already paid off. Imagine my pleasure when she finally presented her own interpretation.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Mr. Doofy's Chorus

Remember how I vowed not to run the school chorus program again? How busy it is to be a teacher and yet also throw in running a one hundred plus member elementary school chorus? Remember how I gave my notice to the principal? And it was final?

The principal called me into her office last May on the second to the last day of school and handed me a stipend voucher for $1620.00 for doing such a good job. I was happily shocked! Then the principal asked me if I would consider doing chorus again next year if another stipend could be found. I told her my answer would come if I started it up next year.

Next year is here, and of course Mr. Doofy (that's me) is organizing a chorus. We have 148 members signed up and they will soon be crammed onto 6 risers. That makes our chorus larger than the Dallas Vocal Majority, with an average age five times younger than their members, and a little over twelve times as entertaining. My new chorus director is an "alumni" of the elementary school, and an ex-chorus member and spotlighted soloist in many of the chorus shows from about six years ago. She is now a junior in high school and willing to take on such a daunting task. How many of you would like to be charge of 148 third, fourth, and fitfth graders for a little over an hour and a half for the purpose of teaching them to sing songs?

I'll blog some photos with reports on how it went after our first rehearsal on September 14.

Mr. Doofy

Friday, September 08, 2006

As MBF Tracy Says, It's ALL About Them

Eric and I had an argument this morning. A thundering, bellowing argument. It was regarding a convulated quagmire that I will not drag you into, but it involves Eric and a whole mess of money skipping him (us, m'fing us, which means I don't get this) and going straight to Olivia, when she's presumably too old to snort it right up her nose. As the mom of two (egads) kids, our argument was my fault* because I felt my lioness shackles going up regarding Jake. We gained our control, agreed to talk later, and about five minutes later Jake walked into the room.

Jake ambled in donning a strange expression, and I felt really disappointed in myself. I wondered how damaging this morning would be on him and I inwardly cringed. "Hey," I said to him.

"Hey," he responded. "I heard you guys arguing."

I felt so ashamed. "I'm sorry, dude. Were you scared?"

His eyes lit up. "No! It sounded like you guys were arguing over who loves me more!"

Hey, I'm nothing if not here to make your day

*You will never hear this again.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mad Diary 9.5.06

I'm sharing yesterday's meltdown with you because I am relatively assured that most of my days are governed with a modicum of sanity, and I am also blissfully unafraid of my more, uh, interesting side.

Olivia is probably one of the easiest babies in the world, and while that makes for some pretty banal posts, it helps doing this all over again at the crazy age of 43 be more bearable. So when yesterday, from 12:00 on, she decided to be beligerent, stubborn, and incredibly mom-needy, it came as a great shock to my system. But it probably would have been easier for me to handle if Jake hadn't walked through the door with, on top of his regular homework, 21 pages of grammar and sentence structure homework.

I felt the panic rise up within my throat, the wave of maternal drowning crashing over me. Jake, historically, has found ways to make one sheet of homework last an hour. So, we were now possibly looking at retiring for bed after one o'clock in the morning. Olivia must have fed off my panic, because for the first time ever, when I needed her to take a nap--or at the very least play with electrical outlets while in her walker--she simply would not have it. What started as whimpering, turned into full-scall screaming by seven o'clock. And the reason I am jumping ahead to that hour of the evening is that you do not want to hear the details in between, some of which include:
  • insanely screaming "Verb, Jake, VERB!!!!" to "assist" him in understanding what a predicate is
  • freebasing Ativan.
What the end of last night showed me was that I do not get to ever call Jake unmotivated again. With few outrageous promises, he finished his homework at seven pm sharp, with minimal complaining. Olivia--having performed enough uncontrolled screaming that my babysitter handed her to me, muttered ear infection, and ran--fell asleep after I rocked her and gave her full attention. The house was a veritable rat's nest of dirty dishes, turned over and half-consumed bottles of formula, toys askew. I was unbathed, still wearing the mismatched sweatpants and top I had thrown on that morning to drive Jake to school.

I let everything get out of proportion and lost so much focus. That very focus that my kids depend upon. I should have appreciated Olivia's clinginess. I claim to have wanted that since Jake in his infancy was so very happy to go to anyone who would hold him.

Today I held her with extra special tenderness, and in my newly regained sanity, thanked her for needing me. And Jake, he said it all after I apologized for yesterday. "Mom," he laughed. "You just love me too much, that's what it is."

Monday, September 04, 2006

My Inspirational "Students of the Month" Speech

September the first arrived and I chose the top two students in my fifth grade class, Calvin and Melissa, to be the September Students of the Month. This was the first important honor bestowed on any of my students this year and I wanted the presentation of this award to be a serious and uplifting moment.

"Class, the month of September has arrived and I am about to announce the first Students of the Month. I have carefully reviewed test grades, quality of homework, participation and attentiveness in class, and behavior both in the classroom and on the playground. I am pleased to announce the September Students of the Month are...........................CALVIN AND MELISSA!!" (appropriate applause) "Calvin and Melissa, you are receiving this award because of your outstanding accomplishments in August. However, I want to challenge you to continue your excellent example in September, to continue leading our class to academic excellence and personal achievement as you did in the month of August."

I should have left it at that, but Calvin and Melissa just sat there. I looked at Calvin and he seemed to be in shock or something. I asked, "Calvin, did you understand what I just said? Calvin? Calvin, are you payin' attention?"

"Huh, Mr. R.?" (appropriate laughter)

I should have known what was coming. Melissa saw her chance when I asked, "Melissa, do you understand the challenge, the responsibility I have given you?"

Melissa mumbles loud enough for the class to hear, "Yeah, whatever."

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Nurture vs. Nature? It's To Hang Out Where His Friends Are

There has been an positive change in the atmosphere in this house. We are blissfully watching Olivia growing in mind, becoming more aware and enjoyable, and closer to that day that we can legally require her to get after-school employment. Simon is aging and not on his constant biting campaign. But bigger, and better, is the New Jake that has been coming to the table.

I have shared with you before that I have been surprised that, considering my uber-parenting, Jake is able to talk to me as if I were not only the unhippest human on the planet, but also as though I sport an I.Q. that hovers on the low side of the eighties. And just as I was getting used to such treatment, he morphed into someone else. Someone who seems to occasionally give a damn.

Eric and I have been spending the last few days with our mouth hung open. (His can possibly be more attributed to the fact that he had two wisdom teeth wrenched from his jaw bone. It hurt badly enough for me to scrap my earlier, well-thought out plan of bringing him Tylenols while I squirreled away the percs for my later use.) We are basking in the joy of saying something once and by God It Has Been So Decreed. This is previously unheard of, and I am shocked by some of the responses I have been receiving. Ones that include, "Okay, Mom, I'll do it." or "Oh, sorry Mom, I forgot, let me do it now." or "Hey Mom, I put away the clothes that you folded." And these phrases, accompanied with an appropriate pleasing tone, are all actually followed up by the promised actions. Add this on to a week of one hundreds on tests, highest scores available on the weekly behavior reports, and homework finished without cajoling before 4:00. I was floating on a cloud of success, feeling that my mothering had ultimately won. Sweet Jesus, it worked; the way I have been parenting is a panacea, and clearly I need to write a book on childrearing.

It turns out the book content is small, his true motivation for the amazing see-what-I-can-do-and-how-responsible-I-am-now behavior can be reduced to one paragraph, only because I am pithy. It is merely one sentence for people more concise. And for those that would rather not even get a phone call from me about it: it's this link.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Well, I Couldn't Be More Proud

You know when your kid really looks like a celebrity?

As I am a realist, this is the celebrity my child resembles: