Saturday, May 31, 2008

Introducing . . . Five!

Finn: "Okay . . . that was bad. Papi! We need some more toilet paper."

I Miss You Guys

Today is my nephew's graduation. Last week my other nephew turned 21. And I'm not there.

I feel like crap. (Leave it to me to take two moments of celebration and turn them into my personal boofest.)

I know, I know, they don't really care if I'm there or not. I'm painfully aware of that. I'd just like to say that I wish I could be there.

I wish I could buy 21 his "first drink." I wish I could give him unsolicited advice that he doesn't want or need because he is already so much wiser than I'll ever be. I wish I could just sit there, and watch him, and hear his stories and laugh with aunt-pride at his jokes. Because he can tell a good one. I wish I could see him in his moment, not even close to the top of his game, with his future splayed hopefully before him, at his whim, and him, ready, willing, and primed, to fly off and conqueror worlds that I can't even dream of.

And I wish I could congratulate my graduate in person. I wish I could tussle his hair and pinch his cheeks and hopelessly embarrass him in front of all of his friends. And then I wish we could sit out on my sister's deck and make snarky remarks about the world and graduating and the college he's going to go to. I wish I could tell him to keep his pillow cases clean, just in case "someone" drops by unexpectedly. I wish I could tell him to keep his eyes open because opportunities aren't so brazen as to actually knock. And I wish I could tell him to, seriously, dude, call your mom often, because she'll be heartbroken if you don't.

And I wish I could be there for my sister, who has tirelessly and courageously and all those other adverbs that describe amazing and unbelievable feats of heroism, raised these two beautiful boys into amazing men. I wish I could just sit in a room, on the far edges, quietly sipping an iced tea and eating her oyster crackers and bask in her celebration, her light, her happy sadness (or sad happiness) as she watches her babies, her toddlers, her kids, her tween, her teenagers, leave home and fly with their own wings.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Today You Are Five

Dear Five,

Welcome to our home. You'll find everything you need here--provided that what you need is similar to what Four needed: the spontaneous appearance of cupcakes, freezer-burned waffles, and the occasional eggs in shell; a teeming vat of Transformers; and the ability to pause Super Why or Ben 10 Alien Force when you find that rare Something Better to Do than watch four hours of television.

But I must be candid with you. We liked Four. Correction, we adored Four. Four has been our favorite so far, and we'll be sorry to see Four go. Four was smiles and happiness and please and thank yous and hugs for no reason at all. Four listened--at least more than Three did--to our requests, reasonable or not. (I can't say Four always followed through. I can't say he always "eared us"--but Four mastered the Look of Listening.) Four was incomplete Knock-Knock jokes, he was scatological (butt I don't have to poo you that), he read to us at night, and he liked to hide, spin, and race, even though it was never really a race and we never really winned him unless Four beated us.

Four wasn't all good times, though. Four liked to whine--and if there's one request (well, a first request) that we'd make of you, we'd like you to park that at the door along with your muddy shoes, please. Four liked to cry at things we found inconsequential--like not being able to have five more minutes with the sidewalk chalks even though we had already given him an hour or not getting a popsicle at demand or not being able to have a cupcake at breakfast. Four had definite and firm ideas about what he wanted--and we're all about definite and firm ideas, but we'd just ask that you, the much more mature Five, maybe ask for those things before you engage the meltdown. We think that would be really cool.

But despite all the whining and occasional tears at the trivial, Four was a boy. We can't remember a week that Four didn't have a new bruise or a scrape or want a pirate band-aid to cover up some skirmish he had with a stick or a stone. And Four wore his boy-ness like a badge of honor. Sure, Four sometimes liked to pretend that he was a baby. He'd fake "waa" and ask me to bundle him and rock him to fake sleep. He'd crawl around the house and "goo goo" (and then, moments later, mysteriously morph into a panting, barking dog).

And sure, as we mentioned above, sometimes the remnants of baby-ness would get the better of him. But when he heard you were coming, he embraced the boy within and started to put the baby aside. He started talking about things that you would like to do, that he didn't: "Five will jump into a pool" or "Five won't whine as much as I do" or "Five will get to watch scary movies and play Grand Theft Auto." (Sorry, Five, that last bit, not so much gonna happen.)

We're excited you're here, Five, and even though we'll miss Four dearly, we can't wait to see what you'll be like. So please, come on in, take your shoes off, get settled in, and, if you need anything, please ask.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

And Then Finn Threw His Bra on the Stage. Oh, Maybe That Was Me. My Bad.

We took Finn to his first concert festival yesterday. They called it Jiggle Jam, and it's a weekend full of seedy booth wares and bouncers, miniature hookahs that blow nonstop bubbles, face painting that made every kid look like an extra from Apocalypse Now, the unrated version (joke provided by Dennis!), a water fountain of nymphic decadence (and rather unfortunately, I mean that a little more literally than I would like), the lilting (and now I'm going ironic) jams of kids' music--all topped by a rousing performance (meow!) by They Might Be Giants.

(What is it about musician dads with hipster flair that gets to me? Bear, I think you started it.)

Finn, liberally doused with equal parts sunscreen and sugar, loved it. We met up with a few handfuls of his chums and he climbed, accosted, and boogied his way through about three hours of the festival before we made it to the culminating concert--a full hour of They Might Be Giants' ABCs, 123s, and adult sing-a-longs. (Istanbul!)

I have to admit, I had a lot of expectations for the concert--mainly because I haven't been to a live music anything on this side of forever--and They Might Be Giants fulfilled.

But I had other expectations that, unfairly, were all wrapped up in Finn and his reception of his first "rock" concert.

I imagined him screaming in recognition and delight as They Might Be Giants took they stage with the "Alphabet of Nations." I imagined him clap and stomping with abandon to "Clap Your Hands," sweat scattering in slomo like Peckinpah squibs. I imagine him reaching a banshee pitch, ripping his hair out, stripping off his t-shirt and waving it around, salivating, his eyes full of tears, when they sang "No"--in a feverish identification with a band that finally understands who he is and how much absurdity he has to put up with.

That didn't so much happen.

Finn sat and then later stood, front row center, and watched the concert. He clapped, mostly at the end of songs. And he asked to leave the concert early to get an ice cream.

Maybe it's because he didn't know any better?

To provide context, this is the first full-scale hootenanny we've ever taken Finn to. There have been no monster trucks or Disney characters on ice or other freakishly scary children's concert extravaganzas. (The circus scared him.) And most of that was done with deliberate calculation.

As much as we could, we've limited Finn's exposure to the Wiggles and folk music. We didn't announce tour schedules. And when his toddler buds swaggered into those forbidden conversational territories, drunk off juice boxes and eating out of the dog bowl, we'd whisk Finn off to other, more acceptable topics of conversation. Like, who should Buffy choose, Spike or Angel? (Finn says, "Spike. And Angel . . . Buffy should choose.")

So it's not his fault that Finn didn't lose control when presented with some fortysomething hipster dads. He hasn't been instructed on the art of mania.

Don't get me wrong. Finn throws a good fit. He's well-versed on tantrum. The difference lies in the fine line between excited aggression and aggressive excitement.

Or maybe it's just the difference between what he wants and what we do.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

". . . a delightfully dizzying iceberg-tip tour of Cowtown postmodernism"

Bear and the KC in LA show got a minireview in LA Weekly. Shout it out for my Midwees!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Actually Read This Blog And All I Got to Show for It Is a Lousy Lovely Link

New art review in the Kansas City Star, my people. Check it out. You know, if you want to.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's Not Really Mother's Day without a Hydra Death Match

I woke up yesterday thinking this year's mother's day would generally follow the direction set out over the previous four installments: I wake up (even though I don't want to), breakfast near bed, receive a homemade something something, and then lay out my trail of incessant and uncompromising desires that have finally broken ground after a full of year of tantrums and whining have beaten them to inevitable yet reluctant surrender.

(I so do love getting my way. At least one day of the year.)

And, for the first three hours, I was right. Mother's day followed a predictable and yet still joyous path. There was an omelette and a bowl of tea. Finn made me a card that he snipped and glued himself. Barry gave me a book of essays (even though I am decidedly not his mother--go ahead and put all those rumors away).

And Finn "gave" me a Golden Compass, from the movie of the same name, that he quickly co-opted, under the guise of "showing me how it works."

But that's not where things went awry. Even I could see that one coming.

After food, card, and treats, we decided to go for a one-mile hike through a nature trail near our house. I decided. (Whoop. Wish equals command.) But with Golden Compass secured safely in its purse and slung around his shoulders, Finn quickly announced the mission: find Narnia.

So we set out. Our water turned into elixir, our path turned to adventure. We were looking for anything out of the ordinary that might lead us to a gateway to another world. We jumped rivers of lava, we hid from ogres, we climbed a mountain. We deftly yet narrowly escaped enchanted nettles that reached out from the ground with their poisonous tentacles. We deciphered clues disguised as a self-guided walking tour. We successful traversed the dangers of the Waterfall of Nefarious Intent.

And then, just when we thought we had survived all the challenges of the nature trail turned evil forest, we met the five-headed hydra, camouflaged under a big pile of glass clippings.

But we weren't fooled. We had our eyes open. Using Finn's magic and my knowledge of mythic creatures (reading is power!), we defeated that hydra and left the forest much better than we had found it. And relatively monster free.

I think mother's day got an upgrade, too.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I'm Pretty Sure It's May Although I Could Be Convinced Otherwise

Yesterday was freakishly cold. I had to pull the winter coat that I had intended for Good Will (but hadn't yet delivered) out of the trunk and button it up full neck.

Which makes me ask--yet again--did anyone let on to the weather gods that it's, like, May? And if you haven't, could you send the memo for me? And be sure to use exclamation points, impassioned expletives (with more exclamation points), and emoticons? I'm a little busy, otherwise I'd dash that one off myself. I apprish.

(FYI, latenighters: Jamie Lee Curtis just babbled something about advanced robotics in a movie I'm not really watching. Which can only mean that I'm up too late. Good night.)

Friday, May 02, 2008

I Know You Doubt My Sincerity . . .

But, someday, I will blog again, and I will fill those few seconds of your day that you may spend here before you bounce somewhere much more interesting with visions of colonoscopies, the madness of preschool, and flashes of my uneventful and boring dreams (which always seem to revolve around not having enough time to make my copies before I start my morning class at the junior high where I used to teach--or finding out that all my degrees are invalid because I forgot to take Health in high school).

And that, my friends, is the absolute longest sentence I have ever written. And this, the shortest.