Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What I Learned in Miami

A couple nights ago I got desperate. I could not find a single thing to watch on the ridiculously profuse list of channels we pay for, so I had to settle for – gasp – CSI: Miami. I’m a pretty big fan of the crime drama genre, and the original CSI in particular, but most days I just can’t stomach the soap opera-esque plots lines and ho-hum acting of the Miami franchise. Ever watch a telenovela? Same concept.
The most uncomfortable part of every episode, for me, is the opening. Some crazy stuff goes down, probably having to do with drugs or terrorists or drug terrorists, and Horatio and the crew show up. The fat detective makes a painfully obvious observation of events, and then ol’ Ginger Face delivers his trademark opening comeback line. Tripp points out the irony of a clown being killed by a poisoned slice of pie. Horatio takes off his sunglasses, puts on the serious face, and pronounces, “Well, Frank…this was no laughing matter.” Yeaaaaaaahhh! We don’t get fooled again…
It didn’t take very many episodes for me to pick up the weird part though. Every time Horatio delivers that stupendous line, which sounds like something written for Arnold Schwarzenegger and delivered by William Shatner, he turns his body away from the camera and whomever he’s speaking to. He actually has to turn his head to address them. Uh-oh, I’ve seen that stance before. It the same maneuver I’ve seen my husband pull when he jumps out of bed and discovers, to his embarrassment, that he’s sporting an uninvited boner. He talks over his shoulder very casually, but won’t face me. So what the heck is going on in Miami? Is Horatio Caine so impressed by his clever line that he needs to hide his excitement? Maybe he has a very secret case of necrophilia. I’m not sure if The Who are screaming at the corny opening line, or they’re as horrified as I am!
In case I’m not making myself clear, I can’t stand that character. Nothing about him is believable. He’s one of the ugliest guys on network TV, and I’m supposed to buy that all these hot women get crushes on him? Maybe they’re just attracted to the fact that he has such a responsive…uh, “team.” Plus the writers make him out to be Captain Do-Gooder who can instinctually tell the difference between a victim and a criminal. He’s going to bust some serious chops when it comes to criminals. He’s a one-man army, ready to single-handedly take out the biggest drug cartel in the city. If you’re a victim, however, be prepared for him to hand you a fat roll of cash or pull some invisible strings to get you just the thing you need to turn your life around. How, you ask? Doesn’t matter. He’s Horatio.
One of the things I’ve always found most unbelievable about the Caine character is his willingness to give random people the benefit of the doubt. On the episode I watched Monday night, Horatio’s worthless sleazebag of an Ex was being a bad parent, as usual. She was late for some appointment, yelling at the son for not waking her up on time, and forcing him to drive way too fast. I don’t even know where she and this son came from - I thankfully miss a lot of episodes - but I have to admit he does resemble his on-TV dad. Burn the kid’s eyebrows off and he’d be almost spot on. So when the two of them are brought to Horatio by the police, does he tell her what a moron she is? Does he point out what a selfish, good-for-nothing mom she is? Nope. He’s very polite and gives her some irrefutable one-line counsel that makes everything better. I wanted to punch them both.
But it got me thinking. (I bet you thought this didn’t have a point, didn’t you?) What’s so bad about giving someone the benefit of the doubt? What’s wrong with accepting someone’s best, even when it’s not even close to good enough? I walk through life constantly judging people and situations. Why? So I can help if the need is great enough, of course. I’ll “help” by giving the evil eye to someone who parked in a handicap space without the proper tag. I’ll tell my little sister that her friend is a bad influence and will only get into more trouble as time goes on. I’ll shake my head when I see a baby in a shopping cart without being buckled in. I have to be constantly judging these things so I can step in and save a life. I could change the world!
Get. A. Grip. Some things I say might change a person’s mind, but it’s almost always going to be a person that comes to me. I don’t usually listen to, let alone consider, any unsolicited advice. What makes me think other people are going to appreciate it? But I have to look out for the safety of the innocent, right? I don’t know about that. A properly buckled baby might have soda in her sippy cup. She might be smacked around by her big brother at home. She might be left alone in a play pen for hours while her mom watches TV. Or, there’s the very distinct possibility that her mom adores her but just doesn’t use the buckle. Oh well. There will never be a day when I can parent every child on the planet, or even just the ones in my area. Why would I want to? Can you imagine the stress?! I’m not even totally sure I’m raising my own children right. I can’t make decisions for teenagers. I can’t make a man more thoughtful. I can’t change another person’s personality, life experience, or thought processes.
The bottom line is, I’ve only got me. Sure, there will be situations where someone’s life hangs in the balance and it would be wrong of me to ignore it. But 99.9% of the time, that’s not the situation, and really, it’s none of my business. People will do what people will do. I can only change myself, and I think I’d enjoy life a lot more if I focused my reasoning skills only on my personal situations. I consider myself pretty non-judgmental when it comes to the big stuff – religion, race, sexual orientation. It’s the little stuff that I’ve been hanging onto, walking around with a mental clipboard, deciding who is doing it right and who is definitely clueless.
I’ve decided to try minding my own business for a change. I’m going to try to apply my sense of right and wrong to my life only. This is a whole new concept for me and I’m not entirely sure where to start. Do I close my eyes to everything around me? How can I observe without forming an opinion? Maybe I need to watch a few more episodes of CSI: Miami and takes some tips from a certain redhead. Who knows, maybe I’ll even start to get all hot and bothered over my own ingenious remarks. One-liner wood, here I come!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fresh Manure

Since it has been so long since the last post, I thought I’d treat you to a trifecta of dragon poop tales. Be prepared, though. These clips aren’t for the weak of stomach or mature of personality.


For the last couple weeks, everyone in the family has been suffering from some sort of cold or flu bug. There was snot on every soft surface, including my pillowcase, though it wasn’t from me. Fevers, sneezing, sinus headaches… the whole delightful package. And then to top it off, the G.I. Disturbance fairy visited us all. Little Lucan was the first one to experience the effects of her wrath.

As I always do, I put the boys in the bath together and left the door open while I cleaned the adjoining room, the kitchen. Declan and Lucan splash around and play where I can hear and peek at them, while I get to load the dishwasher without someone pulling all the silverware back out and using them to stir the dog’s water. It’s very win-win. It’s also kind of amusing to listen to them jabbering and shrieking as they fight over toys and constantly flip-flop the seating arrangement.

This particular day I heard said shrieking, possibly a little more than normal, but didn’t think much of it. When my usual circuit of scraping, scrubbing, and cringing brought me back by the bathroom door, I stepped in for a check-up. That’s when my mouth dropped open as my eyes darted across the water. Little turds! Swirling debris! And…pineapple chunks? And there, right in the middle of it all, my three-year-old was sunken to his nose making a motorboat wake. Aaaaagghh!!

Declan popped his head up, as I was simultaneously hitting the drain and starting the shower, and informed me, “Lu pooped, Mommy.” Yeah, this information would have been useful, say, around the time it happened. Before you decided to try caca chapstick. In my horror, with a wet and slimy baby in my arms, I demanded that he puke to get the germs out of him. Sure as…well, you know…he did! We just added that mouthful of goodness to the mix headed lazily for the drain.

Needless to say, even though that was a first for Lucan, the bath routine now includes the periodic, “Anybody poop in there?”


Declan was the next person to become personally acquainted with the effects of intestinal difficulty. Some might argue that he picked the bug up orally from his little brother. But in any case, it made for one of the funniest new experiences he has had in his short life. Funny for me, that is.

One morning Bryan and I were in the kitchen making pancakes (again), as a cheery little Declan came around the corner from the living room. He was babbling to us about something – the cats, his new fort plans, or where he planned on having me chauffeur him to in the afternoon. Who knows? The important thing is that he froze, mid-sentence and mid-stride, and looked up at us in utter confusion.

His eyes narrowed as he asked, “Did I just poop?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know, did you? Why? Do you feel like you have to go again? Bryan, did he go to the bathroom yet this morning?”

Bryan, who had been paying more attention to Declan’s body language that I had, shook his head slowly. “No… I think he means now.”

A check of his pajama pants confirmed it. Declan’s first “shart” was as confusing to him as it was hilarious to me.


Last weekend we visited family on the other side of the state. We had just gotten onto the highway for our return drive Sunday night when Declan announced that he needed to go caca. I guess he couldn’t sense that 15 minutes earlier when we were at the restaurant. Since we were squarely between exits, Bryan told him he couldn’t stop.

What?!” His ultra high-pitched squeak sounded so desperate.

“Hold on, buddy. I’ll pull over in a minute and find a place for you to go,” Bryan reassured him.

Moments like these make me glad that Declan is in my line of sight when I’m not driving. The wide-eyed look of confusion and disappointment on his face was priceless.

“Like a doggy?” he asked sadly.

I don’t know what made me laugh harder – the fact that he was picturing himself squatted in the grass along side the road, or the fact that even though the thought horrified him, he was willing to do it! Despite his resigned willingness, we took our Doggy to a gas station at the next exit.



This week I got to go to Wal-Mart by myself for a change. I was enjoying strolling slowly down the baby toy aisle, without having to wrestle a slightly different version of a toy we already own out of anyone’s greedy hands, when I froze.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “Did I just poop?”

It wasn’t so funny from this side of the story.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What would you do-oo-oo for a Klondike?

What would I do for a Klondike?

Well if it happened to be the kind with itty bitty pieces of Heath bar in that deliciously melty chocolate shell, I would consider swiping one right out of my parents' freezer. I wouldn't consider it for too long though. I'd just go for it. I would stash it in my coat pocket as I was getting ready to take the boys out to the car. I would do it quickly, so the special copper-colored wrapper didn't catch their attention. I would take care to hug my mom against my left side, so the Klondike bar wouldn't get crushed. I would take it out of my pocket in the car and put it in the dark center console, again making sure no eagle-eyed toddler spied my treat. I would prepare an explanation and excuse for why he couldn't have it in advance, in case I wasn't clever or fast enough. (In other words, a big fat Mom Lie.) I would drive a little bit faster than normal because the heat keeping our fingers from freezing would also be warming that velvety vanilla ice cream. I would do my best to stash the bar in my own freezer when we got home. "What you gettin' in the freezer, Mommy?" "Oops, is this the freezer? That's not where your juice is! Silly me!" I would hustle both boy to their rooms and put them down for a nap 30 minutes earlier than normal. And then I would get out my un-crushed, un-melted, stolen and smuggled Klondike bar and eat it ever so slowly with my feet up on the couch and a sugar rush like none other.

That's what I'd do for a Klondike!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Flask

The traveler had stolen a small flask of water off an ill man many years before. She had been young and he had been lonely, so he took her into his confidence. Their walk together was pleasant enough, but she had other companions and greater destinations in mind. Before very long, she her brisk steps pulled her out of the weaker man's sight. His beautiful silver flask, so precious to a man who moved slowly and found water so infrequently, was selfishly tucked into her coat pocket.

The flask stayed in the pocket day in and day out. She rarely thought of it. It was just a small comfort, something the traveler knew she could count on should her own sources of water run dry. It was never a great concern. She moved swiftly through obstacles - the stinging chill of mountain passes and suffocating scorch of desert sands. During these times she might pat the swell in her jacket pocket - just a little, just for comfort - but never drew the flask out. Before very long at all, she would return to the ample wells and springs she knew so well.

It was on an ordinary day that the traveler finally called upon the stolen flask she had hoarded for so long. The sun was shining, filtered through emerald boughs, before resting warmly on her head. The flowers underfoot filled the hazy air with the sweetest perfume. Before the traveler was a cool, pristine spring. It was her favorite one, the one that was both the beginning and end of all her travels. For one so prone to wanderlust, this was as close to a home as she could know or want.

As the traveler approached her favored water hole, there was a resounding crack. In an instant, caught completely unaware, the traveler was pinned to the forest floor by a massive tree branch. She struggled for hours to remove it, and then called out for help for several more. But this was her favorite spring because not only was deep and pure, it was remote. It was hers alone. There would be no help, not even from the spring itself that she had esteemed so highly for so long.

Finally, lips cracked and throat turned raw from all her efforts, the desperate traveler removed the little flask of water. The bottle was carved as beautifully as the day she had first taken it for herself. It glinted and gleamed in the rising moonlight. She was suddenly very glad she had taken it and kept it all to herself these many years. It might have helped the aging man, but she had so much more to lose than he did. Now the flask would give her the boost she needed to safely pass through the greatest test of all her journeys.

The creak of the cap as she unscrewed it brought a leap of joy and anticipation to her heart. Satisfaction glowed in her eyes as she brought the cool metal to her lips. She inhaled, thankful for this one small reserve. But there was nothing within, save the bitter mustiness of water long evaporated. It was dust, it was the wind, it was as if the water had never been at all.
As the traveler lay there, crushed into the soil, she couldn't help but think of the man she had cheated out of that last gulp of water. He could have done much more with it than her after all. She couldn't help but think this was an appropriate way for it all to end. There wasn't even enough water inside her for tears.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dear Bryan...


Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Love Story

He could see from the corner of his eye that she had that stubborn grin on her face again. "Just buckle up. I don't care about you, but I'm not getting a ticket." She'd probably cave eventually, but she always had to fight everything. He could smile at her, show that he was amused, and that would be that. But she wasn't the only one who knew how to be obstinate.
"I don't know if you've noticed," she shot back, "but we're in the middle of no where. I highly doubt you're going to get pulled over. Unless... Uh-oh, I didn't think about this: What if the farm boys have started their own vigilante traffic patrol? Sure hope this thing can outrun a John Deere." It was always something. She did it just to show him how independent she was. And he usually punched her to show her the consequences of independence.
He took a deep breath and studied her profile in the fading light. They had gone shopping all afternoon so she was dressed a little nicer than usual. That was the main reason he agreed to go on these trips. The always started out as a trip to get a new video game or CD and ended up with him sitting on a bench in the middle of the mall while she tried on way too many ugly things. Today had been a little different though. Summer was quickly approaching and she wanted a new bathing suit. He definitely had an opinion on that topic.
It had been a bleak afternoon. Evening wasn't looking any more promising. The sky was an unbroken shade of grey and a fine mist made everything just wet enough to be uncomfortable. It was nothing like the hours they spent playing in the lake. Splashing like children, trying to drown each other. Hot sun sparkling on the beads of water that ran down her smooth bare skin. Last summer it had been what he lived for. He had had the worst summer job ever, but he knew when he was through he could stop by the tiny party store where she worked and have a popsicle. Frozen sugar water was great, but that wasn't really what he found so refreshing. And when she was done, they'd swim.
He slugged her in the arm. Hard. That ought to wipe the smirk of her face. He never held back a whole lot when he did that. He would hit his brother just as hard. And he suspected she appreciated that. What she didn't know was that sometimes when he slammed her into a wall he wasn't sure if he really wanted to tear her clothes off or just keep slamming his fists into her face until things started to crunch. Either way the emotions infuriated him. She was a tease for even speaking to him when she belonged to someone else. But whatever kind of twisted friendship they had, it was somehow worth the torment.
He spent many quiet moments wishing he could go back in time. If he had been out riding his bike around the block instead of playing Mario in the basement, he would have met her first. At least he would have seen her first. He probably wouldn't have spoken to her because he never dreamed a girl could actually be so interesting. He'd had the same thoughts and feelings as every other boy his age, but girls just always seemed so shallow. If they didn't take the time to get to know him, their loss. Unfortunately, no one ever did. Until her.
"Put the belt on. I'm not going to say it again." Now there was another look in her eye that he wasn't quite sure how to interpret. He had a pretty good idea though. He reached across her to grab the seat belt and the back of his fingers brushed her thigh. They both went awkwardly stiff and her cheeks glowed pink. She felt it, too. Such a light touch for such a strong reaction. It was maddening. It was wonderful.
He was watching her pointedly not watching him when the deer sprang into their path. He knew better than to swerve to miss it but his rationality was very far away. The slick road offered little purchase at that speed. Time slowed to a near halt. Little fragments of crimson glass floated past him. He had time to wonder at their color. And then his body ached and he was alone in the car.
He found her twisted body in the brush several yards away. There was no need to check for a pulse. For a moment he froze, his mind unable to process the scene in front of him. It looked like something from the horror movie they had gone to last weekend. When it finally came, the realization crashed down on him in an avalanche of pain and fury. He tipped back his head and released it all: the love, the hate, the frustration and rage. He screamed for the loss of something he never had. He screamed until his throat and chest burned, until he couldn't utter a sound. No one heard his cry but the birds in the trees along the road, and they flapped away in fear.
He didn't remember lifting her tiny frame or setting her gently in the back seat. He didn't even know where he was going until he was there. He put the car in neutral. Gravity would see to the rest. Their cold, black lake at the bottom of the hill was getting slowly closer as he climbed over the seat to hold her. With all the tenderness he'd never dared to show before, her cradled her beautiful, blood-soaked face and pressed his lips to hers. He had never experienced a moment so perfect, so right as this one; the very last one.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cup of the Day

You remember those charts of strata from 6th grade geography? I thought of them yesterday when I went to put my coffee cup in the sink....

a. I pour my coffee and get out the cereal I want, but now it's time for second helpings of pancakes for both boys, the dog needs more water, and Bryan forgot how much milk to use in his scrambled eggs. By then the boys are finished eating and need their hands and faces washed. My cereal is mush, and the coffee gets its first reheat in the microwave.

b. World War III breaks out over a toy that no one likes. It's an empty plastic container that blocks go in, only all the blocks have been lost or eaten by the dog. Normally it just wastes space in the over flowing toy box, but today for some reason Lucan has decided it's his new buddy. And because it's suddenly special to Lu, Declan has decided it's going to be a lunch box in his imaginary game, and babies can't touch lunch boxes. I pull them apart, although Lucan's grip on his big brother's hair secretly impresses me. I start singing an improv'd song about sharing. "This is the way we share our toys, share our toys, share toys...So Mommy doesn't makes us stand in the cooooooooooorner." Whether they've learned a lesson, or because they just want me to stop singing, the fight is finished. Second reheat.
c. Bryan is heading out the door for work. He can't find his ID badge and is sure he had more cash in his wallet. Did I happen take some? (What? Never...) The shoes that I (*gasp*) put away have to be located, as well. Declan has to have his handful of farewell Nerd candies, and Lucan needs 14 hugs. Two minutes later the car comes barreling back into the driveway. He forgot that ID badge. Fourteen more hugs and it's time for a reheat.

d. Nap time! Mommy does the happy dance! I put the boys to bed and sit down at the computer for some alone time. I can hear, quite clearly, thumping and singing coming from Declan's room, but we'll both pretend he's actually sleeping. I'm just going to check a couple posts and see if I have messages. Two and a half hours later, I have let the fire in the wood stove burn out and my coffee is frigid. Another trip to the microwave!

e. Cooking, eating, and cleaning up from dinner takes up a big chunk of the evening hours. I make a casserole, but Declan wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If I make him one, I have to make Lucan one, too. He can't be left out of anything. So I make two sandwiches and give them to the boys, then fill my plate with the casserole and veggies. Grumbling in my mind about little boys who can't ever eat what I make, I sit down. Suddenly MY plate is the only one of interest. Lucan starts whining and hanging his mouth wide open like a baby bird. I look up, and Declan is kneeling on the table, bent over, his big begging eyes about two inches from my face. I guess he wants a bite, too. There's a lot of juggling, a lot of arguing, but eventually I get everyone satisfied and warm that coffee up again.

f. The boys are tucked into bed, the laundry is folded, the toys in the center of the living room have been discretely kicked to the edges. I sit back down at the computer and spy my almost-empty mug. The cream and whatever else has congealed and left a film on the surface of the coffee. It's disgusting. But I sure do like the taste of coffee. I use a rolled up envelope from some bill that's undoubtedly late to scrape the skin off. Good as new! That last swallow is cold, but sort of hits the spot anyway.