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Thursday, May 29, 2008


"Mom, you scare me when you cry," says my young son anytime he detects a tear welling in my eye. Inherently, I know my tears scare him. Parents are security blankets, right? So, my tears easily disclose my vulnerability. What makes this so shameful is that I seem to be the biggest cry-baby in the household. Show me a good Kodak commercial, and it's Niagara Falls. (Do they make Kodak commercials anymore?)

My ten-year old daughter is showing signs of inheriting her father's emotional posture. While she cried when Grandpa Mark died and when Nick Jonas was diagnosed with diabetes, she never sqeaks a tear -- even during the saddest of movies! (Let me note that when she endures physical pain, the cry can be heard for miles. It's almost embarrassing.)

My six-year old boy seems to be battling a conflict between his gender and the need to cry. Even when he's been hurt physically, he actually attempts to run away so no one sees him. If I'm quick enough to catch him, he buries his head to muffle his sobs. (Do any other parents have to run their kids down to comfort them?) Anyway, I've discovered him wiping a tear at a few movies -- the first time was when Charlotte the spider died. When I asked him about the tear, he quickly explained, "No! I had something in my eye!" Since then, I've seen Cole choke back tears and it makes me kind of sad. I want him to cry. It's okay to cry!

So, the other night, we're watching E.T. (One of the best family shows of all time I may add.) I finally sit down and pull Cole on my lap as E.T. is dying.

I'm not gonna cry.

I'm not gonna cry. Gulp. Sniff. Swallow hard. Don't cry, you big baby! You know what happens! He's not gonna die! Tears are flowing. I'm trying hard not to make any gutteral noises as my nose begins to run as well. Cole's not budging and neither of the kids are making fun of my emotional state. I sneak a peek at Alex on the couch. Her cheeks are as dry as the desert. Finally, it's okay. E.T.'s alive. Now, E.T. has to go home and say goodbye to Elliot.

Dang. They're back -- the tears, and harder this time. I can't hold back my sobs anymore. I just let loose. The kids look at me, roll their eyes and smile. Cole didn't even cry! Or did he?

Either my hyped-up emotional state made me oblivious or he hid his tears extremely well. Because as I gave him a bath, I asked, "C'mon Cole! Didn't you even cry a little during E.T.?" He hesitated. But under his breath came the confession, "Well, just a little."

I hugged him. "Good."

Friday, May 23, 2008

The C-Word

Warning! This blog contains sensitive material. But it was too funny not to publish.

A funny thing happened on the way home last night.

Instead of popping the DVD headphones once they jumped in the car, Alex and Cole decided to review some of the artwork they completed. Now that summer is in full swing, I will need to find extra storage for my extra creative kids and their "art".

Alex was showing Cole the Nick Jonas poster she made with fun little adjectives written and pasted on a brightly colored piece of cardboard. "Hottie", "I Luv U", "Sweet & Sassy", and the word that caused all the commotion -- "Cute". The conversation went something like this.

Cole, "Why does that say C_nt?"

Alex, "C_nt!" It doesn't say c_nt! It says CUTE, Cole, not c_nt! How does that look like c_nt? It doesn't even look close to the word c_nt!"

Somehow between Alex's experimentation with fonts and Cole's newly acquired skill of reading, he misinterpreted the word. And Alex couldn't seem to say it enough.

I finally interrupt because I couldn't tolerate that word coming out of my innocent daughter's mouth one more time.

"Alex -- don't say that word anymore."

"What word? Cu_t? But it's not even a word."

"So, you've never heard that word before?"

"No," she responded blankly.

"Not even on the bus?"

"No. What does it mean?"

"Well, it's a bad word."

"How bad? Like as bad as the "f" word? I hear that one on the bus all the time."

Somehow I was relieved, through my laughter, that she never heard that word before. And I know Alex's wholesome values will ensure she never repeats the disgusting word. But I am concerned that my son, who uses any chance he sees to repeat a naughty word, has picked a new, very bad word. And he wasn't even on the bus.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Good Daughter-in-Law

Chaulk another one up for Lois.

Friday: I'm at Track and Field day for our Catholic Elementary School, visiting with my friend, who yells over to my sister-in-law, "So, what time did you have to get up this morning to fertilize Mary Ann's yard?" (Mary Ann is my mother-in-law.)
My sister-in-law, Lois, is diligently volunteering her time today -- now helping at the soccer kick contest we are watching.

Thoughts swarm through my head. (Neither Cole or Alex is kicking right now anyway.) Lois woke up early to weed and feed Mary Ann's yard? How am I supposed to compete with that? Suddenly, my early rising to perform yoga at 5:15 seems completely selfish.

My husband has one brother and three sisters. Thus I'm one of two daughter-in-laws. Now, I'm truly not a very competitive person. So, don't think this is some sort of contest. And I really, really like Lois. We share a great deal in common and she's genuinely sweet. But I happen to have a great need to be liked. And it's been difficult to gauge the likeability factor in the great stoical family of the Kramer's. Especially when you feel you are being compared to a daughter-in-law who

1) Creates and delivers extrordinary meals to all of the men working in the field. My husband usually instructs me to "just pick up pizza from Pizza Hut".

2) Makes desserts that consistently sell out when we're assigned to work our Wednesday night the parish's Bingo. My special box recipe of Oreo Surprise never comes close to selling out. I usually push the leftovers on my husband and kids. (My mother-in-law has offered to make my dessert several times, but I hate to impose.)

3) Mows and trims her entire yard (is it two acres wide?), while managing to create large beautiful flower beds throughout their farm. And I guess she's doing a little extra landscaping at the in-laws as well. But in my defense -- supposedly the good "topsoil" was scraped away when we built our house. I'm sure that's why my flowers all die even though the grass grows.

4) Successfully hauls her three busy sons to their games and practices while ensuring they all succeed academically as well. I think I can at least match her on this, except I only have two kids.

5) Manages to attend her niece's and nephew's events in addition to her own. This one amazes me. Who could fit in an additional game or recital if their own child isn't there? I've had a few good intentions, but they rarely pan out.

(Sidenote, in case you're wondering, her house is always clean as well.)

But I'm inspired to be a better daughter-in-law.

Saturday: I call Mary Ann to see if she wants to attend Alex's soccer game. It's her last of the season and it's supposed to be nice outside. She hesitates only a moment, then acquieses. Aha! See? I am a good daughter-in-law!

The rest of the story... The games starts thirty minutes late. It's bright, sunny and really quite warm. Mary Ann forgets her sunglasses. My oversized diva sunglasses won't fit over her glasses. She doesn't accept my stupid-looking hat. The wind begins to blow at an uncomfortable level. The game begins. The other team chooses to do fifteen minute quarters with at least twenty minute breaks in between. The game seems to never end today. Finally, we triumph ten to two with Alex "almost" making two goals. Mary Ann doesn't know much about soccer, but is gracious despite the conditions. At least I'll be able to treat her to a nice lunch for her suffering!

Doug calls. The planter's broken down and he needs me to run his tools to him immediately. Since we're twenty minutes away, I must speed home. Sorry Mary Ann -- no lunch for you today. But thanks for spending the morning with us!

So much for my quest to become like Lois. Oh, well, there's always another dessert to try at Bingo. Has anyone ever tried the Turtle version of the Oreo box recipe?

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I divert from my usual format to discuss another topic near and dear to me -- music. There are few genres I don't like or at least have some level of appreciation. But I have noticed a major shift in my music preferences as I edge nearer to the big 4-0.

An old college friend and I were having an email discussion today about the current whereabouts of Def Leppard. Now, Def Leppard was HUGE when we were in college. (Some of you have probably guessed my fascination based on the title of my book. A young colleague of mine emailed me the link to sign up for their fan club just today!) Now, I will always love Def Leppard. When I hear them on the radio, my heart smiles as I remember the fun days of my youth. And, of course, my kids must pass the "Okay, what artist is this?" test if they hear any lines of "Pour Some Sugar On Me." (I'm positive the sexual innuendo escapes them. I hope.) But I think my fan club days are over. As a matter of fact, not one Def Leppard song made my playlist. They're not even an artist on my IPod.

My college friends may be shocked to find Coldplay, Rhianna, Fergie, Pink, Fall-Out Boy, Linkin Park, Christina Aguilera and even Kelly Clarkson on my playlist. Oh, sure, there's still U2, Smashing Pumpkins and even Ozzie. But there's no Def Leppard, Aerosmith, or even Van Halen.

Often, (almost with guilt)I attempt to switch the radio channel if I hear the first few strums of a Bon Jovi song. (Sometimes Cole won't let me if he catches 'Livin on a Prayer' in time.) So, what happened to this girl who, with her chummy roommates, faithfully watched MTV's Daily Top Ten and Headbanger's Ball?

In 1984, I sat moping in my bedroom while Eddie Van Halen played what was to be his last concert with David Lee Roth. When they broked up in 1985, I vowed that if they ever, ever got back together, I would not miss the concert. Van Halen were my rock gods. I had every 'cassette'. I carried a David Lee Roth/Eddie Van Halen writing pen. Eddie was to me as John Lennon was to my mom. I grieved for years after their break-up. (Van Hagar was only mildly healing.) Fast forward twenty-eight years. David Lee Roth has rejoined his old pal for a Van Halen reunion in Omaha on February 2nd! Where was I?

In Disney World with my family -- the best vacation of our lives, by the way.

This summer Tom Petty is on tour. Oh, sure -- it will be a good concert. But it sure wasn't text-worthy -- like the concert announcement of Coldplay on August 3rd!

So, what happened to this spandex-obsessed girl of the past? Maybe I burned myself out on the prosaic, catchy guitar riffs that eventually copy-catted themselves to death. Maybe I don't want to be reminded of my big, frizzy hair. Or maybe I've just grown up.

But I do like to remember the fun days of the hair bands. But if I have a choice of a sentimental journey or the newest John Mayer song, what will I do? It probably depends on the day. But there's a good chance, Birddog, I'll select a "chicken band".

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Mother's Day Salute!

On Tuesday night my mom, my daughter and I shared an enjoyable evening of preparing a meal for my dad's birthday. We rinsed, chopped, marinated, seasoned, stirred, tenderized and grilled a lovely and delicious meal. Seriously! Now, I'm close to my mom. Real close. Rarely a day goes by when we don't chat about something or another. But this was truly the first time I remember cooking with my mother -- for fun.

And it was really fun.

There's a fair chance Mom might argue the fact we've never cooked together for fun, but truthfully we've rarely cooked together -- ever. She always made the entire meal. I was in charge of setting the table. Case in Point: As I positioned the chicken to slice the fat and cut the breast in half, Mom politely took the knife out of my hand and began to cut. "Mom! I'm thirty-eight years old. I can do this without cutting myself." She smiled and gave me back the knife. I'm happy to report no nicks, scrapes or open wounds from the task. (I must admit, I understand my mother's reaction. I do it all the time when I see Alex slicing something.)

Anyway, I babble for a reason. How many of us run home after work, soccer practice or a baseball game only to frantically prepare a meal while sifting through the mail, skimming the daily headlines and starting one more load of laundry? I remember my mother performing this exercise and I do the exact same thing.

But things are gonna change.

Tuesday night, Mom explained to me her new routine. Rather than rushing home to make a meal after work, she and Dad share a glass of wine or beer as they explore dinner options. They have transformed a task into an experience of discovering foods, various preparations and techniques. No, she doesn't get as much done at night, but who cares? The meal is no longer a chore, but something they enjoy doing together.

What a great lesson to share with a daughter before Mother's Day.

(Note to self: Pick up a couple of bottles of Reisling.)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ironman meets What Not to Wear...

Men and boys came out in droves Friday night for the opening of "Iron Man". It was truly a male bonding event. Between the action, gadgetry and a glimpse of female pole dancing, my husband(Doug)and son(Cole) seem to be in movie heaven. It was kind of sweet.

I could see the light bulbs going off in the heads of the Kramer males. Of course, Cole's motives were easily disclosed. Throughout the movie, he kept asking me for opinions of the various Ironman suits. (Halloween will still be impossible to predict, since we have an entire summer of super hero movies to get through this year.) I should have let Cole and Doug sit together to commentate, but the other theater-goers might have been annoyed by the discourse. Oh well. There has been plenty of debriefing this weekend. After all, Doug is a machinist, can weld and has a big shop for projects like these. If Tony Stark could piece together a fully-armored, weapon-loaded flying costume in a cave, what couldn't our men do? And if they run into some problems, my Dad (a machinist himself) is just a phone call away!

My daughter and I happen to be those type of people that love every movie, no matter how horrible the script, acting or plot may be. It's no surprise that we were wildly entertained as well. (Alex was only mildly disturbed about not having any friends in the theatre to ditch her parents and brother.) But the most enjoyable part of the movie, in my perspective, was the observation of the male bonding in our household. It really makes me appreciative of the common interests of our male gender -- just as I know they appreciate the common interests of the female gender. (Did any of you laugh?) It's true! I know this because as soon as we returned from the movie, all four of us snuggled in bed and watched two episodes of "What Not to Wear". And the boys didn't fall asleep.

(Sorry, Honey. I had to tell to make my point.)