Monthly Archives: December 2007

The One With the Numbers

So 2007 comes to a close.  How did it stack up?

617 the number of miles I ran
3 the number of half marathons I completed
2 the number of pairs of new running shoes I purchased
4 the number of Tiffany items I received this year
31 the number of books I read
8 the number of book cases bought and assembled to create a “library”
200 the number of Christmas tree decorations I just put away
2 the number of teeth Snags lost
1 the number of toes my husband almost cut off with the lawnmower
550 the approximate number of bedtime stories read to Snags
6,018 the number of Star Wars LEGO pieces assembled in this house
6,018 the number of Star Wars LEGO pieces taken apart moments after assembly
96 the number of posts on this blog
644 the number of comments in response to the posts on this blog
11,723 the total number of views or hits to this blog

It was a good year.  Well, maybe except for the LEGOs… and the thing with the toe…

How will 2008 compare?  May it be the best year yet for us and for all of you.

Happy New Year!
 

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Filed under Happy New Year, numbers

Christmas Rehash

Two days after Christmas:  Belle looks around at all of the empty boxes and bags and vows to take them out to the trash, later, after she rests a bit, after she contemplates taking down all the decorations to get them out of the way before the New Year sneaks up on her.

The day after Christmas:  Snags looks around at all of his new toys and announces, “Santa brought me way too many presents!” and then in the next breath he says, “I’m bored.  There’s nothing to do.  What should I do?”  Belle bangs her head against the wall.

Christmas night: Belle hosts Christmas dinner for 16 people.  The menu includes turkey, ham, glazed carrots, spinach casserole, stuffing, wild rice, foccacia, and lumpia (egg rolls).  No white rice.  Never forget to cook a pot of white rice when half of your relatives are of Filipino descent.  (I won’t say anything else about that except to note, for the record, that my husband — of Filipino descent– was in charge of the menu and he deemed that his wild rice was enough, the white rice wouldn’t be necessary.)  Dessert includes Christmas cookies and apple pie.  Coffee, beer, and wine flow freely. Snags still doesn’t feel well enough to actually eat, so he skips the regular Christmas dinner and munches on a slice of dry toast. He could have eaten some white rice instead, but somebody chose not to make any this night.

Christmas morning:  Snags wakes at 6:00 a.m. after a sick and feverish night filled with vomiting and crying.  He announces that he feels well enough to go check and see if Santa came.  Belle convinces him to wait just a bit but by 7:00 a.m. there is no stopping him. Snags runs down the stairs, looks at the tree and yells, “Santa came!  Santa brought me all THIS? He brought me WAY too many presents!”  Other utterances include “Yes! Yes! Yes! My LEGO Star Destroyer!” and “He brought me Quadrilla Twist and Rail!!!”  and “Whoa! Santa brought me the Star Wars LEGO Republic Cruiser even though he also got me the Star Destroyer?!”

Christmas Eve:  It’s time to head to church and to a relative’s home for Christmas Eve dinner. Snags looks miserable, and says his tummy hurts.  He can’t muster the energy to get dressed in his holiday finest so Belle stays home with him where he proceeds to throw up in the middle of a warm bath.  Belle scrubs the bathtub no fewer than three times and debates giving Snags any more Tylenol or Motrin to fight the newly developed fever and the horrendous sore throat he has but which the doctor claimed was viral. Belle’s Christmas Eve dinner consists of leftovers found in the back of the fridge. Snags is too unwell to eat anything at all.

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Filed under Christmas, life

Hasta la vista, Elf!

Well Elf, this is it. Your last night here. You are done.  Finis!  If all goes as planned, sometime around midnight Santa will arrive in his magical sleigh, with his eight tiny reindeer, and after he eats a few cookies and leaves some presents under the tree, he’ll grab you by your little elf hat and haul you back to the North Pole.  I assume you’ll spend the next year toiling in his workshop, making toys.  Have fun.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t think I’ll miss you.  Your idea of fun and mischief, well, it was quite a bit of work for me.  Like the night you dumped baskets of clean laundry all over the sofa.  Who do you think had to clean that up?  Me! I tell you, it was ME.  Snags and I had an agreement: if you stayed, he would clean up any messes you made.  Only, he’s six and not so good at folding laundry.  His idea of “folding” is shoving everything into a pile at one end of the sofa and calling it a day.  So thanks a lot. Not.

And then there were the Christmas bows you dumped all over the floor.  There must have been 100 of them.  It was very colorful and all, but still.  Who do you think had to clean them up?  That’s right.  Me. Again.

And then there were the LEGOs, and the dog’s toys, and the candles…  Tell me, what’s the deal with DUMPING things?

You want to play some good mischief on me?  Clean my bathrooms, do the dishes, dust the furniture, mop my floors.  That would get me something good!  I’d totally be surprised by that!

Snags really enjoyed the gifts you left him.  He liked the Star Wars ornaments and the Star Wars mugs.  Surprisingly, he even liked the wooden snake.  And generally, he doesn’t like snakes at all.  I was certain, when I saw the snake, that Snags was going to lock you in the dog’s kennel again.  Like he did the morning he woke to find you had turned his carton of soy milk green.  That totally pissed him off.  He was ready to kick your tiny little elf ass back to the North Pole right then and there, but I talked him into giving you one more chance. And how did you thank me?  By dumping more stuff on the floor for me to clean up!

So anyway, you’re off.  This is your last night here.  I am not setting out any crackers and water for you tonight.  As if I need Santa running around my house trying to catch you before he can take off again.  So the cookies and the milk on the table are for Santa.  The apple and the carrots are for Rudolf and his friends.  You elf, will have to wait until you get back to the North Pole for something to eat.  But don’t worry, that won’t take long.  Santa gets all around the world in just one night.  By this time tomorrow you’ll be home, making toys instead of mischief.  Have a safe flight home.  See you next year.  Maybe…  

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Filed under Christmas, elf, elf mischief

A Dear George Letter

Dear George Lucas,

Hi.  How are you?  We are fine.  More or less.  How would you like to come to our house for dinner?  What’s your favorite regular non-famous person kind of food?  I bet I could make it.  Really, come for dinner.  I have someone that I want you to meet.

My six year old son, Snags, loves your Star Wars movies.  Loves, LOVES, LOVES, LURVES them.  No, it’s true!  I swear!  I would NOT kid you about something like that.  This love, it’s SERIOUS.  So serious he has taken your movies, all 40 bajillion of them, and expanded them in his mind to include the SCENES YOU NEVER FILMED.  He describes them to me in great never ending detail day after day after day after day.  “Mom,” he says, “let me tell you something…”

Every sentence starts with, “And then Luke…” or “So then the Emperor…” or “But Darth Vader, he…” and I am sorry but I. CAN’T. TAKE. IT. ANYMORE!

“No!” I tell Snags,  “That’s enough. No more talk about Star Wars tonight.  Talk about something else.  Anything else.”

And my son, he’s six, right?  So he’s testing out his smart-mouthedness and he responds with “Well, I like dogs.  I could talk about dogs but then I would talk about dogs so much that you would get tired of hearing about dogs and so then I’d I just have to talk about Star Wars so I’ll just go ahead and talk about Star Wars now.  So then the Emperor…”

And so, I’d like to invite you to our house for dinner.  Nothing fancy.  Just bring yourself.  And oh, I don’t know, a tape recorder.  Snags has HOURS, DAYS, MONTHS, YEARS worth of new Star Wars ideas for you.  And I notice you haven’t made a new Star Wars movie in like, a few years at least.  So you must be looking for SOMETHING to do. 

So come to my house, have dinner, listen to my son go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…  You’ll get a good meal and fodder for your next movie out of the deal.

So call me.  Tell me what day would be good for you and I’ll get cooking.

Sincerely,
Belle

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Filed under humor, Star Wars

Monkey Man

When my son was 17 months old he decided to give the terrible twos an early try and threw a tantrum in which he flung himself  to the floor hitting his head on a plastic toy.  The cut that appeared over his right brow looked like a third eye socket, minus the eye itself. 

My son’s bravery for weathering the ambulance ride and a set of stitches that looked like a miniature railroad track had been installed on his forehead by the Borg, was a gift from the hospital nursing staff: a stuffed monkey, a little smaller than your normal beanie baby.

But at that age my son was more interested in stomping around the house and chasing our dog, and screaming “Gog-ga!” at her over and over again, than he was in playing with the stuffed monkey.  So the monkey found its way to the bottom of a toy box, and there it stayed, buried other under things, until just the other day when Snags found it and pulled it out again.

At school, his class has been talking about community helpers, and so Snags decided that he would be a veterinarian when he grew up.  He likes dogs, you see, and vets help the community by taking care of dogs.  After further consideration though, Snags changed his mind.  “I don’t want a dog to bite me,” he said, “a dog could bite me if I was a vet and had to give them a shot.” So now Snags wants to be a dog groomer when he grows up.  Because, obviously, what dog in his right mind would bite someone who is wrestling them into a bath and blow dry and coming at them with a humming electric shaver?

Now the monkey has become Snag’s best friend and he is taking care of the monkey.  When the monkey “broke his arm and his leg,” Snags fashioned little casts for him out of tissue and scotch tape.  He made him a wheelchair out of a discarded Deer Park water bottle.  Essentially, he’s taking care of the monkey exactly the way a good dog groomer would. 

And to show his deep appreciation and admiration for this excellent care, or perhaps because he has simply nothing better to do, the monkey follows Snags everywhere, just like the little lamb followed Mary.  Today, for example, the monkey followed Snags to Kindergarten, hitching a ride by climbing into the left front pocket of Snags’ sweatpants.

The monkey was clad in a pair of overalls that my husband had made him, all because Snags decided the monkey needed a pair of overalls.  Snags’ original plan was to make the overalls out of paper, but my husband, Martha, offered up a pair of old Levi’s with which to salvage the denim from, and he offered to design and sew a teeny tiny pair of overalls by hand.  He set about this task with the utmost concentration, admonishing Snags and I for distracting him.  “You don’t understand how difficult this is,” he said.  When I laughed at him he got huffy.  “Then YOU make the overalls,” he growled.  But I declined.  “No, Martha,” I replied, “Remember, Snags was going to make the monkey some clothes out of paper, that would have been good enough for him.  Cutting up an old pair of blue jeans to make an authentic pair of demin overalls, that was YOUR idea.  So YOU do the sewing.”

A little later, the overalls were done, and monkey was dressed.  The next day, monkey moved into his mansion.  Snags spent hours up in his room positioning furniture into an old dollhouse we had.  “Look, Mom!” Snags pointed.  “The monkey is wealthy!  He lives in this mansion!”  And he’s dressed in overalls, I thought.  Just like Jed Clampett.  That toy box he lived in for the past four years must have been the mountains he came from before he moved to Beverly Hills…

Later that same evening Snags had dug out another small stuffed monkey from his toy box.  This one was made of blue felt and lived in an old house that had previously belonged to Barbie.  The blue monkey, Snags reported, was Monkey’s “crazy neighbor”.

As Snags got out of the car this morning to head into school, monkey was sticking halfway out of his pants pocket.  I worried that maybe he would lose him, that monkey would fall out, get lost in a hallway, kicked down a staircase, never to be found again.  I was relived when I got home from work and found monkey resting on the floor amid wrapping paper and bows and crayons and Halloween decorations pulled from storage.  A block letter sign lay next to him.  MONKEY MAN, the sign read.  “Mom,” Snags said, “will you get your camera and film a movie I am making?  It’s about Monkey Man.  He’s a SUPER HERO!”  I noticed that monkey’s tissue paper casts for his broken arm and leg had been removed.  He was out of his water bottle wheel chair.  Instead, he had donned a tissue paper cape, held securely in place with duct tape on his back.  Monkey Man the Super Hero was ready for action. And Snags the dog groomer has become a helpful community movie director.  All this to say, be on the lookout for MONKEY MAN, the movie, coming soon to a theater near you. 
 

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Filed under humor, life, Monkey Man, my own brand of crazy, Snags, Super Hero

To Kiss My Son Goodnight

To kiss my son goodnight…  To kiss him goodnight, a peck on the lips or a kiss on the cheek without having to worry that a huge hive will appear, will spread, will swell his face into a grotesque balloon, constrict his breathing, kill him as he drifts off to sleep with me down the hall, unaware as I get ready for bed myself.  Unaware, until I go in to check on him one last time for the night.  Unaware, until it’s too late.

This, this is the nightly fear that only lets me kiss my son goodnight on the top of his head, where his hair, I hope, will serve as a shield, as protection from my poison lips.  My lips through which passed something my son is allergic to, some food containing milk, or eggs, or nuts.  I might have eaten it for dinner, or dessert.  Maybe I had something at lunch.  Will it be a problem?  Is tonight the night I want to find out?

I brush my teeth before I read my son his bedtime story.  I wash my hands.  Is that enough?  I ate ice cream for dessert.  Ice cream!  Why did I eat ice cream?  Did I wash it all away?  Could there be one invisible particle left, just waiting for an opportunity to jump from my lips or my hand to my son’s face?  The side of his face, where he might touch his hand, then his lips, or his eyes, introducing that invisible allergen into his small body, wreaking havoc…

How rational is this fear?  I’ve seen my son break out in hives from a kiss before. I don’t want to be the cause of that tonight. Or ever.

How rational is this fear? Tell me, how rational is it that a bite of food, or the residue left behind from a food, can kill a child? Live with that fact, everyday, and see if the fear doesn’t creep up on you from time to time.

Now it’s morning, or it’s noon, or it’s 6:00 p.m. and time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  We eat at home, the food is safe, and yet… I cannot share my food with him.  He cannot have a bite of my pancakes, of my sandwich, or my salad.  My fork, it’s passed my lips, it’s touched my plate again and again and again.  Who knows what allergen might be hiding there now, from something I ate earlier, lingering and waiting for the perfect opportunity to get transferred to the safe food on my plate from my fork, the allergen transporter?

I’m cooking dinner, careful, oh so careful not to stir his spaghetti with the spoon I used to stir the pasta I am cooking for myself.  Did I just mess up?  I am not sure, but I cannot take a chance.  Let’s start over, dump his spaghetti out, start a new pot of water to boil.

And now we are eating. I’ve sprinkled parmesan cheese on my pasta.  Don’t get too close son, this plate, it’s poison.  You bumped the edge of my plate with your hand as you were laughing and telling me a story about something that happened at school today.  Get up, go wash your hands, just to be safe.  On the safe side.

Trying always to live on the safe side.  It takes planning.  Every. Day.

The safe side means: not sharing food, not trading food, not buying the school lunch, only eating food from home, not going to McDonalds, not getting a Happy Meal.  It means reading labels, three times over.  It means the loss of spontaneity. It means bringing a safe cupcake for my son to eat at his friend’s birthday party because a ride in the ambulance is not a fun way to celebrate your friend turning seven. It means not going to the birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, milk capitol of the world.  It means never leaving home without an Epi Pen.  It means always being prepared for the worst.  It means kissing my son on the top of his head, hoping his hair is a protective shield.

My family, like millions of others, live like this on a daily basis. Food allergies are on the rise, and experts do not know why. 

Frankly, I don’t care about the why.  I want to give my son a peck on the cheek without inventorying in my mind all the foods I have recently consumed.  Without worrying the kiss will leave its mark.

I want a cure.  I want the experts to continue the research they are working on, the studies and the experiments, the work they are doing to find a cure.

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) educates those families newly diagnosed with food allergies, and guides them using a variety of resources, into safely navigating this life. This life where food is the enemy.  Where a single bite of food can kill.

FAAN is the organization I turned to when my son was diagnosed at 9 months of age. They taught me how to make those safe cupcakes, how to avoid his food allergens, how to read an ingredient label. FAAN keeps me up to date on the latest research findings, and lets me hope for a cure because as an organization, they are funding research studies, they are working with the experts, they are working to find a cure.

A cure that might one day let me kiss my son goodnight without fear.

So this Christmas season, as you are out shopping and wrapping gifts, as you are baking those holiday cookies with butter and eggs and nuts, consider making a donation to an organization like The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. To find a cure. So I can kiss my son goodnight. 

***********************************************************

Author’s note: This post is an entry in The Generous December Group Writing Project.

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Filed under FAAN, food allergies

The Elf

It appears that we have a new addition to our household.  It’s an elf. No, it’s not a short child. I can be cruel but I’m not that kind of cruel.  Even if we had added a dwarf child to our family I would not go around introducing him as our elf, not even at Christmas time.  This is a real live stuffed elf.  And apparently, we’ve adopted him, although I have to be honest and admit it was not my intention to adopt anything. And certainly not an elf.

It’s the Kindergarten teacher’s fault.  She told the children about some mischievous elves that came to her house in the night. Elves that did silly things.  Elves that hung Halloween decorations on her Christmas tree.  And then, she told the children how they could get their own elves. I wish I could say that you lure them with diamonds and pearls, but that’s not the way it works.

In fact, I’d never even heard about enticing elves to visit until Snags came home from school and started talking about it, telling me how we could attract elves to our house by luring them with crackers and water.  “If you want Santa to come,” he said, “you leave out cookies and milk.  But if you want the elves to come, you leave out crackers and water!”  And then he set about arranging sixteen Ritz crackers and a plastic tumbler of ice water on top of a paper towel at our kitchen table. To lure the elves.

I forgot about the food sitting out on the table until a few hours later when I was heading up to bed.  When I saw the crackers arranged so nicely I remembered Snags’ story, and his plan to attract an elf.  If he caught one, he said, he’d keep it in a cage.  Similar, I suppose, to a zookeeper or to those good parents – the ones I heard about on the news a while back, the ones who kept all of their children in cages…
 
Now I couldn’t disappoint him, so I shoveled the crackers in my mouth and dumped the water down the sink and sat down to think.  I had two brand new Star Wars ornaments hidden away, ornaments I had planned to hang on the tree on Christmas Eve or give to Snags as a gift on Christmas morning.  I decided to hang them on the tree and write a note to Snags from the elves. A note saying they’d put something on the tree for him to find, and they were off to do some mischief at other homes, and they’d be back to visit NEXT year.

Only, that wasn’t how the elves were supposed to work.  It turned out that Snags hadn’t told me the entire story.  He hadn’t told me the part of the story where the elves stayed at your house and looked like a stuffed elf by day, but at night, they came alive, consumed the crackers and water you left them, and performed acts of mischief, every night from December 1st until Santa takes them back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve.

And so, Snags woke up in the morning and ran down the stairs to look for elves.  His sharp intake of breath at the sight of the missing crackers and overturned plastic tumbler that once held water for the elves, was so loud that I heard it upstairs, even with my head pressed into the pillow.

Snags ran up the stairs with the note: “Read this! Out loud!” he demanded. After I finished, he ran from my room and down the stairs to search the tree.  He found the ornaments but he wasn’t appeased.  He kept searching for more, for more evidence that the elves had been around.  “Mom,” he asked, “Wasn’t this bag of dog treats on the other counter over here last night?  I think the elves moved it.”  “Mom,” he went on, “Who left this spoon in the sink?  I think the elves did it.  I’m going,” he said like Encyclopedia Brown, “to look for more clues.” 

And so he went, room to room, hunting for clues, hunting for the elves.  When it was time to leave for school, he was unhappy.  He hadn’t found the elves.  He could not keep them in a cage.  If the elves weren’t staying at our house then he wanted them to take the ornaments back.  Star Wars be damned.

An hour after school started I received an email from Snags’ teacher.  Subject line: elves.  “I thought you might want to check this out,” she had written.  And then she had included a link to a site that explained the whole story of the mischief making elves, a site where you can order one of your very own.  She went on to say she had bought an elf from a craft show, but that she’d seen similar ones for sale at a local store.  I’m no dummy, I could read what was left unwritten: Snags told me about the elves that left the Star Wars ornaments on your tree. You did it WRONG! HERE is how you can make it right…

And that is how we ended up adopting our very own elf.  My husband picked one up from the local store and brought it home and hid it in Snags’ room.  He pulled Kleenex from a box and tossed them on Snag’s floor.  He pulled CDs off his dresser and spread them around.  I undecorated the tree in his room, spreading the ornaments on the floor, the bed, the furniture.  The room looked, in the end, exactly like the kind of mess a mischievous elf might make while your six-year old self is toiling away at Kindergarten.

When I picked Snags up after school he was very excited. “Mom! You HAVE to call Santa Claus. You have to tell him that we want to ADOPT an elf!  That’s why the elves didn’t stay.  That’s why they said they’d be back next year.  Santa has to know you want to ADOPT an elf and then he’ll let them stay!  We have to put crackers and water out all over again tonight, okay?  Will you call Santa?  Will you?  Will you mom? Will you?”  I said I’d think about it.  I told him I’d have to look up Santa’s phone number, even though the truth is, I already had it on my speed dial.

When we got home, Snags begged me once again.  “Please mom, do it now.  Call Santa and tell him we want to adopt an elf…”  But before I could press a button on the phone, my husband’s voice boomed from upstairs:  “Snags!  Get up here right now!”  Snags threw a worried look in my direction and headed up the stairs.  I followed. 

My husband pointed to the mess in Snags’ room.  “You have to clean this up,” he said.  And Snags began to protest. “I didn’t make that mess!” 

“Snags!”  I said, “Did you do this before we left for school?  Why would you do something like this? I don’t understand why you would do this!” 

“But I didn’t do it,” he insisted.  “Maybe the elves did it.”

“There aren’t any elves, Snags,” I said.  “You saw the note.  They left you a few ornaments and said they’d be back next year.  They didn’t stay here.”

And just as tears started to roll down his face at the injustice of it all, at being accused of making a mess he hadn’t made, and of having to clean it up on top of it all, Snags saw the note on his pillow, saw the end of the pointed elf hat peeking out of a box he had left on his nightstand, and his tears turned into joy.  “Ha!” he shouted. “It WAS the elf!  I told you I didn’t make this mess! This…” he screamed in joy, “This is just like the elf at school!  He threw paper on the floor today while we were at lunch.  When we got back to class the paper was all over!  Yay!  I have an elf!  I have an elf! I am so happy I have an elf!”  And then Snags danced a little dance.

Snags was ready for bed a full hour before his usual bedtime.  He took his bath, brushed his teeth, put his pajamas on.  He made a table for the elf out of an overturned Kleenex box.  He placed two Ritz crackers and a Dixie Cup full of water on top.  He filled an empty shirt box with hand towels to make a bed for the elf.  He emptied trash cans and turned them upside down, creating a stair case leading from his night stand to the floor, so the elf could go do his mischief without having to jump down, without risking injury from a potential fall.  Then he sat on his bed, staring at the elf, as if willing it to come alive before his very eyes. 

In the morning, the crackers and water were gone, the family room floor, previously clear and free of toys, was littered with LEGOS and pillows off the sofa.  The elf was found hiding in Snags’ Christmas stocking, too tired after all that mischief to make it back up the stairs to Snags’ room and his shirt box bed.  And Snags, happy to have his very own elf, cleaned up the LEGOs with hardly any protest after my threat that I would call Santa and tell him to come get the mischievous elf right now if he didn’t clean up the mess. The deal, I said, is that YOU clean up any mischievous messes the elf makes.  And if you don’t, the elf, he’s out of here!”  

And so this, I think, is going to be fun.  Snags is going to clean up messes he didn’t even make!  Because I AM that kind of cruel.  In fact, tomorrow morning, I think he’ll be folding a load of laundry that the elf brings up from the dryer and dumps all over the sofa.  Yes, I think that’s what he’s going do…  I just have this feeling about it.  Or maybe that feeling is simply hunger, for a cracker…

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Filed under Christmas, elves, humor, Kindergarten, life, Snags