When I had kids and they all had penises, I figured that Bill would have them doing sporty things. I resolved that I would dedicate myself to making sure that each of them had a hobby he adored and could turn to when his knees had been replaced and his gut was lopping over his belt.
I began early, by buying cheap musical instruments and leaving them lying around. I’d already discovered that boys screwed with anything in their path. Why not sow the path with items I wanted them to find?
Finn’s first drum was actually made out of a pancake box and some string. He wore it with pride in this picture from 2000:
(The training potty in the background demonstrates that I was using the same “leave it around and boys will use it” theory of potty training, which was a bust.)
We never listened to Barney or Disney music in the car. I started the guys on the Beatles and Elvis and worked my way up through Blondie, Steely Dan and the Ramones, the history of rap, Johnny Cash, grunge, and everything else on my iPod. When they got old enough to understand cusses, I had to cut out the Buzzcocks and Eminem and “My Humps“, but overall they got a solid foundation of a variety of musical styles.
A year later Finn progressed to a real drum.
By then he knew that he needed to enlist his brothers in his musical journey and they were happy to oblige. Drew gravitated to the guitar while Porter would happily play anything, including kazoo. I banned the kazoo after an hour.
In 2003 Finn had just turned eight. Santa brought him the coolest tiny drum set ever. He banged on it all day and begged for lessons.
He’s now gone through five years of lessons and a set of drums from the pawn shop. After his third year of lessons we decided to invest in the drums you see here. For Christmas and his birthday he asks for a new cymbal or a double bass pedal or some other addition. Apparently drums and their accessories can expand until they engulf your entire basement, leaving only enough room for your family to huddle in the corner when the tornado sirens blare.
Here’s a snippet of what I hear every afternoon.
I can sleep through gutbusting jam sessions like this. I think that makes me mom of the year.
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Prying information out of boys is like interrogating a particularly recalcitrant prisoner. Often I get the best anecdotes purely by accident. Bill has a passel of first cousins in Columbia, South Carolina, who are now getting married one by one. We refer to them affectionately as “the dancing Glamores” because they showed up en masse at our wedding and proceeded to lead the entire reception in a risque version of the Electric Slide, and everyone is expected to participate in that activity at each subsequent nuptial. The next one is in November, and the boys came home as I was scheduling it on the calendar.
“Are they listed as “the dancing Glamores” in the phone book?” Drew asked.
“No, we just call them that because of their dancing prowess, which is another name for talent,” I answered. “They’re expert Electric Sliders.”
“I know the Electric Slide!” Porter said. “We do that in gym.”
I don’t think I’ve written about the strange activities that pass for gym these days. I’m befuddled by the fact that at other schools the kids are learning the rules of real games like tennis and lacrosse, while our children spend an inordinate amount of time on square pieces of wood with wheels, engaging in a game called “scooter hockey.” Drew says that between the wheels, the flailing legs, the hockey sticks and the balls, it can get dangerous, so he usually scoots to the corner of the gym and spins in circles until he falls on the ground.
But although the boys cannot stand learning the Electric Slide, it clearly has real world application, so I told them to pay attention because they’d be needing those skills soon.
“But it’s such a joke, Mom. The coach is like, kick your leg higher, Glamore,” Finn complained.
“You don’t even go to that school anymore,” Porter said. “When I do the Electric Slide I wiggle my butt and the girls laugh. But only when Coach isn’t watching.”
“Dude, wiggling your butt is a major part of the dance,” I said. “Keep it up.”
Sounds like we have dancing Glamores of our own here in Alabama. They have until November to learn the steps and add their own style to the dance.
People write me asking me to review all sorts of things and generally I refuse, because the requests are generic, or the products have nothing to do with me and my family. We don’t do princesses or baby toys, and organic baby food isn’t big at our house. If you’ve invented a non-odorous soccer cleat, or a food that results in a friendly, cooperative teen, however, I’m your target audience.
I did agree to review Tiny Prints cards because I am a paper product whore. I’ll admit, when I first heard about Tiny Prints I pictured those wee frames with your baby’s footprint in it, and that is not at all what this company is about. (To set the record straight, I don’t have any of those footprints, nor do I have any bronzed baby shoes. I’m unsentimental like that.)
Tiny Prints makes full sized cards for all occasions, including invitations, holiday cards, birth announcements and so forth.
Here in the South people seem overly fond of flowery cards, in my opinion, but I have a definite bias against flowers in any form — fabric, wallpaper, upholstery, and so forth– except for real flowers themselves. I especially liked the Tiny Prints funky holiday party cards, not because I ever throw a holiday party, but because the cards did not have a single poinsettia leaf on them, and that is a good thing. You should check out the web site if you have an event in your future.
While I don’t have bronzed booties of my boys, I do have a hunk of sand with three indentations I made at the height of my craftiness, years ago. It was the end of a long, hot summer, and The Voice of Reason and I brought back sand from our annual beach trip, which was no small feat considering all the toddler gear we had to lug back as well. She’d read about an “easy” project where you mix sand with concrete or plaster of Paris, pour it in a mold, have your child put a hand print in, and then save it for posterity.
It seemed simple enough.
But if you are going to do this, I’d pick a day where it’s about 70 degrees, and limit yourself to one well-behaved 10-year-old. Somewhere I have a picture of us, which either 5 or 6 kids (we’re not sure if her youngest was born yet) and pails of plaster, bowls of sand and kids running amok. There’s another picture, too, where we’ve come to our senses and brought the highchairs outside and put Drew and Porter in them so that we have two fewer boys running around. I won’t speak for the Voice, but my padded bra is slung on the van, because it was well over 100 degrees and we were both sweating like big dogs.
An outsider wouldn’t really be able to tell that the sand has three boys footprints in it, but by God, I’ve saved it, because it reminds me of a sweltering afternoon that was rescued only by juice boxes and a large gin and tonic.
The fact that I can’t find the picture pains me.
Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Virtual Book Club #4
(with many book suggestions!)
This week we added the Maroon 5 and Counting Crows concert to our usual busy schedule of work, school and musical and athletic activities. The concert didn’t start until 8 p.m., when the boys are usually winding down, so Tuesday afternoon I got them all jacked up on Coke and Mountain Dew so they’d be wide awake for the festivities.
Drew kept his eyes glued on the bass player. Porter dragged Bill all over the amphitheater in order to view the show from every possible angle. Maroon 5 flashed green lasers over the audience from time to time, which drove Porter wild with jealousy, as his latest heart’s desire is a laser pointer that he can use to burn holes in things that he refuses to identify with more specificity.
Finn stayed put, trying to achieve that “I know I appear to be with these parental units and little brothers but I don’t actually know them” look by remaining one foot in front of us at all times and refusing to look me or Bill in the eye when answering our questions.
During the break between bands, Drew, Finn and I went to check out the T-shirts (we decided to find them cheaper on eBay) and on the way back the boys waited while I stood in the line and finally used the bathroom. I saw a girl in Finn’s class and introduced myself before ducking into a stall. Upon hearing this, Finn came undone, and made it clear that my role was to ignore her, not to approach her, smile at her or engage her in conversation so help me God.
Finn and his friend must have talked about me at school the next day. He reported that I “said some highly inappropriate things” while waiting in line for the bathroom. Sure, I was reminiscing about the days before the amphitheater had seats everywhere, and had a large lawn in the back where you could toss a blanket and relax and listen to the music, but I wasn’t talking to a seventh grader about this. I was chatting up the other ladies in line. About nineteen years ago Bill and I had gone with a group of people to a low key concert of the Jimmy Buffet or James Taylor ilk, and we spent the entire concert macking on a blanket under the stars with a live soundtrack below. Occasionally we came up for a sip of beer and a bite of fried chicken but mainly it was lips and tongues and Sweet Baby James.
The other ladies in the bathroom line had similar tales to tell, although they may have been smooching to Randy Travis or Metallica, and I think Finn and his friend are just jealous that they are going to have to drape themselves over hard stadium seats to make out (when that time comes) instead of laying back on the grass, swatting mosquitoes, assuming they notice them, which they won’t.
This week has also been dominated by Algebra, which is Finn’s most challenging class this semester. For a few weeks Bill was in charge of ensuring that Finn was employing appropriate study habits, while I checked up on the duo. However, when Finn brought home a couple of bad grades and was nonchalant about them, Bill freaked out to the Nth degree and I decided that Bill was too personally invested in Finn’s success. We switched kids and he’s now in charge of Drew and Porter’s fourth grade curriculum (and my God, Porter, George Washington Carver did a lot of great things with peanuts but he did NOT write To Kill A Mockingbird, that was Harper Lee, who hung out with Truman Capote, who was sort of a peanut, so I can see how you might get confused).
Finn has a big test today, and I am such a stellar mom that if he asks (and only if) I will write him out a practice test to help him get ready. He has some big things riding on his grade this semester (like an apparatus that rings and dials numbers).
He had a packed afternoon yesterday. He got home from cross country around 4:30 and I dropped him at the high school so he could play drums at the football game at 5:00, and he returned around 8:30. By then I had thirty math questions written out, along with my answer key. All my algebra from the 1980’s has come flooding back, so if you find yourself butting heads with an equation that contains a variable and it needs solving, or maybe graphing on a number line, or you need to apply the distributive property, reduce the numbers down to the least common denominator and solve for X, head back over here because I can help you. My talent is wasted here, though, because algebra never comes up in the law, or at the grocery store, or while doing laundry. I haven’t told Finn that.
Hot tip for the day: Any number to the 0 power is 1. I have no idea why.
Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom:It’s Good News, So Why Am I Crying?
I watched Bionicle zombies terrify humans on TV the other day. Hell, the sight shocked me near to death, and I was sitting in the safety of my house in Birmingham, Alabama. Maybe you all knew there were metal skeletors on television, but I didn’t. The TV was off limits for the boys for ages. Now that they can watch Nick, Discovery and the History channel they know plenty about pyramids and smelting, but I haven’t heard anyone mention the other-worldly scenes I witnessed while I was watching an entire show, which is a rarity for me.
Sure, I could have turned off the show, but I wasn’t just channel surfing. I sat down to watch Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on purpose after I learned that my idol, Shirley Manson, was going to be appearing on the second season of the show.
Because I am both a devoted fan and anal-retentive, I Tivoed the first season so I’d be ready for Shirley’s debut.
Wow. It didn’t take two seconds for me to realize that I’m not Terminator’s target audience. It’s fortunate that I’m not the newspaper’s television critic because I would be at a loss as to how to describe it, except maybe I’d be close if I said it’s a sci-fi action adventure show with a mother-son relationship thrown in. And the main characters have fabulous hair.
This is the son, and his hair looks even better on the show.
Apparently some Bionicle looking machines have been sent from the future to attack Sarah Connor’s son, John, because if he lives he will be the leader of the humans and fight the machines. In the future. So there’s some time travel involved, but it’s not the dainty kind like in The Time Traveler’s Wife where you might pop back in time and nibble on scones and freshly-squeezed orange juice with the child who in twenty years will be your beloved.
Instead this is jarring time-travel, without refreshments. The future has Star Wars type scenery, but updated. Unlike me, the producers have seen a few science fiction films since 1977 and they understand that there are many things scarier than Darth Vader, and they tossed them all into Terminator and I am still having nightmares. The boys will not be watching Terminator.
I must admit that one episode was particularly enthralling, and a bit humorous. A multitude of skeletors had been destroyed by the humans, but a small piece of metal remained. That piece of metal regenerated himself into a whole Bionicle looking figure. Doing so required him to go retrieve his head from some old dude in a shack, but I don’t think that was important to the plot line.
What caught my attention was that Mr. Bionicle had a number of errands to run, and he found a pair of sweat pants, a sweat shirt and a diving mask to wear while he walked around downtown in a midsized city in America, as if a skeletor dressed like the Unabomber wearing a scuba mask was somehow less noticeable than a naked Bionicle hanging out. I guess he just didn’t want people to know he was a pile of metal walking to obscure places without ever asking for directions.
Mr. Bionicle wore his sweats to the hospital where he stole a bunch of blood, and then he went to visit a scientist. He commanded the scientist to mix up a bathtub full of blood and growth hormone and God knows what else, and then he took off his sweats and submerged himself into the liquid. When he came out, he looked like the inside of a jellybean, but pinker, and I gathered that he had successfully gotten some flesh on his bones in a manner that did not involve eating.
Then he put his Unabomber outfit back on, and that was a wise fashion choice. Plain metal can be sleek, but looking like a naked newborn bunny is not so sexy. He walked to a plastic surgeon’s office and demanded that the doctor make him look like a certain human man, and the doctor did so in a five hour operation. The doctor did it late at night without anesthetizing the patient, and without nursing assistance. I feel sure he was acting outside the parameters of his malpractice insurance in performing this particular surgery. It didn’t matter in the long run, as the Bionicle killed him after he was finished.
So now there’s a Bionicle who looks like real man, hanging out in sweats, (unless he buys some new clothes) and I suppose he’ll be coming after the mother and son soon.
Actually, apart from the whole saving the world/monster part of the show, I found myself responding to the mother-son relationship, and so maybe I could be Terminator’s target audience. The son is around 14 or 15, not so much older than Finn, and his mom has to struggle with letting him do what he wants (“Let me drive the armored truck into this concrete wall– I must fulfill my destiny!”) while still protecting him, not only because that’s her job as a mother, but also because if he dies the whole human race will be taken over by Skylab or something. I can relate to the push and pull of allowing your children the freedom to make mistakes, yet wanting to protect them from the real world. Where there are no Bionicles in Unabomber clothes, so help me, God.
Sarah Connor’s job makes my mothering duties look like a cinch. If Finn screws up he’ll get an F, or learn a lesson, but it won’t affect the entire human race. But Sarah – talk about some parenting pressure. I wouldn’t trade places in a second– not even for the fabulous hair.
Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Getting Back Up
(This was the post I wrote after Hurricane Katrina, and ironically, it’s equally timely now)