Parade of Tailgates

Last weekend, Stan and I were in San Antonio, Texas for a wedding. It happened to be St. Patrick's Day and we were down on the Riverwalk where the party was going on. There was all kinds of fun from beer gardens to cloggers to bagpipers, but I must say the most hysterical of all was what they were calling a St. Patrick's Day water 'parade', which rolls on through the river that cuts through downtown.

First, they dye the water green. Very cool. That certainly brought on the excitement and expectation of much to come. The first float had a bunch of men in plaid skirts playing the bagpipes loud and clear. Of course. Very cool. Totally what we would expect in a parade.

But as the anticipation built for what might follow these lovely pipers, it proved to be bit disappointing. The remaining boats were simply of bunch of party barges, with adults dressed in green and advertising either a bar or a singing group, which I never heard actually sing. As in the photo, they were all holding books and drinks, but at least in the long stretch that passed me by, I didn't hear a single note come from their mouths. Note the guy holding the red cup, he looks like the subject of one of those pictures where you circle what doesn't belong.

The entire parade consisted of about six barges of what looked to me like a bunch of tourists that might have jumped on and grabbed a nice cold one from the mobile keg. All dressed for the occasion, but the requirement to be on the float was clearly to have the ability to 'smile and wave.'

I guess I just expected something different. I mean, San Antonio is a huge city. I certainly had it in my head that we would be viewing a glorious water display with bells and whistles and who knows, maybe even a flying Leprechaun. Our own Bigfork parade kicks that one in the pants big time.

But if you enjoy a good party to celebrate this particularly fun green day, the bars and gardens were full of fun-loving folk. So, I'd give San Antonio a thumbs up for St. Patrick's Day destination. Just don't give up your barstool for the parade.

Things are Not As They Appear

Every now and then, we are caught off-guard. Thrown aback by something we discover that is going on in the lives of our oh so resilient children. It's a funny thing about listening to kids; their truth is absolute and kind of cloudy at the same time. Either way, it doesn't pay not to listen, because there is something at the core of what they are telling you.

Recently, I've allowed a slightly later 'lights off' policy, when the conversation is flowing and they're opening up beyond the typical, 'Yeah, school was the same' kind of thing. If I ever wondered if it was worth it to allow an extra half-hour to let the soul arise in the words of a child, I am forever in debt to whatever unusual piece of knowledge within myself to not throw a fit that the rooms weren't all silent at 8:30pm.

Of course, we live our lives unaware of what goes on in the homes of others. It is always a possibility that children sway their story towards the regards of something of hope, or belief, or love of one parent over another, but regardless, stories of despair that flow from the mouth of one child to another have meaning in some sense, and should be considered.

So yeah, in case you were wondering, I'm totally talking in code, in some respects. Just can't be naming names here. But my children, however imperfect themselves, have shared equal stories of friends' at school and various predicaments that they might be working through. It's hard for me, as I have a passion for the justice of children, to hear such things. But I suppose it's also my reckoning, of the fact that things are rarely as they seem. And there is often not a damn thing we can do about it except pray, for them of course, but also for ourselves, not to be in that same awful place.

Hey, I suck as a parent sometimes. I yell at my kid for stupid stuff, like you forgot to hang up your coat, and because I'm so freaking at the end of my rope, I think you should have remembered that today. I apologize later and we practice the routine of hanging up coats with humor and cupcakes. What parent isn't guilty of that?

But lately I hear of stories wandering home from the school desk murmurs; parents fighting and slamming doors, taking it out with a hand on the child, or simply having a voice so loud as to keep the house awake for hours. My own kids wondering if Stan and I, too, might get divorced and who should they plan to live with. Oh dear, it's so sad.

These are the nights that I hold their hands tightly as we drift to sleep together, and I remind them that this is the very reason that I love to lay beside them at night, and hold their hand, and assure them that even thought their Daddy drives me crazy sometimes (and vice versa), and he tickles too much, and occasionally loses track of time, and eats ketchup on nearly everything, that we will be old and gray and wrinkly loving on our grandchildren, and while the things they hear at school are very real to those other children, they are quite unlikely for our family.

I am so sad for those kids. I think you can often tell, those ones. The ones whose parents fight much, thinking the kids are fast asleep, or maybe they don't even care if they hear. It's damaging in a quiet way. What child doesn't want Mom and Dad to be happy together, and to feel like they are a part of that happiness?

So, to clarify, this house is far from perfect. We don't fight much, and when we do, it's simply stupidity and pride, but it's rare. No two people will agree on everything and we try to bite our tongues in our differences. It's hard, I know that. But man, kids suffer. They often become a great, convenient source of venting. Maybe even of the physical type. But even if it's only the words they hear, it's brutal. It sticks. So much, apparently, that they finally break, and they share all with those they trust at school. And despite how exaggerated and bias it might be, there is something very fierce going on within those sweet kids, and God only knows who might be able to help them.

I guess in some scenic route sort of way, my point is, when your kids talk, listen. And try to sort out the garbage from the real stuff; because frankly, I'm not sure they honestly know the difference yet. But more than anything, try to asses how the situation, or the conversation, that they had with a friend will impact them as a person, an individual and how they might use that information to perceive the days ahead of them.

We all only get one chance at this. I know there are areas I messed up real bad in life, and I'll do anything for my kids to not do the same. Listening to them, at a very young age, and paying attention, and addressing it with them, and having honest, meaningful conversations; yes, that's where I believe the difference really becomes.

A scary glimpse into the future.

We often ponder over what our kids will be up to in their later years. Looks like I need seek no further for these two.

Numero tres and quatro are clearly developing an interesting relationship. She takes whatever she wants from him, and he chases after her simply to worship the ground she walks on. Okay, fine. That will shift when little miss princess discovers that we do actually have a little prince in the family. He's proving to be a charmer, no doubt.

But today, when princess(3) was taking prince (17 months) for an early Spring thrill ride in her pink hotrod, the writing was all over the pavement. I'm doomed.

Little man giggled for more, as my lead foot of a daughter spinned out and cranked turns in her Barbie car. All I could see about thirteen years from now is my strongest willed child convincing my mellow man to pull wheelies in the mall parking lot, likely taking out lamp posts and parking meters; and thinking it all to be quite funny.

Seriously, just look at those grins. We're in trouble.

You'll notice the binky in tact. Yeah, that'll probably be there when she's sporting an E-brake in her self-bought Honda Civic. License in hand, binky in mouth.

It's all good.

Update on the binky battles.

Just a quick reminder that the photo to the right is what we are working to avoid. And after our morning 'binky removal' episode this morning, I'm starting to think we're going to have to get a little tougher on the tough love.

We have now, as of this morning, reverted to the binky as only being allowed when one is in bed. This was after screaming fits so loud over the idea of simply giving it up for the day entirely, so I decided since the other four of us home today would like to keep our hearing, I'd give a little and allow the binky only for naps and bedtime. So, after only being awake for 1/2 hour, Caitlin says she is tired and would like a nap. Fine. She fails to forget to ask about the binky. Fine. We go get the binky. I place her in bed, and she sucks the binky.

I've busied myself with various productive activities that are sure to boost intelligence, such as picking small bits of cheetohs from the carpet and trying to remove sharpie from it's last visit to our walls, and I go to check on the binky-addict--still sucking away happily snuggled under warm blankets and flipping through board books.

So I'm torn, you know, about where the grass is greener on this one. On one note, the house is certainly quieter and my arms are much freer when the binky addict is happily sucking away in her bed. On the other note, will she just stay in her bed the rest of her life? Letting her stay there is probably a selfish motive, and the other a potential psychological nightmare. But seriously, the rest of us need to stay sane too. And I suppose there's the thing with my Dad being an orthodontist, so a few extra binky years shouldn't be what breaks the bank for us. But I'm tired of translating full stories through the binky, when she has perfectly lovely words without it.

Yes, it's our fault. In certain areas, we tend to do what's easiest so that our other children can get at least a little bit of attention. Or so we can sleep in order to have the energy to meet the attention demands of the binky addict. They really are all so different, aren't they?

Our second child ditched the binky overnight, happy to fill the void with a ridiculous amount of stuffed animals and Lofthouse cookies. But this one? If she was a stranded on an island, she'd choose that binky even over me. I'm sure of it.

Hmmmmm. [Sip of really strong coffee]. I'm guessing I've got about eight years before we get to the dreaded fate of the girl in the photo. So today, I'll allow her to plead her case. And surely, we'll settle. And we'll have one more day with that stupid plastic thing in her mouth for half of it. And I'll convince myself that our little binky trial was good practice for when she's some badass lawyer kicking butts and taking names in the courtroom. All because Mommy taught her how to make a case for one of the silliest looking baby products ever invented.

We do what we have to, right?

Just a Wii bit

Santa was good to us this year, hauling one of those big red bags down our tight squeeze of a chimney to deliver us one of those gadgets that guarantees to keep our kids inside for extended hours, ignoring their chores and homework, requesting their meals on a tv tray, and pretending that I don't exist. You got it, we got a Wii.

And I really love Santa and all, but when I think of video games, all I can see is Toby (Zackary Levi) from Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel. Only in my nightmare, it's a tall, lanky blond that mixes stripes and plaids (and somehow pulls it off) and has the brains to be President (oh wait, do you need brains to be president?), okay, to be a neurosurgeon, but instead of holding a scalpel, she holds this black , or turquoise, or pink, remote control, and instead of saving lives, she is pretending to destroy them.

Now let's back up, because I'm the one that told Santa we needed a Wii. Mommy needed something to occupy at least two out of four children simultaneously so that some food might make it to the table, and a diaper or two might get changed before the rash sets in. But it turns out, to my pleasant surprise, that (so far) our girls are not glued to the Wii, and when they do play, they beg us parental units to play with them.

Maybe this Wii thing is kinda cool after all.

So I'm feeling pretty good that my girls are not going to turn into potato chip eating couch slobs whose strongest muscle in their bodies is their fingers. Instead, I'm realizing that the Wii might have some really great parent-kid bonding potential.

Until I dive in, and discover the real problem with Wii. It's not a concern of my kids losing brain cells, or not getting in the NFL's suggested hour per day of physical fitness, or eating from Michelle Obama's health plan, or even whether or not my child will be a victim of The Last Child in the Woods. My real concern with the Wii? Doctor bills.

Now I've been an athlete all of my life, three sports in high school, college basketball, supplemented with all sorts of recreational activities. And I've had an injury here and there, usually due to physical contact with another player, or some weird act of nature, and of course I've sprained my ankle fifteen million times. But I expect that from being active in that way.

But injured on the Wii? You could have never convinced me.

One game of Wii tennis--one game--and I crawl out of bed this morning gripping at my shoulder, a twinge of pain shooting out to my shoulder blade. I can't turn my neck so good and I feel some kind of strange referral junk down in my lower back. The base of my neck tingles when I hold my arm in certain positions, and when I hold my cup of coffee (and this is the one that is really brutal, not due to the pain, but because it inhibits my caffeine potential), I actually have to support it with my other hand. Seriously. This is no joke.

Now I know that I'm getting up there in the age department, but come on. My neck feels the same way it did in the last car accident I had when I got whipflash. Is there a disclaimer on Santa's little toy of joy?

I should have known. When my six year old daughter was complaining of pain in her neck and the back of her knee after a four hour session of Just Dance on Christmas Day. I should have just packed that sucker back up and signaled for a reindeer to come on back and retrieve it. Save us a few chiropractic bills.

But then I think hard about that tennis game, and my six year old smiling at me every time she won a shot. Her huge smile and high five when she'd ace me. Her funny laugh and sweet little voice saying "Mommy!" when I actually did win a game. Her big hug afterwards saying, "Thanks for playing with me, Mommy." Her excitement as she jumps up and down and wants to do it again over and over and over. With me. Bonding. And I realize that my Wii bit of an injury is worth it.

Let the Query Wars Begin

Writing a novel while managing a family of six is no easy feat. I sat tall with pride yesterday, as I carefully chipped away at my epiloque, grinning with a big sigh when I typed that last period and hit 'save'. Whew!

I've been editing my manuscript and will keep at it, but I knew I was ready to jump onto the real battlefield; querying.

From everything I've read, the query process is fierce and damn near debilitating. But I believe perseverance is they key. Writing is subjective. You gotta find that letter in a sea of words that loves your idea and your story as much as you do. A tough feat, no doubt.

But the battle has begun, as I sent a query yesterday and another today. I look at this part of the process as an opportunity to learn and explore and change and gain and eventually, sign a contract. Positive thinking only here, people.

But there is a lot of encouraging information out there; like, for example, that Stephen King wrote ten novels before being published (not sure if true, but read it somewhere), and that John Grisham received 29 rejection letters before an agency requested his manuscript. Then, of course, the infamous story of Stephenie Meyer, whose debut novel initally called Forks was way over the word limit for YOung Adult and should have been trashed immediately, but something caught the eye of an editor's assistant. Crazy how things finally get discovered, but can you imagine if they hadn't? I can't.

So a little faith, okay...a LOT of faith, and belief in yourself, and it will happen. Keep you posted.