Boys Will be Boys

Boys Will be Boys

Car show

My idea of a hot car is one that goes from zero to sixty – degrees – in under fifteen minutes.  Even when I plunk down my two dollars for a twenty million dollar fantasy, a dream car is usually last on the list.  My automotive apathy, however, met its match when I married a classic car junkie.  

Not content to merely thumb through car magazines, the Big Guy lives for car shows.  He’s successfully passed his love of all things automotive on to our two boys which means any car show or antique car museum in a 60 mile radius shows up on our weekend to do list.  That’s why it’s hardly surprising that we’ve found ourselves speeding down route 22 in New York in the driving rain on what would normally be a lazy Sunday afternoon.  

The rain should stop.  This antique car show is at the studio and mansion of the man who sculpted the Lincoln memorial.  Despite the rain and the fact that my fantasy to do list still doesn’t include finding another car show, I’m looking forward to the afternoon.  It’s not the gourmet lunch or the elegant display of painstakingly restored cars that will make the day for me, however.

As with past shows – elegant or rustic – I know I’ll be focused, not on the cars but on the boys.  My day will be spent snapping one photo after another as the Big Guy hoists six-year-old Thing2 up to examine the brass lights on a shiny Model T.  I’ll try to surreptitiously capture twelve-year-old Thing1’s lanky form bending over to study a curvy dashboard through the window of an antique Mercedes.  And, at some point in the day, when they’ve dropped their guards and their games and the three of them are smiling, comparing notes and fantasies, I’ll make another, permanently mental image of my three boys being boys on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Great Escapes and Guilty Pleasures

Great Escapes and Guilty Pleasures

I’m in the middle of my latest favorite guilty pleasure. It’s Monday. The kids are in school. I have the day off, and I’m hanging at Bob’s Diner, indulging in a veggie burrito and listening to Queen on the jukebox as I write. There’s no champagne or pate on the menu, and I’m not likely to blow through 17 rolls of film recording it, but my Monday mini-vacations are fast becoming great escapes.

Once upon a time and for a few years, the Big Guy and I were DINKs (double-income-no-kids), and we loved every minute of it. We ate out. We went to movies – at an actual movie theatre. We took our time wandering through museums, and we watched rated R videos before nine o’ clock. It was one long date.

We knew kids were in our future, and, while we looked forward to that time, we had enough friends with school age kids to know we didn’t want to take our freedom for granted. Eventually, we got tired of just enjoying other people’s kids and decided it was time to have one of our own. Before we embarked on that journey, however, we decided to take one to Europe as a last hurrah with just the two of us.

So for two weeks, we skipped around Spain and prowled the streets of Paris. Letting serendipity steer us, we eschewed schedules. Spain and Paris were already sultry in April. We consumed art in the mornings and tapas and sangria in the afternoons. We wandered gardens and sampled chocolate concoctions with our afternoon tea. It was an escape filled romance with just a bit of hedonism, fortifying our marriage with fun before a third person came into our family.

Fast-forward fourteen years, and our future is here and full. We’ve added two the family roster, and there are no waking moments when one of us isn’t busy playing chef, referee, chauffeur or tutor. Reality is everything we hoped for when we fell in love with the idea of being parents. It’s also very much what we anticipated, and, while the memory of sun and sangria still makes me smile, sipping a soda, uninterrupted by email and household eruptions is the ultimate great escape.

What’s your favorite great escape?



I’m Not Tired

I’m Not Tired

It’s after nine and too late to start another movie. Six-year-old Thing2’s dance has devolved from frenzied leaping and spinning into climbing onto and sliding off of the couch, but he is not tired. The Big Guy puts in the Sound of Music, fast-forwarding to the end of the intermission.

The music swells, and Thing2 twirls on the floor before climbing up to snuggle between me and his older brother who has sandwiched himself next to the Big Guy on a sofa meant to hold three thinner adults. There’s another slide-and-climb maneuver before Maria is told to go climb her mountains, but by the time she returns to the von Trapp embrace, Thing2 has settled into mine, his eyes closing for a minute.

“I’m not tired,” he breathlessly exclaims through what I could have sworn was a snore as he shakes himself alert. He explains he meant to laugh and then sneezed. There’s another slide-and-climb. Baroness von Schrader is dumping the captain about the same time Thing2 begins examining my hand that’s holding his smaller one. Then with a burst of energy, he rolls from sofa to momma, clinging to me like a baby chimp. “I’m not tired,” he mumbles as he closes his eyes and, looking more two than six, finally surrenders.

Maria is singing in the background about nothing coming from nothing, and, as I savor this moment that is becoming all-to-rare and wonder what the heck I ever did in my own wicked past to have earned it in the first place, I am anything but tired.

Sympathy for the Giant

Sympathy for the Giant

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The steps creak a little more each day as Thing1 descends from his bastion on the upper bunk.  He’s been taller than his mother for a year now, and, even though he enjoys sizing up the difference every time we pass in the hall, I am getting used to looking up at someone I used to carry around in a Snugli.  It’s strange feeling, and a few weeks ago, I realized that Thing1, evoking a decidedly impish quality, didn’t really suit him anymore.

I’ve been using nicknames for my kids and husband since this blog’s inception.  My six foot six husband is the Big Guy.  My twelve and six-year-old boys are known as Thing1 and Thing2 (or SuperDude if he’s wearing his cape and wig), respectively.

My decision to use nicknames was not so much to safeguard their internet safety – very little is private anymore now  – but more the result of the feeling that, especially with the kids, I had the right to tell our stories but not the right to opt in the use of their real names until they were old enough to make that decision themselves.  The result has been a mostly illustrated blog (the few photos of the kids are usually old enough to prevent easy recognition by anyone but the people who already know them), and I’ve been happy with it.  Now, however, as I’ve been searching for a new, more appropriate nickname for the gentle giant that roams our house, I realize that part of the motivation for the original nickname was my denial that he is growing up.

There is still a bit of the imp in him, but middle school and the discovery that a world lies outside Minister Hill have made him serious.  When the imp is revealed, Thing2 is often the inspiration and the provocation.  Like any good younger brother, Thing2 carries around a bit of loving hero worship for his big brother.  Most afternoons he expresses his love by snuggling up to his older brother, but there are times when love hurts.

Sometimes inspired by boredom, sometimes by that most flattering of desires – to imitate his older brother in every possible way – Thing2 will sidle up to Thing1 at his desk or on the couch.  He’ll work to inhabit the space with his brother.  Then he’ll ask to play whatever Thing1 is playing, listen to whatever song Thing1 has blasting, or watch whatever show Thing1 thought was great last night but couldn’t care less about this afternoon.  He is dogged in his admiration, and, when Thing1, in the time-honored tradition of surly preteens everywhere, ignores the initial overtures, Thing2 finds a plan B.

Snuggling becomes poking.  Then poking becomes climbing, and sometimes the climbing hurts.  Thing2’s faith that Thing1 would never hurt him is stronger David’s in a God that would guide his slingshot was.  For the most part his faith is well-placed. Unlike the ancient Goliath, when our giant needs a lot of needling before he responds in kind.  Sometimes the giant will lose his temper, but he rarely loses his cool.

Lately he’s been taking on more grown-up chores around the house.  He’s attentive and responsive when we need a quick favor.  Naturally, I see him through my maternal bias, but as I watch the imp becoming a man, I’ve decided it’s time for someone to get a new nickname and rehabilitate the name Goliath.

About Family

About Family

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My younger son dances.  He sings.  He has a crate full of costumes – including a rainbow wig, several superhero outfits and a tutu – and a puppet theatre complete with curtains sewn by his grandmother.  He loves dressing up and taking on all sorts of personae.  He is the sum of his arts – joy in a skinny six-year-old package.

We make him leave the costumes at home (on school days anyway), but he brings his joy everywhere he goes.  He dances when he walks.  He falls in love with people at the drop of hat and is still at the age where he wants to marry everyone with whom he falls in love.

Most of the time his antics and his expressions of love – for his parents, his brother, the waitresses at Bob’s –  produce smiles from people around us.  It’s hard not to smile at someone who’s compulsively happy.  But every once in a while I’ll catch another adult watching his gaiety, and I can see a question forming behind the gaze.

I know the look and the question.  The look is judgement warring with joy.  The question is the wondering if the gaiety is evidence that our dancing, affectionate child is gay.  I don’t know.  I also don’t care.

I have seen and heard this story since I was in high school.  Several of my closest friends came out to our circle of friends before and after graduation.  Some came to the realization that they were gay very early in life.  Some had supportive parents.  Others lived in the shadow of projection (once with a violent result) because certain mannerisms or affinities were proof to others that they were gay long before they had considered the question themselves.

I would like to say that I was always mature and supportive.  With my male friends I remembered it made no difference.  With my best friend, I am sorry to say, I was less mature, mainly because she was suddenly dating and someone else was monopolizing her time.  At the time I wasn’t adult enough to remember I had done the exact same thing to her a year earlier.  The one thing I do remember, however, is that who my friends dated didn’t change how I saw them because they were still the same loving people who had accepted me for all my flaws as we went through the high school gauntlet together.

Today, as I’m watching the news, waiting to see how the Supreme Court is going to rule on marriage equality in California, I’m thinking about our journeys.  Some of my friends are still single.  Some have had commitment ceremonies – two couples the same year the Big Guy and I were married – and are still happily married themselves.  Our journeys have been different, but the parallels are still there.

We all wanted to fulfill our potentials.  We all wanted to love and be loved.  And we each wanted to be part of a family of our choosing.  It’s the same thing I want for both my kids.  But, most of all, I want them to have the same chance at happiness that I have had – regardless of the person they find to love.  So today, to me, this issue isn’t about politics.  It’s about my family.