Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mouthing Off

Obviously the best, and most important, part of parenting is seeing the values we try to imbue into our children come to life. To watch your children sharing, hugging, and truly loving on each other is one of life's greatest gifts. To see empathy creep into your child's emotional vernacular is inspiring. Daily I am in awe of what kids pick up from us. Just when I think our children are headed to a military academy for total and utter defiance, they surprise me. Like today, both Bird and Deal exhibited such textbook perfect manners at the craft store that a worker and two people in line behind us commented on their charm. I looked around at first because I thought, "Surely, these people are not talkin' to me." Like I said, something clicked for those kids today. I know better than to expect the same thing tomorrow. Those prechool buggers like to keep us guessing.

If I didn't hate those country decor wooden signs so much I would have them peppered throughout my house with words like "Believe," "Inspire," and "Imagine" hand painted on spliter-laden rectangles of wood. Instead we at Chez Dirt & Noise try to live those values instead of just wax poetic about Bono and Angelina Jolie. Blah. Blah. Blah. My friend Scott recently shared a true story of belief, inspiration, and imagination. I'd add a big heaping dose of perserverance, optimism, gratitude, and love to the story too. Scott shared Jared Dunten's story.

Jared is an accomplished painter. He has a Matisse-esque quality to his work. Jared paints in color, black and white, and everything in between. He paints still lifes, portraits, and abstracts. His paintings have a dreamy, whimiscal quality that forces the viewer to imagine and dream. I'm no artist or collector, just someone who appreciates art. I like to surround myself with things that are aesthically pleasing and conjure up something emotional. I don't go shopping for art. It finds me. It speaks to me, cliche as that is. I like for each piece to have a history or an anecdote behind it. Art with a story is unparalleled. Back to Jared's story... The painter of such flowing, interesting lines and exquisite use of color is paralyzed. Jared paints solely with brush in mouth.

When Jared was 25-years old he dove into the Rio Grande for a quick scrub while on a camping trip. By freak accident, he hit a rock and broke his neck. Jared's friend administered CPR and kept him afloat until help arrived...two hours later. Jared woke up to find himself paralyzed from the neck down. Not to be beaten down or discouraged, Jared demonstrated the ultimate perserverance. He broke free of the ventilator when no one said he would again breathe on his own. He battled pnemonia in his frail state and won. He spoke when the doctors prepared his parents to never hear their son's voice again. He married his one true love. And with the encouragement of his parents, he took brush to mouth and painted. And painted. And painted.

Check out his portfolio and his story at http://jdunten.com/. Jared's work will be gracing the wall of Chez Dirt & Noise very soon. I'm thrilled to own some art with a story and to have a real life tale of courage and victory to tell my sons.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Anatomy 101

I have boys. Boys have penises. Boys love their penises. For that matter, men love their penises too.

I recall a time in seventh grade math class (It was dummy math since I am the only Indian in the world who is bad at math and science.) when this kid J.T. was called to the blackboard to solve an equation. The teacher kept calling J.T.'s name, but J.T. just sat and sat and sat with a startled stare in his eyes that made me think he had made it all the way through sixth grade without knowing English. This would explain why J.T. was never in my other classes, which were at a much higher level than the math I was demeaned to take because the understanding-of-the-basic-concept-of-empirical-value gene skipped me in a rare genetic mutation. After a few very uncomfortable moments, J.T. arose. In light of something else that arose, said moment was exponentially more uncomfortable. J.T. scrambled to untuck his kelly green Polo shirt (upturned collar, of course, it was 1981) from his baggy Duck Head khakis. He hobbled up to the board and proceeded to fumble his way through the problem. I can still vividly remember seeing him try to steady the chalk in his quivering hand, face abashedly crimson.

At the time, I had no idea why the room was suddenly filled with a din of snickering. My parents neglected to explain any birds and bees details to me so I had no concept of boys' bodies, or of my own for that matter. After class, my dear friend Cat explained the gory details to me. Her mom worked for an Ob/Gyn so she had the benefit of candor and honesty in place of the shame and the if-you-don't-talk-about-it-it-isn't-real mentality I faced at home. Come to think of it, I learned an awful lot from Cat.

So now when my boys inquire about their penises, I think of J.T. and how clueless I was. I'm trying to equip them with as much information and honesty as their 4 and 2-year old minds can handle. For starters, we call "it" a penis. Not a willy. Not a wee wee. Not a johnson. We call an arm an arm so why should private body parts be any different? When Bird first learned that girls don't have penises, he would randomly go up to girls at the playground and inform them that, "You don't have a penis because you are not a boy." To him it was no different than saying "Today we had waffles for breakfast." Just a fact with no baggage or editorial attached to it.

Now the questions are becoming a bit more challenging. For instance:

"Is a girl's penis thing just behind all the hair?"

"Why is my penis up sometimes? Why won't it go down?"

"Why can't I play with my penis on the couch?"

"What do girls pee out of?"

My answers:

"No, girls don't have penises."

"Because sometimes it feels good and happy. If you let go of it, it will eventually go back down."

"Because that's private. And it's rude to have your hand down your pants. Now go wash your hands."

"A vagina."

Then I change the subject or leave the room. Perhaps I'm not ready to be as thorough as Cat's mom was. But it's an improvement. And for the record, Mac Daddy never gets these questions. He is far better equipped to answer them, no?

This post is dedicated to my niece, Nic, who has a 3-year old boy who loves his penis.
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Monday, January 28, 2008

Barack My World

Looking for 17 minutes of inspiration? Check out this clip of Obama's victory speech in South Carolina. Now if only my state's primary counted for anything; it's after Super Tuesday. Way after.

The last few minutes are particularly inspiring. Fast forward if you have fewer than 17 minutes to spare.

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It's About TIME

Here I am writing about sports again...kinda. My old friend from UVa., John Hollis, is an accomplished sports writer. Check out his article in the latest issue of Time Magazine. (You can see it here. http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1707253,00.html)

Yes, ladies and gentleman, I am in the company of a TIME writer. I knew John waaaaayyyy back in the day when there was more partying than writing going on. He's now a dad, a husband (not mine, mind you) and a real, published writer. It's good to see that all those mistakes, indiscretions, and profound errors in judgement from college did not translate to a cesspool of a life. Of course, I've only read and heard about said mistakes, indiscretions, and errors in judgement.

Knowing that Bird and Deal just might turn out as well as John Hollis makes all the future trauma of college antics a bit more palatable.
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Life of Sisyphus

Remember Sisyphus? That cunning heel who was hauled off to Hades for a being a cheating trickster? His punishment was worse than languishing in August in North Carolina temperatures in Hades. Sisyphus is the guy who worked for eternity pushing a massive boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down again. Eternity is a long freakin' time. Like in forever. Always. E-T-E-R-N-I-T-Y. Imagine this: Roll the rock. Sweat. Cuss. Growl. Cuss some more. Feel sense of relief upon getting to the top of the hill. Wipe brow. Try to rest on a burned out stump somewhere. Think for a narcissistic moment that your quads and biceps will be chiseled after all this. Bask in glory for a fleeting millisecond. Rock rolls back down the hill. You look after it, feeling forlorn, worn out, pissed. Cuss. Cuss. Cuss. And so it goes on for Sisyphus...

I'm beginning to think that the routine of parenthood is a lot like the life of Sisyphus, minus those nasty images of hell and the punishment, of course. That's not to say that life isn't hellish at times, beause it most definitely is. I just feel like as soon as I get the rock to the top of the hill the damn thing rolls back down. Literally two minutes after the cleaning lady has left, the house is a minefield of Matchbox cars and Happy Meal toys. Damn Mac Daddy for getting all those free toys at work and feeling the overwhelming urge to bring them home. I don't even get a chance to breathe in the delicious just-cleaned-smell before I'm busy wiping up spilled milk that Deal literally cries over. He gets further agitated when I laugh at the ridiculousness of it. And for the record, Bird and Deal are not wholly responsible for the mess. I mean, does Mac Daddy not understand what the hooks in the mudroom are for (one specifically for keys)? The back of the kitchen chair and somewhere in the vicinity of the phone are not the appropriate places for storing his coat and keys (especially when the coat is suede and the keys are in tauntingly close reach of a 2-year old). Argh.

A Day in the Life of Sisyphus at Chez Dirt & Noise:

Clean up a poopy mess in Spiderman underwear that are now deemed unsalvagable. Potty training Deal is a whole other blog post that I can't bring myself to deal with. Pardon the pun. Bathe Deal since he is coated in poop. Find change of clothes that fit his ever-growing frame.

Help Bird wipe his bottom and fetch him dingleberry-free change of underwear. At least the Superman ones he had on are salvagable.

Cat throws up in four different places upstairs. It becomes a game to find the Casey puke without stepping in it. Clean it up while keeping kids and cat away from the yuck. (Incidentally, we found another pile of puke weeks, yes weeks, later caked on the floor of the guest room. Don't worry, Mom it wasn't while you were here.

Disinfect tub. Toss in a load of laundry. Throw what was in the dryer onto the pile of laundry the size of Grimace on the guestbed.

Speed shower. Wipe on Lash Exact black mascara (the BEST!) and Smashbox lip gloss so I can feel like a real human being.

Clean up toys that littered my room in the three minutes I was in the shower.

Remake the bed that Bird and Deal were wrestling on after throwing toys on the floor got boring.

Gather the troops to go on an adventure. Get downstairs, put on shoes and coats. Forgot to brush teeth.

Back upstairs.

Brush teeth while wearing shoes and coats despite the boys' lack of mobility bundled up in a down coat.

Trek back downstairs and get the bag of snacks and tricks ready.

Feeling pretty good now, just like Sisyphus must have felt as he approached the top of the hill.

"Moooommmmmm! Casey pooped in the living room! And the playroom! And in another place in the playroom!"

"Change me, Mommy. I'm poopy."

And so it goes, the damn rock rolled back to the bottom.

Cuss. Cuss. Cuss.
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