December 28, 2008

The Usual Suspects: A Mystery in Three Acts

Hart has been here for a few days. It's been a lovely visit and I had fallen into a reverie about having both boys living here again. Maybe it wasn't as difficult as I remember. Or, perhaps they are older now and more reasonable. Suddenly, there was a bit of a hue and cry.

Act I

A Heinous Crime Occurs

H: My money is gone! Someone has stolen my spending money!

L: Really? Where was it? Have you looked everywhere? I had it in my purse yesterday, so I know how much you have.

H: It's missing. Here, look at the envelope.

L: Hmmm. Well, it wasn't Inky and it wasn't me. So that leaves only one person capable of committing this crime.

H: It was Jeff!

L: How did Jeff know you have money? Did you tell him where it was?

H: No.

L: Did you tell him you brought spending money?

H: Well, yes.

Act II

The Defendant is Questioned

L: Hart says his money is missing? Do you have it?

J: Yes. He told me to take it.

L: Really? That was very wrong. That money belongs to Hart. I remind you that you two are not allowed to make trades or have any financial transactions without adult supervision. You are to return the money and make an apology.

J: Never!


All is Resolved

L: This is odd. Jeff says you offered him the money. Why would he say that?

H: I thought it, but I didn't say it.

L: You earned this money, you have to save your receipts and account for how you spent it before you turn it back in for safekeeping. Why did Jeff think you offered it?

H: I said it quietly. I didn't mean it.

L: I am just offering a suggestion. It's your money and you should keep it to yourself and not tempt Jeff with it. I don't think he is trustworthy.

H: (bangs table) Shut up! Shut up! Quit talking! You are annoying me. It's not my fault!


From the time the boys could talk it was ever thus. Some disaster would occur and I would ask for an accounting. Jeff always said, "It wasn't me. I didn't do anything." Then Hart would say, "Jeff told me to do it." As the boys got older, the situations became more complex and nuanced. I don't really believe that Jeff stole the money outright, nor do I believe Hart engineered a setup. Hart probably boasted about his stash and Jeff most likely cajoled and wheedled it out of him. However, as always, the one person everyone is mad at, the one who is most aggravated, "dissed" and put out, invariably, is ME.

December 25, 2008

May 2009 (artwork)

Hart's artwork was chosen for Children's Memorial Hospital's annual wall calendar!

Family Ties

I do plenty of complaining about my family, but I am constantly reminded that it could be much worse. Here are a few families that I am glad are NOT mine:

  • The Kennedys--wealth, power, status, prestige and then there is that curse.
  • The Duggars--There is the issue of eighteen children. Also the Duggars' Christian Fundamentalism is so restrictive as to prohibit all forms of secular music, dancing, hair-cutting for girls and women, and birth control, among other things.
  • The Gosselins--another weirdo Christian Fundamentalist TV family. Sextuplets and twins . . . on purpose! But like the Duggars, their religion does not, apparently, frown on exploiting one's own family for attention or financial gain. Then there was the outing to the creationist museum. Blech.
  • The Palins--where do I start? Huntin', shootin', snowmobilin', shoppin', mutilatin' the language, just to name a few. No contraception in that family either.
  • The Bouviers--wealth, power, status, prestige and the film/play GREY GARDENS.
  • The Sopranos and The Hendricksons--luckily, both families are fictional

Lies, D**n Lies

There are lies, damn lies - and statistics.

Lies, now there's a harsh word. Lying implies intentional dishonesty, malice of forethought, purposeful deceit. Jeff is more a purveyor of truthiness*. In past, I have greeted Jeff's truthy pronouncements with a cheerful, "That sounds like a tall tale" or "I find that impossible to believe!" However, as Jeff's speech/language skills have improved, these responses have become an invitation to embroider and embellish further. Sometimes, it's best just to remain silent. Or assure others that Jeff is not a credible witness, despite his emphatic protests.

I have since come to recognize three categories of "Jeff stories":
  • Tales so outlandish to be immediately disbelieved. Jeff remains committed to his story that there is a certain downtown garage that gives out electric car blankets if you park there--for free!

  • Tales that might possibly be true, but require further due diligence. Jeff's school social worker emailed me to ask about Dad's new pet bird, which Jeff described to her in vivid detail. Unlikely, but possible.

  • Tales I know for certain to be false. "We are out of milk!" No way! I just bought a new carton. "We are out of milk!" You were with me at the grocery store. "We are out of milk!" Please open the refrigerator yourself, if you don't believe me.

On the other hand, if Jeff relays bad news, it's the honest-to-goodness truth. Jeff can describe a car accident he saw with details and accuracy of a news reporter. He will announce a trip to the Principal's office before saying hello. This week his doctor, who hadn't seen Jeff in a while, asked, "What do you do for fun these days, Jeff?" Without hesitation, "Break toys."

*truthiness: as coined by Stephen Colbert: the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.

December 22, 2008

Too Cool for School (photo)

Jeff and Jerry model the vintage sunglasses that friends Michele and Jerry brought us from Brazil.

December 19, 2008

Here Comes Hannukah

Last year at this time, I was grouchy and uncharitable. Unusual for me, because I quite enjoy gift shopping, provided I don't have to do it with the holiday mob or on short notice.

I learned my lesson last year; namely not to depend on anyone else coming through on gifts for the boys. Instead, I have been collecting small goodies for months. It's more appealing to have a stash of things for Hart's Hanukkah arrival, instead of a stash of pent-up aggravation with him as I did a year ago.

The holiday cheer seems to be catching. Jeff got his dad a BMW-themed gift and suggested a well-needed pair of gloves as a present for his beloved respite worker. He was thrilled with the guitar-themed T-shirt I purchased for his guitar instructor. He chose an elephant pop-up book to buy for Hart.

I'm pleased that Jeff has learned the joy of giving to others. He hasn't completely changed his old ways; I can overhear his phone conversations as he demands particular cars as gifts from Hart. This is dismaying, I explain, since Hart doesn't have the means or the transportation to shop, as we do.

Also, this year I won't be wrangling both boys at the same time. That was a recipe for holiday ill-will. There has been some secret phone giggling between the boys. I wonder if they got anything for me.

December 15, 2008


I have been practicing this "family apartheid" for so long, it doesn't seem so bizarre anymore. Everyone who knows us has seen me with Hart OR Jeff, but rarely both together. I forget that many people know one boy or the other, but have never laid eyes on the second one. Yes, it's weird, but I am used to it.

The boys have not been in the same classroom, same building or even same zip code since preschool. "Why?" strangers want to know, "Don't they get along?" Hart and Jeff DO get along. In fact, that's the problem. At best, it's a closed universe consisting of just the two of them, oblivious to all else. At worst, it's complete anarchy.

We took our last family vacation, all four of us, in 1999. A complete nightmare from start to finish. It became unarguably apparent that both boys could never be on the same flight, in the same hotel, or same rental car. Ever.

Since then, there has been the constant logistical challenge of keeping them apart, while still living together. Ever the optimist, over the years I have occasionally tried an outing with the duo. Nothing has been particularly successful. After two weeks of intensive therapy at a program in Minnesota, I felt empowered enough to take them out to a restaurant. Hours later, the police finally found them. For plays and concerts, I've bought an additional ticket, brought a second adult and sat in two pairs on opposite sides of the auditorium and that's worked satisfactorily.

The inequality haunts me. Any treat or experience can be for one or the other, but not both. It's been easier, of course, since Hart isn't living here. When he visits, I want the boys to have time together, but not enough time to go completely berserk. I want Hart's visits to be special occasions, but not special enough to get the police involved.

I had to make an orthodontist appointment for Hart during his next home visit. "Just bring both kids for their appointments on Monday," the receptionist replied helpfully. She must have wondered why I was so abrupt. "No thanks. I'll schedule two trips."

December 11, 2008


Dear YLJF,

My weight tends to fluctuate a lot. I feel like I am maintaining three separate wardrobes. It's disheartening and expensive.

___________________________________ Small, Medium, Large

Dear SML,

With a little resourcefulness and ingenuity, you will have one all-purpose wardrobe.

First, buy all bottoms; jeans, trousers, skirts, in your largest size. If you lose a few pounds, you can easily use a large safety pin to make the waistband a bit tighter. If you wish to camouflage this, wear a jacket or an untucked shirt. But if you don't, people will compliment you on your weight loss.

Buy all blouses in the middle size. If one gets a bit snug, safety-pin the front so it doesn't gap across the bust. Once you lose a few pounds, wear it open over another shirt, jacket-style.

Presto! One workable wardrobe.

Singin' with WHQOPDJY