The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Category Archives for ‘Favorite Children’

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Run

I had a bad run yesterday. No, like really bad. I’m not saying The Exercise and I have hired divorce attorneys yet, but we’re in counseling and considering a trial separation, is my point. The Exercise is totally sleeping on the couch. It’s not looking good.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been training for a RAGNAR that goes down in about a month. I basically have 18 miles to run in three sections over about 30 hours. I have to run 8.3 miles, then 6 and finally 3.6. I have been training regularly since early November, but lately I’ve taken a bit of time off here and there for the big anniversary trip and because I’ve encountered an IT band injury. I’ve been working on stretching and various other things to get my knee back in shape, but as RAGNAR approaches, I’ve been worried I need to get some decent mileage in so I’m not unprepared for the big 8.3 run.

Yesterday I planned to do 7 miles. It’s officially the longest run I’ve ever done. I did 6.5 at the very end of the year, and I did 6 a few weeks ago (before I figured out why my knee was hurting), but 7 was a new obstacle.

Suffice it to say 7 remains an unattained goal for me. I have, however, accomplished the new low of bailing on a run. That was a first for me.

In order to convey just how not only painful and soul-killing, but in typical Elizabeth Newlin fashion, ridiculous and idiotic this run was, I present to you: a screen shot of my heart monitor graph. I’ve labeled the parts worth mentioning. It really tells the whole story.

Ok, so I’m sure you know how a heart rate monitor works, right? This graph shows my heart rate on the left and the time on the bottom.

A: This was the first 3ish miles of the run. It wasn’t great, right from the start, but I was surviving. If, by ‘surviving’ you mean running as slowly as is possible for it not to be called walking and still sucking wind. I had stretched and iced and put this weird-ass magical voodoo tape on my leg before the run with the hope of keeping my knee pain under control. The knee was actually feeling great. Unfortunately, the new shoes I bought to facilitate the knee healing were banging the hell out of the big toe on my right foot.

B: This was where a car of elderly Canadians pulled up along side me on the road while I was running to ask me for directions. Who stops people while they’re running? Apparently lost tourists do. In addition, of course to the serial killers looking to snatch you off the street and cut you into tiny pieces.

C: During this section I had turned a corner and was actually running downhill, at my exact same pathetic slow-motion jog, but you can see my heart rate continues to climb. It’s like my body was getting wussier with every step. (Side note: I used to see people running really slow and pity them. Like, Dude, why are you running in public that slow? It’s embarrassing. I was an asshole and this is clearly karma. I’m pretty sure caterpillars were passing me.) This is also when I started to notice pain in my hip. Not in the hip of my left leg that’s been bothering me with the IT band issue, mind you. No, that would make too much sense. This was sharp pain in the other hip. And of course every step on the right foot felt like a hammer to my big toe.

D: The last few minutes of the downhill straightaway my heart rate climbed up into the 180s and I could not get it down. I was sucking wind hard, my hip and toe were throbbing and I knew that as soon as I hit the stoplight and turned right I would be straight uphill for a full mile.

E: This is where I hit the stoplight, took one look up the hill towards home and said fuck it and quit running. It’s also where I saw stars, immediately developed a stabbing pain under my rib cage and briefly considered heading into the CVS on the corner and calling someone to come pick me up. Or 911.

F: During this period I walked and had the following conversation with myself.

Me – Ok, so I’m going to walk 2 minutes and then try running again, right?

Me Also – THE HELL YOU ARE. Are you feeling the stabbing pain in your chest that’s probably a heart attack? And your right leg is about to fall off at the hip, you know that, right? You’re insane.

Me – I’m not going to quit this run. I need to finish. Only losers quit.

Me Also – Losers and people who want to live past today quit. And why do you even care so much? Didn’t you start this whole exercise thing to lose some weight? You’ve lost almost all of it; WHY ARE YOU STILL RUNNING? It’s not like you’re ever going to win. Wouldn’t this time spent torturing yourself be better used on your writing aspirations? Or even quilting for god’s sake? Something you don’t inherently suck at?

Me – I hate you. I also hate me. And I hate my ribcage and my big toe and my hip. Although, I think the voodoo tape might actually be legitimately magical. It’s just tape stuck to the side of my thigh, and yet, the only part of my body not in agony at this very moment is my injured knee with the magical tape on it. What. The. Fuck.

Me Also – If you turn in half a mile up you can cut across the desert and get home at least a mile quicker. This limping along pathetically on the side of the road is humiliating.

Me – Yeah, but there’s a six foot concrete wall separating the desert from my neighborhood.

Me Also – You can hop that, no problem.

Me – Oh really? I’m so worthless and pathetic that I can’t run two more miles to finish, but you’ve got tons of confidence I can scale a 6 foot wall in this condition? Now who’s insane?

Me Also – It will be so much faster.

Me – You had me at humiliating.

G: This is where the walking was taking a really long time, and even though I’d already committed to bailing on the run and had started the (very long) short cut, I convinced myself the pain in my chest was almost gone and I could try running a little bit.

H: I realized I was lying to myself again and the pain was not gone. Three snails and a turtle breezed by me. I considered laying down in the desert and allowing vultures to pick the flesh off my bones.

I: Here is where I made up a little song about how much I suck as I wandered through the desert toward my house. And I crossed paths with a 70 year old man out walking. I could tell he felt sorry for me.

J: This is when I got to the wall right across from my house. The heart rate monitor lost connection because after my first attempt to get a running start and jump as high as I could and try to pull myself up to the top of the wall failed spectacularly, I threw my leg up as high as I could and caught the edge of the top of the wall with my toe and my monitor became dislodged as I scraped and clawed up to a sitting position.

K: This is where I sat for a minute at the top of the wall and wondered if any of my neighbors had witness the spectacle I’d just performed. I also wondered if you can be fined by the HOA for acting like a jackass.

L: And where, finally, almost 6 miles after setting out for a 7 mile run, I limped back into my house and vowed not to speak to The Exercise for a really long time.

I’m not convinced I’m going to be ready for RAGNAR.

How Not To Act During a Tragedy

I have this friend, who told me this story. It’s a pretty good story, so I want to tell you it, but I think it’s one she’s not particularly proud of, so I’m not going to disclose her real identity here. It’s not that she’s a bad person, but occasionally she makes bad choices and I think it’s important that we all remember it’s not nice to judge. So for the purpose of this story, we’re going to call my friend: Tallulah.

Last Wednesday night Tallulah got a call from her friend, who told Tallulah a plane had crashed in the mountains near her and wanted to know if Tallulah could see anything from her house. Tallulah explained she doesn’t have direct mountain views from her house because there are too many other houses around. When she got off the phone, Tallulah had the following conversation with her husband:

Tallulah – Hey, I just heard there was a plane crash in the mountains near here. Maybe we should get in the car and drive up to the front of the subdivision where you can see all of the mountains around and see if we can see anything.

Tallulah’s Husband – I don’t know… everyone’s in PJs already. I was just going to lie on the couch and watch TV…

Tallulah – Oh come on, let’s go. You never want to do anything until I talk you into it. Can we skip the part where I talk you into it and just get in the car really quick? It will take like three minutes, total.

Tallulah’s Husband (seeing the logic in her words) – Oh fine.

So Tallulah and her husband and their three boys all piled into the GOV their blue minivan in jammies and headed toward the front of the subdivision. Her husband didn’t have his wallet and Tallulah had half a glass of wine in her hand.

OK, so let me just pause the story here to tell you that when Tallulah was telling me this, I said to her, “TALLULAH! You brought a glass of wine in the car?! What were you thinking? Not only is that illegal, but it’s also highly dangerous. What if your husband turned a corner a little too fast and the wine flew out of your glass and directly into his mouth and he totally got drunk while he was driving? And what kind of example are you setting for your children?! They could totally be thinking it’s ok to drink wine while riding in the car! Which is not OK and super illegal!”

And Tallulah said, “I know, I know. It was a bad decision, but I was right in the middle of a glass of lovely Pinot Grigio and I hate putting half a glass of wine back in the fridge. It sort of takes on the taste of milk and old leftovers. It’s like baking soda like that. It absorbs fridge odors. And we were only going like ¾ of a mile, to the front of the subdivision where you can see the mountains, so I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”

I shook my head disapprovingly at Tallulah, but I can almost see her logic. Old leftovers and lovely wine do not mix.

Anyway, Tallulah’s husband pulled their minivan up to the front of the subdivision and the whole family peered in the inky blackness to the northeast of them and saw nothing. There didn’t seem to be anything remotely resembling any kind of a plane crash going on in the mountains near their house.

At this point Tallulah was ready to throw in the towel and head home to watch The Middle and finish her wine, but her husband was now invested in this little adventure. She’d gotten him off the couch and he wanted some kind of payoff. And, well, this whole thing had been Tallulah’s idea, so she didn’t really have room to argue when her husband turned out on to the main road and headed down another mile toward the mountains.

At the next intersection, Tallulah’s husband turned north on a winding, unlit, two lane road that headed up into the wilderness. They still couldn’t see anything plane-crash-like at all and now Tallulah was starting to get nervous. She wasn’t really a fan of winding roads in the day and she really didn’t like them any much at all in the dark. Plus it had started to dawn on her that what they were doing (chasing a potential tragedy to see if they could catch a glimpse) was pretty icky and if anything was a bad example for her children, it was definitely this. When her friend had called asking about the plane crash, Tallulah hadn’t really stopped to think about the fact that any kind of a plane crash probably meant people had died, but that fact was starting to sink in.

Unfortunately, at that point Tallulah and her husband were on a tiny, pitch black road with several cars behind them, so there wasn’t really an easy or safe way to turn around and go back for a few more miles.

Finally they came to a four-way stop that allowed Tallulah’s husband to turn right and pull off to the side so any cars could pass and then he could make a U-turn and head back home.

As they sat there with the van in park, hazard lights on so no one hit them, until it was safe to turn around, a sheriff’s car with his lights on pulled up behind them and the sheriff got out.

In the 7 to 10 seconds it took for the sheriff to amble up to the driver’s window, Tallulah and her husband locked eyes in terror and mentally recounted the issues they were now facing:

1.    Tallulah’s glass of wine, now tucked down in the dark between her feet
2.    Tallulah’s husband’s total lack of a driver’s license
3.    Expired insurance card in the glove compartment, which Tallulah only knew for sure was expired because her husband had been ticketed for it while speeding in the last two weeks
4.    Driving around looking for evidence of a horrible and likely tragic accident
5.    Oh and just for kicks, two of their three sons were shirtless (they probably wouldn’t get arrested or fined for this one, but it still added to the picture of a hillybilly family and was fairly humiliating)

The sheriff walked up to the side of the minivan, stared Tallulah’s husband in the eye, then peered inside first at Tallulah and then the mostly shirtless children, and finally, after several painfully long seconds said, “Did you hit a horse?”

Tallulah and her husband looked at each other again, this time with a bit of giddy relief because, of all of the things they’d done that night, hitting a horse definitely wasn’t one of them.

“Um, no, sir. We didn’t hit a horse,” Tallulah’s husband told the man and tried not to giggle at the ridiculousness of the situation. The sheriff stepped away from the van and examined the front grill.

“No, I guess you didn’t. There was a report someone hit a horse. Was supposed to be right around here. I thought it was you,” the sheriff explained and got back in his car and drove away in search of people who were probably even worse human beings than Tallulah and her husband.

Tallulah and her husband took shaky deep breaths, vowed never again to repeat their crimes (against the law AND good taste) and carefully drove home. They never ended up seeing anything. No plane crash and not even a horse who’d been hit by a car.

Tallulah feels guilty about it the whole experience even today. I mean, I assume. Because I’m not her, so I wouldn’t actually know, is what I’m saying.

The Difference Between an F and a G

A few times a month the office phones are forwarded to my cell. It’s a way for me to meet potential new clients and a way for my broker to evenly disburse leads to members of his brokerage without the overhead of hiring a secretary. My brokerage doesn’t have a bricks and mortar office (the closest thing we have is probably the bar we have the quarterly ‘staff meeting’ at), so the calls are all from my broker’s website. My broker happens to be the king of SEO and the granddaddy of real estate blogging, so any time you Goggle an address or almost any term relating to real estate in connection with Arizona, the top result is going to be his website.

The point is, the ‘office phone’ gets a lot of calls. In my recent experience, the callers consist of:

A – 50% renters, looking for info on a house they drove by or found on the internet

B – 10% agents who Googled an address on their phone and think our brokerage is the listing agent (idiots)

C – 15% people actually calling on one of our listings

D – 7% solicitors trying to sell my broker some sort of blog service he already has, has designed himself and does better than they’re offering

E – 5% people calling about houses for sale who already have agents assisting them, but who are either excessively proactive or who have a lazy agent

F – 10% actual buyers who don’t have representation needing help

G – 3% crazy people

So one of the first things I always do when a new call comes in is attempt to categorize it. B and D are pretty obvious because they usually introduce themselves. Because I’m representing Thompson’s Realty I try to stifle the urge to hang up on them immediately. The renters and the people calling on our listings are also fairly quick to suss out after I’ve put whatever address they give me into the MLS. I help these people out the best I can by putting them in touch with the Thompson’s agent they need or referring them to one of our saintly agents who regularly show rental properties.

That just leaves E, F and G who can be difficult to discern from each other. Take the call I got the other day, for instance.

3:05 PM – My cell phone rings. I’m sitting on the couch with my two youngest doing 15 minutes of reading with them before we head out to pick their older brother up from school. Reading has been a difficult subject in our house lately, so I choose to ignore the ring for the moment and not interrupt the work we’re doing.

3:06 PM – My cell phone rings again. I’m trying desperately not to be distracted by thoughts of real estate emergencies that could potentially be happening that I’m not attending to.

3:07 PM – The cell phone again. Now I’m starting to get irritated. It can’t possibly be a life threatening family emergency because everyone who would need to contact me in the event of something like that also has my house phone number and would know to try that right after unsuccessfully trying my cell. It’s obviously some real estate jackhole with a need so urgent it can’t possibly wait 5 minutes.

3:08 PM – My cell phone ring is really annoying, I’m now realizing. What made me think some kind of tribal flute with a folksy guitar wouldn’t make me want to kill myself eventually? I need to look into a new ringtone. I’m going to hope this is just a coincidence that several people called me right in a row and it’s not some nut stalking me.

3:15 PM – We’re done reading and I hop off the couch to check my phone. When I pull up my missed calls menu, I’m disheartened to see the same number, four times in a row. It has a Dallas area code, but it’s not any of the people I know in Dallas. I also have two messages. From the same person, presumably, left within 4 minutes of each other.

Sighing heavily, I call my voicemail.

Message 1 – Hi, I’m interested in one of your listings. The MLS number is 5553472. I’m really interested in this house. Could you please call me back immediately? My number is 214-555-5678. My email address is **. Call me back. As soon as possible. I really like this house.

Message 2 – Hi, I just called. Can you call me back as soon as possible? 214-555-5678.

From the voicemail, I’ve eliminated B and D. All the rest are still in contention, with G making a strong surge in the polls. I enter the MLS number into the flexmls system and wait for it to pop up before I call her back. I’m guessing it’s an $800/month rental property in Surprise. Possibly a $40K resale in Laveen. One of the two.

You can imagine my shock when what actually appears on my screen is a 3 million dollar house in Paradise Valley. I’m suddenly feeling very willing to forgive the woman I was thinking of taking a restraining order out on 10 minutes earlier. I do some quick mental math on the commission for this property (which I realize is putting the cart so very far before the horse, but Bitches Please. How can you not?) and realized I had just ignored a $90K phone call. It’s possible the words, “haminahaminahamina” escape from my lips.

I quickly pick up my phone and call *garbled* back.

Me: Hi, this is Elizabeth with Thompson’s Realty, returning your call.

Her: OH HI! I’m so glad you called me back. I’m really interested in that house.

Me: Well I have it pulled up here. My company is not actually the lister on this property, but I’d be happy to help you with obtaining it if you don’t already have an agent representing you.

Her: I don’t have any other agents. (SCORE! E bites the dust. I’m down to just F and G.)

Me: What would you like to know about the property? Would you like to schedule a showing?

Her: I’m in Dallas and I’m an international fashion model. I’ve been looking for my dream house and I think this is it. It reminds me of when I lived in Milan. I want to make an offer. I can come see it next weekend, but I want to make an offer now. Do you think they can put a pool in before close of escrow? I want a pool.

Me: Well… Yes, I’d be happy to show it to you next weekend. I’m not sure about the pool, but you can always have one put in after the fact. It’s on 2.4 acres, so I’m certain there’s room. So you’re really responding to the Tuscan architecture and design of the property, right? That’s actually very popular out here right now. I could set you up with a property search and you might find several you’re interested in seeing. Are you planning to finance this purchase or do you have cash to pay for it?

Her: Oh I’ve been saving up for my dream home. This is it. I have a letter from the bank that says I can pay for it. I will send it to you. But I really want to make an offer now.

Me: OK, well let’s do this. I’ll email you the MLS plano of the property and my contact information and I will give the listing agent a call to see if they have any activity going on with the property and if we need to move quickly. That price range isn’t moving very quickly out here right now. Can you please send me the proof of funds from your bank so I can put it on file with my broker?

Her: I’ll trust your expertise.

After I get off the phone I evaluate the situation. She’s either a legitimate million+ buyer who just fell into my goddamn lap like a unicorn with a purple bow around his neck and a note that reads, To a Sexy Mortal Lady I Have Had My Eye On. Love, Zeus, or she’s a certifiably insane person who is just screwing with me because she’s actually ill, or because she gets some pleasure out of making people feel like they won the lottery and then decimating their fragile dreams. I decide to make a list of evidence for Legitimate Buyer and one for Crazy Pants.

Legitimate Buyer

Says she has a proof of funds letter from her bank

Knows what ‘close of escrow’ is

It would be really really really awesome if she was really a buyer

I really want her to be a real buyer

I’ve sold a 1.5 million dollar house once, so I could probably handle this without totally effing it up

I could put a lot of money away for the 85 children I gave birth to and have to put through college if she was a real buyer

(OK, the last four weren’t really ‘evidence’ technically, but the list felt pretty short before I added them.)

Crazy Pants

The whole obsessive calling thing doesn’t reek of sanity

Calling a random company from the internet on a $3milllion purchase isn’t super normal

Making an offer site unseen is pretty weird on a $50K house, much less one 60 times that price

You’re an ‘international fashion model’? Uh… thanks for sharing? Oh you lived in Milan? Yes, that totally fits with the fashion model thing.

Writing a pool into the offer doesn’t make a ton of financial sense

She said her name was Yvonne, but she spelled it Evonne

I Googled her name and her email address (which she said was her company name) and came up completely empty

Making the lists had the unfortunate side effect of bumming me out. My unicorn gift from the Gods was looking a lot like a donkey with an empty paper towel roll taped to his forehead who just took a crap on my carpet. But I sent the emails to her, crossed my fingers and went to bed dreaming of the super expensive and delicious wine I was going to pay to have boxed up for my fridge when I won the real estate client lottery. Hope still lived in my heart.

Until, of course, the next day at 4PM when I did not receive the proof of funds she spent every hour, all day, promising me, and instead, I got this email:

Hi Elizabeth, my husband saw another house with a pool and decided on that one. I am sorry and did not know he had this surprise. So i have to go with him. Thanks for all your help.

Yes. I got a G. I wanted to believe it was an F, but I should have listened to my instincts. It was a G.

Lessons In Anger Management

I’ve been watching a lot of the show Dexter lately, because my sister is obsessed with it and convinced me it’s worth checking out. It’s possible that’s why a conversation I had with Jonas this morning disturbed me more than usual.

Jonas (in the shower with me, furious, because he didn’t want to take a shower and I finally took his clothes off and placed him in the shower stall bodily because he was throwing such a ridiculous fit): I AM NOT YOUR FRIEND!! [His favorite insult.]

Me (washing my hair, ignoring his temper tantrum): OK.

Jonas: I’m not going to share with you! [I’m pretty sure they’re teaching him at school the very worst thing a person can do is not share.]

Me: Mmm-hmm.

Jonas: I’m going to take your skin off. [Well that just jumped up about 300 levels on the punishment scale. Where would he even get that? Did he just make that up as a torture method? Wow, surprisingly creepy and effective for <4 year old.]

Me: You’re gonna what?

Jonas (seeing that he’s got my attention now): I’m going to kill you with my bare hands. [This one’s my fault. I vaguely remember threatening to strangle Jason with my bare hands within earshot of Jonas and having to explain what ‘bare’ meant in this context. Hello, Hole that I dug myself into. Exactly how deep are you?]

Jonas: I’m going to get a gun and I’m going to get bullets for it and I’m going to put them in and I’m going to shoot you till you’re dead. [OK, that’s fairly well thought out. I’m pretty sure he didn’t learn those steps from Special Agent Oso. What have his big brothers been teaching him?]

Me: That’s not a nice thing to say.

Jonas: And I’m gonna get scissors… [Oh dear lord, what is he going to do with the scissors?]

Jonas: and I’m going to cut up the shower. So then you won’t be able to take a shower because it will be all cracked and broken. [Whew, at least he’s just going to cut up the shower and not my eyeballs before he feeds them to me or something.]

Me: Well I won’t be able to take a shower anyway because I’ll be dead because you’ll have killed me. And then there won’t be anyone to make you breakfast and lunch or to tuck you in at night and give you a kiss.

Jonas: Daddy will make me breakfast and tuck me in. [He’s got it all planned out, doesn’t he? I wonder if he took out a life-insurance policy on me too…]

Me: No he won’t. He’ll be at work. Plus he’ll be mad at you because you killed me.

Jonas (concerned now): And then he’ll kill me because I killed you? [Where did he get this view of the way the world works? Has he been watching ‘Lord of the Flies’ when I’m not around?]

Me: No, Daddy won’t kill you because he’s a good person and good people don’t kill other people. But he will be really really mad at you. And he’ll definitely cancel vacation tomorrow. [Just when he thought he had it all figured out, I have my own arsenal of instruments of torture.]

Jonas: Oh. OK, I won’t kill you. I’m sorry I said that. May I please have the soap? [And just like that it’s over.]

Me: Yes. Can I have a hug first?

Jonas: Yes. You’re my friend. [I’m not completely sure I believe him. It was almost too easy… I might need an armed bodyguard.]

So… should I be concerned? I mean, I guess as long as he turns out like Dexter and not like Dexter’s brother then I’m probably still a good parent, right?

My Favorite Son

When I was pregnant with Gray, son #2, I worried all the time that I wouldn’t like him that much. I knew I would love him and take care of him and all that is required by the laws of familial obligation, but actually liking him was another story. Bennett (son #1) was so full of awesomeness and likable qualities, I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly want to be around the second one nearly as often. We’d spent four years getting to know everything about little Bennett. This second child would be the interloper in our happy family.

I started to think that maybe having multiple children was really only for people who didn’t manage to do it right the first time and that I’d made a huge mistake embarking on the second when I clearly already had one who couldn’t possibly be topped. I began to pity my still gestating little one. It was really going to suck for him to grow up as the inferior child. Jason and I would have to roshambo for who would get to sit next to the good kid and the loser would be stuck with the lame #2. Right before he was born I even dreamed he came out with alligator scales and that I was repulsed by him.

Then Gray was born and the weirdest thing happened. It turned out he was somehow, unimaginably just exactly as likable and wonderful as my first. As soon as he was delivered and handed to me, I knew this. He exited my womb and promptly peed on the doctor and something clicked in my heart. I like him just as much. Just exactly as much.

When I was pregnant with Jonas I didn’t worry. By that time I got the formula. I understood why it works. You not only can just love them all exactly the same, but you do. Bennett is my favorite son. Gray is my favorite son. Jonas is (usually) my favorite son. I actually think it’s an argument in favor of polygamy. If I can love each one of my sons so completely and equally, why couldn’t I love three husbands the same way? (Don’t worry, Jason never reads my blog; he’ll never know I have aspirations of Big Love until I bring home the first Brother Husband.)

Sometimes I think back on when my boys were infants and toddlers and I realize I’ve forgotten little things about their childhoods. When did Bennett first start rolling over? How old was Gray when he lost his first tooth? I feel like I’ve been a poor Historian. I should have chronicled more. I should have taken better notes. Now those babies are gone and I’ve got little men here in their places.

I was thinking the other day about why each is my favorite child; what qualities make them better than the rest. I can’t imagine ever forgetting these amazing things about each one of my boys, but I know there was a time when I couldn’t imagine forgetting what it was like to see that very first smile on their faces, and now it’s nothing but a dim recollection.

So I decided I would write a totally ridiculous, sappy, self-involved blog post about what it is about each one of my boys during this 10th, 6th and 3rd year that makes me love them more than any other. This post is just for me. Now it’s here forever on the internet and in 10 years when my eldest is in college and I can’t remember what he was like when he was in 5th grade I can go back and read and remember. So here goes:

Bennett is my very favorite child. How could he possibly not be? He has this giant brain stuffed to the brim with facts about life and random things that could be of no interest to 90% of the population. Sometimes he talks so much without stopping I have to say to him, “Bennett, I no longer want to be having a conversation about Spiderman and which characters are from the comic books and which the stage adaptation just invented. If you want to continue to converse with me (and by ‘converse with me’, I mean ‘chatter on endlessly in my direction’) the topic must shift to something I’m interested in. Would you like to discuss your girlfriend, Christina?” It’s the only way to quiet him. I have this feeling Jason feels like this about me sometimes.

Bennett got an essay back from his English teacher this week. She wrote in red ink on the back, ‘I like the voice. It’s sarcastic. Kind of like you.’ This prompted me to wonder if sarcasm is a quality you get by nature or nurture. Either way the kid was screwed. Smart and always with a witty retort, that’s Ben. I have this feeling it’s going to get him in trouble eventually, but I can’t help but love him for and despite it.

Gray is my very favorite child. Gray was born with a burning desire to create. A good friend of ours is moving out of state and purging craft supplies to be ready for the move. She sent a box of fabric, paints, scissors and yarn to my boys for arts and crafts projects. When we opened the box and saw what it was (and that it wasn’t a box of toys from Grandma Linda), Bennett and Jonas shrugged their shoulders and went back to their daily activities. Gray, on the other hand, was utterly entranced. He dug into the box and spent hours cutting and gluing and making patterns with differently shaped hole punchers. He sat silently across the table from me making his art while I worked at my laptop.

Gray is the emotionally reserved type. He loves animals and things that grow. Bennett loves to read about facts in books, but Gray loves to observe the world and figure out just how it works on his own. He’s going to build and make beautiful things with his hands some day. And some girl is going to love him for his freckles and his artistic sensibility, despite the fact that he can’t discuss with her how he’s feeling at the moment. Just like I love his father.

Jonas is my favorite child. No really, he is. I know I love to tell stories about what a chaotic tornado of energy he is and how he destroys everything in his path. He exhausts me and I think it’s possible the uptick in wine sales at the grocery store nearest us can be traced back to around the time he was born. But dang, do I adore that kid. This story probably sums up best why I love everything about him. He’s ingenious at 3 (and insanely handsome to boot). I can only imagine he’s going to rule the world by 35.

Sarah and My ESP

My little sister is getting married a week from tomorrow. Wedding drama/stress abounds at the moment. How many bottles of wine per table should be purchased? (2 per table? You mean 2 per person, right?) Did you hear that Grandma is bringing a date? (Will he want beef, chicken or pureed prunes, do you think?) She’s managed to find the perfect husband-to-be, though, so I’m sure if nothing else, they will get married next weekend. And that’s the only thing that needs to happen for a wedding to be successful, as my father always reminds my freaking-the-eff-out mother.

I’m slated to give a toast at the wedding. I’ve been brainstorming funny stories to tell that are also appropriate for everyone my sister knows and cares about to hear. I’m not going to tell this one (but she said I could blog it):

It must have been about six years ago. I had two kids and was just starting out in real estate. My sister was 24ish and living the young and single life.

Late morning one Monday my phone rang and my sister’s number popped up on the caller ID. I answered and we had the following ominous exchange.

Me: Hey! What’s going on?

Sarah: Um… I’m in trouble. Can I come over and talk to you right now?

Me: …Sure…

Sarah: I’ll be there in a bit.

I hit the button to end the call with a sick ball of dread in my stomach. What kind of trouble could she possibly be in? She’d been to Vegas with friends the weekend before. Did she get involved with a ragtag bunch of strippers running from the Nevada mafia and the FBI? Did she spearhead a math scheme to cheat at Blackjack and catch the attention of the violent casino bosses? What could she possibly have to tell me so urgently?

That was when a dream I’d had the night before came rushing back to me. My sister was in it, and while I didn’t recall many of the details, she was obviously, unavoidably, hugely pregnant. It all began to make sense. I literally had to sit down with the shock and realization of what this meant. In the 1980s ‘in trouble’ was totally a euphemism for knocked up, at least according to movies like Peggy Sue Got Married. My sister was pregnant, and I’d had a psychic vision of it the night before in my dream.

OK, no, I don’t actually believe in psychics or mediums any more than I believe in loan modifications that actually help homeowners keep their homes long term. I’d like to believe in them, though. Kind of like I’d like to believe in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Or Heaven. Also, it’s hard not to harbor a small grain of belief in the supernatural when you have a mom who regularly takes you to palm readers and once bought a book on how to teach yourself to be more psychically sensitive (she had me and my sister guess at whether playing cards were black or red before she flipped them over to train our extra-sensory abilities). It’s kind of like being raised Catholic; even if you’ve denounced the faith, you still occasionally have an urge to confess your sins. Sometimes I have a desire to get my old Ouija board out and see if any spirits want to chat.

While I waited for my sister to get to my house and tell me the news I already knew, I pondered the next step in all of this. She was single and probably terrified. How would she raise a baby alone? The solution was obvious: she would move in with us and we would help her raise it. It just made so much sense. We could move my kids into the same room and she and the baby could live in the third bedroom. We already had all of the gear and we’d been through all of the baby stuff. We could help. And my kids would have a cousin! And I would have a baby to cuddle any time I wanted without have to actually give birth again! Everything was going to be just fine.

I stopped short of actually beginning the move of my youngest into his brother’s room, but in the 20 minutes it took my sister to get to my house, I put together a fairly comprehensive mental plan for how this was all going to work.

When she finally knocked on the door and walked into my living room, pale and nervous, I was completely prepared to calm her down and explain how not only was everything going to be ok, but it was actually going to be great.

Sarah: So… I totally screwed up.

Me: It’s OK, tell me what happened.

Sarah: OK, well, so you know I went Vegas this weekend? Well I thought because the 15th was on Saturday my paycheck would be deposited on Friday before the weekend. But apparently it wasn’t deposited until Monday after the weekend, and… (she bursts into tears)

Me: Don’t cry; it’s all going to be just fine. What does this have to do with the baby?

Sarah (sniffles and looks at me quizzically): What baby? I overdrew my bank account and got charged the $35 overdraft fee literally 50 times. My account is negative over a thousand dollars.

Me: Wait, you’re not pregnant?

So, yeah. I’m apparently not psychic in the least. In fact I may be the opposite of psychic. Instead of extra senses, I have a deficiency in common sense.

My sister was freaking out over the state of her bank account and didn’t want to go to our parents to ask for money lest they think she was wildly irresponsible. So I did what any good sister would. I wrote her a check for $1000 so that she could make it through until her next paycheck. And I did so with a touch of relief. Although I’m sure it would have all worked out fine if she had been pregnant and moved in with us, a loan of a grand (which she paid back promptly a month later) was laughably easier to manage for both of our lives.

Maybe I just have to practice more with the cards before my dreams start predicting the future.

Worst. Mother. Ever

I’m a tad hesitant to even tell this story. It’s not that I’m trying to preserve my dignity or anything. Please, I serve that up on a platter for you twice a week. No, I think it’s more that I’m afraid you’ll see me in public and throw fruit at me. I have an irrational fear of flying produce. But I’m going to push through that fear and share in the hopes that my story will help future generations of parents avoid the humiliation I experienced on Tuesday afternoon. If one person learns the lesson of ‘Crazy People’ it might just be worth a hurled tomato.

Tuesday afternoon I cycled through the normal rotation of bus stop/school pick-ups and by 2:45ish I had all three of my monkeys seat-belted into the GOV and watching Despicable Me on the DVD player. I had to make a quick pit stop at Target, so as I pulled into the parking lot, I did a quick situation assessment. Here were the factors:

1. Daylight in a crowded suburban parking lot
2. Three boys ages 10, 6, 3
3. All currently enraptured with the movie playing in the car
4. Temperature outside was 60ish
5. Taking them in the store would cause entire experience to take approximately 8 times (and 9 grey hairs) longer than it would without them

Then I polled the troops, “Guys, I just need to run in really quick, do you want to come with or would you rather stay in the car and watch the movie.” It was, unsurprisingly, unanimous. My sons would rather eat cooked spinach and red sauce with chopped onions in it (a fate almost worse than death) than go shopping with me if they can get out of it.

So I told my 10 year old (who, although he occasionally slacks in the homework and personal hygiene arena, is a totally responsible and reliable fellow) that I was leaving the car on, locking the door and would knock on the window when I came back to be let back in. He said, “Sure, whatever. MOVIE IS ON, SHHHH.”
I ran into Target, picked out my items, stood in line for an excessive amount of time because the snowbird at the front of the line needed a price check on her white towels, and then when the price came back she didn’t agree with it (I have absolutely no ‘fast line’ radar. I think it must exist in that part of the brain I was born without that also controls verbal filter and desire to exercise) and dashed out the door toward the GOV.

And I immediately stopped short. Because, OF COURSE, 50 feet away from the front door of the store, there was a police car parked behind the GOV. With a cop who took one look at me and gave me that head nod like, ‘hey, Lady, I’ve been waiting for you.’

I considered making a break for it like they always do on Numbers (who doesn’t love that show? Math, FBI, nerd-love, it has it all), but inevitably Colby tackles the guy who runs and that looks kind of painful for everyone involved. Instead I trotted up to him sheepishly.

Me: Uh, is everything OK?

(Youngish, good looking) Cop: Yeah, someone called in kids in the car alone. It’s not a big deal, but you probably shouldn’t do that. People will call us for anything.

Me: So they’re ok, right?

Cop: Oh yeah, they’re fine. I just talked to your oldest son and he told me you were running inside and gave me your business card so I’d know what you looked like (see how smart and responsible that kid is?).

Me: I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong. I’m sorry for your trouble.

Cop: Yeah, it’s just not a good idea. People seriously call us all the time. One time I got a call about kids locked in a car and I showed up and it was a 16 year old waiting for his parents to come out of the store so he could drive them home. I get called for dogs in the car even with the windows cracked when it’s 70 degrees out. (Please note he didn’t actually provide me with any reason for why it might be unsafe for the children; just examples of how I might get the police called on me. At this point I was thinking about how maybe I should go home, change out of my faux-Ugs and sweatpants, put on a little makeup and lock my kids in the car in the parking lot at Safeway so I could get Mr. Cute Cop back out to see me when I’d put a touch more effort into my appearance.)

Me: OK, well I won’t do it again. Sorry.

Cop: It’s cool.

And I got into my car, pausing to notice the various onlookers shaking their heads and clucking. It was nothing short of my most humiliating moment as a parent (and you have to remember that as the female portion of our parenting team this journey started out with my feet up in stir-ups and several people whose first names I didn’t even know staring intently at my lady-parts, so that’s saying a lot).

Yes, so I spent the next several hours riding a shame-spiral downward. I called several people who have seen me at my worst and I wasn’t afraid would judge me and told them the story. They reassured me that I am not the worst parent ever, because they love me and that’s what they do. I eventually (a bottle of wine and my father telling me it was ‘hilarious’ and ‘people are stupid’ later) moved past the embarrassment. Because here’s the thing: I had thought it through. I wasn’t leaving my kids out there because it was inconvenient to bring them in and just crossing my fingers they’d be ok. I really felt like they were just as safe in that car as they would have been with me in the store. I’m not saying I would do it again, because I won’t (and you shouldn’t). But I am saying that I still don’t see what horror was lurking for my kids while they were watching a movie in the car.

Let’s play the worst-case scenario game with this situation and see:

Scenario 1: A crazed child-stealing pedophile is patrolling the Target parking lot and decides my kids are his next victims.

Likely Result: The car was locked. If a crazy person really wanted my kids, he’d have to break a window. In a crowded parking lot in daylight, this couldn’t possibly go unnoticed.

Scenario 2: A car thief sees a car running with keys in the ignition and wants to steal the car.

Likely Result: Again, he’d have to get into the car to steal it and regardless, hello, what sane car thief wants a car with three kids in the back? Even the guy in Adventures in Babysitting was sorry he got an occupied car.

Scenario 3: The kids drive off with the car.

Likely Result: First of all, Jonas was strapped into his carseat, which he cannot remove by himself. He’s really the only worry in this situation. The other two I trust not to ever think anything like that. I don’t think I’m naïve in this sense. I know my kids. And if they were going to do something like that, why wouldn’t they just do it while we’re home?

Scenario 4: The car starts on fire.

Likely Result: The kids weren’t locked in the car, people are locked out. My oldest would order them out of the car and unstrap my youngest. You have to remember that in the Babysitter’s Club (the bible of all things babysitting or pre-teen girl related), Mallory was a Junior Babysitter at age 10. 10 year olds aren’t morons. They can generally be trusted to make rational human decisions. Mine actually thinks he knows more than me (and most of the North American continent).

Scenario 5: The kids cook in the car because it’s 110 degrees outside and the car acts like an oven.

Likely Result: Oh wait, even though this is Arizona, it’s THE WINTER, and the outside temperature is 60 degrees. Plus I LEFT THE CAR ON, so the temperature controlling that happens when we drive, was still occurring. (Sorry to get shouty on this one, but I’m pretty sure this is why people would call the police. Instead of using their brains to work out whether the kids are in any danger, they just default to ‘OMG KIDS CAN’T BE LEFT IN THE CAR IN ARIZONA, THEY’LL COOK!!’)

Scenario 6: Well-meaning crazy-pantsers who like to look down their noses into everyone else’s business will call the police screaming parental neglect.

Likely Result: Oh yeah, that’s what happened.

So whatever. I’m a parental pariah. Jason’s afraid to go to the Target near our house now in the GOV because he might get lynched. I, for one, would like to thank those well-meaning crazy-pantsers and hope he or she is around and just as eager to help if my children are actually in any danger.