Archive for December, 2011

Chivalry is Dead. Mark and Kate Killed It.

Last night’s dinner-table discussion:


Mark:  “I’d never hit a girl.”

Me:  ?

He must’ve heard this somewhere else because I’m more of the teach-my-daughter-to-defend-herself persuasion.

Kate (smugly):  “Good.”

Mark (seeing the flaw):  “Oh, I’d hit _you_.)

Me (trying not to choke, thinking of the tussling kittens in Aristocats–‘You’re not a lady.  You’re nothing but a sister!’):  “Hmm…you really shouldn’t hit anyone…”

This, of course, is lost as Kate narrows her eyes and socks him.

Ah, yes, THIS is why my daughter’s in karate.  It’s better to be responsible for your own safety than rely on someone else’s ethics.  They might just make an exception for you.


Morning Quarrel

So it’s pretty much a given that Mark and Kate will find SOMETHING  to fight about on the walk to school.

This morning’s bout:

Mark:  “Did we celebrate ‘Winter Begins’?”

Kate:  “What?”

Mark:  “The holiday, ‘Winter Begins.’

Kate (contemptuous):  “There is no such holiday.”

Mark:  “There is too.”

Kate:  “THERE IS NOT!”

Mark:  “I learned it at school!”

Kate:  “What school?  Real school?  Or a fake school in your head?”

Mark (bellowing):  “REAL SCHOOL!”



Ah.  Now I understand.  Mark assumes everything that merits mention on the calendar must be a holiday.  This is not, strictly speaking, a bad assumption.  But technically, Kate’s correct.

Me:  “Weeelll, the ancient Celts celebrated something one could think of as ‘Winter Begins’.”  I proceed to explain Samhain, hollowed-out turnips, the thin veil between the living and the dead, the persistence of the holiday as Halloween, throwing out anything that might serve to distract the combatants until we get to school.  And try not to think about the disturbing realization that the main use I make of grad school at the moment is pulling out enough obscure facts gilded in big words and a soothingly informed tone to make a kindergartener and a second-grader forget what they were fighting about.

Until they think of something else.

Mark:  “I go first!  I’m the leader!”



It seemed like a good idea at the time, nibbling on the baby’s tootsies.

Now that baby is 15, and those tootsies are large, hairy, and odorous.  Whenever he traipses through the house barefoot, I remember.  And gag.

More Career Planning

On the other hand, Mark’s career planning continues to follow the Hollywood screenplay path.

Mark:  “I am going to be a police man.  Or an Army guy.”  Inspiration strikes.  “I am going to have TWO jobs.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will go to my police work.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Army.”

I notice he’s given himself Fridays off.  Nice.

Me:  “Actually, you can do something like that.”  I explain the National Guard.

Mark:  “Hmm.  I think I’ll be an Army guy FIRST.  Then a police officer later.”

Kate:  “I am going to be an astronaut.  Or a fighter pilot.”

Mark:  “Wait, I want to fly things too.  Are there helicopters in the Army?”

Me:  “Uncle Adam flies helicopters in the Army.  You can ask him about it.”

Mark:  “Hmm.”

We walk by the neighbors’ house.  The Irish setter is out in the yard and runs along the fence, desperately wanting to come race Mark.

Mark:  “I am going to have a dog when I grow up.”

Me:  “What are you going to do with the dog while you’re flying helicopters in the Army?”

He’s clearly torn.  He wants both.

Mark:  “I will get the dog a helmet.  And armor.  So he will be safe.  Then he will ride in the helicopter with me, behind the pilot’s seat.”

You KNOW you want to see that movie too.

College Planning

Kate’s gotten very interested in late in What’s She’s Doing to Be When She Grows Up and How She’s Going to Get There.  There was profound and massive grilling of Mom last week about how one pays for college.

Kate:  “So, college.  How do you pay for it?”

Me:  “Well, there’s scholarships.  There’s ROTC.  Also, one of the benefits of Dad’s job is tuition remission.  That means you can go to college for free where he works.  If you can get in.”

Sam (worried):  “Wait.  I got a B in one class last quarter.  Will I still be able to get in?”

Kate:  “I want to be an astronaut.  How do I get to be an astronaut?”

Me:  “One B will be okay.  And I’m pretty sure you become an astronaut by going into the Air Force or the Navy as a pilot.”  I’m trying not to think too hard about the fact that the second grader and the sixth grader have better developed, more realistic career plans than the high school sophomore.

Paul:  “I’m not going to college.  I’m going to start a company right out of high school and get rich.”

Sam:  “I’m going to college.  Where Dad teaches.  For free.  If I can get in.  I’m still concerned about that B.”

Kate:  “I’m going into the Air Force or the Navy.  I’m going to be an astronaut or a fighter pilot.”

Kate’s interest in flying things is new but pursued with the intensity she brings to everything.  The day after the College Grilling, the newspaper had a special section about the Navy’s new generation of planes.  She spent an hour pouring over it at breakfast.  Plus more grilling of Mom.  There are just some things a PhD in Literature doesn’t prepare you for.  Explaining the Navy’s cutting edge flight technology, and how one qualifies to fly them, are among those things.”

Me:  “Um.  Math.  You need to know math.    Lots of math.  And science.”

Kate (almost pityingly):  “I need Dad to take me to the Air and Space Museum.”


Drumming Man Returns

Drumming Man returned on the way home from school…

Mark (recapping the plot):  “I will fight crime!  I will drum ON THEIR HEADS until they give up!”

Me:  “How will you find them?”

Mark:  “I will sneak up on them like a linda!”

Me:  “Um…what?”

Mark:  “A linda!”  (waves an impatient hand) “You know, the sneaky guys in black.”

The light goes on.  Me:  “A ninja!”

Mark (nodding happily that I’ve made it past my stupidity):  “That’s right!  A linda!”

This may clear up why Linda was always his very favorite preschool teacher.  But I bet she’d be astonished to discover what he thinks she does in her free time.

Score One for Mama

So we’re at karate yesterday evening and there’s a few minutes before class.  Mark crawls onto my lap and puckers up.

Me:  “Sorry!  I do not want your kisses.  They’re young.  And soggy.”

Mark:  “WHAT?!?”

He closes his mouth and thinks.

“Oookkaay,” he sighs.  “When you drop me off at school tomorrow, you may have a smoochie.”



Career Plans

So Mark acquires two sticks on the walk home from school…

Mark:  “I am going to be a drumming police officer when I grow up.”

Me:  “Oh?”

Mark (drumming the sticks on a mailbox until I make him stop):  “I will fight bad guys and drum ON THEIR HEADS until they GIVE UP!  Drumstick Man!”

Me (thinking):  “If a Hollywood film executive were standing here, they’d option the screenplay from him.  I want to see this movie.”

Mark:  “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Me:  “Probably not.”

Mark:  “I need a SIDEKICK.”

Me:  “Um.  Cymbal?”

Mark:  “Drumstick Man and Cymbal.  I like it.”  Bursts the door.  “KATE!”

I suspect I know who’s getting recruited for Cymbal.


Just Call AARP Already, Will You?

Intentionally or not, the kiddos are really rubbing salt in the Turning Forty wound.

This  morning at school:

Me:  “Where’s my kiss?”

Mark:  “I do not like your kisses anymore.”

Me:  “Why not?”

Mark:  “They are old.”

Me:  “Old?”

Mark:  “And soggy.”

Me:  “SOGGY?”

Mark (sighing):  “I did not want to tell you, but…”


Parental Old Age

So here’s how the dinner-time conversation went down yesterday:

Kate (looking at the calendar):  “Oh!  I didn’t know someone had a birthday in December.”

Me:  “Dad.  He’s turning 40.”

Kate (eyes huge):  “40!”

Sam:  “That’s OLD.”

Mark:  “REALLY old.”

Sam:  “Why isn’t his hair gray?”

Kate:  “His beard’s turning gray.”

Mark:  “Wow.  That is REALLY OLD.”

Sam:  “Won’t he be retiring soon?”

Kate (to me):  “How old are you?”

Me:  “39.”

I decided NOT to mention that I also turn 40 next month.

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