The Big Party

Last weekend, we were invited to a birthday party in the neighborhood. Our neighbor’s oldest little girl was turning six and her parents went all out and threw a fabulous party for her.

It was a western themed event and they served up hot dogs for the kids and brisket for the adults. They had cowboy hats and bandanas for the kids to wear. They brought in a petting zoo, had pony rides and a bounce house. They also have the Mercedes model of those big wooden combination fort/slide/rock climbing wall/swing sets in their backyard that Sean was coveting. Okay I was coveting that too. We have none of those things – no swing set and certainly no farm animals. When Sean wants to swing we go to a nearby playground and we are so pathetic that we borrow our neighbor’s cat for our petting needs.

All that to say, that this wonderful party really made an impression on Sean. So much so that he is still talking about it a week later.

As we were driving out of the neighborhood this morning and past their house, Sean said “Mommy, I want to go back to that big party” — as though the party were still in progress. I chuckled as I imagined my neighbor Cheryl a week later with 50 children and farm animals still running around her back yard. “Well Sean, that party is over,” I said, “but maybe they will have another one next year and we can go again.”

He thought about that for a second and then with mucho gusto he said “Yeah!” as though he had just slammed back a shot of whiskey, and then he added, “and then I will say HOO-RAY!! — just like that!”

Is there any other way to say “hooray”?


Soon after my mother arrived for a visit recently, Sean realized that by comparison, I was chopped liver, persona non grata, yesterday’s news, the other woman, what’s-her-name – not even good ole’ what’s-her-name. My feelings might have been hurt except that I was too busy taking advantage of my built-in babysitter and getting pedicures and going shopping to notice. Much. Ostensibly she was here to spend time with Sean, but I think she was here to spoil my child to pay me back for the years between 1972 and 1979 and the concrete mixing episode.

Most children call their grandmother some variation of Grandma — Granny, Gran, Gram, Nana, Memaw and even Mimi. Sean decided he would call my mother by her first name Vivian, or as he says it “Wivian”. Wivian was a really good mom, but she is a fantastic grandmother. In fact, I wish she were my grandmother. Then I could have had popsicles and animal crackers for every meal too.

The morning after she arrived, I went into Sean’s room to greet him for the day and immediately, I knew something had changed overnight. He didn’t give me one of his mega-watt smiles or joyfully call out “Mommy!” in his usual fashion. No siree. He craned his neck to look past me and waved me aside like yesterday’s Beanie Weenies. And then, as I tried to lift him from his bed and hug him as I have done every day for the past two years, he kicked his little feet and twisted and wrenched to be put down screaming “I only want Wivian to get me! I want Wivian!” It would have been less risky to reach into a nest of baby rattle snakes. So I set him down and backed out of the room with my hands in the air.

For the next ten days no one could do anything for Sean except for Wivian. Part of me was thrilled to get out of ten days of diaper changes yet selfishly, part of me wished he liked me that much. But beyond all that, I was happy that my child was getting to experience something that I never had – a doting grandparent.

I knew that when I had to return Wivian to the airport, it was going to break that little boy’s heart. And it did. She kissed us both goodbye and we watched the form of her being disappear into the mass of humanity moving in all directions. From his car seat he stretched his neck until it would absolutely go no further. His eyes darted in all directions hoping to catch a glimpse of that familiar head of silver hair. And when he realized she was gone, he cried, “I no see Wivian!” And then he began to sob. There was no anger or kicking or rage, just resigned sobs and trembling wet sadness. By the time we arrived home from the airport, he had cried himself to sleep. I carried his tiny body, heavy with sleep, into the house and placed him in his bed.

Several hours later, I went in to check on him and he stood up to greet me, still without the smile, but this time with outstretched arms. I lifted him out of his crib and gave him a kiss and asked him if he was okay. He nestled his face into my neck and said, “I be sad. I no see Wivian.”

“Wivian will be back, just you wait and see,” I assured him. She still has to get even for the time I drove her car into the neighbor’s front lawn and took out their gas lamp.

The Chicken Wipes Mystery

Sean’s language skills are progressing rapidly. Even just four months ago, on his second birthday, he was only saying only a few words and phrases that we understood. The first phrase that he used that we understood was “I need that.” That phrase we understood because he said that about everything he saw about 1,000 times a day. Apparently, two-year-olds need a lot of stuff.

However… there is a particular phrase that he uses and I still have no idea what it means, and it is this: “I do see chicken wipes.” Chicken wipes? One thing I’ve learned about toddlers learning to speak is that, like everyone else, they need acknowledgement. If you don’t let them know that they have been heard, they will continue to repeat “I do see chicken wipes” louder and longer and higher until you hope a chicken will come along and peck out your eardrums. To prevent such a scenario, I try to mirror back to him what he says so that he might move on to another equally esoteric topic. When chicken wipes come up, the conversation usually goes like this:

Sean: I do see chicken wipes.
AM: You do see chicken wipes?
Sean: (shaking his head like I’m the dumbest woman on the earth) No Mommy! I DO SEE chicken wipes!
AM: Ohhh, okay. You DO SEE chicken wipes. Is that what you said?
Sean: (sighing and giving up) Yeah.
AM: Really, that’s what you said?
Sean: No.

There’s a free box of chicken wipes for anyone out there who can translate “I do see chicken wipes” into English.

* * *


Guest Post – By Sean

Grandma has been here visiting all week and boy has it been fun, but also I’ve learned a lot. Here are just a few things:

Things I Learned From Grandma This Week
By Sean

1) There IS a toy store in the mall – I didn’t know this until Grandma pointed it out. I can’t believe Mom didn’t know that – duh! And…
2) There IS a candy store in the mall too! Mom’s gotta get her eyes checked.
3) Grandma is just another name for Fairy Godmother.
4) Grandma is more fun than Mommy to sit next to at a restaurant.
5) Grandma is more fun period.
6) Grandma is crazy in a good way, whereas Mommy is just crazy.
7) Grandma will play on the floor longer than Mommy because she can’t get up.
8) Grandma understands that popsicles are a food group.
9) Grandma doesn’t use bad words like No or Stop.
10) Almost any occasion calls for Scotch Tape and a lot of it.
11) There is no such thing as “too messy”.
12) There is no such thing as too many toys.
13) Mommy could stand to relax the lower end of her digestive tract once in a while.
14) People with silver hair are nicer than those without.
15) What’s “pay back”?

I can’t wait for Grandma to come back and visit. I have so much more to learn.


My in-laws live in a small north Texas town. When we visit them, I love to browse the junk stores antique stores that line Main Street. One of the things that I find morbidly fascinating are the personal photographs that end up in these places.

I can spend all afternoon looking through a box of pictures of anonymous faces frozen in perpetual youth. Sometimes the picture will bear the imprimatur of a studio from some far away place. Sometimes a bit of personal information is hand written in antique script on the back – David, Age 3, 1941. And then I wonder about David in his little sailor suit with his fat little colorized rosy cheeks. What was his life like? Was he always as happy as he looked in the photo? Did he grow up and find someone to love? How did his picture end up here? In a dusty wooden box along side photos of complete strangers? How does it come to this? And then I imagine David’s mother showing anyone who couldn’t get away the picture of her adorable boy in his sailor suit.

The other day as I sat at my desk sending out a recent photo of my little boy in his sailor suit to aunts and uncles and friends, David’s mother came to mind. I tried to wrap my mind around the montage of victories and tragedies that must have played out in her lifetime all within the blink of an eye. The brevity of life settled upon me like a crushing weight and my heart raced as though I were running for my life, trying to beat some invisible clock. I felt as though I were about to be overtaken by a tsunami and washed out into the sea of the forgotten where everyone goes when no one remembers them anymore, when all that is left of your life is an unmarked photograph in an unremarkable wooden box.

I looked at the picture of Sean and a sense of peace and gratitude replaced the panic. I asked God to bless my little boy with someone to love when he grows up, because in this life, that is the best you can hope for.

Then I turned the picture over and wrote, Sean, Age 2, 2006.


It has been cold here in North Texas this past week, so Sean and I paid a visit to “Old MacDonald’s” as he calls it, to take advantage of their indoor play yard in an effort to burn off some toddler energy somewhere other than in my den.When we got back to the car to head home, I strapped him in his seat and handed him what was left of his iced tea. As we drove off, he immediately began to shake the cup like he was making a martini. Even though it was a cup with a lid and a straw and there wasn’t much left in it, I decided that mixing drinks in my backseat was not that great of an idea and I asked him to stop. So he stopped. For about a nanosecond. Then he started vigorously shaking it again. So I reached into the back seat and took the drink away.

“Mommy took my tea away!” he cried with indignation.
“Sean,” I said, “Since you can’t stop shaking the drink like I asked, I have to take it away from you.”
“Please Mommy, I want my tea!”
“Are you going to keep shaking it?”
“I might.”

I applauded his honesty, but I kept the tea.Flash back to 1965. I’m five-years-old and my mother and I are on a train going from California to Illinois. I was small for my age and my mom wanted to pass me off as a four-year-old to avoid paying for a seat for me, so she told me that if anyone on the train asked me how old I was, to tell them that I was four. Sure enough the conductor asks me how old I was, so I told him, “I’m four when I’m on the train but I’ll be five again when I get off.”

I doubt my mother was applauding my honesty at that moment.

I did not ever learn to fudge the truth well enough to play poker or even to convince a nun that the dog ate my homework or an officer that I didn’t see the posted speed. At some point, Sean will learn to lie, but I hope he’s like me and not very good at it.

Drama Club

The great tragedy of the new millennium unfolded this evening at The Cotton Patch when Antique Daddy cut Sean’s hamburger in half. Oh the humanity. What kind of a father would do such a thing?

The second greatest tragedy of the new millennium occurred 30 minutes earlier when Antique Mommy had the audacity to help Sean into his car seat. It would have been less egregious if I had beaten him with a coat hanger — and made for a far more interesting story for CPS as well.

Sean either has a great career in the theatre ahead of him or a lot of hours in therapy.