The Boys: August 2008 Archives

Seven-year-old wisdom


Since the death of their Great-Grandfather (and the arrival of Wii's Boom Blox, a Spielberg-designed game in which you can choose little Grim Reapers, what Ewan calls "the living dead," as characters) the boys have been fascinated with death. Being children, they talk about it in the frankest of terms; ways of speaking that adults tip-toe and whisper around. Kids are frank because they're innocent. We call them "naïve" because we're cynics. When you're young that forthrightness stems from innocence. When you're old, you're forthright because you realize that living with sugar-coating and dishonesty are worse than the repercussions from being outright.

We were on our way to have lunch with the boys' Great-Grandmother, Chris's Grandma, and Chris was lecturing Liam on how he shouldn't bring up Great-Grandpa's death. The last time we talked to him it was right before a phone call to Great-Grandma and we instructed him to not mention it. He got on the phone and was all "Hi Great-Grandma. Hey, I'm real sorry about YOU KNOW WHAT, you know, about YOU KNOW WHO dyin' an all? But I'm not supposed to talk to you about that because Mom and Dad don't want me to." Chris and I would've grabbed him and shook the phone away but we were driving, belted in our seats, so the worst we could do was to mime idle threats from the front seats.

So we're in the van, on our way to lunch and we're involved in the same "don't talk about death and dying, please, dear God, just don't, we're really serious this time" conversation.

"Don't even mention it," barked Chris. "None of the dying stuff."

"Why?" Liam asked.

"Because Great-Grandma is still upset. Her husband isn't here anymore."

"Well Dad, you know, he's always with us."

"You're right, Bub," Chris replied, realizing that he had just been owned by a seven-year-old.

I looked at Chris; he looked at me, both of us with incredulous expressions. I turned around to look at Liam in his booster seat, his spindly legs and feet still half-a-foot from the floor. He stared out of his window at the traffic zooming past in the opposite direction.


Chris, Dana, Liam, And Ewan are riding in the family vehicle en route home after picking the boys up from their grandparents' house. The boys are relating their experience at a cousin's princess-themed birthday party from over the weekend. 

I don't like girls. Girls are LAME

That's not a nice thing to say! Mama is a girl, you know.

No you're not! You're a WOMAN.

Girls can be womens, too. A WOMAN is a girl who has growed up.

I don't like growed up girls.

They're called WOMENS.

I like womens. I don't like girls.

Please remember that when you're in your twenties.

Another awesome thing not on television


Chris popped some popcorn after dinner yesterday and he and the boys got comfortable in front of the iMac in the dining room for a marathon viewing of Japanese Bug Fights. As I said, Liam and Ewan are fascinated by bugs. With my parents took them to the zoo over the weekend they spent an inordinate amount of time at the insect house, in its cool dark corridors, pressing their faces up against the glass tanks holding scorpions and other icky things. They have bug catchers and store nasty little grody things in them and keep them confined, on the deck. It's always a delight to walk outside in the morning with a cup of green tea, look down, and see a bunch of dead bugs in a small, screened-in carrier.

On the bright side, it's a service and they're cheaper than the bug spray dude.

So naturally, to watch bugs fight in a close-quarters aquarium was eleventy-times the awesome. They particularly enjoyed it when the millipede tossed the wasp like a rag doll and when the locust tore into and started eating its opponent right after the bell.

They seriously have a bell. GOD BLESS THE JAPANESE. They can take the most inane idea and turn it into theater. I have no idea what the announcers are saying but when their voices rise and the music plays and the audience (I assume track) cheers it brings me to the edge of my seat. They even have rules: two bugs walk, crawl, or whatever it is millipedes do, and one bug walks out. Also, no weapons are allowed, you know, for that rouge Japanese beetle looking to bring in his tie iron or shank.

Yes, I could do this in my back yard but that's MISSING THE POINT. I don't have a bell like that and you and I both know that so much of it is about the bell, two, I don't have foreign announcers, and three, no audience track. I like competitive fighting be it humans or bugs. I'm a huge boxing fan and I watch UFC (the boys aren't allowed until they're older). It's one of the most basic competitions out there with a purpose that's more than just winning or setting a PR for time; it's also about dominating your opponent, physically, but in an artful way. It requires skill and timing. It's about fighting a good fight, something you can do if you either win or lose. It's actually a pretty awesome life lesson.

Anyway, the boys were fascinated and rooted for the insect they wanted to win, which was always the biggest, gnarliest bug of the two. There are a ton of episodes from which to choose. The boys particularly liked all the ones with tarantulas and millipedes.


I climbed the stairs with the boys last night at bedtime, turned the dark corner at the top of the stairs, flicked on their bedroom light and ... [cue "Psycho" shower scene music] there were a terrifying amount of stuffed animals freakishly assembled in tidy little rows on Ewan's bed.

Before Liam started growing out of his allergies his allergist instructed that I ban stuffed animals from the house as they were nothing but dust magnets. I packed them all, save for each boy's teddy bear, in plastic bags and stored them in the bowels of our stone basement.  So instead of attaching themselves to stuffed animals, the boys started collecting plastic and rubber insects. Real life-looking insects like roaches, various bugs, and spiders. At any given point there are a dozen fake black spiders and roaches lying around the house in totally conspicuous places like the stairs, in the bathroom (if they take them in there to play while using "the office"). It scares the wits out of my friend Marjorie, who has asked me before what in holy Moses is that thing in the corner? We've gotten used to it and are acclimated to the creepiness factor. It kinds goes with the whole ancient, three-story brownstone aesthetic.


My parents, like any perfectly normal parents, don't always follow our rigid rules - and we know this because the boys always regal us with tales of their overnight stay at Nana and Pa-Pa's and how Nana and Pa-Pa let them have pure sugar from the bag right before their midnight bedtime and how Nana and Pa-Pa let them drink Mountain Dew and ride their bikes without helmets. My parents started buying Ewan stuffed animals and the allergist lifted the ban and he began hoarding them in the boys' playroom. I noticed that the number of animals he took to bed at night was increasing slightly. He went to bed with six on Sunday night, eight on Monday night; last night I counted twelve. I tried to edit them down to just the long-timers but OHMYGAWD NO. He acted like I set fire to his Thomas the Train DVDs, his angst was so great. He crumpled into a pile on his racecar bed and howled. I started adding them in, one by one until there was no room for him in his own bed. He jumped in, nestled in between a stuffed dinosaur and one of his weirdo rubber lizards with demon eyes, and went to sleep.


Digression: I had stuffed animals as a kid; they sat on my bedroom floor and lined the perimeter of the room. This was until one of my brat elementary school classmates told me a story her brother told her about a girl's killer teddy bear that wakes up at night and goes off killing people in the town. It climbed from underneath the girl's arm at night and tiptoed out of the house with a kitchen knife. One night it went after the girl and her mom cut the bear up in pieces but that night the pieces all marched out of the trashcan towards the girl's bedroom. Stupid, I know, but to an 8-year-old in the 80s it was terrifying. I tried to get rid of my stuffed animals but my mother kept putting some of them back in my room. I finally tied their hands together with my hair scrunchies. Shut up. I AM TOTALLY OVER IT NOW. /Digression

Ewan's obsession is fine until one of his animals falls out of bed which prompts him to wake up and yodel into the baby monitor until Chris or I retrieve it. This cannot become a pattern. I cannot be woken up night after night because some douchebag stuffed animal falls a whole foot from a plastic racecar bed. Because I'm wholly neurotic, I worry that Ewan's growing collection is an indication that he will grow up to be one of Those People who collect Beanie Babies and ride around town in his 80s-issued vehicle with a mountain of stuffed animals displayed in the back windshield.

He probably won't. But I'm drawing the line at this:


(There's a herd off-camera you aren't seeing.)

The art of social grace

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The other night the boys called their Great-Grandmother, who isn't doing so well after Great-Grandpa's death, to cheer her up a bit until next we can visit. Liam is just like me, someone who says more than needs to be said, someone who shares too much for whatever reason. During the visitation Liam walked up to Great-Grandma and said: "Really sorry that your husband died and all. I love you." When he said "died and all," he literally gestured towards the casket. I furiously scribbled mental notes about emphasizing social graces to the boys. I realized that it was his young way of expressing condolences and in his mind he thought that he was demonstrating exemplary social grace. 

Before we dialed her number the other night we sternly instructed him on what to say and what NOT to say. He wasn't to mention anything about Great-Grandpa's death, dying, caskets, things like that. He nodded his head solemnly and we dialed her number and handed him the phone.

"Oh HI Great-Grandma," he chirped. "So how are you doing? I'm sorry again about you-know-what, about you-know-who dying but Mom and Dad told me not to talk about that to you so I won't."

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