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Post-it Parenting: Raising Kids by the Letter

Due to busy and conflicting schedules, and because I was a working, single mom for many years, my children and I had to take a lot of shortcuts.

Shortcuts, by the way, is Latin for “single parent.”

We communicated by writing a lot of notes to each other. After deciding in fifth grade that I was a writer, it just seemed logical to communicate with my offspring through the written word.

Mom, Please don’t take the trampoline down. We are still using it. Thanks. –Chris

During summers, when the kids were out of school, those notes turned into a Tolstoy novel.

As I often remind my kids – it could be worse. What if I was a professional roller derby athlete? Those women don’t mess around with leaving notes. When their kids misbehave, I’m sure it’s a quick elbow to the guts or an expertly maneuvered roll over the shins that brings them to their senses. And knees.

I prefer jotting over jabbing, which goes something like this:

Kids: Keep the house clean. Be good. Be respectful. All of the bath towels are missing. Find them and put them in the laundry room. ALL of the glasses and cups are missing. Find them. Wash them. Use dish soap, not bar soap like last time. The principal called. Do not wear my Stray Dog Tavern T-shirt to school again. You know better.  Return it to me at once! One of you see if Grandma needs her yard mowed. Don’t take any money for doing it, no matter what she says. Love you, Mom.

P.S. ALL glasses, cups and towels must be recovered or no allowances this weekend.

Mom, Jumped off a cliff today. Kidding. Ha. –Ben

Mom — Jammin’ at Steve-O’s. No towels in my room. I’ll check my car and trunk later. Promise. All the glasses from my room are in the sink. Ben took the rest. I had to go to work and did not have time to wash them. Make Ben do it. I need $5 for gas. Took it from the money jar. My check was short this week. I’ll pay you back. Promise. Love you. Don’t have your shirt. Ben probably stole it. — Chris

Mom, I mowed Grandma’s yard, so I did not have time to look for glasses and towels. Chris didn’t do anything. I do everything. Can I borrow $5? I’ll pay you back. Promise. Gatt’s dad is taking us to Hooter’s. We can go in cause we’re not drinking beer or nothing and Gatt’s dad said the buffalo wings are good. Harpo borrowed your dog drinking shirt. I told him to bring it back.

P.S. Grandma MADE me take some money. I begged her not to.

Boys: Chris, get my towels out of your car! AND the glasses and cups. No jammin’ with Steve-O today until your chores are done. Do not take your guitar amps outside. The neighbor will call the cops again. Ben, stop taking my white socks! Do your own laundry – you learned how in 4-H last year, remember? No going to Hooter’s. The wings, among other things, are not real. We’ll talk later. Get my dog bar shirt back from Harpo and do not loan my clothing to your friends. Beaner still has my Life is a Beach hat. Get that back, too. Love you guys. Keep the house clean. Be good. Be respectful. — Mom

Mom, Can I go to the Withered Craniums Morgue concert in Cincinnati this weekend? I’ll do all my jobs. Promise. I’ll be good. And respectful. Can I borrow $55 for the ticket? I’ll pay you back. Promise. Harpo’s mom called for you. All the glasses and cups are back in the cupboards. I found all the dirty towels in the upstairs closet. Ben should have to wash them cause he put them there. I didn’t. I should get a reward for finding them. $55 would be good. Love, Chris

Mom, All my socks are gone. Chris stole them. He’s a but. Went to Hooter’s. Kidding. Ha. Can I spend the night and watch movies at Murk’s and Mel’s Saturday? Took $2 out of money jar. Will pay you back. Promise. Chris is letting me practice drive in the driveway. There’s a lot of glasses and cups in his car. There was one under my foot and I almost drove into the neighbor’s house. I’ll be 16 in 2 years, you know. Did you hide some pop? Where? Love, Ben.

Chris: Cincinnati?! I don’t think so. Cincinnati is a BIG city. Besides, for $55, it should be the Rolling Stones or Beatles, not the Shriveled Deadheads or whoever. We’ll talk later. If you have Ben’s socks, give them back — he’s wearing mine. Do your laundry! Feed the cat! –Mom

Ben: Butt has two ts, BUT don’t call people that. Yes, I hid the pop. Look up the meaning of “hide” in Webster’s. Also hid the money jar. By the way, is Mel Murk’s brother – or is Mel Murk’s sister? You are too young to date–you know that. No more overnights at Murk’s if Mel is Femel. We’ll talk later. Keep the house clean. Be good. Be respectful, especially to Mel. –Mom

Mom: Aren’t the Beatles dead? Are the Rolling Pepples those old guys with bad skin? The Withered Craniums Morgue is so much cooler and so much awesomer! I can drive to Cincinnati. I have a map. I will be 18 next summer. You had a baby and lived in California when you were 18. I must go to that concert! Please? I’ll be good. And respectful. I won’t have a baby. Please? Can I borrow $20 for gas? I think Ben stole my money. I can’t find the money jar. I think he stole that, too. I’ll pay you back. Promise. Love, Chris.

Mom, Chris stole my new DVD. He’s a but with two ts. Mel is a guy, Murk and Gatt are girls. Ha. Kidding. I found the pop in the dryer. Bet you thought I’d never find it there? I was looking for some money. I only drank two. Chris stole the rest. Going to mall with Gatt. Harpo’s grounded and he can’t go. I’ll be good. –Ben

P.S. Who’s Webster?

BOYS!! Harpo’s mom is mad. We’ll talk later. You guys are in trouble. I strongly suggest you do ALL of the chores on your list. Chris: I was married, living in California and had your sister three weeks before I turned 19! But I was never allowed to drive to a rock concert in Cincinnati at that age. The Rolling Stones are TRUE rock and roll. Never speak ill of them again Why are you are spending so much on gas? You work two blocks away. Ben: I found your new DVD – the one you accused Chris of stealing – in my sock drawer … WHO DRANK ALL THE POP? It’s gone. Saying “but with two ts” is no less rude. Keep the house clean. Be good. Be respectful. Love, Mom.

P.S. No glasses in the cupboard AGAIN. Find them! Today!

By Viv Sade

Originally published June 24, 2005.

The story of Johnny Krieger and the community that loved him

John Krieger 1935 -2003

By Vivian Sade

Originally published December. 31, 2003

CHURUBUSCO, Ind. — John A. Krieger, the man who was known as Churubusco’s “favorite son” and the town’s All-Round Nice Guy” died just after midnight on Christmas Eve at the age of 68.

John, who was born with Down syndrome, had been sick with pneumonia and other infections and was hospitalized for four weeks preceding his death.

He kept up his busy schedule, working for a variety of downtown merchants and patrolling the streets of Churubusco right up until the day he was admitted to the hospital.

Krieger’s parents, the late Cloyd “Pete” and Hazel Krieger, were advised by medical authorities  to put their Down syndrome baby in an institution.

“He will never live to see his twentieth birthday,” they told the Kriegers.

Baby John

Appalled at the thought of institutionalizing their little boy, Pete and Hazel took him home and raised him alongside his loving brother and sisters, Calvin, Leila, Phyllis and Beverly.

Although John’s speech was garbled and hard to understand, and he had the usual setbacks associated with Down syndrome, he thrived in the Krieger family setting where he was surrounded with love and attention.

John created a fantasy world where he was able to retreat and become whatever he wanted to be at the moment — a police officer, a medic, a preacher or a fireman.

Many people in Churubusco grew up watching John pantomime a one-man play at the edge of a street or on a downtown sidewalk as he played cops and robbers, assisted at the scene of a wreck or chased down an imaginary hit and run driver.

Krieger brought recognition to Churubusco and gave the town more than its 15 minutes of fame when he attracted the attention of the national media several years ago. He was the focus of a 1999 Associated Press feature story and later that same year, the worldwide cable news network CNN visited Churubusco and filmed a segment about John Krieger for the Sunday morning “Across America” series.

At CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., the “Johnny” feature became an audience favorite and continued to be a repeat request from CNN viewers.

John enjoyed working at Shroyer’s Variety & Hardware store on Main Street.
Used with permission of Associated Press

After the Associated Press and CNN coverage, Krieger and the Town of Churubusco heard from people around the world. Many of them sent John letters, cards and even money.

In April 2000 town council members voted unanimously to declare April 23 — John’s birthday — as John Krieger Day in Churubusco.

Dr. Janet McMullen, associate professor of radio, television and film at the University of North Alabama, still uses the story of Krieger when teaching the sociology theories of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.

“Those two theories contrast societies which value people based on who they are versus what they can do,” McMullen said. “John and Churubusco have been the perfect illustrations of that.”

When John was a young man he caught the attention of local businessman,

Clarence Raypole, who owned a gas station at the corner of Main and Whitley streets. Raypole offered John a job and soon the short, stocky young man with the infectious grin became a familiar sight in downtown Churubusco.

John on patrol in the 1970s.

John liked nothing more than to be “one of the guys” and could be seen in the garage, helping work on a car and joking with the mechanics or inside, taking a break and drinking a cola while trading “girlfriend” stories with the young men who worked and hung out at the station.

It was Raypole who affectionately dubbed John, “Knothead.”

The entire business community, following Raypole’s lead, adopted John Krieger and he worked a variety of jobs, many times concurrently, throughout his lifetime.

Besides Raypole’s, John also worked at Floyd’s Auto Sales, Super Valu, Diffendarfer’s Body Shop, Shroyers Variety and Hardware, Jones Insurance, Churubusco News, Papa’s Place and Sheets and Childs Funeral Home.

He was a bonafide member of the Churubusco Fire Department, Whitley County Medic 21, Churubusco Police Department and the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department.

When he was younger, John rode a bicycle which was usually gifted to him by local merchants or the police department. The bike was outfitted with baskets, a toy radio and lights. He carried a badge with all the proper credentials for each department he worked for and, depending on which scenario he was acting out at the time, would present the correct badge with the utmost authority. The local police, fire department and emergency crews supplied John with a space or a desk at their headquarters and even outfitted him with police, medic and firefighter uniforms.

John enjoyed daily coffee breaks with his police officer buddies. He is shown at the Ramble Inn with Chad Fulkerson, center, and Tony Helfrich. This photo was taken by Associated Press when a news crew came to Churubusco from New York to write a story about John.
Used with permission of Associated Press

The year before John died, Sheriff Mike Schrader of the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department, in cooperation with the Churubusco Police Department, gave John a complete sheriff’s uniform — everything but a gun.

Once a week, an excited John would announce to his many coworkers and employers that he was going to be working as a “flatfoot” and would then name the specific day.

John takes notes at the scene of a crime. Many business people indulged John’s fantasies of being a police officer. In this case, staff members at Jones Insurance Agency staged a mock crime scene, including a taped outline of where the alleged murder victim was found.

On “flatfoot” days, John would proudly walk the streets of Churubusco in his new uniform, patrolling the streets and fighting crime at every corner.

His fascination with the police was instilled in him as a young boy, when he watched his father get dressed in his “blues” and go to work as a flatfoot or policeman.

In his heyday, when he rode his bicycle, John could imitate a perfect, very authentic-sounding siren. People, upon hearing it, would automatically pull to the edge of the road.

John startled more than one stranger who was passing through town. He would walk up to the offender’s car window and begin writing an imaginary ticket, all the while scolding the hapless motorist for being so careless and running a red light, or leaving the scene of an accident or whatever infraction John thought had been committed.

Once in a while John could be seen standing downtown, arguing with someone he had just ticketed for jaywalking or illegal parking.

The strangers always wore the same confused and exasperated expression while residents of Churubusco just smiled and sometimes reached out and patted John on the back, telling him, “good job.”

The local Methodist Church, where John attended and served as altar boy for many years, sometimes allowed John to preach between services.

He would climb the steps to the pulpit and deliver a rousing — if unintelligible — sermon punctuated with a clear “God” and “Jesus” here and there.

“John was passionate in his sermons,” said Christine Newman-Jacobs, UMC pastor. “And he was passionate in life. Everything he did, he did with love and passion.”

In 1978, Churubusco Police officer Clifford Smith began taking John with him and other officers to a local restaurant for an afternoon coffee break. The ritual continued for nearly 25 years.

Every year, on April 23, or John’s “big day” as he liked to call it, friends, family and members of the local and county police department would gather at the restaurant at precisely 2 p.m. and celebrate John’s birthday with cake and presents.  After John’s parents and brother died, he went to live with his sister, Phyllis, where he remained for many years.  Several years ago, when Phyllis died, the local newspaper office was flooded with calls from people wondering, “What will happen to Johnny?”

But Phyllis had voiced her dying wish to her son, Dan Ferguson; she asked him to take care of John.  Ferguson kept his bedside promise and John lived with Dan and his wife, also named Phyllis, on the east side of Churubusco, until his death.

John, age 2

Dan’s children — John’s great nieces and nephews — and their children, as well as his only remaining sibling, Bev Davis, were a constant source of pride to John. He always carried pictures of the newest baby in the family and would proudly show them to anyone he met on the street.

One picture that Associated Press featured showed John cuddling a great-great nephew with a look of pure adoration.  As he got older, his joints, especially his knees, grew weaker, although by most standards, John was in very good shape for a 68-year-old man who was not expected to live past 20.

It was hard to keep him from making his appointed rounds, even when he was ill. Dan and Phyllis, in an effort to keep John home in his sick bed while they went to work, would sometimes confiscate John’s shoes and take them to their place of employment.

That usually didn’t work, as Dan reported later. “John would just find an old pair of shoes or boots, even if they didn’t fit, and walk uptown anyway.”

The summer after his death was the first time in decades that John did not lead the annual Turtle Days parade, smiling and waving at the crowd while sitting in the front seat of a fire truck or a police squad car.

His funeral, held Sunday, Dec. 28, 2003, was something John — who never minded being the center of attention — would have approved of. Family members, friends, local businessmen and women, co-workers and representatives of the fire department, Medic 21 and local, county and state police departments lined the pews, filling the church to capacity.

A young John

After the eulogy — which featured gospel singing, one of John’s passions — friends and family members told “Johnny” stories, prompting both tears and laughter.

The funeral procession — a long motorcade led by over three dozen police, fire and medical vehicles — drew the attention of bystanders and motorists along the way. One group of employees in front of Brevin’s Restaurant stood silently, hats off and heads bowed in respect as the procession passed.  Thanks to the caring and loving hands of funeral home personnel — who were also one of John’s many employers —

Busco’s All Round Nice Guy reclined peacefully in his favorite suit, holding a wallet which

was open to show his official police and firefighter badges. Even in death, his face reflected a smile and his resolute love of life.

Nearby stood a large wreath which encircled a photo of the firefighters, officers and medics who had come to think of John as one of their own.

John spent a great deal of time on “paperwork” for his many professions, sometimes

working at home, sometimes working in one of his many offices in downtown Churubusco.  He would often spend hours laboriously printing his name beneath a handdrawn cross.

He would proudly show off his handiwork and declare, “John Krieger – flatfoot, preacher and man of God.” Those who knew him soon realized that John Krieger was not only a man of God, but a gift from God.

And now, Johnny’s home.

Kids Take Flight During Birds and Bees Talk

For a society and culture that seems to be obsessed with sexuality — and why does the word sexuality sound so much less dirty than the word sex? — we sure are squeamish when it comes to talking about it.

As the mother of four, I was always squeamish when it came to having The Talk with The Kids.

Girl First and Only was always shy and soft-spoken and would turn red if I even mentioned s-e-x. Son No. 1 , who was four years younger than his sis, would wait until we were at the dinner table and ask matter-of-factly, “What is masturbation?” or “What is oral sex?” while his sister groaned loudly and buried her head in the mashed potatoes and peas.

I would answer Son No. 1’s questions the best I could and sneak into Girl First and Only’s bedroom and leave pamphlets with titles like, “Why does Alexandria’s Changing Body Need Supportive Underwear?”

I think it worked. They both had children after they married.

My two youngest sons were born 16 years after Girl First and Only and were 9 and 11 when I decided we would have The Talk in the middle of an Italian feast I had prepared for the occasion.

I explained that pasta should always be cooked al dente´ and that parmesan was always better when freshly grated while casually peppering the conversation with words like “condiments,” “penal code,” “Uranus,” “hoagie buns,” “gesticulate” and “titmouse.”

Both boys got that panicked-deer-in-the-headlights look, jammed their fingers in their ears, jumped up from the table and ran screaming from the kitchen — just as I was about to embark on a lively debate of the virtues of mascerating versus marinating.

Several times after that, I again tried to have The Talk with the boys, to no avail.

I resorted to leaving copies of books like, “What’s Up With Alexander’s Suddenly Hairy, Pimply Body?” on their unmade bunk beds and hoped for the best.

A few years later, Son No. 2 fell in love (insert tired sigh) and it became obvious that I had missed the window on having The Talk or taking them on those field trips to Intercourse, Pennsylvania and Bangkok, Thailand.

One day, I nonchalantly walked into the living room while Son No. 2 and The Girl were supposedly watching TV.  The Girl – a pretty, coquettish thing – was reclining on the sofa and arranged across my son’s lap like an after-church all-you-can-eat smorgasbord.

My son gave me a sheepish grin.

Remaining very calm, I wedged in next to them, forcing The Girl to sit up.

A few awkward minutes later, they got up and headed for the upstairs.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“To my room to watch a movie,” Son No. 2 replied.

Visions of tiny, eager swimming sperm and coquettish, seductive eggs that I had seen in a grainy cartoon-version of “Health and Human Reproduction” in tenth grade flashed through my head.

The Baby — aka Son No. 3 — who was standing nearby, snickered.

“I prefer you watch it down here, in the living room,” I said oh-so-sweetly.

“Yeah, not in your BEDroom,” The Baby sang while leering and moving his prepubescent pelvis suggestively.

Son No. 2 punched The Baby, who punched him back while The Girl giggled.

The next weekend The Girl was back. When I peeked into the living room on my every-four-minute-sex-check-watch, they were locked in a lip embrace.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked, because that’s the only thing I could think of to ask.

Girl First and Only and No. 2 Son — unlike Son No. 1 and The Baby — had never quite mastered the art of a well-executed lie.

“Kissing. What did you think?”

Geesh. What did I think?

I thought The Girl’s cute, little belly button was hanging out of her too-short shirt and too-low pants and showing a little too much skin.

I thought that her mother had also missed the window on having The Talk.

I thought that Alexander’s book should have included a warning about young, limber girls who practice yoga in the smorgasbord position.

I thought I should at least pretend to  trust him.

But not too much.

I forced myself to go to another room, but not before slipping The Baby, almost 13, a crisp five-dollar bill with whispered orders that he was to stay in the living room and keep an eye on his brother and The Girl.

Later, The Baby came to update me on The Situation.

“What are they doing?” I asked.

“Just watching TV,” he said, then added, “Boy, is she hot! When they break up, she’s mine.”

That’s when I snatched my five back.

I needed it to pay for anti-anxiety drugs.

.

Choose the road less traveled, especially with teenagers

Beautiful sunsets make me cry. Newborn babies make me cry. Soldiers in uniform make me cry. Weddings – especially my own – make me cry.

But nothing makes me cry like teenagers.

And nothing makes me sob like teens that drive, except paying the insurance premiums for teens that drive.

I subscribe to the sage advice of two late, great female humorists who said, “The best way to keep teens at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires,” (Dorothy Parker); and, “Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth,” (Erma Bombeck).

It turns out I did not have to let the air out of the tires. The high price of petrol took care of that.

My baby boy, 16, ran out of gas on his way to take his driver’s license test at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It’s been downhill ever since.

A few days later, he was forced to hoof it about two miles after running out of gas.

More recently, I had to drive into the yard to get around his car because it ran out of gas in the middle of the driveway.

Not to make excuses, but he’s a lot like me.

His older 18-year-old brother does not run out of gas, but this is either: a) because he has a minimal amount of on-hand cash; b) because he’s learned the economical art of siphoning; or c) because he spends a lot of time crashing into things.

My fairly frequent and frantic conversations sound something like this:

To the 16-year-old: “No, you are not driving to school. It’s five blocks. I don’t care. Use an umbrella. When I was your age I could not afford gas or a car. Heck, I could not afford a bicycle. I walked several miles to school … Hullo? …  Hullo?”

To the 18-year-old: What? Your brakes failed and you drove over the fence and into the neighbor’s truck? The important thing is you were not hurt and did not run over the neighbor … you did not run over the neighbor, did you? You still have to go to school. Just walk. When I was a teen, I had no car. I had to bounce on a pogo stick all the way to school … Hullo?”

To the police: “That’s it – the Buick on top of the fence with the front end embedded in the neighbor’s truck. No, that bumper was already torn off from a previous fender-bender. And the back widow was already broken out after he locked his keys in the car and could not think of a better way to get inside.”

To the wrecker service: “That’s right, it’s the same Buick as last month. Just get it off of the fence and neighbor’s truck. The start key is broke off in the ignition, but if you jiggle it with a screwdriver, it should start.”

To the neighbor to the south: “They are my sister’s kids.I’m just helping her out.”

To the 16-year-old: “No more money for gas! There’s this thing in America called ‘a job.’ Try walking. When I was your age, I walked throughout the Midwest, planting apple seeds and wearing only a pan on my head. Okay, that was Johnny Appleseed, but you are missing my point.”

To the 18-year-old: “Good grief! Your accelerator stuck? You drove through two neighbors’ yards and crashed into a cement fence post? The same neighbor? OK – different neighbors – that’s good. The important thing is that you are not hurt and no one was sitting on the fence post … no one was sitting on the fence post, right? I’ll take care of it. Yes, go to school. Just walk. Why, when I was your age … Hullo?”

To the wrecker service: “Yes, it’s the Buick – same one, but this time it’s to the north of our house, not the south. Remember how to jiggle the ignition? If you need something in the trunk, go through the back seat, because the latch is broken.”

To the police: “I know, I know. No one is hurt. Another fender-bender. No, I have not considered changing his name from Christopher to Crashtopher.”

To the neighbors to the north: “We are looking at houses in another state. Really.”

To the 16-year-old: “Okay, so far you are a better driver than your brother, but that’s because you never have enough gas to drive more than 25 feet. And no, I won’t reward you with $20.”

With the radio: “All of a sudden, a rod started knockin’, down in the depths, she started a-rockin’ … Well, they arrested me and put me in jail, I called my ma to make my bail and she said, “Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop driving that hot – rod – Lincoln.’ ”

Or Buick.

To the insurance agent (in my best Dr. Evil voice): “So two teens plus two wrecks equals one mmeellllyun dollars?”

To the bartender: “Give me another. I’m walking.”

Soothing bubble bath turns into incinerating mambo dance of death

After living 12 years in a home that did not have a tub, only a shower, we moved into a residence a few months ago that – oh my god – had a tub.

But, I usually habitually jumped in the shower and never gave the tub a second thought. I forgot I had a tub, even as I stood in it to take a shower.

Last weekend, while watching a movie where the female lead took a bubble bath surrounded by candles and sipped on a glass of wine as she soaked, I had an epiphany.

“Hey, I’ve got a tub! And I’ve got wine!”

Unfortunately, I also have ADD, which I forget to calculate into any speculative life skills operations.

It’s simple math.

One tub full of sudsy water + 5 lit candles + 3 glasses of wine + polycomposite plastic + ADD = Slippery Brains and Bath on Fire

Anyway, I was so excited at the prospect, I did not notice that the woman in the movie was in a very expensive, spa-type tub with a wide berth of marble enclosing three sides – perfect for setting candles and glasses of wine.

I have a narrow ledge around a polycomposite tub and enclosure with a plastic shower curtain liner hanging in close proximity.

(I’ve been working a long time to work polycomposite into a column.)

I started the water, adding a generous amount of bubbly.

I took a sip of wine.

I lit the candles.

I took off my clothes.

I had another sip of wine.

I took the shower curtain and liner and hung them on the door hook soon after I smelled something strange and the liner appeared extremely warm to the touch.

I took a big swallow of wine.

Wow. Something smelled toxic. I checked the shower curtain again and the toilet and under the sink.

Nothing.

I put cleansing cream on my face.

My white blood cells were dying. What was that smell?

OMG. I was out of wine.

I threw a towel around my torso and traipsed to the kitchen to reload.

I told my husband something stunk as I walked back to the bathroom. He agreed.

Back in the bathroom, I removed the towel.

I took a big gulp of wine.

I looked in the mirror to remove the face cream.

I saw flames a foot high behind me in the mirror.

I screamed.

It was coming from one of the lit candles I had set in the molded tub shelf that was meant for soap and other bath necessities which, I’m assuming, did not mean candles.

A THICK plexiglass bar – meant to hold washcloths – was less than two inches from the burning wick.

As the bar melted and dripped into the burning candle, it created shooting shards of fire. The smell was reminiscent of my childhood when the neighbor used to burn old tires in his back yard and stink up the entire town.

It was in an age before awareness of “carbon footprints.”

But, even then, my mother knew. She would make my brothers and me come into the house and then tell us not to breathe.

I violently smacked the candle into the bubble bath, slopping burning wax all over the tub walls and my BARE limbs.

I flopped around the bathroom, doing the naked, over-the-hill-woman-on-fire dance – painful and unattractive.

The candle was immediately extinguished, although the bar was black and dripping and would be warm to the touch an hour later.

I power-downed the glass of wine.

And then, I took a shower.

And no one is the wiser . . .

Surprise! Not.

About a month before my husband Brian’s January birthday, his daughter and I decided to have a surprise party for him at her home.

A month is a long time to keep a secret.

About two weeks before, I sent out an invitation I had created and directed it in a mass email to “My Family,” which automatically includes my immediate and extended family – a lot of people.

I realized soon after I hit the send button that Brian – the one we were trying to surprise – might be on the My Family email list.

Email makes me nervous.

Once you hit that send button, there’s no turning back. It’s out there in virtual purgatory – not in your world, but not out of it either.

In the old days – a.k.a. my youth – a person usually had time to back out of sending a letter before it was postmarked.

And, who among us hasn’t hit “reply all” at work with an adjective-filled dissertation about the co-worker who smells like butt crack?

Anyway, sure enough, I checked my sent mail and there was his email address along with everyone else who had been invited.

Luckily, it was late at night and he had already tucked himself into bed.

I quietly went into the office to his computer. Thank god, his email was already open and I did not need a password.

I felt very guilty.

I donned my black, leather catsuit and Ninja face mask, and dropped from the ceiling, dangling in mid-air, suspended precariously by thin coils of wire just above his computer.

I had only minutes for this impossible mission.

Sure enough, in his unopened mail was the email from me with his invitation to his own party.

I deleted it and then — because I am so smart — I deleted it from his trash.

I was feeling smug.

He would never know.

Knowing my siblings and kids would see that Brian was on the email addresses, I sat down at  my computer and sent a second email.

“Not to worry,” I typed. “I’m sure you saw Brian’s name on the list of addresses, but I snuck into his computer and deleted it and even deleted it from his trash. He will never see the invite to his surprise party. Hope to see all of you on Jan. 12.”

Still feeling pretty proud of my crafty self, I hit send – to My Family group – and went to bed.

Best stick to MickeyDees

I remember when I used to get the urge to prove to the world that I was a culturally diverse human being and exceptional parent.

That was when my kids were young. And before I gave up.

I remember taking my two youngest children —  when they were 6 and 4  — to an elegant Chinese restaurant.

The first thing the 6-year-old did was unfold the linen napkin and make a parachute for the G.I. Joe he had hidden in his pocket. He climbed under the table to assemble Joe’s apparatus and once done, stood on his seat and threw Joe skyward yelling, “Bombs away!”

Meanwhile the 4-year-old remarked to the waitress loudly that he didn’t want no dadgum subgum chicken because he had already had the chicken pox. I tried to point out the boy’s healing scabs — proof that he was no longer contagious — but the waitress just kept backing away from our table, while the people at the next table suddenly disappeared.

And don’t think I didn’t notice when we later left the restaurant, that those same people were sitting in another corner of the restaurant.

The 4-year-old liked the egg drop soup and was devouring it until the 6-year-old asked, “What are those gross white things floating around in it?”

They both stared into the bowl for a long time and then pushed it away.

The boys were thrilled that I was letting them order real tea for this special occasion. At the time the tea was delivered to our table, I was in the Outer Limits, daydreaming of being in a bathroom by myself with no one pounding on the door asking what I was doing and why was it taking me so long.

When I snapped out of it, the guy at a table to my left was giving me a look of disgust. The kids had each dumped about 16 packets of sugar into their tea and had used up all of the sugar at our table and the one behind us.

I glared back at the man. What the heck?! Did he think I would purposefully jack these kids up on sugar and caffeine? Did he think I want them even more hyper than they normally are? Was he implying with that look that I was a bad mother? Geesh, a bad mother would have ordered a bottle of Chinese wine with a wine glass and two junior cups with lids and straws.

Hey, buddy, it’s a special night and we’re trying to get some culture here, so bug off you dipshit son of a ——- …

No hon, that’s enough sugar … no more sugar.”

Steaming bowls of fried rice, sub gum pork and sweet and sour chicken were delivered to our table and the 4-year-old, who never talked in anything but his LOUD VOICE, immediately began complaining.

“Ughhh … What’s those green things? What’s those round things? Are those oniyuns?!  What’s that pink sauce? That’s not chicken! Where’s the leg? I want a leg! I can’t eat this! I will die!”

I ignored his cries of protest and ladled out a small amount of each dish onto our plates.

The 6-year-old wanted to season his own food.

“No mom, I’m not a baby like Ben. I can do it myself. No, let me! Whoa! — that came out fast, didn’t it? Here, just a little of this brown sauce — whoa! — that came out really fast, too, didn’t it? Can I use your napkin, mom? This yellow stuff is too hot! I need the pink sauce. Whoa! That came out fast …”

The 4-year-old was incensed. “I am not a baby!”

He ended up consuming nothing but two large bowls of white rice and two glasses of sugar-laden tea.

He then announced in that deafening preschooler voice that he was full and he needed a hard, folded-up cookie stuffed with paper thingies.

Both kids broke open their cookies and I translated and read their fortunes.

You must keep your eyes open to see the nice surprises in life. (i.e.: Be good and you’ll get a Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle at Wal Mart.)

He who rides with the wind has too much wind in his sails. (i.e.: Never, ever stay up past your bedtime or your eyes will grow shut.)

The boys loved their fortunes. However, mine was somewhat ominous.

She who tries to impart wisdom and culture on her offspring is left with egg (drop soup) on her face. Best stick to McDonald’s.

by viv sade

Why teachers and parents drink

I’m sure many of you have seen this floating around the Internet, but it’s worth sharing for those who have not seen it.

The following questions were set in last year’s GED examination. These are some of the actual answers received from teens who took the test.

These young adults will someday breed and maybe vote … which explains a lot.

1. Q. Name the four seasons.
A. Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.

2. Q. Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
A. Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists.

3. Q. How is dew formed?
A. The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.

4. Q. What causes the tides in the oceans?
A. The tides are a fight between the earth and the moon. All water tends to flow towards the moon, because there is no water on the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins the fight.

5. Q. What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on?
A. If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed.

6. Q. In a democratic society, how important are elections?
A. Very important. Sex can only happen when a male gets an election.

7. Q. What are steroids?
A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

8. Q. What happens to your body as you age?
A. When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.

9. Q. What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A. He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery.

10. Q. Name a major disease associated with cigarettes.
A. Premature death.

11. Q. What is artificial insemination?
A. When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow.

12. Q. How can you delay milk turning sour?
A. Keep it in the cow.

13. Q. How are the main 20 parts of the body categorized (e.g. The abdomen)?
A. The body is consisted into 3 parts – the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels: A, E, I,O,U.

(This kid must have been up all night smoking weed … but it does deserve kudos for creativity.)

14. Q. What is the fibula?
A. A small lie

15. Q. What does ‘varicose’ mean?
A. Nearby

16. Q. What is the most common form of birth control?
A. Most people prevent contraception by wearing a condominium.

17. Q. Give the meaning of the term “Caesarean section.”
A. The caesarean section is a district in Rome.

18. Q. What is a seizure?
A. A Roman Emperor.

(Julius Seizure? I came, I saw, I had a fit)

19. Q. What is a terminal illness?
A. When you are sick at the airport.

(Irrefutable)

20. Q. Give an example of a fungus. What is a characteristic feature?
A. Mushrooms. They always grow in damp places and they look like umbrellas.

21. Q. Use the word “judicious” in a sentence to show you understand its meaning.
A. Hands that judicious can be soft as your face.

22. Q. What does the word “benign” mean?
A. Benign is what you will be after you be eight.

23. Q. What is a turbine?
A. Something an Arab or Shreik wears on his head.