happy birthday

Today is my brother’s birthday.  He is 875 years old.  OK, he is not really 875, he just looks it.  Ok, he doesn’t look 875, he just acts 875.  Alright, fine, he is 47 and he looks 52 and acts 17.  I hope he reads this; I am cracking myself up right now.

In honor of my brother’s birthday, I thought I would share a story about him.

Long before MTV aired its show Punked, my brother loved a good prank .  When he was a senior in high school, he orchestrated a massive practical joke.  First, he burned holes in an old t-shirt.  Then, he strapped smoke bombs around his torso.  Screaming, with smoke billowing behind him, he ran into the chemistry lab yelling, “I’m on fire!”  He proceeded to pull the lever on the acid-wash shower, dowsing himself with water.

Now, this is a pretty good prank, but it didn’t end there.  As a testament to the safety of the chemistry lab, but unfortunately for my brother, the acid-wash shower had never been used before.  No one knew how to turn the facet off.  As water gushed from the spigot, it became apparent that the drain didn’t actually work.  In the end, my brother flooded the science wing.

If an eighteen-year-old attempted this prank today, he would be suspended, arrested, water-boarded, and sent to Guantanamo.  In 1985, the teacher just shrugged and grabbed a mop.

my brother and I, 2007

my brother and I, 2007

So, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.  You look like a monkey, and you smell like one too!


the high-maintenance bed-time routine

Like many four-year-olds, Ella has a rather elaborate bed-time routine.  It begins shortly after dinner with a bath and pajamas.  It involves, snacks, puzzles, coloring, singing, teeth-brushing, and a game called daddy is a mountain, where she climbs up Tim onto his shoulders.  All of this is followed by books, shadow puppets, and tucking in.  After tucking, green blanket first, then pink, then red, either Tim or I have to scratch her back until she falls asleep.  She is perhaps the most high-maintenance sleeper of all time.  If any part of this routine is skipped, Ella turns into a hurricane and tears the house apart. (OK, that is an exaggeration, but she does talk a lot about her feelings being hurt and nobody caring whether she is happy.  She is Scarlet O’Hara in pink footsie jammies)

Last night, I was trying to hurry the bath process along because I still needed to finish laundry and make school lunches.  Sensing my urgency, Ella said, “Taking care of three kids and Chaucer (our dog) is a lot of work.”

“Yes it is,” I replied and then joking, said, “Maybe we should get rid of Chaucer.”

“NO!” Ella shrieked, wide-eyed with outrage.  And then with a sweet smile on her face and a head full of shampoo bubbles, she calmly suggested we get rid of her brother.

best game of all time

I have two daughters.  Meg is seventeen, and Ella is four.  Despite the thirteen years between them, they are, in some ways, peas in a pod.  They both love Mexican food; they both love tormenting their brother; they both love watching reruns of Scooby Doo (sometimes I think these shows are too scary for Ella, but she always reminds me that the monsters aren’t real; they are people in masks). Still, Meg being a sophisticated teen doesn’t always indulge Ella when it comes to fun and games.

Yesterday I walked in to the toy room to see the two of them playing together.

“Hi, Mommy,” Ella said.

“Hi, Baby.  Whatcha doin’?”

“We are playing the best childhood game of all time,” Meg replied.

“Yeah,” Ella said.  “Don’t Let the Balloon Touch the Ground.”

“Hmmm,” I replied.  “Don’t Let the Balloon Touch the Ground is a very good game.”

“Yes,” Meg said as she tapped the pink balloon in Ella’s direction.  “It won best game of all time by a slim margin, narrowly beating out the second best game of all time.”

“And what is the second best game of all time?” I asked.

Meg popped the balloon in the air and looked at me like she could not believe I even needed to ask this question.  In a tone full of superiority and the wisdom of ages, my seventeen-year-old replied, “The Ground is Lava!”

leprechaun poop

Leprechaun with rainbow

Leprechaun with rainbow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years ago I started a tradition at our home.  On the night before Saint Patrick’s Day, I place a handful of green gumdrops in the toilet.  In the morning, my children are delighted to find a pile of leprechaun poop in our bathroom.  It makes them feel special, chosen in some unique way.

The first time I did this, my oldest kids were five and three.  Cole, my early riser, found the gumdrops in the toilet and returned minutes later with his sister in tow.

“What do you think it is?” he asked.

“I think it might be leprechaun poop,” Meg replied.

“Let’s take it out of the toilet.”

“Eeeww,” Meg reacted with disgust.  “I’m not touching it.”

The ever-persistent Cole replied, “We could use a spoon.”

“I think we should flush it,” Meg said.

“YEAH!!  Let’s flush it.”

After depressing the handle on the toilet, both kids came running into my room.  “WE FLUSHED LEPRECHAUN POOP!” they shrieked.

Yesterday, my youngest woke to find the gumdrops.  A very proper four-year-old, she was most concerned with the leprechaun’s bathroom etiquette.

“Oh my gosh!” she exclaimed.  “He didn’t flush after himself, and he didn’t even turn on the fan.  That’s DISGUSTING!”

sibling rivalry

On Monday, I saw an interview with the Baltimore Raven’s head coach, John Harbough. For those of you who only watch the Super Bowl for an excuse to eat hot wings and queso dip, John’s brother, Jim Harbough, is the head coach for the San Fransisco 49ers. So, the Super Bowl pitted the two siblings against each other.

John was asked if the triumph over his brother would make for much razzing at family dinners.  John insisted that he would never do that, claiming it was best to just move on.  He complimented his brother’s coaching talent and went on and on about his respect for San Fransisco’s program.

I beat my brother at Monopoly in 1982, and I am happy to remind him of this victory every Thanksgiving.  If I beat my brother in the fricken’ SUPER BOWL, I would have t-shirts made.  The shirts would have a photo of me on the front holding the Vince Lombardi trophy and a photo of my brother on the back, crying like a baby.  The caption would read my sister kicked my ass.

My brother is two years older than me, and I spent my school years being compared to him.  My brother was smart, athletic, and popular.  In turn, I was awkward and uncoordinated.  “Are you Neil’s little sister?”  was a question I received with alarming frequency.

When my brother turned 18, I had a t-shirt made for him.  The shirt said Katie’s brother.  Despite the years we spent antagonizing each other, I will love my brother forever for his one simple gesture; he wore the shirt to school.

Neil's birthday, 1984

Neil’s birthday, 1984. Notice the watermelon on the sofa next to him. For his 18th birthday he received a t-shirt and a watermelon. If my son got a watermelon as a birthday gift, he would pack up his xbox and move in with our neighbors.

love between siblings

Last night I made my fourteen-year-old son pack lunches for both his sister and himself.  I usually do this chore, but my son was being massively annoying, and so I assigned him the task.  When my teenage daughter got home from school today, she said, “Cole put a nasty note in my lunch bag.”

“What?”  I asked, and she pulled out the note.

I don’t know which is more sad, the fact that my son put a mean note in his sister’s lunch, or that fact that my son can’t spell shitty

The lunchbox note from my son to his sister.

The lunchbox note from my son to his sister.



not if you’re actually being an ass hole

My two teenagers were watching TV. Never mind that is was an eighty degree August afternoon; they were deeply engrossed with a repeat of Ridiculousness. At one point, Cole quietly takes the TV remote control and leaves the room. He makes his way to the backyard, climbs a tree with a surprisingly good vantage point, aims the remote through the family room window, and turns the television off. Meg, confused, looks around for the remote. When she can’t find it, she walks across the room and turns the TV back on. This process is repeated several times. Finally, my daughter who takes AP courses in high school and is in advanced math, figures out the TV is not broken, or possessed by ghosts, but is being manipulated by her brother from his tree-top perch. Screaming ensues. Cole climbs down from the tree. A chase breaks out. I hear Meg yelling, “Ass Hole! Ass Hole! Ass Hole!”

I bark, “Cole, give Meg the remote control.”

He throws it at her.

I stare him down.

“Well,” he declares, “I think she should get in trouble for calling me an ass hole.”

I look at my son, the tree, the remote. “Not if you’re actually being an ass hole,” I reply.