Monday, May 17, 2010

Head Games

It was a sunny spring Friday, just past noon, when a baseball bat slammed into the side of the boy’s head, causing his body to be shoved into a chain link fence. The boy spent the rest of his recess wandering around the playground, dazed, until the school bell rang. When the boy sat down at his desk, the girl sitting next to him dropped her jaw and her hand flew to her mouth.

“Um…oh my god…um…boy, you do know that you have blood running down the side of your head, don’t you?”

“No.” was all that he muttered back.

The substitute teacher sent the boy to the nurse. The boy told the nurse he “must have scraped his head.” He left with a bandage that stayed stuck to the side of his head for an hour before it found a permanent home in the garbage can because it was itchy.

It was almost 5 pm, just before dinner, when the boy arrived home that evening. I dropped my jaw and my hand flew to my mouth. “Oh my goodness! Those glasses are less than a week old! How did you manage to mangle them so badly?”

The boy quietly answered, “I think I got hit in the head with bat.” He turned his head and I saw the scabbing wound and a small lump.

It was 5:02 pm, just after I had examined those mangled glasses, when common sense and a little bit of sympathy entered the conversation. “So, you think we need to take him to Urgent Care?” the husband queried.

It was 2 ½ years ago, just before the fall leaves fell from the trees, that the boy acquired his first concussion. And while it would be an overstatement for me to claim to be an expert on concussions, I was confident that I could adequately evaluate him for signs that should be of immediate concern.


It was 5:16, just after I had thumped the lump on the boy’s head and asked, “Does this hurt?”, that parsimonious efficiency sent common sense out to start the car. I announced to the husband and the boy,“ Urgent Care is open until 9. But the eye doctor is only open until 6. Let’s go there first.”

It was 5:26, just after the eye doctor lady saw the boy’s mangled glasses, when she dropped her jaw and her hand flew to her mouth. “What happened?” she questioned.

All eyes turned to the boy. Somewhere in the boy’s head, a switch was flipped and he suddenly piped up, “I got hit with a plastic bat at school. Hey! I remember!”

It was 5:49, just as the boy’s glasses were deemed forever mangled, that parsimonious efficiency reluctantly determined a plastic bat hit did not an Urgent Care visit warrant. A reluctant common sense drove us home.

It was Monday morning, just after the boy spent the entire weekend repeatedly responding to his guilt laden and paranoid mother, “Yes, I’m fine!”, that the school was notified that the boy was an accident waiting to happen.

And it was the very next Friday, just after lunch, when the school nurse called our home. “The boy has hit his head quite badly. I think you should come quickly.”

When I saw the tennis ball sized bulge coming out of the back of the boy’s head, I dropped my jaw and my hand flew to my mouth. The school nurse shook her head and turned to me, “Yes, it’s impressive isn’t it?” The boy told me he had hit his head on the “Big Toy” as he spiraled down the “corkscrew” pole. When a girl found the boy sprawled out, motionless, underneath the “Big Toy”, she dropped her jaw and her hand flew to her mouth, “Are you dead?” she screamed. As we left the school, the school secretary felt the back of the boy’s head. Her jaw dropped and her hand flew to her mouth. “Well, I’d say you’ll be headed to Urgent Care, won’t you?”

It was 1:30 pm, just after the boy told me he’d really, really like to go to sleep, that we were taken to an Urgent Care examining room. It was 1:45, just after the boy complained that his pain level was getting “worse and worse”, when the doctor came in. And it was 1:57, just after the boy told the doctor that he didn’t have any clue how he got hurt, that the boy found himself getting his brain scanned.

It was 3:45 am, just after the alarm had gone off, that I woke the boy up from a deep sleep. I had done so for every two hours since he went to bed and would do so that entire weekend. The boy was lucky to be home with a mere concussion diagnosis instead of a more serious diagnosis of massive internal brain smashing or bleeding or swelling.

It was 8:45 on the following Monday morning, just after I had hugged the boy tight, for a solid 39 seconds, that the he managed to break free and wander off to school. And it was 8:46 that I muttered the words, “Dear God…please protect that boy’s head.”

Check This Out!

In the spirit of all things dangerous, the boy would like you to check out a multitude of videos online that offer detailed instructions on how to modify your Nerf gun. The boy claims his Nerf dart now flies twice as far up the street and at a much greater velocity. The husband’s empty Mountain Dew bottles now leap the length of our postage stamp yard when hit by this higher speed Nerf dart. This new modified gun will cause your teenager to yell, “MOM!!!! He almost hit me!” This new modified gun will cause your husband to say, “Boy! We don’t shoot people or animals. Hey…when can I try that thing? Is it my turn yet?” And this new modified Nerf gun will cause most mothers to drop their jaw and have their hands fly to their ears. This will be followed by a motherly growl of, “Take that thing outside! It’s too loud! And be careful…you’ll shoot your eye out with that thing…..”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Touch the Grass

Like any well intentioned, yet occasionally misguided mother, my only desire was to manufacture a memory for the teenager. Now, it’s true, had the incident actually come to fruition I would have had some regrets. At the time however, my only concern was for the teenager.


As we arrived early to the major league baseball stadium our backs were warmed by the midday sun. Our noses were awakened by the smell of those pungent garlic fries. And our eyes were widened by the sight of the great, green, pristine grass below. We blindly rushed, guided by a sea of experienced ball capped young fans, down to the seats along the first base line. The team was stretching, playing catch and taking batting practice. Not being a family prone to being star struck, we found ourselves to be quite unexpectedly so. They were very close, those players on TV, that the teenager yells at so intently. They were alive and real.

We could have touched them.

Except, that would have been frowned upon, I’m sure.

We had been to the major league baseball stadium last season, on “Kids Run the Bases Day”. The field was lined with security guards who periodically, and most authoritatively, yelled out, “Don’t touch the grass!” The boy was on crutches and evoked much sympathy as he slowly attempted his round of the bags. The teenager, who also ran the bases, apparently did so with a longing we would hear about the entire off season.

“I really wish I had touched the grass.” she would randomly yell out in conversation.

On that sunny day this year, as we approached the field along that first base line, the teenager renewed her green grass desire. “I really, really want to touch the grass.”

Inexperienced in any sort of fan behavior, we watched as those around us confidently called out the players’ names. We had no collector pins on our hats. We possessed no Sharpie pen. We had not purchased an 8 x 10 glossy photo. And yet, armed with only the boy’s mitt and the teenager’s private baseball stats notebook, somehow, we looked as if we fit in. Because of course, we too, were star struck.

As we watched the players practice, the teenager muttered to me yet again, “I really want to touch the grass.”

Finally, the superstar 3rd baseman approached the sidelines. I slapped the boy on the back much harder than I had intended to and whispered loudly into his ear. “I want you to shove your mitt out there near him, and don’t you take it back until he signs it.” The boy looked up at me and seemed to question my aggressive suggestion. I glared at him with my best, “I said DO IT!!!” glare. “

I turned to the teenager and said, “I want you to shove your notebook out there near him and don’t you take it back until he signs it.” The teenager gazed right past my face and whispered to me, “Wow…he is so much better looking in person. And look, he gets to touch the grass. I really want to touch the grass.”

The security guard shadowing the 3rd baseman, as he signed autographs, was a delicate man who didn’t come close to filling out his official windbreaker. The man was slightly taller, by a few inches, than my stretched out height of 5 feet. I knew, without a doubt, however, that I weighed more than him. The teenager tugged on my sleeve and whined, again, in my ear, “Maaawwwwmmmm…..I really, really want to touch that grass!” I turned from my grass whining child back to the security guard and saw that he was picking the dirt out from underneath his fingernails.

And then it hit me.

I could take him.

The teenager would touch that grass.

I leaned into the teenager and whispered my plan. “Why don’t you just jump that wall real quick, run out and touch the grass, and then run back.”

The teenager’s eyes widened to their limit. “Mother! The security guard is RIGHT. THERE. HEL-LO!”

“Yeah, yeah…I’ve already thought about that. “ I whispered back. “I think I can take him. Besides, really, what’s the worst thing that will happen? “

When we left that baseball game that afternoon the boy was holding his mitt, newly signed by the superstar 3rd baseman. The shadowing security guard had taken off his too big windbreaker to reveal that he was composed entirely of hardened muscle fibers. And the teenager, having chastised me for my “stupid suggestion” that she jump the wall, left that game, again, without having touched the grass.

A few days later we watched on TV as a Philadelphia Phillies fan ran out on the field and was eventually tased. The teenager turned to me and said, “See mom! THAT’S the worst thing that could happen when you jump the wall.”

And then she longingly added, “But at least he got to touch the grass….”

Check This Out!

If you like dogs then you must watch this movie. If you don’t like dogs then you should still watch this movie. If you like heartwarming, heartbreaking, fantastic, based on a true story movies that you might want to have some Kleenex handy for, then you too should watch this movie.

The Slightly Exaggerated family just finished watching the wonderful movie, Hachiko: A Dog’s Story and recommend it wholeheartedly. Ok…perhaps…the most hardened and disillusioned of you will find it a bit sappy. But that is all the more reason for you to watch it as well.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Four Women, Three Coupons

She was wearing heels and had just returned from a business trip. She told the female cashier that things were “just crazy, unbelievably crazy!” And then she chuckled as she reached into her purse. She pulled out a coupon for Vitamin Water and handed it to the cashier. The coupon was scanned and the register beeped. The cashier read the coupon and then told the woman, “Oh, I’m so sorry dear. It seems this coupon has expired already.”

“Really? Are you sure?” the business woman questioned. “Shoot! My daughter printed that out for me to use. Well, who can read that tiny print anyway?”

The cashier nodded her head and agreed. “Yes, that print is much too small. These things happen! And things are so crazy for you right now. Don’t you worry about it at all. I’m sure your daughter will understand.”

The next woman was wearing flip flops had just returned from the pediatrician. She told the cashier about her baby and her husband who were waiting in the car. She smiled as she reached into her purse. She pulled out a Women, Infants and Children(WIC) voucher for baby food and handed it to the cashier. The cashier read the voucher and then told the woman, “Honey, you can’t use this! No, this is all wrong. This is for 8 fruits or vegetables and you only have 7 plus one turkey rice. This turkey rice isn’t covered, honey.”

“Oh dangit! I must have made a mistake. Is there any way you can get someone to run back and get a veggie for me real quick. Please?” the flip flop woman asked the cashier.

The cashier huffed loudly. The woman said, “I’m sorry.” The cashier rolled her eyeballs. The woman complained about the huffing and eyeball rolling. The cashier complained about having to call for a veggie baby food runner.

Things got nasty.

I was next in line. I was wearing worn out running shoes and had just come from the shower.

As the unpleasant situation continued to escalate, I turned to the man behind me in line. He raised his eyebrows to me. I raised mine back to him. I communicated my discomfort. He communicated his disgust.

When the flip flop woman was gone it was my turn to check out. In my effort to ease the discomfort I nervously said to the cashier, “I hope my groceries won’t be so dramatic.”

“Well, I’m certain they won’t be!” the cashier barked back to me, obviously still upset. She continued, “I’m going to report that woman! You’ve gotta have some responsibility! I mean for god’s sake, it said right there on the paper ‘8 veggies’. It didn’t say a thing about turkey rice. I can’t believe she tried to take me for a ride and thought I wouldn’t notice. If you’re gonna get aid like that-aid that I’m helping pay for, mind you- well I’m just sayin’—you have to have some responsibility. And not show up high to grocery shop…I’m sure she was probably high.”

The man behind me piped up, “Well, for all we know she was high but the real problem lies with the state. I mean, really, isn’t it a stretch for the state to hand out those coupon things and assume that those people will be able to read them? She obviously couldn’t.”

As if on cue, I handed the cashier my coupon for $2.50 off of two boxes of Drumstick Lil’ Drums snack size ice cream cones and prayed for a quick exit from the uncomfortable situation. I’m not normally a Drumstick consumer. Pleased, however, to see they had come out with a new, smaller size, it was that coupon that convinced me to finally buy them. I was going to surprise the boy and the teenager with these new smaller, and mother approved, ice cream cones.

As I unloaded my groceries onto my kitchen counter at home, I found my $2.50 Drumstick coupon in one of my bags. I pulled my receipt out of my purse. Sure enough, the cashier woman had failed to scan my Drumstick coupon-the coupon that convinced me to buy those cones in the first place.

I ranted to the family about the whole uncomfortable situation. I jabbered on for some time about how the cashier was nice to the fancy lady with a Vitamin Water coupon and impatient to the flip flop lady with her WIC coupon and completely forgot about my Drumstick coupon altogether.

The family responded wordlessly with the relaxed slurping of their Drumstick ice cream cones.

Finally, the boy spoke. “Well, I think the whole thing turned out great. Because, Mom, now you can take that coupon back to the store and buy us two more boxes of those cones.”

“Yah,” the teenager piped up. “And you should go back to the same checker and maybe she’ll forget again about your coupon. Who knows how many boxes of these cones we could end up with?”

I turned to the husband and gave him the “whose crazy children are these?” glare. The husband grinned back at me. “What?” he said. “I mean really…you’re the one who’s always saying we need to find the positive in every situation. ”

Check This Out!

I suppose,obviously, I should probably recommend the Drumstick Lil’ Drums snack size cones. I haven’t actually eaten one yet, but I can assure you the rest of the family gives them a big thumbs up.

The husband and I recently watched the documentary, Iron Maiden: Flight 666-The Movie on the TV station Palladia. Neither of us have been huge Iron Maiden fans in the past. I suppose the whole darkness and devil worship rumors scared me off in high school. However, after doing a bit of research, it was nice to find out that Iron Maiden is a whole lot more complex and a whole lot less evil than I had been led to believe. And as the husband and I found out, that even as “old guys”, Iron Maiden is still unbelievably talented. We accidentally stumbled upon this documentary, saw the name “Iron Maiden” and started to turn the channel. And then they started performing. We ended up watching the entire movie and then put it on hold on Netflix so that we can watch it again. If you are open to a little bit of hard rock, you definitely will want to give this one a chance.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Carefully Researched Odds

When the boy was in the belly, so many years ago, those who know about these things told me there might be something wrong with him. The levels aren’t right and there are more tests you must take. There is blood to be drawn and magical gel for your stomach and needles that will tell us the answers. There are pamphlets to be read and counselors to cry to and peer groups that will strengthen you in this difficult time. And oh, by the way, having considered the carefully researched odds, would you consider abortion?

None of it mattered.

The boy was our boy, no matter how he arrived from the belly. And so those who know about these things took their needles and their counselors and their carefully researched odds and left the husband and I and the 5 year old teenager alone to wait for the boy to arrive.

There were real fireworks when the boy was born. I held the brand new tiny boy tight as we looked out of the 5th floor window of that big hospital on the hill. We looked through the dark sky, down to the flats where the rest of the world was celebrating the opening of the new bazillion dollar baseball stadium. The boy and I knew the fireworks were really for him. I was sure the fireworks were there because the boy was out of the belly and it was clear to me, despite all of the carefully researched odds, there wasn’t one thing wrong with him. The boy, hours old, already knew that the fireworks were there because fireworks were super cool. And oh, by the way, was there any way he could light one?

From that day on, the boy has fearlessly lived his life in pursuit of all that was super cool. And I have trailed woefully behind, attempting to protect him from all of the carefully researched odds that are against him.

The 6 month old boy screamed in protest of my calm and peaceful environment and made it clear that he didn’t really believe naps were necessary. The 14 month old boy shook the entire house when he leapt from the railing of his warm and safe crib and announced to the world with conviction, “I JUMP!” The 28 month old boy fed his carrots to the floor, pointed to McDonald's french fries and yelled, “I want supersize!” The toddler boy ignored educational Sesame Street but told a captive audience in line at the Target store, as he pointed to a Men in Black DVD, that he wants the, “black man, black man, mommy!” The four year old boy disregarded the water safety portion of his swimming lesson and instead, dove to the bottom of the deep end of the pool just to see how far he could go. The 2nd grade boy ignored the plastic flying elephants at the amusement park in favor of flying through the dangerous world on a roller coaster I was convinced would kill him. I looked on in fear, but it was clear to me, that despite all of the carefully researched odds, there was nothing wrong with the boy.

As the boy has gotten older, he has continued to ignore all the odds given to him by those who know about these things. He insists on fast forwarding a life I would prefer to slow down a bit. In our family, it was the boy who figured out how to text 10 minutes after we got a cell phone. It was the boy who first bypassed the Net Nanny on the computer. It was the boy who told his teacher he didn’t need to show his work in math because he “already knew the answer in my head”. It is the boy who, without nerves, gave a speech last week to 50 master’s degree students at the local university. His only worry was getting a second muffin from the complimentary snack table before they were all gone. I looked on proudly and it was clear to me, that despite all of the carefully researched odds, there was nothing wrong with the boy.

And it was that same confident boy last week, who exhibited particularly cunning behavior when he independently activated the parental controls, for ALL of the TV programs, on the husband’s big TV. It was that same sweet boy from my belly who was the only person who knew the secret code to unlock those TV programs. It was 11 years ago that those who know about these things presented me with carefully researched odds and I’ve always believed they were wrong. But as the husband and I and the 15 year old teenager sat helplessly on the couch and waited for the boy to arrive, I began to have my doubts. On that day, as I sat staring at the silent TV that the boy had hijacked, it was clear to me, there just might be something wrong with that boy.

Check This Out!

If you could invite any 3 people to dinner, who would you invite?

Like any good 40 something mother who is a former big haired girl from the 80’s, the obvious answer to this question is Oprah, Jesus and Jon Bon Jovi.

Somebody might be losing their dinner spot at my table however, to Tod Davies. Davies is a screenwriter, producer, radio food show host, and the editor and publisher of the online magazine Exterminating Angel Press. A few of you may want to check out the Exterminating Angel Press website and it’s thoughts on “creative solutions for practical idealists” and a “practical look at what is and isn’t working on the planet”.

I am, however, most fond of Tod Davies for her recent book, Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking with What You’ve Got. This is a fabulous little cookbook without a single “recipe” in it. Instead it is full of stories and moments and inspirational thoughts that point to the heart of what everyday life should be. How nice it would be if we were all able to employ the Jam Today philosophy of, “If you want the world to be a better place, you should start by making sure everyone around you is well fed, and then work from there.”