How do you throw a surprise party for someone who is the leader, the manager really, of the family? The one who is the planner, the one who checks in on everyone to make sure that we are all o.k. and taken care of and doing what we are supposed to be doing and where we are supposed to be and getting the help we need if we need it?
Well, you start planning in July, you tell hundreds of lies, you fly that person's sister in from Colorado two days early, and you make that person think that everyone she knows has gone completely insane. Or that she has. Either way it doesn't matter. As long as she is surprised.
And one very, very important detail - you don't tell your children who can't keep a secret even when they think they are keeping a secret because they have that telltale grin and eye roll that screams I'm keeping a secret from you.
So, other than my mom insisting on picking up my aunt, who was already in town, and her family, who would be arriving two hours earlier than my mom thought, from the airport; other than my mom wanting to go to my uncle's house two hours early to help him prepare the (she thought) small birthday dinner for our immediate family; other than one of my mom's cousins running into her at a family function a couple weeks earlier and telling her, "I'll see you at your thing in a couple of weeks," ("What's wrong with Jimmy?" she asked my uncle Kiley later, never suspecting a thing); other than Jack talking to her on the phone hours before the party and asking her if she was excited about her party (she thought he was referring to her small dinner) and my husband ripping the phone out of his hand ("All of the men in this family have gone crazy," she said to me seconds later after calling to complain about how my husband ripped the phone out of her grandson's hand while she was talking to him); other than my sister having to call me from my mom's house every 30 minutes with reports of, "Now she's on the computer saying, 'That can't be right. There isn't even a flight landing in St. Louis at the time Patti told me'; other than my mom really not wanting to celebrate her birthday at all this year, we pulled it off.
Unless she knew about it all along and just isn't telling us. She would do that because she loves us that much.
A few years ago I got the Back to Basics Egg and Muffin Toaster for Christmas. This was the perfect gift for me as I love egg muffin sandwiches for breakfast. I also love to eat hard boiled eggs for a quick breakfast or snack, and this handy little toaster hard boiled eggs with little mess or fuss.
You might think that hard boiling eggs normally is accompanied by little mess or fuss. Well, at my house, that task is tied with an absentmindedness unparalleled by any other activity. I don't know what it is, but as soon as I put those eggs on the stove and leave the room, I immediately forget of their existence. Until the popping sound and telltale smell of something burning.
So I was very sad when the egg element of my Egg and Muffin Toaster broke. I went on some forums and found this to be a common occurrence. I thought that, even though I used the egg element of the toaster often, the toaster portion worked fine so I would not replace the Egg and Muffin Toaster with another one when forums indicated it would likely just break again in a couple of years. Maybe I should rethink that?
So if you swallow gum, it messes up your system and takes seven years to work its way out, right? An Old Wives' Tale for sure, but one that, once you've heard as a child, you don't soon forget. And even if I never fully bought into that tale once I had kids and was the very paranoid first-time parent, I still knew gum could be a choking hazard. So it was awhile until I let my boys chew gum, until I was sure they wouldn't swallow it and could chew it without choking. Even though Luke usually has enough gum in his mouth so it appears he is chewing on a golf ball while attempting some stunt such as flying from the couch onto a stack of pillows. I am fairly amazed we haven't been forced to Heimlich him.
The boys have become what you could call gum connoisseurs. I contribute this to my sister, Shannon, who they affectionately refer to as Nan. She loves gum, and she keeps them in stock. They won't taste vegetables, but they will try any manner of gum you put in front of them. That's their thing with her. I only ask they don't eat gum for breakfast when they are with her.
So, when it's dinner time and I tell the boys to go spit out their gum, I assume they know what I mean. But recent evidence would suggest otherwise. I find wads of gum on the floor next to the trash can. Or on the wall behind the trash can. Or in the trash can, just not in the trash bag. Or, I find the dog chewing on a piece that he picked up off the ground. Or I find the pieces inevitably stuck to the bottom of shoes. It almost makes me regret teaching them not to swallow their gum. That would be the perfect disposal mechanism.
Jack would not be much of a gambler, due to his many tells. His latest tell is his embarrassment tell. He balls his hands up into fists and puts them next to his ears. I recently discovered this tell as we were shopping in Target looking for something very inexpensive on which he could spend his saved Tooth Fairy money.
He kept circling the Littlest Pet Shop aisle, but anytime someone approached he would ball his fists by his ears and make a bee line for the Star Wars figures. After alerting him for the fifth time that we only had 10 minutes, he was convinced the coast was clear and made it into the Littlest Pet Shop aisle undetected. He had a Littlest Pet Shop toy in his hand and was ready to head out when a girl walked into the aisle and spotted him.
I couldn't convince him she didn't pay any attention to him. I couldn't convince him she was doing her own shopping and couldn't care less what he had in his hand. In less than two seconds he had thrown that toy as far from his person as he could, grabbed a Mario toy, and headed for the check out.
In the car, I struck up a conversation about doing what you enjoyed and trying not to worry too much about what other people thought. "There are some toys that you may consider girl toys, like Littlest Pet Shop, that are fun and it's fine if you want to play with them. There are a lot of toys that are considered boy toys that a lot of girls like to play with, and they probably aren't embarrassed to go buy them."
"I guess so," he said, disappointed that he didn't have the toy he really wanted.
"You know those kids in your school, the ones that don't worry what other people think and have fun no matter what? They are the trendsetters and usually end up being the ones doing or playing with the thing that everyone else wants to do or play with. Maybe you can be one of those."
"One of what?"
"The trendsetters. The kids that don't care what other people think. The ones that have so much fun just being who they are and not worrying what everyone thinks, it makes everyone want to be like them. Because they're so cool."
"Yeah," he said. "Like magicians."
So maybe he won't be one of the cool kids. I just hope he's happy with who he ends up being.
The best and most enlightening conversations are usually ones that come out of the blue and encompass a topic that was least expected.
Jack said to me the other day, completely out of the blue and discussing a topic that was least expected, "I hope when I have kids I have girls."
"Why?" I asked him.
"Because they are a lot calmer than boys."
"What makes you think that?"
"Because," he said, getting a little huffy with my obvious ignorance of girls. I am not a girl you know. I am a mom who knows nothing of girls. "All you have to do is give them a Barbie doll and they will just sit around and comb hair all day."
So, while I am very happy with his awareness of what a handful he and his brother can be at times, I feel we must work on his stereotyping and gender profiling.