The Happy Homemaker: "My Birthday, Or Thereabouts", "Nine" and "School Supplies"

posted Jan 27, 2014, 7:15 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Jan 27, 2014, 7:15 AM ]

I inadvertently started a new story series on my blog that began with a rather amusing but improbable imagining of me as a husband and father. So I’ve decided to start posting them here three at a time…

#19 – “My Birthday, Or Thereabouts”

I was preparing breakfast for Pierpont when Bradley walked groggily into the kitchen.

“Hi, Daddy,” Pierpont said rather matter-of-factly considering one of his fathers was just in the hospital. I looked over his shoulder, saw he was reading his obituaries and understood the perceived nonchalance. He’s become quite fascinated with how old people are when they die. I think it makes him feel better knowing that most of them are much older than Bradley and me. He must be glossing over those who aren’t.

Bradley walked over to Pierpont, kissed him on the forehead and kneeled down next to him. “I’m sorry if I scared you the other day when I was in the hospital.”

“That’s okay, Daddy. Dad told me that he and I are just going to have to make sure you eat better,” Pierpont responded without looking up from the obituary of Adele Camper, aged 78.

Bradley looked up at me. “I gather this is supposed to be some sort of punishment,” he said, knowing how diligent Pierpont is likely to be in his new Daddy Diet duty.

I placed a bowl of oatmeal with sliced strawberries in front of Pierpont to be ignored until he finished reading the obituaries – only to complain about how it’s gotten cold. “It’s not so much punishment for you as entertainment for me,” I said to Bradley.

Bradley suddenly stood up. “Your birthday was yesterday.”

“Yes, I know,” I said, placing my hand on Pierpont’s head. “Do you want a side of bacon?”

“Jane Utin died on her birthday,” Pierpont informed us. “That’s awful.”

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’. Bacon and eggs, Bradley?” I asked.

“Do we have English muffins?”

“Yes.”

Bradley walked over to the refrigerator and stood inside it as he searched for the English muffins. “I totally forgot it was your birthday.”

“Yes, you did.”

“I’m really sorry.”

“I know.”

“How was it?”

I started scrambling mine and Bradley’s eggs. “On one hand, it started with me bringing my husband home from the hospital – so that could be considered a great day or a shitty day. On the other hand, you owe me a cake, a candle, a song and a dinner.”

Bradley walked over to me as he split the English muffins by hand – which he has somehow figured out how to do better than I ever have with a knife. “How about I take you and Little Man out tonight?”

“That would be nice, but you’re hosting a small dinner party for me tonight that I planned and organized.”

“I see. Who’s coming?”

“Mike, Trevor, Peter, Ethan, Evan, Nick and Moneca.”

“I see. And what are we having?”

“I’m having a lamb shank delivered but I’ll need you to pick up the cake from SusieCakes in Brentwood while I prepare the sides.”

“I have to drive thirty miles to Brentwood for a cake?”

“Yes. A cake you will not be allowed to eat.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not my doing. It’s your son’s.”

“Dad, my oatmeal is cold.” Pierpont declared, clearly having finished reading his obituaries.

“Bring it over and I’ll heat it up.”

“I’m going to be paying for this birthday for a while, won’t I?”

“Forever and a day,” I said, puckering my lips.

Bradley laughed and kissed me back – substituting a slice of English muffin for his lips.

 

#20 – “Nine” 

I think kids can sense when someone is going to be having a birthday party and so they gravitate toward the celebrant.

I’m happy that Pierpont is starting to make friends, because it’s been slow-going for a couple of years – largely by my doing. It’s not that he’s unpopular but kids can be be little shits, so I’ve been far more selective (translation: potentially overprotective) with his choices of friends than he probably would have been. Bradley and I both want Pierpont to know that it’s okay not to have a lot of friends as long as the few friends you do have are really good friends – Bradley just preferred I let Pierpont make his own selections. But he’s at work all day so he can prefer all he wants to. Either way, Bradley and I were happy that Pierpont and Jake, also of the “alternative family blend” (not that that’s a requirement), became really good friends on their own.

So I’ve forced myself to let Pierpont start making his own friends his own way – good, bad and/or indifferent. But what I didn’t anticipate was that in doing so, his invite list for his upcoming ninth birthday party would suddenly total 30.

I sat with him to help him cut the list down to ten new friends from school and the neighborhood that he liked the most. Even that was more than I wanted for the party, but I figured two or three wouldn’t be able to make it and with Bradley helping out, six or seven nine-year-olds would be more than manageable for an afternoon.

I planned for all of us to play miniature golf (despite my weariness that these knuckleheads would start using the golf clubs on each other instead of on the ball). After that, we’d head back to the house to eat cake while we made pizza. Yes, you read that right. Then the parents would come pick up their little rugrats and take them home. Easy.

At least it started out that way. All the parents dropped off their kids on time courtesy of the half-hour padding I incorporated into the schedule of events for the inevitable stragglers who were going to be late. So we were already ahead of schedule. I also add a secret (to Bradley and me) fifteen extra minutes to open presents even though we specified on the invitations that there are to be no presents beyond their mere presence (see what I did there?).

And we were serious. But of course there were those parents who insisted on bringing a gift. We just said, “Thank you. You know you didn’t have to. I’m sure Pierpont will love it.”

But the real problems began at the golf course. And it centered around Pierpont. For a kid who took so well to baseball and had such great aim when it came to hitting a ball with a bat, it was surprising to Bradley and me that he had such a hard time hitting a ball with a club, albeit a smaller ball, that was just sitting on the ground.

And it was frustrating to Pierpont, who did not take well to losing and fumed and screamed and stomped his way through nine holes. There were eighteen, but Bradley pulled him out of the game when he hit the windmill with the golf club (and here I was worried about the kids hitting each other). Bradley took Pierpont kicking and screaming to the rental van to calm him down. Neither Bradley nor I had ever seen such a public display from Pierpont but it amused us as much as it made the other partygoers nervous.

By the time the rest of us finished the course, Pierpont had calmed down. I told Jake not to tell him he won until they were at least fifteen years old. But after we all piled into the van, Pierpont apologized for his behavior – ostensibly at the behest of Bradley. Regardless, I looked over at Jake and held my finger to my lips. I didn’t want to take a chance of another eruption of Mount Pierpont today.

When we got back to the house, two of the kids pulled Bradley aside and asked if they could go home. Bradley called one set of parents and explained the situation. Bradley told them he would drop their son off and they gave us their address. The other set of parents wasn’t as cooperative. They were apparently enjoying their daughter’s time away from them and held us to the 6pm pickup that was specified on the invitation.

Fortunately, we had the lighting of the candles, the singing of the birthday song and the eating of the cake to distract the other kids, especially Pierpont, so Bradley and the boy who wanted to go home could easily slip out. While the remaining kids were eating cake in the kitchen, I took the girl who wanted to go home but couldn’t into the living room with her slice of cake to watch television.

Instead of everyone making their own personal pizza as originally planned, I decided it would be easier to just make two large ones myself (one square and one circular) while the remaining kids finished their cake and gravitated into the living room to watch television. I warned them that any fighting over what to watch would result in my turning off the television and playing the audio version of a 540-page book I had written a couple years ago.

It was surprisingly quiet in the living room as Bradley returned. I told him about the change of plans. He chuckled and went into the living room to check in on the remaining kids.

I called the kids back into the kitchen once the pizzas were done. They had their choice of squares or slices, lemonade or cola. One kid complained about some of the toppings. I made up a game “pick off what you don’t like but then eat it anyway” right on the spot by offering him a dime for each piece. He didn’t find a dime worth the trouble, so he just ate the pizza as it was. While they ate, I sliced up the remaining cake as a parting gift for everyone. After they ate, I sent them back into the living room to finish whatever it was they were watching while I cleaned up the kitchen and waited for the parents to pick up their remaining children.

Despite Pierpont’s tantrum at the miniature golf course, Jake still wanted to spend the night – which made me feel better about the whole thing. And it said to me that even if the other kids fall by the friendship wayside over the course of the school year, Pierpont will still have Jake.


#21 – “School Supplies” 

When I was a kid, school supplies were simple: pencils, pens, notebooks, folders, erasers, glue and scissors (left-handed ones for me that never worked, which is why I had to teach myself how to use their right-handed counterparts).

Times have clearly changed. Pierpont’s fourth-grade teacher, whom I’ve already made an appointment to meet in person, recently sent over a list of school supplies needed for the upcoming school year:

- pencils (naturally)

- black and white composition book (I prefer to buy him a gray one)

- blue, black and red ballpoint pens (red? Do kids grade their own papers now?)

- colored pencils (I’ll refrain from making the obvious jokes)

- crayons (still? In fourth grade? Aren’t we past coloring – especially with colored pencils now in the mix?)

- erasers (I preferred the eraser tips to stick on the end of pencils)

- glue (I hope Pierpont doesn’t turn out to be a sniffer)

- highlighter (for what? He’s turning nine! Will he be conducting research?)

- pencil pouch (this would have been on our list anyway because Pierpont HATES misplacing anything

- pocket folders (most kids want sports and cartoon characters, but Pierpont wants all solid colors)

- ream of printer paper (the school can afford computers, but not the paper? What’s next, the ink?)

- sharp-point scissors (so these little pissants can stab each other?)

- spiral notebooks (I personally prefer the straight-edged, which is what I will be purchasing for Pierpont)

- supply box (how is this different from the pencil pouch? And where is this going to be kept?)

- tissues (so that these little miscreants can turn them into little snow balls? For someone with the occasional allergies, that’s a waste of trees or recycled whatever)

- unscented markers (Pierpont likes the fruity-smelling ones, so the school is out of luck here)

- loose-leaf notebook paper (we’ll see how much of the other paper Pierpont uses first)

I had already bought three new long-sleeved shirts, three new short-sleeved shirts, a new pair of blue jeans, a new pair of black khakis and a new pair of shoes (all of which I was actually able to do with minimal effort because Pierpont’s lower-end-of-average body type and size makes him much easier to shop for than my upper-end-of-average body type and size made me). Yet Pierpont’s teacher had the audacity and unmitigated gall to ADD to this list:

- writeable CDs (I have no idea why)

- thumb drive (I have an idea as to why, but Google Drive could accomplish the same thing)

- construction paper (didn’t the schools use to provide this?)

- presentation paper (at least PowerPoint isn’t taking the place of this – yet)

- calculator (whatever happened to using your fingers to count?)

- brown paper bags (in addition to the brown paper bags I put Pierpont’s lunch in since he refuses to carry a lunch box for some reason I can’t explain but don’t entirely fault him for)

Because some families are already having problems making ends meet and every level of government sleeps soundly at night despite continually taking budget away from schools to ostensibly fund unnecessary wars and line the already deep enough pockets of high-ranking individuals in low-purpose, low-progress and low-productivity jobs, Pierpont’s new teacher added “suggested donations” to her increasingly long list:

- construction paper

- notebook paper

- pens

- pencils

- erasers

- brown paper bags

- glue

- colored pencils

- crayons

- highlighter

- folder

- canned fruit (for kids who aren’t getting enough to eat at home)

- canned vegetables (for kids who aren’t getting enough to eat at home)

- canned soup (for kids who aren’t getting enough to eat at home)

- socks (for kids who need them)

- t-shirts (for kids who need them)

- plastic bowls, forks and spoons

I was just mortified and saddened by this list – not just because of what’s behind it, but also what it means for fifth, sixth, seventh, eight, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades.

If Bradley every suggests we adopt a second child, I’ll have him fixed.
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