December 24, 2012


Just when I thought I was as grateful and lucky as a girl can be at Christmas, our Christmas Eve took a left turn and I'm feeling a little tested.

Just to prove I can do this optimistic glass half-full thing, I'm choosing to see the positive in Andrew's stomach bug that arrived just in time for dinner and church.

Given world events in recent weeks I think we have to just be thrilled we have a relatively healthy child who will feel better within a few days. We have a warm house and a washing machine that's efficient and we can always buy more Clorox wipes. And? Mark took one for the team tonight. He stayed home with a sick boy while T and I went to family dinner and church. And? They neither one complained once. They're better men than I am woman.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Small acts = grand gestures

I'm starting my New Year's resolution list today. I know it's actually Christmas Eve, not New Year's Eve, but it seems appropriate to me. In the last 10 days we have been gifted with some small acts of kindness by friends that felt pretty big to me. I resolve, beginning today with the spirit of Christmas top-of-mind, to remember to pay these forward in the coming months...


Last Sunday we had to run by Andrew’s piano teacher’s house to pick-up a piece of music he had left there. He had been working on a jazzy version of Jingle Bells to play in music class on talent day. I was irritated with him for leaving the music at his lesson and hated to bother her on a Sunday night to go retrieve it so I sent him to the door by himself. After being greeted at the door he came out on her porch and waved for me to get out of the car, then disappeared inside. I went to the door and found him at her piano practicing the song. She had insisted he come in to run through it with her. Her four kids were home, Sunday night football was on TV, she had been in the middle of wrapping presents and they were preparing to go out-of-town. Yet. She invited him to practice so she could help him one last time with any rough spots. He was grateful for the practice and I for her time. “It’s no big deal,” she said.

Last Thursday was to have been the kids' last day of school before break, complete with winter parties and talent shows and probably not much learning. Instead, it snowed two inches during the night and someone had a panic attack and called off school for the day. That left the kids disappointed and me a little frustrated. I had taken a vacation day to participate in their school parties but had also banked on a three-hour window in the middle of my day to execute some Santa-type activities that are easier to knock-out when I'm home alone. When that phone call came at 6 a.m. canceling classes it canceled my very selfish hope to have a brief quiet in my home. Later that afternoon (after what turned out to be a really great snow day full of friends and sledding) a dear friend showed up with this. She had invited me to a “This could be the last day of the world so we might as well drink margaritas” lunch for the next day that I hadn’t planned to attend because I had planned to use up my child-free hours the day before. Or not. When she found that school was also canceled, she said she thought I needed a treat. It came with a bar of chocolate, too. “It’s nothing,” she said.


Our doorbell rang last Saturday and I opened the door to discover two of Andrew’s classmates - a set of boy/girl twins - on the porch, each holding a plate of holiday cookies. One plate was for our family and was full of all the good stuff; Andes mint chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies with mini-Snickers baked in the middle, etc. The second plate was for Andrew. This very thoughtful family had baked special cookies just for Andrew that were all nut-free and safe for him to eat. He is an amazing sport about not being able to eat certain things and rarely – if ever – complains about having to pass on treats just to be safe. But, let me tell you that the look on his face when he saw a plate just for him was pretty great. He felt special and I felt amazing gratitude. “It was easy,” they said.

Kindnesses that seemed like “no big deal” or that were “easy” to the gift giver felt like big deals to me and felt like the spirit of what Christmas is supposed to be about. So, with these gestures fresh in my mind, I resolve to seize similar opportunities in the coming year! Thomas says he thinks this Christmas is going to be great and when asked why he says it's "because everyone just really seems to have the spirit." 

I agree. Merry Christmas!

December 16, 2012

Science, for the win

Instead of making excuses (to myself? for myself?) about why it has been a month since I wrote something here, I'm going to just dive in with this little gem of a story...

Andrew had a futsal game in Kansas City yesterday in the late-afternoon (if I were making excuses about why I haven't been writing, futsal in Kansas City would appear on the list...) and we decided that while we were so close to the Plaza, we should go ahead and take the boys to dinner and to see the miles of Christmas lights there. 

After a little tension about whether it was possible for Andrew to change his clothes in a moving car and a little disagreement between boys and a mom about whether gray cargo pants actually count as "dress clothes," we maneuvered through the dense Saturday night crowds and enjoyed a great meal with my parents, making the effort of changing out of soccer clothes in the car worth it.

As is the norm these days, Thomas didn't think much of the food available to him on the menu, but he apparently doesn't mind not eating. Not eating affords him more time to talk. And tell stories. And ask questions. My poor lucky mother was the recipient of most of his conversation last night because we were seated around a large round table. He commanded her assistance with word puzzles during the appetizer and her help with cutting the food he mostly didn't eat during the entree. While waiting for dessert he re-payed her efforts by offering up a little science lesson. He has been learning about solids, liquids and gasses and about other physical properties of objects.

I was half-listening as he was chatting about the properties of different things on the table but tuned in fully just in time for him to point at a wine glass and say, "Grandma. Did you know this glass is transparent?"  She responded by telling him that was correct and then said, like the good educator she is, "What's the opposite of transparent?"

Without missing a beat Thomas said, "Oh, that would be opaque." Then my mom said, "If the wine glass is transparent, can you give me an example of something that's opaque?"

He paused a nano-second, looked around the table filled with all kinds of plates and food and then reached up and tapped my mom's cheek and said, "Yes. You're opaque, Grandma!"

We decided most people are, but I think that he'll eventually learn that some are decidedly more so than others!

November 17, 2012

So that’s how it works

Thomas is busy crafting a Christmas list this morning at the kitchen table. Spelling is not currently his strongest academic skill so I think this is a worthwhile activity. As Christmas lists tend to do, this one is getting long. He’s sitting here with his head in his hands thinking, thinking, thinking about what else to add to it and the longer he thinks the more elaborate the requests become. When I suggested that maybe the list had grown enough for today he asked why. I told him that there was a limit to the number of things that he would receive for Christmas and he grew very serious.




“Mom. You do not need to worry about this. I know that these things are very expensive but the great thing is that at Christmas that’s Santa’s problem. You should ask for some things too!”


I think he still believes.

October 16, 2012


After surveying this tree in our front yard yesterday, Thomas said, "Mom! Autumn must LOVE us! Look what it brought to our tree. It's beautiful."





October 8, 2012

I can spell it how ‘bout you?

You know that idiom about not being able to have your cake and eat it too? Generally, I think it’s true, but last weekend we proved it wrong, if only for 90 minutes.

We had a date night dinner with two other couples…that included our kids. No sitters, no guilt! While we were upstairs enjoying adult conversation, drinks, dinner and even dessert, our collective kids were enjoying a buffet of mac & cheese, chicken strips, Halloween crafts, a movie and all the Sprite they could drink, in the basement. We live in a small town with a little hokey small-town country club, but I have to say they got this one right. It was awesome.

When we first arrived we sent our kids and two others off to find their evening entertainment. It seemed as though the situation was well-supervised and the kids were going to be happy as clams. About 15 minutes later I decided to go downstairs and check-in when the third family arrived and their kids were joining the festivities. It had really just at that moment occurred to me that Thomas was likely to be the odd man out in this group of older kids. Imagine, then,  how predictable surprising it was to hear Thomas crying as soon as I rounded the corner toward the basement.

When I got downstairs I found Andrew and a friend double-fisting sugary drinks and Thomas sobbing and swinging at his brother. Needless to say the college student in charge looked happy to see me. I stepped in between the boys and asked for some form of explanation. Thomas was so upset that I could not understand his crazed rant through his tears and Andrew, shockingly, had nothing to offer beyond a guilty grin.  I pulled Thomas away from the other kids and asked him to please stop sobbing and tell me what was wrong. That’s when he explained that Andrew was “putting stickers” on him. It wasn’t immediately clear to me why that was offensive so I called Andrew over to get his side of the story. Thomas was still – quite loudly – maintaining that Andrew was calling names with stickers on his back. 


I turned to Andrew and asked if this was true. He vigorously asserted that he had done no such thing. I almost believed him. But, the smirk on his buddy’s face and Thomas choosing that moment to turn his back on me gave him away. This was stuck squarely in the middle of Thomas’ cute little back:


Gosh. I wonder why Thomas would think Andrew was calling him names?

I hauled Andrew upstairs, marched him past the other parents, and sat him in a chair in the dark recess of an empty room. On the way I told him that he shouldn’t use words if he doesn’t know what they mean. That’s when he accurately told me that a Neanderthal was kind of like a caveman. While he sat in solitary, the dads all got a good laugh out of this and Mark took a picture. The educator in our group suggested that he should get a commuted sentence if he had spelled it correctly. Damn if he hadn’t.

I’m pleased to report that the rest of the evening went uphill but I can assure you that the next time Mark misbehaves I’m breaking this one out of the verbal toolbox.

September 27, 2012

Yin and yang

Things go in phases around here and right now we’re in a fort building phase. The boys spent last weekend, and much of this week, creating these structures on their bedroom floors. Thomas’ finally got so unwieldy that it toppled and then had to be put away because the 3,120 books (approximately) that had been used in its construction were obstructing the path between his bed and the bathroom. I love this activity for lots of reasons, with the chief reason being that it doesn’t involve electronics and it does involve a good deal of creativity. What I like most about it, however, is what it says about my kids and their styles.

Thomas’ fort was built with the express purpose of creating a home for all his “boys.” These stuffed animals are loved.


Notice there’s a bunk for each one of them and the Pillow Pets and Shamu get the penthouse.


At first glance this looks ramshackle but he put a great deal of thought into this and wanted to make sure each one had his own place. The majority of the books in this creation didn’t come from his bedroom and he carried them all by himself from all over the house up to his bedroom. When it was time to put it away – since we wouldn’t have passed a fire inspection with this in a pile in the middle of his room – he dutifully carried each book back to its rightful home with surprisingly little complaint.


Andrew’s fort is, well, not like this one. Interestingly, though, it took him longer to construct.


He’s more a modernist than his brother and each one of those books was chosen with purpose. He likes my old Advertising textbook because he thinks it’s an antique. (I swear. He really said it.) He likes the Lance Armstrong book because he still believes Lance to be a champion. Prime Obsession is there because it’s about math and he apparently likes prime numbers. How Things Are Made’s presence probably requires no explanation and To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street also has obvious meaning for him. He would want me to point out some of the lovely features of his fort, which include a garage. It’s not for stuffed animals, but for Lego cars.


When asked to describe Thomas’ fort, Andrew described it as a “mess” and “not well planned.” Thomas is steadfast in his stance that Andrew’s fort is “small and boring.”

I love that they have each other and that – occasional armed conflict aside – they’re pretty good buddies. BUT! Won’t it be fascinating to watch them grow and conquer this world from such different perspectives.

September 15, 2012

Argue with that

With collective practices and games, the boys have to put on their soccer gear, on average, five times a week. You would think with all the opportunity to get good at it their speed from start to finish would improve. It doesn't, however. Putting on shin guards, socks and shoes takes anywhere from five to 15 minutes, depending upon what level of focus we (I use that pronoun generously) possess on any given day. 

Thomas is usually much faster, but this morning when he was supposed to be getting ready for his game he was, instead, skipping around our bedroom and bathroom singing at the top of his lungs. When I finally whipped around and told him to PLEASE stop singing and put on his shoes he looked stunned and then smiled and said, "Alright, Mom. I'll do it, but I am just being joyful! What's so wrong with being joyful?"

Thomas, for the win.

August 23, 2012

Lane changes

It’s sometimes difficult to be honest with ourselves about who and what we really are.  If I’m honest I would say that I’m a solid writer, a trying-to-be-great mom, a passable cook, an awesome laundry doer, a slightly-better-than-average housekeeper, a hard worker and I’m loyal. I’m also a poor decision maker. I do it slowly and agonizingly. The process is usually not a model of efficiency in my life, where I am in so many ways quite efficient.

I was a reluctant student driver. I didn’t want to learn and driving scared me. There’s a lot to keep track of and I can still hear my mom telling me that it’s an awesome responsibility to operate a car. I believed her wholeheartedly (she was right) and I was completely overwhelmed. I was teased relentlessly by my family for my slow pace at stopping, starting and everything in between in the car.
Eventually I became comfortable enough with the wheel, and wanted to be able to drive to my job, that I prepared to get my license.  As was typical of my 16-year-old self, I passed the written test with flying colors. The examiner then took me out for the driving test and things were going well. We were returning to the DMV on a long straight stretch of a four-lane divided road and he asked me to make a right turn at the next street. My immediate reaction was that it didn’t feel like enough time to properly change lanes, signal and make the turn. I needed more time. Everything suddenly slowed to single frame motion and I slowly – painstakingly slowly – signaled and then sort of drifted into the right hand lane and fluidly drifted right into the turn. I knew that I hadn’t fully changed lanes but I had signaled and I hoped against hope that it would be alright.

It wasn’t. When we returned to the DMV he told me that I had done well except for where I made a right turn from the left lane. I wanted to argue. I wanted to tell him that he hadn’t given me enough notice to make the lane change properly. I wanted to say that I just needed more time to plan, but I didn’t. Instead, I went back the next day and took the test the second time to get my license. How embarrassing to have failed my driving test for making a right turn out of the left lane.  I wouldn’t let that happen again.

 I’ve made many actual unsignaled turns in my car since then, but I haven’t made many figurative ones. I’ve played it pretty safe in most ways. I’ve betrayed my generation’s reputation by working in the field in which I earned a degree, staying in the town in which I grew up to raise my own family and generally living in a way that’s not above my family’s means. I’ve had two jobs in 17 years and a nasty habit of driving cars until they fall apart rather than go out of fashion. I’m a real wild woman; the life of a party.  
Tomorrow, however, I’m making a right turn from the left lane. Tomorrow is my last day at my job of 11 years. Tomorrow I’m leaping into the world of part-time employment in a position that’s not likely to keep me awake at night. Tomorrow I’m walking away – at least temporarily – from a “career.” On Monday I’m starting a “job.” It doesn’t pay very well and I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing there. It feels reckless, lazy, terrifying, irresponsible and like a complete relief.

I didn’t get to this decision in a way that I would recommend to anyone. I got here like I usually do -  through tons of unproductive agonizing, lots of frustration, loads of guilt and a little counseling. (The counseling was actually a new touch.) I got here kind of like I changed lanes so many years ago. The signal’s been on but it’s been a slow-motion drift across the road.
I don’t know where this turn leads. It may lead to a roundabout that brings me right back where I started. It may lead to a dead end. (Please hope it doesn’t lead to a dead end.) With any luck it may lead to a whole new set of streets where the map is easy to read. I know for sure that it feels bittersweet. I’ve had an amazingly good gig in most ways and there are people lining up to take the job I’m leaving. I’ve been “in the know” and I’ve worn big girl clothes and people (some of them) have respected what I do. I know without doubt that I’ll miss much of that. And yet, I know I probably should have done this five years ago and it’s high time to go.

It’s time to actually sleep at 3 a.m. and it’s time to put the phone down and be in the moment with my kids. It’s time to be home when the boys have days off from school and it’s time to go back to cleaning my own toilets. It’s past time for my kids to have some downtime in their summers and some margin in their days. It’s also time for me to stop feeling guilty about what I’m not doing at work or what I’m not doing at home and just embrace whatever I can do right. Guilt’s a crappy emotion.
Tomorrow I’m going to finish cleaning out my desk and hand over my office keys. A part of me feels like that’s waving the proverbial white flag. It’s like I’m surrendering to the fact that I can’t effectively have it all; like I’m still the sixteen-year-old who is overwhelmed by the responsibility of being on the road and just drifts out of panic and not knowing what else to do.

 I also think that perhaps it’s actually the first time in a lot of years that I’ve made a conscious decision to do something that even requires a turn signal. Maybe it’s not a white flag but a green flag, marking the start of an open lap. Whatever it is, it’s happening and I feel strangely at peace about it. In the 23 years since I had to retake my driving test I’ve learned that more often than not you don’t get a second chance and you better seize it when you can. I haven’t done a good job of that to date but tomorrow I’m turning the corner.


August 13, 2012

You be the judge

Thomas' summer camp announced way back in the spring that they would be closed today so the school's entire staff could attend traning together. August was so far away, but at the time I checked the calendar what stood out to me was that it could be like a last hurrah day before school started. I boldly noted it on my work calendar as a vacation day and didn't think much more about it.

As the day rolled around, we toyed with the idea of going to a waterpark today and when that wasn't going to work out I felt like I should let the boys plan some sort of adventure to make it different than any other day at home. After a summer of 100+ temperatures more days than not, today arrived with a high of 75 degrees and cloud cover that made it almost chilly until mid-afternoon. After much discussion we decided to head to a miniature golf course and hit the links.

We drove 25 minutes to get to a "Gooney Golf" locale and we were all three in good spirits. Andrew was, in fact, in high spirits. He had to be reminded more than once to stop pretending to be at the driving range and to stop slamming his club into the dirt like a hammer. My patience was, admittedly, a little thin after having to ask him to please keep control of his club (conservatively) fouteen times before we reached the third hole. 

On the fifth hole, Andrew hit a patch of rough luck and had a hard time getting the ball past an obstacle. Adding insult to injury was that his brother had not had the same trouble. After finally getting the ball in the hole, I asked him how many putts to record for him. He paused a minute and tossed out a number that I knew wasn't quite accurate. I looked at him and asked him if he wanted to try again. He didn't. He was sure that his first three putts didn't count because they were "bounce backs." I let it go. On the next hole, I had a "bounce back" and when I asked him if it counted, he assured me it did. We went back and forth like that for a few holes. Him shaving points off his total, me grumbling about it.

At about hole 10 he became very excited because apparently the last time he was there with Grandma and Grandpa, he got a hole in one. He confidently hit it off the tee and it richocheted all over the place. Three putts later he got mad and took his ball off the green. I stepped up and, miraculously, hit a hole in one. He lost it.

That's when I did this:

I still can't decide which one of us should be most embarrassed by our poor sportsmanship. Him for cheating or me for freaking out about it. Actually, I know the answer. Just don't judge me for it. It's tough to learn how to raise an emotional copy of yourself.

July 20, 2012

No respect

Thomas and I were cruising down the street earlier this week and he was, as he’s apt to do when he’s not competing with his brother for air time, telling me a big story from the backseat. He seemed to be questioning whether I was listening so he asked me to repeat a piece of the tale, I think just to test me. Amazingly, I answered correctly. He was appropriately impressed and then he said, “Mom, are you the smartest person in Kansas?”

I was going to assure him I wasn’t, but I was also admittedly flattered and amused so I paused a second before responding.

In that split second of dead air, he chuckled and just as I was about to speak he said, “Never mind. OF COURSE NOT. I forgot about dad!”

July 14, 2012

Like a blur

This summer, maybe even more than those of years past, is moving in a blur. This opinion piece from the New York Times has been making the rounds in email and facebook and if I would find the time to read it I would likely find that it describes our family’s summer pace quite aptly. Aside from the normal commitments of work, laundry and feeding of boys, this summer has been particularly full of sports.We’ve had swimming, baseball, soccer and general forward movement happening nearly every day since school ended in May. And, just when I’m feeling like our daily dose of sports might just run us into the ground, we have days that are so much fun I can’t imagine not having experienced them.

Andrew’s summer camp stages an annual triathlon for the kids. They spend two weeks “training” during their pool and outdoor times and the result is the Raintree Ironkids Triathlon. Andrew participated in the intermediate version which meant that he swam four down-and-back laps of the pool, rode four laps of the bike loop and ran four laps around the pond. The kids were marked with numbers just like in a real triathlon and it was a total hoot to watch.

Waiting for his heat to start.

Finishing up his last lap. He was in dog paddle mode by this point!

tri transition
In the transition area between swimming and biking.

MVI 2639 from Susan Henderson on Vimeo.
Pausing, oh so briefly, to have his lap marked during the run.

In true Montessori fashion, there are no winners announced in this event and every racer is made to feel like the top finisher. He loved the whole experience and I would be a little surprised if this goes down in the history books as his last triathlon.

The Tour of Lawrence bicycle races fell on the following weekend and Andrew felt like maybe he’d had enough exercise for the week but Thomas was not deterred. He and I headed downtown bright and early on a VERY HOT Sunday morning so he could complete the Kids’ Fun Run on Massachusetts Street. He brought home bragging rights as the fastest six-year-old on the street that day. This kid frequently hears that his brother is fast so for him to feel like he was too that day was priceless.

MVI 2651 from Susan Henderson on Vimeo.

Way to go, T!
The biggest single time slurp of the summer – aside from the already mentioned work, laundry and feeding – has been, without question, baseball. Thomas just completed his inaugural six games of t-ball and I regret that while I have some pictures, they’re not very good. The lens is clouded with dust from the field and my focus wasn’t great, which might have been due to sweat dripping in my eyes. His mid-day games weren’t ideal in this summer’s heat.  If you asked him he would tell you baseball isn’t his thing; he didn’t really dig all the waiting around. We’ll encourage him to play again next year, because his enduring memory of this season might be that he had to stand in the outfield and sweat off his sunscreen.

Andrew’s baseball season with the DCABA Royals also just concluded. His was a 14-game regular season and we tacked on a league tournament at the end for good measure. While there were definitely times when the season felt long, it was pretty fun to watch the kids improve each game and, let’s be honest, we all love a winner. They finished their season at 13-4 and won their league tournament last night. I am frequently heard complaining that Lawrence feels pretty small some days, but last night was a great reminder of the benefits of small town living. The league championship game was played at Free State High School. That means that two teams of seven, eight and nine-year-old boys got to play out their final game under the lights, on state-of-the-art turf, with real dugouts and a real scoreboard and a real announcer.

The boys’ very wise coach had them practice how to graciously tip their cap as they were introduced during the pre-game, but Andrew was caught off guard by hearing his name again. He was first in the rotation last night and as he approached home to start the game, the announcer called his name and number as the first batter.  Andrew momentarily froze and looked around to figure out where that voice had come from, not anticipating that he would be called to the plate. At that moment it occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever had my name called in that way and I was pretty darn happy to live in this little town where a youth baseball game draws a crowd of supportive organizers, parents, grandparents and family friends to support a bunch of great boys.

Pre-game introductions

Getting some hardware that he would have slept in last night if allowed.

Your Douglas County Amateur Baseball Association American League Champion Royals!

Number 4 on the field, number 1 in this mom’s heart.

The goals for what's left of summer are to soak up all the pool time possible, eat dinner at a normal hour with more frequency and enjoy each blurry moment.

June 19, 2012

On honesty

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
-Spencer Johnson

For the second summer running, we’ve purchased a subscription to a CSA through the boys’ preschool. I love everything about it. We’re supporting local farmers, we’re eating vegetables that I probably wouldn’t buy at the store like Napa Cabbage and beets and it’s a total steal when you break down the cost.

Each Thursday afternoon we pick up a bag of fresh produce when I get Thomas from camp. An area farmer brings the goods to the school, along with recipes and cooking suggestions, and we often even get to make some choices. This week we could choose between garlic or basil (basil) and kale or broccoli. Andrew was helping me choose and he knew he was going to have to eat some of everything and he knows he doesn’t like broccoli so kale it was.

Tonight I turned that huge bunch of kale into what seemed to be only a few kale chips. They were, if I do say so myself, delicious. Like, I could hardly get them to the table without eating them all good. I gave the boys each a chip and asked them to try it. Andrew ate his and announced that while he didn’t think they were as good as I did, they were “alright” and there was no gagging or excessive milk drinking accompanying the process.

Thomas took a little bite and then just sort of busied himself with eating pasta. When I asked him what he thought he said, “Well, they might have been good if you’re into eating leaves, which I’m not.”

That, according to the aforementioned Spencer Johnson, is integrity and honesty all rolled into one six-year-old boy.

May 29, 2012

Welcome to my world

This photo pretty much sums up the phase of life we’re in at the House of Hondo right now. I live with a bunch of boys and the two littlest ones play hard. The crazy thing is that I love these stinky, dirty feet like there’s no tomorrow.


Tonight, when it’s time to shower them up, we’ll work together to scrub them until they shine so he can do it all over again tomorrow.

May 14, 2012

With friends like that...

After the boys showered tonight Thomas came to the kitchen seeking assistance with a stubborn pajama shirt sleeve. As I turned the offending sleeve right side out, Andrew was in the bathroom making hideously loud noises in his best "fake opera voice." I yelled at him asked him politely to please stop. He paused for one beat and went right back to his shrieking, but perhaps just a notch louder.

At this point Thomas was finished putting on his pajamas and was heading upstairs to brush teeth. He was pretty focused on being the first one to the bathroom and was making his way out of the kitchen.

When Andrew started singing again I looked at Mark and said, "Did you hear that? He clearly heard me ask him to stop and then went right back after it just to annoy me. I should go swat his bottom."

With that, Thomas whipped around and said, excitedly, "NO! DON'T GO!"

For a split second I thought it was very sweet that he was concerned I would really go do that. Then he finished his thought. "Dad should go. He's much stronger!"

That is love, folks.

May 6, 2012

Setting the bar high

I made a trek into Kansas City last weekend for a gathering of friends from college. There were almost 20 of us and there was tons of good food, good drinks and laughing. The occasion was a birthday celebration for a friend who was visiting from Chicago. Before she lived in the Windy City she spent years in Africa (I know, sounds just like my life, right?!) so most of us hadn’t seen her in many moons. 

As I sat and talked with her we both commented that the shared history in the room was pretty interesting. There is certainly something about spending four years living with people, during a formative period of your life, that connects you even decades later, in a very good and comfortable way. We also talked about the fact that those types of friendships become more difficult to replicate as you get older and life feels busier. We agreed that our college experience had set the bar high for future meaningful friendships with other women but that you just have to keep putting yourself out there.


Little did I know that while I was enjoying good company and dinner, my family was literally setting the bar high at the local high school track. I often read that kids in America aren’t getting enough exercise and are busy watching television and joining an obesity epidemic. I believe it’s happening and I believe it’s a problem, but it’s just not one I can relate to right now. I’m sure the day will come, when they’re teenagers and decide that sleep is pretty cool, that our boys will be couch potatoes but for now it’s not on our list of issues.  I sometimes find myself asking if they would like to watch a show because it’s possible that I might need them to sit down for 30 minutes. One of their very favorite activities is to go to the track to run and mess around in the long jump pits. Mark probably takes them once every 32 times they ask to go, but those odds never deter them. They’re persistent little buggers.

This video gives little snippets of what they love to do up there, and I promise that while it appears Mark is really putting them through their paces, they literally beg for this abuse. (My proof is at :03 where Thomas says, "Anyway, we really NEED this exercise.") If you’re not inclined to watch the whole clip, just check out the 1:30 mark, where Thomas shows us all what can happen if the bar’s too high and how to get back on the horse and just keep trying.

Henderson boys at the track…

April 15, 2012

A shout out to the free market

Andrew recently completed a unit with the Junior Achievement program at school. There was lots of good work that came home in that folder, but this gem stood out to me. Have you ever really stopped to think about all the businesses and service providers it takes to make our little capitalistic society spin round and round?  Don’t forget the little people. Or the Yak Rodeo.



March 25, 2012

Spring break by the numbers

I like to believe it’s not so much that I'm not a numbers person as it is that I am a word person. I rarely think numerically and, as the length of my average blog post will illustrate, I definitely think in narrative. This week, though, I’ve got numbers on the brain. It might be because our beloved Jayhawks played their hearts out in the Final Four, or the fact that Thomas turned six last week or, maybe, that Andrew played four soccer games last weekend. The reason isn’t yours to question but rather to rejoice. I’m going to recap our Spring Break trip to visit Butch, RoRo, Maria, Eric and the collective cousins in California by the numbers. Here goes:

37 – the number of seconds it took for all the kids to disappear into the house to play together once we arrived in Claremont this trip.

45 – the number of minutes after they disappeared before we saw them again.

1 – the number of days each of our boys spent, individually, with Aunt Maria in her first grade classroom. I worried they might not think it was fun to go to school during spring break. I worried for not. They loved it.

13 – the number of times Thomas marveled at the layout of California schools, which have no interior hallways and instead open to an outdoor courtyard.

18 – the number of miles we drove from Butch and RoRo’s house to reach the Mt. Baldy Ski Area with the boys. We threw snowballs since we haven’t done that at home this winter. (Global warming is real, people.)

mt baldy boys


Andrew baldy

72 – the number of times Thomas told us he didn’t like the curvy mountain road and asked to go back to Butch and RoRo’s house on said trip up the mountain. We assured him he would love it at the top. He did not love it at the top. You win some, you lose some.

17 – the number of notes I found in the boys’ bedroom during the week with floor plans of the house drawn on one side and narrative on the other that said, “Susan and Maria talking again. RoRo laughing. Butch watching television. Mark on computer. Eric texting.” The Spy Game evolved this trip into hours of entertainment.  The kids sneak around the house “spying” on - and “whispering” about - the adults and they take notes on what they find. The adults go about their business pretending as if we can’t see the kids, per their request. The Spy Game is a win-win.

58 – the number of times my kids asked Butch when he would get out the Model A so they could go for a drive.

58 – the miles per hour all the kids moved, as they raced toward the Model A, when Butch surprised us at the playground offering rides on a beautiful afternoon.

5 – the number of kids Maria had sleeping in her house on the Tuesday night of our visit. “Hooray for sleepovers,” says the woman who went home and slept in a big quiet house with three other adults.



4:45 a.m. – the time that Zac and Andrew woke Maria up on the morning after the sleepover. No need to worry; they were just going to feed the dog and play Mario Kart. “Hilarious. They’re so helpful,” says the woman who was sound asleep in a big quiet house with three other adults at 4:45 a.m.

34 – the length of the largest T. Rex at the LA Natural History Museum, which we visited the next day. His name is Thomas, which we obviously found charming. RoRo purchased t-shirts for all the kids and I was that mom, asking museum staff to please check the back room, because we really needed the Thomas the T. Rex shirt in the right size!!!

4,000 – the number of Dire Wolves it is estimated have been pulled from the tar at the La Brea Tar Pits. We visited there after the Natural History Museum and it was fascinating for most of us.

kids nhm

1 – the number of people in our party who weren’t so impressed by the Tar Pits. I won’t name names, but someone whose name rhymes with “hair” was most disappointed to find out that all the animals available for viewing at the Tar Pits were dead. I believe the quote was, “Where are all the alive animals?” and when the answer was, “There aren’t any. They died in the tar,” the response was, “This place is stupid.”

4 – the number of Henderson/Tucker children who ended up with tar on some part of their body as we wandered the grounds. That place is nuts; the tar is still bubbling in pits and is literally seeping from the ground mere feet from the sidewalk.

1 – the number of Henderson/Tucker children who were still awake when we arrived home that evening. Andrew. Of course. He had only been up since 4:45 a.m.

3 – the number of hours of adult conversation, great food and beer we enjoyed with the Tuckers that evening while our collective kids were in the care of babysitters and RoRo. As always, the gift of being related to people you like and who make you laugh is not lost on me.

45- the number of miles we drove the next day to have a delicious lunch in Long Beach and enjoy a Harbor Cruise. We could see snowy Mt. Baldy from the boat. Crazy.

kids harbor

2 – the number of rides we let the kids enjoy at the Santa Monica Pier, where we journeyed after Long Beach. Watching Luke, Claire and Thomas ride the bumper cars was worth the price of admission. Afterwards they got to touch the very cold Pacific Ocean and we took the scenic route along the beach back to the car.


2.5 – the number of hours it took us to make the return journey to Butch and RoRo’s that night. It’s a 50-mile drive; I’ll let you do that math. We only had one child end up car sick and it only took 30 chicken nuggets and five Sprites to keep them quiet enough to make it possible for Maria to navigate the route.


3 – the number of miles that Mark told me we would be hiking on Friday morning in the beautiful foothills of the Claremont Wilderness Park.

5 – the number of miles we actually hiked on our last morning in the foothills. It was so worth it and something I want to do again with the boys, next time with some water.  

2 – the number of minutes we saw of the KU vs. NC State basketball when we arrived home after an easy day of travel. Rock Chalk!

128 – the number of times the boys have asked if we can return to California this summer for more family time, in the 10 days we’ve been home.

We had a great trip and can’t thank Butch, RoRo and the Tuckers enough for all the good food, accommodations and company. We’re very, very lucky indeed!


p.s. I had vowed when we left for CA that I would not write another blog post before I recapped our late-December journey to Florida to see Mickey and his friends. That trip, it turns out, is overwhelming to blog. Stay tuned, though!

March 13, 2012

Big ideas

Andrew is beginning to be able to grasp, and be interested in, increasingly abstract concepts. He has also, since he could talk, been a perpetual question asker. Those two facets of his personality can combine for fascinating conversation these days. They can also collide and make him completely frustrating.

On Sunday, when he wanted to know all about Daylight Savings Time and how it works and why we observe it, I found that endearing. That evening, when he took it upon himself to explain to Thomas how Daylight Savings Time works and concluded emphatically with the fact that it wasn't really 8:30 p.m. and therefore they shouldn't really go to bed, I found that...not endearing.

Sometimes his newfound knowledge is too much for him; his ability to absorb outpaces his ability to reason. He's learning about all types of severe weather at school right now. Want to know about the jetstream and the factors that influence it? Just ask him. He'll discuss it with you. Want to have to reassure him multiple times in an evening that the conditions aren't currently favorable for cool, dry air aloft to collide with warm moist air closer to the ground? Come on over.

Long about December 1st he informed us that he basically didn't believe in Santa. We eventually had to have a talk about Santa being representative of an idea, an emotion, a notion. He seemed to get it. He has, however, recently informed me that he definitely doesn't believe in the Tooth Fairy. I tried the Santa logic and he said he would go with it because he likes the $2 but he doesn't think the tooth fairy is representative of something bigger. Hmmm.

This ability to think in less concrete ways can sometimes lead me to talk to him in a way that belies his age. I occasionally find myself conversing with him as if he's 16 instead of eight. (Especially when he's using his knowledge for evil.) That's why what happened tonight in our backyard was so good for both of us.

He and Thomas spent close to an hour just messing around outside with our backyard neighbor boy. That sounds so Norman Rockwell, and it would be, if they weren't doing this on opposite sides of the fence. To actually get the boys together on one side of the fence requires a walk that's somewhere around 1/3-mile, because of the way the streets wrap around one another. Tonight, as they do many nights, they settled for talking at the fence, passing rocks through the slats and throwing a football back and forth as if that fence wasn't even there.

When I called my boys in for dinner, Andrew hit the kitchen asking for an empty Kleenex box, a penny and a stick. After I pointed him to a penny it dawned on me to ask. Why? Because. The neighbor boy has a really good idea about how you could make a Leprechaun trap. They're going to try it before Saturday. Andrew told Max he would be in charge of those supplies. Max is getting the cheese for the inside.

Ah, yes! It's all coming back to me. They're only eight. I want to keep him that way.

March 2, 2012

Scene from the shower

As he exited the shower tonight, I asked Thomas if he had washed well.

I did. I washed my arms, my feet, my everything that I’m supposed to wash.”

thomas smile

I praised him for his work and then he confidently added, “I didn’t wash my face, though, because, well…you know why.”

I don’t actually know why so I took the bait and asked.

“Well, because it’s not the right month for that, mom.”

Curiosity got the better of me and I asked him in what months he did think he was supposed to wash his face.

“Well, usually just in January and it’s good that’s over!”

February 26, 2012

I raise you a javelin

Andrew is generally believed to be a reasonably intelligent child, which makes the fact that he managed to get his “good” soccer ball stuck in a tree today totally irritating baffling. Apparently he didn’t remember that those trees are in possession of numerous sporting goods captured by their upward arcing branches. He was genuinely surprised, after he and a friend threw a soccer ball as high as they could in the general direction of the tree, that it became lodged 25 feet above the ground. He pleaded with me to get it down but I assured him I had no tricks up my sleeve that would allow me to reach that ball. Mark, who had been outside,  heard the commotion and silently disappeared. I assumed that he was silently disappearing so that I could handle the situation without his interference. (Insert eye roll here…)

Imagine my surprise when he reappeared seconds later dragging a very long cardboard tube behind him. That tube? It looked familiar. That tube has been leaning in the corner of our garage for the last 10 years. That garage? We’re not quite ready for Hoarders, but we can see it from here. I’ve inquired about that long cardboard tube several times in the last 10 years. “Are we seriously keeping this?” “What are you EVER going to do with that?” “Do you really think anyone will use that again?” 

That tube? It holds a javelin. I’ll give you a second here to wonder why in the world we would have a javelin in our garage. The answer is that we apparently have a javelin in our garage to dislodge soccer balls from Bradford Pear trees.

javelin 2

Every experience has the potential to be a teaching moment. What I learned this afternoon was that even though I’m the parent that prepares 82% of my kids’ meals, does 74% of their laundry,  and does 99% of any caretaking that happens between 9 p.m.and 7 a.m., I will never be their favorite.  Why? Because I don’t know squat about a javelin.

In less than 30 seconds, Mark expertly pulled the javelin far enough out of its cardboard home to make the total reach long enough to push the soccer ball to freedom, which elicited cheers from Andrew, Thomas and the playmate. Then? He let them each have a turn to throw the javelin. He showed three small boys how to throw a very long, metal, pointed object in our backyard.

I quit.

I watched this nonsense from the deck and decided that if I couldn’t win the favored parent award I might as well try to throw a javelin. It turns out that I suck at that and should stick to laundry. Mark was, predictably, the only one of us that could actually make it stick in the ground.
javelin 1

I document all of this mostly as a reminder to myself. We all have our special gifts and we all make our contributions to the family unit. There will come a time, probably this week, when I feel a little sorry for myself, what with the 82% of feeding and 74% of the laundry and all, and this will serve as a good reminder. It takes a village to raise a couple of great little men and I am grateful that their dad is capable of doing 26% of the laundry and a far greater percentage of the stuff that they’ll actually remember when they’re older.

p.s. Any of you who are related to us should consider yourselves potential character witnesses should Andrew’s playmate’s parents call into question why in the world we let their child throw a javelin in our backyard today!

February 11, 2012

Robbing Peter to pay Paul, or something like that

At the beginning of each month, Andrew sits down with the new school lunch schedule and circles the ones he wants to eat and crosses out the ones he doesn't. Those big X marks translate to the desire for a sack lunch.

School lunch is $2.25, and while I know that I can prepare him a sandwich, fruit and yogurt from home for less, I have to admit that when we encounter a week with multiple X marks across the lunch calendar a part of me winces. School lunch is easier - for me - than packing a lunch. And, at my core, I'm pretty lazy. Most mornings the prospect of spending $2.25 for him to eat a hot lunch and drink a little carton of milk seems like a good trade.  

When his lunch account balance dips below $4.50, the school district sends me a little love note reminding me that it's time to add money to his card. I got that call this week and when I logged in to make a deposit, I noticed that his balance available seemed like an odd amount. I went ahead and added what should be approximately three months worth of lunch money and then, just on a whim, went to look at his transaction history.

Imagine my surprise to see that there has been hardly a day in the last two months when his lunch transaction DIDN'T include either an extra side, typically in the form of an extra roll with butter, or an extra milk. I can get on board with a roll and butter and it's hard to argue with the extra milk. However, the extra ENTREE he's been adding to his tab? Well, now; those are adding up with their alarming frequency. 

This probably explains why his pants are all too short. Looks like it's time to do more early-morning lunch packing so we can save our pennies for new clothes.

January 26, 2012

It works

The boys were at my parents’ house earlier this week and my mom found an old science riddle book that they (all) found entertaining. She read them nearly every question in the book, which were all science-based in some way, and most also had some little play on words or funny pun worked into them.

Thomas was really into it and really wanted to be able to come up with an answer. He was as eager a student as he knows how to be and was going with the premise that if he tossed out a bunch of answers, it improved his chances of one sticking. Andrew was less interested in tossing out just any answer and was thinking with furrowed brow about his responses, priding himself more on accuracy. That’s why his reaction when Grandma posed this riddle was so funny to me:

“What has six legs and flies south for the winter?”

Without hesitation Andrew said, confidently, in a way only he can, “Three geese!”


p.s. the answer is Monarch butterfly…

January 21, 2012

An apology

Dear Mark,
I recently mentioned here that you had a man cold and that it was debilitating you. I was using your sickness for attempted humor. Now that I have contracted the man cold I can clearly see the difference. It's bad. I am sorry. As soon as my speaking voice returns, we'll get a good laugh out of this video


January 13, 2012

Starting where I am

We’re 13 days into 2012 and for 10 of those I have been meaning to update the ol’ blog site with a well-crafted post. I need (want) to write about our holiday celebrations that were replete with family and fun. I need to document our amazing post-Christmas vacation to the happiest place on earth with dozens of photos that should really be narrated before I forget the details (and the hilarity) that can surround a traveling party of 10. We truly had so much fun.

family disney

However, as my wise mother-in-law recently reminded me, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  I also recently read that the best way to move forward is to just start where you are. How profound. So, here we are.

Since we returned from Florida we’ve been embroiled in Life. We re-acclimated to school and work, which was easier for the kids than me, and we’ve also been running an infirmary.Our sweet Madeline dog had a spleenectomy last week to get things rolling and since she came home we’ve been busy keeping her off the stairs while she heals. That’s a full-time job because her interest in said stairs has quadrupled since they’ve been taboo. We heard from the veterinarian today that the tumors they removed defied the laws of probability and were benign. We feel good about electing to have the surgery and when the kids want to know why their college accounts aren’t fully-funded we’ll remind them about the extra years we bought with the best last dog we've ever owned. (I jest, I jest. We love her and are very pleased that she seems to feel better than she has in months.)

Last Saturday at 9 p.m., when the kids should have been in bed as I was wrote a brilliant trip recap, I was instead watching Chopped and the boys were roughhousing in the basement. They were fighting over a football and were in a standoff on opposite sides of a chair. At the exact moment I opened my mouth to intervene, Thomas surprised his brother by making a move toward him over the chair instead of around it. Andrew, of lightning quick reflexes, flew out from around the chair and had almost escaped his brother’s grasp when he thwacked his foot on a corner of the wall.  Hard.  We then got to have one of those parenting moments where we make a decision without speaking out loud to one another. That decision was, “sure looks gotched but we’re not taking a kid to the ER for a gotched toe on a Saturday night.”  That’s when we sent him to bed with some ice and a dose of Motrin.

By Sunday morning it looked worse so I consulted facebook. Facebook told me that there’s no reason to take a kid to a doctor for a broken toe because “they” “never” do anything for a broken toe. When he spent the entire day on the couch with it elevated we knew something might actually be wrong, however, and decided that we couldn’t even bear to buddy tape them because it was obviously out of line and we suspected that maybe it was just jammed but didn’t want to make it worse.

So, on Monday morning, right after he delivered me home from having four wisdom teeth extracted, Mark took him to the doctor. She ordered an x-ray and Mark took him back to school.  Andrew's desk chair had barely had time to get warm when the doctor's nurse called our home. I was in no shape to talk because of the gauze filling my mouth, the ice packs on my face and the general fuzziness that results from anesthesia so I hazily told my mom to talk with her. When I heard, “Oh, two toes? A boot? For how long? When do we do this?” I just reached for another pain pill.

My dad went to have Andrew called out of class and, as he drove him to the doctor’s office, broke the news that he’ll be wearing a little walking boot on his foot for the next four weeks.  FOUR WEEKS. He’s been a great trouper. It’s a big shoe on a little leg.  The lesson here is that if you’re going to break toes, don’t break them where they meet your foot. Break them near the tips where there is indeed nothing to be done for you.

andrew boot

Poor Thomas actually lost a tooth at school that day and there was so much commotion with my throbbing face and Andrew’s new fashion accessory that he forgot to tell us until dinnertime. Needless to say, my parents and Mark earned stars for their crowns this week for dealing with the rest of us.


The bad news is that Mark has now developed a cold that isn't bad enough to keep him away from the gym or work, but it is a mancold, which is the worst variety, so he's as bad off as the rest of us. The good news is that we’re not actually all that bad off, we’ve got some good stories from the week and 2012 is off to a rollicking start!