Friday, September 20, 2013


In an interview I once saw with Mike Myers, he revealed that there was big pressure to be funny in his family.  If a visitor came to their house and was not witty enough, his dad would say, “Not funny.  Can’t come in.”

I’m happy to announce that if Mike Myers’ dad were alive today and Charlie VanHimbergen walked through his front door, it wouldn’t take long before Myers’ dad would be slapping his knee and offering Charlie a seat on the couch and a bag of Cheetos (or whatever it is that they serve guests in Canada).

He does impressions, makes faces, wears silly costumes, and does a killer robot dance.  Sometimes, he’s two-year-old funny.  The kind of funny that just comes from being two and saying things like, “I bonked my pants!” or shouting at me from beneath his blankie, “MOMMY, I’M SCARED OF MY CONDITIONER!”  But other times, he’s got a way of spinning a laugh with a twinkle in his eye and a sly side-grin that reveals he knows exactly how to play his audience.

It’s hard to say when we first started to pick up on his general hilarity, but we could probably trace it back to last fall, when at not yet two years old he would drop to his knees, tuck his head and shuffle aggressively across the hardwood floor to the great big crescendo moment in Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.”  It’s reminiscent of Ferris Bueller or just about any 1980’s Michael J. Fox movie.  Not quite up to Napoleon Dynamite standards, but give him time.

But even better than his comedic rhythm and his nutso hair is the distinct quality of his voice.  He’s got this awesome sort of rasp/growl that comes from deep in his throat as if he had been smoking Marlboro Reds for nine months in utero.  When he was a baby, we would hear the rasp/rattle in his breathing and my dad urged me to ask the pediatrician about it.  She told us some kids just have it.  And Charlie, much like Owen Meany, does.  Thank God.

After we watched Princess and the Frog, he walked around the house for at least a week yelling, “ESTELLA!” in the voice of John Goodman.  He’s passionate about Billy Joel's "PRESSURE!" and Marcus Mumford’s, “LOVER OF THE LIGHT!” and "Awake My Soul," which he thinks is, "PUT AWAY MY SWORD!"  But my personal favorite is his perfect impression of Roz, the secretary/secret chief of Monsters Inc. who has the voice of an old New Yorker who’s recently had her nails done in Fire Engine Red while puffing away at a box of cigarettes.  He’ll look you right in the eye and transform himself as he says, “I’m watching you, Wazowski.  Always watching.  Always.”  

It’s amazing.  I roar every time.

It’s not just what he repeats though.  He’s an original too.  His inherent love of escalators, elevators, double decker-decker buses, golf, and Michael Jackson are constantly in play at relevant and irrelevant points in the day.  Every night, when we ask him what he wants to thank God for, his answer is, “I want to thank God for golfing and the driver’s range” and when Finny tries to get him to leave his backyard golf game to play something else, he growls like a grumpy old man, “I’M TRYING TO PLAY GOLF!” [Grandparents, take note:  this kid needs a pair of plaid pants and a Bobby Jones golf cap for his birthday.]

Every morning when I put gel in his hair, he asks me to make him look like Michael Jackson, and he frequently tells me that I look kinda like Michael Jackson myself, which I can only guess is because of my pale complexion…or because my fifth nose job didn't turn out quite right.

Between the two of them, we have a constant laugh track going in our house.  Sometimes they drive me crazy with how destructive and whiny and messy and mischievous they are.  But it’s pretty clear that they’ve got my number when I forget how angry I am about the baby powder, the toilet paper, the spilled juice, or the Sharpie marker because I’m laughing too hard to care.

Charlie, Mike Myers’ dad is no doubt saving a seat for you at the funny table in heaven.  In the meantime, I’m so blessed to have you seated at my funny table making me shoot grilled cheese and tomato soup out of my nose.

DISCLAIMER:  Charlie's mother wrote this. There may be a sliiiight bias.  I'm sure everyone thinks they have the funniest kid alive, but that's likely only because they haven't met mine.

Wazowski Links:  Click below to see the likeness.  It's uncanny.


Friday, September 13, 2013


Today is Friday.  And not just any old Friday.  Today is the first Friday I sit by myself with my computer and a cup of coffee, while both my boys are in school.  There was no crying from any of us.  We are glad to be together.  We are glad to be apart. 

It’s impossible to describe the joy I felt at their births, and it’s impossible to describe the joy I feel when I step out, on my own, with two hours to form complete thoughts in the quiet of my own brain.
There is great joy in riding in the car with Charlie.
“Mommy, I see a digger!  A city bus!  A sign that says ‘Bump’!  The mumber 100!”

“Mommy, I like this song.  Who sings this song?  Mommy, it’s Florence and the Machine!  It’s ‘Lover of the Light’!  It’s ‘I Know You Want It’!”
“Mommy, can we go to the car wash?  The children’s museum?  Choo-Choo Bob’s?  Trader Joe’s?”

There is also great joy in riding, just riding in the car, music on, empty backseat. 
I know, I know.  Someday all my kids will be in school all day and I’ll be alone and sad that this precious time is over.  But today, I am not sad or lonely or nostalgic for the past.  Today, I am rejoicing that I can have my blueberry scone and eat it too.  That I can have time with my children and time to myself too.

One is not always the loneliest number.  Sometimes, it’s the best number, full and beaming as it sits there staring out the window from a table in Starbucks, anonymous and all by itself.




“He’s sooooo hard.”

I find myself saying this a lot lately, as I sigh, or cry, or glug back a big sip of Chardonnay.

He yells and screams and hits and pushes and growls and snarls and sometimes spits.
“He’s so haaarrrrd.”

He runs from me when it’s time to get dressed or brush his teeth or go potty or leave the park.  He rarely just says, “Ok,” to anything I need him to do that resembles a normal function of the day.
“He’s soooooo haaaarrrrd.”

When he washes his hands, he becomes mesmerized by the way the water looks as it falls through his fingers and around his palms.  If I wasn’t there to gently squeeze his shoulder, he’d stand there all morning in a trance.  He frequently walks out of the bathroom with his pants around his ankles, as if that 3 second step in the process was just too hard or boring for him to complete.  In fact, most things take a long time because he sees another world entirely unfolding around him.  He has a constant storyline unfolding in his head, and he notices every detail of a room.
He has a wonderful memory.  He’ll tell you so himself.  He can remember movie lines and commercial slogans or people he met when he was two and hasn’t seen since.  Details of tunnel slides at parks we went to once a year ago.  Pages from books we checked out at the library and read twice.

But, he can never remember where he puts things down.  “Where’s my chapstick?  My transformer?  My  baby lion?  My water bottle?”
He is too concerned with the big picture, life’s joys (Can I have a treat?), heaven (When I’m an angel, will I still be a boy or will I be a girl?) to focus on the tasks that all of us have to complete as a part of getting on with the day.

And it’s sooooo haaaarrrd to have these constant battles all day long.  I hate to be a nag, and yet, I’m reduced to it because if I weren’t, his teeth would rot out of his mouth, he’d pee his pants, the dirt would start growing things in his fingernails, he’d have a terrible sunburn, and he’d starve.  To death.  Because I wasn’t standing there over him telling him to have one more bite of banana before he can be excused.
Or would he?

Exasperated, I told my mom how frustrated I was over these little conflicts Finny and I have all day long about the bare necessities, and she suggested, “Leave him alone for a day.  Go about your morning, take care of Charlie and give up the fight.  See what happens.”
I liked that idea.  (Which is not a small victory for my mom, who often tells me I was the hard one.)

So, I tried it.  The next day, we had to run an errand with a promise of a visit to the park afterwards.  I gave Finny his clothes and told him it was time to get dressed.  He got lost in a toy.  I proceeded to change Charlie.  “Okay," I marched on, "Time to brush teeth!”  Charlie ran into the bathroom ready for me to scrub the dinosaurs out of his mouth.  Finny got lost on the way there, distracted by a toy car sitting in the sink of his toy kitchen.
“Okay, let’s get shoes on.  Time to go.”

Out on the porch, I helped Charlie with his shoes, and Finny sat down to put his own shoes on, when it dawned on him—“Hey, I didn’t get dressed or brush my teeth!”
“Nope, you didn’t.  Time to go.  You’ll just have to go in your pajamas.”

He smiled.  His eyes glittered.  Cool, he thought.  I knew the teeth would not instantly rot out of his mouth, but I was waiting for some sort of natural consequence to tell him this was not as cool as he thought it was.
And then it came.  In the checkout line at Target.  Two little girls in front of us said, “Hey, is he wearing his pajamas?  Why is he wearing his pajamas?”  I replied with an inner smile, “Yep, he didn’t bother to get dressed today.”  Finny got lost in the candy display.

We moved on to the park.  After climbing and running, swinging and tunnel-sliding at the park, I thought surely he would begin to see the error in his ways, when he noticed how hot he felt in his long-legged pajamas, until I realized the long-legged pajamas were actually allowing him to go down slides that were too hot for Charlie’s bare legs.

Finally, my big moment came when we went over to a shaded area of Wolfe Park and another little boy called him out again, “Hey, why is he wearing pajamas to the park?”
The boy walked away and Finny said, “Why do people keep asking why I’m wearing my pajamas?”

I nodded, knowingly, and swept in for the big lesson reveal, the big pat on my own back. 
“Well, Finny, because it’s kind of silly, don’t you think.  Wouldn’t you think it was silly if you saw a little boy in his pajamas at the park?  Wouldn’t you go up to him and say, ‘Hey why are you wearing your pajamas?’”

And here came the lesson.
“No,” he said matter-of-factly, “Because it might hurt his feelings.  And I wouldn’t want to do that.  I would go up to him and say, ‘Hi, I’m Finny.  Wanna be my friend?’”

And I swallowed my pride and beamed with it all at the same time.
Here I was trying to make him feel ashamed of wearing his PJ’s to the park in some small hope that maybe he wouldn’t fight me on getting dressed anymore, and there he was, littler and yet much, much bigger than me, saying, “I would never want to make someone else feel ashamed.”

Gulp.  Sigh.  Hang head.  Lift head high.  He’s sooooo….…good.
He might get lost in the daily routine.  He might not be quick to see my urgency, my sense of time, my agenda.  But as he sits down to pull his undies on and he notices all the little fibers in the bath rug, as he goes to wash his hands and he notices the way the water pools and falls between his fingers and over his palms, somewhere in there, he is absorbing the big picture.

And I am forced to stand back and take notice.
And I am privileged to stand back and take notice.

And I am reminded of Martha, who was furiously cleaning the house and preparing the meal, feeling resentment towards her sister, Mary, who was sitting at His feet, listening to His story.
And Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are distracted by many things.  But there is just one thing.”

I am blessed to be the one brushing his teeth, pulling up his undies, zipping his coat, as he is busy going about the business of filling himself up with all the small wonders and that great big picture that I sometimes fail to see.