A Wiggly Farewell

November 30, 2006

Fans are kind of a funny thing. No one can truly measure another’s fervor. For instance, I can’t say to Tim or my father, “I love Buckeye football more than you because…” Because why? Because I regularly paint my body scarlet and gray (I don’t actually)? Because I yell louder and curse more creatively at the television on Saturday afternoons? No, being a real fan of something is a transaction that takes place on the inside of our being, even though outside indicators can give others an idea of our passion.

My son, Dan, is by all appearances the kind of guy that likes to be a fan. He is the most thoroughly obsessed Buckeye fan I know — he can tell you how many rushing touchdowns a particular player has had this season, how many catches each receiver has in a game, how many missed extra points the team suffered. He can talk the numbers of the BCS with the best of them…but before sports became Dan’s love, he had another love — a first love, if you will — and we all know how devastatingly strong that can be.

When Dan was 18 months old he fell in love with the Wiggles. For those of you not in the know about all things little-kid, the Wiggles are an Australian singing group with four men — Greg (in yellow), Anthony (in blue), Murray (in red) and Jeff (in purple) who dance and sing their way through such frighteningly catchy ditties as “Fruit Salad” and “Big Red Car.” When I say Dan loved the Wiggles, I want you to really understand what I mean:

  • When Dan learned his colors he didn’t call them by their regular names. No, he uttered sentences like, “Pass Murray crayon,” or “Me want Greg plate.”
  • Dan had every Wiggles toy on the market — including the Wiggles dolls, who could not sleep with him because of their seeming hair triggers to begin singing various tunes.
  • Dan had to have a collections of Wiggles-colored everything — yellow, red, blue and purple socks; yellow, red, blue and purple markers; yellow, red, blue and purple balls…and as a parent, you would rue your very existence if one color from one set was missing. “Where Anthony sock? Where Anthony sock?” Dan would wail.
  • We actually took the kids to a Wiggles concert in Cleveland. We found out ahead of time that Anthony (the blue Wiggle, for those of you not keeping up) would not be appearing due to hernia surgery. We had to walk Dan through this: “Anthony has a big ‘owie’ in his tummy. So he can’t wiggle at the concert. Someone else will be wearing the blue shirt and wiggling.” A friend later asked me, “How would he know the difference? It was just some guy in a blue shirt.” Oh, foolish mortal, you don’t know Dan at all.

So today, I read in the paper that Greg Page, the lead singer of the Wiggles, is extremely ill. And he’s no longer going to be a part of the group. While what he has does not appear to be life threatening, it will certainly prevent him from keeping the brutal touring and taping schedule. By any measure, this is very sad news. Still, I can hardly account for the tears (okay I’m a big geek, I admit) that welled up when I read the article. Because, you see, the Wiggles were such a part of Dan, such a part of our household. Between staying home with my toddlers and Tim’s previous job that required he travel a lot, I probably spent as much adult time with Greg Page as with any other adult in my life there for a couple of years. Mock me if you must (and I know many of you have no other recourse), but this feels personal.

What truly surprised me was Dan’s response. The Wiggles have been long gone from Dan’s repertoire, replaced with sports and Game Cube and other Big Boy Pursuits. When I mentioned Greg’s illness to him in passing, Dan paused for a moment and his lower lip began to tremble and tears began to well up in his eyes. “You mean there won’t be any more Wiggles?” he asked, tremulously. I explained that the Wiggles are carrying on with a new yellow guy, but I think he knows, as I know and they must know, that Greg may well be irreplaceable in this wiggly world. Dan dug out his old Wiggles dolls and put in a Wiggles DVD, under the auspices of “showing it” to a younger friend who visited today. While the real toddler quickly lost interest in the Wiggles, Dan sat and watched, mesmerized as he used to be only a few years ago. By this afternoon, the Wiggle dolls and DVD were forgotten.

“I think you may be witnessing a Wiggles memorial,” I said to my friend (mother of the adorable toddler) this morning. In Dan’s own way he acknowledged something: that time passes and people change and even get sick. But fan-love — especially that first time — runs pretty deep.

The Koruna family wishes you the best, Greg Page.


November 29, 2006

Oh my heavens…I just got an e-mail from the Girl Scouts regarding the MANDATORY MEETING re: being Cookie Mom for my daughter’s troop. I type in all caps because this was an all caps kind of e-mail.

Am I the only one who finds this a wee bit SCARY?

This is a MANDATORY meeting. A Cookie Mom/Dad for each troop wishing to sell cookies must be present to get Cookie materials. All Cookie Moms/Dads MUST be registered. All girls wishing to sell cookies MUST be registered.

The first 45 minutes will deal with new information, banking procedures and a review of commonly made mistakes. After this, experienced Cookie people are welcome to leave, and a more in-depth training will follow for new Cookie people.

What are Cookie materials? What mistakes will I make? Because I’m certainly going to make mistakes, my friends. And will I ever get to be an experienced Cookie person? OMG I just realized that Cookie is always capitalized! Whyever, however did I get elected Cookie Mom? I’m too irreverent, too disorganized, too not-a-Girl-Scout type. Nothing against that type mind you, but have you ever talked to me about camping? How in-depth IS in-depth? At least I know that I AMMMMM registered. I’m going to start randomly Capitalizing words and start using MORE CAPS IN GENERAL. Maybe then I won’t be revealed to be the Cookie Mom Impostor that I actually am.

Live in fear little Troop.

Elizabeth Mary Gardner Koruna

(first pet & street you grew up on)
Chanticleer Ironwood

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME:
(first initial of first name, first three letters of your middle name)

(favorite color, favorite animal)
Blue Cat

(middle name, city where you were born)
Mary Columbus

(first 3 letters of last name, first 2 letters of first name, first 3 letters of mom’s maiden name)

(“The”, your favorite color, favorite drink)
The Blue Diet Coke

(the first name of your grandfather)

(mother & father’s middle name )
Mary Harry

Is it just me or are all mine really really good? Maybe I need to get out a bit more…

Tuesday, continued

November 29, 2006

Nothing major to report. Got BOTH boys to dance, got Abby to dance. Re-discovered that a bad day can be turned somewhat better by fun food. I have not shot out the television and have tried to enjoy my offspring a bit (as well as be a bit enjoyable myself). I continue to whittle away my Christmas list — took inventory of what’s been bought for everyone and what still requires purchasing. A person different than I would be busy putting together hand made Christmas gifts…me not so much.  Got together the scholastic book order for the kindergarten class, being as I have the auspicious title of Book Mom.

Trash came and picked up that chair.  I suppose it would have been tacky to drag it into my living room.  Oh well.

A day beautifully mired in the ordinary.  Not such a bad thing after all.

Tuesday, A.M.

November 28, 2006

Just not having the best day here…woke up ten minutes late after snoozing the alarm a truly alarming number of times. Unpleasant exchange with a cranky over-tired daughter. Fighting with one son who doesn’t want to go to dance class (but inexplicably still wants to be in the recital — I’m trying to explain that there’s a connection between what one learns in class and what one dances on stage) and the other son who doesn’t want to go to dance class alone without his brother. Oh yeah, and my hair looks like crap too.

And I am about to shoot the television Elvis-style so that my children can no longer play the accursed Legos Starwars game that seems to cause more bickering and tears and hysteria than should be present in this or any galaxy.

Why, when you love your children more than anyone, do they so dance on the edge of your very very last nerve? Why do I contribute, with snarkiness and frustration, to a train-wreck morning? Why am I unable to muster up thankfulness when they act like…well, you know, children? For that matter, why doesn’t God Almighty smite us when we act like this? I know why I don’t have the power to smite (see “other drivers who don’t yield”) because the world would be long gone.

Must do better…(film at 11 as to how exactly the rest of the day transpired)

Edited to add that the neighbors across the street are throwing out a chair that looks better than half my furniture. Do you suppose this is a metaphor?

A Tale of Two Girls

November 27, 2006

So seldom in my comfortably rutted little life do I feel myself a part of something bigger than the everyday and the mundane. It’s not that I don’t care about the world’s injustices, it’s just that I’m so completely insulated from them most of the time. So I forget — how can I even say that? — that so many have so much less. I forget that God’s call throughout history has always been to care for the poor. I forget that thousands and thousands and thousands of children die every day from starvation. I forget to care, forget my responsibility as one who has been given so very much.

God, forgive me.

In what could only be an arrangement from a perfect God, our family was matched up with the child we will sponsor from Asia’s Hope. The gorgeous little girl named Meerlia? Two weeks younger than my own daughter. And she has a six year old brother, just like my daughter has her own brothers…Abby has been the one who has had the most to lose with our move to a new church. She loved our old church, loved the kids’ program. And now she’s in a very boy-heavy environment (though yesterday she connected with a little girl at church! Yay God!) where she meets many new people and has to sojourn far outside her comfort zone. And, really, she’s been such an uncomplaining little trouper about it. When she questioned why we were attending Central Vineyard, she was actually satisfied with my answer that “I think this is what God wants us to do.” Abby has a love for and a trust in the Lord’s provision that I admire. So God sees this, you know? And then He gives us — especially Abby — the gift of being Meerlia’s sponsor. Abby gets that this is a little girl from far away that has no parents and needs our prayers. She gets that Meerlia can love the same Jesus we do. She will egg on our family to keep Meerlia in our constant prayers, because if you know Abby, you know she’s nothing if not determined to see things done the way she sees fit — which in this case is God using that quality for good.

Thank you, God. Thank you for seeing these two girls. Thank you for seeing Meerlia, for placing her in the orphanage where she will be loved and cared for and taught. And thank you for seeing Abby who so needed to know that you see her. Thank you that you will teach her about faithfulness and selflessness and Your goodness. Won’t it be wonderful when their paths cross — either on this side of heaven (which I hope for!) or later….

As God as my witness…

November 24, 2006

I thought turkeys could fly.

For those who don’t get this reference, sorry, you’re too young (but you can go to Youtube and watch part of the WKRP episode).

After watching those five minutes of classic TV I realized what I wanted to post about Thanksgiving. I could say all sorts of (very true) statements about how thankful I am for my family: my wonderful exuberant kids, my devoted husband, my parents who hosted one of the Thanksgiving feasts we had these last two days, my in-laws who accept me and my various foibles. I could say how thankful I am that my mom has been generally healthy this past year, despite her cancer. And it would all be perfectly valid.

But, honestly, what makes me the most thankful this minute is the humor and whimsy inherent in life. Like…

  • My silly friend, Tracy, who got it in her mind that we would drive to Fort Wayne to Christmas shop for a day. Yes, most people don’t drive 3 hours to go shopping. But do you know how much fun we had?
  • New friends who get, really get, my somewhat sarcastic, possibly too-edgy side.
  • My book club members who tease me about everything from the size of my feet to my reactions to different reads.
  • My son, who says to my mother in a conversational lull at dinner, “So…how’s the cancer?” And the stunned awkward silence while I die a little inside. And my mom’s completely awesome response, “Fine thanks, Rob. Thanks for asking.”
  • My dear friend, Deneen and her 3 children who slid back into my children’s imaginative worlds yesterday as if they hadn’t had a 3 month school-induced break from each other. The joy at watching their joy as her son, Brian literally jumped into Rob’s arms after walking through the door.
  • Watching the Michigan game with family and half-believing that superstitious, asinine things we do — like having OSU bathroom towels or holding a buckeye teddy bear — actually contributed to the win.
  • My friend, Kathryn, whose life always runs oddly parallel to my own and her black sense of humor — and corresponding perfect understanding — of dealing with a parent’s illness.
  • Laughing and joking with Tim — all the time about everything. It’s the basis of so much of who we are as a couple.

And of course I could go on…but I can say today with certainty that being made in God’s image means that we should smile together, that laughter compresses the distance from the inside to outside of pain. And for that, I’m so very very thankful.

Ode to Sally Field

November 18, 2006

I have recently been in situations where I have been meeting new people. Lots of new people. And that’s good, it really is. But as a natural introvert who finds solitary activities like reading or writing to be refreshing, I sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed. And then tonight at a Bible study (where yes, there are many people new to me), someone prayed about how desperately insecure we all feel at times and how we need to remember the depth of God’s love for us. Her prayer almost brought tears to me — not the attractive dew-droppy kind, but the snotty gulpy kind of tears.

I guess I want to reach an age or a point of maturity where I no longer struggle with insecurity.

Oh it’s definitely better than say, 7th grade (a grade that surely should be eliminated for its scarring impact on each of us). But developing new relationships means exposure on some level — or the relationship isn’t worth developing, I realize — but tonight I had to admit to myself how much I just want…people to like me. And it kind of grosses me out, to be honest. I want to be like Popeye: “I yam what I yam.” Not that God can’t improve upon my character. Not that I don’t get ridiculously uptight or cranky at times. But yuck, I don’t want to be one of those people constantly seeking my affirmation from others. “No really Beth, you are good enough and smart enough….” Blech.

I want to stand firmly grounded in the Lord and to be able to say of myself that I am a new creation like 2 Corinthians says. I don’t want to care so much and worry over myself to the degree I do. Really, I want my eyes and mind to be on others. I want to think of them, not me. Lord, change my selfish heart. And if in the course of that change, if people like me, really like me, well that’s cool too.

One twin loses his first tooth. Good, you say? But the other twin has the exact same tooth loose and it is not quite ready to come out. Hysteria ensues. Hysteria continues.

Things the twin books never tell you…

Inexplicably, I have been elected to be the Cookie Mom for my daughter’s Brownie troop. That’ll teach me to be two – count ’em two – minutes late to the meeting. Now this might not seem like a cause for alarm to you, but to anyone who knows me at all it is the equivalent of Girl Scout Armageddon. Yes, I believe that I could single-handedly bring down the entire scouting organization simply by being placed in this role.

Because, you see, me as Brownie-mom is something of a metaphor for all the various ways in which I fail at parenting. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I feed my children. I clothe them. I read to them, pray with them, listen to them, advise them, hug them, and so on. But I have this small problem with…accomplishing may be the right word.

I am the mother who always confused the quarter hour times (they varied from day to day, I kid you not) at which to pick my twins up from Pre-K. I am the mother who forgets that Thursday is for some unknown, possibly communist, reason “Red Day.” Sure as anything, my kids show up outfitted in every other color of the rainbow. I am the mother who sometimes confuses which park and what time my kids have soccer practice.

And today I am the mother who waited – gasp – the day before Halloween to purchase pumpkins for carving. Now, I knew I would never get them to a pumpkin patch or anything, but I thought that I could take the kids to the local grocery store to pick out a few pumpkins.

Do you know what it is like to be shamed by the grocery store produce teenager? To have him sneer that “We’ve been out for a couple of days,”? To have him point to the decorative gourds in the front of the store and say, “Well, we have those.” Gourds? Really? Do you think my kids will be fooled by having to perform microsurgery procedures on gourds instead of the annual carving of pumpkins? Kids are very discerning when it comes to squash, bucko.

But at the third grocery store, we hit a patch of good luck.

“Hey,” I hear a whisper. It’s coming from a woman with enormous breasts stuffed into a too-tight witch costume.

Is she a real witch, I wonder to myself.

“I know where you can score some pumpkins.” (Okay, she didn’t really say it exactly that way, but you get the point.)

She proceeds to tell me that the Evil Empire Store That Shall Not Be Named had “like 18 bins of pumpkins just yesterday.”

I drag the kids back to the car and pull out the cell phone to dial information to connect me to the Evil Empire Store That Shall Not Be Named. I am assured that my call will be monitored for quality purposes, and when a live person gets on the phone she tells me to “hold on” while she checks. In those intervening seconds, I ponder what I will have to do to make it up to my kids for this recent maternal screw-up. A kitten, maybe.

“Well, honey, we have one bin left,” the voice says coming back on the phone. I am thrown into a mental frenzy. One bin? Down from 18 yesterday. I barely have time to say goodbye before I’ve thrown the car into reserve and set out pell mell hell on wheels to the store. Which is like 15 minutes away. I quietly panic as I think of each and every last pumpkin being snatched up by mothers quicker on the uptake than I.

We arrive and I park. I assess the competition. Many of them seem to be younger mothers with younger kids. I fear that they may have the advantage of the cart, which can be pushed with great dispatch, but I pull my kids out of the car and like a drill sergeant shout, “Go, go go!”

We race in and the elderly gentleman welcomes us to the Evil Empire Store That Shall Not Be Named, but I have no time for such frivolities as greetings.

“Pumpkins?” I gasp.

“Pardon?” he murmurs.

“Where are the PUMPKINS?”

“Over there on the right by the produce.”

I momentarily worry that this will be another gourd debacle, but we round the corner and see not one, but two – two – bins labeled pumpkins. “Victory!” I nearly shout.

But then I see her. As God as my witness, I am not making this up. A woman, too old to have young kids, but too young to have grandchildren, has a cart brimming with pumpkins. Like 20 of them. Who does she think she is? Sara Lee making pumpkin pie for the freezer section? At this point I don’t care if she’s collecting pumpkins for the homeless, who really don’t need pumpkins anyway. Okay, homeless kids maybe. But still.

My kids clamber over to the massive cardboard bins and look in. Way in. Because these two bins are not exactly chock-full of our little orange friends. I now know the origin of the expression “bottom of the barrel.”

“Are these really pumpkins?” one of my sons says.

“How come we didn’t get to go to the pumpkin patch?” asks the other, for perhaps the fifteenth time in the last hour.

The side of the box comes up to about my waist. But I am not faint of heart, so I dive – literally – into the box to cull the remaining pumpkins. Surely we will find three measly pumpkins to call our own.

Word to the wise: pumpkins piled on top of each other rot in peculiar and horrifying ways. But I refuse to be daunted. “Here’s one that’s okay,” I say to the kids, my voice muffled by the cardboard and well, the rotting pumpkins. I pull it up and hold it aloft like a trophy. So it’s a little lopsided. So it has no stem (apparently stems must rot first because stemlessness seems to be universal among these pumpkins). It’s a pumpkin, dammit. And where there is one, there must be more.

I continue to roll rotten pumpkins off one another, as I stand on tiptoe, nearly toppling into the now-bending box.

“Hey, Mom, this one’s not too rotten,” says my son. Nothing like setting your kid up for low expectations. Other kids pick the size and shape and hue; my kid simply picks the one that’s not rotting. I mean, not rotting too badly.

We manage to find a few more less-than-rotted-through pumpkins, which we place gently into the cart to head for the line, which takes about forty minutes. While in line I have time to ponder my inadequacies and I come to a very profound conclusion: my best parenting moments happen in private – when I help a frustrated kindergartener make yet another row of letters; when I cuddle my third grade daughter and scratch her back before sleep; when I hold the barf bucket for assorted folks; when I get silly in the car and move my head to the music and am pronounced a “bobble-head” by my son.

But it’s the public parenting that has the built-in feedback. Don’t turn the Brownie cookie money in? The Brownie leader calls you and uses her extra patient voice to explain why YOUR daughter’s lack of money is holding up the whole troop. Don’t fold the basket of laundry quick enough? Morning comes and everyone’s digging and throwing around pieces to find a missing sock. Don’t get to soccer practice on time? Every parent in his/her canvas-carry-a-chair looks over his/her shoulder as you trudge toward the field with angry boys in tow.

And you know what the drumbeat of all that is? Failure, failure, failure.

Truly, I am not a person who is used to failing at life. I succeeded at school and in pretty much every employment situation in my past (the one notable exception being when I was a cashier at a hardware store– a story for another day, but apparently my mind wanders a bit too much to work with money). I received good feedback. Good job reviews. Good student evaluations when I taught. But this whole Mommy deal? It’s different, I tell you.

So this is what I realized: I don’t think we parents get feedback on all the important stuff for a long long time. Like maybe when my daughter is a mother and she calls me to ask how I did something. Or one son becomes president (okay, maybe of his company?) and leads by good example. Or another son’s future wife thanks me for raising such a sweet guy. Probably feedback comes in all sorts of ways I haven’t even imagined yet. I don’t think I’m a failure at the Big Stuff of Parenting — at least not most of the time.

Thank God, we have no need for a kitten. At least today. But it’s something I can keep in my back pocket, so to speak. And tonight? My kids get to play with knives and get their fingers gooey-sticky-gross. Oh yeah, it’s going to be a great Halloween.

Just don’t look too closely at the backs of our pumpkins.