disapproving kitty

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Things I Don't Write About

    They say you should write what you know, and what I know is mostly teaching, and kids, parenting and all the other odds and ends that make a life.  I try pretty hard, though, to not write about marriage.  I know Erma Bombeck and Judith Viorst made a good living writing about the trials and tribulations of marriage, but I think I'm better off not doing so.  For one thing, it would sorta be dirty pool, since I have this great place I could do all sorts of venting, and J does not.  Yes, yes, I know, he could start his own blog and tell everyone about how bad I am at remembering to close cabinet doors, and how often I forget to do things I said I would do, but he won't.  Not because he doesn't want to air our dirty laundry, but because writing isn't his thing.  And, he isn't into airing dirty laundry, either.  And neither am I, really.
     So if I wrote about our marriage then all I'd be writing is the good stuff, and people would think that we were some sort of Stepford couple with no problems at all, and frankly I don't think anybody wants to read about that, either.  (Well, I will say that J is really good at buying anniversary presents, and thinks of clever ones every year, and goes way out of his way to find something that fits into the "traditional" gift for that year and everything.  It's wonderfully cute and endearing and I get some marvelous gifts out of it.  I'll write about them sometime.)  And if I wrote about just marriage in general people would think I was writing about J and me, and we'd have people looking at us funny at parties because they'd think they knew stuff about us that they really didn't.
    Speaking of, that little story I wrote about the boy and the pancakes?  Entirely fiction.  J can cook when he wants to.  Just so you know.
    And when Bombeck and Viorst wrote about their families, and pretty much everything else, they were funny.  Really, really gut-bustingly funny.  I have discovered that I am mostly funny when I'm not trying to be.  When I try too hard, I am not funny at all.  I've played characters on stage and every time I've tried to give my funniest delivery of any line...nothing.  You could hear crickets chirp.  So it's probably best that I stick to other topics and not try to be funny about my dear ones' foibles.
   I'll just have to write about my own.

Monday, July 25, 2011

From Now On, I'm Sticking to "Goodnight Moon"

     I did it again, even though I know I shouldn't.  I should just play games on my phone and stop clicking links I shouldn't.  But I am glutton for getting really pissed off by people I don't  know and shouldn't care about.  Given the gazillions of flame wars out there about, well, everything, I'm clearly not alone in this, but I have a tendency to do it while surfing on my phone, late at night, before going to sleep.  This is a problem and also my saving grace, because it means I can't really engage in the dialogue effectively what with the tiny keyboard and all.   And because I have an unusually short attention span for an adult, I typically forget about the idiocy I was reading by the time I do eventually get to my computer.  But if I get annoyed enough, it keeps me awake.  I lie there running through lengthy diatribes in my head.
    If the issue is really, truly important, then I will get off my duff, go find my computer, and engage, even if it is 2 AM.   It wasn't that important, but it has bugged me enough that I'm still thinking about it.  This time, it was another entry into all the crap out there about How To Be A Perfect Parent.
   These articles aren't titled that, of course.  They're usually along the lines of "10 Reasons You MUST Breastfeed Your Baby" and include all sorts of pseudo-science nonsense about how women who don't breastfeed aren't as attached, the children grow up to be more hostile, sick and stupid and there's always the strong underlying implication that all women could breastfeed if only they weren't such slackers, or were more dedicated to their children.  All of this is crap.  Every last word.
    It's not crap because breastfeeding is bad, of course.  It is, in fact, one the healthiest things a woman can do for her baby.  But all the rest about attachment and intelligence is just guesswork.  There are some studies that show correlation, but none that show absolute causality, and most people can't tell the difference.  But that's not the reason it's crap, either.
     It's crap because who are they, (or who am I for that matter,) to stand there and try their damnedest to shame another person, about whom they know nothing, because they have chosen different parenting strategies from theirs?  It could be breastfeeding, or sleeping arrangements, the safety of baby products or food, vaccinations, appropriate diets, child safety or in the case of my most recent hands-up-in-the-air moment, getting your baby to sleep.  This woman was giving her top ten list of why cry-it-out, or whatever they call it now, was absolutely horrendous.  I think she even called it abuse, describing CIO adherents people who will let their baby scream in direst agony for hours on end and never go to them.  Pul-eese.
    On the flip side of that coin, I've heard advocates of co-sleeping painted at negligent, co-dependent parents who don't care if they roll over and smother their infant to death.  Right.
     I'm not sure why it is that believers one side or other of any parenting choice feel the need to absolutely lambast those who make alternate decisions.  Those parents are ill-informed, uncaring monsters.  Their children destined to be a crop of stunted, hobbled misfits who will be unable to function in the world!  That may be, but it won't be because they didn't get every color of vegetable every day or wash with Johnson and Johnsons.
     Gimmie a break, sanctimonious parenting-lady.  Parenting is guesswork.  You read it all, talk to all the people who've been there before and then give it a try.  What works with one kid won't with another.  And the ultimate truth is that while even if your way is absolutely right, my way might be just as right, too.  It's not a zero-sum game or a competition.  So shut it with your do-it-my-way-or-your-baby-will-be-scarred-for-life, okay?
     Because if you keep it up, I will have to get into a flame war, and I really, really do need my sleep.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Lake

     I'm at the Lake today.  The lake has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I've been coming here since I was an infant.  My father has been coming here since he was around four or five.  His Aunt Marie and Uncle Lohmie (pronounced all as one word --Uncooloamy-- by everyone I know) had a little cottage here.  Back then it had an outhouse out back, and a dirt and gravel road. 
     When I was five, they built an actual house, with a garage up back that still had some of the feel of the old cottage, with a small shower to wash off all the sand before you trooped inside.   It was definitely more comfortable to visit after that, but it had lost some of its charm. 
     When I was about 13, my parents bought a small cottage about three doors down.  They named it Shadynook, after a cottage my mother's family had had when she was little.  This new Shadynook was tiny.  It had one central room with an L-shaped screened in porch around the front and north side.  Two bedrooms off the main room, which had a kitchen of sorts at the back.  The kitchen area was so small there was no room for the fridge, so that was kept in the small bathroom, along with canned goods up along a supporting beam that became a shelf.  The shower was made out of thin metal that boomed like thunder every time you hit it, turning showering into a far more exciting experience than usual.  Not long after my family had cleared out 30 years of dust and dirt, we had friends over, and one of my brother's pals announced "Excuse me while I go to the pantry."
     There was no A/C, the walls didn't go to the ceiling, and the only phone was a single rotary dial up on the wall.  Important phone numbers, like the one pizza place that would deliver,  were scrawled up on the wood next to it.  Exposed two-by-fours of the un-drywalled walls were turned into bookshelves that housed hundreds of old paperbacks, and dozens of decks of cards.  There was no TV.   Entertainment during the day was the lake itself, and the dozen feet of sandy beach before it.  Two canoes, a rowboat, fishing tackle and enough pails and shovels to dig our way to China should we choose.  In the evenings we played Hearts and Spades or Oh, Hell and talked.  We played solitaire with actual cards.  And talked and talked and talked.  We were our own entertainment. 
   That little cottage is long gone now, with its thunderous shower, no privacy and mice, spiders and every other kind of critter imaginable sharing the space with us.  In its place is a lovely house that still hosts more critters than I would like, but it boasts Wi-fi, more computers than occupants, multiple flat screen TVs, gaming consoles, DVD players, DVR, gourmet kitchen with a huge walk-in pantry that doesn't feature a toilet, and three full bathrooms.  And it has central air.  Were it still the cottage, we couldn't be out here because it would be too hot to breathe.  So I'm not saying that I'd like to have the old Shadynook back instead.
     But every now and then I'd like to go to "The Lake."  I wish I could have the little cottage next door, where I could go and not be surrounded by the hum of electric gadgets, where everything was casual, and there was nothing between you and all the gorgeousness of nature but an old window screen.  I wish I could take my children there. 
    And then I'd want to come back into the air conditioning and get onto the computer. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

updated goal

     I'd really like to finish that story I started a while back.  I don't think I can post on it every day, though, so I think perhaps an updated goal will be to write each day, even if I don't post, to try to finish it.  I know where the story is going, and maybe how it ends.

    I have few deep thoughts today.  I've discovered that having lovely long nails may be aesthetically pleasing, but it's lousy for typing.  And while I enjoy having nail polish on, it's lousy for housework and any other job requiring use of my fingers.  I can't quite bear to cut them, though.

   So that's it.  Nothing much today.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The 60 minute nap

2:00 PM  Naptime.  Take kids upstairs, get them settled into their rooms.  I have time to lie down for 60 minutes!  Hooray!  I'm very tired, since DD was up several times with nightmares last night.

2:03 PM  DD wants her blankie.  Blankie is at daycare.  Alternate blankie is NOT acceptable.  Ten minutes of calming and distracting.

2:12 PM  She's in bed.  Ok, 48 minutes of a lie down till the handyman comes at 3.  That's a decent rest.

2:13 PM "Mommy!  I need help to go to the bathroom."  On the potty.  Off the potty.  On again.  "I want to go in YOUR bathroom"  "I want to go in MY bathroom"  On the potty, off again.

2:24 PM  Okay.  She is back in her bed.  I can lie down for 35 minutes!  That's pretty good.

2:26 "Mommeeeee!  I'm huuuuunnngry!"
     Me:  Do you want string cheese?
     DD:  No.
     Me:  Square cheese?
     DD:  No.
     Me:  What DO you want?
     DD:  Olibes.
     Me:  We don't have any olives.
     DD:  Why?
     Me:  We didn't buy any at the store.
     DD:  Why?
     Me:  We just didn't.
     DD:  Why?
     Me:  (time for a change of subject)  You can have graham cracker with peanut butter.
     DD:  I just want a cracker.
     Me:  Just a cracker?  Do you want peanut butter on it?
     DD:  No.  I just want a cracker.
Downstairs. Up again.  "Here's your cracker."

    Me:  But, OhfortheloveofMike....No.  That's not what you said.  You are stalling.  You can have the cracker or nothing.  What do you choose?
     DD:  (takes cracker, begins to wail)

2:44  She's wailing, but in her crib.  I can rest for 16 minutes.  Okay.  That's something. I settle in.  I can ignore loud wailing.

2:46  DS:  Mommy!  I need help wiping!  (are you kidding me?!)

2:50  OKAY.  Now they are both in bed.  Pottied. Washed.  Fed.  Quiet.  I can rest for...10 minutes.  It's better than nothing.  Ahhhhh.... Lying down......

2:53  (Knock, knock, knock!)  The handyman is here.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Ribs on the Sidewalk Incident -- Part 3

  On our way out we went past another playground, and believe it or not, the kids wanted to play on it.  Now, the adults in our little merry band had not eaten, were hot, dusty and sticky and wanted something cold to drink.   I knew this.  But I was determined that this was not a bad idea to take my kids here and in my deranged, hungry brain, I knew that the way to prove this was to allow them to play on the super-overcrowded playground.  Again.  

     I watched DD like a hawk.  This time, she did do her usual routine.  Larger kids and teens kept pushing her around, nearly kicking and stomping on her, with me using my best teacher-voice to tell them to cut it out.  C loitered at the edge, feeling a bit like the strange-single-man-hanging-out-inappropriately-at-a-playground.  Eventually it was time to go, and the kids did NOT want to leave.

    We had to drag them away as they thrashed and screamed.  I was hungry and tired and now feeling very bad for doing this, and for J not having found anything to eat, (and C, too, for that matter) and just wanting to get the hell out of there.  J was famished by this point, but trying his best not to show it.  I could tell, though.  It is really bad for him to get overly hungry, and I know this, and I felt like it was my fault, which made it worse.  Suggesting stopping to get him something to eat, or asking why he didn't get himself pizza earlier didn't help.  He just wanted to get the kids out of there, us into the car and himself back to Origins.   I was getting desperate at this point, wanting to get him some food, something he'd like, to help make up for bungling this whole thing from the start.

     We left C at Comfest, where he could wander off and enjoy its delights sans increasingly deranged parents and cranky kids.  J and I headed back towards the Convention Center and the car.  As we passed the last of the food stalls, I tried to figure out a way to insist that we stop and get some food but didn't manage it with the kids being absolutely "done" with everything and us wanting to get away from the crowds as quickly as possible.  DS and SS were throwing monumental tantrums.  I was very close to being completely out of my mind.

     Then I saw it.  Food!  Right there on the sidewalk!  Right next to the Convention Center was a table, covered with barbecued ribs, chicken, macaroni salad, a few other side dishes and cake!  Right there for the taking!  A man noticed my interest and said it was leftover from an awards banquet they'd just had, and we could have as much as we wanted for $5.  What a bargain!  I turned to J in absolute excitement -- here was food for him and this would save the day.  He could get a plate of this delicious sidewalk food of indeterminate quality and age from a complete stranger, eat it as we walked to the car and all would be well!  I was already digging in my wallet when J's voice penetrated my haze of deranged happiness.  He was saying that he really wanted to keep going, he only had twenties, he just wanted to get the kids to the car first.... I couldn't believe my ears.  He didn't want this?  He can get kind of unreasonable when he's hungry, was that it?  I even started to get a little angry with him.  Hmph.

     As we walked away I expressed my total bafflement at this ungracious refusal of what was clearly a perfectly good meal.  With what must have been an enormous expenditure of patience on his part, he explained to me like one would tell a small child or someone in a straitjacket that he didn't actually like barbecued anything, or macaroni salad and was most certainly not going to eat something sitting on a table outside the Convention Center that had been there for god only knows how long.

     Oh.  I, um, hadn't thought of that.  I was monumentally embarrassed, but all I could think of to say was, "I didn't know you didn't like macaroni salad."

     Once I got home, and everyone was cleaned up and in bed, it finally dawned on me how utterly ridiculous it all was.  I called J and discovered that he'd gotten a Bratwurst from Schmidt's, which is what he'd wanted all along -- but never said.  I guess I wasn't the only one not communicating well.

    I'd love to be able to pin this on him in some fashion, but I really can't.  It was all me, and a monumental fail on my part.  It's okay though.  If you're going to completely humiliate yourself, the best you can do is do it in front of someone you love.   

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Ribs On the Sidewalk Incident - -Part 2

   We left our story with me realizing I couldn't find DD.....

  I circled and circled the small playground, and started to panic as I couldn't find her anywhere.  Her SOP on playground equipment is usually to find one thing she really likes to do, like a slide, and do it over and over and over again.  But she wasn't doing the slide.  She was gone.  Just. Gone.  I panicked.  C started looking.  I desperately tried to call J but couldn't get through.

   The one and possibly only non-brainless thing I had done that evening was put DD's name and my phone number on a sticker on her shirt.  DS had one, too.  I knew, if she was found, that someone could try to call me.  Except phones weren't working.  J finally returned and began looking with us.  My baby was missing and I have never felt so afraid in my entire life.  

    When I am panicked, or even anxious, one thing that frequently happens is that I cannot see well. I mean, I do see things, but I can almost never find the thing I am looking for when I am upset or worried or in a hurry.  Once I'm calm, the thing I need usually surfaces right where I'd been looking.  I find this terribly annoying.  One learning theorist has a book out about lateral dominance and how it can affect our ability to take in and process information.  I love her work and what she says about how we function under stress fits me to a T.  

     So, I am at Comfest, surrounded by thousands of people and more stressed than I have ever been and I am trying to look for my daughter.  Then my phone rang.  It was a number I didn't know.   I answered, shouting "DID YOU FIND HER?  DO YOU HAVE MY DAUGHTER?" only to hear a woman's voice say "It's going right to voicemail."  But I knew, then, that she was safe.  A kind stranger had found her, was holding her, and trying to reach me.  I calmed down immediately, turned around, and saw her.  In a woman's arms, crying.  She was, maybe, 10 feet from the playground area-- just across a sidewalk.

     Relief.  Ohthankyoujesusthereismybabysweetbabygirl.  I had her in my arms before the woman who had been holding her was able to finish asking if she was mine.  I have never, once, made fun of people who have their children on little backpack-leashes, but I have been near people who scoff and insult those parents.  In the future, should anyone make such a comment around me, I will slap them.

     We rounded up DS and J and C and we were all hungry, and hot and DD was still hiccuping and anybody sane would have said:  "Let's get the hell out of here and find someplace with A/C and food," but we didn't.  J had found the right stage so we plowed on towards it and got there 20+ minutes early (see, I told you I'd planned for time to stop and eat. Maybe not time for playing on the playground and losing my daughter, but you can't plan for everything.)

    The kids were close to ravenous, even though I'd brought granola bars and drinks for them.  J, who was hungry himself, and none to happy about it, decided to get them pizza.  DD will eat nearly anything.  DS is much, much pickier, but will usually eat pizza.  J returned nearly half an hour later, pizza in hand.  We were sitting, watching the show.  It was pretty good.  I think C enjoyed seeing lots of womenflesh in sparkly outfits shimmying around.  I did too, but probably for different reasons.  The kids were intrigued for a little while, but were starting to fidget. DD was briefly entranced by another audience member -- a nearly nude woman in full black and white body paint.  We got to watch another 20 minutes of the show while the kids ate, but when that was done, so were they.

  ....final part tomorrow, I promise.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Ribs On The Sidewalk Incident, Part 1

This is about an incident earlier this summer, during one of the heat waves...

     J was at Origins, a huge game convention (boardgames, LARPs, Miniatures, etc.) and ComFest was right outside. Comfest is a huge gathering of people with alternative lifestyles and all those who come to enjoy watching them, buying their art, listening to their music and inhaling their secondhand pot smoke.  For some reason, I decided it would be fun to attend said event with the kids and go see belly dancers from my belly dancing school.  I'd never seen them perform and thought it would be fun.

   Already, it is clear, that my brain had derailed.  I'm taking my children, at dinnertime, on a very hot, muggy day, to an extraordinarily crowded event filled with people who like to revel in their own strangeness.  (Actually, Origins is filled with rather the same kind of people, but it's less crowded and there's good A/C.)  J loves Origins.  He loves to play games.  And I was proposing to take him away from it for a couple hours so that we could struggle to herd our children through this throng to watch belly dancers.  My original plan was that we would stop at a food stall on the outskirts on the way in, and once everyone was full up, we'd forge ahead into the melee to find the right stage.

    I failed to communicate this plan in any way to J, or to C, our friend who was coming with us (and, as of this writing, has not spoken to me since.  This could be a coincidence, though.)  We marched into the middle of Comfest, passing food tents left and right while struggling with the double stroller and two increasingly fussy children.  I kept thinking "we should stop for food" but some bizarre unspoken group-think had us all pressing forward to get to the performance on time.  The thing is, I'd had us set out over 90 minutes early, knowing we were stopping for food and knowing that an hour and a half to go approximately 1/4 of a mile with my children in the middle of Comfest is about right.  But since I am perpetually late for everything, I think my husband and friend sort of figured we were in a hurry to get there, and we just all sort of plowed forward.

     It was very, very crowded.  The stroller became a battering ram and we held the kids and just used the stroller to push through the throng.  We couldn't find the stage.  We were hungry.  Food lines for anything in the middle of it all were horrendously long.  Our smart phones, overloaded by the sheer number of people on the network, weren't working.  (C's was, but there was no map of where things were at Comfest to be found.)  Eventually, we found a playground swarming with children.  Both kids were immediately begging to play on it, despite the fact that it every square inch of it was covered with children. And teenagers.  And some adults.  But when you are hot, tired, hungry and a little bit lost, you let your kids play on the playground.  So off they went.

    C and I stood on the side and J decided to explore the park on his own to see if he could find the right stage.  A good plan.  C and I chatted, watched the kids, watched the people, and on one of my passes to make eye contact with both children, I couldn't find my daughter.


NPR asked people to submit answers to this question....

They asked about, oh, two weeks ago.  I'm sure the deadline is long since passed. I started the answer a day or two after they'd asked, then, well....

Has parenthood changed you? Was there a moment or incident that sparked the realization?
I'd like so much for the answer to this question to be a glowing endorsement of parenthood, of how it has made me a shining example of dignity and respect, love, tolerance and endless patience.  I could shine up my parental halo and wax eloquent about how my children have taught me the true meaning of life.

Um, no.

Parenthood has changed me from an intelligent, articulate human being into someone who is really tired a lot of the time.  I'm still intelligent, occasionally articulate, but my time to even sit down and write something like this has been compressed into the brief span after my children have finally gone to sleep and before I collapse into bed for the night.  This is not the best time to be an answer to a question you're planning to submit to NPR.  Parenthood has reduced my time for critical and creative thinking involving something other than how to get out mystery stains to an hour before bedtime, which is not my best time.

I used to spend my free time playing games (board and computer), or reading books, or doing a wide variety of arts and crafts, all of which involved tiny pieces of something and sharp cutting edges.  I did a lot of community theater.  After the first baby, most of that went.  I still read, but now all too often my reading is reduced to a glance at the cover of the novel I'm trying to start before I turn out the light.  Parents of older children tell me that some of these things return as the kids grow.  Hobbies that involve sharp tools, small bits or stirring things on a hot stove can eventually be part of my life again.

Parenthood has made me realize what an amazing, versatile, creative (and sometimes quite grumpy) person my husband is, though.  He is a better father than I could have hoped for, and I had some high expectations in the first place.  I think he could probably say the same about me.  Parenthood is a magnifier of the best and worst in us, and sometimes makes us pare life down to the things that are truly important.  The one thing that has truly, utterly changed, then is that my list of "Important Things" now permanently has my children in the top slot on the list.

I love them like I have never loved anyone in my entire life, and could not live without them.  But sometimes, oh sometimes, I do miss my sleep.

Short Story

  I love really short stories.  Drabbles, 100-word stories, are great fun.  I've seen terrific 55 - word mini-Drabbles, and excellent 250 word stories, too.  That's what I was aiming for with this one that's been bouncing in my head for a long time.  I could probably get it down to 500 with a lot of work and editing, but I don't feel like doing it right now.  So, instead, you get the long version.  Even so, I think it's somewhere between 800-850, which is still pretty short.
     Forgive me ahead of time, please, for being rather maudlin with it.  Like I said, it's been in my brain for a bit and sometimes I can't help what's in there.  I haven't thought of a title I like yet.  Suggestions welcome.

     I watched Josh's bare feet swinging back and forth as he sat at the table, silent tears starting to roll down his cheeks.  He reached out and pushed the cereal bowl away, sloshing milk onto the placemat.  "What's wrong, little man?" I asked, feeling helpless for the hundredth time.  "You liked that cereal yesterday."  I was nearly pleading, but he just slid off his chair and padded over to the bookshelf.  Carefully, slowly, he pulled out a large cookbook, the kind that's so big it comes with ribbons attached so you can mark the pages.  With difficulty, he struggled to push it onto the counter, then deliberately held onto the ribbon, and opened the book.  He glanced up at me, but said nothing.
     Josh had said nothing since the funeral.  Not one. Single. Word.  For the first week, Gram had been here, cooking, cleaning, steering me and Josh around.  We got up when we were told, ate when we were told, went to bed when we were told.  I had been in a haze, and hadn't noticed his silence.  In truth, I wasn't talking much either.  Sarah had been the talker in our family.  After a week, Gram had gone, and I had returned to work, and for dinners we lived on casseroles baked by kind neighbors, fast food, and when that failed, peanut butter.  Not that we were eating much.  We rarely ate at the table.  Usually on the couch.  Watching TV.  It wasn't until one of the daycare teachers had mentioned it that I realized that Josh wasn't just quiet, he was mute.  "Sometimes we find him crying in the corner," one of his teachers told me, "but he doesn't say anything at all."  I told her I'd watch him.
     She was right.  He'd nod, or shake his head, or I'd find him, silently sobbing in our bed, but he never spoke a word, even when I begged him to.  Anything.  Even "No!" would have been enough.  But the light had gone out of his eyes, and he wouldn't talk.
    But now, I was mute one as he walked to the fridge, opened it, and delicately pulled out the carton of eggs, followed by the glass butter dish and the milk, which was too heavy for his little hands and it thumped to the floor.  I rushed to pick it up, and as I set it on the counter I read the page he'd opened to.
     It was splattered and stained, and obviously well used.  "Pancakes."  I read aloud.  I felt that familiar hollow feeling of helplessness rise up in me again.  "Josh, I don't know how to make pancakes." I really didn't.  I couldn't cook.  I'd never been able to.  Sarah kept threatening to teach me, but as long as I cleaned up after her, she was content to be the household cook and baker.
     Josh continued to ignore me, instead fetching his step stool so he could reach the back of the counter, pulling forward containers of...something.  Sugar?  Salt?  I'd lived in this house for nearly ten years, but I didn't know what all magical things were kept in this kitchen.  This was not my domain.
    This is Sarah's domain.  Was.  My chest hitched.
    But Josh seemed to know his way around, and the array of items grew steadily as he pulled a canister of salt, another of baking power, a vial of vanilla, teaspoons and cups from the drawers, and carefully placed them on the counter.  "Josh," I started again, but he looked at me, almost accusingly, and headed over to the calendar, pointing.
    I looked.  "Yes,"  I said, "today is Saturday."  It was our first Saturday alone together.  Last Saturday, Gram had taken us out for breakfast before saying goodbye.  The Saturday before that... My throat caught.  I must have made a noise, because Josh looked up at me again.  He pointed more insistently and I suddenly remembered.  Saturdays I slept in, and Sarah and Josh made pancakes.  There was always a stack of them waiting for me when I eventually roused myself around noon.  Sometimes they were full of blueberries, or chocolate chips or there was apple-cinnamon syrup to pour over them.  I'd always sort of assumed that they'd made them from some kind of mix.  I opened the door to the pantry.  Gram had restocked it, but there was no mix.  Not that I thought it would satisfy him anyways.
    He wanted me to make pancakes.   My heart felt like it would freeze.  "I can't do this," I thought.  "I can't be Sarah.  I don't know how to do this."  I tears welled in my eyes as I looked at my desperate, silent son.  I felt like I was drowning, and I didn't know how to save either of us.  He stared at me, his eyes willing me to do for him what he needed, to keep this one tradition for him.  Something had broken so deep inside of him that he couldn't find words to express it, and I felt so profoundly helpless I could barely speak myself.
     "Josh," I croaked, "I'm so sorry, I don't know how to make pancakes."  Tears started down my own face now as I stood there.
     After a moment, Josh reached out and took my hand in his.  He pulled me back toward the kitchen.  I was about to tell him again when he stopped, and looked up at me.  Taking a deep breath he said, in his tremulous, little-boy voice, "It's okay, Daddy."  He nodded his head reassuringly.  "I can help you. I know what to do."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

are we saving time yet?

      I am seriously aggravated by my laundry.  About a year and a half ago our washer died.  I took it as a sign from the Universe that it was finally time to get a stackable set, because I really, REALLY wanted to put a laundry sink in my laundry room.  I was very tired of trying to do stain removal with a large bowl or in the kitchen sink.  With a toddler and a baby, there was a lot of stain removal to do.

     So I researched, a lot, and we finally bought the Consumer Reports recommended stackable set.  It arrived, was professionally installed and not too long later I got my sink installed, too.  I love the sink.  I hate the washer and dryer.  They cost more than my computer and they don't work well.

      The washer, one of the water-saving models, seemed to be "washing" my clothes with a tablespoon of water per load.  They'd told me that we wouldn't see much water sloshing around in the drum, but sometimes my clothes would come out nearly dry for crying out loud.  And my towels smelled.  And not the good, "nature clean!" scent kind of smell, either.  But it was brand new!  It couldn't be broken!  I knew, just knew, that if I called a repairman he'd come out and tell me that it was working just like it was supposed to and I owed them for the useless visit, even though we had the extended warranty.  It's that way with my car.

     Whenever my car is making odd noises, it's always perfectly fine when I take it in and the repair guys look at each other with that "look" I cannot stand.  It's the look that says "Stupid woman.  Doesn't know that her car is SUPPOSED to sound like that!  Let's charge her a gazillion dollars and only change the oil."  The end result is that I will drive my car around in a state of disintegrating disrepair until something actually blows up, falls off or makes it stop entirely, so that I have something concrete, dammit, that I can point to and say "There shouldn't be flames leaping out of my engine like that when I drive."  The sad part is that the repair guys will still give each other that "look" but now it's because I'm so dumb I don't know when to bring my car in.  So maybe that's not such a great strategy, but at least I don't have subject myself to car repair guys that often with this method.
   (True Story:  I once had my car in to have the brakes fixed. I picked it up after hours, on a Sunday.  After pulling out of the lot, I drove about 35 feet to a red light and when I stepped on my new brakes, the pedal thumped straight to the floor and the car sort of slowly, gradually, rolled to a stop.  Fortunately, I hadn't been going very fast, and did stop before rear-ending someone.  I pulled into the grocery store lot next door, and tested my brakes over and over, getting up to about 10mph, and trying to brake hard, only to roll to a gentle, eventual stop.   The brakes felt like they weren't even there. I spent nearly 10 minutes wondering if my brakes has always been this way, and if this was just how brakes were supposed to be.  Really.  This is how damn insecure I am about knowing when something is wrong with my car, and trying to avoid car repair guys.  My brakes were 100% dysfunctional and if I'd gotten up to any speed at all I'd have been in a very serious accident.  But I STILL questioned my own senses and reasoning ability.  Because it involved my car.  Turns out some kind of brake fluid canister had been so old and fragile that when the new brakes were installed over it, they just crushed it to bits and brake fluid drained right out of my car.)

   But back to the washer:  Eventually I called, and they sent out a very sweet looking older guy who confirmed that my washer was getting nowhere near enough water.  Ha!  So there!  Only it had been like this for more than a year and I'd waited that long to call.  Sheesh.  But it was still under warranty.  They fixed it, only I still don't think there's enough water, but I haven't called again.  The guy even said that this fix only MAY do the trick.  Otherwise there's something seriously wrong with the mumble-bumble-framice-ator and that will be a much bigger job.  But I haven't called.  If they come, and say "nope!  Workin' fine!" then I get to accept that I paid a lot for a crappy washer.  If it really IS not working right, then I get to live without a washer for several weeks while they try to fix it again.  I don't like either scenario, frankly, and I'm hoping that ignoring the problem will make it spontaneously heal itself.  (Kinda like the giant water spot in our garage ceiling.)

   The super annoying thing, now, beyond it not working well, is that when it gets unbalanced it just, stops.  It does play a sad little two note "I'm unbalanced" song, but if you don't hear it or get to it in time, the whole damn thing just shuts off.  So you get to the machine and the only clue you have that it didn't spin properly is that the clothes are sorta soggy and not stuck, semi-dry, to the sides of the drum.  And there's no way to start it up again where it left off.  You have to do it all over again, or do a rinse and spin cycle in its entirety.

    The dryer is no gem, either.   It dries things with a sensor to tell when they're dry.  Only it just gets to dry-ish.  I go in, all set to swap out the laundry and start a new load and whoops!  Needs another 10 minutes!  Invariably, I don't get back to it for at least another hour.  This is why laundry takes forever.

     Next time, I'm just going to get myself some Lifeboy, a washtub and board, and start using my jerry-rigged drying line for real and not just for sheets.  It'll take longer, maybe, but maybe I can work out some of this aggravation.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

When did Google become a Verb?

       Google has a new social network.  It's making a run for all the Facebookers out there. I am one of them, and I've had two of my friends invite me to Google Plus, so fine.   Whatever.   I'll join in and spend some time dropping people into circles and getting annoyed by my lack of ability to figure out how to actually use the site, and even more annoyed by the little number that keeps appearing on my Gmail account.  This little number indicates my "notifications" from Google Plus.  Maybe someone added me to their circle!  Maybe someone commented on my post!  Who knows?  I'd better go check!
        A great many of my Facebook friends spend time complaining about the interface and how it keeps changing with every upgrade.  Everyone carps for a long while, then we all get used to it and get aggravated when the next change comes around and takes away the thing we now like but endlessly ranted about when it first appeared.  I dislike having to figure out how to use the new functions and find my way around again each time there's a change, but in general, it suits my needs (needs I didn't even have two years ago, and never imagined) and I don't have to do much heavy mental lifting to figure it out.  Today, with G+, someone suggested that I read a nifty "users guide"so I could learn to effectively use all the functions.  I am so not doing homework to figure out how to use something that is a time suck in the first place.  Sorry.  Not happening.  Especially when it's in beta -- why learn it when they're going to change it all.  I have never been a "early adopter" of new technology.
         There's as Very Big Deal out there about privacy, and many people bemoan the fact that Facebook information is about as private as a Fourth of July Parade.  Google +, jumping on this bandwagon then, is all about keeping things Private For Your Safety.  With their new circles, G+ people can post things to only certain groups and keep their boss from seeing pictures of their drunken underpants-on-the-head pole dance at their cousin's wedding.
          Here's a thought:  don't post the stupid picture.  Or untag it as fast as you can.  Or, better yet, quit getting blackout drunk at weddings because you're too old for that kind of nonsense anyway.  Even smarter?  Don't "friend" your boss.  (What are we going to do now -- "circle" someone?)  Don't post things you don't want haunting you forever, because no matter how high you set your security, someone is going to be able to find your rant on pot legalization or the benefits of socialism or why fascism isn't such a bad idea for ruling some people.  It will be out there, in pixels, on some server, till the apocalypse.
        I realize that the kind of privacy violation that real computer people are worried about with Facebook is the selling of personal info.  What things do you post about?  What sites do you "like?" Who do you talk to and what kinds of things do they like?  How could all of this translate into targeted advertising, or, more malevolently, into an FBI file or an employment file 10 years from now?  Without realizing it, most people on Facebook give pretty much anybody who pays Facebook the right to use your pictures and probably your words to advertise their products or events.  This is definitely dirty pool, but I have to wonder what people expected?  Facebook is free -- but they're making tons of money.  Where do people think this revenue is coming from?
        Google is absolutely no stranger to this kind of electronic snooping -- they've been giving me targeted ads based on my email content for years.  So the idea that G+ is going to reduce our exposure this way seems rather foolish to me.  Maybe they won't use our pictures, but I'm fairly positive they'll use our information any way they can to make a buck.
       Google Plus might make it, I think, and drain away a lot of Facebook's business. Or not. They have a reasonable hit rate with taking tested ideas and making them all sleek and trendy in a new way.  However, until they manage to make it easy enough to use without having to read the user manual first, they're not going to woo folks like me, and all those further along on "early-middle-late-and-almost-never adopter" of new technologies scale.
       Like I've mentioned before, I'm really waiting for they day when my technology works like the computer on Star Trek.  I don't know how they're going to get Majel Barrett's voice to do all the talking, but I'm sure they can figure something out.  In the mean time, I can see that little red number on my gmail account, telling me that there's something going on there on Google Plus, and I should check it out....

I'd have gone to bed an hour ago, but the 2 year old needed to tell me something

It's been a busy coupla days.  I've started a post that is an answer to a question from NPR about parenting, but I haven't finished it yet as I've been busy, um, parenting.  It is now midnight and we just got DD into bed, hopefully, finally(?) for the last time about 20 minutes ago.

I do not have enough brain power at midnight to write something eloquent and erudite to send to NPR.  When re-reading the draft I am less than impressed with the quality of my own writing.  I suppose that's to be expected as I wrote it with a very tired brain, very late in the day.  Like now.

It's summertime now, and I'm far less busy than usual.  I know there are people who manage to hold down full time jobs, parent their children to be National Merit Scholars, keep a clean house, stay fit and write the Great American Novel while getting their 3rd Master's Degree.  I, apparently, am not ever destined to be one of those people.

I do notice, though, that after a long day of doing not much but lying around, my cats have wisely called it day and have gone to sleep.  They are wise, I think, these cats, and I will follow their example.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

itchy update

so, after last night's post I did more searching and discovered that there are Yellow Sac Spiders, commonly found in Ohio, that can cause nasty bites.  I know exactly which ones they mean.  They crunch when you squish them with kleenex, which is what I do with them when the kids aren't around.

I have never liked spiders.  Ever.  Centipedes are worse.  I try, very hard, to quash my run-away-squealing-with-arms-flailing reflex every time I see a spider, especially when my kids are nearby.  I usually manage it with spiders.  I fail miserably with centipedes, even though J gets upset with me for doing it in front of the kids.  I get upset with me, too, but honestly, it's very hard to help.

But spiders I had under control.  This incident is not helping though.  Seriously.  NOT.  HELPING.

I will say, though, that I have no recollection whatsoever of either of my parents showing the least bit of fear around creepy crawlies.  Nobody influential in my life freaked out in front of me, that I can remember. I got this way all on my own.  J's Aunt N says it's quite possible these things are inborn.

So maybe my kids stand a chance.

Try to think about not itching....

            I'm one of those people who aren't terribly bothered by mosquito bites.  Really.  I can be outside with my son on a summer evening and by the end of the night I'll have oh, maybe one bite.  It will itch fiercely for an hour or so and then cease to bother me.  DS, on the other hand, will have seventeen welts that last for days.  I do not exaggerate.  I counted once last summer after a particularly bad night.  Poor kid wandered around scratching miserably for a week.  Apparently he takes after J.  Just yesterday we were out picnicking and he (J) was attacked by a biting fly that followed him around the table.  His ankles were covered with bites.  Me?  Nada.   Just this evening we went to see fireworks and I felt a mosquito get me on the ankle.  That was only a few hours ago and I can't remember now which ankle it was.
            I know my husband loves me to the ends of the earth, but this apparent immunity to the itch-inducing world of pests makes him a little crazy.  Some of you are nodding as you have already started to scratch at your most recent crop of bites.  (Sorry.) This clearly falls under the category of things that are outrageously Not Fair.
            So it will cause you a bit of shadenfreude to know that I was bitten by some mysterious critter (We're guessing spider but we don't know.  The internet has failed to produce a match here, much to my distress.) on Saturday that has resulted in about a 1" patch of skin with an itch so intense that I am up typing this blog at 3:20 in the morning rather than sleeping.  Cortisone cream seems to be helping slightly.  Benadryl cream did nothing.
            The small rash does not match the pattern for a Lyme-disease-inducing tick bite, a black widow or brown recluse bite, mosquito, flea, bedbug, lice or scabies infestation either.  None of the usual suspects seem to be at work.  So I am left to sit here, furiously trying to think of anything but scratching, and failing rather spectacularly at it.  To make matters worse, I have a song from the kids' Sesame Street album stuck in my head like a mental itch.  Fortunately, I have iTunes to help me scratch that.  Too bad I  don't have an equivalent for this stupid bite.
             Itch, itch, itch....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Baby monitors

Wow.  Two days without writing.  I guess this means that if I tell my students to write everyday, I should give them a pass on weekends.

Today's thought comes from a discussion we had last night about baby monitors.   They don't work well over a distance, like from the back bedroom to the dock to watch the fireworks last night, especially if you're relying on the batteries in the receiver.  All you'll receive is static.  What does work well is cell phones with free minutes between them.  Place a call, then leave one phone, speakerphone on, in the baby's room, and the other phone, speakerphone and mute on, with Mom/Dad and voilá!  Baby monitor with no static, regardless of the distance.  Of course, you do have to watch for dropped calls.  Especially with <ahem> certain providers.

(Note to any nosy nebbishes who might be thinking of calling child services under the misguided perception that we use this in lieu of babysitters when we go out for an evening: the "distance" I'm talking about here is something like 100 feet.  So go find someone else to pester about child safety.  Or better yet, read some Lenore Skenazy and get a grip.)