Thursday, June 30, 2005

This Modern Life

Amazing, isn't it--the technology changes from our youth? Not only do grocery stores now put tags on every piece of fruit ("Hello, My Name Is Kiwi"), now they have little stickers on the avocados that say "I am ripe and ready to eat!"

How do they know this, the people who can't identify avocado without its name tag?

Top Ten Reasons Why Mr. Sweetie Must Come Home

Mr. Sweetie is travelling again. We feel sorry for him--he has had to play 36 holes of golf in two days in Napa Valley. California. Where the weather is ideal. In between rounds of golf, he has to visit wineries, sample wine, and eat at fabulous restaurants.

We all know he'd prefer to be here at home. Right? I said--RIGHT?

Yeah. Right. Um...RIGHT!

Top Ten Reasons Mr. Sweetie Must Come Home Now.

10. We miss him.

9. The puppy doesn't remember him.

8. The kidlets got on a crying jag at bedtime from missing him.

7. We are not sleeping well.

6. I made some killer guacamole, and I'm the only one here who likes it.

5. I can't get the damn wireless router to work, and I need his help.

4. I'm going to start having to let the puppy sleep in bed with me, just so I can get to sleep.

3. No one else likes what I cook anymore, so we're going to have to start living on breakfast cereal.

2. Did I mention that I'm not sleeping well?

1. I can't reach the liquor in the liquor cabinet, and the damn margaritas NEED TRIPLE SEC! (And the liquor stores are, in fact, all closed this late at night).

Plus, we just miss him. He comes home tomorrow.

Another Night of Insomnia

Mr. Sweetie is still out of town on business travel. We at home are having trouble going to sleep in his absence. I was up until 4:30 last night, unable to sleep because Mr. Sweetie is gone, and the weather was really hot and humid.

And because, Mistress of All Amateur Design Decisions had insisted on buying a stunning bed with a large headboard (last fall, when it was cool) and putting it in front of the only windows in the master bedroom--because that is the only wall without a steeply sloping ceiling--one of the hazards of an old Victorian farmhouse. Now, come hot weather, there is no place for air to enter the room, no place to put a window air conditioner, and nowhere to put a fan.

So, tonight, some things are different. The weather has cooled considerably. I have already staked out a temporary sleeping arrangement in a room with a ceiling fan.

And I have already started on the tequila. Yup--I should sleep well tonight.

Street Fashion

I was at a stop light behind a Mini Cooper today. The mini was a lovely golden color I'd not seen before, but that was not what made it noticeable.

It had been accessorized. And I mean "accessorized" like a theme room at a fantasy suites hotel. There were two vertical stripes of leopard spots running up the back of the car, on either side of the the license plate. The license plate was framed by a chrome frame with a pattern of (big) cat paws. On the rear deck (so you could see them in the rear window) was a bobble-head leopard, a pair of leopard print fuzzy dice, and a leopard Beanie Baby. Just below the back seats' headrests I could see the edge of leopard print seat covers. The license plate was personalized to say "SHEMINI."

Me: (to the kidlets) Oh look how she's accessorized her car with all the leopard things!

Bunny: How do you know it was a she?

Me: Well, the license plate says "She Mini," so I figured it was a lady.

Bunny: That could just be a coincidence. After all, boys like leopards too you know.

Do men drive accessorized leopard print Cooper Minis? I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around that. All I can say is--not any men I know. Not even the gay ones.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Those Were The Days, My Friend, I Feared They'd Never End

I was out with the kidlets today at a discount theater to watch Robots, which we had not yet seen. It hadn't struck anyones fancy at full price, but at $2 a pop, we were willing to try it.

Also in the theater was another mom with two children--I'm guessing the boy was 4 and the girl was 2. The mom sat the boy on the end against a wall, the girl in the middle, and herself on the end. The boy protested "But I wanna sit next to you too!"

Mom: (firmly) No. That's not going to work.

Girl: I don't want to sit here!

Mom moves girl to the end by the wall, herself in the middle, boy on the outside.

Boy: I want to sit there, by the wall.

Mom: (still firm, and still reasonable) No. Your sister needs to sit there.

Girl: I want that seat!

Mom puts boy at the wall, girl in the middle, herself at the end. Everyone smiles.

I look over at my two kidlets, sitting together quietly, reading books until the lights go down. Things do get better as they get older sometimes, don't they?

Which made me think about how hard parenting really is. You have to be so attentive to each detail, each moment, that it is hard to see anything like a big picture. This mom was firm and kind, and yet she totally gave in to the kids' demands, even after she already said "no."

As a bystander, I have the luxury of trying to figure out what that teaches the kids--"no" doesn't mean "no," so keep asking, but if you are reasonable about your requests they can get granted? There was no whining, no voices were raised, yet the mom was only marginally in charge. Was that a bad thing, though?

I visited a dear friend of mine earlier this week, and took my two kidlets and the new puppy to visit her new house and her two kids, ages (almost) 6 and 4. She was amazing! The house was tidy--the kid mess was confined to the lower level, which left large living areas as adult friendly. The kids were excited by the visit--new people and a new puppy--and yet the prevailing atmosphere was of calm, and quiet. The kids were attentive to us, kind to the puppy, they didn't pull or tug or rile the puppy up, but sat and let him come to them. They shared their toys with each other and with my girls, and we found the 6 year old and my 8 year old in the play area sharing computer games with each other.

There was a brief time out, that was preceded by a calm warning, a quiet enforcement of the rule, the setting of a kitchen timer, and the child re-emerged when the bell rang. No fighting, no upset, just calm establishment of the rules and consistent follow-through.

Thank God I was already past that stage with my kids, or I would have simply given up in awe and amazement. Calm I can do pretty well, usually. Rules--I'm not so good and stating, and even worse at enforcing. My friend was calm and organized, her children were well behaved and adorable--not in the least shy, not attention seeking, just little people with a great start on their lives. I totally don't know how she does it. I can only seek to learn from her example.

And yet, I bet if I asked her, she would be convinced that "everybody else" does a better job at balancing their lives than she does. She has no idea how amazing she is.

Because she is living in the moment to moment life you live when the kids are little. I know I had no perspective about what I was doing most of the time--I was just trying to do my best with whatever I had at any particular moment. I think that was what the mom at the movie was doing too.

And as I look at my kidlets--as I see them maturing and growing into such delightful people--I have to think that sometimes, that was enough.

Another 30 Second Review

Today, we bring you the 30 Second Review of Robots:

Me: What did you like about that movie?

Bunny: I liked the part where the robot got the voice box, and it sounded like an announcer voice. "And he wins!"

Me: Oh, yes. It sounded like he was announcing a baseball game.

Bunny: No, it sounded more like wrestling to me. I don't know why it reminded me of wrestling. Oh, yeah. Because it was stupid and violent, that's why it sounded like wrestling.

(Apologies to wrestling fans everywhere--I had no idea the Bunny even knew about wrestling.)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Yet Another Humiliating Moment

So, I bought a new laptop, as it has become painfully obvious that one computer with four people is not sufficient. The laptop is small, lightweight, and far from cutting edge, but will do what we need to do, which is relieve the congestion around the computer generally.

So, I open it up, and start messing around on it. And it's really nifty, until the Bunny points out that "there's no sound."

Well, that simply will not do, will it? So, I check the system volume, I check the audio devices, I check their compatibility with Windows XP. I run the troubleshooter for audio devices, and stump the experts.

Still no sound.

So, now the time has come to call in some big guns. I did, after all, buy the computer only yesterday. I call the retail store's service center. They tell me to call the manufacturer. So I do.

I have to give them all my registration information (I did do it online, but it hadn't shown up yet). I tell them the problem and all the steps I took to fix it. The nice young man on the line asks to put me on hold, while he researches the problem.

Dum de dum--bad hold music.

"Um, ma'am?" He's back. "Did you check the volume control wheel on the front of the computer--make sure that it's not turned all the way down?"

So, I'm guessing that CIO job will be going to someone else.

Hey--at least I had turned the damned thing on!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Boys Will Be Boys

And girls remain innocent.

We've had our new puppy for about a week now, and he continues to be a wonderful dog. We took him to the pet store and bought some new toys for him, which he has played with very well.

Except for one toy, which he started to pounce on. Something about the pounce led him to dominate it, which led him to just hump the hell out of the thing. The dogs I had before did a little of this, mostly the female on the male to show him who was boss.

But this was more intense, perhaps because Bermondsey is still an adolescent male, and only recently neutered. At any rate, this "domination" became intensely sexual, and suddenly this quiet little shy puppy had an enormous erection. I swear it was half as long as he was.

I think it surprised him, because he didn't seem to know what was happening or what to do with it. It kind of flopped over his leg, which freaked him out a little bit.

It was the kidlets' reactions that cracked me up the most. The Pony thought he was just dancing with it and he looked "so funny and so cute!" The Bunny uttered, direly, "Don't tell me--he just pooped, didn't he."

I hadn't expected a new dog to provide visual aids for sex education--I guess that's just a bonus gift with purchase.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Few Words About My Name

Over the last week or so, I've mentioned to people who know me IRL that I have a blog. They seem interested, even if only to be polite, until I tell them the name of it.

Somehow, the name "Mistress of All Evil" just scares some people off. Imagine!

Actually, I thought it was blatantly obvious that it was a joke. I mean, "mild mannered" doesn't even begin to describe how un-Evil I am. Polite, yes, eager to be liked, yes. Evil? Not so much.

And yet, two separate people who have known me for years got the yips when I told them my name. They were appeased only after I told them the origin of my sobriquet. Prophylactically, therefore, I do the same here.

The Bunny's favorite movie since she was 2 has been "Sleeping Beauty." The Disney version, of course, which was my favorite when I was about 4 myself. As a result, The Bunny's favorite villain is Maleficent, the wicked fairy.

As I sat with her, watching this movie for about the eleventy-millionth time, I began to contemplate the nature of Disney fairies. I mean, if you had magical powers of transformation, what would you do for yourself? Would you run around in a shapeless gray cloak with gray hair and an extremely round figure? Or would you make yourself tall, slim, and shapely? Okay, the giant black horn hat is a bit over the top, and not something I would wear myself, but you see the point. If I had magic powers, I wouldn't be a dumpy old lady, no sir! I'd be something stylish!

So, just for fun, I mentioned it to the kidlets--that maybe I should be like Maleficent. And bless their perceptive little hearts, they got the joke and laughed. "Oh Mama," they said, and pointed out that I was entirely unlike her in every possible way.

This became a great joke among the three of us, and actually came in handy as a parenting tool. There were occasions when I had to tell the kidlets to do something they didn't want to do, and so they objected. "But why do we have to?"

And I replied, "Because, I am the Mistress of all Evil!" I tried to sound as much like Maleficent as she delivers that line, and added my own evil cackle for good measure.

And it never failed to crack them up. But--and this is the parenting tool part--they understood that I doing it for important reasons, and so they would actually do what I asked.

The beauty part of this is that we avoided actually arguing about it. I never had to say "because I'm the mother, that's why" or "because I say so, that's why" or engage in other forms of conflict. I said "because I am the Mistress of Allllll Evil" and they got it.

Maybe I am way scarier than I think, but that means the kidlets are more perceptive than my adult friends, which makes them prodigies, I guess.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Which one is Professor Moriarity, and which is Mr. Sweetie? As you can tell, they are both very smart... Posted by Hello

At the Sherlock Holmes museum--Doctor Watson looks a little young to have served in India, doesn't he? And Holmes--is he old enough to smoke a pipe? Posted by Hello

This is Bermondsey, our new family member. He went to the vet today, where he was a very good boy, even though the microchip wasn't very fun. Isn't he handsome, though? Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Cartel Has Set Policy For The Next Decade

The Girl Cartel (aka The Pony and The Bunny) hath spoken, and Toasty is no more.

The new name is "Bermondsey."

This is not just an unusual name, and not just the area where we stayed in London. It is also descriptive of the dog himself--it is an area of warehouses right on the Thames, south of London, that had fallen on hard times. Many of the warehouses were abandoned, especially following the bombings of WWII.

Over the last 20 years, the area became a pioneering place for renovation, creating flats and offices. Currently, it is the site of a great deal of new construction and gentrification.

Like the dog, who has suffered some hard times, but is on his way to better things.

Of course, since we tend to "over name" our animals, his full name is "Constable Windsor Bermondsey of the Back Yard."

When he heard this, Mr. Sweetie laughed, then rolled his eyes to heaven, seeking understanding from above since his family down here is obviously insane.

***Pictures will be posted--currently having some trouble with the digital camera. Not to worry, there will be photos!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

And The Winner Is...

We got a dog today. I was prepared not to. In fact, after yesterday, I was pretty darn convinced we were going to get one of the black and white Shih Tzu puppies we saw.

Today was the rescue organization adoption at a (somewhat) nearby pet store. It was not meant to be, I thought. At first, I had the wrong pet store, and while there was an adoption going on, it was not the one I wanted to go to, as I had particular dogs I wanted to see.

So, fortunately having a cel phone, I called 411, got connected to the right store, and asked for directions. And then I sent us the entirely wrong direction. I thought I knew where I was going, and I didn't, and the person who gave me directions didn't drive, so between us, we ended up in the wrong place. I had to call back. Again. And get a different person.

So, instead of being there before the adoption started, we were there half an hour afterward. Which is often fatal if you are interested in a smaller dog. In fact, at first, I couldn't see any smaller dogs, and I figured it was fate.

Except it wasn't. The dog I had come to see spotted me first. I walked toward him, and he stood up, looked at me with his big brown eyes, and licked my finger. This was Toasty.

We brought him home.

He is a very quiet and alert dog, probably a Lhasa Apso crossed with--maybe a cairn terrier? He is about 9 months old and very sweet. The girl handling the adoption papers for me started to cry to say goodbye to him. He was very well loved by the adoption people, and a very lovely dog.

So, you are bound to be inundated with pictures and stories, so I'll cut you some slack right now.

Toasty is home, and he is ours.

Friday, June 17, 2005

News Flash! Snow Reported In Hell Today...

We also looked at this 8 month old Lhasa Apso today. I am very fond of Lhasas, but this one did not capture my heart like the Shih Tzus did. This is a new development, and probably welcome in the family, as I am the only member of the family who wants another Lhasa. Ever. Posted by Hello

All Worn Out At The OK Corral

This is the one with the blaze askew. I tried to get his face straight on, but I guess he is shy. Posted by Hello

What's Black And White...

This is The Bunny holding the other two puppies. They each are two pounds or less, and you want to buy all of them. Posted by Hello

Domino Doggies

The Pony, holding two males and one female. The one on the left has a mostly black face with a white blaze that starts out running down the middle, then gets diverted around his nose. He is my favorite. Posted by Hello

The Great Puppy Search 2005

These are the baby Shih Tzus we saw today. Their owner came around the corner of the house, and these five little furballs came trotting after her. They were quickly distracted, however, by the flowers hanging over the sidewalk. Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Ottomans Are Here!

We are buying new furniture for The Manse, and among the purchases are a pair of corner chairs. pushed together they make a lovely loveseat, but there was no place to put the feet. These are very comfy chairs, and foot rests became imparative.

So, off I trot, back to the store, and find lovely ottomans that only have to be special ordered so the fabric matches the chairs. I order--late March or early April.

They finally arrived. And so--the Ottomans are here! Am I the only one who has the image of fierce Turkish warriors forced into humbled submission so that my kidlets can rest their feet while watching Discovery Kids?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Naming Of The Animals

Ogden Nash had a poem about Adam and Eve naming all the animals God created. Adam was (according to Nash--I'm not bashin' here!) a typical man: "Dog." "Cow." "Pig."

Eve, on the other hand, made everything more difficult. Why? Just because: "No cats or bats or rats. No sir!"
Eve had to have hippopotamus, and orangutan, and rhinoceros.

I find I am more like Eve. The kidlets got a guinea pig last summer. They call her "Nutty" because she is cute and sweet and brown. I, of course, suggested her "full" name: Hazelnut Frangelico. Pretentious? Moi?

My two dearly departed doggies were also over-monikered. When we brought the first one home, we lived with him for a while to see what name might fit. It soon became apparent that everything we called him started with a "B:" Buddy, Buster, Big Boy, Boo Boo. He was a tiny little guy, small enough to fit in my hand, and a purebred Lhasa Apso. His name ended up being "B. Baxter Bentley" where the "B." stood for all the other names we called him. He recognized "Bentley."

Two years later, we got a second pup, another tiny Lhasa, female this time. Her name became "Hadley v. Baxendale" after the case I had to stand up and explain (in Paper Chase fashion) in my first year contracts class. She accumulated numerous nicknames, which ended up strung together behind the "v."

No--it's silly. You don't really want to know.

Really. It's really silly.

Okay, if you insist:

Hadley Virginia Ice Cream Mudpack Ding Dong Helicopter Kumquat Toothpaste Swordfish Trombone Oxymoron Junebug Double Chocolate von Baxendale.

I told you it was silly.

So, as I come closer and closer to actually needing another dog, I'm giving the subject of names some thought. I don't want to be too pretentious--okay, I don't want to be more pretentious than I already am. The Bunny wants to get a white dog and name it "Snowball" which is just too pedestrian for my taste.

So, where do I turn for a really good source for dog names? I've dropped out of law, so legal jokes, cases, phrases, etc. are no good. I did have a friend in law school who named her dog "Reinquist." She had to discipline him with a stinging dissenting opinion.

Maybe literature, since I still love that. But I have a hard time thinking what book/author/reference would possibly be my favorite. "Bronte" maybe? "Thackery?" "Jasper Fforde?"

The hunt continues.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Aging Is NOT For Sissies

Okay, so it's inevitable. I need bifocals. There is something cosmically unfair about having been nearsighted My. Entire. Life. and now not being even able to see close either. But, when the optometrist clicked the little lens over my eyes and said "Here's what your prescription would be...and what bifocals would do for you" there was no choice. Bifocals it is.

But not just bifocals. Oh no. Because I need to have protection from bright light--watching that tender skin around the eyes and trying to forstall wrinkles for a bit longer. So, I need sunglasses. Okay, so, frames with clip-on sunglass lenses.

First of all, there is no way "clip on" and "cool" will EVER go together. Clip on earrings? No. Clip on tie? No. Clip on sunglasses? You've never seen it in Vogue and you never will.

So, try the darkening lenses--you know, the kind that when you go out in the light turn all dark, so that when you go back inside you can't see anything? Actually, for me, they never quite go all the way light, so I walk around looking like I'm trying to hide my eyes because I'm stoned. I might as well BE stoned, if I'm going to look like I am, right?

But. Darkening lenses? Not the entire solution, because they don't darken when you are driving. Something about the nature of the light that comes through the windshield does NOT trigger the darkening effect. So you need sunglasses too. Second set of prescription sunglasses? Suck it up and go for the clip ons.

Because you still need regular sunglasses for when you wear contacts. AND reading glasses for when you wear your contacts. And you need several pair of both, because you tend to take off the sunglasses and/or reading glasses when you're done with their immediate use. And you put them down. And then you don't remember where that was.

Which is really a bitch when you do that with the bifocals, because then you can't see well enough to find them again.

I have found myself juggling several pair of glasses at the same time--what do I do if I want to read in the sunlight? What if I'm driving at night? What do I do when the $16 reading glasses I got at the grocery store are SO MUCH CUTER than the $400 automatically darkening clip on lensed bifocals I got from the eye doctor?

Like I said. It's not for sissies.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Best Comments Overheard At A Girl Scouts Leaders Meeting

"When I lived on the farm, the wives used to work outside of the home to support their husbands' agricultural habit."

"The most successful farmers were the ones married to nurses, 'cause then they had health insurance."

"My husband belongs to a drinking club that has a softball problem."

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Strummer-Jones Should Have Just Asked Us

We were driving along this evening, listening to The Clash--at the Pony's request. She has some favorites, and we were listening to "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?"

We'd gotten to the last verse:

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If you say that you are mine
I'll be here till the end of time.
So you've got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

And a little voice pipes up from the back seat: "I think he should go, but come back and visit sometimes."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Once again, who is this? Well, yes, technically, it's Neil Armstong. But he's captured here because he played basketball with the kidlets' grandfather. And Papa was better! Posted by Hello

Samuel L. Jackson may be way cool, but The Bunny knows him as Frozone from The Incredibles. That's why she's wearing the visor. Okay, it's really her sister's headband, but pretend, okay? Posted by Hello

Here are The Bunny and The Pony at Madame Tussaud's, London. You may (or may not) now the figure behind them as Billy Connolly. We know him as "Montgomery Montgomery" from the Lemony Snicket movie. Posted by Hello

And I'm Major Disappointment. So, Salute!

I've not really taken on the most recent Star Wars movies. Saw The Phantom Menace in theaters when it first came out, and haven't bothered with the last two. Hard to miss them, however--they pervade the pop cultural universe.

This is how I found out that there is a character in the most recent episode called "General Grievous." Okay, that's just silly. Imagine the dialogue that didn't make it into the final cut.

[Surveying smoking ruins of a battle site]:"That's what I call 'Grievous Damage'!"

"I'm known around the galaxy as 'Darth Sidious,' but you can call me 'In'."

"No, it's pronounced like the shopping center, but it's spelled M*A*U*L."

Actually, these stupid names give accidental heft to some of the earlier films. In the climactic scene in Return of the Jedi, the Emperor predicts that Luke will turn to the Dark Side. Luke insists "You are Gravely Mistaken."
I expected the following dialogue to occur. It didn't. Too bad.

"No, Gravely Mistaken is the governor of Palimsest. I am Palpatine."

"Palpatine? Aren't they at war with Israel?"

"No, that's Palestine. With a long "i." Palesteen is in Texas. I think."

"Was that a Major Conflict?"

"Major Conflict plays first base. General Confusion is the pitcher, and he throws the ball to Colonel Of Truth."

"I Don't Know..."

"Third Base!"

Eight Year Old's Puns Are Remarkably Clever

The Bunny drew this picture for me. It's...

...wait for it...

"Five Geysers Named Moe." Posted by Hello

Ewoks' Saving Grace

We've been introducing the kidlets to Star Wars, The Originals. I actually thought about limiting their exposure to only the first movie*, but we ended up watching the first three.

*I don't care if it's technically be renumbered and is now the fourth movie. It's been the first movie for over 25 years, I've been calling it "The First Movie" for over 25 years, and I'm too old to change now! Ya whippersnapper you.

Anyway, the kidlets love the Ewoks. And really, at 8 and 11, those are the best parts of the movies. None of this boring sterile Death Star shiny surface artificial environment "Luke, I am you father"--"Nooooooooo!"--"Father help me!" nonsense. It's all about the Cute Fuzzy Things. I now like Ewoks better--they may now stay.

Sometime in the last 25+ years, the ending victory party on Endor was rescored. Instead of that excreable Ewokese Smiley Happy Tune (I can't find a clip for you, but if you've ever heard it, you know what I'm talking about) was replaced with asomewhat more palatable Peruvian wind flute piece. The major flaw in the retolling? Landro Calrissian becomes the uncoolest black guy in the universe, clapping along on beats 1 and 3.

I'm Sorry, Professor Burton Hall

These guys look REALLY COLD when the snow accumulates on their naked body parts. Is this the origin of the phrase "deep frieze"? Posted by Hello

Oh, Halcyon Youth

Lileks has a post on his Bleat today that reminisces about glory days of college at the University of Minnesota. Among other things. It is the Bleat, after all.

Anyway, he includes a link to the frieze at Burton Hall, a glorious Greek Parthenon of a college building which was once the library. Beneath the triangular pediment runs a frieze of the gods of knowledge or something.

I found the charming little cafeteria/coffee shop in the basement of this building only in my last spring at the school. That was a bittersweet time. I was finding all sorts of things about my college experience that I had missed--charming new friends, interesting locations, good places to pass the time between classes--that I had never taken the time for in my monomanical focus on academics.

And at the same time I was counting the hours until I could get the hell out of Minnesota and go be with my Mr. Sweetie, who lived 1500 miles, one time zone and a 3 hour $400 plane ride away.

Not that I missed him or anything.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

There Is A Reason Amelia Earhart Was Never Found

On a recent business trip, Mr. Sweetie was scheduled for a meeting in Hartford, Connecticut until 5:30, and then was provided with a rental car and a plane reservation for 7:30. From Newark. That's in New Jersey.

And yes, places on the East Coast are close together, but don't forget the gravitational hole that is New York City. At rush hour.

So, sometime after 6:00 EDT, I receive a phone call from Mr. Sweetie.

"Um. Honey?"

"Uh oh."

"The map I have is bad--it's from the wrong place, and directs me to the wrong place. Can you look up the Newark Airport on Mapquest and give me directions?"

Can you hear the swelling of ominous music? Is there a married couple on the face of the earth who are able to give each other directions from a map without engendering serious arguments? Without both parties to the map reading wondering "Who the hell did I marry?" For the record, even in the best of times, my map reading methods drive my dear husband to want to drink scotch straight from the bottle. Not that there is anything wrong with the way I read a map--I know how to get where I am going. Is it my fault that his expectations are unreasonable and impossible?

Under the best of circumstances, it is a mistake for either one of us to read a map to the other. An Amelia Earhart/Fred Noonan-scale mistake. The size of the disaster is only exacerbated by the fact that only one of us is in the automobile and can identify landmarks. And that one of us is already late for the last plane of the day, and so is already driving 80 miles per hour in the vicinity of [small city name here].

The dialogue remains unenlightening:

"Mapquest says to go to Saw River Mill Parkway toward Route 117."

"Do I go onto Route 117? Does that take me to the Tappan Zee Bridge?"

"Um, I can't tell. Wait, later on it does say to go toward the Tappan Zee Bridge, so I guess that's yes."

"Yes I do go onto Route 117?"

"Well, it says go toward Route 117..."

"Which highway crosses the Tappan Zee? Could you look at the map, not at the directions?"

Me frantically pushing buttons to zoom in and out from the Mapquest maplet, unable to find the Tappan Zee Bridge. "Um, the map doesn't show the Tappan Zee bridge. It looks like it might be..."

Deep breath and a count to ten from other end of the phone. "Try typing in Tappan Zee into Google and tell me what highway goes across it."

Tappity tap tap as I try to Google Tappan Zee and get a lot of historical photos but no road directions.

"Wait--do I go onto to Route 117?"

Unable to get back to the Mapquest page and making a wild stab "Um, yes."

Traffic sounds from other end of line, and then "No, I don't think so. I'm on a two lane road circling an industrial park. Are you sure I'm supposed to be on 117?"

This goes on until Mr. Sweetie decides he is just going to hang up and drive, since pointing the car south is going to get him into the vicinity of New Jersey with less trauma than trying to understand my directions.

Twenty minutes later, the phone rings again. Does the Garden State Parkway intersect with the New Jersey Turnpike, and which one takes him to the airport? Back to Google, since Mapquest fails to identify either the Parkway or the Turnpike. Websites for "New Jersey Highways" produce stylized schematics that look rather frighteningly like the circulatory system of an eight week old fetus. And no directions to the airport either. Googling "Garden State Parkway" turns up websites that seem to indicate that the Parkway is the Turnpike--but then again maybe not.

As Mr. Sweetie keeps his voice calm and his breathing deep, and as I have no idea where on the map he is at any given time, nor can I get Mapquest to acknowledge the existence of an airport anywhere in New Jersey, Mr. Sweetie pulls up to a toll booth.

"Oh!" I say. "You are on the Turnpike." Yup--and I have an advanced degree to prove I'm smart.

Turns out that the guy collecting tolls does know where the hell the airport is, which makes him smarter and more helpful than me, all my diplomas, and the entire resources of the Internet. Mr. Sweetie makes it to Newark International, while his plane is still at the gate! However, he cannot get onto said plane--but that's another story.

What did we learn from this story? Map-reading ability should be one of those things that you have to prove before you can get a marriage license. Or put it into the marriage service--"In sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for the inability to navigate one's way out of a paper bag even with interactive directions...."

If he had only known, Mr. Sweetie might be happily married to someone else.

And The Dead Shall Walk

Mr. Sweetie is out of town again. The rest of us have totally messed up biorhythms. What, your kids aren't awake at 12:30 on a school night? Surely you lie! None of us can actually get to sleep and stay that way. I spent 2 hours snuggling and singing lullabies and modelling Good Sleep Behavior to The Bunny, and she still couldn't get to sleep. Even threatening to bring out the Lullaby Brick didn't work.

Tomorrow morning is going to totally look like Day of the Living Dead.

You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Training Wheels

Oh No! Tomorrow is Bike Rodeo at the kidlets' school, and The Bunny refuses to take her bike with the training wheels.

And who can blame her? It's just not cool to be in THIRD GRADE, MAMA, and NOBODY IN THIRD GRADE wants to go to school with training wheels.

Yes. I am a bad parent. When The Pony turned 6, we finally got off the dime and bought her a bike with training wheels. The problem with waiting until she turned 6 (which, to be fair, was only kindergarten) was that she was so tall that none of the bikes big enough for her body actually came with training wheels.

While I wasn't looking, apparently all the parenting manuals were revised to mandate that kids get two wheelers at age 3, and then they lose the training wheels and get $600 bikes before they are 4 feet tall. Why the hell did I not get that memo?

Because for the 4 foot 1 inch kindergarten Pony, we had to buy a bigger bike and jury-rig* training wheels onto it, which was entirely counterproductive as it merely made riding the bike entirely unbalanced and unpredictible, making The Pony truly terrified of what it would be like without what little assistance they provided.

So, thinking ahead, we got training wheels on a smaller bike for The Bunny. But then, we didn't follow through on actually taking them off. Plus, since we live in A Scarier World than we did as kids, our kidlets are not encouraged to take their bikes out of the garage and come back around dinner time. No way. Our kidlets are to be accompanied to the park behind our back yard and attended by an adult at all times. And if said adult is unprepared to run alongside a bicycle, then kidlet walks.

So, The Bunny has had very little bike riding time. And now the rubber hits the road, because training wheels are NOT ACCEPTABLE AT SCHOOL.

So, we took The Pony's big kid bike (absolutely no training wheels) to the park, where we could practice on grass before trying scary asphalt. She climbed onto the bike, pushed off, and suddenly realized that she was doing it all by herself. I had been "holding" the seat, but she didn't need that at all. She is a bike rider.

And it was marvellous to see her curvetting across the large field with such perfect balance and calm. She pedalled through grass, around the bases on the sandlot, and across the concrete sidewalks. She thinks she needs help to get onto the bike and get it started, but I wasn't really even touching it.

This weekend is probably going to have to be Buying A Big Kid Bike for the Bunny. How exciting.

*As a former litigator, I just love using this word.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Like A Bad Acid Flashback

One of my daily reads,, posted this article yesterday by Neal Pollack: "When Toddlers Get Fired." Holy flashback, Batman!

You can read the article yourself (if you're not a subscriber, just watch the little advertisement--it's worth it), but in short, Neal--humor writer and self-employed artiste--and his painter wife have a two year old with a talent for expressing himself through biting. Hard. Drawing blood and leaving scars hard. The daycare he was in finally pulled the plug on him and refused to allow him to remain. Much injured parental feelings and incredulity that said daycare would force them to take their own kid home for the summer!

Well, there were plenty of letters in response that said what was wrong with this scenario better than I could. Suffice it to say, these parents got a lot of extra time at that daycare--more than I thought was reasonable to expect under any circumstances. Plus, they failed to grasp the essential for-profit market forces at play--why keep a difficult child when--for the same inadequate wage--they could take care of an easy kid?

What struck home, however, was the obvious and unattractive terror these educated and artistic people expressed (in print! in public! in front of God and EVERYBODY!) about having to care for their own child. Having this 2 year old at home was going to be a "summer of hell."

Well! You just don't say those kind of things about your own child! Even when everything in the story depicts this kid as a hellion, and makes it vividly clear that this will, in fact, be a summer of hell for the Pollacks.

And certainly with that sort of attitude about their own child, it will be. And the downside of being brutally honest on the Internet is that people will write back and tell you what a selfish pig you are.

But, for those of you who have children--don't you understand the unreasoning panic that raising your own child raises in you? Okay, I am an articulate, well educated woman, with an equally articulate and well educated husband--and raising children has forced me to confront the scariest, most helpless parts of myself.

Two year olds are HARD. They are very hard. And with the first one, you have no CLUE what the hell you are supposed to do. I mean, look--weren't you raised to be polite? To take other people's feelings into consideration? To let someone else have the last cookie on the plate?

If you were a good student, or a good employee, you took direction, learned from your mistakes, sought to please your teachers, bosses, IRS auditors. Your life is about confomring to the expectations of others.

Then you get this tiny bundle of pre-cognitive id, who at age 2 possesses a superficial similarity to an actual human being, and all that learned behavior of your entire life is useless. Absolutely useless. Suddenly, there is no Social Contract--there is only ....what? Unless you've been through dog training classes, there is nothing to draw upon.

A child changes your life in ways that you can't understand, even as those changes happen. Remember when you got married, and you negotiated where to spend Christmas and Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving, and which family got what birthdays and holidays, and all that? And when you have a baby, didn't you think it would be the same?


Because one family lives an 8 hour drive away and the other is a 20 minute drive, and at Thanksgiving there are the worst ice storms and Christmas is even worse because the temperature is sub-arctic and the snows are many feet deep so the family that lives far away doesn't get either of those holidays because no person in their right mind would lock themselves into an enclosed vehicle with an infant for the 8 hours of a drive, plus the extra 8 hours for diaper changes and breast feeding (which you can't do while the car is moving because one or the other of you isn't going to be wearing a seatbelt), plus the excitment of sliding on ice and snow on interstate highways while large semis barrel by.

At least, not after the first time.

I remember 2--it was 2 that was the hardest of all. Your baby is no longer a baby. Her needs are no longer for comfort and food and sleep, but have become more complicated. A 2 year old needs to move, needs to explore and push buttons and open doors and go up and down stairs and examine things and even put them in his mouth and then go back up and down the stairs again and open that door again to see if anything inside has changed. Plus, they need to tell you things, but they don't have enough vocabulary yet, and you can see how infuriating it is to Not Be Able To Tell!

If a toddler could say "You just don't understand me at all!" he would. And he would be right. Even though you are doing everything you can to try to understand. But. You. Can't.

It's terrifying to be responsible for a 2 year old--toddler life runs on totally different time. Sure, I understand that repetition is the key to learning, but if I have to pull out Every Last Tupperware Container one more time I swear I will slit my wrists just from the boredom.

Two year olds are also not remote controlled--you can't direct them from across the room with verbal commands. You have to be right there, touching them. "No. Don't eat the dog food. Open your hand and put it back into the doggie's bowl. Here, take this Tupperware. Open the door. Close the door. Open the door. Put the Tupperware back. Close the door. Don't pull the doggie's tail, he doesn't like it."

A 2 year old doesn't want to ride in a stroller, she wants to walk all by herself. But also she wants to push the stroller. But she's too short, so you have to tip the stroller onto its back wheels so she can reach the handle, and then you have to hold onto the stroller so it doesn't land on your toddler. Toddlerhood is the time when your back aches because you have to constantly stoop over to operate at toddler height. And you do operate at toddler height, because everything has to be done physically.

Toddler two is why I only have two children. Pregnancy was remarkably easy for me and I loved being pregnant. Childbirth was intensely uncomfortable, but was less painful than the menstrual cramps I used to get. I had infinite patience with infants. I could have a dozen babies, if I could just skip being responsible for the toddlers.

I realized I had enough children when I had to teach the second toddler not to put the entire roll of toilet paper into the bowl and then flush. I mean, I had already learned that lesson for myself, and I had already taught it to another person once. This second time really held no further glamor for me.

But, this is the secret--time does pass and they do not stay 2 forever. When you are in it, it seems like that toddler will never change, that you will never get to think adult thoughts ever again. Certainly, even if you can conjure up a belief that the child will outgrow this stage, you can't really believe that you yourself will actually live that long.

So, my heart goes out to Neal Pollack and his wife, who had no idea what they were getting into when they brought that tiny bundle into their lives. And right now, it probably feels like they will never get to have anything like their old lives back. And that is a really desperate feeling. But it does come back.

My angel babies are now 8 and 11--ages I could never imagine when they were little. Of course, I couldn't imagine my 3-week old would ever be as big as that monster 4 month old baby I saw. I do have time to think my own thoughts, and my toddlers have turned into interesting people that I enjoy being with--even 24/7. Which was not something that seemed even remotely possible in front of the Tupperware cabinet all those years ago now.