Sunday, July 30, 2006

Our two red-headed sons and our pack

Barky asks: Are you sure we should be doing this?

Here at Bradstein Central, we've gotten a few questions about how Barky is reacting to his new little brother. While there hasn't been much direct interaction between the two red-headed brothers, there have certainly been a number of changes in Barky's life as a result of his brother's arrival.

It used to be that if we didn't get Barky fed and out the door by 7 in the morning, there would be some expressed anxiety about the delay. The expressions usually started with Barky making his presence known by weaving around our ankles while we tried to walk. These were much more effective when he was new to us and we hadn't mastered the half-step-forward-half-step-sideways-lurch-to-the-other-side-half-step-backward-skip-hop-half-step -forward form of locomotion that we're so adept at now. It looks sort of like we're trying to shake some wet toilet paper off from each foot as we walk on a broken sidewalk, having just consumed a dinner consisting of six olives and the martinis they were served in.

As I said, however, we're the drunken masters of this attempt by Barky to get our attention, so he usually had to resort to the doomsday option: maniacal squeaking. He would channel his inner Jack Russell Terrier and frantically squeak one of his (few) squeaky toys until we would finally say the magic word: "OK." Just in case this wasn't followed directly by a move to the front door, however, he would keep his head hanging over the toy, mouth open, until such time as we made progress toward exiting, including grabbing his leash, rustling some poop bags, or putting on shoes or a hat.

Now, however--when Mama and Papa often have wild nights that last until 3:30 or 4 in the morning, and which are filled with drinking (3B), barfing (3B), and blackouts (Mama or Papa in the glider-rocker, while 3B performs the second act of Riverdance on our belly while headbutting our ear)--Barky often doesn't even see the whites, or pinks, of our eyes until 8 or 9 a.m.

And we're damn sure making some coffee before we do anything like feed the dog or head outside. If we didn't, he'd be likely to be served a bowl of laundry detergent for breakfast, and whichever of us was on the other end of Barky's leash would likely be missing some vital accessory, like pants.

In the past, before our newest red-headed son arrived, this sort of dereliction of dog duty would have brought on extreme measures, such as bringing the doomsday toy onto our bed to sound the poop alarm. Now, however, Barky slumbers until we stir, and remains relatively calm until we head for the door. I'm quite sure that Barky's bladder did not expand while we were in the hospital, so I attribute this change in demeanor to his understanding that we have other tasks occupying our time.

That much has been apparent to him since we got home with this strange new type of person who we are all--Mama, Papa, and Barky--still getting to know. From the moment he arrived 3B has kept us busy throughout the day, distracting us from our primary mission while at home: attending to the hound. But Barky seems to understand that this is how it's going to be. He's sniffed around 3B a bit, licked his hands and feet a few times, but otherwise Barky lets 3B go about his business--although 3B has let loose with a few shrieks that have made Barky's tail stand straight up.

Our hound's nonchalance made it all the more touching tonight when we split up after our evening stroll as a family. We've taken to perambulating around our building and along our street in the evenings to give 3B some fresh--if oppressively hot and muggy--air, and to help Mama recover--which she's doing very nicely, thank you. We start off together, then Mama and 3B head in while Barky and I stay out longer to allow him a longer walk so that he can pick the perfect spot to lay lawn mines. Unlike his younger brother, Barky is a particular pooper; he needs just the right spot, which can take awhile to find.

Tonight, Barky and I helped Mama and 3B get back in the building, then I headed off to escort Barky to a quiet corner of the neighborhood--preferably somewhere with a good magazine to read. Barky was having none of it.

I could hardly pull his snout out of the door because he was straining so hard to follow them back into our building. I walked off a little ways, then waited for him, figuring that as soon as they went out of sight, he would lose interest and follow me along.

Oh no. Nothing short of a personal--caninal?--escort back to the safety of our condo would do.

I finally turned around and took the picture at the top of this post because I was so touched by Barky's concern. I did finally drag him away, thinking that he must be anxious to make the rounds, since it was later than usual for his evening constitutional, but he was not to be deterred, so we ended up circling for another 10 minutes, then heading in to join the rest of the pack.

I'm sure that I'll have more to report about the two redheads, but for now, it seems that relations are smooth and that a bond is forming between them.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Birth Story, Part I--Say What?

Before I get on with all the stories about pooping that I'm sure y'all are just dying to read, I'll go back a little bit to describe 3B's birth, in response to some of the questions sent in by you loyal six readers.

As you probably know by now, Mama's contractions started around 6:30 p.m. or so last Thursday. At 10:30 p.m., Mama and I laid down to sleep--or try to sleep, in her case. I was able to doze in fits and starts until about 1:30 a.m. By then, Mama's contractions were frequent and painful enough that we decided to call the doctor's office. As we expected, they told us to stay at home until the contractions were coming regularly every three minutes. Since I had been asleep, we hadn't been timing them, but I started while Mama was on the phone.

When she hung up, Mama decided that a warm bath sounded good, so we drew a bath for her and timed her contractions as she soaked. Turns out that I could have set my watch by them--they were coming every three minutes. So, as she soaked, I bustled around, getting last minute items together such as the iPod, speakers, and charger. . .

. . .hey, I didn't put together that labor and delivery playlist for nothing. What if 3B was born to the soundtrack of hospital Muzak? He'd be scarred for life, that's what. Instead of dropping him off at Prince concerts, we'd be driving him to see Yanni perform David Hasselhoff's greatest hits.

We did also pack some essentials, like toiletries, but most everything that we needed was in the car already, including a bag of snacks for Grandmama (Mama's Mama) and me. During the 16 hours that we were at the hospital, those were essential to our survival. There is a full cafeteria and, as I found out in our previous stay, even a pizza place that is open until 1 a.m., but neither Grandmama nor I felt much like going down for a meal while Mama was laboring, although we did eventually take short breaks to stretch our legs and get some coffee or tea.

On one of these breaks, or one of my many trips to the snack room on the labor and delivery floor that the hospital keeps stocked with sodas, coffee, and popsicles, and which is the home of the benevolent ice machine, I ran into two other dads from our childbirth class. Both came in at about the same time that we did, and both of those moms delivered before Mama did, but all three babies ended up with the same birthday.

It was good to see them, and comforting in a way to hear that we were going through many of the same trials: contractions slowing down, steadily increasing pain, and dilation and effacement progress that seemed to race ahead and then stop for hours. I saw each of them after their children were born; one was so excited that he couldn't stop talking and the other was so choked up that he almost couldn't say anything.

Another person we met at the hospital was one of the midwives from our doctors and midwives collaborative practice who we hadn't seen during our prenatal visits. She was on call when we arrived, and she showed up in our room while we were getting settled. One of the first things she asked Mama was, "On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you've ever felt, how would you rate the pain that you're feeling now?"

From our previous stay in labor and delivery, we expected that Mama would get asked this question repeatedly. I had been asking Mama that question as her contractions progressed because it helped me get a sense of how she was feeling. I think that it also helped her define where she was and even measure progress, with more pain equaling more progress, unfortunately. What we didn't expect, however, was the response from the midwife when Mama rated her pain as "about 5."

The midwife looked straight at Mama and said, "OK, what you've got to understand is that your 5 now is really just a 1 or a 2. This is hardly any pain at all compared to what's coming. OK? So I just want you to adjust to that. But what's most important is that you stay calm."

Wow.

So . . . if you're going to rate her pain for her, why did you even ask Mama to rate it for you? And what a rather horrible way to devalue what your patient just shared with you. As soon as she walked out, right after dropping that little bomb on Mama's expectations, all of us expressed disbelief that the midwife could or would say something like that, especially given all of the positive experiences that we had with the various doctors and midwives during our prenatal visits.

Then to tell Mama to stay calm in light of that jarring news? Not exactly what I'd call a warm bedside manner.

The midwife, who had many odd things to say in her short time with us, had already told us that her shift ended at 10 a.m., however, so we decided to just stick it out. Besides, she wasn't coming in nearly as often as the nurse, whom we all got along with rather well.

When that nurse's shift ended, Nurse Kim came on, and was with us past the end of her shift, until she had to leave, just before 3B arrived. Kim was wonderful throughout a long day of ups and downs; she remained steady in what was for us a pitching sea of anticipation and disappointment. Before she started her shift the next morning, Kim came by to visit 3B in the maternity ward, and was visibly disappointed that he had arrived only 20 minutes after she left, but she was glad to see him. We were glad to see her as well; she had made a long and trying day much easier for all of us.

To be fair to our OB practice, the next midwife was fine, as were the doctors who stopped by both to check on Mama and to just say hello. In fact, it was nice that the doctors took the time for social visits given how busy they were--in fact, we got one of the last of the 35 beds in the maternity ward. Shortly after we arrived there, they had to hold all mothers and babies in labor and delivery until there were discharges from maternity. And it wasn't even a full moon.

The lesson that we took from this is that it's not the role, it's the person. There can be midwives who are fruitnecks just as easily as there can be nurses or doctors who are. And there can be nurses who are just as supportive, compassionate, and warm as any midwife. Or even more so, depending on the midwife. It's too bad that we got a wingnut when we first arrived, but it was good fortune that her shift ended soon after that, and that we got such a great nurse for almost all of Mama's labor.

It seems obvious now, but this lesson was a surprise at the time. Mama had picked this practice for the very reason that they are a collaborative practice with even numbers of doctors and midwives, making few distinctions between the two. We both still respect the good and necessary work that midwives do, and we certainly want one involved in any future births, however, we'll be sure to know ours better next time, and be more firm about exactly what kind of care we want.

I'll leave off there with the birth story for now. When I come back to it, I'll try to remember to go through the highs and lows of labor and delivery as succinctly as possible. Until then, thanks for reading, and I'll try to get you up to speed on where we are right now . . . after this next nap, maybe.

Friday, July 28, 2006

What I Yam

Apparently we'll have no problem getting 3B to eat his spinach, although it appears that he'll have to suck it out of the can through his pipe:

3B as Popeye

Saturday, July 22, 2006

"May you build a ladder to the stars...

...and climb on every rung,

Here he is!

may you stay forever young"
--Bob Dylan

Friday, July 21, 2006

Here we go...

[Imagine a picture of the patient entrance to the hospital, taken in
the early morning darkness today, because Blogger won't let me post it.]

We arrived here at 0-dark-thirty, after waking Auntie Banana at an
ungodly hour to ask her if she could tend to Barfy the Bunny Slayer until we can come home with 3B in our arms...or car seat.

Liberal Banana sounded not at all like I'd woken her from a dead
sleep, but as though I'd perhaps interrupted her lunch. How does she do it? How is she always so cool and collected?

As for Mama, she's a rock star. She's getting some rest right now. Her contractions started getting stronger and closer over 12 hours ago, which means that she didn't really sleep last night and that this rest is much needed.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What's the next number in this sequence?

This is a little list that we kept tonight, starting at dinner, going up to bedtime. If you know what the next number is in the sequence, you should either hang out your shingle as a psychic or go to work in the gaming division of the mob.

07/20/06 p.m.
7:42
7:59
8:07
(Papa went downstairs, put car seat in rental car while sweating buckets and appreciating the nice feature of big cars--they're big--and while talking to Mr. Honda to have him fax the final price quote and start work on finances, only to realize that 3B may come home in the Honda, making this a moot effort)
8:35
8:42
9:03
9:10
9:18
9:22
9:28
9:32
9:39
9:47
9:52
10:03
10:08
10:14
10:22
10:30
10:35

We don't know what the next number is, but we hope that this sequence leads to some numbers we have saved...like the phone number of our doctor/midwife practice, which we'll call if these start to get painful.

We'll keep you posted. You know that I just can't wait to sleep in what Mama so affectionately dubbed the "gutter bed" again, don't you? On the other hand, we know that Barfy the Bunny Slayer will be glad to shamelessly curl up in Auntie Banana's bed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Papa = Jack. Ass.

I think it's fair to say that we're all tired at the Bradstein household. Tired of waiting and tired of the heat. Even though I'm more fond of warm weather, and even though Mama and her Mama have been taking daily trips to cool off in the pool, it's draining.

Even Barky is probably tired from the constant activity and the heat. He's knows that something is different, with Mama's Mama visiting and Mama working from home all of these days. This is probably stressful for him since he's not fond of changes. Barky also knows that we're all a bit strung out, which doesn't calm him down, since his moods often follow ours, from excitement to exhaustion.

It wasn't that surprising, then, that when Mama's friend came over a few days ago with her two-year-old daughter, that Barky did this to the bunny that he previously chewed the ears off of

Part of this was, I'm sure, showing off, but part of it was probably blowing off nervous energy. In spite of his extra energy, however, Mama reports that he was great with the little girl, not even noticing when she pet him while he was gnawing on a rawhide.

What was surprising, however, was what Barky did when Mama and her Mama went out briefly yesterday:

  • took Mama's raincoat out of the closet and chewed the bottom of it off
  • ate the rest of the rabbit, including stuffing
  • barfed the rest of the rabbit, including the stuffing, out on our bedroom carpet (Mama took pictures of that too. . .aren't you glad I spared you those?)
  • tore up a bunch of his poop bags
When we took him out, he grazed on grass like a starving cow, barfing once. We're keeping an eye on him today, to ensure there's no blockage, but as of this morning, bunny parts seem to be passing through without much delay. (Hey, if you don't like poop stories, you'd better stop reading now; there are sure to be more to come after 3B gets here.)

So it was a stressful day yesterday. We're worried that we're going to go back to the crazy dog days--although we'll keep an eye on him over the next few days; it could be that something out of our control set him off. I was pretty wound up and worn out from trying to work while staying in touch with Mama and shopping for a new car. . .and monitoring the Tour de Fwonce.

Have I mentioned that Mr. Hondas are weasels for the most part? Yes, even the internet Mr. Hondas who write things like, "I can't go lower than that price if you're going to buy another manufacturer's car, but if another dealer of my manufacturer has a lower price, I can lower my price."

OK, jackass. That makes sense how? You're going to lose the sale either way. Jack. Ass.

What better way to end a day like that than to watch the end of the Tour stage then join Mama in slumberville? As I did started to drift off, I finally remembered to ask her if she'd seen her iPod recently. We want to take it to the hospital with us, but I hadn't seen it recently. I figured that she already packed it in our hospital bags, which are already in the car, but I'm one of those irritating guys who likes to pack two days before a trip, just to be sure.

Mama was still half awake, so I rolled over and asked if she knew where her iPod was, figuring she would say, "Sure. It's in the car." Instead, she broke down, sobbing. Way to go, Papa, making Mama feel even more tired and stressed.

Poor Mama was instantly stressed out because, as she said between sobs, she
  • had no idea where it was
  • thought that maybe we left it in the manzanita--which is on its way to becoming Sapporo beer cans
  • knew she couldn't sleep until she found it
  • was too tired--exhausted--to look for it at that hour
No worries, I said, swinging into my sterotypical male problem solving mode, getting dressed again to go down to the car and find it. That made her cry harder. Way to go, Papa, making Mama feel even worse.

Mama was too tired to do anything and just wanted to sleep, but she didn't want me to leave, because then she would worry more about the lost iPod. So I got back into bed. But now my mind was spinning, thinking that I should solve the problem (go to the car, Papa), but that it's more important for Mama to feel good and get some rest (stay with Mama, Papa).

Eventually, however, I fell back asleep, only to be awoken by Mama, crawling back into bed, whispering, "I found the iPod. It was in my bag." To which I mumbled, "Great. Good news." then rolled over and continued sleeping. Way to go, Papa, falling asleep on the job. Who's the jackass now?

I'm not sure who felt worse this morning--Barfy the rabbit eater or his sleep-deprived parents. Even though I felt smarter for not having eaten a pound of cotton fluff yesterday, the inside of my mouth felt as though I had. Although I didn't hork on the lawn.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Some days you're the windshield. . .

. . .some days you're the bug.

Today I'm the bug.

This morning, I managed to wake up, make coffee, walk Barky, shower, and get dressed. Before I left for work, however, I couldn't find my sunglasses. I knew that I had them when I walked Barky this morning, but they weren't next to my Treo. They weren't on the bedside table. They weren't on the coffee table. They weren't on the dining room table. They weren't in the closet or on the bar.

As I muttered to myself, my morning was starting to sound like Green Eggs & Ham:

"I did not put them on this box. I did not give them to a fox. They aren't in the fridge with the lox--hell, we don't have any lox, we're vegetarians!"
Mama and her Mama and Barky all watched me wander about, looking for my sunglasses. Down the hall, back into the living room, into the kitchen, over to the dining area, back down the hall. . .finally, I just had to leave for work.

I kissed Mama goodbye, locked the door behind me, got in the elevator, stepped out into the lobby, which was incredibly bright, so I grabbed my sunglasses out of my shirt pocket. . .

Yes. When I got dressed, I had hung them in my shirt pocket as I always do. My story, and I'm sticking with it, is that I'm a brain donor. I gave mine to my son.

And on the seventh day. . .

. . .we went for a walk.

It was quite a pleasant little stroll, right up until my hair burst into flames because it was so hot.

OK, so I'm lying about my hair bursting into flames. It's too humid for anything to burst into flames. Being outside generally feels like walking around inside a marathon runner's shoe, if that gives you any idea of just how pleasant it is here.

Barky was happy to be out and wasn't even too hot for the first part of the walk, perhaps because he was still damp from his bath. Taking him on the walk was my way of making up for giving him the bath. He hates water, especially the bath.

Which is what makes this walk so remarkable. We walked around the lake, then past the bridge and stream because I know that he normally wouldn't even take a drink if we went down through the treacherous vine-covered boulder field to the banks. And he certainly wouldn't cool off by wading in the water.

How wrong I was.

After we went by, he kept keening and looking back, so I turned around, figuring that maybe he smelled the water. As soon as I turned, he sprinted past me, over the bridge. As soon as we were over the bridge, he headed down to the stream.

Not only did he take a drink, he went for a stroll up the stream, exploring both banks, with me wading behind. Good thing I wore my sandals, eh? The water wasn't all that cold, but it was still refreshing for both of us.

On the way back home from the stream, however, we both started to heat up again, so we stopped in at Cameron Perks, our favorite local coffee shop. OK, our only local coffee shop, but still. . .they gave me a pitcher of fresh ice water to refill the bowl they keep out for dogs. See why they're our favorites?

I also got him a treat and myself an iced coffee. We sat there about as long as we could without our eyeballs melting, then headed home. Even with the wading and the break for refreshments, we were both exhausted by the time we got home. Even this morning, Barky was still pretty sluggish, although not too tired to sprint after some squirrels.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Someday our prince will come

I’m waiting for my man
Twenty-six dollars in my hand
Up to Lexington 1-2-5
Feeling sick and dirty more dead than alive
I’m waiting for my man.

--Lou Reed


Things that we did today
  • Watched the longest, and perhaps most boring, stage of the Tour de Fwonce
  • Caught up on our filing--OK, honestly, I only got 1/2 way through the 3-foot-tall stack atop the filing cabinet, but it's a moral victory
  • Put together a funkload of new music to groove to, inspired by hearing Shining Star while driving to work on Friday
  • Solicted price quotes for a new car online from a dozen or so car dealers--then spent the rest of the day trying to keep them straight and explaining to them that, no, we don't want the top end model with every bell and whistle
  • Went to the pool and sweltered in heat that makes being outside feel as if one were walking around inside the mouth of a feverish dog
  • Chilled out watching Prairie Home Companion
  • Worked up a Black Sweat while walking Barky in one of my new guayaberas
  • Watched what I presume was an osprey snatch a goldfish--or at least a golden-colored fish--out of the local pond where I was walking Barky, looking at the turtles floating around in the waters, which was muddy from all the recent deluges
  • Talked to my Mama, who just returned home after driving across the country and back--OK, to Michigan and back, but that's close enough--by herself. She has also driven all the way across and back several times. Yes, she's a rock star.
  • Used the IKEA silly names link from my own blog to find out that if I was an IKEA product, I'd be called a "BODALACK" and that Mama would be a "APPABODA" and Barky would be, appropriately enough, a "BĂ„RKUGGA"
  • Fruited around on the internet

Things that we did not do today
  • Have a baby

Friday, July 14, 2006

Baby Watch, Bastille Day

"Those who wait for that must wait until a shrimp learns to whistle."
--Nikita Khrushchev


Three of us--Mama, Mama's Mama, and I--went to the doctor this afternoon, and three of us walked out of the doctor's office. That's right, Mama and I are still a family of two. Three, if you count Barky.

So sure, all you smartasses, you can keep the questions coming. And, I suppose, suggestions for getting labor started, like eating greens, taking long walks, or taking up pogo sticking.

We may not respond right away, however. We're going to be busy over here teaching this shrimp to whistle.

Tick. Tock.

"The waiting is the hardest part."
--Tom Petty

It's that time at the Bradstein Household: baby watch time.

Yes, we're in those final days: We're past our due date; Mama's mama has arrived; we've watched about as much Tour de Fwonce as we can stand. . .but still no baby.

I'm sure that I'm only speaking for myself here, since I'm not the one who is having irregular and increasingly uncomfortable contractions, when I say that the most painful part isn't the endless waiting but the endless repetition.

Every day, each of my 201 coworkers asks me approximately 63.7 times, "When's your baby due?" I'm an editor, so my math isn't that good, but it feels like that adds up to approximately 1.34 billion repetitions of the same question every day. Mama felt great relief to be free of that question when she started working at home, which she is doing now.

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but it seems that if these people are genuinely interested, they might make an effort to remember what I just told them 36 seconds ago and not ask me again. That would save me from having to jam Sweet 'N Low packets into my ears and run from the coffee room yelling, "La la la la la! I can't hear you!" to avoid the incessant questions.

Have I not affirmed that Mama and I will make an announcement when the baby arrives, that we will not disappear into the Swedish witness protection program, where we would toil in the IKEA silly names unit, trying to come up with something better than Diktad or Babord?

Sigh.

The next most popular topic is what will cause Mama to finally go into labor. The answer varies, of course, depending on who you talk to and at what time of day. A coworker of mine suggested simply eating lots of greens, while a clothing saleswoman, where Mama and her Mama were shopping yesterday, insisted that Mama and I make the beast with two backs, giving Mama specific instructions about positions. What's the correct response to this? "Thanks. Do you have a belt that would go with this?"

And, of course, there are the birth stories. Mama certainly gets more of these than I do, and some are actually informative and interesting. The first time. Again, after hearing some birth stories every day for the last 40 weeks while I'm trapped waiting for the coffee machine to deposit that necessary sludge into my cup, I've no recourse but the Sweet 'N Low in the ears and the running and screaming. If it wasn't against my slacker Buddhist nature, I'd probably stab them with coffee stirrers until they stopped talking.

What is truly amazing about these childbirth storytellers is their medical diagnostic ability, especially given that many of them have never met Mama. Many of them start off sounding as though they just want to share their experience and bond, which is touching. In some cases, their experiences share common elements with ours, so those aspects are particularly interesting or informative. However, most of them wind up with a claim such as, "So, here's what's going to happen. . ." Really? Because not my Mama, not Mama's Mama, and not one of Mama's doctors or midwives has such keen clairvoyant powers that they claim to know how her labor and delivery will go.

That said, we both know that these conversations spring (mostly) from sincere care and concern, which is touching, so we mostly brush them aside and move on, Sweet 'N Low trickling from our ears. In addition to that, we're in the final few days of our pregnancy, the final few days when anyone will care to talk to us at all. After 3B arrives, people won't care if Mama or I come down with The Plague--they'll just want to know how the baby is doing--so we're enjoying the final few conversations about adult topics that we'll have for the next 10 years.

Besides, we're busy counting down the days. Counting down to when 3B is here to hold in our arms; counting down to when we can listen to his soft sighs as he sleeps (and yes, his screams when he wakes. . .we know, we know); counting down to when we can start to tell our own birth story to expectant parents. . .again, and again, and again. . .


We do have a doctor's appointment today--routine checkup--after which I'll provide an update.

And really, if you skipped the link to the IKEA name generator, you must go there now.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sending a boy to do a woman's work

Disclaimer: In this post, I make generalizations about the behavior of men and women based on my experience. I don't attempt to back up my observations with any data. My generalizations are subject to my own biases and are likely inaccurate; there are bound to be exceptions to them. In addition, I understand that there are many theories about the causes of differences in behavior between men and women, and even debate over whether there are differences at all. I am not attempting to resolve these issues.

I am attempting to describe why some car salesmen are such weasels.

Since last week, when someone saw fit to race through a red light and smash into Mama's car, we've been car shopping. After we got out of the hospital, that is. In our limited experience, we've found two kinds of car salesmen: boys and men. That begs the question: Where are the girls and women?

The two salesmen we're currently shuttling between demonstrate why women could give all these men a run for their money selling cars. There are some confounding factors in this comparison, like the fact that Mr. Honda is about 15 years old and Mr. Toyota is around 50 years old. His age makes it somewhat hard for me to take Mr. Honda seriously when he is trying to lay down the serious salesman schtick, like bringing over his "manager," who was perhaps just another teenage salesman, for all we know.

It's like the Lord of the Flies in the Honda dealership. They're all about 15. At times, I wanted to ask if their teacher would be back soon.

Partly by virtue of his age, we take Mr. Toyota more seriously. However, age isn't everything. Part of our attitude toward Mr. Toyota is due to his efforts to listen and hear what we are saying without that maddening echo chamber "What I hear you saying is. . ." technique.

We walked in and told Mr. Honda that we were looking online at models X and Y, to which he said, "OK, let's look at their engines and trunks and take them for a test drive." In response to the same request about similar models, Mr. Toyota said, "That's interesting. X and Y are such completely different cars. They each do totally different things. First, can you tell me what you want in a car? After you answer that, let's go take a look at them; then, you can drive them and see if they're really what you want."

Mr. Toyota also

  • told us when he thought an option package was not worth the money he would charge us for it
  • told us that he didn't see the need to pay extra for a larger engine
  • spun his computer monitor around so we could look at invoice prices and discounts with him
Mr. Honda, by comparison, wrote the sticker price on the back of his business card, introduced us to his "manager," and told us to come back when we were ready to hear his real price for the car.

Gee. Who do you think we liked better?

And we like Mr. Toyota better because he communicates and works more like a woman than a man. He asks. He listens. He contributes. He tries to help us succeed. It's not that we want to talk to a woman, but we want a salesperson who performs those functions, which women are generally better at in the U.S. On the other hand, when I called Mr. Honda to compare sales prices, rather than respond to competitive offers, he refused to give me anything other than the sticker price and insist that I come in to the dealership to bargain with him.

Now that's customer service.

I've heard from others who have had the same experience at a Honda dealer, which makes me think that Mr. Honda's techniques aren't the result of his youth and inexperience, but the result of Honda's salesman training. It appears that Honda believes that a high-pressure competition between the salesman and the customer is the best way to sell cars. I'm not sure that it is, especially from my perspective as the customer.

I'd much rather have a salesperson who understands what I want, which requires talking with and listening to me. I'd also prefer a salesperson who, even if he or she is faking it, makes me feel like they want me to succeed rather than a salesperson who makes me feel like the goal is to best me in a bargaining competition. That ideal salesperson sounds to me more like a woman than a man, although Mr. Toyota is proof that gender doesn't determine behavior.

If it is true that generally women have more traits that are desirable to car buyers, why aren't there more car saleswomen? It seems to me that car sales is a field well suited for women, if anyone could ever get around the ingrained bias against women as experts on and purveyors of mechanical and technological items.

Or am I the anomaly?

Do most people prefer playing wallet tug of war with a car dealer who is determined to prove himself by beating customers who are less informed and less experienced than they are?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ex-machina

On Saturday, we took a little trip to say a final farewell to our faithful steed, the red manzanita. It was at a junkyard about a mile from our place. A secure junkyard:

They were remarkably nice, once they found our car. As soon as we pulled in, the tow truck driver came out to check on Mama and make sure that she was still OK. He was just as concerned at the scene, actually, which threw me off. I kept thinking, "Are you really a wrecker driver?" as he asked me how Mama was, how I was feeling, if I needed any help getting anything out of the car, and so on. Having someone around who was so caring and concerned somehow made it easier, however. Angels come in strange disguises.

As for the manzanita? Well, we were able to get all of our belongings out of it, including peeling the bike rack off the roof, but she was in rough shape.


The insurance company already told us that they're going to declare her a total loss, which is a shame in a way, because everything behind the windshield is fine. Back there, it looks as though the accident never happened. OK, there is the small issue of the engine, transmission, and drive shaft, not to mention the probable bending of several key elements of the frame, but still. . .it's hard to just write off a car that
  • got us through snow, ice, heat, moving, doubts, and fears
  • brought Mama out from Maine to live with me in Colorado eight years ago
  • brought home our faithful hound, Barky
  • took us to and from our wedding, dragging cans across the meadow and down the farm road as we departed
As they would say up in the St. John Valley, where Mama grew up, "She's a good one, her. We'll miss 'dat."

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A couple days late and a car short

Earlier this week, we had a beautiful and a stormy 4th of July. It started off hot and sunny, and we decided to escape the heat and show our patriotism by going to see Superman Returns. We both loved it, although we came out to find that another--another!--storm had ripped through the area, snapping off this tree, which nearly hit our little manzanita, which is now our ex-manzanita.

It was a good excuse to take some pictures of each of us, although they're not too good, since we were using my phone. I know, I know. At this point in the pregnancy, we should be carrying the camera everywhere we go, right?

As for the rest of the day, it was our first year in the nation's capital--well, in the suburbs of the nation's capital--for the 4th. Normally, during the dog days of summer, we head up to Mama's Grandma's dairy farm in Vermont, where we were married, to play softball with the cousins at the cookout on the 4th, as well as enjoy some beautiful bike rides through the hills.

Later in the month, we typically head out to see my side of the family, either at home or where we all gather in SoCal. We'll have to wait until next summer to introduce 3B to all the pleasures of both places. Although he enjoys both places, I'm afraid that Barky will have to stay here rather than endure the chaos of a cross-country flight with Mama, me, and 3B. That means that, while we'll be able to introduce 3B to the best donuts in the world, Barky will miss out on licking the sidewalk clean.

We decided not to suffer the madding crowd on and around the Mall, but we were able to see the tops of those fireworks over the hill that's between us and D.C. The tops of them looked impressive. We also heard them and some firecrackers from the street, which caused one of us to tremble, pant, and lift a front paw. Not everyone's favorite holiday, even if two of us thought it was a lucky day, since our car was saved being crushed. . .for a couple of days, anyway.

And thanks again to everyone for their kind words after Mama's crash. She and 3B continue to do well, as do the rest of us; we're all touched by your thoughtful messages.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Let's spend the night together. . .or at least in the same hospital room

Note: I attempted to post this last night, but Blogger's moblogging function didn't post it. So here it is, a little late.


This lovely bed, if I can call it that, is where I'll be spending the night tonight, rather than in our luxurious pillowtop with Mama and her Berlin Wall of pillows. Mama will be in the same room, although she'll be without her wall of pillows. In exchange, she gets to find the most comfortable position she can in the hospital bed.

Yes, we're in the hospital.

No, Mama's not in labor.

Why are we here then? Just for the food? No. Actually, Mama, who is working from home these days, headed out from home this evening with Barky to pick me up at work. After pulling away from home, she stopped at the traffic signal around the corner and waited for a green light.

When the light turned green, she pulled out to cross the street with Barky slumbering in the back seat next to our empty car seat--we're acclimating him to riding with the car seat. Unfortunately, a man traveling down the street she was crossing accelerated to race through his now red light and crashed into our little manzanita (what we call our little red Toyota--now our ex-little red Toyota).

Fortunately, Mama had just started out slowly, and he ended up hitting just the front left quarter panel, not her door. Thank goodness she didn't pull out any faster. Of course, he hit it so hard that he crumpled the quarter panel and hood and knocked the engine and bumper across the car. In fact, he was going so fast that he couldn't stop until he was at the bottom of the hill, at the next traffic light. Mama was sure he was fleeing, and that was the last that she'd see of him.

He did stop, however. He did return. He did have insurance.

And Mama, 3B, and Barky were all fine. By the time I got there, a wrecker was waiting to tow our car away, a policeman was taking a report from all of the witnesses, and Mama and Barky were in the back of the ambulance. And, yes, Barky was spread out on the soft bed (read: gurney, but any port in a storm for our mutt), while Mama was perched on the side bench next to a paramedic. What a relief to see her. I think that I didn't really breathe the whole way over from work until I saw her.

As a precaution, they brought Mama in the ambulance to stay here at the hospital overnight for observation, but everything has been OK so far. The ultrasound showed that the placenta is still attached and that 3B is healthy and ready to come out. The ultrasound tech even said that he has chubby legs. He was sleeping at the time with his hands in front of his face, but we did get a glimpse of his cute little upturned nose and pudgy cheeks. How cute is all of that? Supercute, that's how cute.

There was also a small chance that this would send Mama into labor, but that doesn't appear to be happening. So this is just a dry run for the trip we will soon make back here under better circumstances--and in a new car, I suppose. And during this time we've learned important information about the hospital that wasn't covered on our tour, like where to get pizza at 10:30 at night.

Actually, other than that, it's been as they said it would be, and Mama is slumbering peacefully now, having gone to sleep to the sound of 3B's heartbeat on the monitor. I'm about to join her on what looks to be a marginally more comfortable contraption than some we saw in the torture chambers in The Hague, grateful for so many blessings--no, I'm not talking about the late-night pizza, I mean blessings like

  • my coworkers who raced me to the scene of the accident to see Mama before the ambulance brought her here
  • Liberal Banana who is looking after Barky, who is understandably traumatized by the accident too...he understands less about it than we do, and I couldn't spend much time at home comforting him before I had to come here, and most of that was spent on the phone to family, insurance agents, Peapod (we had a grocery delivery tonight, of course), and so forth
  • the nurses and doctors here who treat us as if we're visiting their home rather than recovering from a shock, which has helped us calm down
  • our families, of course, who helped spread the word to save us the work, and who called to talk, comforting and distracting us when we needed it
  • and even Barky, who didn't really freak out until Mama was safely on her way here, and he and I were back home
If nothing changes in the next few hours, we'll head home in the morning, go pick up our rental car, do a little car shopping, and wait to come back here under better circumstances.

UPDATE: It's 10:15 a.m., Friday, July 7 now. We're home, having been discharged an hour or so ago. Coworkers dropped us off at the car rental agency, where we picked up the car and some donuts and coffee. Mama is fine, except some soreness in her neck and shoulders and a little bump on the side of her head. Barky was slumbering when we got home, having enjoyed a night of being spoiled at Auntie Banana's place, although he had the good manners to act as if he'd been up all night, worried about us.

Our insurance company is already on the case, although it may take a few weeks to get everything finalized, so while we'll do some car shopping today, we may well bring 3B home in the rental car. Other than the car shopping, I think that we'll likely spend the weekend trying to relax and understand what all we have to do now, on top of having a baby in the next two weeks.

Of course, we'll post updates on Mama, 3B, and the car as we have them. In the meantime, head on over and thank Liberal Banana for all of her help when we needed it most.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

If you can't stand the heat, change the channel

As I watched le Tour yesterday morning, after taking Barky on a walk in the oppressive heat, I had a question for y'all. It's a question that I have every year about le Tour, one that becomes more urgent as every minute of coverage passes.

First, about that oppressive heat--commenting on the heat, Phil "Crazy Legs" Liggett said that at about noon it was 86 F with 40% humidity on le Tour course. That's hot?

Please.

By 8:30 it was so muggy here that I felt like we were swimming up the sidewalk back home. In the shade and seven stories up, it was already 85 F with 60% humidity, and it didn't get any cooler. It was hot, and wet, which ain't no good if you're in the jungle. . .or if you're pregnant in NoVa. Which is why we stayed in the air conditioning, watching le Tour (Papa) and reading The Poisonwood Bible (Mama).

About that question that I have for y'all. . .a week and a half ago, I posted a little poll about dads going to doctor visits. It revealed three facts about y'all:

  • Turns out there are now six loyal readers.
  • All of the six are old school Chicago or Texas voters, as in "vote early, vote often." Otherwise, how to explain the 14 votes? (The extra two? Must be Barky and 3B voted. Sneaky devils.)
  • Most of the loyal six go to every doctor appointment that they can.
What conclusions can I draw from that? If only I had a statistician on the Bradstein Household staff, I could tell you. . .if only I had a staff, I could be back out by the pool with Mama while the staff writes up our personal anecdotes.

But I'm not one to let little things like a lack of readers or conclusions keep me from having another go at a poll and, watching le Tour, I was again reminded of the nagging annual question:
What's the worst ad during Tour coverage?
This question becomes more urgent as the race progresses, since each ad plays on the order of 112,000 times during each day's coverage. I have to say that the situation has gotten better since the coverage in 2001, when every ad was for a brush cutter/lawnmower sort of thing.

Now, at least, there is some variety in the products being flogged, but each advertiser seems to have submitted only one ad, forgetting that this is not a one-off Super Bowl game, but a month-long race, with up to four hours of coverage each day. By the end of July, we're so familiar with the ads that Mama and I are singing along with them, in harmony, as our feet tap out a syncopated counter rhythm.

You can vote once a day, so you can pick your least favorite ad each day. If I've missed any, please let me know, or add a comment--and feel free to comment about the ads. The one that I've left off is ninemillion.org, which is a worthwhile ad, and not just because the major partners are also major supporters of Mama's work.


What's the worst ad during le Tour coverage?
Mantis (that tiller thing)
SAAB (ready, steady, go!)
Cervelo (geekin' out on the carbon)
Honda (Kevin Spacey, baby)
Flomax (do I really want to hear about this?)
KFC (nothing goes better with biking than a bucket of trans fats)
Super 8 (throwing briefcases into beautiful lakes)
Geico (that gecko, which will likely die as a result of global warming)
Capital One (those cute pillagers)
Trek (they could have Lance or Bob Roll and they pick Bobke?)
Ditech (is there no escape from these?)
Progressive (see Ditech)
Earthlink (full disclosure: we use them for our hookup)
L.L. Bean (full disclosure: Mama grew up in Maine)
Video Professor (does anyone even use Windows ME anymore?)
Any of the lawyers, particularly James Sokolove
Michelob (what's a sporting event without a beer ad?)
AutoZone (what's with all the auto-themed ads during a bike race?)
Nissan (Shift_2.0? that's it?)
OLN (hockey, arena football, bull riding, and Survivor)
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I'll buy the house, if they stay and change the diapers

In California, my motherland, a real estate company has hired actors to inhabit a model house, to show prospective buyers just how happy they would be there. They offer you coffee and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, and the kids take your kids on a tour of their rooms, to show them how cool the house is. Really.

One of the prospects who visited the inhabited model liked the idea, saying that "it makes it real." Sort of a spooky echo of Tyrell's "more real than real" line in Blade Runner. Wasn't the hyperreality of Disneyland enough, SoCal? Did you really run out of waiter and waitress jobs for all of those out-of-work actors?

A woman from another home staging company, who prepares homes to make them more appealing to buyers does point out that there is a potential downside:

"'[It] could be sort of a turn-off,' and if the staged family did not reflect the family structure of the shoppers, it could limit the number of buyers."
Which shines a bright light on what's already obvious in the photos: the company that set this up believes that their target audience is a fit, white family, composed of a mom, dad, boy, and girl. Or they believe that that is the family that most of their customers aspire to be. One photo shows that the first possibility is not true, with a not-so-fit, gray-haired woman strolling by the faux family, seemingly amused.

That they're holding up this modern Leave It to Beaver clan as the gold standard of families is not so cool. Either that or they're keeping a series of families waiting in the green room, so that they can swap them in to match whoever is coming up the walk. That's not so cool either.

Family demographics and assumptions aside, my real question is, What's so wrong with these houses that they won't sell themselves? At this point, I'll take anything that keeps the water out.

Summertime, when the livin' is easy

Fourth of July
She's waitin' for me
when I get home from work
oh, but things ain't just the same
She turns out the light
and cries in the dark
won't answer when I call her name

On the stairs I smoke a
cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin'
fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July

She gives me her cheek
when I want her lips
but I don't have the strength to go
On the lost side of town
in a dark apartment
we gave up trying so long ago

On the stairs I smoke a
cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin'
fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July

What ever happened I
apologize
so dry your tears and baby
walk outside, it's the Fourth of July

On the stairs I smoke a
cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin'
fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, Baby take a walk outside
I had to shade the camera (OK, my phone) with the NY Times, but I couldn't resist capturing this image of Mama. She's so much more beautiful than any picture could capture, but this is the essence of that moment.

And don't read anything into the lyrics. I'm not out on the back porch, and Mama's not crying in the dark and giving me her cheek. It's just one of our favorite Fourth of July songs.

Well, that one and this one:
Well Papa go to bed now it's getting late
Nothing we can say is gonna change anything now
I'll be leaving in the morning from St. Mary's Gate
We wouldn't change this thing even if we could somehow
Cause the darkness of this house has got the best of us
There's a darkness in this town that's got us too
But they can't touch me now
And you can't touch me now
They ain't gonna do to me
What I watched them do to you

So say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day
All down the line
Just say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day this time
Any guesses?

You only get credit if you know it without Googling it, and are honest about that. If you're having trouble, ask MetroDad.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Think that you had a rough day?

Think again:

Then there was the house that was spotted drifting down the north branch of the Susquehanna in New York State--on fire for a while, it seemed.

"When the house was torn up, the gas was still on," said Mr. Maurer, the spokesman for the state emergency office.

"And it ignited."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Liberal Banana says, "Let zem eet ze cake!"

On Friday night, Liberal Banana and Boyfriend came over for dinner, and they came bearing this beautiful and overflowing gift basket for 3B and us. Everything in there was just perfect, including lots of lovely pampering treats for Mama that she already used in her bath this afternoon.

Although we live down the hall from LB, it's the first time that we've had them over. We don't have an excuse for such a lapse in hospitality, except that we didn't have a safe floor or kitchen until about a month ago. Now that we can cook without the risk of our greasy wallpaper bursting into flames, we're a little more open to having company at meals.

The new kitchen performed well in its first command performance--no wallpaper fires--although the work of the chef left a little to be desired. The best food of the night was the flourless lemon cake that Liberal Banana made and served with ice cream. Mmm. Cake.
Delicious cake. If Mama and I weren't married to each other, we both might have proposed to LB on the spot.

I had grand plans for starting with a lovely bruschetta topped with chevre and tapenade, which came somewhat close. This was to be followed by a delicious salad, which sort of devolved into greens on a plate. Then there was the paella, which you see here after we were done with it, but the presentation isn't much different than when I brought it to the table
Yeah, I need to work on my presentation a bit. At least the sangria came out right, although I still hadn't prepared it when LB and BF arrived. As a matter of fact, when they did, I was still chopping, cubing, and slicing up the veggies for the paella while Mama was out getting the baguette that I had forgotten for the bruschetta. Then again, given my poor planning, it's a little surprising that we had anything to eat at all.

I did eventually get some food out of the kitchen and onto the table, and I got some sangria into our glasses--tangerine soda for Mama. I was a little disappointed with my cooking, but I always am. The paella could have used another five minutes or so, but I had starved everyone for long enough, and the baby artichokes. . .well, they're my nemesis in this recipe. I trim them, I cut them in half, I blanch them, and still they're too tough. I think that I'm not cutting the leaves down low enough.

And when that was all over, there was still sangria to drink and cake to eat and stories to tell. Mama told some:
Boyfriend told a few tales as well:
Meanwhile, LB tried to find a suitable name for 3B in what might be the worst baby name book ever printed--Mama and I believe that the writing process involved drinking games followed by rounds of dictionary darts:
Oh, did I forget to mention Barky's shameless behavior? You'd think that the mutt had never met Mama or me, and that LB and BF were his long-lost siblings, who came bearing bones, filet mignon, and ice cream cones for him. All night long he was snuffling around their feet, nudging their hands with his icy snout to have them pet him, and draping himself across their laps on the couch.

I think that he cried himself to sleep after they left.

We were sad to see them go as well, but we'll be glad when they come back, this time to have dinner with the three of us and 3B, who should be here any day now. LB and BF are as funny, kind, witty, wise, and fascinating as you would expect. Mama and I only wish that we had done this sooner.

Next time, I'll try to plan a little better.

Who am I kidding? We'll have our first kid to juggle along with the menu. I'll be lucky to get everyone Cheerios, milk, and a sippy cup of water.