Friday, August 31, 2007

Weed, whites, and wine, and walkin'

A little while ago, I asked for some feedback . . .

Music was one of the first bonds that Mama and I formed; the first words that I ever spoke to her when The King introduced us were, "What's your favorite Dylan song?" Both of us love to hear new music, and want to introduce 3B to the wonder and happiness that music and the discovery of new music brings. So it's appropriate that The King, in response to the latest video of 3B, had a proposal:
I say we start a soundtrack to 3B's life. What song shall Papa use for his first walk? I say Papa chooses it, but let's give ideas.

From my own catalog:
  • Walk, Don't Run
  • Walk Like an Egyptian
  • Walk This Way
  • Walk the Line
  • Walking the Dog
  • Walk on By
  • Walkin After Midnight
  • Etc...
This is an idea whose time has come now that 3B is walking everywhere that he can, and taking the spectacular, bloodied-mouth falls that only a toddler can. His first steps came on his birthday this year, just two toddling steps between Mama and I, who were seated on the living room carpet. For several days it had looked as if he could walk on his own, if only he had somewhere to go, and we wanted to test and see if that was true. It was true that he could walk, but he still got to most places by crawling; walking was just a hobby.

His first real sustained walking on his own came the following weekend, on July 29, at his friend A---'s 3rd birthday party, where 3B took several steps through a crowd in the kitchen to get to his mommy.

Since then, walking has come in fits and starts, but last week he started popping up and walking whenever he could, and only crawling when he needed to. He's even been walking around on pretty uneven surfaces--the pockmarked lawn of our building, our bed, his crib, and his own toy-strewn room. We don't have footage of him toddling around yet, but we promise to get some soon. When we do, however, we need some music to put behind it, so here's your final chance to pick the song that we'll always hum when we think of 3B walking for the first time.

I've based these selections on the previous votes submitted, but if you have additional suggestions, feel free to make them in comments.

As I said before . . .
Just like in real elections, bribes and undue influence are allowed . . .

And with that, let the voting begin--as they say in Texas, vote early and vote often.
For those of you reading in a feed reader, you'll probably have to come on over to the site to see the poll and vote. Irritating, but true.



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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A few notes for car drivers from a bicyclist

I love cars. I love driving. I even love some of my fellow drivers when I'm driving. When I'm on my bike, however, I get the feeling that many drivers don't care if I live to see the next stop sign, and that a small, but significant, group is trying to ensure that I don't make it past the next cross street.

Most drivers, however, are simply unaware that I'm in the same zip code with them. For example, the woman who almost kept me from experiencing puberty--who would have, had I not performed a full back flip off of my bike--who ended up wrapping my Peugeot 10-speed around her front left wheel and dragging it 30 feet into the street, leaving my fork looking like this:

Mom kept that as a souvenir. Hey, a safety tip for you kids out there--when you call home, the first words out of your mouth always are, "I'm OK . . ."

Although the woman who did that was rolling through a stop sign when she hit me, and she hit me with her front left corner, so I had been directly in front of her, she claimed that she wasn't at fault. The insurance agent took her out to the scene to take her statement. They got out of his car and he asked her, "Where was he when you hit him?" She said, "Oh, I never saw him." To which he said, "Please get back in my car, we're done here."

Turns out that if you don't see someone who you run over, you were looking the wrong way.

So, to people like that driver, and all you other drivers all across the land, a few notes from me about your driving. And yes, I mean you.

  • Left turns from the left lane. Right turns from the right lane. How hard is this?
  • Also, right turn signal if you're turning right. Left signal if you're turning left.
  • Also, use your goddamn turn signals. How many times do I have to say this?
  • Bicyclists have a legal right to be on the road. And while it's not a legal right of mine to run the sharp end of my bike tool down the side of your Mercedes, I'm pretty sure that I'm justified in doing it after you cut me off pulling into Starbucks, because you felt that your latte was worth breaking both my legs for.
  • You're lucky that my brakes work so well.
  • Dog may be your copilot, clever linguist, but he could do his job just as well from the back seat, where he doesn't block your view or your access to the steering wheel and doesn't slobber on your glasses or stick his tail up your nose. And when you crash--and I mean "when"--he won't be your copilot anymore, clever linguist, he'll be your Airedale bag. Ka-yuck.
  • If I'm yelling at you, just remember--I don't use polysyllabic curse words on the good drivers.
  • When you gun your engine and race around me, I'm not impressed. I'm on a mountain bike, lugging 10 pounds of work clothing, food, water, and bike gear. Uphill. You're in a car. You'd better be able to get your hot rod Mazda 323 around me, Andretti. I don't think the woman jogger was too impressed either, we're both still hacking on your exhaust.
  • You're lucky that I'm as good at handling my bike as you are bad at handling your car.
  • We're at a red light. You in your ten-year-old hunter green Elantra, me on my bike. You're snarfing the last gasp of smoke and ash out of a roach that I just saw you dig out of your overfilled ashtray; I'm sipping cool water out of a bottle. Sure, you'll beat me off the line and up the hill, but I think that I'll still come out ahead.
  • My life is more important than your phone call.
  • Again with the gunning the engine and outracing me--if you're doing that, you're cutting me off. I assume that you're doing that because you're in a hurry, but trust me when I say that if you so much as brush against a hair of mine, for the rest of your life you'll wish that you had waited that extra half second.
  • Unless you're in a skid, your windshield faces the general direction that your car is traveling in. If you're not looking through it, you're eventually going to hit someone you don't see. Trust me. I've been hit this way more than once.
  • Also, if you're slouched down so low that you can't see over your dash, why don't you just wear a blindfold while you drive? (And by the way, when you're reclined like that and you crash into something that you don't see coming, like an office building, you'll submarine under your steering wheel so hard that you'll find out just what it would feel like to be dropped onto your engine block from ten stories up. After that, driving around with your ankles in your armpits, you'll look real cool.)
  • Don't think that I can't catch you at the next red light. Or that I won't.
  • Also, did you forget that you have license plates on both ends of your car, and that I can dial 911 while pedaling?
  • Also, when you're turning right, look right. It's the direction that you're headed. Looking left and turning right is what almost ended my life after only 14 or so years, and nearly ended Mama's life last weekend. And to the guy who did that to Mama--if I ever see you again, you'll be spitting out chain links and pulling spokes from under your fingernails for a week.
  • And you SUV drivers--you're not Roger Miller. Stop acting like you are.
  • One last note: You don't look cool when you don't use your turn signals, you look like someone who bought his driver's license at the drive-thru liquor store window along with a carton of Marlboro Lights and a suitcase of PBR. None of us are psychics out here, so if you want to burn and drink your way into an early grave, that's fine, but don't send me early to my grave just because you don't want to drop ash on your knee. Use your goddamn turn signals.
When I ride my bike, I always remember what Mom always said: having the right of way doesn't matter when you end up in the hospital. From your perspective as a driver, please remember that being too busy with important distractions to drive attentively doesn't matter when you end up in jail for vehicular manslaughter.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Why would you leave your children?

Stacy Garfinkle asks a good question at the end of her recent post:

How do you instill a sense of family in your kids when your loved ones are spread far apart?
Mama and I have struggled with this with Mama's family living in Maine and Vermont and mine in California and Washington (unfortunately for us, not the Washington across the Potomac, but the one that the mighty Columbia rolls through). We've found some ways to bridge the distance--like flying home, blogging, and even the occasional video chat--but none of those efforts is the same as being there.

Often, however, our trips to see family ourselves, or to have 3B visit with family, result in our separating from each other. Until now, it's been Mama traveling with 3B, but now that he's pretty much weaned himself, there's no reason that I couldn't travel with him. But is that really instilling a sense of family in him? In ourselves? Our lives aren't nearly so chaotic as some--say, for example, presidential candidates--but it seems that there are still times when we can't get it all together, so we have to split up for trips.

Then again, neither of us grew up in terribly close proximity to our cousins, so I also wonder if, when I wish that 3B could grow up closer to his aunts, uncles, and cousins, I'm nostalgic for a time that even I didn't grow up in. I saw my cousins twice a year: on our summer vacation and at Thanksgiving, when all 637 of us would cram into Grandmother and Grandfather's house for a wonderful, warm, rollicking, overwhelming good time. That's where I learned that if you take on your cousin, you'd better be prepared to take on your uncle too; what a Dutch rub is; and that yes, it is possible to eat too much pumpkin pie.

I also formed a bond with my cousins that I feel is that blood bond of family members--closer than what I'll ever have with friends, even though most of my cousins are really strangers to me now. But is that a real bond or is it just my nostalgic feelings because "a long time ago we knew each other for a short period of time"?

Is that so different from what 3B will experience? What about you? What do your kids experience? What do you want them to experience?

And for those of you living away from your families--seriously, how much does the lack of free babysitting suck for us?


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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hump Day Quickies

  1. It's not Hump Day. Yes, well, a day late and a dollar short is how we usually start off here at the Bradstein Household, so you shouldn't be surprised by that.

  2. Last night was the big fantasy football draft in Black Belt Mama's league. She's done an excellent job setting everything up and herding all of us cats, but she can't control everything. For example, thanks to ESPN, which is hosting our league, last night's draft took about half an hour longer than expected, required an extra glass of wine, an extra cup of tea, more frustrated curse words than are heard in a sinking submarine--but also allowed time for bathroom breaks while the draft was paused and all 10 of us were trying to log out and back in. As I said, BBM is a great LM, and having been through this once before already this week, made sure that nobody ended up with a dog killer.

  3. Day care was much better this week, thanks for asking, although it was brutal at the drop off. Ms. K remarked that 3B is "really very resilient" to do so well after only three single days at her place in three weeks. She said that she has kids who come every day and don't do so well after three weeks. At first, I thought we were in for another bad day because when I closed the door behind me, 3B latched his talons into my shoulders and lunged for the door, trying to crawl over my head to get out, screaming the whole way. While I couldn't get him to stop crying when we were standing up, I did get him down on the floor, on my lap, and was able to distract him for a few seconds with his toys that I'd brought at Ms. K's suggestion. When I called at noon, she said that he'd cried for about 20 minutes, tapering off the whole time, and was now on the changing table in front of her. I could hear him laughing. Hell, he's not that good to us at changing time. When I showed up, 3B was on Ms. K's hip, sucking his thumb, waving at me. She said that they'd had a great day, which was a relief to us all, making it easier for Mama to concentrate on her work after I gave her the noon update, since she knew her boy was happy.

  4. That virus--that one that you probably have by now? Yeah, don't quite kiss it goodbye when it seems to settle into your throat to die. That's what I did earlier this week, and I clearly jinxed myself. Swallowing has been laborious all week, since it feels like someone poured glass dust on my tonsils. On the upside, I've lost a few pounds since I've been avoiding passing anything through my throat. If I could have stuffed scrambled eggs and toast into my stomach through my nose, trust me, I would have. The only odd thing was when I drank some OJ, figuring the acid would hurt like hell, but that the juice itself would be good for me in the long run, and it felt better than anything else I'd ingested. Go figure.

  5. Much of the pain, however, has been offset by a kind of numbness that, while familiar, is not comfortable. Since last September, I've been thinking that this time would be different. That this time I was older than when Dad died and that there wouldn't be that horrible abyss to fall into and crawl out of. When Dad died, I probably did go through some form of all five of Kubler-Ross' stages, but the most prominent and long-lived was depression. Since Mom died, however, I don't think that I have gone through those stages, really. There was the immediate mania following her death, and yes, short bouts of anger and bargaining, but this was different. Mom died suddenly, unexpectedly, unlike Dad who we all watched leave us as he walked among us, his brain tumor pressing out who Dad was, crushing his personality, intellect, and finally his life with its infinite vigor. So, perhaps those rules don't apply here. Perhaps now that I'm older, I'll be more resilient, like 3B. Or, perhaps, there will be long days, weeks even, where I want to lay down on the cool floor and evaporate like a cloud, expanding out into the dark matter of the cosmos. Or see if I can cry enough tears to erode this stone weight that's crushing my chest. Or maybe I'll discover that, even after this virus is gone, I have no desire to eat, that my jaw is clamped tight like a rusted hinge, that my stomach is tied up tight like a wet bedsheet, that everything tastes like paper, and that eating just one bite too many can cause a week-long stupor. Or perhaps I'll discover that the stupor is here for now, regardless of how much I eat, and that I'm simply too tired to lift my fork. And now I know why, all those months ago, I bookmarked certain pages. It wasn't for the melancholy reminisces of my melodramatic pubescent years, I was reminiscing about the days that were sure to come, and which are now wrapped around me like a blanket, a soothing snare.

  6. Let's see . . . there was something else . . . oh yeah. I almost forgot. It turns out that I have a blog, and that I've been getting comments there from people who are eerily similar to you. However, those comments have been going to the inbox of a schmuck who is eerily similar to me, and he hasn't been responding. What a jackass, right? Yeah, well, I've had a talk with that schmuck and he promises to be better about that whole second side of a two-sided conversation. Especially now that he can swallow without whimpering.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag

As I thrashed about in fever dreams on what I was sure was going to be my sweat-soaked deathbed this weekend, I discovered the corollary to the rule

That which doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.
OK, two corollaries:
  1. Bullshit. That which doesn't kill you brings you to your knees, begging for mercy, a sip of cool water, an end to what feels like the aches of 1,000 canings, and release from those fucking nightmares.
  2. That which doesn't kill you, but still lays waste to your body and soul, will pass through your toddler's system in a few hours as little more than a highpoint blip on his body temperature chart.
That's right. This weekend I had the same virus that 3B had earlier this week for about 24 hours. While it didn't stop 3B from eating, playing, pooping, and peeing, it made me wonder what I had ever done to this virus that made it feel the need to pound on every muscle, tendon, and nerve in my being with blazing hot hammers for 24 straight hours, plus put my head in a vise in a Vegas casino basement with Joe Pesci at the controls.

But we're past that now, and now that my immune system has (mostly) kicked the asses of those bastard bugs that laid me low, a few lessons learned, since, as a wise man once told me, it's only a tragedy if we don't learn something from it.
  • You I can go 48 hours without ever once thinking of the innernets, much less checking my e-mail or favorite blogs.
  • When I'm sick, my superego is the first casualty. The first sign of this is the unleashing of a vocabulary that would make Caligula blush. I'm not sure that viruses technically have mothers, but nonetheless, they now know clearly what my feelings are about them.
  • I have a lot to learn from my child. Not only am I'm quite sure that 3B ached as much as I did and still soldiered on, 3B also barfed to kick off his pas de deux with this nasty virus and still kept going. Sure, he wasn't very happy about the barfing, and he definitely was fussy during the course of the bug's passing, but he got out of bed with his fever, he walked around--which is a much greater challenge for a toddler like him than it is for a fully certified biped like me--he even kept eating despite a throat so red that the NP assumed he had strep.
And that's why I peeled myself off the sheets this morning to finally help out Mama. If he can do it at 13 months, I figure that I should be able to suck it up a little bit and get on with life at 39 years old. On the other hand, I do have to remind myself that this is the boy who, the day after his orchiopexy, with a fresh incision in his stomach, was rolling around, sitting up, and crawling, while I'm the man who, a week after my hernia repair, would still scream in pain at even the thought of clearing his throat. So, while I can learn to suck it up a little bit from him, I also have to remember that he's tougher than I am--or than I ever will be again. He's ascending; I'm beginning a descent.

Perhaps now I'll remember a little sooner that, while he does need protection and support, he's a lot tougher than I would imagine, and I'll stop babying him so much and give him a little more room to be himself, because he's been asking for more of that space these days.


UPDATED:
Spelling corrected, per my big sister--see her comments. My story, and I'm sticking with it, is that the virus made me do it.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Listing to port, send olives . . . and some gin wouldn't hurt

I came home today
and both our cars were gone.
And there were all these new pink
Flamingos arranged in star patterns
All over the lawn.
Then I went into the kitchen
And it looked like a tornado had it.
And then I realized I was in the wrong house.
--Laurie Anderson
Current contents of our dining room:
  • 1 table
  • 4 chairs
  • 1 Devil's Tower of laundry
  • 1 rug
  • 3 bicycles
  • 6 flower pots
  • 3 planter boxes
  • 1 set of plastic drawers filled with gardening tools
  • 1 rolling turtle habitat stand
  • 1 turtle habitat
  • 1 turtle
  • 1 concrete-filled paint bucket with eight-foot tall pipe topped by two-foot wide satellite dish
(Not included by virtue of being illicitly stashed in the HVAC room of our balcony:
  • 1 patio table
  • 2 patio chairs
  • 2 flower pot stands
  • 1 adorable welded steel basset hound)
This forced relocation of our possessions from our balcony is due to tomorrow's balcony recoating, mandated by the building. When they scheduled it weeks ago, we thought that a Wednesday was great, since that's 3B's day at Ms. K's, so his schedule won't be interrupted (any more than a day at Ms. K's will disturb it, that is).

Now that he's sick, however, he's going to be staying here to avoid sharing the fun with the other kids and to get some rest. The only hitch with that last part is the aforementioned balcony recoating. Let's just hope that it's a quiet project. And if it's not, let's hope that Mama doesn't lock them out on the balcony.

While I'm all, like, in a list-making mode, let's tally this week, shall we? I know that it's only Tuesday, but I'd hate to lose count.
Trips to airport: 1
Barfing episodes: 1
Fever temperature: 101.eh
Days of fever: 2, so far
Family friend's funeral: 1
Nights sitting shiva: 1
Bradsteins sitting shiva: 1
Bradsteins at home with fever and satellite dish in dining room: 2
Items in dining room: 634
Weeks until Mama and Papa bike 100 miles in one day: 10
Days of training in last two weeks: 0
I understand that life ebbs and flows, but I'm feeling a bit like I'm standing on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy at high tide right now, and where I really need to be is taking a test in a Dairy Queen on another planet.

However, despite all the aforementioned items, were I to stuff a message into an empty Bombay Sapphire bottle to send to shore with news of my condition, I would mention only three items:
Date on which 3B first kissed someone: 14 August 2007
Name of person 3B first kissed: Me
Number of times 3B kissed me today: 3
That's even better than pink flamingos in star patterns all over the lawn.

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This is how we roll

Life here has been blowing by us as fast as a tree out the window on the TGV. Mama's mom and nephew--yes, my nephew as well, but I was trying to clarify the consanguinity--were here at the end of last week and through the weekend.

3B loved playing with Grammy and his cousin, after he was done refusing to be held or even touched by either one of them while he was screaming at them for a whole day about how much his new teeth hurt. Charming.

After he made his peace with his eyeteeth (we think--he already has eight choppers up front and four molars . . . is this kid secretly an Osmond child or something?), it was off to the races. Our whirlwind weekend included trips to our pool, a museum, our pool, the White House, and our pool, culminating with a fierce miniature golf tourney followed up by the best damn frozen custard in the world.

Immediately after Grammy and cousin departed yesterday, 3B welcomed our new house guest--the amazing barfing virus. Yes, on the return trip from the airport, a snack and a load of milk also made a return trip. He's been able to eat some since then, and drink plenty, and it seems to stay down, but he's as hot as a snake's ass on a Texas highway in August, so we took him to the doc last night.

We were lucky to get one of our favorite nurse practitioners--it's a collaborative practice, which is why they were still open at 7:00 p.m. She said that his throat was bright red with a few ulcerations, so she tested for strep, which came up negative. After Mama and I completed our victory dance--no, we didn't spike 3B--the NP diagnosed a virus and prescribed a bland diet, fluids, and rest.

The assisting nurse was sure we wouldn't get any rest, but that's been the easiest part, since the fever is mostly making 3B lethargic. He's content to drape himself over us like a hot blanket and suck his thumb most of the time, and he went to sleep as soon as we got home, sleeping soundly through the night. I'm not surprised that the nurse took pity on us, since 3B was a hot screaming mess for most of his visit in large part because they had us strip him and hold him down on his back several times while they pushed long sticks into his throat.

Dude, I hated that crap as a kid, so as far as I was concerned, all his screaming was justified. Heartbreaking, painful, and piercing as well. Mom wasn't lying when she said that watching us be sick was worse than being sick herself. Now I get to see exactly what she was talking about, and I mean exactly, because along with the red hair and fish-belly white skin, I seem to have passed on to 3B my sick-boy whine. When Mama described the low, rhythmic, moaning whine that emanated from 3B all the way home after he barfed, I again had to apologize for my contribution to 3B's genome.

And watching Mama tend to 3B and later, helping her clean up, I saw in her care for him the love that Mom gave me when I was sick--holding me, rubbing my back, and laying cool washcloths on my head. It made me grateful again for everything that Mom gave me, grateful that Mama's mom makes the effort to come visit so 3B can play with his cousin and Mama can get that irreplaceable momlove, and grateful that, while I was washing toys in the sink and Mama was scrubbing out the car seat after dealing with 3B--Barfy, Burning Bradstein--all day, Mama never asked, "IN FACT, WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOIN' IN THE CAR SEAT? YOU'RE THE MOTHERFUCKER WHO SHOULD BE ON BARF DETAIL!"

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dangerous Dad

One of the gifts that 3B got for his first birthday was the Dangerous Book for Boys, although I feel that it should carry a warning that while it's likely harmless to boys, it will make more than one dad a danger to his family, friends, friends-of-friends, and probably even the neighbors of friend-of-friends. I had never seen the book before, which didn't stop me from sharing my opinion about it. Best not to let knowledge get in the way of the facts as I see them. That's how I see it, anyway.

Oddly enough, my opinion turned out to be pretty accurate--the book is chock full of stuff that my sisters know far better than I do. There are some items that perhaps are more in the realm of boy fascinations--although I notice that there's no top-ten list of great cars, which does take the book down a notch on this boy's scorecard. One of those items is the coverage of great battles, including the battle of Thermopylae, which includes a great example of the authors' wonderful matter-of-fact style:

"The Persian king [remember, he's the one with the army of 2 million] sent scouts to investigate the pass [Thermopylae, where the Spartans had come to cut off the advancing Persian army]. He was surprised to hear that the Spartans [numbering all of 7,300] were limbering up and braiding their hair for battle. Unable to believe that such a small group would honestly wish to fight, he sent a warning to withdraw or be destroyed. They made him wait for four days without a reply. On the fifth, the Persian army attacked."
Raise your hand if you love it that the Spartans, outnumbered by 1,992,700, refused to dignify Xerxes' warning with a reply? And that they did Pilates and braided their hair before a battle because the last thing you want is for your nagging rotator cuff injury to flare up right when you're trying to drive your sword through someone to the hilt.

If that doesn't convince you that Spartans were the original badasses, how about the account of the origins of the word "laconic," from the Origin of Words section:
The region inhabited by the Spartans of ancient Greece was named Laconia. Philip of Macedonia (the father of Alexander the Great) sent this warning to the famous warriors of the city, to frighten them into obedience: "If I enter Laconia with my army, I shall raze Sparta to the ground." The Spartans replied with a single word: "If."
How can you not love that? If only such exchanges were so elegant today, but instead we rely on our middle fingers, polysyllabic curse words, and lawyers to convey such messages. You want to prove to me that you're a badass? Demonstrate your wit.

And therein lies the danger of this book: it's so accessible that I'm taking the lexical lesson from a debate between Macedonia and Laconia and attempting to apply it to modern trash talking, which could get a man into trouble in certain neighborhoods.

While I think that boys are smart enough to know their limitations and when to take the advice and lessons of this book with a grain of salt, it makes every task it describes seem so damned easy--from playing rugby to making any cloth fireproof--that any fool dad might just try some of them. Doesn't the author know that once we become dads, we donate a portion of our brains to our babies, making us just dumb enough to believe that yes, we can build a trebuchet in the backyard and no, it won't bother the neighbors at all?

Sure, not our next-door neighbors, but the ones down a few blocks might be put out by the massive flaming stone that landed in what they used to refer to as their garage. Let's just hope that when if that happens, they respond by demonstrating their wit rather than by doing Pilates and braiding their hair.


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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Can you hear me now?

If you heard a baby screaming, crying, and fussing all day yesterday and then from about 7-9 in the evening, that would have been 3B, getting through his first day at daycare. So yeah, we were all in great shape this morning.

I guess that I haven't read far enough back in the mom and dad blogs that I regularly read to have seen the posts warning that getting a kid to daycare is like mobilizing Hannibal's army at oh-dark-thirty in the morning. Diapers, wipes, spare outfits, meals, snacks, bottles, immunization certification--I've taken fewer supplies for a week-long camping trip. Thank goodness we didn't need to bring toys or we would have had to rent a small trailer.

In fact, Ms. K's place has all the fun toys that 3B likes here at home, plus another whole domain of toys that we haven't gotten into, like toy strollers, which he loves. The cutest was when he was pushing it around and I put a Cabbage Patch doll into it. 3B stopped short and craned his head around to check it out. We don't have any people dolls for him around here yet, so I'm not sure if he was confused by the doll or just confused that I would mess with his ride like that, but I got the cutest little, "Dude, what the hell was that for?" look from him.

Between the toys and all the cool things--shiny stars, the alphabet, and drawings of shapes, flags, and animals--that Ms. K has hanging in windows, on the walls, and on easels, there were plenty of things other than toys to distract 3B. None of them were enough to distract him from us leaving, however, which is when the banshee wailing started. According to Ms. K, it did get better during the day, but he didn't want to let her hold him, which might have been better for her, since a 25-pound, screaming, squirming worm isn't the most pleasant thing to hold on your hip. But he also pretty much refused to be comforted in any other way. He also didn't really sleep all that well during either nap. On the upside, he did eat like a champ. "He sure loves his corn!" was Ms. K's surprised report about his eating at the end of the day. It's something we just discovered last week, and yes he does. 3B goes through as much corn as you'll give him, as fast as you can get it to him.

When we picked him up, Ms. K had him in a stroller, drinking from a sippy cup, which was about the only place that he would stop fussing. Ms. K did say that despite our worries, he did very well for his first day. And, if we ever had any doubts that he recognizes or loves us, they were put to rest on the ride home, when he was as giddy as a playboy after a John DeLorean party at Studio 54. Nothing but giggles, belly laughs, and happy exclamations all the way home. All we had to do was look his way and another torrent of chuckles rolled out of him. Of course, part of that came from 3B being overextended and punchy as well as giddy.

So, although Mama got a break from him during the day, which allowed her to get to a meeting in the city for her consultancy, stop by and see our friends who are moving to China one last time, and do some work at home, both of us ended up having just about another full day with an overtired, wound up 3B in the evening and into the night. Little prince charming refused to go down at his normal bedtime, screaming his complaints, crawling around his crib, and finally throwing Curious George over the rail. For that, 3B actually quieted down, so I turned up the video monitor volume so I could not only watch over 3B's shoulder as he made the drop, but also share his satisfaction at hearing the thump of George hitting the floor. After contemplating the meaning of George on the floor for a moment, 3B started up on the piercing protests again, so I intervened. After Mama came back from walking Barky, we were able to get 3B down for the night and enjoy a moment of peace before nodding off.

It does get better, right? If not, we might as well burn a Benjamin and put a Yoko Ono album on repeat and turn it up to 11 every Wednesday.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Getting Schooled in Football

"Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another."
As many of you probably know by now, I've accepted an invitation to join Smack Talkers Anonymous, a blogger fantasy football league, from Black Belt Mama, who is soon to be the coach of the doormat team of her own league because she is going down like the Hindenberg. Down like the Titanic! Down like Barky for a nap!

OK, so I need to work on my smack talk, but BBM is going down my friends. As are the rest of the Smack Talkers Jenn Maniacal, Goon Squad Sarah, Da Mack Daddy, Tenitems August and those other guys. How do I know? Because I had the perfect upbringing for this cerebral showdown. Every Saturday in the fall, Mom and Dad would take us to watch Stanford football games from the end zone. It was there that I learned that intellect is inversely correlated with athletic talent, what a moral victory is, and that the greatest players in the game can still lose. But, you can win games, even if you're saddled with smart players, if your coach is a genius:
"Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught. Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught."
--Ambrose Bierce

Unlike the professor, my hair isn't all white yet, but this season I will be tapping into the vast body of knowledge that I gained from watching the genius who not only led Stanford to bowl games, but also led the former doormat 49ers to the Super Bowl. Multiple times. Anybody else's team have five Super Bowl trophies? Oh fine, some do. But has your team gone undefeated in the Super Bowl? Have you ever won it with your coach wearing a v-neck sweater? Did your locker room celebrations include the spilling of a nicely aged cabernet instead of the spraying of champagne?

So my humble mission this season will be to pass on my knowledge to the rest of you, to tutor you, to educate you--to school you. Watch and learn, my friends. I'll start slow:
This is an x: X.

This is an o: O.
Next week: How to get Gatorade stains out of your cashmere v-neck.

Opening day: What a moral victory is.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

It's hot so take your clothes off and get in your drawers

This morning I walked out of our building into the heat, which was oppressively sticky, like walking into a fat man's sweaty armpit. The air was so wet, it formed a dead gray mist that clung to everything like thick, wet cobwebs. I was catching up on old podcasts and started off with the news from Lake Woebegon from July 2 this year, which starts off like so:

It's been hot out there this last week. It's been humid too, so that you wake up in the morning and there's a mist out over the meadows, a beautiful mist. And the sun was shining through it, which, if you had a camera, you could take a picture of it, and they might print it on one of those inspirational calendars with inspirational sayings from famous writers.
The mist here only hung over the Popeye's fried chicken sign and the grease-strewn parking lot behind the restaurant. Not so inspirational. And then Garrison Keillor went on, a bit later, about a woman named Gladys, who bears a striking resemblance to my surrogate grandmother.

Back when I was in college, I had a buddy who was in school at the Art Center, becoming a film director. He rented a room from a woman who adopted all of his friends as part of her family. She's the one who taught us about toddy coffee and would invite us over to decorate her Christmas tree, during which time she would get us all looped on sherry, which she was mostly immune to because she would have a glass or two or ten every night. Her name was Gladys.

As we talked about our common interests--music, theater, art--she told me that she and her husband, when they were younger and scraping by, spent all of their savings on art: going to plays, the symphony, the opera, art galleries, and so on. They both felt that art was so important that they would spend whatever it took to experience it. In that, and so many other ways, Gladys was a kindred spirit. In a certain sense, I feel as though Keillor channeled a part of her spirit in his story about Gladys in Lake Woebegon:
You just feel this longing on the day of a full moon, even in a quiet little town like Lake Woebegon. Gladys feels this every Saturday. Eighty-five years old, she sits by her radio, and she drinks a glass of sherry, and she listens to the opera on the radio. And she feels this longing when she hears the soprano and the tenor singing their duet of doomed love, all the more passionate for the fact that it is so brief and so fragile. And she wants that love for herself, though she is 85, and even though she knows that the soprano will soon drink the glass of poisoned wine, and the tenor will drink the rest of it, and they will die in each other's arms. Nonetheless, doomed love is better than no love at all. So, Gladys thinks, on a Saturday, drinking a little sherry in Lake Woebegon, she gets all perspiry and weepy. She locks the door, lest anyone should come in and find her there.
The Gladys I knew was not so melancholy as that when I saw her. She was always full of life, especially when she was with "her boys," as she called the gang of us who collected around my buddy and who would fill her house with the scraps and detritus of art projects and, in the winter, Christmas cheer and drunkenness. But she did love her sherry, and her opera, which my iPod must have sensed because the first song that it shuffled up to play after the news from Lake Woebegon was " Mimì è tanto malata!" from La Boheme, which begins
Mimì is so sick!
Every day she gets worse.
The poor little thing
Is doomed!
Even though this is Puccini, it put me in the mind of the story of Verdi Cries, which we all know that I'm more than slightly in love with. It made me think how nice it would be to wake to wireless Verdi cries rather than the heat that makes this town feel like the inside of a marathoner's shoe. And tonight, we've still got the heat and something else--something that makes me pine for the bittersweet strains of doomed lovers--a cacophony of jackhammers. Yes, at 10 p.m., we've got a regular chorus of jackhammers resonating up the face of our building and into our ears because a water main burst in the middle of the street directly in front of our building. No, nobody has any idea when they will be done.

That also means, of course, that we're without water. Running water, that is, since our building's treasurer was kind enough to give Mama advance warning, which allowed us time to fill several bottles, pitchers, and pans before the taps went dry. But just like they say about making lemonade when god gives you lemons--I say, when god makes you go dry, drop two olives in and make a dry martini. Or three.

That, plus being several floors above street level, will help me sleep through anything. Fortunately for 3B a bottle of warm milk was enough to knock him out, plus our central air is so loud--normally a cause for my complaints that I feel like we live in the Ames Research Center--that I don't think he even needs the olives to sleep through the noise. Or the gin. Mmm. With that little skiff of ice on the surface. So cold. So refreshing.

Salute e buona notte.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

L'enfer du Bethesda

I have all these great plans for future blog posts, but somehow they never come to fruition. Part of that is due to my laziness, part of that is due to the time I spend every day vacuuming small plastic objects from under the refrigerator and stove, and part of that is due to the hours I spend on my bike, training for the century that Mama damned committed us to riding--enough hours that I feel that I must have embossed the stitches in my leather saddle into the skin of my ass.

Today, we squandered the blessing of a friend who was willing to babysit for four hours in return only for sourdough waffles and the use of our washer and dryer by venturing into the sticky heat for a bike ride to Bethesda. For those of you keeping score at home, that's 36 miles, which is something that Mama is deservedly impressed by. That might be the longest ride she's ever taken, and it's a third of our eventual goal. Going by the rule that you can complete a one-day ride that's up to twice as long as your longest training ride, that puts us pretty close to being sure we can finish the century. On the other hand, in those four hours, we could have watched two full movies, or watched a whole baseball game, or slept, or gotten that one last magnet out from under the fridge coils . . .

But, despite all of the woulda-coulda-shouldas, and despite the stickiness, which made walking outside feel like walking into a dog's mouth, the ride was lovely. Unlike yesterday, when we took separate training rides, we remembered to drink and eat enough, we had each other for company, and we were able to stop at the Dunkin' Donuts in Bethesda--just about right across from the other candy shop, the Apple store--for muffins and iced coffee.

For those of you who have never been to Bethesda or the surrounding Montgomery County before, I think that this litter sign says it all--how they must suffer, the hell they endure, not only separating glass from plastic, but pretty trash from ugly trash. However, they do pay people to take care of the pretty trash, but all that ugly trash will have to fend for itself, preferably in someone else's jurisdiction:
Although, seriously, I thought "take care of the pretty trash" was a euphemism for "sent her to rehab in Malibu."

Maybe next weekend we'll ride up there again and see if we can find one of these starlet rehab resorts in Bethesda . . . and see if they'll take our load of (slightly dusty) recovered refrigerator magnet toys.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

You might be a parent if . . .

OK! I'm done! There's no avocado left!
  • Your breakfast was made up of goldfish crackers and banana remnants picked off of a high chair tray.
  • So was your dinner.
  • You can change a diaper with one hand, while entertaining your baby by paging through a book and stacking blocks with the other hand.
  • You can change a diaper on a toddler stumbling across the room or scrambling down the hallway. In fact, you never change a diaper any other way.
  • You find Cheerios at your feet during meetings. And when you're visiting friends who have no kids. And at the gas station. And in the elevator--in someone else's building.
  • You consider anything over four consecutive hours a full night's sleep.
  • Coffee forms the base of your food pyramid.
  • Anything that you can do, you can do better with only one hand (while the other hand precariously balances 25 flailing, screaming pounds of toddler on your opposite hip).
  • You let yourself be bossed around by someone who
    • craps on you and makes you wipe his ass
    • screams to wake you up in the middle of the night and make you go to work
    • wakes you up when he's ready for you to start working
    • won't let you stop working until long after he's done for the day
    • never gives you a day off
    • gives you illnesses but never gives you a sick day
    • screams for you to come back whenever you leave
    • screams at you when you do something wrong
    • screams at you when you do something right
    • injures himself after putting himself in increasingly precarious and perilous situations and then blames you, screaming
    • assumes that he has full and complete possession of whatever possessions you thought were yours before he arrived
    • breaks as many of your valuable former possessions as he can get his hands on
    • tips over anything within reach--especially tall furniture--and doesn't look back, expecting you to pick up after him
    • throws food at you
    • throws utensils at you
    • throws bowls at you
    • throws food jars at you
    • hits you
    • kicks you
    • bites you
    • speaks in an incomprehensible "language" and expects you to intuit, even anticipate, his every desire
    • requires constant stimulation and amusement
    • makes you to tell him the same story 100 times in a row and then still doesn't understand it
  • And you love it, not just for the smiles and the hugs and the cuddles but for the love, which comes without conditions, cause, or restraint.
Not that I was ever that age . . .


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