Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Stella spent the weekend boogie-ing out at a neighborhood festival, dancing her ass off. She is a true party girl. Also she loves to go to the tav, and it is a bit disconcerting to have a child who is an accomplished bar fly at age four. She does not get that from me. My idea of a crazy party in college was to get a diet coke from the soda machine at the library at 11 PM on a Friday, before getting in just one more hour of studying.

Actually, the wildest thing I ever did in college was to join up with other runners on the cross country team for late-night runs to the reservoir where we'd all go skinny-dipping, ignoring the NO SWIMMING signs. Years later I read an article saying that the rez was basically a giant holding pool for pesticide-contaminated water, which is why they had the signs up. No wonder I can no longer blink both my eyes at the same time. But of course nothing draws a kid like a no swimming sign. If they really wanted to scare off college students, they should erect signs proclaiming how healthy it is to swim in the pond, maybe that there's a lot of fiber in there or something. That would have driven us away for sure. And I think instead of putting health warnings on cigarette packets, the government should put their money behind advertising the health benefits of smoking -- there has to be one, right? maybe it reduces your likelihood of contracting lice, since they have problems clinging to hair coated with nicotine -- and then smoking would quickly become unpopular.

Speaking of taste, and almost completely changing the subject, this ad came inside a bag of cat food that I bought. It's an ad for wet cat food called Wild Salmon Primavera In A Classic Sauce With Garden Veggies And Greens. I have several problems with this.

First, that is some seriously fancy food considering the way most cats barf it's going to be deposited on the living room rug 45 minutes after was eaten, along with a hairball shaped disconcertingly like a turd.

Second, that cat food has a name that is 12 words long. Even I don't eat food with names that long, unless you count Creamy Puree of Salted Ground Legume Spread Lovingly On Two Slices of Bread, which is the peanut butter sandwich I packed for lunch.

Third, what the hell does "classic sauce" mean? I think that might be a fancy way of saying "goop." Or -- and I'm not proud of this but I went to the Elegant Medleys website to get a list of the ingredients -- does it refer to menadione sodium bisulfite complex?

Fourth, I once had a cat that I got from a farm and she had to be dewormed several times after I got her and let's just say I lost my taste for long skinny noodles for a while, so I'm a bit suspicious about whether that is actually a piece of spaghetti next to the garnish on the plate or something far worse.

The ad actually came along with a free can of this cat food, so I'm going to give it to my cats to see how they like it. Then I'm going to rub them all over with nicotine -- I hear it makes it harder to get fleas.

Monday, August 30, 2010


One of Stella's friends had a birthday and as a gift we ordered six letter-shaped cookie cutters to spell out the kid's name. Stella has a set of these cookie cutters too and we enjoy making cookies shaped like the letters in her name. The whole time while we make cookies, Stella stuffs her mouth full of raw cookie dough. I rebuke her for eating the raw cookie dough, while simultaneously trying to stuff my own mouth full of raw dough without letting her see me.

This speaks to one of the biggest internal conflicts I have when parenting: How do I discourage unwanted behavior in my daughter while still maintaining the privilege to engage in that same behavior myself? Stella, please do not eat an entire sleeve of Girl Scout thin mint cookies at once; disregard the fact that there is a sleeve missing from the box already and that mama is dusted with a fine layer of chocolate crumbs and is chanting MORE SUGAR MORE SUGAR.

(Out of a concern for maintaining at least a minimum standard of dignity for this blog, I won't address whether this same internal conflict extends to the behavior of nose-picking.)

So we ordered these cookie cutters as a birthday present for Stella's friend, and the company sent me the 'A' and the 'I' cookie cutters and announced that the rest were on back order and would be delivered in several weeks. We wrapped up the two cookie cutters we had and gave them to the kid, thereby earning ourselves a coveted slot in the finals of the World's Feeblest Gift competition. Everything is context, though -- had we given the gift to a three-toed sloth, it would have been perfect.

Speaking of letters, Stella is learning to write these days, and I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I've used Stella's obsession with breastfeeding to help her learn. Stella has always been very interested in nursing, both in doing it herself and watching other people. Many a new mother, trying to discreetly feed their infant beneath a blanket, has been outed by Stella enthusiastically shouting out "LOOK! THAT LADY IS NURSING HER BABY WITH HER BREASTS!" Me, I think discreet breastfeeding is overrated and don't care what's visible. And as long as I'm making declarations that place me out of the mainstream, I'd like to go on public record as saying the Twilight books are weak. And vampires are not sexy.

Stella likes to watch Baby W nurse, and being a helpful big sister, offers to assist. "Please may I hold your hot breast full of milk?" she asks. You may not. And do me a favor, Stella, don't google that phrase, ok?

Stella loved nursing and didn't always pay much attention to whom the breasts were attached. My sister once climbed in the bath with baby Stella to help her wash. Stella gave careful consideration to my sister's undressed torso, then lunged for the nipple with an open mouth. My sister's still traumatized.

Right, so I'm capitalizing on Stella's interest in breastfeeding to help her learn the shapes of letters. We describe the letters in terms of how many breasts they have. The letter P has one breast, the letter B has two, the letter R has one breast and a leg, etc. We are definitely going to get a call home from the teacher when she starts kindergarten.

You do not want to know what body part we used to describe the shape of a Q.

Sure, this whole approach where letter shapes are likened to body parts is a bit unconventional, but Stella is quickly learning to write. Now I just need to get her signed up for Girl Scouts, because I'm out of cookies once again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


David got back on time from his work trip to California, which these days seems like the exception rather than the rule. I think United Airlines should consider changing their name to Fuckin' United, since that's what most people seem to call them anyway. Maybe FU for short. I myself prefer to fly on an airline that should probably update its name to Dammit Northwestern You've Screwed Me Over in Detroit Yet Again.

The last tine I flew, our plane made an emergency landing at an airport en route because some wires in the lavatory started smoking and set off the fire alarm. I thought this was weird considering until fairly recently they used to let people smoke in the plane. It's okay if people smoke, but wires cannot! Making an emergency landing seemed like a bit of an overreaction -- couldn't they just have emptied a couple of those tiny bottles of water on the smoking wires? Then charge us each a $14 tiny bottle of water surcharge.

Due to our unanticipated landing, we -- Stella, my sister, and I -- spent the night in Detroit. The airline put us up in a hotel, and I told my sister to be sure to get a separate room so that she could watch trashy cable, particularly COPS, which is the most entertaining show I can imagine. When I was in graduate school, I worked in program support for the law enforcement division of the Department of Natural Resources, which was basically the game wardens, and I learned a very important rule there: Only do one illegal thing at a time. We'll call this the Potato Rule. If you do more than one illegal thing at the same time, your chances of getting caught go up drastically and you can't really enjoy all that simultaneous law-breaking anyway. So, to take an example from when I worked at the DNR, if you illegally dump a bunch of trash in a ravine, make sure the garbage doesn't include a deer killed out of season. People on COPS violate the Potato Rule on a regular basis, and they do it shirtless, which technically is not against the law but probably should be for a lot of the people on COPS. I know COPS was thinking of filming an episode in Madison but then didn't; it might be because there's only 6 or 7 days of the year here where it's warm enough to go shirtless, or maybe more like 10-12 days if you don't mind a little frost in your armpit hair.

Watching bad TV in hotel rooms is a treat because my sister doesn't have a TV at all. We have a television but I don't watch it. David does, though, but somewhat furtively and not when I'm around. He'll be talking about how great Neil Young's newest album is. "That's great," I'll say, "Where did you hear it?" He'll get a shameful look on his face, and then I guess his secret: he's been watching Letterman after I go to bed! Sure, it seems harmless enough, but it's a slippery slope down to watching Everybody Loves Raymond. And I can't have that happen under my roof.

At any rate, we were trying to get the airline to pay for separate hotel rooms, but airline policy called for related people to share a room. We were crabby enough about having to spend Christmas Eve in Detroit, and we wanted our accommodations to be as comfortable as possible, so my sister said that she wasn't related to the other people she was travelling with. "Let me see if I understand," said the airline worker. "You're travelling with two people who have the same last name as you, but you're not related." "That's right," said my sister, looking her right in the eye.

We got our separate hotel rooms.

Stella took our emergency landing and its unpleasant consequences in stride, as she is an experienced traveler. Yesterday at breakfast she said out of the blue, "Are you you taking me to Africa? Or what?" Listen kid: I have taken you to California. I have taken you to Chicago. I have taken you to Pennsylvania, to Omaha, to Boston, to Florida, to Albuquerque, to Washington DC, and to New Zealand twice. I am not going to take any guff about not taking you to Africa. Now go fetch me one of those tiny bottles of water.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I'm reading a book called "Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses," by Bruce Feiler. That's him over on the right, with teeth so blindingly white that I suspect he's been using Crest Radioactive Strips (Now With Extra Glow-in-the Dark Isotopes). What really cracks me up about this book is the author's inability to use a metaphor or simile -- and no, I don't know the difference, and yes, I actually was paying attention in 7th grade English class, to my eternal regret, since that is valuable daydreaming time I will never get back -- without comparing something to food. Water in a stream is the color of mint and smooth like gelatin. A strip of sand is likened to a baguette. Bricks are loaf-sized. Columns made of naturally-occurring salt look like asparagus. Hills are the color of cinnamon. Bushes look like -- I'm serious -- spinach souffles.

Since he likes using food metaphors so much, I was thinking this author could write a book called "Walking Wisconsin," with state-specific food metaphors. Here's an imaginary excerpt: "As we moved through the forest I spied a bird flitting through canopy, and its chirp sounded like the squeak of fresh cheese curds. The knobbly bark of the tree I touched was rough like a bratwurst that had been boiled in beer and then grilled, but not as, you know, greasy, and of course without the mustard because that would be too messy. Definitely with onions, though. As the sun set, the color of the leaves was like the deep-fried pickle on a stick I got at the State Fair and although I later wished I had gotten the chocolate-covered bacon instead, for bragging rights if nothing else. The pebbles underfoot were as numerous as all the metaphorical statins I am going to be on by the time I finish this book." 

Of course, if he wrote a more specific book called Walking in Madison, it would have to be different. He would admire the waves lapping the shore, which made a sound like quinoa being washed. (Like organic quinoa being washed, because when you wash the non-organic kind, all the toxins make a really jangly sound that is nothing like waves.)

And as long as we're on the topic of Madison, I would like to register a complaint that only exists in Madison: There were too many eggplant in my CSA box last week. A CSA share (community-supported agriculture) is basically a vegetable subscription you buy from a farm for local, usually organic vegetables. The farm determines the mix of vegetables you receive, and last week I received four eggplant in my box. Not only can I not eat four eggplant in a week, I'm not sure I can eat four eggplant in my lifetime. I actually had an eggplant-related anxiety dream last night, in which I opened up the box to find a 50 pounder. I have sufficient stress in my life that I'd rather not add a surplus of eggplant to the list.

We do surprisingly well eating all the vegetables that come in our box. We eat everything except for fennel. And sunchokes, which is the new-fangled name for Jerusalem artichokes. Presumably they were renamed to make them sound more palatable. I like this idea of renaming vegetables to enhance their appeal, although I still have grave doubts about any food that has the word "choke" right in it. I think farmers could take some hints from the political world. You know how lobbying groups often work for exactly the opposite result that their name would imply? So a group that calls itself Coalition of Concerned Patriotic Heartland Americans for Sustainable Safe Energy Solutions is basically BP, with one guy from Exxon whose job it is to bring doughnuts to the group's meetings. Fennel could be re-branded Green Feathery Bulb of Deliciousness That Doesn't Taste Like Weird Halloween Candy That Nobody Likes, So Put That Right Out Of Your Mind. I can't come up with any new names for eggplant, though, and I think I know why: not enough time spent daydreaming in 7th grade.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


David and I own a canoe, which we primarily use as a wildlife habitat for spiders. We store it upside down in the side yard, and on the rare occasions we drag it out to use it, the sheer number of spiders inside makes me want to move to Antarctica. Where did spiders live before human evolved sufficiently to make canoes? Spiders owe the human race big time, and frankly I don't think they've reciprocated very well. Yes, I understand they eat disease-causing insects, but c'mon spiders, what have you done for me lately? I think they should move up to snaring rabbits, or maybe those well-dressed Mormon boys who give out religious pamphlets. Also, election season is coming up. Maybe I could train the canoe spiders to pounce on anyone who comes to the door with a clipboard.

We don't go out in the canoe very much, in part because we have two kids who we don't trust not to tip over the canoe, and in part because we have two adults who we don't trust not to tip over the canoe. In one of our first outings in the canoe ten years ago (pre-kids), there was a mortifying incident that involved an overturned canoe, a 911 call, freezing cold lake water, and me saying to David, "Screw what you learned in Boy Scouts in 1972 -- I am not staying with the boat when I can make the pier." I later looked up the water temperature in the lake to see how long it would have taken us to get hypothermia, and it turns out that to be in any danger we would have had to float in the lake all day, or maybe the better part of a week.

These days my sister uses our canoe more than we do. She is doing the speed-dating thing so is always looking for a fun get-to-know-you first date activity, and taking the canoe out on the lake fits that perfectly. I am happy to be doing my part to facilitate her getting some action. I know of no nobler cause.

For a short period we also owned a paddleboat, which I had borrowed from a friend who then wouldn't take it back. That's generally a bad sign, right there. Apparently my friend had bought it at a yard sale for $1 which, as we found out when we got it on the water, was about 99 cents too much. The boat weighed approximately 8,000 pounds (give or take a spider or two) and once in the water we couldn't get it to do anything but go in circles. I dumped the paddleboat on the curb with a FREE sign and the punk kids who rent down the block snapped it up. Last I saw the boat, they had spray painted a skull and crossbones on it (by the way, the boat is bright pink) and named it U.S.S. Badd to the Bone. They will find out how badd the boat actually is if they ever bring it to water. These kids are actually quite obnoxious -- they throw loud parties and leave trash around. Spiders! It is time to do your duty.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Thoughtful and well-designed children's books do not go over well with my kid. Instead we get all Richard Scarry, all the time.

Richard Scarry is the guy who wrote the books that include Busytown and Lowly the Worm. If you don't have any kids, you probably don't know who Richard Scarry is, so just stop reading now and go back to sipping your mojito while simultaneously getting a massage and counting your money, or whatever it is that people without kids do.

David thinks that Richard Scarry books are truly creepy and feels there's something just not right about anthropomorphic pigs wearing lederhosen. But keep in mind that David -- and he will not be pleased to find that I have let this cat out of the bag -- David does not know which puppet is Bert and which one is Ernie. Also he thinks they are muppets. What I am trying to say is that David's opinion can't be trusted in important matters such as this.

(The reason David is not familiar with Sesame Street is that by the time the show started in 1969 [thanks, internet, for offering up some useful information other than the details of Chelsea Clinton's wedding] David was past prime Sesame Street-watching age. Plus he grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, which exists in some sort of parallel universe that runs 10 to 15 years behind the rest of the world. David has gets the shakes and shivers every time we enter Appleton city limits, which makes no sense because he gets along with his sweet, funny, compassionate, smart, and, let's face it, stunningly good-looking family. [I once saw one of my blog posts printed out and stuck on my mother-in-law's fridge with a magnet, so I want to cover all my bases.]

Appleton is a perfectly nice city and if I had to live somewhere in Wisconsin other than Madison, I would consider living there -- well, except for Madison and Milwaukee, I mean. And LaCrosse and Eau Claire. And anywhere Up North. And Janesville or Beloit. What I'm trying to say is that Appleton would be my 8th best choice for a Wisconsin city to live in, which is to say that I will never, never live there and in fact it ranks several places behind Jeffrey Dahmer's city of residence. So never mind.)

My main problem with Richard Scarry is his strict adherence to old-fashioned gender roles. I apologize for the poor image quality -- we're several generations behind in technology at our house, so I'm still using an old-fashioned scanner instead of whatever crazy laser pa-shmapper the kids are using to scan these days. Plus I think Stella may have smeared tahini on the scanner lens. The text says, "Grocer Cat bought a new dress for Mommy. She earned it by taking such good care of the house." The picture shows Mommy cat kissing Grocer Cat and his hat is flying off.

See what I mean? It's hard to read that sort of thing without editorializing. "First of all, Stella, Grocer Cat is a prick, a real prick. Second, I sure hope Mommy Cat had the good sense to get neutered."

Grocer Cat channeling Mel Gibson happens in a Richard Scarry story called "Everyone is a Worker." No, Mr. Scarry, not everyone is a worker. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most recent unemployment data show that 9.5% of the population are not workers (seasonally adjusted).

And another thing: the phrase "everyone is a worker" sounds suspiciously egalitarian. Sort of...socialist, even. Like maybe....something a Kenyan-born Muslim would try to get us to believe as he dismantles the capitalist democracy our soldiers have fought and died for. We need to fight this socialist menace, and it's time to fight fire with fire. We're going nuclear. That's right: it's time to bring out the pigs in lederhosen.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I'm taking a sewing class at the technical college, where I made Stella a dress. I am an extremely slow sewer, and I'm coming to terms that my lifelong dream of working in a garment sweatshop is just not going to happen. I'd take all day to sew on a sleeve, and at a wage of $3.50 an hour, time is money.

In other words, I'm paying good money to learn a skill that is associated with extreme low pay and miserable working conditions. Maybe I should pick up other pastimes in this vein, like poultry processing or working as a clerk in a liquor store. I was going to suggest that perhaps this could be part of a new trend where rich people take unpleasant jobs as hobbies but then I remember that Paris Hilton already did something like that in a reality show. Dang it, every time I come up with a good idea, that woman's already done it.

There's no food or drink allowed in the sewing classroom, which is too bad because I think better with carbs. Whenever I get to a hard spot, I think boy! I could really go for a cookie. Then I recite my sewing mantra, which is Never Look Back. The teacher will come around, inspect my project and say, "Look, here where you sewed shut the armhole, you should have --" and I simply quote Macbeth at her and say, "Things without all remedy / Should be without regard: what's done, is done." (That was Shakespeare's way of saying "I forgot my seam ripper.") As a result, the front of the dress looks great, and the back looks like it was sewn by deranged trolls. Deranged nearsighted trolls. With arthritic fingers.

My favorite classmate is a very genial woman who spends the whole class wandering around, admiring everybody's fabric, and has yet to sew a stitch. At the most recent class, she asked the teacher how to lower the foot of the sewing machine. For those of you not versed in sewing, this is akin to taking a class on how to play chess, and on the second to last day asking which piece is the pawn.

I've finished the dress I was sewing for Stella. It's nice, but incredibly expensive. In fact, by my figures it cost $842: $13 for materials, $500 for labor, $300 for compensation for mental anguish caused by having to put in a zipper, and $29 for a no-cookie surcharge. It's all worth it, though, because Stella loves wearing her dress and tells everyone that her mama made it for her. I hope she responds as well when I give her the project from my poultry processing class.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Love Me Chicken Tenders

My most recent junk-picked treasure is an cookbook called "Are You Hungry Tonight? Elvis' Favorite Recipes." The best thing about this book -- and believe me, there are a lot of great things about this book -- is that in addition to an author, the book credits an "Elvis Consultant." How great a gig is that? My new ambition in life now is to become a Jon Stewart consultant, which would require me to watch every episode of The Daily Show and write lengthly essays speculating whether he gets cuter by the hour or more like by the minute. The other day David asked me where Jon Stewart went to college and I knew. There is a limited amount of real estate in my brain and if I'm going to devote it to minutia like Jonny Boy's alma mater, I ought to at least get paid. Or at least see Jon Stewart naked. That's only fair.

In the introduction, the cookbook describes Elvis as "like the king who walks among his people and sits with them to share their repast." I had to look up what repast means, but then again I am not a Elvis Consultant. The recipes are unremarkable -- although I didn't see any using Quaaludes as an ingredient -- but each recipe has a little intro to set the mood, which is a nice touch. Here's the intro for the Banana Coconut Chiffon Pie recipe:

"Imagine you're driving through the South in the 1960s. the place names crop up on little white signs, not those huge green things. Memphis. Jackson. Tupelo. Shreveport. It gets awfully hot in the car, so you swing into one of those little roadside cafes for a glass of iced tea. My, but it's cool inside. They've got one of those little glass cases with all the pies displayed, and goodness, doesn't the banana coconut chiffon look good! 

As you leave, and push through the screen door, a big Cadillac with a bunch of boys in it pulls up. You chat a bit and they tell you're they're headed to--" beat the living daylights out of some uppity black man who wanted to be served at a lunch counter?


That's where I thought that paragraph was going. Fine, I guess the Elvis Consultant isn't as big on historical accuracy after all.

The second best thing about this cookbook is that it includes directions for making Elvis and Priscilla's six-tiered wedding cake. The recipe calls for 31 POUNDS of Crisco: 11 pounds for the batter and 20 pounds for the frosting. This brings up the main problem with an Elvis cookbook: Do you really want to follow in the culinary footsteps of a man who died at age 42? I wouldn't, but then again, what do I know? For an expert opinion, call the Elvis Consultant.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Trend setter

Saturday I wrote a post mentioning how much I hate the The Economist magazine. Then Sunday the New York Times ran an article about how The Economist markets itself as a thinking person's guide to the world, and tries to cultivate the impression that only wise, sophisticated people read that magazine. Yeah, as if! I don't think they've had Bristol Palin on the cover even once. That's cultural irrelevance for you, right there.

Apparently the Economist tries to market itself as a status symbol for people who are smarter than the rest of us, with more important jobs. Yuck. By the way, I know for a fact that the guy who lives a block away whose Economist gets misdelivered to us got laid off. I'm sure The Economist is at a minimum cutting off his subscription, and possibly making a midnight raid to confiscate his back issues.

But the point I wanted to make is this: The New York Times is following in my footsteps. Once I write about The Economist, everyone wants to write about it.  Such is the power of The Potato. If I'm doing it, it must be cool. Look for these other activities of mine to soon turn into fads sweeping the nation: eating all the popsicles after the kids go to bed, having trouble spelling the word "convenient," and not combing your hair because nobody can tell the difference anyway.

After my last post I googled "Ranger Rick" to see if the wildlife magazine I remember from my childhood is still around. It is, but Google also turned up a fellow who refers to himself as "Army Ranger Rick" who teaches outdoor survival techniques....in Italy. I'm having trouble imagining what kind of situation would demand survival techniques in Italy -- your orzo is cooked too al dente? His website includes instructions for a homemade weapon called the "back-country death star."  I bet he uses it to spear ravioli. 

Army Ranger Rick teaches outdoor survival classes. For lunch, part of the training is that you have to forage for and cook your own food. You are provided the bare essentials, as shown in this photo from Rick's website.

Yes, only four hot dogs and two bags of chips. It may seem cruel, but it's the only way the students are going to learn to survive in the wild.

This Army Ranger Rick fellow is fairly creepy and likely delusional. A little scary, and best kept at a distance. I know what you're thinking, and I think you're right: I'd bet my bottom dollar he reads The Economist.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Miss Muffett

We often get mail for the guy who lives at the same street number as us, but one block over. I've never met him but have serious doubts about his judgment. The guy subscribes to The Economist for crying out loud, so there must be something the matter with him. Any time I've tried to read that publication I find myself falling asleep in a pile of drool, face down on a picture of Silvo Berlusconi. I know Madison is full of pointy-headed intellectuals who read publications that make The New Yorker look like Ranger Rick, but reading The Economist extends into pathology. The only known cure is having the mailman deliver your edition to the wrong house a block away.

Right, so I'm feeling a bit defensive about admitting to having a National Geographic gift catalog in the house. I swear, it was addressed to Mr. Reads-the-Economist and misdelivered to us. I do love museum gift catalogs, though -- I like looking at the picture of the Nepalese Travel Jacket and thinking how I would look stepping off the plane in Katmandu, mentally skipping over the fact that the most exotic place I would likely wear the jacket would be the gyro place on State Street. I think the last time somebody Greek worked or even set foot in that place was in the mid 1990s but dang, they make a good gyro, although I might stay away because I don't want to get tzatziki sauce on my good Nepalese jacket. (As an aside -- as if this whole thing weren't an aside -- I know how to spell tzatziki because I used to wait tables at a different Greek restaurant that did not serve gyros but did serve a cheese appetizer that wait staff flamed at the table. I had perpetually singed eyebrows for all of 1997. Opa!)

Idly flipping through the pages of the National Geographic gift catalog that was MISDELIVERED TO OUR HOUSE, I found a remote-controlled tarantula for sale for $49. I like the way the product description emphasizes the educational aspect of this product, as if this tarantula weren't made for one and only one purpose: to scare your sister. But this is not just any remote-controlled tarantula. No, this remote-controlled tarantula is award-winning, as the catalog proclaims. Proclaims it twice, in case you missed it the first time. Just your ordinary every day remote-controlled tarantula would be worth $30, maaaaaybe $35, but this tarantula is award-winning. Only short-sighted skinflints buy cheap remote-controlled tarantulas, because everybody knows they won't last. You get what you pay for in remote-controlled tarantulas, that's for sure. I checked the reviews on Amazon.com for those low-class remote-controlled tarantulas, and one person complained that the "nasty plastic hair" on the cheap tarantula "smelled toxic," and another noted that the motor on the tarantula was too loud and thus fooled nobody. See? I bet those suckers are ruing the day they bought the Kia of remote-controlled tarantulas instead of the Caddy.

Real tarantulas only cost about $25, but I never heard of any real tarantulas winning any awards. God only knows what their hair smells like.

I would also like to know who gives out this award. The National Association of Creepy Toy Manufacturers?  The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences? The Coalition for Natural-Smelling Tarantula Hair? Please, just let it not be Ranger Rick.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


If junkpicking were an Olympic sport, I'd OWN that cotton-picking podium (1), although to be fair I would later be disqualified for blood doping and the Russians would boycott. At work today I went to the store around the corner to buy a cookie to eat-- alright, to buy a package of cookies to eat in one delicious sitting, causing my afternoon spreadsheet creation to be positively hyperfueled -- and I returned with:

  • a tiara
  • an unopened tube of sunscreen
  • a set of six screwdrivers still in the case
  • an unopened container of hair product for curly hair, and
  • a wig for Walter. Baby W's losing his hair, and I don't want him to be self-conscious.
Rest assured I also returned with the cookies. Stella came in to see me at work, and I offered her a cookie. She wanted a second cookie after the first one, but I told her no. Sure, some of my reasoning was because a four year old shouldn't have too many cookies, but mostly it was because I wanted the other seven for me. I love her, but there is no way I'm going down to only six cookies. They're small! Well, small-ish.

Student move-out day is approaching which means some absolutely primo junkpicking. As I bike in to work, I pass through an east-side student neighborhood with lots of good material. But I suspect the west side is where the junkpicking bling is located, considering it's somewhat wealthier area. On this side of town the students are throwing away those hippie raw wool South American sweaters that weigh 50 pounds; on the west side I bet they're tossing out the diamond rings that are too big to fit in the trailer.

Also, students: if you're throwing out cookies, please remember that I don't like oatmeal raisin.

(1) I wanted to say motherfucking instead of cotton-picking, but it seemed a little harsh in the first sentence, don't you think?
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Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Stella asks "Why?" a lot, and I'm not great at giving her answers. It's not that I don't want to, but I just don't know what to say.

Me: "Stella, let's --"
Stella: "Why?  Why, mama?"
Me: "Why what?"
Stella: "Why let's?"
Me: "Is it time to go to work yet?"

My all-purpose answer after a few Whys is to look pensive and say, "I wonder." David struggles to give complete and thorough answers to every Why and soon gets into matters involving basic social norms, complex science, or free will. I'm not going to discuss free will with someone who thinks it's funny to put underwear on her head.

When Stella asks science related questions, there's generally a lot of hemming on our part and then an answer that's kiiiiinda probably bullshit. I did actually look up whether caterpillars have lungs (no, but they have holes that they use to take in air).  When pressed to explain what thunder is, I told Stella it was akin to the zzzZAP! sound that accompanies getting a shock. I suspect this isn't true, but it's what my parents told me when I was Stella's age, and nothing says "I love you" like passing down misinformation to the next generation.

Stella is very assertive...sure of what she wants...able to direct others...aw heck, she's just plain bossy these days. She's downright imperious. There is one right way to do something in her mind and ten billion wrong ways, and it goes without saying that YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. I at least manage to occasionally perform a task up to Her Majesty's high standards, but David is not so lucky. On the afternoons when he has the kids and I'm at work, I come home to find him slumped on the sofa, glasses askew, being bossed mercilessly. He is always happy to see me.

It's particularly tough on David because Baby W has been on a sudden bottle strike, as he apparently thinks the bottle is filled with angry bees instead of mama milk. This means David's solo experience with Baby W is of an  hungry, angry, no, FURIOUS wailing baby, while my experience is a sweet cuddly baby who's happy to see me and gulps all the milk down then passes out. Baby W, I don't think you're helping my campaign for Kid #3.

If Baby W doesn't start taking the bottle soon, I'll sic Stella on him. She'll set him straight. And then put underwear on his head.