Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I am in Washington, DC for my second conference in three months. No doubt this makes me a WASHINGTON INSIDER, which we all know is a terrible thing to be. When I am back in "real America" I will counteract my brief exposure to elitism by eating a bag of pork rinds. Dipped in mayonnaise.

The oddest moment of the conference occured when one good-looking presenter reminded me of someone, but I just couldn't think of who. It finally occurred to me: Brad Pitt. Hot stuff, right? But it's very disconcerting when your encounter with Mr. Sexiest Man Alive's doppelgaenger involves the topic of unemployment trust fund insolvency. Next year I hope the conference organizers can bring in a George Clooney lookalike for the seminar on state government pension financing systems.

My mom came to Washington, DC and is watching Stella and Baby W for me while I am at the conference, for which I am very grateful. She has great fun with the kids and even loves changing diapers. Back when Stella was very small and made her first visit to Pennsylvania, my mom and sister would actually argue over who got to change the baby's diaper, and would eventually agree to jointly change her Huggies. Stella was doing them a favor as far as they were concerned. My sister has unfortunately outgrown this attitude but my mom still considers it a privilege and an honor to change a diaper. Now that's what I call a grandma!

And these days Baby W needs a lot of diaper changes. You know how the U.S. deployed "bunker buster" bomb technology in the Iraq War? Baby W has developed biological weaponry in the form of diaper buster bombs. Every morning when he wakes up, his zip-up sleeper is wet from mid-thigh up to chest level. I've developed a special straight-arm technique for carrying him downstairs in the morning by his armpits so that no part of his wet body touches mine. Holding a 25-lb baby at arm's length is a great abs workout, and I think many pilates classes now include urine-soaked baby carrying as a core strengthener.

Baby W's diaper-busting moves means there is always laundry to do. The last load I threw in the wash included ten pairs of his pants. Ten! I'm not sure I've owned ten pairs of pants in my entire adult life. On the other hand, I leak from at least three fewer orifices than Baby W does. Sometimes four.

It's important to identify a poopy diaper before it gets a chance to ooze all over the baby's clothes, and I don't want to brag but I am somewhat of a diaper connoisseur. I would like to share the details of my technique, which I call The Sniff. Here's how it works: Hold baby in the air, facing away from you. Press your nose up against baby's bottom and inhale deeply. If the aroma is one of well-aged oak with hints of caramel, yeast, and banana, and a finishing note of the leftover lentil soup you fed the baby a few hours ago, then it's time to set down the Wine Spectator and change the baby.

If The Sniff is inconclusive, there's always The Peek. Cautiously slide a finger under the diaper's leg gussett and peer inside to determine contents. This method has a fairly high margin of error and I want to warn you that the results are not likely to pass peer review. The problem with this technique is that it's possible to accidentally overlook small deposits deep within the diaper, the kind of which I think of as Hearts of Gold. Now I would like to issue an immediate pre-emptive apology to David for my disrespect to Neil Young.

There is a third technique that can be used to identify a dirty diaper, but it is attempted by the very foolish, or the very brave. I call it The Dipstick. Fear it.

There must be some way to make a natural transition to jump from talking about dirty diapers to talking about Washington, DC but I just can't think of any cheap, obvious jokes that would link the two topics. So instead I will note that our hotel is next to what must be the world's largest Catholic bookstore, which has for sale both a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Pope Benedict and a book called John Paul II For Dummies. We're leaving the hotel tomorrow, when the kids and I go back to Wisconsin , and my mom goes back to Pennsylvania. I'm looking forward to seeing David, petting the cats, and getting back into the normal routine. I'm looking forward to enjoying the last days of Wisconsin fall and getting ready for Thanksgiving. But most of all I'm looking forward to pork rinds, dipped in mayonnaise.

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