Saturday, May 28, 2011

Beans

Baby W is a bit of a mystery. He's a great eater, but all the food that he eats leaves his system looking identical to how it went in. How is he getting any nourishment when his dirty diaper is full of entire, whole beans, which incurred no visible damage during their trip through his digestive system? I shovel bean soup in, and then a few hours later I open up his diaper and: yep, bean soup out. I think that after a quick rinse I could probably recycle most of the beans for another trip through his system. Or at least make them into hummus.

Instead of hummus, I have another idea. Have you heard of this fantastically, out-of-this-world expensive coffee that is made from coffee beans that have travelled through the digestive system of a civet or a lemur or such? Apparently the process of digestion alters the beans and makes them especially delicious to people with refined palates, which is defined as "having so much money that they got tired of just setting it aflame so are looking for something to spend it on instead."

Someone's been feeding coffee beans to the baby.
You might be able to see where I am going with this -- Perhaps I should become an entrepreneur and try to market the beans that have passed through Walter as a rare delicacy, one available only to consumers with so much money that they use dollar bills as coffee filters.

But here's a complication: would I be able to market these beans as vegan, given that they've been through the digestive system of an animal? I'm not even sure these beans could technically be called "free range," based on the use of baby gates in our house. And they're definitely not "cruelty-free" beans given how roughly Stella sometimes interacts with Baby W. If she could keep him penned into a veal cage she would. Basically, these special beans would be processed and harvested using the equivalent of traditional, big-agriculture methods. Michael Pollan is not going to approve.

By this time I realize you're thoroughly sorry that you ever clicked on the link to bring you to this post, but I would like to discuss another example of food that is barely changed on its trip through Baby W's system: broccoli. Sometimes even the tiny little florets are still intact on the other side! This is why I'm perplexed that he is somehow actually managing to get bigger. Perhaps he is taking in most of his nourishment from the air, and he's actually a species of bromelaid.

We use cloth diapers at our house, and wash them ourselves. I remember when I was pregnant with Stella and looking into diapering options. I had decided to use cloth diapers, and David scoffed at me, saying he thought I'd revert to using disposables in a few weeks. In fact, cloth diapers were so successful at our house that not only did we use them for all of Stella's babyhood, but now I have managed to foist off the chore of washing them onto David. Now that is a successful diapering system.

I can hear thumping feet and a baby crying upstairs, which means I should probably sign off and go help David. Plus I need to get a head start on dinner. You can come over for dinner if you want. We're having hummus.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May

May is why people live in Wisconsin. A May day like the one we had today can make up for almost all of February. I'm remembering now, though, that I spent a big chunk of February enjoying the mild southern hemisphere breezes of New Zealand, so perhaps it would be better to say that a nice May day can make up for February for the unfortunates who don't have the opportunity to winter in the tropics. You know -- the little people.
Photo by Stella, but I can't possibly
IMAGINE who this messy house
belongs to.

I know I've harped on this before, but I can hardly believe that Native Americans survived, and even thrived, in Wisconsin winters without modern clothing or heating. I believe they had access to only a very primitive version of present-day fabrics, which they made from the feathers of the lesser gore-tex, a type of finch. (A bird which went extinct right around the first REI opened, which wasn't a coincidence.)

I think if I was an early Native American, I would enjoy the beautiful May days in Wisconsin, have my fill of the abundant plant and animal life....and then keep right on moving come November, down to my time-share in Pensacola. It would take me a long time to get their by foot, but then again I would probably die of smallpox on the way anyway.

The kids have really been enjoying the start of summer, too. I gave Baby W his first popsicle today, and it BLEW his little one year old MIND. Up until now, he was under the mistaken impression that the most delicious things in the world were mama milk, matted bits of cat hair, and the crumbs that accumulate under the rug in the kitchen. Now he knows that popsicles are more delicious than anything else.

Except for maybe sand. Baby W loves to sit in his sandbox and shovel sand into his mouth as fast as he can. As far as he's concerned, sand is delicious. If he went to a four-star restaurant, and they didn't serve sand, he'd turn right around and leave. Imagine if someone set you down in a giant pile of the most mouth-watering food you can imagine, like filet mignon, or if you're a vegetarian, in some really quality chickpeas. Naturally you would enthusiastically sample the goods, right? And that's just what Baby W is doing! But with play sand!


I really like this photo that Stella took.
 In fact, he's such an enthusiastic consumer of play sand, that the other day when he pooped in the tub -- and before I go any further, I would just like to say that I'm glad I got this chance to work tub pooping into yet another post. I'll try to work in a mention of the toilets at O'Hare too, but that might be beyond me -- when he pooped in the tub, and I was cleaning it up, I couldn't understand why there was so much sand in the bottom of the tub. I finally realized it was a side effect of Baby W's extremely high fiber diet.

So for now the kids and I are taking advantage of the gorgeous weather by eating popsicles, playing in the sandbox, and going to the park. It's good to get our fill of summer now before the mosquitoes get too thick. I've got a great idea for a summer activity that Baby W will really like, one he won't forget for a long time: we're going to make popsicles out of sand.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Toy

Stella took this picture of me
in the foggy bathroom.
Stella has hundreds of toys, although many of them I hesitate to actually call "toys" because they're more like random things I thought she would find interesting. Let's say I'm walking home from the store I see that somebody has left the remains of a garage sale on the terrace, and the detritus includes a battered tea kettle with a broken handle. Great! It's a new "toy" for Stella! It's like FAO Schwartz around here!

So then we bring the battered tea kettle home and use it every minute of every day for exactly two days to play tea party, or flight attendant, or bartender who doesn't know when to cut off the angry drunk who is definitely driving home, dammit, where are my keys. Then we stuff the kettle into the toy box until, in a uncharacteristic fit of anti-clutter activity, I try to throw it away. Then it becomes Stella's most precious possession, something she will treasure until the end of her days or at least for another 15 minutes or so. She believes her toys are very valuable. I wouldn't put it past her to be one of those people who takes a completely useless piece of crap and lists it on Craigslist for $50 just to see if there's anyone foolish enough to try to bargain the price down to $35 and think they got a great deal.

I have to admit, that when I throw away things that belong to Stella, I shove them way, way down into the trash when she isn't looking, and then sort of fluff up the trash around it. I have had to fish out one too many things from the trash after she spied them in there. Then I have to lie about how her precious whatchamacallit must have fallen into the trash accidentally. Or -- and this is always good for fostering peace and understanding between siblings -- I blame the baby. If Stella notices that a particular battered toy is missing, I shrug and say that I'm sure it will turn up. (And it will. But at the Dane County dump.)

Speaking of Craigslist, we recently bought an elliptical trainer from there. Well, David bought it. I want nothing to do with the elliptical, in part because it seems so...nerdy. It just doesn't seem like real exercise. It seems like after you finish working out on the elliptical trainer, the next natural activity is to go dust your extensive collection of Star Wars action figurines. (Energy expended: 120 calories/hr, and gives great definition to your triceps.)

This is either Baby W in the
foggy bathroom
or some sort of glowing UFO.
Stella, on the other hand, loves the elliptical machine. We'll be in the living room reading books, and Stella will suddenly announce that she needs to "go exercise," and disappears into the basement. If she starts lecturing us about the lactic acid threshold, I'm cutting off her access.

Anyway, on Craigslist there are many, many people advertising elliptical trainers for sale. In fact, I would theorize that about 85% of Craigslist ads involve elliptical trainers. (The other 15% are ads for having sex on elliptical traners.) I found buying a piece of exercise equipment from Craiglist to be a fairly frustrating exercise (!). Here's a typical ad: "Selling elliptical. $75. Nice." The ad on Craigslist is free, you have all the space you want for describing the elliptical trainer, pictures are free too, and all you can come up with in a way of description is "Nice?" That's completely useless for someone who is looking to buy! I hope that person doesn't also list sexual services on Craigslist! I can just imagine how useless those ads would be. ("Call me. I'm a woman.")

Stella has fun with her half-functional tea kettles, but her favorite toy of all is a little house we made her from a big cardboard box, one that David's office chair came in. We cut a door, fashioned a chimney, and added a mailbox to her box. Stella has pretended that the box is a car wash, a store that sells fish, and a giraffe cage.  After two hears of hard wear and tear, the box is starting to crumple a little, and we're already planning for the day the big box bites the dust. David is lobbying for us to make a major purchase mostly for the purpose of getting a new box for Stella. He's thinking the packaging for a big screen television would be just about right.

Stella has gotten so much imaginative play out of her box, and it didn't cost us a cent. I’m sure there's a market for big cardboard boxes like this, if parents know their kids will play with the boxes for years. I' m thinking that if we take these boxes and slap a Swedish brand name on them, we could sell them for maybe $350. Probably even more if we sell them on Craigslist.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Eyewitness

The cats are not allowed up on this
table. This picture must have been
taken during one of the few
moments in which the cats
were not up on the table anyway.
Everybody knows that if you ask multiple eyewitnesses about an event, you're sure to get discrepancies. I'm hoping David and I are never witnesses to a crime because we would never be able to give the police a coherent statement. He would say that the crime happened at midnight, and I would remind him that the sun was shining at the time. He would say that we were downtown when it happened, and I would remind him that we were at home. He would insist that the event happened during the Mesozoic Era and I would remind him that the dinosaurs had all died out by that time so it had to at least have been the Paleozoic Era.

In other words, we have very different interpretations of the same facts. But I don't want to say that David's interpretation of events are completely wrong. A successful marriage -- which I think we have, by the way, even though we're both still slightly grumpy about actually being married -- involves give and take, and seeing life through the other person's eyes. So with a nod towards continued marital harmony, I will instead say that David's interpretations of events are on occasion, not completely wrong. See? That's the hallmark of a healthy relationship, right there. (Note that I used the singular of "occasion," because there's only been that one time that he wasn't completely wrong.) 

One nice thing is that when David gets things wrong, it's often because he is mistakenly crediting me with accomplishments that I didn't actually achieve. For example, I once caught him telling a group of friends that I have a commercial driver's license. That is totally false. In fact, I sometimes think I would be better off if I didn't have any driver's license at all, based partly on the fact that I still just haven't gotten the hang of traffic circles. (My apprehension of traffic circles means that I will probably never reach the level of European sophistication that I would like to achieve, but I'll just eat a bunch of pain au chocolat to try to make up for it.)

Also once I overheard David telling someone I got an athletic scholarship to college. This is wrong on so many levels it's hard to pick just one, but I'll start by saying my college didn't offer athletic scholarships. And there is absolutely no way I would have gotten an athletic scholarship had they been offered. On the other hand I did go to college -- so in David's eyes, his story was basically correct.

Unflattering picture of Baby W,
taken by Stella. She's also taken
plenty of unflattering pictures of
me, but I won't be posting those.
I say all this because David and I have very different assessments of our children's developmental abilities. David thinks that Baby W has a vocabulary of five to ten words, can nod his head yes or no, can sing and dance, and program simple yet profitable iPhone apps. I, on the other hand, think that Baby W's main achievement at this point is timing his diaper blowout to occur three minutes after you've changed him.

David is convinced that Baby W knows several sign language signs. We taught Stella some sign language when she was a baby, and have been working on the same signs with Baby W. David in particular has been trying to teach Baby W the sign for "dog." David insists that Baby W has mastered the gesture, and I'll go along with that, but here are some of the things that Baby W has called "dog" just today: airplanes, trees, ants, cars, swings, the occasional dog but that might just be coincidence, cats, me, his lunch, and individual air molecules. 

But of course there are lots of things that David and I do agree on -- important things. Like how to raise our children, what kind of family we want, and how to be kind to each other. And there's never any disagreement about the most important thing we want out of life: pain au chocolat.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Comments

I don't even know what to put as
captions for these pictures now
Baby W just had his well-baby check. (It's called that because the doctor looked and him and said, "Well -- he's a baby, all right.") Stella came with us to the doctor's office, and before we went I prepped her with the sad news that I would actually have to be talking to the doctor, and Stella would not be allowed to dominate the conversation as she prefers to do. Normally, whenever Stella is introduced to a new person, or even if someone on the street doesn't break eye contact quickly enough, Stella immediately launches into a long list of things she would like to communicate to that person, including that she got her nails painted, she got new sandals, what she had for breakfast, etc. Sometimes I think the main benefit of us travelling to New Zealand was that it gave Stella a new pool of people to talk to. She's already talked to everyone on this side of the Pacific.

When I was able to get a word in edgewise with the doctor, I learned that Baby W is a little anemic. The solution is to feed him foods high in iron. I did some research and it turns out the two foods highest in iron are oysters and beef, neither of which are in our normal rotation of foods. But now I have both on hand and I'm mixing some into Baby W's foods. As a direct result, Baby W now spends a lot of his time smelling like wet cat food. In fact, I should probably check the ingredients of the Fancy Feast because that might be a more convenient way to deliver the nutrients. And the can has a pop-top lid.

As I was writing this post, I went to the Fancy Feast website for some reason. There's a whole category of things that I know are stupid even before I do them, and the whole time I'm doing it, I'm lambasting myself for doing it and saying I will never do it again. Going to the website of a canned cat food company falls right into that category, although I will admit that I was happy to find out they have webisodes featuring a chef named "Carla," posted on their website, so maybe that made the visit worthwhile.  Here's the website: http://www.fancyfeast.com/. See? Now just try to avoid going to that website.

Do you know what else falls squarely into the category of things I do all the time, despite vowing again and again not to? Reading the online comments on newspaper articles. I'm going to come right out and say that apparently only idiots leave comments on newspaper articles. (This stands in stark contrast to the superior intellect and frank sex appeal of individuals who leave comments on blog posts.)

We have to be one of the few people
who actually chose orange
countertops
It's amazing how quickly comments on even the most non-political articles devolve into name calling. Let's say I see an article about something completely anodyne, like "Beautiful Weather on Tap for Weekend." And despite knowing better, I start reading he comments and see something like this:
Commenter #1: "Were luky Dubya didnt ruin the entire envirnemtn while he had thechance. It wasnt for lack of trying." 
Commenter #2: "Oh wahh wahh! Poor little environmentalist! Obama's high tax rates will mean you'll loose yr job and then you can sit in the sun all day long."
But I swear I'm going to turn over a leaf with regards to reading comments. I don't need to lower my IQ by reading that negative drivel. I'm hoping you will join me in vowing to not do things that you already know you shouldn't do. I'm thinking we could create a national movement that would help everybody lead more positive, constructive lives. Now all we need to do is get "Carla" aboard.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sibling

It's Mother's Day, and for a gift, David is taking the kids to swimming lessons instead of me going. Never let it be said that man doesn't know how to treat his woman like a queen.

Still Life With Peanut-Buttered Mouth
It's good that I'm getting a break, because I needed one. Too many times today I have spoken sternly to Stella, telling her to stop doing whatever it is she is doing to her brother. When I point out the error of her ways to her, Stella is always abjectly apologetic, saying "Oh mama, I'm really really sorry for doing that," immediately before drop-kicking the baby over the garage.

Stella has two completely opposite modes of dealing with Baby W:

  1. Near-Homicidal Mode, which includes activities like tacking him and banging his head on the sidewalk, or pretending his head is a snare drum and smacking it with her drumstick; or 
  2. Helicopter Parent Mode, in which she freaks out at him doing something mostly harmless, like eating a Cheerio that he had previously dropped on the ground. To stop him from doing so she tackles him and bangs his head on the sidewalk. 
Whenever I get frustrated at Stella's behavior towards her little brother, my sister likes to remind me I "nearly killed" her when we were both wee tots, at least according to my mother. In fact my sister has reminded me of that multiple times and it's getting a little annoying. I wonder what HER head would sound like if I hit it with a drumstick. 

Speaking of my own childhood, I would like to teach Stella a lesson I learned about 1980, which is: being older almost always translates into being smarter. Please don't tell David I said that, by the way, because I don't want him to think that the age difference between us gives him an intellectual advantage, even if he does read the New York Review of Books. I recently asked him if he remembered where he was when Kennedy was killed, and he got kind of huffy. Turns out David was only two at the time.

This a photo Stella took that I found
in the camera. I have no idea
what it is. 
Anyway, there's a famous story from when I was a kid, when my parents gave us some money to get ice cream sundaes at McDonalds. However, they only gave us enough money for two sundaes between the three of us. So I said to my siblings, both of whom are younger: "We can only buy two sundaes. That means TWO people will get their own sundae, and ONE person will get half of each of the other people's sundaes. Who should that one person be?" Naturally I was nominated, the motion was seconded, and the vote was unanimous. Twenty-five years later, I'm still proud of that little bit of sneakiness. 

And the sundae was delicious. 

What I'm trying to say is that as the oldest sibling, Stella doesn't need to resort to physical force to bend her brother to her will. She will always be smarter than him, she'll be taller than him for a good 15 years or so, and she'll always be better looking than any younger siblings. (At least that's the way it worked in my family.) And last, but not least, something tells me she'll always be handier with the drumstick.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Copyright

I read an article in the New York Times about a random blogger who snagged a photo off the internet to use to illustrate a post, and the next thing he knew a publishing company was making an example of him and suing him for copyright infringement, for as many dollars as there are mosquitoes in Wisconsin. And there are a lot of mosquitoes in Wisconsin.

Yes, this is a strange picture.
But it is MY strange picture.
That article resonated with me, because I have a -- a friend, yes a friend, who has a blog, and she sometimes takes random images just to break up the text a little bit, without checking to see if they are copyrighted. No more! She does not want to get sued to an inch of her life, particularly because when you're completely broke you apparently have to wear one of those barrels with straps, and she never looks good in oak.

(Right now I am working really hard not to search Google Images for a picture of a barrel.)

Actually, the idea of someone being bankrupt in a barrel doesn't even make sense. If you were that poor, couldn't you sell the barrel and get some clothes? I tried finding the answer through Google -- some people try to find their answers through God, but I believe that Google shows the way -- and I while I didn't receive enlightenment, I was amused by the auto-complete suggestions, which included: "Why do poor people smoke?" "Why do poor people vote republican?" and "Why do poor people have so many kids?" I suspect scientists will soon discover the single genetic mutation responsible for all these traits. That same gene may also cause a real fondness for AquaNet hairspray.

A headless David. Or perhaps it's
just that his halo is too bright.
At any rate, I have decided that I should no longer pluck images from the internet for use on this site. It's just too risky. In fact, I went back and deleted a bunch of images from older posts. Besides, I don't want to steal anything, although I never really thought of it as stealing. I managed to get all through my teens without shoplifting anything, which right there is an act of heroics rare enough to qualify me for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Occasionally as an adult I have walked out of a store and only later remembered that I forgot to pay for something, but I've never done it intentionally. In fact I still toss and turn at night over my guilt about inadvertently lifting a 3-pack of light bulbs from Sears in about 1997.

So instead of (someone else's) artfully composed images, with effervescently witty captions, I am now going to include strange pictures that Stella has taken. She loves to play with the digital camera, and can take dozens of photos in a single session. (I will warn you that she especially likes to take pictures of her tongue.) I'm going to be switching to using these random images that Stella has generated. And if I find out that somebody else has used MY images, I'm going to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Either that, or give them the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Supplies

David apparently fixed the dishwasher. That's great news because I am utterly and totally incompetent when it comes anything related to using or manipulating tools, and yes, I am going to ignore your snickering about my use of the word "tool" in this context. I have also used this website to explain -- at length -- that I am not naturally gifted in artistic pursuits. In case you have the mistaken impression that I'm not good at anything, I would like you to know that I am good at many things, the majority of which have to do with Microsoft Excel. I can make a really kick-ass spreadsheet in under five minutes. In fact, I'm going to make you one for your birthday.

I am thinking that perhaps I could release a line of tastefully designed spreadsheets and sell them at K-Mart, ala Martha Stewart. Actually, I was at the Giant Pet Supplies Store the other day and noticed that Martha Stewart has a line of pet supplies. Apparently Ms. Stewart is really stretching for new areas of our life that need her influence, since she's already taken over our kitchen, the rest of our house, and the garden. Perhaps next she'll expand into healthcare, with tastefully designed IV lines and artificial hips.

Anyway, from what I saw at the pet store, her line includes supplies for dogs, but not cats. I think that's a wise decision on her part, because cats are just not going to toe the line when it comes to color-coordinated booties and leashes the way dogs would. Also, there's just so much you can spiff up vomit, and that is the main function of many cats.

(As an aside, the cats puked on the rug the other day in two long skinny piles, and I was cleaning up the mess, Stella said of the vomit, "That looks like New Zealand." And do you know, she was right.)

Back to the dishwasher -- It was leaking, which bummed us both out. Right around the time Stella was born, we undertook a massive house renovation and replaced virtually every appliance in the house, spending tens of thousands of dollars in the process. So now, by our figuring, we should never have to lift a finger or spend a cent to fix anything in the house ever again. When so much as a light bulb burns out now, we turn to the sky, shake our fists angrily, and shout why?! WHY, GOD?! WHY US?! 


With regards to the dishwasher, David and I both had the same brilliant idea of how to fix it: by putting a towel down when it started to leak. From my perspective, that was doing the trick just fine, but David got ambitious and decided he wanted to try to fix the dishwasher. He did this by watching a video on You Tube and then poking around in the dishwasher for 45 minutes with a screwdriver. Since then, the dishwasher hasn't leaked once, and I figured that all that poking around had fixed it! David was less certain, pointing out that we had also had sex on the day the dishwasher stopped leaking and perhaps that was what fixed it, and we should probably do some preventative maintenance in case it started leaking again. Also, he thought the washing machine might be making funny sounds.

Actually, everything in the house is working right now, which is great news. When something breaks, we are slow to fix it, which means we spend a lot of time dealing with the effects of our half-assed, jerry-rigged repairs. But if your spreadsheet breaks, give me a call.