Thursday, March 29, 2012

10 Things

I have a child who is learning to play soccer. I pay attention to politics. The natural result:

10 Things a Coach Would Say if the Republican Presidential Candidates Were Actually Kindergarteners Learning to Play Soccer

10. Guys. Guys! We're all on the same team, right? Let's all move the ball in the same direction.

9. Ronnie, I know you think you should be able to use whatever part of your body you want to move the ball, but rules are rules.

8. Please do not call your teammates sluts.

7.You may not wear a sweater vest over your uniform.

6. Rick, I'm glad you think God is helping our team win. Let's try to make a goal anyway, okay?

5. I should have been clearer. You may not wear a sweater vest UNDER your uniform either.

4.Newt, you okay, buddy? Newt took a ball to the face, everyone, but he's more surprised than scared, right, little fella? [Newt crumples to the ground, crying.]

3. Why is everyone clustered on the right side of the field? You've left the middle wide open!

2. Rick. Please stop saying that everyone else on your team other than you is so bad that it doesn't matter which team wins.

...and the #1 thing a soccer coach would say to the crop of presidential candidates as kindergarteners...

1. Now remember, we're a team -- Aw, who am I kidding? IT'S EVERY  MAN FOR HIMSELF!

What else?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chocolate-covered

David has taken the kids to see his side of the family, which means I have a whole evening to myself. What did I do with all this time?

1. I spent some extra time at work. While that may sound lame, did you ever think about the possibility that I work as a pediatric oncologist, and the extra time I put in may have saved a young life? I'm not, of course, but I did managed to put together a really neat-o bar graph in those extra 45 minutes, which is almost as good.

2. Freed from the requirements of putting together at least a half-way nutritious dinner for my kids, I majorly carbed out. I bought some locally-made fresh pasta and chowed through an enormous mound of it for dinner. I just checked the packaging to see how many servings I ate, and while I'm embarrassed to share the actual number, I will say that it rounds up to 10.

For dessert, I ate a bagful of very expensive dark chocolate-covered almonds, and I didn't share a single one.

3. I gave away furniture on Freecycle. If you don' t know about Freecycle, it's a website you can use to give away stuff. You post a description of what you want to give away, and then people can contact you if they're interested in taking it. This system works pretty well, except that there's always some jerk who contacts you wanting a detailed description of the condition of the item and its complete history, as if he is doing you a big favor by taking this item off your hands. Sure, dude, I'll be sure to reply to your email in case the other 99 people who emailed me who really want this item somehow get struck by lighting. 

I'm giving away some of the baby-related furniture, since David has been firm in his desire to stop at two children. Baby W is at his peak cuteness these days -- so cute that David and I often take breaks from playing with him to whisper fiercely to each other that "the baby is SO fucking cute." But even the extreme cuteness were living with can't break down David's will. I just hope David realizes that if we're not having any more children, there's really no reason for me not to rocket straight to menopause and lose all interest in sex. But I'm sure he's thought that through.

I was not aware it was humanly possible to be exposed
to this face and yet not want another baby.
Also, I have pointed out to David if we asked Rick Santorum what he thinks, Sen. Santorum would undoubtedly come down on the side of us having more children. Dilemma solved!

4. While everyone was gone, I read more than 10 pages of a book in one sitting. It was a strange, unfamiliar feeling. After about 8 pages, I started looking up, thinking "Aren't I supposed to be doing something else?" I think that being a parent has given me ADHD.

(By the way, I just finished two excellent books that I would strongly recommend: The Magician, and The Magician Kings, by Lev Grossman. They are like deeply fucked-up versions of The Chronicles of Naria, and I mean that in the best possible way.)

David and offspring are scheduled to roll into the driveway any minute, so I have to make the most of my last minutes of free time. I'm already laying the plans for the next time David takes the kids to visit his family. Next time, I'm going to get the chocolate-covered pecans.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Prepare for Bed

News flash! Kids are cute when they are asleep. Here's one little angel who just went off to bed:


I also took a picture of Stella sleeping, but it seemed a little weird to post it. A picture of a sleeping one-year-old is cute, but a picture of sleeping six-year-old  brings all the pedophiles out of the woodwork.

Which reminds me! Did you see that Dick Cheney had a heart transplant?

Every night, I get the kids ready for bed and then lie with them until they fall asleep. This means that I usually lie in the dark, on the bed, for about half an hour while my offspring drift off to Lullaby Land. After they go to sleep, in theory I get back up and install low-flow shower heads in our bathrooms, muck out the stables on our five-acre estate, and learn to weld -- or something like that. In truth, I have no idea what productive things I would do if I got back up after I put the kids to bed because it almost never happens. I'm lying down for 30 minutes! In the dark, for cripe's sake! Show me someone who can stay awake through that, and I will show you someone who never dozed off during their 8:30 AM Russian History class. And that person simply doesn't exist.

Anyhow, I often awake with a snort about 11:30 PM, still dressed in my work clothes. Heck, sometimes I even wake up at 6 AM the next morning, still dressed in my work clothes. This isn't as bad as it sounds, because when it is time to go to work, I'm already all set. In my well-worn work clothes. Don't worry, I change my underwear before I head back to the office.

If I were smart, I would acknowledge that I often go to bed when the kids do, and I would be all ready for bed when I lie down with the kids, with my pajamas on and my teeth brushed. But I can't bring myself to face the hard reality that I'm unlikely to get back up and be productive. So instead, I go to bed unprepared, and wind up with unbrushed teeth and wrinkled clothes -- just the same way that many teens who participate in abstinence-only sex education don't want to acknowledge that they may engage in sexual activity, and then wind up unprepared when they actually do have sex. And some of those teens wind up with a lot worse than unbrushed teeth. Although, to be fair, my unbrushed teeth are pretty bad.

The kids and I sleep on a giant futon mattress on the bedroom floor. This works great for cuddling with the kids and nursing Baby W when he wakes up at night. In theory, sleeping on a futon on the floor is not all that comfortable, but what do I know? I fall asleep after 15 seconds of lying down in the dark in my work clothes, so it doesn't seem to be negatively affecting my sleep too much. David gets the "real" bed to himself, with a luxurious queen-sized mattress and box springs. This might seem unfair, but remember that...no, I guess it really is unfair.

Despite everything, I have to say that our sleeping arrangement is working out pretty well for us. It's a little unconventional -- all four of us sleep in one room, and I don't sleep in the same bed as my husband -- but it functions, at least for now. The kids are good sleepers, and while some nights are tough, I'm not as exhausted as I was a few months ago. Now if I could just get those low-flow shower heads installed...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fuckin' United

In the past month I have flown to New Zealand, to San Antonio, and to Washington DC. I also passed through airports in Cincinnati, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Chicago. I have been in taxis, subways, hotel shuttles and inter-city buses. Shit, I have been seriously busy. Wait a minute, I didn't travel by camel at all! Well, maybe my next trip will be to Egypt or Arizona or wherever it is that camels live.

All my travels went very smoothly. This confused me. I flew Fuckin' United Airlines quite a bit over the last month and -- this is the really bewildering part -- all the planes took off and landed more or less on time. (I am so used to being filled with rage at United that I refer to that airline as Fuckin' United just as a matter of course now.) If an airline known for being chronically late somehow manages to land its planes more or less on time, isn't that a sign that something's gone terribly, terribly wrong?

Another thing that confused me happened as I waited in the security line to fly back from Washington DC. A TSA employee came forward to swab my hand and explained that he was looking for traces of explosives. He asked if I had been around toxic waste at all (??) and when I said I hadn't, he asked if perhaps I had been up on Capitol Hill.

Let's unpack this statement.
  • First of all, was the TSA guy trying to make a joke by comparing Congress (which has many of its facilities on Capitol Hill) to toxic waste? I thought we were not supposed to make jokes in the security lines! DO NOT MAKE JOKES IN SECURITY LINES, dude. You will be duty-bound to arrest yourself, after first patting yourself down in a lecherous manner.
  • Second, TSA officers are federal employees, yes? They are part of the federal government. And Congress controls the nation's purse strings. By likening Congress to toxic waste, this TSA employee was mocking the very organization that controls the funding that supports his own job. It's a little bit like calling your dad a dweeb behind his back but then asking him for your allowance. Bad idea.
Washington, DC was gorgeous. At least it I hear it was. Me, I barely went outside, since I spent almost all my time there at a training. But all that time inside was worth it, because I learned how to make beautiful maps like this one. The heck with cherry blossoms...there are charts to be made!

Being in DC meant I was able to get together with my friend David, who writes a blog at araspberry.blogspot.com, where he has interesting things to say about life and uses words like "verisimilitude." Here's a picture of him holding the beer menu at the bar where we had a drink. Can you see how much of the menu has been crossed off? What's up with that? The menu looks like it's been redacted for national security purposes. If Dick Cheney had a beer menu, this is what it would look like.


I love to travel, but I have been thoroughly discombobulated by all this coming and going. I keep waking up in the middle of the night not knowing where I am. And I still have New Zealand currency in my wallet. I'm looking forward to staying put for the foreseeable future, enjoying a slower pace of life, and catching up with the laundry. And then I'm going to ask my father for my allowance.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Natural Selection

We become parents for a variety of reasons -- by accident, on purpose, for the tax
deductions, because our own mothers mentioned (four or five times a day for several years)
how much they would like grandchildren -- but according to scientists, we also become
mothers because we want to pass on our DNA. We’re driven to reproduce because we want
our genes, in the form of our offspring, to have the best possible chance at succeeding.

The irony is that by reproducing, we’re working at cross-purposes with any children we
already have. Only children have an advantage over other children, in that they don’t have
to compete for scarce parental resources, and they have an incentive to keep in that way.
As Charles Darwin said, “Only children never have to share the iPad.”

So it makes sense that when took I steps to become a mother a second time, my daughter
evolved new adaptive behaviors aimed at insuring that that her genes, and not the genes
of any theoretical sibling, would be the most likely to get passed down. If Darwin wanted
to study evolution and natural selection, I don’t know why he didn’t just come to our house
instead of the Galapagos, although I grant you we have fewer iguanas.


The first adaptation my daughter evolved was to develop an unsurpassed ability to
disrupt any activities that could, at least in theory, lead to another child, if you get my drift.
You could suspend her in a sensory deprivation tank many miles away in, say, Indiana,
administer a powerful sedative, and yet she would still wake up when I gave my husband
a backrub. She got to the point where she could interrupt so much as a meaningful
glance between my husband and I, by announcing that she has something VERY VERY
IMPORTANT to tell us RIGHT NOW, she NEEDS TO TELL IT TO US RIGHT THIS
MINUTE, which is that um, um, um, she has a hole in her sock.

Well-played. But she wasn’t the only one who could evolve. I developed my own, superior
adaptation: code. In her presence, I’d say to my husband “How about after daughter goes
to bed, you and I get together and eat some broccoli.” Sometimes when I was feeling extra
frisky, I’d even suggest we eat kale. When my daughter grows up she’s going to wonder
why her mother had such a fetish for brassicas.

I won that evolutionary round, but my daughter didn’t give up so easily. Even after the baby
was born, she hoped to regain the favored “only child” status. Her favorite activity was
grabbing the baby’s head and -- you know how scientists seeking to control nuisance geese
populations will “addle” the eggs by shaking them vigorously to insure they don’t hatch?
It’s the same motion you use to shake up a container of orange juice. The baby’s own pulp
must have been a little addled because he didn’t mind a bit.

I evolved a new adaptation in response, which was to never leave the two alone together.
But sometimes it was unavoidable. When I took a shower, I would bring both kids into the

bathroom, and I could see through the frosted glass of the shower door that something was
happening out in the bathroom between them but I couldn’t tell quite what. It was a lot like
The Blair Witch Project in that you don't know exactly what's going on…but you know it's
not good. One time when I got out of the shower there was a return address sticker on the
baby’s cheek. Little hint.


And she would say, “I love the baby so, so much,” in a sad, regretful tone that implied she
would be seriously bummed out when we returned him to the orphanage.

I’m happy to say that I won this evolutionary battle. In the end, my daughter accepted
that I am mother to two children. In fact, she’s evolved again, into another little mother
herself. When I nursed the baby, she would ask, “Mama, can I help by holding your hot, hot
breast so full of milk?” Nnnnnno. And do me a favor, don’t google that phrase, okay?

And me, I’m happy because I got another chance to pass my genes down to the next
generation. In fact, I’ve proposed passing down my genes to a third child, but my husband
has put down his foot. Instead, we’re getting an iguana.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Texas

I've bid sayonara to the land of the hobbits. The kids and I managed to survive the 30 hours that it takes to travel from my father's house in New Zealand back to the land of brats and cheese. Everybody was a little cranky after our long vacation, and there was occasionally unhappiness during the travel, especially on the part of Baby W. Do you remember how I said that on the way out to New Zealand, three people came up to me and complimented me after the flight about how quiet the kids had been?

Nobody did that on the flight back.

As long as we're talking about kids and travel, I have a great idea that would revolutionize car travel with young children. We had several hours in a shuttle at the beginning of our return trip, taking us from my father's house to the Auckland airport. At one point during the shuttle trip, Baby W started to get cranky. No problem, because I have a superpower -- two of them, in fact -- inside my bra that can calm a fussy tot in no time. But it's nearly impossible to nurse a child who is belted into a car seat. To remedy this problem, I'm proposing that women evolve much longer breasts, or perhaps some sort of breast-extender appendage, to make it easier to reach the baby's mouth. Either that, or we could get car seat manufacturers to change the design of car seats, but to be honest it would probably be easier to totally redesign the basic female body structure.

I'm majorly ambivalent about New Zealand. Upon hearing that I've just come back from New Zealand, most people rhapsodize about how beautiful the landscape is in New Zealand, and how much they'd like to go there, or go back there. And it's true, New Zealand is beautiful. But they also have traffic there. And Kentucky Fried Chickens. And Starbucks. At the grocery store, I saw that the cover story on the magazine at the checkout counter was about Glee. It's disappointing that so much of their culture is similar to American culture. If I fly to the other side of the world, I want to land in a place that is truly foreign, you know? It makes me want to collar New Zealanders and say "GUYS! YOU'RE BLOWING IT!"

A few days after returning from New Zealand, I flew to San Antonio to attend a work conference. In fact, I'm sitting in the San Antonio airport right now. San Antonio is a great town for a conference because look! Look what they have in San Antonio!

I have curly hair

That's right. San Antonio has margaritas. And I had one, thereby doubling my 2012 alcohol consumption to date. As long as I was cutting loose and having a drink, I decided to go into full-bore party mode and watched TWO Daily Show episodes online back at the hotel before falling asleep.

I felt like I needed to partake in some Texas culture, so I visited the Alamo. Fortunately, it's right across the street from a Hooters, which helped round out the Texas cultural experience.

The Alamo
Inside the Alamo, the most interesting part to me was the old pre-1900 graffiti. I really love how the marks people make defacing a monument became history in themselves. I wish I could also leave my own mark for people to see a hundred years from now. Of course I didn't, though. In Texas you can get the death penalty for doing that.

Margaritas and history are great, but the yardstick that I use to judge a city's true worth is whether it has a good place to run. And yes! San Antonio has a great place to run! Here's the RiverWalk, which makes it possible to run 5 or 6 miles without ever having to cross a street. It's a wonderful example of far-sighted urban planning. I'm not sure what it's doing in Texas.

The RiverWalk in San Antonio

All this traveling has been great, but I'm looking forward to going back home, especially to seeing David and the kids. I'm a little worried because it's apparently snowing back in Madison, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the weather won't cause any delays. I'm looking forward to getting back in the groove of my everyday schedule: going to work, getting Stella off to school, and playing with Baby W. And in case you were wondering, that schedule does not include watching Glee.