Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Worst

I can't think of a single thing I like less than looking for a new child care provider. Well, maybe cleaning up cat barf, particularly after I first discover it by stepping in it. That is also not very rewarding.

The frustrating thing is that we already have child care providers who we like very much! But they are college students who have a nasty habit of -- get this -- graduating! The nerve. Governor Walker has a good start on dismantling the university system but apparently they are still letting students graduate and get professional jobs. For now.

David is often the one in our house who is in charge of finding new child care providers. He usually does this by putting a listing on the University of Wisconsin job site, and then we interview candidates. For some reason, this approach always seems to yield leggy blond university students. And then we hire them! I'm not sure I need the competition have having beautiful 21-year-olds with perfect teeth caring for my babies. This time I'm going to be in charge of posting the job listing. I will specify that the ideal candidate is caring, fun, confident, and slightly dumpy.

And interviewing candidates! That's also the worst. I never know what to ask these potential babysitters. Really, all I want to ask is "Are you going to fatten my child up and feed them to a witch? No? Then you can start Wednesday."

David, on the other hand, is obsessed with finding out where the potential babysitter is from. Because deep down, he thinks that a person from small town Wisconsin is likely to be more trustworthy and wholesome than a person from somewhere else. (I try not to remind him about Ed Gein.) And he loves forging a connection based on some mostly-imagined geographic commonality. Like this:
David: "Where are you from?"
Leggy young thing: "Oconomowoc."
David: "Oh, really? One time my uncle got a speeding ticket in Oconomowoc! I think that was in 1989."
Me: "This is all TRULY FASCINATING. Let's get to the part where I ask about the witch."

It doesn't help that deep down inside, I believe that my children are so awesome that child care providers should pay us for the privilege of being around them. Take a look and see what I mean:

I think it's reasonable to ask a child care provider to pay us $13/hr to be around such incredible cuteness, don't you?

For a while, we had a GUY doing occasional child care for us. He came recommended from a friend, and had a great resume -- he had previously worked at a nearby preschool and had a lot of child care experience. But David just couldn't get over the weirdness of a man taking care of our children. I know that sounds incredibly old-fashioned, but -- well, actually, there is no "but." That attitude really IS incredibly old-fashioned, and seems especially odd coming from David considering that he is a very hands-on, invested father. But I try to remember that David grew up in small town Wisconsin in the 1960s, which was the equivalent of the 1950s in the rest of the world, and he is bound to have some old-fashioned ideas. These new-fangled horseless carriages, for example -- he doesn't trust them one bit.

[I told David that I would be making fun of him on my blog today, and he said, "It would be more efficient for you to let me know when you're not making fun of me on your blog."]

We'll get through it, I know, and hire a new leggy blond who takes wonderful care of our children. And this time around, when we interview candidates, I have new question to ask. I'm going to ask about her willingness to clean up cat barf.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Parenting Magazines are Pure Evil

A lot of parenting magazines -- which by the way in general I find to be almost complete and total bullshit -- tell you not to sleep with your child, because...well, I never really understood exactly why. I think that's just one piece of a whole library of bad advice given by parenting magazines. Not that those magazines don't play a parent in helping people parent. A good rule of thumb is for every bit of advice given by one of those magazines, do the exact opposite.

Slow dancing to Alison Kraus.
Remind me, is there an app
for dancing?
Those of you who don't have little kids might think I'm exaggerating about the evil contained within these parenting magazines. What's the big deal, you wonder? I'm am telling you, these magazines are pure, unadulterated wretchedness, and it's a special type of wretchedness that's designed to get you to spend money. Here are some examples of articles that I found from Parenting Magazine's website just now:

Takeaway message: "If you spend less than $500 on a stroller, it means you don't love your kid."
My thoughts: "Did Jessica Alba junk-pick a stroller like I did? Mine only had a few bedbugs on it."

Takeaway message: "These apps teach your kids as much as going to Harvard would, and for only $1.99!"
My thoughts: "I know of this awesome app for kids. It's called OpenAFlippinBook!" (Note: this kind of attitude is why my kids are destined to be social outcasts. I'll may as well get them started learning Dungeons and Dragons right now.)

Takeaway message: "If you don't have a Conair Garment Steamer, a Clinique Quick Blush, or a momAgenda Kitchen Folio [I'm not making these up -- they're all included as must-haves], then your kid will basically go to jail. In fact, we're surprised he's not there already."
My thoughts: "No wonder this parenting gig is so hard! I have the totally wrong brand of garment steamer!"

Poor kid hasn't had
CRAP steamed
Back to my point, which is that parenting magazines tell you not to sleep with your kids. I really want to disagree with the parenting magazines just out of sheer principle, but I'm said to say that I have to agree with them on this one. Sometimes, when I go to bed, my kids look even more adorable than they do during the day, and so I crawl into bed with them, hoping to sleep and cuddle the whole night. But you know what? MY KIDS FIGHT DIRTY.

They may start out with their heads on the pillow and their feet down by the end of the bed, but by the time midnight rolls around they're sleeping in positions so tangled and unnatural that I'm pushed to the very edge of the mattress. Yesterday when I was snuggled up to Stella, she delivered a sleep-kick worthy of a donkey...straight to my armpit. Because that's where her feet where.

Unlike adults, who manage to stay sleeping in mostly a north-south arrangement, my kids wind up pointing east-west, east-southeast by west-northwest, and all the other directions. And as cute as they are, it's hard to sleep with a spinning compass needle. So usually I just give up and get out of bed. And as long as I'm up, I use that time to steam a garment or two.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mess Rating

The downside to going to bed at 8:00 PM is that I don't much done around the house. On the other hand, the upside to going to bed at 8:00 PM is also that I don't get much done around the house. Many evenings, as I lie with the kids while they fall asleep, I know that I should get up and be productive, and tackle satisfying activities like paying our quarterly income taxes. Or cleaning out the litter boxes. Or -- wouldn't this be fun? -- paying quarterly taxes WHILE cleaning out the litter boxes. And then I could claim the cats as business expenses.

When I do manage to get up after putting the kids to bed, I spend most of the time trying to get the house in some semblance of order so that it doesn't look like it was affected by some sort of bizarre micro-quake (5.2 on the Richter scale). David somehow manages to be in total denial about the state of the house. In fact, even when the house is a complete dump, he considers things to be relatively picked up. How is he able to do that? Is that some sort of natural gift that is associated with male hormones? Because I would totally risk male pattern baldness if it meant I was able overlook the level of chaos and clutter we have in our house.

Let's take a look at some days this week when our house was messy, and you will see what I mean. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the neatest and 10 being the messiest, I would give this table a 7, which translates to "pretty messy, and I might even clean it off if I can take a break from thinking up disgusting yet hilarious jokes about Santorum dropping out of the presidential race."

David, on the other hand, would give this table a solid 2 for a mess rating, because it has a book on it. But only one book! He simply can't see all the other books.

Here's another example. When the kitchen looks like this, I don't want to answer the door, because it might be social workers coming to take my children away. (To be honest, I don't like to answer the door even when the kitchen is clean because it might be someone who wants to know if I have "five minutes to talk about the environment.")

David, on the other hand, considers this kitchen to be pristine. In his mind, this could be a training kitchen for best practices in food safety. And the truth of the matter is that we really don't have any problems with common kitchen pests like cockroaches or mice, but that is probably because they have gone in search of cleaner houses.

One more picture of our house, below. On a scale from 1 to 10, I'm going to give our living room a 9. That rating includes extra style points because that is a rainbow-colored feather boa on the floor along with the other toys, and that is just plain fabulous.

David, on the other hand, wondered if I had surreptitiously hired a cleaning person, because things were just so darn sparkling around here. And then he checked to see if it was too late to get our house included in the Parade of Homes.

There is a silver lining to David not being able to accurately assess the mess level in the house. He is never cranky when the house isn't clean -- because to him, the house is always clean. I wish I could join him in thinking the glass is half full, although to be honest I'd just as soon skip the male pattern baldness.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Heroin, Methadone, and Diet Dr. Pepper

I'm trying to kick my diet soda habit. It seems like every time I open the newspaper, I see another article about how bad diet soda is for you. It turns out that people who drink a lot of diet soda are more likely to be overweight, have heart attacks, develop diabetes, have their life savings wiped out by Ponzi schemes, and be selected for jury duty. And I definitely do not want to get jury duty.

The problem is that diet soda is seriously delicious. I don't know how carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, artificial and natural flavors, sodium benzoate, and caffeine can add up to something so tasty, but it does. Maybe there's a secret ingredient: Evil. Pure, carbonated evil. Throw some fake sugar in there and the result is nirvana. 

I do love caffeine. Fortunately, ingesting caffeine does not interfere with my ability to fall asleep at night. At bedtime, I lie down with the kids until they fall asleep and then I get back up again, except for the part about getting back up again. Really what happens is that I fall fast, fast asleep the nanosecond we turn off the light. In fact, sometimes I think I fall asleep while I am still reading them books. My mouth is making sounds, but my brain has turned itself off.

Anyway, since I love caffeine, but want to avoid the negative health effects of diet soda, I had the brilliant idea of switching to coffee. Some might liken this move to heroin addict switching to methadone rather than kicking the habit altogether, but I say...actually, I would say that comparison is right on target. My goal is harm reduction. I am the Netherlands of the public health world.

However, switching over to coffee is not going so well. I'm going to let you in on a secret: Coffee is gross, unless you add a boatload of sugar. And cream. And artificial and natural flavors. And maybe a little high-quality, locally-sourced, free-range sodium benzoate. Once you add all those, it's delicious. 

Even just seeing
a picture of it
makes my hands
Maybe I should just embrace my diet soda addiction in the same way some smokers embrace their socially unacceptable habit. I could take "drink breaks" from work every hour or so, and go out on the sidewalk in front of my office to take a few quick swigs. When I check into a hotel, I could ask for a soda-drinking room. To fully follow this model, I would have to smell awful as a result of indulging in my bad habit, as cigarette smokers do. Given the amount of sodium benzoate I've consumed, I probably already smell a bit funky.

I have made some moderate progress in my drive to cut out diet soda. For example, mark today on the calendar, because I did not have a drop of Diet Dr. Pepper! Seriously, mark it. This might be the only day that ever happens. 

It won't be easy, but if I truly care about my health, then I need to stop drinking diet soda. Instead, I'll help keep my body healthy by drinking water and milk. And every so often, sneak out on the side for a few quick swigs of sodium benzoate.