Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Take My Wish, Please

A clever reader of Marilyn vos Savant's column in Parade Magazine brought up an interesting point. (MVS is the resident genius who handles mensa type questions and various conundrums. Uh, conundra?) Anyway, this reader wanted to know if there could be a "foolproof wish" because it is obvious from reading any story about genies and fairies and other Assorted Wish Granters that anytime you wish for something joyful, your wish always gets ruined and you end up with a big mess. (Sort of like the war in Iraq, eh?) So true! And Marilyn's advice was right on: simply wish for happiness and you'll have all your bases covered. (sort of like this year's Red Sox, no?) But it got me to thinking, what is the point of these perverse wish-granters? Do they like seeing people suffer? Enjoy giving them the idea of perfect bliss, only to cruelly snatch it away just when the Goose has started mass producing those golden eggs? What is the deal with these genies, fairies and good witches? Yes, I'm talking about you, Glenda, Dorothy's so-called friend, who pointed out at the end of The Wizard of Oz that she had the power to go home all along, and didn't need the turbo-charged ruby slippers. Thanks a lot! You could've doled out the information a couple hundred winged monkeys ago, saving all kinds of bad karma with the angry apple trees, not to mention the Power Nap in the Poppies. This is just the sort of situation the automobile club would have warned us about, perhaps advising an alternate route not paved with yellow bricks. I know the genies and their ilk are just trying to teach us a "lesson." The thing is, anyone who has been alive for more than half an hour knows that there's plenty of discomfort, work, hunger (physical and emotional), pain, boredom, helplessness and hopelessness to go around. As Charlie Brown famously said, "Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?" So, genies, elves and others. Skip the lesson. Give us a pat on the back. Give us the strength to carry on. Support our hope that tomorrow will be better than today. Better yet, why don't you reveal yourself to be what you truly are. You are the illusion that the world is our Happy Home rather than the scenery passing by on the way to our Eternal Destination. Maybe we should be less concerned about the furnishings, and more concerned that our Trip Tik has us heading in the right direction.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Best Gift of All

It's a little too early to be talking about Christmas gifts. (Buying them, yes! Go ahead. Get those things crossed off your list and pick up your bargains before all the good sizes and colors are gone.) But all these Christmas carols and sale flyers are reminding me of how much the children enjoyed their gifts last year. There were so many things. Traditional games such as Chutes 'n Ladders, Trouble, Candyland and Clue. Non-traditional games based on TV shows whose rules defied parental comprehension. Action figures! In three different sizes! Games which encouraged us to recreate a physical education class right in our own dining room! (of course we complied. Miraculously, the chandelier survived.) Balls. Balls balls balls! That is not a swear unless you could somehow hear me saying this aloud. Plastic things with plastic pieces! Appliances that sing! Cars! Did I say cars? I think I meant CARS. Enough cars that if you laid them end to end they would poke through the outer edge of the universe and cause a miniature traffic jam in, say, Purgatory. They received these gifts from relatives, me, Hubby, and of course the ever-popular "Santa." (The three-year-old calls him Santa CLAUS. Emphasis on the second word. Not sure why, but it sort of makes him sound French.) Well I was curious, seeing them surrounded by all these things, just what it was that most captured my son's fancy. So I asked the 5-year-old (who was then four) what was the favorite thing that he got. His first response was unintentionally diplomatic. He said, "everything!" I should have just left it at that. But instead I asked him if he got only one thing for Christmas, what one thing he would want. He looked at his stocking lovingly, and finally revealed, "The Chapstick!" Yes. The Chapstick brand Chaptstick. It was his favorite Christmas toy. The one item he would want if all the rest of the things disappeared. Now, I could have been thrilled with this answer for one reason. I'm the one who puts the weird stocking stuffer items in their stockings. It is a family tradition dating back to, well, my family, that in addition to chocolates and candy canes, our stockings were filled with DENTAL PRODUCTS. Like toothbrushes, toothpastes and floss! To this day I don't know if my parents were trying to encourage good oral hygiene, or if they just forgot to get enough normal items for the stockings and they had to raid the back of the toiletries closet. I mean, they never gave us band-aids or cotton balls. We also got school supplies such as pencils, pens and rulers. And packs of cards and dice! Come to think of it, my fondest memories are of those oddball items we found in our stockings. Maybe the chapstick thing isn't so weird. And maybe there's a reason Rudolph's buddy Hermey the Elf wanted to be a dentist.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Thanks for the Memories

Thanksgiving is a time for people doing what they do best. For me that is eating, but I had a new challenge this year, that of COOKING for a large number of people. Don't get me wrong, I cook every day, and usually everything turns out fine and neither the emergency room nor poision control has to be consulted. But being the prime cook on Thanksgiving Day is a different kettle of pheasants. There are "side dishes" involved. And a bird that takes up most of the room in the kitchen, not to mention your oven. And everything needs to get done more or less at the "same time." (No you can't pop the rolls in the oven the next day and still have it count.) It was the first time I ever felt that our house almost needed to be bigger than it was -- one more guest and we would've been over the top with someone sleeping in a heavily trafficked play area. But we had more than enough Guest Towels so everything was cool. There was the added factor of a Potential Spectacle as my brother Geeto, the Chicago firefighter, had suggested we cook a fried turkey in addition to the traditional oven-based one. As if I could keep track of Two Birds with One Brain! Actually I didn't need to, since my brother took custody of the second turkey and was in charge of making sure it got fried without setting the house or children afire. Mission accomplished, although the frying actually occurred on the walkway in front of our house, so I have this sneaking suspicion we are going to show up in the next session of the homeowners group as a Banned Exhibit. And two thumbs up for the fried turkey, which was delicious. I was in the fortunate position of having my mother available to assist with pies and gravy, and also had access to my mother-in-law's special cache of side dish recipes, and those are guaranteed delicious as long as you don't screw up the recipe. We even used the china that we got for our wedding (thanks again to all of you who attended the wedding and contributed place settings!). Except the kids just got paper plates. Kidding! But they did not get china, either. My five-year-old even ate four servings of turkey. Okay, with ketchup, but still, it was a step beyond chicken. And of course the key to enjoying a Florida Thanksgiving is going for a swim while you're there, which my relatives did with great abandon. Now it is time to relax and contemplate my cellulite.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Gasp! Hunter Shoots and Kills!

I have mixed feelings about hunting. All the more so because my hunting is confined to finding brands and types of food the children are willing to consume without turning it into a plaything or hiding it under the couch cushions. I understand the hunter/gatherer rationale. Once upon a time this is how we survived as a species, after we got utterly sick of the zucchini crop. (Once they start ripening they are like the Chinese. There are billions of them.) You could argue we are genetically programmed to hunt and kill food. (Why didn't Eve go after that darned snake with her broom, or better yet a sharp-edged hoe?) But in this day and age it seems quaint. At least in the American version of the food chain. Wait, quaint isn't the right word. It seems bloodthirsty! Yes, so easy to get those two words confused. Anyway today's paper is talking about a hunter in Wisconsin who went on a bloodthirsty rampage, getting five kills in one day! The problem, as you're probably aware, is that he was knocking off fellow hunters instead of deer. This is extraorinarily tragic for the families involved. People should be home pondering what Thanksgiving side dishes they're going to make, and instead they are making funeral arrangements. Which I think is futher proof that men need to help out more in the kitchen. Figure, if women were out in the woods with guns, they would soon prop them against the nearest tree trunk and start discussing exercise or after school programs or where to get a great buy on something useful. The deer could cavort freely without fear of harm! Men on the other hand are likely to get into arguments, and it is alway dangerous when this occurs when everyone involved has weapons. I'll bet the guys who owned the tree stand thought they were winning the argument with the Crazy Hunter. At least until he opened fire on them. It is a depressing story, particularly occuring during Thanksgiving week. Probably the only living things happy about it were the deer. And you could hardly blame them for heaving a sigh of relief.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Abominable 3-Year-Old

The 3-year-old was missing briefly from the normal sightlines inside the house. He was not in any of his favorite areas, such as the playroom, the breakfast bar, or balanced upside down in the brown easy chair in front of the TV. After some scouting I was able to detect faint noises. Industrious noises, coming from the area of the master bath. As I approached, the hall leading to the bathroom appeared to be shrouded in mist. I called his name. I hadn't located him yet, but I could hear him. "I was sweating," he called. "But now I have SUPERPOWERS." I entered the bathroom. Peered through the fog. It was not a damp fog. It was more of a dry fog. The bathroom looked as though a cloud had descended. Or perhaps a light snowfall had occurred. Maybe a controlled demolition project, or even a close-range nuclear blast with fallout. The 3-year-old was covered in baby powder. He had gone prematurely gray. His clothes were pleasantly dusted with fluffy whiteness. His eyes appeared in blinking brilliance amongst the background. He seemed pleased at his new-found superpowers. He dropped the container of powder and bolted from the room, a miniature snowman come to life. There were bare footprints in the whiteness. I tried to say his name, but strangled on the powder dust. I surveyed the bathscape. Floor, counters, tub...everything smelled so fresh. Like a herd of babies had decided to hold an impromptu political convention in our bathroom. I regained my breath and followed the white tracks. The 3-year-old is In Trouble.

Friday, November 19, 2004

K-Mart Seizes Sears

Insurgent K-Mart accountants have overcome the Sears & Roebuck Convoy, apparently, and have taken Sears executives hostage. They are threatening to destroy their customer service department, or to slowly start decapitating employees using Craftsman brand tools. When I first heard this news I was thinking this is like North Korea taking over China, or the U.S. becoming a Canadian province. Isn't Sears the well-respected name here? Being taken over by K-Mart is like suggesting Sears is going to add a drive-through window and start giving out Kenmore Appliance replacement bulbs with its Sad Meals. Someone needs to slap Sears and say, "You can do better! Place a personal ad! Get a Glamour Shot taken and put your best foot forward!" Because K-Mart is like a date from the wrong side of the tracks. One of those guys who can't hold a steady job and has no prospects for the future. Don't get involved with him! If you fall in love you're gonna end up a Single Retailer with all kinds of little Bad Loans to feed. Or worse, he'll stay with you and lie around on the couch all day watching TV and drinking while you're at work, and then go out to strip clubs with his buddies after dinner. Do you really want that kind of future, Sears? And what about your name...are you going to keep your maiden name, the one everyone knows you by? Sears, Roebuck? It's a family name with a great reputation and a storied history dating back to the days when the Midwest was still being settled and relied on you for "town goods." Perhaps you will try a hyphenated thing, like Kmartsears-roebuck. Or maybe you could just become S-MART. Smart deals! Smart savings! Smart holiday blow-out sale! Are you gonna start putting useless disposable crap in your catalog? Sad to say, I don't see good things coming of this merger. We will be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with the new beau, and everyone will be eyeing K-Mart suspiciously, as if he plans to plop his Blue Light right on the table next to the mashed potatoes and starting pitching a great buy on plastic plants for the next 10 minutes only. Perhaps it is a sign that like the middle class in general, now middle class stores are disppearing. You must either be ultimate low end cheapo store, like Wal-somebody, or else a variation of Macy's. Now if only I could get the K-Mart/Sears Entity to merge with the Store Formerly Known as Eckerd's.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The DaVinci Child

I was not home. Hubby was in charge. Loosely. The children were not hungry or visibly trying to harm each other, so he felt things were under control. In fact, things were fairly quiet. He thought he would get a few things "done." I have tried to warn him that Quiet is not necessarily a good thing with respect to the children unless they are technically sleeping. Quiet is almost worse than common childhood noises, in my opinion. Because at least the noises identify what they are doing. So there he was, enjoying the quiet, busily getting something done in the house. The Quiet grew suspiciously long. In fact if I were the soundtrack person for our home videos I would cue the ominous string section. Hubby must not have noticed the Imaginary Background Music. But he finally heard some hushed conversation. (And it is never a good sign when the children are speaking in hushed tones.) The 5-year-old was saying to the 3-year-old, "Are you planning to go all the way to the Great Room?" Since there were no sounds of racing feet or plastic vehicle wheels, Hubby went to investigate. They were both crouched on the kitchen floor. The 3-year-old was armed with the Big Fat Green Sidewalk Chalk. He was industriously using it to color in all the grout in our kitchen tile. He had finished with most of the eating area and was heading toward the next room. The 5-year-old was admiring his handiwork, ready to supply him with other brilliant colors. "Joe!" Hubby shouted. "NOT in the kitchen. That's for the chalkboard!" They both looked up, startled. The 3-year-old was displeased. He would not surrender the chalk. "Don't say my name," he said crossly. Hubby disarmed them both. The chalk supply was relocated to a less accessible area of the house. Then Hubby spent a good amount of time helping the children undo the art project with wet paper towels. I hope he remembers the equation with the children. Silence = Up To No Good. I did feel green was not a bad match as a kitchen accent color.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

10 Thankless Jobs For Scientists

You know how parents like to encourage their kids to excel in math and science? Well I have discovered there is a downside to this (aside from spending a lot of time crunching numbers): Some of the jobs are NOT GLAMOROUS. I suppose you imagined most scientists had bright and shining lives, constantly regaling people at cocktail parties with stories of how they came up with the Gum Disease Vaccine, or had to stop in (Oslo? Stockholm? Guam?) to pick up their Nobel Prize for inventing a car powered solely by fast food wrappers. But no, the truth is far grimmer. If your kid is a scientist, he or she could get stuck in one of the following jobs, some of which are less appetizing than working in a cow slaughterhouse or applying lipstick to chickens. Note: if you are anticipating a major meal in the near future, best to skip this article until you're in more of an Acid Reflux type of mood. Top Ten Thankless Jobs for Scientists based on an UNscientific poll of people who imagined doing these things: 1) Anal Wart Researcher. Personally I think it is the juxtaposition of two things -- the anal part by itself is not a total deal-breaker, and the wart thing is probably common. Taken together though the two create an unappetizing picture of people not only working with butts, but STUDYING THEM CLOSELY. I think, though, if I were getting paid really well to do this, that I could somehow imagine that I was scanning a moonscape and studying the topography thereof. And that idea turns out to be a totally unintended pun also! Maybe I missed my calling. 2) Worm Parasitologist. The kinds of worms that squirm through the dirt or lie around on the soundwalk after a rain are the "nice worms." Then we've got the outlaw worms, the kind that invade your body and conjure images of what it must like to be dead only you're still alive and have this serious Parasite Problem that you don't feel comfortable discussing at your book club meeting. And who could blame you? The next thing you know whole cities and towns are avoiding you due to your medical issue. Anyway, some brave souls actually don't mind studying this type of disorder which probably causes nightmares in people with Normal Imaginations. 3) Lab Animal Veterinarian. This is the vet who exists solely to make animals sick by testing stuff on them in the lab. In other words, PETA is gonna get you. 4) Tampon Squeezer. I really didn't want to mention this. Can't we just take the Charmin guy's advice on this one? It has something to do with yeast infections, and that's all I'm gonna say. 5) Landfill Monitor. Compared to the first four, this occupation sounds almost dignified! I guess the stench is worst in the southwestern part of the country where 100-degree temps cook the landfill contents into a crude carbon-based casserole. If Love Canal had had a few more of these, it might have saved a whole lot of lawsuits. Unfortunately this is not the highest-paying job. 6) Nuclear Demolition Worker. This has a high degree of involvement with uranium. Thus rendering the map reading light in your car unnecessary. 7) Ecologist in St. John's Harbor, Newfoundland. Well who knew this was a Dirty Bay? According to reports, an amount of sewage equal to the size of five Olympic-sized swimming pools is dumped into the bay EACH DAY. Sorta makes you just want to grab a pole and go fishing, doesn't it? Hopefully the ecologists who work here are very fussy about the distinction between "work clothes" and "home clothes." 8) Iraqi achaelogist. Hard to say whether this job was worse in the Saddam era, or worse under the threat of insurgent kidnappings. But when heads roll in this job, it is a literal thing. Here's your hat. 9) Tick dragger. (Not to be confused with Snipe Hunter) Okay, this job entails dragging a large swatch of corduroy the size of a bedsheet through a forest infested with diseased ticks. When you're done dragging, then you have to unsheath your tweezers and collect all the angry ticks in a jar. Without losing them or contracting Lyme disease. 10) Nurses! I didn't expect to see such a respcted occupation on this list, but the reason it's thankless is nurses often don't get paid commensurate with their training and ability, and futhermore the hospitals load them down with paperwork after they've understaffed their floors. How's that for gratitude? I do find it puzzling to read occasional newspaper stories about how we need to "attract more people into the profession" by doing glitzy ad campaigns or talking it up in the schools. How about PAYING MORE MONEY? Forget the ad campaign.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

I've Perpretrated a Fashion Crime

I feel guilty about the fact that I've committed a fashion crime, mainly because I am not the victim of this crime. I've committed this crime against my 5-year-old, who really doesn't deserve it, because in general he has good taste. He actually cares what he wears, and likes to pick out his own clothes! (He gets this from Hubby, not from me. If you have ever seen me schlepping around town in socks and sandals and oversized t-shirts you would know fashion for me is a Special Occasion.) The 5-year-old is capable of choosing a certain color pants because he likes how they match a particular accent stripe in his shirt! He will compliment you if he thinks you look sharp. So you're probably wondering how I managed to commit a Fashion Atrocity against him. Me too. It all started more than a year ago when we were in Buffalo for our annual August vacation. I had gone to one of the big department stores for an end of summer sale. (which is always a good deal for us, since we wear summer clothes about 10 months out of the year in Florida) So I was in maybe the BonTon or Kaufmann's, not sure which. And they had all this kids' stuff on sale. I got a bunch of great items. Then for some reason I ALSO chose this outfit on sale for about 59 cents per item. A pair of shorts and a polo shirt. But the colors were a little off. Or maybe they would look better in a twilight, or perhaps macular degeneration situation. Or if you were lost at sea and needed an ocean liner to notice you. The shirt was predominantly a dark aqua, with stripes of yellow and white. By itself it sort of warned you to stay away from certain types of bars. But then it was teamed up with this pair of orange shorts that sort of looked like maybe a rotting cantaloupe. Together the outfit screamed, "I'm an orphan!" or maybe, "this was the last item left in my size at the Goodwill!" But I figured for less than a buck and a half he could wear it once and then use it for rags, and it wouldn't be a big deal. The problem came when he FELL IN LOVE WITH THE OUTFIT. Yes! His first outright infatuation. He likes this outfit better than his superhero pajamas! Better than his gym uniform! Better than being naked! It's completely perplexing. Because even *I* can tell this outfit is godawful. I should know, I bought it! But there is no explaining to him that it is ugly. He loves it too much. And he otherwise has very good taste, so I don't really want him to start doubting himself, nor do I want to be sleeting on his flamboyant parade. So I try to be careful about when I let him wear the outfit. I try to keep the outfit hidden at home as much as possible. It would be too mortifying to let him go to a birthday party and get photographed. If a party is coming up I encourage him to wear it the day before so that way when he asks for it on party day it is in the hamper and impossible to wear! Another problem is that this is last year's outfit, but he continues to wear it and won't let me pack it away with the rest of his clothes that are too small. He is starting to show a lot of thigh with these shorts, and even his skinny shoulders are testing the seams. It is obvious what will need to happen. I will have to use it to wipe up a spill near the stove and accidentally set it afire! I don't think he would wear a Charred Outfit. But then again, he might.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Yasser Arafat in Pensive Mood

With all the reports I've been hearing, on and off, especially on the internet, I was surprised today to learn the news media is now claiming Yasser Arafat is "dead." I mean, we've been through this before. Most notably during a pre-election news conference by President Bush when a reporter asked him for a reaction to the news that Arafat had died. Not the best extemporaneous speaker, I felt it fortunate that he was able to put together a few nice sentiments and ask for God's mercy on the man's soul. And I give him credit for that. I would probably be up there asking who took the vitals before I had a statement to make. Suppose a reporter had said, "North Korea just nuked Los Angeles. Do you have any comment?" Hopefully the president would not have whipped out the nuclear suitcase then and there and fired back on national TV. Then I suppose the reaction might have been "may God have mercy on Aaron Spelling's soul." And don't ask me why the only person who comes to mind is Aaron Spelling. It is probably some latent Charlie's Angels kneejerk reaction that got wired into my brain in the 70s. And I totally approve of asking for God's mercy at all times whether a person is definitively dead or not. But in Arafat's case I was wondering yesterday when his condition was "deteriorating" that how much worse than dead could he get? It was hard to keep track of the reports. One group had him still governing the Palestinians and issuing statements about the how unfortunate it is that people keep dying when the bombs go off. The other group was working on the burial plans and was angling to have him interred in a closet in Ariel Sharon's bedroom. Personally I think they should move Arafat, the Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall to North Korea. We could install the whole thing there, like a kiddie playset with action figures and nuclear tipped devices sold separately! I think the North Koreans would enjoy the added attention on the world stage, and then we could go about our business and make sure holiday sales are booming. Meanwhile, may I suggest that someone be in charge of making sure the man gets embalmed correctly. I'll tell you, though, this is one funeral I would NOT want to be invited to. Let's hope those who attend are wearing their body armor. And may God have mercy on ALL our souls.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

We Need Cheaper Bad Habits

I was driving past the gas station today thinking, "Gee, it would be cheaper if I smoked!" Not from a quality of life perspective, of course, but it would definitely save on the pocketbook if I bought a package of Marlboros and spent my time lighting up instead of motoring around town. Figure, what's cheaper, ash trays or new tires? Gas is hovering around $2.05 a gallon at this moment in history at my particular gas station. As Americans we like to complain about it, but it was more expensive than that 15 years ago in Europe. By a lot. And still is today, I'm sure. That's why everyone in European countries drives cars the size of margarine tubs. They are so small that sometimes they drive up on the sidewalk to avoid traffic jams. Which is why European pedestrians sometimes wear Fashion Fenders on their persons. (Or at least they should.) So our Gasoline Addiction is a national bad habit that we should probably try to purge just like any other bad habit. The problem is, shall we try to cut back? Go cold turkey? Join a self-help group? It will be very embarrassing when we collectively jump into our cars to drive the full 12 steps. Maybe we could hypnotize ourselves. Swing a fascinating object in front of the whole nation, something that would cause us to gape, trance-like (I'm thinking Janet Jackson's Nipple Shield, here), and then when we are sufficiently transfixed, we could start chanting, "Take mass transit. Take mass transit. Take mass..." Except for you know darn well that if we all did that, suddenly the mass transit proprieters would start whining at us. The airlines are already at it, telling us we are too fat for the seats. Did it ever occur to them that maybe THE SEATS ARE TOO SMALL? I was just in Buffalo recently for a trip involving a wedding, and on my way back to Orlando I sat wedged next to a gentleman who was so substantial that he had to fold his arms and rest them on his chest for two hours in order to avoid having children with me. (I was solo on this trip, but perhaps if I had my noisy kids with me he would've spent the whole trip in the restroom just as a precaution.) I think he was also holding his breath, too, because when he accidentally breathed during the snacking portion of the flight my tray table flew up. And HIS tray table was about at crotch level so needless to say he was very cautious with the peanuts. But my point is, although this fella was the size of an offensive lineman, he wasn't particularly fat. He was just a big guy. Shouldn't the airline seats be large enough to accommodate those who don't fall smack dab in the middle of the bell curve? Do we really have to risk someone's carry-on grapefruits being tossed overboard into Kansas just because someone landed at the top of the growth chart? So if we all start taking mass transit to deal with our gasoline addiction we will immediately start hearing about the excess pressure on those bus tires and the fraying of the railroad tracks. Probably the smog would dissipate, too, and we might discover that the U.S. is an entirely different shape than we thought previously! (Or at least that the census is totally wrong.) I think we should build towns all nice and close where everybody could walk everywhere, from work to school to church to the grocery. The problem is, those areas already exist. They're called CITIES, and nobody wants to live in them. So when we get stuck out here in the suburbs with $5 a gallon gas, who's gonna feel sorry for us? It won't be the Europeans. I gotta strap on some fenders.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Toddler Rhumba

I heard screeching the other day. When I went to check it out, the 5-year-old and the 3-year-old were close to each other in the playroom. Too close. You would think we had a tiny amount of floorspace, what with how close these two have to be all the time. But it doesn't matter the square footage of the house. They are always within reaching distance. "Mama, he's hitting me," the 5-year-old wailed. Now of course we have trained the 5-year-old not to hit the 3-year-old because a) he's older, b) it's wrong, and c) we don't want him to. However the 3-year-old is not so easily reasoned with. He must be distracted, or sometimes just carried into another room for a "cooling off" period. So I had to intervene. I said to the 3-year-old, "Were you hitting?" "No," the 3-year-old said defiantly. I was DANCING." Egads. I didn't know he had a dance routine. Well I waited a few moments, and sure enough, it started up again. The 3-year-old began a vigorous whirling dance, arms straight out like propeller blades, with fists at the end of them. He was just inches from his brother so with each dancing whirl, the 5-year-old got whacked. "That's it!" I said. "Stop the dancing." The 3-year-old looked at me but continued whirling. "I can't," he said. "I have to dance." I removed the 5-year-old from the dance arena. "Do you have to sit right here where he's dancing?" I asked him. "This is where I want to play cars," he said. I marked off areas of the playroom. Once side was a parking lot. The other side was a dance hall. They were not to cross over into the other territory. I said if there was any more hitting there would be Consequences. Sometimes they play together well. Sometimes not. Maybe someday soon I'll be seeing some line dancing.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Wonkette Whine: So Sue Me!

I have heard about this marvelous political pundit, Wonkette, who has the inside scoop and an oh-so-clever way of imparting it. I was finally compelled to go check her out since she was one of the main Squaws beating the drums for the blog-broken story of a Kerry Landslide. She is one clever chick, I'll give her that. But what of this exit polling? Let's see, we've got: 1) Backtracking 2) Boo-hooing 3) Blaming Mom Cool! As I like to say, "The Dog Ate My Blackberry." I imagine it is fun being an "in" source taken so seriously that mainstream journalists start typing their "What Went Wrong For Bush" stories at dinnertime on election night based on Blog Buzz. I mean, she and other bloggers can actually take credit for the looks of glee that turned to acid reflux on the faces of many TV political analysts on election night. So now she is ridiculing her own sampling methods (obviously none), and by extension, anyone who took HER seriously. Which is a fine way to eat cake if you don't mind that it's flat. And stale besides. Perhaps it is the Jon Stewart Defense: I'm only an adult when *I* say so. If you take me seriously and I happen to be wrong, well, just kidding! I guess what comes across most strongly in her blog is the temper tantrum. (And boy, do I know what those look like.) As Star Wars' Evil Emperor was wont to say: "FEEL your anger, Luke." I mean, it's curious. Due to the blog Stampede to Judgment in the early evening I was feeling that Kerry was headed for a victory. He had the momentum, after all. Bush had flubbed three consecutive debates. A loss was definitely disappointing, based on some national issues that concern me, but nothing to be angry about. Not worth a moment of Web-Rage. There has been a lot of discussion of Kerry and Bush not being great candidates, so we are voting for the Lesser of Two Evils. I don't agree with that assessment. I voted for the Greater of Two Weebles. (Note to youngters: Weebles are a toy that "wobble, but they don't fall down.") I consider both men a little wobbly on some characteristics you'd like for a president. David Broder of the Washington Post said as much. But neither man would fall down on the job. I consider them both capable of leading the country, and both with the country's interests at heart. Had Kerry won, he would've had my full support as leader of this nation. So from whence cometh Wonkette's anger, and that of her "young, hip, intellectual" fans, who are now debating which country to emigrate to so they don't have to endure four more years of Bush? (My father has already volunteered to shuttle the disgruntled from Buffalo to Fort Erie.) These youngsters must be triple jointed, or they risk spraining an important ligament with all this congratulatory back-patting, as if Young, Hip and Intellectual were character attributes, or even virtues. (I know, Virtue is a dirty word since Bill Bennett gambled it away in Atlantic City.) Let's take a look at these self-described attributes. Hip -- "We are so culturally plugged in, progressive and cool that we all think alike! Now get out of the way of my Toyota Prius before I do a Lizzie Grubman." Intellectual -- There's nothing so deluded as a person who has convinced him/herself how brilliant he/she is. Says so right in the Bible, Thump Thump! I turned in my Brilliance Badge at around 25 when reality set in, along with lower car insurance rates. Which brings us to: Young -- Yeah, THAT lasts a long time. Wonkette has carved out a niche for herself and apparently has a slew of self-important admirers, but the color Livid never looks good on anybody. Incidentally my son's kindergarten class called the election CORRECTLY. (Okay they were a little high on the final totals, but still.) So lighten up, you young, hip, intellectual, bag-packing political chattering types. Rage makes you age prematurely. Now wouldn't that be a shame?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Atkins Election

That was one high-cholesterol election! Particularly the part where analyst Susan Egg-strich called the election for Kerry ("Bush loses!") moments after the initial exit polling data concluded that Kerry had landslide-quality leads in Florida and Ohio. I'm sure that gave Bush supporters a heart-clutching moment early on in the evening, but as actual votes were tallied, it was Kerry's people suffering the acid reflux. And left Susan scraping a sunnyside up off her face. Which just goes to show that people willing to answer questions from exit pollsters do not come anywhere near a representative sample. I did my own exit polling yesterday when the 5-year-old came home from kindergarten. He informed me that he and his classmates got to vote, and that Bush had won, 19-2. On the way to the school this morning I was remembering all the happy political sign wavers that have been greeting us on street corners these past several weeks. (really months, if you count the primaries.) I was thinking, wouldn't it be nice if someone showed up this morning for a cheerful post election pep rally. Well one guy did! He was located in front of the store formerly known as Eckerd's. (I'm sure because he didn't fear getting run over by a mass of cars trying to get into or out of that store.) He was a supporter of Adam Putnam, a local Republican for Congress who was re-elected last night. He was, like, 12 years old when he was first elected in 2000. Now I believe he is pushing 30, but still one of the youngest members of Congress. He had a big "Thank you" sign, so I vote the Putnam gang as the politicians with the best local manners. My analysis: We went for the meat in this election. Didn't go for the dessert items of economy, health care, education, social programs. We seem to be worried about our viability as a country as long as Osama and his crazies are loose. I thought Kerry's strategy a bit odd. He posed himself as the anti-Iraq candidate. Which is fine. There's lots to oppose about the war. But he then proceeded to say he wouldn't have done much differently, and in fact had no particular plan to get us out of the situation. I think if he had said, "We're out of there by the Fourth of July, 2005!" he would've stood a chance. Howard Dean might have said that. But I wonder if even the Democrats wanted Kerry to win. They kept saying we have to beat Bush, not that they were enthusiastic about Kerry. Kerry didn't even have the Boston's World Series Champion pitcher voting for him. Curt Schilling stumped for Bush. I think the push for same sex marriage legislation in a number of states created a situation where a bunch of other states (including OHIO, the critical state) decided to put that issue on their ballots. This made it easy for churches to get out their members in big numbers to vote for Traditional Marriage. I also think the vote against Nick Clooney (George Clooney's dad) was a vote against Barbra Streisand. It was an anti-Hollywood vote. Next time Osama Bin Laden needs to send his tape earlier. Maybe during primary season so we can figure out what his message is. But that Vote for Kerry t-shirt he was wearing probably didn't help matters. I do have one regret. Four years of bizarre statements from Theresa Heinz-Kerry could've been a whole lot of fun. Pass the Hunt's!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Would You Like To Rent Space in My Mind?

I bought another book on clutter today. Aside from being disorganized, it's one of my worst failings. Buying books on clutter and then neglecting to read them. I practically have a whole Clutter Section in our relatively organized library! Hubby is the one who organized our books. I think they should be shelved randomly so you can always get a little thrill out of what you might come across next, like the Encyclopedia of Baseball vs the Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking. Or the Consumer Bible vs How To Avoid Hell. Obviously I would like to be more organized. I don't mean to add even more clutter to our lives by saving all these books, articles and newspapers on the subject, and then not finding time to read them. I HAVE read parts of some of them. One was even psychoanalytical-based, and suggested that no matter how I feel on the surface, that DEEP DOWN my clutter habits are some kind of hostility that I am subjecting the world to. Now I didn't buy that argument at all. First I said, "Oh, great, a feeling SO deep-seated in my psyche that I can't even FIND it, like everything else in my life!" But this would also mean I had deep-seated hostility toward: my family, my husband, my previous bosses, and each and every roommate I've ever had. Basically anger toward everyone and everything, including, I guess, my mechanic, if my glove box and car trunk are any indication. And if this hostility is so deep-seated that I can't even find popcorn kernels in my mental cushions, well, it's one Horror Movie I'm not going to stay in the theater for. So that book was good for a laugh. I have my own theory. My tendency toward disorganization is more a function of how my mind works. It zips all over the place, picking things up, throwing them down, combining concepts in weird combinations. I do the same thing with the objects in my life. If my IDEAS are in a pile just simmering below the surface of rational thought, why should the laundry or the mail be any different? Now I realize this sounds like an excuse, bordering on a rationalization. But really, I am not trying to justify my Cluttered Self. I'm trying to explain it. So that way I will come to realize that I will never be able to think differently and thus become naturally organized. It's just impossible. I keep buying clutter books so I won't have to go through the Miscellaneous Pile, or the Junk Drawer or the Scary Box in the Garage. What I really need to do is to make myself a list. I am good at accomplishing things on my list. So if all my organized friends and relatives could just help me come up with a good enough list, I think I could become organized based on this list as long as my brain didn't have to become actively engaged in the process. Take for example our friends Katrena and Dave. They are total opposites of us. They utilize spreadsheets. For budgeting, for planning, for figuring out what they need to do between now and when they retire. (Note: they are nowhere near retirement age. They have a 4- and 5-year-old) Katrena has given me a reminder card utilizing words and illustrations of what I need to do in order to get our 5-year-old off to school fully equipped each morning. I think she senses that he will miss out on a few years of education, or may go to school sans shoes, if she does not intervene. Then there was the time that we had to sign the 5-year-old up for tee ball, and waited until the last half hour of the last weekend for signups. On the way back from doing this I saw Dave tending to his lawn, so rolled down my window and said maybe THEIR five-year-old would like to play tee ball. They managed to get him signed up with only FIFTEEN minutes to spare. And I'm sure they can't understand why we are not literally homeless with our Disorganization Problem. If the situations were reversed they would have let us know, like, a YEAR in advance and would've had the sign up forms ready. They may even have given us reminder phone calls. (The only thing I will say on our behalf is that we were out of town for the first weekend of signups. Still. It was a Typical Performance) Hubby is not quite as disorganized as I am. He is very good about subjects of importance. Anything related to work, bills, licensing, even mortgage papers, he is good about knowing where all that is, and is completely on top of it. The only time the mortgage papers ever get lost is when I borrow them for some ridiculous reason. But he does lose his shoes with frightening regularity. I love BEING organized. I just can't seem to achieve this state with any consistency. Life is best when my mother or mother-in-law come around and help me straighten up. Then we have a semblance of order, and even know who is in the house without doing a head count. So I have to take it hour by hour. Minute by minute. List by list. Clutter book after clutter book. Three of my brothers are married, and they are all married to extremely organized women. Perhaps because they have seen what disorganization looks like. Also Hubby's sister is very organized. I am the only one sending my kid off to school in a uniform shirt FROM THE WRONG SCHOOL. (This has only happened once so far.) What I'm saying is, this is a cry for help. Somebody help me make a list! Thank you very much.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Was This A Great Costume, or What?

No, I'm not nominating my kids for Best Costume. I am not one of those people who can hand-sew anything, and frankly, I've been trying to avoid buying them "real" costumes until I absolutely have to. So, basically since birth, they have been dressed up in pajamas that have been cleverly tricked out to look like a costume. Superman with removable cape! Dog with detachable ears! Alligator with optional slippers! So far they have not noticed this. They think it's normal that their Halloween costumes magically get cycled into the regular pajama rotation shortly after October 31st. And of course we figure money spent on pajamas instead of costumes is like a mini-IRA...it just keeps giving! Next year I fear the 5-year-old is going to insist on something more realistic than flame retardant spiderman sleepwear. He'll want to be a hurricane, or something, complete with palm debris whirling from his torso. But for now that will have to wait. Anyway, the guy I want to nominate for Best Costume was the one who held up the Beverage Depot last night. First of all I always notice news about the Beverage Depot because it's one of those stores where you drive in and place your order, like a burger joint from the fifties. That is just so quaint! So I think it's very rude for people to drive in and order the contents of the cash register. The Beverage Depot Robber was clad in dark blue clothes, AND...women's panties over his head. Multi-colored ones! Not even the plain white. (And of course you can see why a thong would be useless in this situation.) Not only did the panties disguise his identity, but I'm sure it probably distracted the Beverage Depot employees long enough for him to complete his escape. Obviously they were all paying attention, since they gave a great description for our local paper. He was also armed with a gun that may or may not have been real. Who would know? He might have been armed with a rocket launcher or a nuclear detonator for all anyone cared. They were trying to get a gander at the sizing tag on the panties. Now of course local police want us all to be alert for robbers wearing suspicious ladies' underwear. This is one of my growing list of reasons why I am opposed to legalizing polygamy. Too much room for Reasonable Doubt when people start commiting crimes involving underwear.