Wednesday, May 28, 2008

112 things

I've read two great blogs lately (emlocke and which featured lists of 112 things about their writers. I thought it was so clever that I did my own list.

These are things you'd know about me only on a "need to know" basis. If you know most of them, you're super special. If you know all of them, you should check to see if you are, in actuality, me.

  1. I love sun-dried tomatoes, but hate fresh ones.

  2. When I was a little girl, I loved to draw. For some reason, the two things I remember drawing over and over again are ballerina feet en pointe, and whale tails.

  3. I always wanted to be an astronaut. The movie "Space Camp" was my personal "Rocky."

  4. I support the anti-fur movement, but secretly think fur feels amazing. I mean, not amazing enough for it to be ok to kill something, but wow.

  5. I've read "Jane Eyre" once a year since I was in the eighth grade.

  6. I'm a stay-at-home mom with two degrees, and no, I DON'T think that's a waste of my education.

  7. I think raw oysters are gross. If you have to serve something with Saltines and Tabasco to even make it appetizing, it's not worth it.

  8. When I was in the fifth grade, I played an angel in the school play. The play was called "Follow That Star," and was about three astronauts who follow the North Star to the baby Jesus. No joke.

  9. In elementary school, I was third-to-last out in the school spelling bee. I misspelled "chimney."

  10. My husband and I, both non-drinkers, met in a bar.

  11. The movie "The Hunt for Red October" can always rope me in.

  12. The last movie I saw in the theater was "Cloverfield." I couldn't even watch all of it due to my crippling motion sickness.

  13. Bing cherries are my favorite fruit, hands down.

  14. The only kind of apple I really like eating is the Honeycrisp kind. It also seems to be the kind with the shortest growing season.

  15. I love good jewelry, but own very little. (If any of you out there are looking for gift ideas, or anything.)

  16. I am terrified of water. Almost all my nightmares have water in them.

  17. I could probably eat sushi, Vietnamese spring rolls, Thai tom kai gai soup or just about any kind of Indian food every day.

  18. When I was in junior high, I starred in an Oscar Wilde play called, "The Importance of Being Ernest." Our drama class was short on literate guys, so I was cast as one of the two male leads, opposite the guy I actually had a "thing" for in real life. So I essentially played a Wilde character in reverse drag to get a guy to notice me. Sometimes all you can do is shake your head and laugh.

  19. My first real job was as a collections manager for Blockbuster Video.

  20. The first cable channel I check when I turn on the TV is the Food Network.

  21. I once tried out for and earned a spot on a professional cheerleading squad. It was as an alternate, and the squad was cheering for a now-defunct arena football team, but still.

  22. My favorite pizza: extra cheese, veggie supreme, 86 the onions.

  23. I think a man's sexiest accessory is a wedding band. Commitment is H-O-T.

  24. I believe everyone has a natural superpower. For instance, I have a girlfriend who can go to the grocery store *without a list* and not forget a single thing she wanted. My natural superpower is estimation. If I'm setting the dinner table and I grab a jumble of silverware and a stack of napkins, I'm likely to get the count exactly right. Please - hold your applause. (I never said it was sexy.)

  25. I always regret eating cinnamon rolls. They seem to embody excess. When I do eat one, I eat it as if I were unrolling a wound-up ribbon. Why would anyone bite straight through a cinnamon roll? You just end up with shards of pastry everywhere.

  26. I love ramen. I really do. It's kind of sad. My favorite kind is the stuff you get from the Asian supermarket. You know, with the instructions in another language, so you're always just preparing it by gut feel? Good stuff.

  27. When I announced I was making a career change years ago, I was told by my then-manager that I was making a huge mistake, and that my choice was a "dead-end." After that, I went on to have eight years in my new field, six of which were in highly competitive consulting environments, where I generated award-winning work and dazzled my clients before quitting to start a family. So there, Don. Don't ever underestimate a smart woman.

  28. One of my favorite albums of all time is Annie Lennox's "Diva." I love just about every song on that one. Same goes for Alannis Morrissette’s “Jagged Little Pill.”

  29. I know every word to "Les Miserables."

  30. Before I made a faith-based commitment to abstain from alcohol, my favorite beers were Killian's Red and Red Stripe. Favorite mixed drink: Midori sour. I never could stand margaritas.

  31. I dislike cheesecake.

  32. I once dreamed of doing language research involving sign language and chimpanzees.

  33. I love the smell of clover.

  34. I believe that dogs have souls, and that cats cannot be trusted.

  35. I've visited 22 states[1]. But I've only lived in two.

  36. I'm great at Pictionary and Taboo, but horrible at Scrabble.

  37. For the most part, I don't really mind public speaking.

  38. I would dance every day if I could.

  39. The last time I wore perfume, it was Happy by Clinique. I also really like L'eau D'issey by Issey Miyaki, and Red Door by Elizabeth Arden.

  40. I can carry a tune, but not with style.

  41. The only way I like scrambled eggs is wrapped in a flour tortilla with hash browns and salsa.

  42. I *love* football.

  43. I hate basketball.

  44. I can tolerate baseball if I'm going with fun people AND it's Dollar Dog Night, when hot dogs are a buck.

  45. I'm already, despite my own valiant efforts to the contrary, turning into my mother.

  46. I give great scalp massages.

  47. I miss the old Sesame Street episodes. After catching a few minutes of it the other day, I was greatly saddened by how different it is now than what I remember.

  48. I realized last week that my son will never know a world without cell phones, laptops or DVR.

  49. I can still hum the melody to the theme song for the 80s show "That's Incredible." It was hosted by Kathy Lee Crosby, Fran Tarkington, and that dark-haired guy.

  50. I remember that Balki Bartokemous of "Perfect Strangers" was from the island of Mypos.

  51. Someday, I want to develop a "look" I really like. I think it'll involve boot-cut jeans, long jackets and scarves. If Catherine Zeta-Jones would wear it while starring in a movie that takes place in the fall in New York City, it's probably for me.

  52. I make a bed like no one's business. The sheets are always smooth and perfectly tucked. I have to get into a "made" bed at night, so I've been known to make a bed just to go to sleep.

  53. I have two freckles on my nose, plus one chicken pox scar.

  54. Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday, because it's about nothing but food and gratitude. I'm a big fan of both.

  55. Halloween is my second favorite holiday, because it's about fun and candy. Love those things, too.

  56. The only other holiday I really like is the Fourth of July. Stuff explodes, you get to smell gunpowder in the air, and if you go to see a real fireworks show, you can usually get popcorn, too.

  57. I never once was allowed to go trick-or-treating as a kid.

  58. I got sick on grape jelly in the third grade. It was almost 20 years before I ate it again.

  59. I don’t know how to pronounce the word “chignon.”

  60. I still think doodlebugs are cool. (You know – those bugs that roll up into a ball when you flick them.)

  61. I only go to bed because I have to. I love staying up late.

  62. I played the flute for eight years and hated it. Then I switched to bass drum. I didn’t play it for enough years. LOVED it.

  63. I made a binding commitment to attend a university I’d never visited.

  64. I will never regret not making the Dean’s List in college.

  65. The smell of freshly popped popcorn at the movie theater or in the airport is literally irresistible to me. Airport popcorn has been known to cure my frequent motion sickness.

  66. I have no idea how the first guy to ever eat durian worked up the courage to try it.

  67. Vacuum lines on a carpet make me happy.

  68. I believe that people judge me based on how tidy my house is when they come by to visit.

  69. When the Challenger exploded, I was in gym class in the fifth grade.

  70. When the World Trade Center was attacked, I was driving to work in the carpool lane.

  71. For me, home is where my husband’s hug is.

  72. I don’t really believe that slot machines are gambling. To me, it’s like playing a video game – you put in money and pay for the entertainment of pulling the lever or punching the buttons. Who ever really expects to win, anyway?

  73. I’m terrible at video games, unless you can succeed by random button-smashing – like Street Fighter.

  74. I used to pretend that the plastic pegs for my Lite-Brite were jewels for my Barbie dolls to mine. That was how they funded their lavish lifestyles, with their mansions, convertibles and horses.

  75. I hate being outside in hot weather. I detest that feeling of dampness in your creases that you get immediately when you set foot outside of an air-conditioned building. I’d rather wear four sweaters in a freezing climate, than feel sticky from the first sweat of the day at 7 a.m. where I live now.

  76. Because I loathe editing, I’ve developed a more or less organized stream of consciousness. That way, when I write, I am assured of at least a partially logical product. (Lists like this don’t count.)

  77. I cannot be relaxed in a cluttered room.

  78. New York City intimidates me.

  79. Whenever I announce to anyone that I’ve never seen “Citizen Kane,” or “Casablanca,” I get a shocked gasp. When I announce that I’ve never seen “The Goonies,” I get the same gasp. This does not bode well for Bogey.

  80. I am grateful to know people who are always looking outside of the mainstream for interesting movies, music, literature and experiences. I am just not one of those people. I’ve always just liked what I liked, whether it was mainstream or “independent,” and I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m not apologetic for that anymore.

  81. My favorite candy bar of all time is the Whatchamacallit.

  82. I cannot, for the life of me, understand the appeal of scrapbooking.

  83. The very word “flea” makes my hair stand on end. Ugh.

  84. I can suppress a shudder. (I just had to, after I typed “flea.”)

  85. I am also capable of sneezing silently due to superhuman stifling abilities. But it hurts.

  86. I love the smell of rubbing alcohol.

  87. I am a great solderer.

  88. I used to fold underwear until I got married. My husband doesn’t, and his logic (“Who’s gonna know if it’s wrinkled?!”) has rubbed off on me.

  89. I miss my gramma the most at Christmas-time.

  90. I collect bookmarks.

  91. I think snowflakes are heartbreakingly beautiful.

  92. I put on a sock-and-a-shoe and a sock-and-a-shoe, not a sock-and-a-sock and a shoe-and-a-shoe.

  93. I’ve never climbed a tree.

  94. I will never understand why anyone buys a Rolls-Royce, a third home or a private jet.

  95. I like the mountains better than the beach, but would gladly vacation in either locale.

  96. I think someone could make a good living at targeting new mothers for in-home spa services. If someone was willing to come to ME to give me a pedicure, I’d pay a fuel premium.

  97. I have almost never been able to eat an entire serving of yogurt. About two-thirds of the way through, the texture always makes me think “gack,” and I have to throw the rest away.

  98. Lovebugs freak me out.

  99. I speak Vietnamese well enough to converse with college graduates, and read it well enough to check a fifth-grader’s homework. But when I try to write it, I sound like I’m three years old. Or a moron.

  100. I heart wikipedia.

  101. When I was a kid, we used to call “sunny-side-up” eggs “dip-it-in” eggs. So now I have to stop myself from ordering them that way at IHOP.

  102. I am addicted to my iPhone, but I don’t think I’m cool enough to be a “mac” person.

  103. I prefer Super-Target to Wal-Mart.

  104. I prefer Coke to Pepsi.

  105. I love the sound it makes when you bounce a playground ball against cement. (“[ting … ting … ting …]”)

  106. I love pie, but prefer crust-topped pies to open ones, unless you’re talking cream or meringue.

  107. I bake better than I cook.

  108. I do great French braids.

  109. When I ski, I get bored on green runs, enjoy blue runs, and have absolutely no desire to try a black one.

  110. I was in a car accident while driving the drivers’ ed car (though it was NOT my fault). After that, every time I got behind the wheel, the instructor would lead us all in prayer.

  111. I think someone should find a way to serve avocado slices on pizza.

  112. I don’t like it when the syrup from my pancakes touches my sausage or bacon. To me, sweetness and meat just don’t go together. (And because I’m a fan of “The Office,” I’m sitting here thinking, “That’s what she said.”)

    [1] California, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico, plus D.C.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Night, night

With my son's four-month birthday coming around, my husband and I have begun the process of sleep training. For those of you who aren't parents, what that means is that we're contemplating how we can get the munchkin to fall asleep on his own, sleep without being in someone's arms, and stay asleep for longer stretches (though we still expect him to wake up once or twice a night for a while to eat -- he's growing pretty fast).

Once you start doing the research on "sleep training," you quickly see why it's such a hot topic. There seem to be two predominant schools of thought -- 1) you are a parent, and you signed up for sleep deprivation, so just deal with your kid's habits and preferences, or 2) put him in a crib, close the door to his room and let him "cry it out." In a week or so, he'll sleep like an angel when you put him down.

I know lots of families who opted for the second choice -- or I should say, parents. I assume the kids weren't voting. It seemed to work well for them. They all admit it was tough -- that they hated hearing their kids cry -- that they cried themselves. But they come out of it saying, "It was the best thing we ever did." That's great. I'm glad it worked for them. Their kids do seem to sleep well and be well-rested -- more power to 'em all.

I'm not cut out for it. I just can't do it. I've spent the last three months and three weeks working hard to get the little guy to trust me -- attending to his physical needs as quickly as is reasonable, playing with him to help develop his mental capacity, praying with him to nurture his spirit if I can, cuddling and loving on him to address his emotional needs as well. After all that attentiveness (tempered with realism -- I'm not saying I've been his slave), it seems inconsistent to me to then put him down and communicate to him that he can cry all he wants -- I'm not listening.

The "cry-it-out" advocates argue logically that it's not neglect -- it's tough love. It's like taking your kids for their shots. You know they'll hurt, but it's good for them -- it's what they need. Or, it's like giving them the opportunity to learn a skill that will serve them in good stead. I buy it. I'm glad it worked for them and their kids. But I choose a different way.

I found a book called "The No-Cry Sleep Solution." It's the approach I choose to take with my son. I've found already that it's a misnomer -- there's no way you can change a baby's sleep habits with NO tears at all -- but I like that it sets forth a way you can respond to the baby's crying with soothing efforts, and still guide them to form new, healthier sleep habits. We're in week 2. So far my son's gone from taking 40-minute cat naps 5 or 6 times a day (exhausting to cycle between sleep and wakefulness that much), to sleeping an hour and fifteen minutes to today's triumphant two-hour stretch at a time. Once I make more headway with daytime sleeping, I'll focus on his night-waking -- he's a frequent muncher in the wee hours, and I know there are gentle ways I can get him to go longer stretches of sleep -- him and me, that is.

At the heart of it, I think it's been difficult because to some extent, I don't know if my heart is in it. The idea of changing his sleep habits seems bent on the assumption that it's a *problem* for him to fall asleep in my arms. I don't see it as a problem at all, but a blessing and a joy. It's a little inconvenient when I want to take a shower or eat a meal, but it's a miracle nonetheless. I know that in the long run, he needs to get used to sleeping on his own. I definitely don't want a high-schooler who still needs mommy to smooth his hair to fall asleep. I get that. But for now, I love to cuddle him as much as I can. He's already rocketed from 6 pounds to 12 -- from a skinny, wrinkly, fussy newborn to a playful, rounded, inquisitive infant who giggles and laughs when he's tickled. I'm all too well aware of how rapidly his changing self will outpace my ability to get in all the baby-time I'll crave.

So I'll continue to sleep-train. I'll keep easing away from him in bed to get him used to sleeping without mommy's warmth next to him. I'll keep extending his naps with extra nursing as he starts to awaken. I'll watch for chances to ease him into his bassinet or crib (both places where he plays happily but absolutely refuses -- loudly -- to fall asleep). I'll keep nudging him toward independent sleep -- and when he's snoozing in his crib all night, someone can tell me how to fall asleep without HIM.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

They should make accordian-fold Mother's Day cards

Dear Mom,

Happy Mother's Day! As one of my steadfast readers, I know you'll see this. And I'm posting it here for a number of reasons -- 1) I wanted you to always be able to come here to see it, and know how much I love you, 2) I wanted anyone who comes across it to know how incredible you are, and 3) it won't fit on the inside of the card I bought you.

Now that I'm a mother myself, I have so much more of a sense of what you must have gone through in raising me and the boys. I have so very many memories of the adventures we all had while I was growing up, and as I look back on them, I can see now how some of them must have been so trying for you. So I have two main things to tell you this Mother's Day -- what I'm sorry for, and what I've learned from you. Here we go.

I am sorry for ...
  • Starting off as a "day-night confusion" baby. Much mention has always been made in our family of how I was up all night and asleep all day for the first three months of my life, and only now do I see how exhausting that must have been for you and my dad. Believe me. I am REALLY sorry.
  • Sneaking away from you as a baby and licking the bleach cap, and then throwing up all over the place.
  • Being one of the reasons it became increasingly difficult for you to continue attending college classes. I have no idea how you handled being a mom and going to school. I'm truly impressed.
  • Constantly throwing cookies into the aquarium and killing countless exotic fish. Come to think of it, I'll apologize for that again to my dad on Father's Day, since those fish were his.
  • Feeding my baby brother an almost-full bottle of pink bubble-gum flavored Amoxicillin because he liked how it tasted.
  • That time when some live crawfish escaped from the sink in the kitchen where they awaited being made into dinner, and I grabbed my brother's 5-year-old self and took off running with him out the front door and down the street for our grandparents' house. While we both had chicken pox. And were barefoot. You came home to an empty house with the front door open, and no kids. The fact that I am still alive after that escapade is a testament to your good graces and ability to forgive.
  • The time I was about six years old, and we were visiting our Lutheran grandparents' home church (grandparents who were in some denial about the fact that we were being raised Catholic), and I genuflected at the entrance to the pew. Whoops.
  • The scare I gave you when I got hit in the head with a baseball bat at school during gym class, and got a concussion and had to go to the hospital. It wasn't my fault, but I know you were terrified. I'm sorry you got scared. My turn will come, I'm certain.
  • All the arguments I gave you over stupid ex-boyfriends in college who really weren't worth the breath we gave to fighting about them. For the record, you were right about all of them. For that matter, thank you for ultimately understanding that I had to figure some things out for myself, and for loving me in spite of my hard-headedness.

From you, I've learned:

  • How to hold up my head when other people are trying to make me feel ashamed. I watched you for years handle yourself with grace and dignity in the midst of chaos. I admire you tremendously for the quiet pride you showed in spite of the troubles around you.
  • How to love selflessly and completely. Not only did you slather love all over my brothers and myself, you delighted in who we were at every stage along the way, awkward or otherwise. You never once asked or expected anything from us except that we treat you and others with respect and kindness, and that we do our best at whatever it might be that we'd put our minds to.
  • How to forgive, again and again. You've shown me that forgiveness isn't something you decide to do once -- you choose it day after day, and that's the true art of it, and the real gift of it to someone else. You're incredible at it.
  • How to love a football team unreservedly. :) You and I both know we'll wear those team colors forever.
  • What the phrase "living a life of service" really means. You are constantly helping others, in ways large and small. As someone who has benefitted from that help her entire life, and who has never needed it (or YOU) more than now, I thank you from the depths of my grateful heart.

Oh, I lied. There's two more things.

  • You really love my husband. You really do, like he's your own. And the fact that I can sit in a room with you and with him and we can all talk without censoring ourselves, and we can all be ourselves just as we are that day or moment, and we can accept and love each other and respect each other completely, and enjoy each other's company wholeheartedly -- it's one of the greatest gifts in my life. I get to just be me around you both -- I never have to be "on" or wonder how you're going to take something he says or vice versa. I have entrusted you both to be yourselves around and with each other, and I can see that you have a deep affection and respect for each other. The peace that brings me keeps me whole.
  • I can never thank you enough for the pure joy you take in my son -- your grandson. Seeing you delight in him gives me such pride -- that he can make you smile, that you love him so completely, that I can give you some measure of happiness through a little boy we both love so much. I will never tire of seeing you light up when you look at him, or when he smiles at you.

Thank you, Mom. Thank you for the sacrifices, the hardships, the self-denial, the unreserved love. Thank you for the sleepless nights, the ironed clothes, the cooked meals, the hugs and kisses, the rides to football games, the bedtime stories, the long conversations, the late-night phone calls, the times you took care of the spiders, the dogs you fed, the library fines you paid. Thank you for understanding that I never could stand touching wet food at the bottom of the sink and even when I did the dishes, you had to empty the sink strainer. Thank you for always having chocolate when I need it, or if you don't, for always going to get me some. Thank you for being there in the waiting room when my son was born, despite the fact that I was in labor for 25 hours and you couldn't drive yourself to the hospital, and had to keep getting rides back and forth. Thank you for remembering which one of the three of your children likes only the potatoes in a pot roast, which one only likes the carrots, and which one doesn't like pot roast at all.

It may seem like I'm grown up now, that now that I'm a mother, I don't need you anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth. I will love and need you always, and treasure our time together as I always have.

I love you. Call me.
Your daughter

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Would you like fries (or onion rings, cheese sticks or buffalo drum-ettes) with that?

If you hand me a palmful of M&Ms, you may not initially notice anything out of the ordinary about the way I eat them. I don't toss them back the way a lot of people do, but that's not too strange. Watch me long enough, though, and you'll see that I actually choose which colors to eat first.

I guess some people do that too. But they're more likely to do it with candies that have flavors assigned to colors, right? I get that. I do it, too. For instance, Skittles -- I will happily eat all the red and purple ones out of any bag, leaving the citrus ones for my less-finicky husband. Gummi bears -- once again, I'll steal the red ones right out from under your nose so fast, you won't have time to say "Hello, Kitty." Lots of people have particular favorite flavors when it comes to fruit candies. And when it comes to chocolate, some even profess to like the green M&Ms more than the others. I worked with a woman who claimed that she could taste the difference between M&M colors (she was actually surprisingly good at it when we conducted a blind taste test).

Stay with me. My order of operations isn't about what M&M colors I do and don't like. It's not about flavor at all. It's about options.

See, when you hand me a bunch of M&Ms, you're not so much handing me "some candy" as you are offering me a *collection* of candy colors. And what's the hallmark of a collection? Variety, and completeness. So my preferred method of eating M&Ms is to visually assess which color has the most representation in the bunch, then start with that color. After I've eaten a couple candies (say, of the orange persuasion), I'll reassess. Brown dominates? Brown gets eaten next. My aim is to end up toward the conclusion of my snack with a complete set of M&Ms, one in every color. And from there I get even more picky.

In your standard, non-seasonal M&M collection, you've got brown, red, orange, yellow, green and blue. (I miss tan, by the way.) Because brown doesn't add too much (to me) to the color spectrum, I'll eat the last remaining brown one first. That leaves me with another set of options. Do I eat the remaining colors in "ROY G BIV" rainbow-spectrum order? Do I eat the cool colors first (green and blue), leaving the warmer colors for last, or vice versa? Do I get down to the basics by trying to end up with the three primary colors at the end (yellow, red and blue)? For that matter, do I consider "primary" colors to mean "primary" as in art (the above three), or "primary" as in the components of light (in which case it would be red, blue and green)? Do I eat the non-traffic light colors first, so that I end up with red, yellow and green? You see my dilemma.

The thing is, this weirdness isn't just limited to M&Ms (though M&Ms do seem to offer me the most choices in terms of how weird to get, don't they? I just re-read the paragraph above. Wow. That's a lot of crazy). I do this when I choose a cookie out of a variety pack, a Hershey's Miniature out of a selection, an appetizer off of a plate of assorted savories. My primary aim? To preserve as much choice for as long as possible. It's probably why I love buffets -- to me, a buffet represents not so much an opportunity to get as much food as possible for the money, but a chance to sample a nearly infinitely-supplied range of food for as long as I have the appetite. Growing up, my extended family members were always chiding me for eating just one plateful of food when we'd go to our favorite Indian restaurant for the Sunday buffet lunch. "You're wasting money!" they'd exclaim. But I was satisfied on so many levels with just one plate -- because I'd filled it with exactly what I liked, which on some days would be all veggies, or an assortment of potato curry dishes, and on other days might be just spinach and basmati rice.

Yeah, it's weird. I'm cool with it. Because chances are, most of us have some tiny, harmless insanity that we can't satisfactorily explain, and others can't begin to imagine. You do your thing, I'll do mine, and we'll all be ok. Pass the M&Ms, please.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Natalie Imbruglia's (very) hidden agenda, according to my college education

There's this thing I do when I get in the shower. I always try to get the shower curtain liner to lay flat against the shower walls. This inevitably involves dampening the walls with a palmful of water, then carefully sealing myself into the shower by making sure that liner sucks tightly to the wall. I realized that I used to do the same thing with blankets, at night in bed -- I like to sleep with the ceiling fan at a good clip, so I seal myself into the blankets by tucking myself in around my ears really snugly. I hate being able to feel a cool breeze leaking into the pocket of warmth under the blankets, but at the same time, I've got to feel it over my nose and mouth.

Why do I do these things? What's this obsession with sealing the cracks? In one way, it's about containing or preventing a potential mess. There's nothing I hate more than drying off after a shower, then stepping out onto a soppy shower rug. It's also about comfort -- a tightly sealed shower or a snug bed keeps in warmth, locks out cold. But maybe ultimately it's about control. Maybe I have to have things in absolutes -- all the water on this side where I want it. All the warmth from the neck down, all the coolness above the chin. Maybe these things I think of as my endearing quirks are really early signs of neurosis. Seem like a big leap? Not to me. I majored in English in college.

As an English major, you quickly learn that symbolism is king. If you can take two seemingly unrelated phenomenon and find a way to link them convincingly, you're golden. It's even more powerful if one of the two things you're connecting is a crippling psychological disorder of some kind, or at least has a strong religious subtext. I once listened to a song on the radio about a woman whose boyfriend had left her, and became convinced that the song was actually about her experience of losing her Christian faith. My family was pretty hard to convince, though.

"Mom, I'm telling you -- she says it right in the song. 'I'm all out of faith ... lying broken on the floor ... Illusion never changed into something real ... I guess the fortune teller's right ... should have seen just what was there, and not some holy light.' She's obviously singing about how she felt duped by organized religion."

"Sure, honey. Just finish your peas so I can wash your plate."

Anyway, sealing the cracks may be my way of creating a safe, isolated environment. And who couldn't use one of those? (Like how I morphed it from "control" to "security"? That's another English major trick. You're welcome.)

It's a jungle out there

A quick survey around my son's seemingly innocuous nursery reveals the following census of animals, present either in stuffed or toy form, or depicted in illustrations:

Lions: 5

Giraffes: 7

Elephants: 7

Monkeys: 9

Zebras: 2

Toucans: 1

Bears: 5

Frogs: 2

Turtles: 5

Ducks: 3

Bees: 6

Spiders: 2

Octopi: 1

Fish: 1

Crabs: 1

Alligators (I know!): 1

Animals among these that I'd actually wish for my son to encounter in real life at his age: 0

No wonder the poor kid cries if left to fend for himself in there for too long. I would, too.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The 5 a.m. bath

If you have a baby, and said baby sleeps with you in your bed, do yourself a favor and get a waterproof mattress pad. Just ... do it.

Last night started out like any other. The baby fell asleep and went through his normal cycles of sleeping 2-3 hours at a stretch, then waking up to feed sleepily, then drowsing right back off again. Toward morning he'd started to be a little fitful while feeding -- a sure sign to THIS now-experienced mother that he had what my husband calls a "project in the works." As a precautionary measure, I got up after the 4:15 a.m. feeding and got a small towel to place under our precious son, congratulating myself all the while on this brilliant prophylactic measure.

So it was about 4:35 when the boy started to really fidget in bed. I smiled in the near-dark, proud of myself that I'd done such a GREAT job of avoiding trouble. (I didn't know, of course, that this diaper would be a blow-out -- it had just been a while, and the boy owed us a good one.) I even reached past the angel-baby to tweak the towel up under him for good measure.

Well, the execution of this project was so noisy that it woke up my husband. "Was that *him*?" he exclaimed. "Of course," I replied, silently wondering if my husband was actually implying that it would be anyone else (namely, ME) making such god-awful bathroom noises while in bed. My husband then mumbled something like, "That's my boy," and rolled over to doze off again. I chuckled and waited the necessary 3-5 minutes to ensure that the boy was actually done, then gathered up my son to change that diaper. That's when I felt the wet patch.

Hearing my "uh-oh" for what it was (a dire commentary on the state of our sleeping arrangements), my husband catapulted from deep sleep into an impressively awake state. His first words were NOT "are you ok?" or "is the baby fine?" but "Is it ON THE BED?" (This should give you a sense of how much he loves our mattress.) After switching on the light, we discovered that the baby had managed to contrive a diaper blow-out *exactly* in the spot where the towel hadn't covered the bed. Of course. To paraphrase a somewhat forgettable movie from the 1980s ... the little insect was just waiting for that to happen.

So I plopped the munchkin onto his changing table to deal with the mess, and my husband sprang into "save-the-mattress" mode. While he wrangled wet washcloths, fabric brushes, carpet stain removers and detergent pens, I wrestled with our now-wide-awake and delighted three-month-old, whose toothless grin had all of us laughing within minutes. As Hyper-Diaper chuckled and chortled at me, no doubt enormously proud of his accomplishment, I tried in vain to get his jammies off over his head without smearing his work over the rest of him (though I narrowly avoided getting it in his hair, thank God). I looked at my husband, who surveyed the damage, sighed deeply, and said, "I'll go get his bath ready."

It's yet another sign (as if I needed it) that I married the right guy in that my husband then cheerfully accepted the inevitable and we had a fun (though somewhat shortened) bathtime session with Little Bit -- less than half an hour before my husband's alarm was scheduled to go off to get up for work. Cleaned up, dried off and re-dressed, the boy went peacefully back to sleep, as my husband hopped into the shower for his own ablutions, and I laid in bed, blessed with the knowledge that I'm the luckiest girl I know, despite the vile pile of linens that awaited me in the daylight.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

More of life's mysteries

* When a dog digs a hole in your backyard, where does the dirt go? There's never anything to fill up the hole with.

* Why do hair elastics disappear? If it's not on my wrist, it's gone. Am I eating them in the night? Where do they go?

* How does Tupperware evaporate? I swear I had a complete set of plastic storage containers just a year ago. Now I have three lids and one container that fits none of them.

* Do rebellious teenagers in Japan and China get tatoos of English words?

* How does a fussy baby know just when you've had enough, and just at that moment, flash you a perfect, toothless smile?

* Why haven't they invented a candy that is nothing but the tip of an ice cream drumstick? Just cone, and creamy chocolate coating on the inside. Perfection.

But wait!

I love infomercials. Whenever I see a blue screen with the words, "The following is a paid advertisement for ..." I get excited. I don't know why it is. I'm especially susceptible to kitchen gadget infomercials, with home cleaning gadgets being a close second. Now that I have a new baby and we're up at all hours to feed, I'm definitely seeing my share.

My current favorite is in the latter category. It's the infomercial for the Shark Steam Mop. Or is it a Vac? Either way. I love the spot. Why is it that people in infomercials always call each other by name more than is necessary or natural?

Woman: "Mike, how can this Mop [or Vac] do what you say it will?"
Man: "Well, Rachel, I'll tell you. It's as easy as counting to eight. Or nine! You just plug it in, turn it on, fill the tank, wait for steam, push to activate, clean the mess, empty the trap, wash the mop head, sign this form, smile brightly, and presto! That's a floor you can be proud of. When was the last time your kitchen looked this good, Rachel?"
Woman: "Mike, I don't even know! Wow, I'm amazed, Mike! Can you show me that again, Mike?"
Man: "Sure can, Rachel. You just plug it in ..."

And so on. Usually the paid spokesperson (or "con", as I think of him or her) speaks way too loudly, and is dressed either way too well or way too casually (such as the woman in the GT Express 101 cooking device commercial -- could Wardrobe find nothing but her hooded velour track suit?). And just as often, the straight-man (or "stooge," to me) is way too naive. They have to be told how to operate something as simple as a light switch about six or seven times. And while I get that this repetition is supposed to hook the viewer, I just end up feeling insulted.

My favorite feature of any "paid programming" spot is the "but wait!" segment. It's always there. You've just been told how stupid it would be to pass up a deal this good on a food processor/juicer/fitness barre/vacuum/brother-in-law when all of a sudden, you get "two for the price of one!" or "also comes with these special tools/attachments/videos/gold necklaces/fanny packs, just for ordering today!" And then you listen for the magic words ... "Just pay for the shipping." Which is inevitably more than your mortgage.

But the kicker comes when the action cuts away from the studio to a pre-recorded segment of someone using an outdated or inferior product. The actor is always a total klutz. If the product is a compact blender, then he or she is shown going to the trouble of washing a conventional blender in a sink full of suds that regular dishwashing liquid could never generate, and dropping big kitchen items into the watery mess for good, splashy measure. If the product is a new kind of storage container for leftovers, the actor is shown opening a cabinet from which pour dozens of mismatched containers and their battered, scratched lids. If the product is a new food chopper, the actor is shown cutting his or her finger handling a "regular" knife and trying in vain to slice a tomato without squishing it. If these are the people who need the products being advertised, then the target market is idiots. Or at least people of average intelligence who have not yet mastered the art of deciding when you've put just enough stuff in an overhead cabinet.

Here are my current favorite infomercials, in no particular order. And admit it -- you can envision probably most of them because you've watched at least a few minutes of each yourself.

1. The Magic Bullet. Special bonus points go not only for having TWO paid spokespeople who are product "experts", but for one of them having a foreign accent for that extra twist of sophistication. AND for having a "stooge" who shows up in a housecoat, matted hair, too much makeup, horned rim glasses and dangling a cigarette from her lips. AND a fake New York accent. Priceless.
2. The aforementioned GT Express 101. What I want to know is, how many wraps do they think we eat? And once you've made two small cakes in the product's cooking wells, what do you do with the rest of the batter?
3. The Fluidity Fitness Barre. Wow. I'm actually serious here. If just buying the thing could make me look like those women, I would indeed shell out the cash.
4. The Shark Steam Mop/Vac. I scoff. But I also yearn for clean floors without chemical residue! (After a point, you start to go native.)
5. Hip-Hop Abs. I know better. And yet I can almost believe that working out could be fun. These guys are GOOD.
6. The Pedi-Egg. Do we really need to see what someone's foot shavings look like being dumped into the trash?
7. Chef Tony's SmartLidz. I don't know that I need them, but it looks like it would be fun to push my fist into the advanced polymer material just to seal up a container.
8. The RonCo Countertop Cooker. I don't even know what it's called. I just know that "Set it and forget it!" is the "Where's the beef?" of this day and age.
9. The sweeper thing with "quad-brush technology." This infomercial also sports an "international" spokesperson/expert. It scores special bonus points for the digital representation of being able to push a sweeper vac in four different directions AND swivel the head around.
10. The ShamWOW! I don't even know what I would use this product for. Think about it. If you'd used it to wash and dry your car, would you want to use it on your kitchen countertops after that? I have two words: love bugs. So if I actually bought it, I'd probably just pour soda on the kitchen table, wipe it up, and wring it all into a pie plate like "Vince" does in the demonstration. It looks totally fun.

Gotta dash. I think the Jack LaLane Juicer infomercial is due to start in 10 minutes.