Monday, February 26, 2007

Identity Theft of an Idiot by an Idiot

Somebody totally stole my identity! Isn't that cool? It's just like that commercial where the weightlifter talks in a Valley Girl voice about rhinestone-studded bustiers, except in my case it would just be ordinary me with the cracking voice of a girl-shy, acne-ridden fifteen-year-old gushing about my new Playstation and fantasy games.

I managed to piece together the Master Plan, if you will. The thief, I'll call him Kyle, because I feel like it, hacked into my Amazon account and ordered himself a righteous weekend. Here's the part where I admit to idiocy. My password was six letters long, no upper case, no numbers; I used it for every online account tied to my email address and hadn't changed it in ten years. I like to call that security strategy: Matter of Time. And also? I stored my credit card information on my account. All Kyle had to do was log in as me, fill the cart with some nerd goodies, and express check out with my stored payment information. If you hear a knocking sound, that's my forehead banging against my desk. Or maybe you have company, but probably the former.

As profound luck would have it, Kyle is not that bright either. Sure, he's clever enough to get into a stranger's Amazon account, but lacking in the brain power needed to change the shipping address for the order. That's right, Kyle had his new game system and video games SHIPPED DIRECTLY TO ME. He (I mean, I) even sprang for next-day rush delivery. So who's the idiot now, huh, huh? Okay, still me, but also Kyle. Clearly a case of the blind robbing the blind.

Anyway, I've spent the afternoon not only taking care of this particular mess but righting my wrongs. I've learned from this, as should you! I've changed all my passwords to something more secure and complicated. I've gone to every online account I can think of and deleted all stored credit card information. I encourage you to take a minute to think about whether you are vulnerable to something like this. Kyle is still out there, and he's in the market for a Playstation.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

OverHeard in Arkansas

These are the beginnings of two anecdotes told to me this morning at the office by different female co-workers, the first explained how she acquired a third dog, the second why her shoulders are so sore.

"Two drunks came into Hooters with a puppy..."

"I grabbed my chainsaw and started to work my land..."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Paolo has been telling stories of late, mainly about events that (didn't) take place at school. As concerned parents, we have to follow up, no matter how small the chance these stories are true. Needless to say, it makes for some awkward conversations. "Sorry to trouble you, Miss Teacher, but I need to ask about something Paolo said last night. He seems to think the classroom flooded, and all the kids floated around on their cots eating ice cream while Barney sang. Is there anything to that?" Here are some of his latest:

1. Paolo's version: Paolo did not participate in S-word Show and Tell yesterday at school because he wasn't listening to Trinity (where do people come up with these names?) and, therefore, wasn't allowed to show his toy snake.

Truth: The class didn't get around to Show and Tell because the teacher brought pictures of S-word objects to show and the kids spent a lot of time outside on the first warm day in months.

2. Paolo's version: Jacob and Anthony were hitting Paolo in the face all day long, and it really hurt, and the teachers gave them time-outs.

Truth: None of the teachers has any idea what he's talking about. And you know I questioned them all.

3. Paolo's version (told to his dad): He had a bad day at school because he didn't get to go outside and didn't play with any of the boys.

Truth: When I picked him up, he was on the playground playing superheroes with Jack.

I guess this is our next parenting challenge that we might as well undertake before the stories become harmful: Teach the child that it's great to have an imagination and to be silly sometimes, but it's important always to tell the truth. Because every time you tell a lie, a puppy dies.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

February 15: Discount Valentine's Candy Day (it's like two holidays in a row)

We don't celebrate Valentine's Day typically, because we're not crazy about forced displays of affection, but ye gods! we had a babysitter. The mate and I planned on keeping it old skool with our dating standby: the venerated dinner and a movie. Paolo was not cool with being left at home, probably because that happens just shy of never. As we were leaving, he was all, let me get my coat, I'm going to order grilled cheese. I explained that his dad and I were going out by ourselves, and he was thoroughly disgusted. He grumbled, "If you think you're going to have a scrap of fun without me, you are tragically mistaken," or something like that.

Sam and I drove up to a new movie theatre in Rogers and narrowed our choices to Catch and Release and Pan's Labyrinth: light romantic comedy or dark, spooky fairy tale set during the Spanish Civil War. Dark and spooky, please! It is Valentine's Day, after all. I don't know if you've seen Pan's Labyrinth, but wow! that may not have been the best choice. It's violent, gruesome, and wholly depressing. The basic plot line is a girl in danger from real and imagined aggressors throughout the movie, unprotected because her father is dead and her mother is dying with her second child, and at the end, the girl is killed, too. Part of me wants to say it was a good movie, just not one that appeals to me, but I can't think of anyone I'd recommend it to. It was a really nice theatre, though. Comfy seats.

On the drive back to Fayetteville, my appetite returned as I blocked out the horrors I'd just watched on a big screen. However, we live in Arkansas, and every restaurant other than Wendy's drive-thru was closed by 9:30. We popped into the grocery store for a frozen pizza and salad greens. $8.50 for Valentine's dinner: not bad, eh?

And yet, I got three out-of-the-house hours with my best bud, and that's a pretty special evening in my book, no matter how we spent it. Paolo has forgiven us, as well. I was braced for accusations of betrayal when he woke this morning, but all he said was, "Why did the moon go down?" "Because it was time for the sun to come up," I answered. "Oh. That makes sense."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Even up

For most of Paolo's life, Sam and I have been trying to out-parent each other. We're just naturally competitive people, at least with each other. I give better baths; Sam makes better desserts. I pick out great books at the library; Sam makes pirate ships out of living room couches. We don't have a running total of points or anything, but we're always aware of who is wearing the crown of Better Parent at any given moment.

Imagine my distress when I lost my crown this weekend. In anticipation of Paolo's dreaded Valentine's Day class party (dreaded by me, of course), I grabbed some valentine cards at the store. I mean grabbed quite literally. There was a crowd of parents and children huddled around the colorful boxes, engaged in heavy supplication and negotiation. I have no patience at these moments. I saw a box of Star Wars cards; I swooped; I moved on. It wasn't until much later that I actually looked at the contents. Hmmm. Whose bright idea was it to make valentines scary? Some of the cards are cute, with droids and Yoda and whatnot. But the Emperor? He's not a pleasant-looking dude. Plus a stern Anakin with scarred face, Darth Vader striking a blow, and a glaring Obi-Wan. I joked that I'd give the scariest ones to Paolo's classmates who I like the least. Alright, I was more planning than joking, but Sam put that idea down like a lame racehorse. "You cannot give these to three-year-olds. You just can't. I'll pick up some other cards tomorrow, and we'll just keep these for Paolo to play with." There was no fight in me. He was right, and I'd been dethroned.

This morning we were running terribly late, so Sam took Paolo to school. When he picked me up for lunch, I saw Paolo's naptime cot bedding still in the back seat of the car. Now, I know the daycare center has spare sheets because I've forgotten once myself, but I didn't let on. I pointed at the forgotten sheet, blanket and pillow and imagined aloud our poor child shivering on his naked cot, his hands balled into fists beneath his unsupported head. As Sam's jaw dropped in genuine horror, he moaned, "I am the worst parent in the world." And because I so rarely have the opportunity, I assured him he was correct.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Daddy, we never went to the snow park.

Last week, Paolo uttered that innocent sentence as Sam drove past Gully Park, cluttered with children sledding and playing in the snow. Sam, for dad reasons I don't fully comprehend, was devastated by his son pointing out his obvious failure at daddage or fatherness or something. He promised Paolo they would indeed go back soon and play at the snow park.

Before Sam left for work on Saturday, he suggested it would be a great day for Paolo and I go to the park to play in the snow. Considering it was below freezing and we both had colds, I nodded politely. Sure, we'll go to the park today; that dry, frigid air will feel great in our raw noses and sore throats. Let me just clean the bathroom floor with my tongue first. Seriously.

Unfortunately, Sam made this suggestion in front of Paolo, and Paolo witnessed me "agreeing." He doesn't get sarcasm yet. So as I bundled us up to go to the grocery store, Paolo kept reminding me that we were going to the park, you know, with all the snow, and we can play in the snow, and also the park? We have to go there. First.

Parking was easy considering there was one other car in the lot, and it was probably abandoned until the Spring thaw. I unbuckled Paolo, who was chattering away about wanting to make a snowman, but we don't have a carrot for a nose, and is that a deal-breaker? We had a minor scuffle about mittens, which I won easily. (If you don't wear your mittens, you are not getting out of the car.) Sometimes I act like the parent, and it totally works.

We walked into the park and stood on the sidewalk staring at the snowy fields and playground. Being without our one family member with snow experience, we were a touch bewildered. Paolo stomped through the snow, marveling at his footprints, while I attempted a snowman. Having spent my entire childhood in the tropics, I'd never actually made a snowman before. I thought it had something to do with rolling a ball of snow, which would pick up more snow, making the ball bigger? It wasn't really working out for me. I kind of gathered up some snow, sculpted some roundish lumps, and stacked them three high. My snowman was no more than 18 inches tall, but Paolo beamed at him for about five seconds before kicking and stomping him to death.

We moved on to snowballs, with me making them and handing them to Paolo to hurl at various objects. This turned out to be his most favorite game once I became the target. I packed and handed the snowballs up to Paolo at the top of the slide, then stood frozen below and waited for him to pelt me, commiserating when he missed and cheering when he scored. If that isn't the definition of a mother, I don't know what is.