Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday OverThink #2, courtesy of The City of Fayetteville

Each year about this time, Fayetteville's downtown square is festooned with lights: white lights, colored lights, winding up tree trunks, blanketing bushes, blinking, glowing, pretty, pretty lights. The energy-wasting display is completely over the top, and every year the City Council threatens to discontinue the popular Lights of the Ozarks. And every year, Fayetteville citizens scream, "Oh no you don't!"

How else would we know that Christmas is coming if we didn't attend the parade with our children and sigh in awe when the switch is flipped and all 450,000 lights turn on? What would replace the smells of hot cocoa, kettle corn and cotton candy that fortunately mask the smells of the pony and camel rides? Despite frigid temperatures, almost every night there are bands and choirs providing live holiday music. There is a dedicated lane for horse-drawn carriages, and I've heard that this year there will be reindeer. I totally just got goosebumps.

City workers spent over 2,000 hours stringing up the lights that will be lit every night through December 31. The theme of this year’s parade is “Rocking in a Green Wonderland.” Ah, the irony. City of Fayetteville, you have overthought municipal holiday decor. And I love you for it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thank heaven for little boys.

Thanksgiving is nigh, and I am thankful that I don’t have to go anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, we had a fabulous time in Florida last week. So fabulous in fact that Paolo is still pissed off to be back home where he asks on a near-daily basis for the location of the nearest Arkansas beach. He is not impressed that we have mountains instead. I almost won him over with snow, but he pointed out that his snow angels suck and got depressed again.

The era of toilet humor is upon us. Want to know what’s funnier than calling for your mom and, when she looks, bending over and pointing your butt at her? Nothing. And it doesn’t lose comedic value with repetition either. Last night Paolo was perched on the potty working out a dinner that had disagreed with him, when he yelled out, “Help! My butt is throwing up.” I’m not sure if that’s funny or gross. It makes me gag and laugh at the same time.

Luca has begun talking, pointing, and generally getting a whole lot better at communicating. The brain-melting scream is still around, but it is used much less often. It’s unsettling in that we have no experience with a happy child. We’re used to Paolo, who is thrown into a funk by the sun rising, so we’re a little unsure what to do with Luca and find ourselves shaking our heads gravely a good deal. Do you remember the part in Addams Family Values when the mini-Gomez baby woke up with bright yellow curly hair and rosy cheeks, and the parents were deeply confused? That’s us. He laughs for no reason at all. He beckons us to chase him and play telephone with a smile so bright it doesn’t seem human. His favorite activity, hands down, is sitting in things. In short, Luca is delightful. I’m starting to think he’s adopted.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday OverThink #1, courtesy of Paolo's Elementary School

The perpetrator of the very first Thursday OverThink is not me, which is odd because I felt like I was in the running. We’re flying down to Florida next week to visit my family, which means Paolo will miss four days of school. I mentioned his impending absence to his teacher, who told me it wasn’t a big deal because he’s doing really well, but I would need to send a note to the office. Remember those notes your mom scribbled on the back of an envelope for you to take to school on the day AFTER your absence? This is how I roll:

To Whom It May Concern:
Please excuse Paolo’s absence from school Monday, November 17 through Thursday, November 21. We are traveling to Florida to visit family. I have already spoken with Ms. C. about take-home assignments and lessons to review with Paolo during his absence. Please contact me should you have any questions or concerns.
Best regards,
Paolo’s Excruciatingly Proper Mother
Imagine my surprise when I was informed that, because the absence was greater than three days, I had to fill out a special form for the principal to review. The form is printed on legal-size paper, stating the regulations governing excused vs. unexcused absences from school, and requiring inordinate amounts of information from me. For example, if the absence is for a family trip, state with detail the educational opportunities that will be afforded to your child. Attach additional pages if necessary. I kid you not.

I considered picking one of the established excused absence reasons, and just lying, but I’m too honest and too scared of getting caught. So now I wait to see if the principal decides to excuse the absence. I’m not confident of my chances, considering the form was supposed to have been submitted two weeks ago. Why is it is such a big deal to have the four days excused? Because a child who has four unexcused absences in a semester will not receive credit for the semester.

Along with the stress of getting the family packed up and flying halfway across the country with two children, I am now sweating whether my son will flunk out of kindergarten. Elementary School, lighten up. You have overthought your attendance policy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rejoicing from a Red State

Sometimes I forget that I live in Arkansas, but election years always remind me. I wish I could say, like the proud voters in Florida and Ohio, that my state flipped for Obama, that my red state turned blue. It's especially hard on me having moved here from California, where I could always count on my neighbors to do the right thing (well, almost always).

The voters of the state of Arkansas overwhelmingly voted McCain. They also voted to ban unmarried couples from being foster or adoptive parents, a thinly veiled assault on gay couples that ultimately hurts only children in need. Nice one, Arkansas.

I am elated at the election of Barack Obama for so many reasons, a big one being that we all wondered if our country was still, let's face it, too racist to elect a black president. I believe that people who voted for Obama did so because of what was inside the man, not the color of the skin that encased it. I also believe there were people who voted against Obama solely for the reverse, but finally and definitively, those people were drowned out by the wave of goodwill and hope inspired by our president-elect.

I was deeply moved by the emotion of The View's Sherri Shepherd as she related telling her son that he now had "no limitations" on what he could do or who he could become. All my life I have argued, out of hope rather than certitude, that racism in America was shrinking steadily, and that soon it would be powerless to squash the dreams or halt the achievements of great Americans of every color. Seeing the proof of it standing at the podium in Grant Park on Tuesday night was soul-satisfying.

It has been a very long time since I have felt proud of this country, but that changed Tuesday night when we as a nation told our African-American children to dream as big as they want. But, please, let us remember that the fight for equality is not over, not until we can give that happy pronouncement to our daughters.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Northwest Arkansas Crime Report, October 30 - November 2, 2008

Nov. 1, 7:57 a.m. A woman on West Van Gogh Place reported a fight.
It’s all fun and games until someone loses an ear.

Nov. 2, 12:11 a.m. A man on White Street, West Fork, reported his ex-wife broke into his home and tried to beat up his mother.
The divorce is becoming acrimonious when your spouse hates you so much she attacks the person responsible for giving you life.

Shocking Examples of Pumpkin Crime

Oct. 31, 6:36 a.m. A woman at 1306 Rebecca Lane reported someone threw a pumpkin through the back windshield of a car.
Nov. 1, 7:44 a.m. A man at 1736 W. Osage Bend reported someone knocked over his mailbox with a pumpkin.
Nov. 1, 7:56 a.m. A man at 60 S. 20th St. reported someone “molested his mailbox with a pumpkin.”

Refusing All Personal Responsibility

Oct. 30, 6:34 a.m. A woman at 3103 Levi Lane reported someone broke into her residence and ate candy while she was sleeping.
She might want to reconsider the prescription sleeping pills and whiskey chaser.

Oct. 31, 8: 39 a.m. A caller on South Razorback Road reported a car damaged a tree.
I bet if I asked the driver, he would say it was the other way around.

Nov. 1, 12: 45 p.m. A man at 1306 S.E. C St. reported money in an online gaming account stolen.
Just say no to online poker.

Election Day

What follows is an actual conversation I had with Paolo this morning walking to school, as closely as I can remember it. I thought it would be hard to explain a presidential election and my choice of candidate in a way that a kindergartner could understand. Turns out it was really easy.

Paolo, remember how yesterday you got to vote at school? Today, Daddy and I get to vote, and we’re really excited.

Mama, are you going to vote Farack Obama? You have to vote for him because he has a cool name.

Yes, we are going to vote for Barack Obama, but we like him the best because he’s really nice and he has better ideas than McCain.

Is McCain a bad guy?

No, he’s a good guy, too, but he only wants to help his friends, and Obama wants to help everybody.

Is McCain mean?

Not really, but he told people that Obama was a scary guy and said things about him that aren’t true.

So McCain thinks Obama is a bad guy?

Actually, no, he knows Obama is a good guy. He just wants to be president so bad, he forgot his manners.

Okay, well don’t forget to vote Farack Obama so he can help everyone. And tell Daddy.

We won’t forget.