Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Revenge is a dish best served asleep.

Creeping around the house in the dark of the early morning, moving silently, until - BANG - catching a doorknob with my hipbone. Let's start over. Limping around the house in the dark of the early morning, cursing softly, trying not to disturb my slumbering family.

I'm so tired. At 4:00 this morning Luca kicked me awake before waking himself, sobbing for his daddy, just like he did when he was falling asleep seven hours ago. I attribute this to a little incident earlier in the evening, wherein Luca grabbed two fistfuls of Sam's beard and yanked. Sam's bloodcurdling howl of pain scared Luca half to death and probably made him think his daddy would never love him again.

Sam took Luca into another room, and I was just settling down to sleep, when Paolo decided to have a serious conversation with me - despite being unconscious. His babbling gave way to snoring just as Luca returned and climbed back into bed. After adjusting once more to the knees, skulls and elbows pressing into me on both sides, sleep was creeping in like fog when my alarm went off.

As I tiptoed around it occurred to me, slowly, like the throbbing in my hip, WHY THE HELL AM I TRYING SO HARD NOT TO WAKE THESE PEOPLE UP?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Eve of Christmas Eve

It can be a little lonely spending Christmas without extended family, but we decided to stay home for the holidays this year and do it up right. It has been a month-long celebration of craft projects, holiday music, parades, Christmas lights, and at least a gallon of egg nog. Paolo picked out a beautiful tree, and Luca has left most of the ornaments alone. This is a big improvement over last year, when we just accepted that the bottom three feet of the tree would be bare. There have been a couple of decor casualties, like when Luca was mouthing an ornament and hooked himself like a fish, or when he shattered a glass ball on the tree by riding a car into it.

There have also been some amazing moments of family harmony. Every morning Paolo opens a new door on the Christmas Countdown Calendar to get the small square of chocolate inside, and every morning he breaks it in half and gives a piece to Luca. Paolo also makes sure, when rummaging through the giant container of cookies sent by Grandma, to select cookies with a chocolate kiss in the center for himself and his brother, and a plain cookie for me. If I weren't absolutely swimming in chocolates and cookies (and peppermint bark, and sugar-coated nuts, and coffee cakes) at work, I might feel slighted. There's something deeply warming about seeing two people you love so much love each other.

I don't have to work tomorrow, and my Christmas Eve to-do list makes me giddy: Play with the boys, pick up a freshly baked pannetone, make hot chocolate, wrap presents, and bake cookies for Santa. Mopping and laundry can just damn well wait until the 26th. If the weather reports are correct, we may even wake up to a white Christmas. If that's not enough to put stars in your eyes, I don't know what is.

Happy holidays.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday Overthink: FIFA World Cup 2010

Friends, the next World Cup is nearly upon us. The games don't start until next summer, but the draw to determine the groups is TOMORROW. In case you were thinking of calling me for a chat Friday night, don't. I have mixed feelings about the tournament: I am excited of course - who doesn't love a good World Cup? - but loathe to lose my crown. I have no expectation of Italy winning again. Does this make me a bad fan? Winning two times in a row is a lot to ask, and I'm not greedy. But does that mean that I will watch without my heart in my mouth? I wonder if an Italian loss could ever hurt less than Tiger Woods coming home to a scorned wife at 2AM.

In World Cup news:

  • Wal-Mart is going to put special shops promoting the World Cup inside its stores. No details have been provided, unless "unique opportunity for us to leverage our global scale" means anything to you.
  • FIFA and Sony have signed a deal to broadcast match highlights in 3D, and they are discussing doing the same with live matches.
I don't understand this whole 3D movement in film and now TV. Do people still have to wear those red and blue glasses? If so, those better be stocked at Wal-Mart's World Cup Shop right next to the FIFA branded floor pillows I will need to cushion my head when I faint after watching Cannavaro slide-tackle in 3D.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Don't loose the goose.

We are in Omaha for Thanksgiving, which means Sam and I are doing some serious shopping. Most girls prefer shopping alone or with girlfriends, but I always make the best purchases with my husband. I don't know how he does it, but Sam can pick out a pair of shoes from 20 yards away that, once I've tried on, I can't live without.

One of our requisite stops in Omaha is Whole Foods, one of many stores that we don't have in Fayetteville. The wine and cheese section was packed with shoppers gleefully downing free samples, and we eagerly joined in. One of the platters held "goose mousse" on a wee cracker. I have never had goose pate, but it has been on my list of things to eat if ever faced with the opportunity. I handed a cracker to to Sam and we popped it in right after the Manchego.

I offer the following taste experience as a public service announcement, in case any of you are thinking about classing up a holiday party with some pureed fowl. Imagine, if you will, a whole, unwashed goose - feathers, poop, and all - put into a blender, chilled, and spread on a triscuit. It was a real effort to get it down, and as I searched desperately for a complimentary swish of Beajoulais, Sam's pained gaze met mine. "What do you think?," he asked. "About the goose?," I replied. "I really wish that hadn't happened."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fully and Unmistakably Two

As we pulled into the garage one sunny and warm Fall evening, Luca asked for bubbles. We had been trapped inside for what felt like weeks due to cold, rainy weather, and soon the days would be shorter, leaving no post-work opportunities to play outside. I grabbed the bubbles, Paolo grabbed his new spring-action, light-up, humming genuine Anakin Skywalker light saber, and Luca grabbed an empty bleach bottle from the trash. He casually sauntered out of the garage with his mouth around the open top. I tried to scream, but the tongue I'd just swallowed blocked the sound. I checked his skin for burns and his breath for the smell of bleach, but fortunately, the bottle had been bone dry.

I stowed the bleach bottle in the rafters of the garage and walked back outside to see Luca with a terra cotta pot raised above his head, just before smashing it into another pot. I steered him away from that game, as well, and returned to blowing bubbles for Paolo. Luca then attempted to perforate himself with a steel tomato cage, concuss himself with a heavy shovel, before flipping open the outdoor electrical outlets. Please note that our garage is lined with toys: bikes, balls, buckets, tennis rackets, dump trucks, none of which are even remotely interesting to a two-year-old.

Finally, Luca climbed into my car and began twiddling knobs and flipping light switches. Now the car is generally off-limits, but damn it, he couldn't kill himself in there. So I left well enough alone, and he honked and flashed and steered merrily in what I had decided was the safe, nonthreatening cocoon of my car. Bubble-time ended (it's actually really hard to pop bubbles with a light saber), and Paolo and I headed back into the garage. Luca opened the car door when he saw his brother, and Paolo walked over to help him climb out. As I returned the bubbles to the shelf above the washer, I heard a slam followed by a scream.

I turned in horror to see Paolo's thumb stuck in the car door. By the grace of all that is good in the universe, only the tip of Paolo's thumb was smashed. No broken bones, no blood, just a whole lot of screaming and a black fingernail that is probably not long for this world. In case you're wondering what Luca was doing while I released Paolo's hand and ascertained whether we'd be headed for the ER, he was laughing and ejecting CDs from the car stereo.

That's what I'm dealing with these days. My dad thought I was joking on the phone the other night when I admonished Luca to get out of the microwave. Folks, I have a two-year-old. It's like being at war, with an enemy who doesn't speak your language or respect the rules of combat, who is so irrational, his next move cannot be anticipated but is certain to leave you slackjawed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

My office is an ugly business park, but occasional tenant perks include sample sales and lunch events featuring free food. Last week my co-worker and I headed over to O.P.M. Financial for a cookout. When we saw the sad little tent and two attendees, we should have kept driving, but our hunger and poverty parked the car.

As we sat down to enjoy our charred hot dogs and lukewarm sodas, the host of the gala, Topp Dahler, sat down at our card table to discuss our money management needs. It was an awkward conversation, seeing that I was in zero need of his services. Less than zero. The only way I might hit a windfall (not already earmarked for daycare tuition) was if I had the closest guess to win the cash on the money tree, and, looking around at the empty folding chairs, those odds had to be pretty good. The “money tree” was a small, potted rubber plant with dollar bills paper-clipped to the leaves. To increase the difficulty, you also had to include the spare change sitting in a coffee cup in your total. Yes, I said spare change in a coffee cup, which Topp freely admitted he had cobbled together from various places like his desk drawer, couch, pants pockets, car, etc. Yikes.

Since wealth, as a topic, wasn’t getting us far, we got an uncomfortable glimpse into Topp’s personal life. That Topp’s a good guy, but he should have known that anyone who stopped by to score a free hot dog was not sitting on a pile of money going unmanaged. My co-worker and I ate quickly and grabbed a cookie for the road, agreeing that the free lunch was not worth the painful small talk. Since we had written our money tree guesses on our business cards, I expected to hear from Topp again.

Several days later, O.P.M. Financial popped up on my Caller ID, and I let it go right to voice mail. I was headed out to work off-site, so I gathered up the supplies I’d need and went to tell the department assistant where I would be. I grabbed a handful of gumdrops from her candy dish and popped a couple in my mouth as I headed back to my desk. For kicks, I thought I’d play my voice mail message to see if I’d won the money tree. I tossed a third gumdrop into my mouth as I double-clicked on the log showing the call. “O.P.M. Financial, this is Topp.” My mind began racing:

That’s a strange message…ohhhhhhh nnnnoooooo. When will I get this stupid call tracking software right? I just CALLED him BACK! Well, that’s it, I’m stuck. He has Caller ID, too. He knows it’s me. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I have to talk to him now. Wait, can’t speak, mouth too full of gumdrops. Sticky, gummy, gumdrops. What do I do now? HOW LONG HAS THIS SILENCE GONE ON?

Friends, the best solution I came up with was to slooooowly and silently replace the receiver and then burn with the shame of what I had done: I crank-called a well-meaning wealth advisor, subjected him to the sound of panicked gumdrop mastication for who knows how long, before hanging up on him.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's About Tradition

On Saturday we went to Tontitown for the 111th Annual Grape Festival. Tontitown is a little community about 12 miles northwest of Fayetteville that was settled by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s. When I first moved to Fayetteville, everyone I met asked me if I was from Tontitown. I learned quickly that Italian last names are rare here, unless you’re a descendant of a Tontitown settler. Tontitown is very proud of its heritage and strives to keep its traditions alive, through annual events such as the fall Polenta Smear and the summer Grape Festival .

As with all local fairs, the Grape Festival features a midway of sketchy rides, a visual feast of mullets, a section of arts and crafts tents selling Confederate flag bikinis, and a string of overpriced junk food vendors. Paolo nearly broke my heart when he opted for a corn dog instead of the wildly popular spaghetti dinner, but that’s his father in him. Throughout his boyhood, Sam didn’t miss a Missouri state fair, and the smell of carnie sweat and corn dogs (to be eaten on the fourth day of the fair, never earlier, allowing the grease enough time to reach the right level of putrid) always puts a certain twinkle in his eye.

We ate over in the park so the boys could play on the multitude of playground equipment. There are half a dozen different play areas in the park, with lots of old-school gear not found in parks anymore. As we spun on the merry-go-round, I shared my story of how I got my worst scar from a merry-go-round on my elementary school playground. I was pushing it around and didn’t clear the edge when I jumped on, which left me with a two-inch long scar on my left shin. The next play area over, I described how I was nearly crippled as a child when a mean see-saw partner slid off the back of the seat, leaving me to plummet to the ground, crushing my feet under the seat. I can still feel the shock of that pain traveling like lightning from my ankles to my waist. It occurred to me there is a reason those particular playground artifacts are not in use anymore.

After last year’s Grape Festival, I decided to inquire about volunteering at the local museum because I admired the community and really missed having a museum, no matter how small, in my life. I now serve on the Board of Directors and have befriended all those wonderful people whose last names end in vowels. They believe I have a lot to offer their small museum, and I am hopeful that I can prove them right.

As we drove home, faces and fingers sticky with grape ice cream, I reflected upon past Grape Festivals we’ve attended, with Paolo growing from a toddler to a schoolboy, and Gianluca, first just a bump (of freakish proportions, due to arrive a week later), and now nearly ready for the rides. I pictured our family coming back to Tontitown year after year to enjoy their tradition, and to make it our own. I can honestly say that being a small part of this kind and welcoming Italian-American community makes it even easier to embrace a long, long stay in Northwest Arkansas.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My love is like a green, green pickle.

Today marks the end of the first week at new daycares for both boys. Two weeks ago, their daycare shut down suddenly for financial reasons. This is the third daycare that has closed on us since we started depending on childcare services. I am the daycare widowmaker. To avoid boring you with the suffocating panic I felt the Friday afternoon we got the news, knowing I had no place to take my children the following week, I will simply say, it was not fun. Team Family pulled through, however, and after a week of Daddy Daycare with a few Take-Your-Kids-to-Work days sprinkled in, we found good situations for each of them. I have spent this first week nibbling my fingernails up to my elbows, but as it turns out, Paolo’s best friend from Kindergarten attends his summer camp, and Luca has not eaten anyone.

Sam has been watching the Tour de France for the last thirty-six days. Apparently, during the Tour, five extra hours are added to each day in order to provide twenty-nine solid hours of daily Tour coverage. Phil Liggett and Bob Roll narrate my dreams. Paolo is nearly as rabid as his father. He gets a kick out of the elevation maps and enjoys showing me easy days vs. hard days based on the category and frequency of climbs. I will discuss this further in the divorce paperwork.

Luca has developed his own language, and it is fascinating to me how it differs from Paolo’s verbal development. Paolo was all about animals and animal sounds at this age. Looking back, it wasn’t terribly useful for the purposes of communication, except maybe in a barnyard. Luca knows how to ask for things he wants, specifically, food. Even more specifically, ice and pickles. There is no disappointment, no meltdown, no rage that cannot be cured and calmed by offering Luca ice or pickles.

Linguistic quirks of note:

1. Anything liquid is “juice” (juice in a cup, juice from the garden hose, juice falling from the sky, juice in the toilet bowl).

2. Paolo is Fuh-Fuh. I had been dying to know what Luca would call his brother, just desperate to hear him call for his brother with his sweet baby voice. Paolo called himself Ba-doh before he could pronounce his name, so I figured it would be close to that. Instead, Luca chose Fuh-Fuh. Where did that come from? Is it an approximation of “brother”? I wanted cute, and this is not cute. It’s weird. What the fuh?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Home Sweet GONE

My new career is really eating into my blogging-at-work time. I'll have to bring that up at the next staff meeting. I have things to say, cute stories to tell, gripes to vent, but I have no time at a computer to bang them out. If there were some sort of technology available that would type up a post AS I WAS THINKING IT, I'd be golden.

So here I am typing furiously when I should be packing up the family to drive to Omaha tonight. In a minute, in a minute! Yesterday, I found out about a house for sale the next street up from us. It was the right size, the right location, and saints be praised, the right price. Yeah, that lasted about 5 minutes before it had three offers and was ultimately sold in a day. We never had a chance. Apparently, a sincere homebuyer should have something called "pre-approval" for a mort-gauge, more-gorge, something like that. We have no such thing or any idea how to get one. Obviously.

We're stubbornly committed to living in this neighborhood, arguably the most desirable area in town. I don't know who would argue about it. I know I wouldn't. At first I was crushed because we've been waiting (and may yet wait) years for an opportunity like this. But to look on the bright side, I learned a lot from the experience, like the need to be prepared to pounce. When a chance like this comes again, I don't want to lose out because I didn't do some groundwork.

There is nothing stopping me except ignorance, so I am trying to remedy that. So far I've figured out that I need this pre-approvity for a home lawn thing. I am told it's important. Next I need a Real-tar. Fake tar is not as good, I'm guessing. I should have this all figured out very quickly.

And that stupid house up the block that sold before I could dial the phone? It is steps away from our local city green space, our lovely green hill where the boys spend untold hours running, playing, hunting Easter eggs, sledding, and flying kites. Not that I care. Who wants to live that close to a park, anyway? The sound of children's laughter is SO annoying.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Graduation Day

Today is Paolo's last day of Kindergarten. Yeah, on a Thursday. That's not very helpful to working parents. As usual, Sam and I will split Friday hours with me taking the afternoon shift. Since I'll take a half-day off this week, I couldn't take off Tuesday morning to ATTEND PAOLO'S GRADUATION. Minor event, right? Actually, it was a very casual non-cap-and-gown affair, so my heart only splintered into 42,000 pieces.

When I got home Tuesday night, my darling husband plugged our videocamera into the TV to show me the footage he was able to get while sitting in a miniature chair and holding a squirming todder. I watched several short clips of the kids getting their diplomas while the teacher read what each child wants to be when he/she grows up.

Then it was time for the slideshow. My jaw dropped when I saw the video length in the corner of the screen: over 11 minutes. Sam had recorded the entire show. As pictures of the class began cycling, I got all choked up. It wasn't the toothless grins that did me in; it was the understanding that my husband had gone to such trouble to make me feel like I hadn't missed anything. He knew, without any conversation, how much it killed me to miss this milestone and, as usual, he knew how to make it better.

Less than two minutes into the slideshow, Luca picked up the videocamera and deleted the video. Irretrievably. A little piece of Sam's soul died, along with the last vestige of hope I had that Luca will end up anywhere other than jail.

Speaking of life prospects, would you like to know what Paolo wants to be when he grows up? A dad. Barring that, a helicopter driver. I told him I can't vouch for which would be more exciting, but I know which is more important.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Missing them already

I am leaving tomorrow for a business trip that will take me out of state for the next four days. This will be the first time I have been gone from Luca and only the second time away from Paolo. Sam's parents are traveling here to help out in my absence because they are kind, but also because Sam and I have not told them that their grandsons have turned to the dark side.

Paolo is a good kind of crazy: gymnastic, imaginative, a voracious reader and an unstoppable talker. In all seriousness, if his very life depended on his silence, he would not reach age seven. Much of what he says is funny and interesting, but the boy has no internal filter. Whatever he is thinking comes right out. He wonders aloud about approaching activities, toy acquisitions, or snacks again and again, despite having full information. Still, he is hands-down my favorite son right now.

Luca has the devil in him. He is on the verge of getting kicked out of daycare for biting other children. My son is a biter. I fought the label until I saw the little Damien in action. He has been biting the bejesus out of his own brother. Apart from the biting, he is generally batshit crazy, which is not a good crazy. Like his older brother, he climbs on tables, leaps off couches and tears around the house at blinding speed. But, oh, he can be sweet. When he pats my face wearing an angelic smile, I am convinced he is too cute to be human. Then the wooden toy he is holding in his other hand connects with my skull, and I remember that he is, in fact, not human at all.

And yet, I am already missing my little lunatics. I am also already feeling very, very sorry for their grandparents. I had better put away this sadness and enjoy my time apart because, after four motherless days with Crazy 1 and Crazy 2, I will never be allowed to leave again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Orientation: Getting to Know Me

New Co-Worker: I've been married to my wonderful husband for twelve years, and he has given me two terrific kids.

Me: My husband didn't give me my children. I'm pretty sure I earned them.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday OverThink #7, courtesy of Floyd Landis

The 32nd Joe Martin Stage Race is nearly upon us. For you non-locals, it’s a professional cycling event held right here in Fayetteville; look for it May 7-10. Some cycling enthusiasts are all aflutter over the news that Floyd Landis will be here to participate in the upcoming event.

In this news story, the race director claims that Landis is, next to the vaunted Lance Armstrong, the most well known American cyclist. I argue that distinction should go to George Hincapie. Not only is he an amazing athlete, he is a strangely cool guy. Hincapie married a Podium Girl,* launched his own sportswear line, and lives in South Carolina where he's building a "professional training village" for cyclists. Talk about living the dream. By contrast, Landis has been off the scene for years, what with that whole getting banned from professional cycling for doping thing.

I guess you could say Landis is more memorable. He was a soft-cell feature story: a former Mennonite who bucked family and religion to follow his dream of cycling and won the biggest bike race in the world. Until the routine blood-test results came back. After being found guilty of doping, even after appeal, stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, fired from his cycling team, divorced, and banned from professional cycling through January 2009, Landis is back. He will be racing in Fayetteville as a member of Team OUCH. How appropriate.

I don’t wonder at his gall in returning to professional cycling. The dude has staggering mortgages and legal fees to pay. Apart from those electric Amish fireplaces, I don’t know what else Mr. Landis is qualified to do. However, I disagree with celebrating a cheater coming to town.

*Podium Girls are the hot chicks who pose with and smooch the race winners post-event and hand out the prizes.

Things that are good this morning

Freshly sliced mango for breakfast

Brand new windshield wipers in a Spring rain

Just-woken toddler stumbling to me, heavy-lidded, for a hug

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Northwest Arkansas Crime Report, April 1, 2009

The newspaper website has done something screwy with my local Police Calls. I still haven’t figured out where they are now, but I found some real treasures in the Benton County Daily Record, which is the county north of mine. Read on and you’ll agree that these will do in a pinch.

Bella Vista incidents

· At 5:58 a.m. Friday, the Benton County Sheriff's Office requested help finding two donkeys just outside the city limits near the Boys and Girls Club on Arkansas Highway 279.

· At 8:24 p.m. Friday, a woman on Enfield Drive was reported missing, and her name was entered into the National Crime Information Center's missing-persons database. She was found a few hours later in Rogers.

· At 2:50 a.m. Saturday, a woman reported that her brother was causing problems. He had been drinking and smoking pot. He left before the police arrived.

· At 5:15 a.m. Saturday, a suspicious man wearing heavy clothing was reported going in and out of the restroom on Blowing Springs Road.

· At 11:51 a.m. Sunday, a caller on Kingsland and Lambeth Drive said it looked as though two men in a pickup truck were trying to steal a trailer carrying fiber-optic cable. Everything was OK; the men worked there.

· At 12:05 p.m. Sunday, a woman called to report that her sister wouldn't leave the house.

· At 12:34 p.m. Sunday, a woman reported that her husband was at her house and wouldn't leave.

· At 12:01 a.m. Monday, someone at Mercy Medical Center in Rogers called to report giving a patient morphine and telling him not to drive, but the patient left anyway and was heading north on U.S. Highway 71.

· At 1:35 p.m. Monday, a caller reported receiving a note from a stranger who claimed the caller damaged a vehicle in a parking lot at 1801 Forest Hills Blvd.

· At 2:40 p.m. Monday, a caller on Littrell Drive reported finding a syringe and a substance in a used car he had just purchased.

· At 6:57 p.m. Monday, a verbal argument was reported between a man on Evesham Lane and his neighbor. The man said the neighbor's son pulled a BB gun and pointed it at him. An officer reported the son's weapon was a Nerf-type gun.

Farewell, cruel legal world

It's official. I've accepted a job elsewhere, and it is not a law firm. In fact, it is in the art world. Let me tell you how good it feels to leave the legal world after ten years. It feels hot-chocolate-with-marshmallows, foot-rub-with-lotion, freshly-bathed-baby-neck good.

I took a job as a legal secretary to put myself through my Master's program in California. And then I moved to Arkansas, where the opportunity to use my degree was nonexistent. I fell back on law firms, and it chafed because I knew I was just as educated and intelligent as the people I supported. More often than you want to know if you've ever paid an attorney's fees, I was much smarter and more capable. I believed my time in the South was temporary, but then life happened, kids happened, and this town felt more and more like home. Bad news for the career I wanted, the chance I never had.

Then one day the mountain came to Mohammed. An amazing institution, destined to be world class, is under construction about 30 miles north of here. And I've just been hired to work there. Maybe you enjoy your job; I hope you do. Maybe it fulfills you and makes you proud to contribute to a greater good. I don't know what that's like, but I'm about to find out how it feels to make a living doing work that matters to me.

My last day at the firm is tomorrow, and I'm trying to act like I'll miss the place although, in truth, I will not. I hold no illusions that my new job will be anything but another reincarnation of Office Space. However, my new eight bosses will not be lawyers, and that is a significant improvement.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ictalurus punctatus

Sam did the grocery shopping on Monday, and I asked him to pick up some pollock at the seafood market so I could make fish sticks for the boys. On the drive home he was suspiciously reticent about his purchase until he finally admitted the store had been out of pollock. "That's okay, so you got haddock?" "Mmm, no." "Cod then?" "Well, no." He glanced at me out of the corner of his eye like he fully expected what he revealed next to have me throwing my wedding ring at his head. "I got catfish." "You. Got. WHAT?" Sam went on to explain the unauthorized substitution, toggling between apologetic and defiant. He knows I won’t eat that nasty, bottom-feeding river dog. I grew up in South Florida, and people who live there DO NOT EAT CATFISH. It’s like offering Spam to Nebraskans. Yes, it’s a regional prejudice, but I have actually tasted catfish, and it tastes like dirt.

I have another reason not to like catfish. After the birth of our first son, with whom I labored eighteen hours, Sam went out to a fantastic Cajun restaurant for a celebratory dinner with his parents and my mother. Me, I was stuck in the hospital, with a tar-pooping newborn, eating cafeteria food. After their two-hour feast, Sam brought me a doggie bag from the restaurant, consisting of cold fries and chicken fingers. After downing a couple of bites of really strange-tasting chicken, Sam confessed it wasn’t chicken at all, it was CATFISH! HA-HA-HA! See how good it is? No, in fact, I did not. Some women get expensive jewelry after giving birth. I got leftover deep-fried catfish in a greasy bag.

And last night, thanks to my husband, I got to touch it and feed it to my children. I actually feel guilty that I fed that swimming sewage to my sons. Proving how much he takes after Sam, Gianluca inhaled his fish sticks without noticing a thing. Paolo, who takes after me, choked down two pieces and asked if he could be done with his fish sticks because, for some reason, they just weren’t very good tonight. My precious boy.

Eat me. Mmmm.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Three is old enough for a butt-whipping.

Me: Luca had a rough afternoon. His teacher said another kid pushed him down twice on his bad knee, and he won’t walk like he was this morning because his knee hurts.

Paolo: Oh yeah? When that kid gets older, like three, I’m gonna punch him!

Me: Paolo, I am so proud of you for wanting to protect your little brother. I am also happy that you know it would be wrong to rough up a little guy. Even though you’re mad at Luca’s classmate for hurting him, hitting is never the answer. Tripping is so much easier to get away with.

Failing my children in new and exciting ways

I have not had a particularly strong week as a parent. At the park on Sunday, I sat Luca on my lap to go down a slide, and his foot caught and twisted up behind him. He didn't cry much when it happened, and it wasn't until after his nap and late lunch that I realized he couldn't walk. Sam was on a bike ride, so I left a note saying I'd taken Luca to the Emergency Room because something was wrong with his leg. Due to the brevity of my message, Sam showed up an hour later looking ten years older. In my mind, the note clearly referred to the slide incident, which I had not stopped thinking about since it happened. See, it's actually a common accident in which a kid sitting on his mom's lap gets his foot wedged between her and the slide and breaks a leg. I kept obsessing because I KNOW better, and I HAD made sure that Luca's legs were on top of mine when we started. However, in Sam's mind, Luca had contracted flesh-eating bacteria and was facing amputation.

Luckily, the X-ray showed no fracture, so we were sent home with a diagnosis of sprained knee. Luca adapted pretty well: he reverted to crawling for a couple days and is now walking again with just a little hitch in his giddy-up.

The injury done to Paolo this morning was emotional, but no less painful, according to my hypercritical, I mean helpful, husband. Paolo realized in the car when we'd just about reached school that he was still wearing his pajama bottoms. Instantly I remembered that he'd joined me in the bathroom half-dressed to use the potty, and then we'd brushed teeth together and gone downstairs. He'd never returned to his room to change his bottom half and, hence, still had on Batman pj bottoms. I tried to laugh about with him, but he was really upset. I made a snap decision to get him to school on time and bring his pants later. Even though no one would EVER guess his solid black pants were pajama bottoms, Paolo was mortified, and I had to push him into his classroom, promising to be right back.

When I explained to Sam why I was dashing in and out of the house with a pair of pants, he pinpointed that moment - the moment I heartlessly shoved our son into a mocking classroom - as what was sure to become Paolo's first memory, one of utter humiliation. What I SHOULD have done, according to Paolo's father and Paolo's teacher, was come back home, let Paolo finish dressing, and be late to school.

You know you haven't had your best week when the highlight is that you didn't break your kid's leg.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Breastfeeding Backlash

My husband set me up with a slew of crap to read and view on my lunch break about all this unreasonable pressure on women to breastfeed their babies, not to mention the guilt they are made to feel for choosing formula over breastmilk. I mean, gah, it’s so unfair!

Shut up. Shut the hell up. Why are doctors and scientists and mothers trying to rationalize breastfeeding? Why does the debate continue to rage? It couldn’t be simpler. You carry a baby for nine months, you give birth to said baby, YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO THAT BABY DOES NOT END THERE. If it did, your boobs wouldn’t fill up with milk three days later.

We don’t need to understand breastmilk on a molecular level or to conduct long-term studies of breastfed vs. formula-fed children to decide what the best food is for a baby. Common sense tells us that a mother’s body, which has been nurturing and growing a baby during gestation, will produce the perfect food on which her baby will thrive. Her body knows more than a crapshoot of chemicals in a can. True, a formula-exclusive diet will not kill a baby…anymore…unless you live in China…but it’s not the best diet. It says so right on the can of formula.

Of course there are circumstances in which mothers are unable to feed their infants, and they have every right be pissed at getting the stink-eye from strangers for whipping out a bottle of formula. Let me be clear: it is the unwilling, not the unable, who rub me the wrong way. Women who are unwilling to breastfeed argue that breastfeeding is awkward, weird, inconvenient, painful, shape-altering, and difficult to continue while working. Yes, it is all of those things. It is also many wonderful things, but I won’t enumerate them because, apparently, that propaganda keeps getting shoved down our throats.

Breastfeeding isn't a trend; it's the next fundamental step after giving birth. A mother who chooses not to bother for only selfish reasons is shirking her duty. And her complaints of being made to feel guilty for putting formula on her baby shower registry? Well, maybe she should feel guilty. I can’t say this enough: If you are going to have a baby, HAVE a baby. Otherwise, what’s the point? You will have sore nipples, you will be sleep-deprived, you will get peed on. It is all part of having a baby, YOUR baby. You would lay down your life for your baby. You won’t lay down a boob?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Please always be with me.

I glared at the message light on my office phone Monday morning and rolled my eyes impatiently while the robotic voice announced that my missed call had come Sunday morning at 7:02. Surely a wrong number. Finally, the message played: just some incomprehensible noise, almost as if someone were mouthing the phone, and then “gah-gah-gah” – click. I quickly scrolled down the Caller ID to confirm that the call had come from my house. It was Luca; my baby called me.

I still don’t know how he did it, but it sure made my day, and it made me realize anew how he has made my life. It amazes me that a short eighteen months ago (Happy 1½, kiddo!) I didn’t know this boy at all. And now, how unimaginable my life would be without him. I lose my breath just contemplating it.

Who has made your life, colored it in, given it fire and meaning and joy? It doesn’t have to be a child; it could be a friend or a lover. Who are the people that you didn’t start this life with, but without whom your life would be a shame? Tell them, even if you whisper it while they’re sleeping, even if you just leave them a message.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When did everybody learn how to swim?

We had kind of a big Saturday. We went to a birthday party for one of Paolo’s classmates in the morning, and then we hit a Mardi Gras parade in the afternoon. The party was held at the Boys & Girls Club by the indoor pool. What a fabulous idea! Paolo can’t swim, but we brought his Spiderman swim ring, and there are a couple shallow spots, so I didn’t foresee a problem. I need to work on my foreseeing. All of the other kids at the party either knew how to swim or were completely comfortable in the water, like hand-stands-underwater comfortable. Paolo still doesn’t care for water droplets grazing his face. It didn’t take long for the other kids to head out into deeper water, leaving Paolo behind. He tried valiantly to follow, but he couldn’t move as quickly and he got nervous. Pretty soon he was sitting alone, dejected, hugging his knees at the entrance to the pool.

One of his good friends kept trying to lure him back into the water, to a spot in the pool only two feet deep, right next to a ladder. She asked the lifeguard for a float and brought it to Paolo, but he just shook his head. Maybe another parent would have been furious, but I recognized that paralysis, and my heart just broke for him. He had lost all self-confidence. He wanted so badly to be a part of the fun, but the feeling of inferiority had crippled him. I have suffered episodes like that my entire life, triggered by who knows what. Suddenly, surrounded by well-meaning people enjoying themselves, I am worthless, a misfit: uglier, stupider, clumsier than everyone else. If I could have picked one behavioral trait of mine that would never pass to my children, this would have been it.

Well, it took some time, but I managed to coax Paolo into the shallow spot. I actually had to lower him in with his arms locked around my neck. Don’t ask me how I managed to do that while hanging on to Gianluca, who was dying to jump in the water, and without falling in myself. I have mad skills. Once Paolo’s feet hit the bottom of the pool (and he realized the water did, in fact, reach only his belly button), his face lit up like Christmas morning. The spell was broken, he believed in himself again, and he had a great time for the rest of the party.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Northwest Arkansas Crime Report, February 2009

Feb 13, 5:33 p.m. A woman on West Dot Tipton Road reported her child's stepgrandmother screaming at her.
Oh yeah, well my ex-uncle’s second cousin says you started it.

Feb 11, 3:31 p.m. A man at 601 W. Easy St. reported evicted tenants took a wall, cabinets and a window, destroying the apartment.
I’ve heard of unscrewing all the lightbulbs, but the WALL? Won’t your next apartment already have one?

Feb 10, 10:54 a.m. A woman on West Bedford Loop reported finding a crack pipe in a couch and items missing after a friend of her mother's boyfriend stayed over.
You shouldn’t let your mom set you up.

You’re Calling From Where?

Feb 6 3:51 p.m. A caller at Newlywed Foods, 1111 Angel Drive, reported fraud.
Was it Renee Zellweger? Okay, that’s a dated joke. It’s been a slow month.

Feb 9 8:53 a.m. A caller with Hott Wheels Used Autos, 2294 W. Henri De Tonti Blvd., Springdale, reported a pickup stolen.
Now that truck is really hot. Har har har.

Feb. 11 5:13 a.m. A woman at Days Inn and Suites, 3408 Moberly Lane, reported an employee came into her room without permission.
Tomorrow, either hang the Do Not Disturb sign outside your door or learn to say “No gracias, ocupada, or no me gusta clean towels” or something.

12:10 p.m. A caller at Sleepy Hollow Store, 12761 S. Arkansas 59, reported a theft.
Come on, Headless Horseman, stop calling. We will let you know if we find your head.

11:30 p.m. A woman with Everett Maxey Auto, 2517 S.E. Best Lane, reported a man hanging out looking at vehicles.
Darlin’ I know it’s your first day, but that there’s a potential customer.

Feb 13 7:46 p.m. A woman at Great Day Skate Place, 1615 Moberly Lane, reported a man and woman arguing.
Also known as Pretty Good Day Except for That Shouting Couple Skate Place.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

I ran into Sam at home yesterday when I dropped off my Valentine’s party booty, so we got to eat lunch together. It began pleasantly, just two adults eating and conversing, until Sam finished his pizza and reached for the cookies.

"What are you doing?"

"I want a cookie. You said there are extras, so let me have one."

"No! You can’t open any of them."

"Why not? Give me a cookie."

"I can’t carry in open containers of food to the party. It’ll look like I found these in the parking lot, or worse, like I had an unstoppable case of the munchies from hitting the bong all night. THE SEAL MUST NOT BE BROKEN! You must be crazy, thinking I’m going to walk in there with used food."

"You’re really not going to give me a cookie, are you? Okay, I'm feeling a lot of anger towards you right now."

There the cookies sat, pristinely, all day and evening until dessert, when I had essentially the same conversation with Paolo, with Sam chiming in, “Paolo, she won’t do it, bud. You’re not getting a cookie. Your mama is MEAN.”

Which brings us to this morning, as I triumphantly carried the stack of unopened boxes of cookies into Paolo’s school. It was a delicate balancing act, as I was also carrying Luca, who picked at the stickers sealing the boxes until he had peeled them all off.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday OverThink #6, courtesy of Morrissey

Morrissey’s new album, Years of Refusal, is coming out February 17. The cover is a picture of Morrissey with a baby under his arm, which is completely disturbing because I can’t think of anyone with greater disdain for humanity. Not even me. Worse, the artwork inside is a picture of Morrissey and his band, naked except for a 7-inch vinyl record affixed to, well, where you’d hope. The musicians are all staring blankly – this is surely just one of many bizarre hoops the great and powerful Moz makes them jump through – and Morrissey is combing his hair. I won’t post the photo here, as this is a family website (except when I drop the occasional f-bomb or call homeroom moms hookers). If you must, you can view the picture here.

I love Morrissey, not nearly as much as my husband does – not that there’s anything wrong with that – and this picture has seriously messed with me. I had a Smiths CD in my car, and I had to stop listening to it because I couldn’t erase the mental picture of naked Morrissey singing to me while running a comb through his silver hair.

Morrissey, you have overthought both album art and your physical appeal.

Please keep your VD to yourselves.

My dear friend Melissa sent me an email today with “VD” as the subject. I think it illustrates my romantic nature that “VD” instantly expanded to venereal disease in my mind. I thought it was kind of a personal thing to share with someone, even one’s hetero-lifemate. She was referring to Valentine’s Day, of course, and the teeth-grinding lameness of her co-workers receiving flowers two days prior to the ridiculous “holiday.” I do hope her giddy coworkers realize those flowers came early because the senders are cheap. You pay less for flowers if you have them delivered prior to the 14th, especially when it falls on a Saturday. That’s right, suckers, your boyfriend/husband/mom/stalker doesn’t love you enough to pay for weekend delivery.

I know the single girls out there are starting to feel down and hating themselves for it, because they don’t want to care about Forced-Display-of-Affection Day. But they do care, if only a teensy bit, because they’re human, and humans like chocolate. Affection is also nice, especially when it comes in a box with paper-lined compartments. I’m talking about good chocolate, like imported from Europe, made by fairies in a magic glen, with all-natural ingredients, not the corn syrupy turds they make in America.

I’m not in the single-girl camp; I’m in the mother camp, but we also have good reason to despise this trumped-up occasion. I’m lucky this year in that Paolo is old enough to address his own cards, and Luca is too young to exchange them. However, I just blew my lunch break (and $16.00) at the grocery store agonizing over what treats to buy for my sons’ parties at school tomorrow. There were two ten-foot-long tables in the bakery piled high with pink-frosted goodies. I’d volunteered to bring cookies for Paolo’s class of 22, so that narrowed my choices down to seven varieties. All the cookies come 10 in a box, so I had to overbuy by eight because I certainly couldn’t underbuy by two.

I volunteered to bring fruit for Luca’s party because I’d just finished ripping out the soul of his afternoon teacher for feeding him candy and chips. Donating cupcakes seemed like hypocrisy. I decided on grapes, which I’ll just need to wash and cut in half.

And THEN I had to grab something for my book club meeting tomorrow night. It’s couples night, but my Valentine will be home with the boys. Since I was in produce, I grabbed a pound of strawberries. That’s appropriate, no? I’ll just need to wash and slice those, as well. I have my Valentine’s homework cut out for me, and I still have to plan a nice meal and dessert to make for my family.

I give and I give. But what about me? What about my European gourmet chocolate needs?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Look Who's Talking

Well, guess who decided that words might have some use after all? That's right, Luca! Or Bubbies, I guess I should say. Confession time: Bubbies is a stupid pet name that stuck longer than any of the others, such as Big Love, Tubba-lubba, and Lucabilly. By comparison, maybe Bubbies isn't that bad. Maybe. Anyhow, I'm afraid Luca thinks that's his name, Bubbies I mean. When Paolo started talking, every sentence began with Bado, and it took my insightful mother to point out that Paolo was saying his own name. Now, Luca's gibberish sentences all begin with Bubby. Whoops. I'm trying to erase Bubbies from my vocabulary and call Luca only by his actual name, but I may be worsening an already regrettable situation. Soon I expect him to pick up my constant self-corrections and refer to himself as Bu-luca...which sounds like a whale.

Bubbies and whales aside, Luca started talking yesterday. I think it has a lot to do with his current mimicry phase, but we're thrilled anyway. He says bye-bye, ball, Da-da, go, baby, up, and he's on the cusp of other useful words like down, bite, and drink. Like all babies his age, he's been absorbing language and has just decided it's a game he'd like to play, too. It happens so fast, like a flipped switch. One day it's ba-da-ba-ba-ga-dee, and the next it's "Mama, hey Mama, when it's wake-up time, hey Mama, we need to look on the computer for why Robin turned into Nightwing, okay Mama, hey Mama, is that a good idea?"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thursday OverThink #5, courtesy of KUAF 91.3 FM

Please read the comment left by KUAF news director explaining the station's absence due to power failure.

When the ice storm hit on January 27, Fayetteville was hungry for news. The local newspapers, the TV stations, the radio stations: all had lost power, like the rest of us. The only thing we knew for days was silence and cracking branches. Then, the whole town started coming back to life, including our news sources, with one notable exception.

KUAF 91.3 FM, our local National Public Radio affiliate, remained silent. KUAF is housed on the University of Arkansas campus, which never lost power. Did you catch that? The university campus is one of the precious few areas whose power lines are underground; hence, they never lost power. We could see the lights of campus, mocking us, every night from our cold, dark house. I fail to understand exactly what the hell KUAF was doing when its community needed it most.

KUAF finally came back on the air Monday, three days ago. The first thing I heard when I tuned is was a request for money. Really. Because we rely on them. Really?

I checked the website today for an explanation or an apology...or to learn that the station is back on the air, but running at reduced power.

KUAF, you might want to rethink your tagline: “KUAF is your indispensable connection to the world.”

While on the site, I also found a five-minute piece on Mount Sequoyah recorded the day after the ice storm.

The Winter Ice Storm of 2009
FAYETTEVILLE, AR(2009-01-31) The morning after one of the most devastating weather events in recent memory, we take a walk....
Visit this link for the full story:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Five Days Without Video Games

After my last morose post on the ice storm and its aftermath, I wanted to share that it didn’t all suck. Although Paolo is perfectly capable of speaking for himself, he is a terrible typist, so I’m going to speak for him.

Tuesday. I woke up when it was dark because of green flashes in the sky and a loud rrrrrrrrr sound like an evil robot. I tried to wake Mama up to ask her what it was, but she was too grumpy. No school today. It rained all day long. We played hide and seek, but I did not play even one video game because we don’t have any electricity. I have to wear so many clothes because it’s cold in our house. Mama is making me wear even slippers. Daddy made us a campout in Mama’s room when it got dark, and we watched a movie on the DVD player. I have my own flashlight.

Wednesday. Daddy made oatmeal for breakfast, and I ate the sprinkles off the top. Daddy had a saw and he did works outside chopping down big branches that fell down. I was a helper by hitting ice off some branches with a stick and finding long icicles. A couple times, a branch fell really close to me. When Daddy got all the trees off the car we went for an adventure to see what happened to the world and to get Mama a radio. It’s cool because it has a flashing red light and a siren, but it doesn’t play Pink I’m a Rock Star. At darktime, I watched Ice Age 2 in the car with Mama until she said we had to stop because the car was almost out of gas. It looks like Ice Age outside our house.

Thursday. Daddy made pancakes for breakfast. We took Mama to work and then we were in the car a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long time. Daddy was looking for stuff but all the stores were closed or had too many people. We had Chick-fil-A for lunch and I played on the playground. Luca kept trying to climb up the stairs but I told him he had to be a big boy first so he had to stay in the little kid section on the bottom. We ate at the penguin barbecue restaurant for dinner and went to the grocery store. I only got to watch a little Teen Titans. I was listening for the rrrrrrrr sound because that means our electricity is coming back, but I didn't hear anything.

Friday. Daddy had to go to work, so Mama took me and Luca to see Stellaluna at the arts center. I was supposed to go with my class, but there’s no school today either. Stellaluna was about a girl bat, but the mama bird was the funniest, funnier than the baby birds. It wasn’t very good. Mama said I wasn’t being grateful, so I told her it was a little good. We ate dinner at Daddy’s work, and I got to play computer games. We went to a hotel at nighttime, and I watched a movie. Why does everyone else have electricity except us?

Saturday. I like our hotel pretty good. It has a treadmill in a room, and Mama showed me how to use it. I only fell down once. Luca stuck his hand in it and hurt his fingers so he can’t go back to the room, but I can if Daddy will take me. There is a TV so I can watch cartoons but sometimes Daddy wants to watch basketball. I don’t know why he is so mean.

Sunday. The workers finally fixed our house and we had an Electricity Party. We turned on all the lights and I played Sonic and Lego Batman video games all day until Daddy had to watch football. Luca and I had bathtime and then Daddy said I didn’t get to watch a movie tonight because we have electricity now and I have to go to school tomorrow. The end.

The Thaw

Photo by Brooke McNeely,
Northwest Arkansas Times
Believe me, I know how fortunate we are. This is just a follow-up report for anyone who wonders "What do people do when the power goes out and it's so cold?" Last week's ice storm was a disaster in this part of the state, and clean-up will take months. There are people in Fayetteville (and half a million people in Kentucky) who are still without power. So, obviously, this is not some sort of suffering contest. It is simply my experience.

To recap, we lost power for good on Tuesday just before lunch. We stayed in the house for three nights despite below-freezing temperatures. The first night was an adventure, the second an ordeal, and the third night did me in. It wore me down spending all day thinking about how we would stay warm, how we would eat, how we would amuse the boys. I’d be up all night tucking little hands back under blankets, pulling hats down over ears, then get up in the morning to a freezing house for another day of the same struggle. We were among tens of thousands without power. The hotels were full; there was nowhere to go.

By mid-morning Thursday, my office was open. I looked and felt like a refugee. I was wearing so many layers of clothing I was stifling, but I kept them all on. I knew I only had so many hours before I’d be cold again. Sam and the boys spent most of the day driving around in search of fuel for the car and camp stove and someplace warm to pass the time. No mall, no Target, no Walmart, but thankfully, Chick-fil-A with an indoor playground.

Friday I worked until 1:00 and then shuttled the boys between the arts center and the library until going home to prep dinner before the sun set. As it got darker and colder, dread overwhelmed me. Just thinking about the night to come made me want to cry. I confessed to Sam that something very like hysteria was creeping up on me, and I was open to suggestions. He told me to start calling hotels again, and I found one nearby with a single room left. For the next two nights I found a hundred reasons to touch the boys just to feel their warm skin.

Thanks to the thousand-plus workers from as far away as Minnesota, and the electrician who drove to Oklahoma and back for a part to re-connect the power line to our building, we had power by Sunday morning. We spent all Sunday cleaning the house top to bottom, systematically and thoroughly, as if exorcising an evil spirit.

Eager to resume our normal routine, we ate dinner, had baths and got the boys to bed on time. I flicked off the light in Paolo’s room to read his bedtime books by flashlight, like we always do. Suddenly, in the dark room, lit only by the weak beam of a flashlight, I panicked. It felt like a flashback. Have I been in a war? I had to tell myself, several times over, that I wasn’t cold and I could turn on that light whenever I wanted to.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ice Storm

Here is a local newsclip reporting on my part of town. Apparently, "some are calling it the most devastated area in Fayetteville."


Status report: We've been without power since Tuesday morning and do not expect power to be restored until Saturday. Schools are closed all week, but I'm back at work. We have a working phone and running hot water, so we are sticking it out at home despite having no heat source. We are cooking on a gas grill and managing to stay warm at night. It will be in the twenties tonight, but should begin warming up tomorrow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Adventures in Single-Parenting

Day One.
I took the day off work because Tuesday is Sam’s day for being home with Luca and picking Paolo up from school, and I didn’t want to mess with their routine. I got everyone to their designated locations on time, did all the grocery shopping for the week, and was home by noon. I hung out with the sniffly baby, got the house in order, and picked up Paolo at 3:00. We had an early dinner, a mellow evening, and the boys went to bed on time. I took a nice long shower and prepped for tomorrow morning, making lunches and stuffing Paolo’s backpack, my work bag, and Luca’s daycare bag.

Single-parenting, with tight organization, is a piece of cake.

Day Two.
I got everyone dressed, fed, and delivered to school, daycare and work on time. I was feeling unstoppable when the phone rang at noon. It was Luca’s daycare director. Luca’s teacher had been noticing his lips and fingertips looking blue, and the director accurately deduced he was having trouble breathing. I knew I had the medicine he needed at home, but I called the pediatric clinic to see if I could bring Luca in for a breathing treatment right away, since the clinic is across the street and my house is across town. The clinic couldn’t give him an appointment for over two hours. I thought I must have left out the part about the signs of oxygen deprivation, so I explained the situation again. Nope, they absolutely could not see him until 2:30, which really means 3:30 because I would have to spend at least an hour in the waiting room. Even if I had been inclined to take the time slot, I had to be at Paolo’s school at 3:00 sharp to pick him up. I told them no thanks when what I really should have said was fuck off. However, I am a lady. When I picked up Luca, he was not any shade of blue, which was good news for everyone because I had planned to storm the damn pediatric clinic and scream the paint off the walls until they treated him. Instead, we just went home, and I got Luca’s breathing under control in no time.

Once Paolo got home, we started our evening plan of early dinner, baths, and movie night. While I worked on my crowd-pleasing turkey burgers, Luca trapped himself in the bathroom. He shut the door behind him and began opening drawers and pulling out their contents. The drawers are right next to the doorframe, so a pulled-out drawer blocks the door from opening more than a half inch. Only the slimmest of fingers can work the drawer closed through the narrow crack. Can you tell I’ve done this before? But this magical time, Luca had pulled my hair dryer halfway out of the middle drawer and wedged it upright, so the drawer wouldn’t close, and the door couldn’t open. For thirty solid minutes, I tried to move the hair dryer with chopsticks and wire hangers, meanwhile begging Luca with varying degrees of amusement, anger, and fear to pick up the hair dryer. I was deciding between breaking down the door myself or calling the fire department when I hooked the cord with the hanger and lifted the hair dryer out of the drawer. Paolo and I nearly cried with relief when the door opened, and Luca barely looked up from shredding toilet paper.

Single-parenting, the moment a crisis hits, sucks donkey.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Northwest Arkansas Crime Report, January 4 - 12, 2009

Jan 4 - 8:47 a.m. A woman at 914 S.E. H St. reported she left a loaded gun in the oven accidentally and later noticed the oven had been turned on.
When she says hands off the apple crisp, she means it.

Jan. 5 - 11:46 a.m. A caller at 906 S. Maestri Road, Springdale, reported a man housesitting had a party and when the couple returned they discovered wedding rings and medications missing.
Why weren’t they wearing their wedding rings? Were they on some kind of swinger cruise?

7:09 p.m. A man on West Persimmon Street reported his stolen vehicle was returned and now the suspect was on his way to kill him.
He should have let him keep the car.

Jan 6 - 9:56 a.m. A woman at North Mission Boulevard and East Gunter Street reported a man standing in the middle of the road, staring at a backpack.
Wait, wait, he's going to levitate it with his mind. Yes, the way of the Jedi seems strange to some.

10:33 a.m. A woman at a preschool at 1125 W. Cleveland St. reported a parent called and threatened to burn the eyeballs out of a former teacher.
The high turnover rate of preschool teachers is truly a mystery.

Jan. 7 - 9:20 p.m. A man on Ford Road, Garfield, reported his 13-year-old nephew threatened to kill him and came at him with a knife because he was disciplined for not taking his antibiotics.
Oh, he needs medication a mite stronger than antibiotics.

Jan. 8 - 9:38 a.m. A woman on Southeast L Street reported the vehicle she lives in broken into repeatedly.
You know your life sucks when your home security system is, “Viper armed!”

9:46 a.m. A man at 1601 S.W. Stagecoach Road reported a muffler stolen off a vehicle.
Dude, no one stole your muffler. A coat hanger will hold for just so long.

Jan 10 - 3:09 a.m. A woman at Decision Point, 602 N. Walton Blvd., reported a naked 33-year-old man refused to leave after being discharged.
He was being discharged after successfully completing the "Making Good Decisions" program.

Jan. 12 - 12:47 p.m. A man on North Big Springs Road, Gravette, reported arguing with his wife who put a pitchfork in his face twice and hit him in the face with her fist.
Because the pitchfork wasn’t doing enough damage?

One for the Manor and One for the Church

Paolo is making great strides with reading. I don’t know who is more excited by his progress, him or me. He brought home his mid-year report card, and I am really pleased with it. The only suggested area of improvement is counting. He counts to 59, but then starts over at 40. Let’s see, he is five, he is in kindergarten, and HE COUNTS TO 59!! That sounds alright to me. He also got to bring home his journal, which provides real insight to the things and events that are important to him. Most of the journal is superheroes and villains, and Paolo jumping on furniture, but there are pages devoted to visiting grandparents and picking up the baby at the hospital. In hindsight, I’m starting to think it was a cop-out not explaining to Paolo that I was carrying the baby. He thinks we hopped in the car and went to get a baby like it was a gallon of milk we needed for breakfast.

Paolo got a new journal at school for the second half of the year, and we like to ask him what he is putting in it. Sometimes we suggest things, like how he’ll probably want to mention that Mama took him to see the Wizard of Oz musical. (What he actually wrote was that he saw his classmate at the theatre. Mama is chopped liver, apparently). Last night during dinner, Sam asked what he had written in his journal that morning, and Paolo said he’d written that he loves his mama. It felt like the world stopped and my heart exploded, but not in a gross way, like an explosion of happy confetti. Does that make any sense? All I know is I want to bottle that memory of my son’s sweet voice saying he loves me and carry it around for the rest of my life.

Luca, on the other hand, still isn't talking. I’m taking it personally. He is not a complete dolt, however. He has mastered the stairs, as well as the slide he got for Christmas. He is still drooling like a Great Dane, and it bugs me because there is no reason for it. He has all of his teeth except for his two-year molars, and none of his peers at daycare soak six bibs a day. I googled excessive drooling and, sure enough, found all sorts of things to worry about, like retropharyngeal abscesses, peritonsillar abscesses, tonsillitis, oral-motor disorder, and autism. But then everything points to autism. These days, everybody’s kid is autistic somewhere on “the spectrum.”

I’m so over autism. Parents worry themselves sick over SIDS, and just when a child outgrows that danger, we have to start worrying about autism. And the beauty of that peach of a disorder is that we still don’t know what causes it; we only know the numbers are skyrocketing. Thanks to the alarming rise in autism, the disorder has become mainstream, with new methods of diagnosis and treatment, and more and better resources for autistic children and their families. I am not comforted by the knowledge that my kid will have lots of company if he’s hit with the dummy stick. I want my kids to be perfect, or at least free of major defects. It takes a special person to care for a special needs child. I am not special. So I really wish my 16-month-old would start talking and quit drooling. I thought the term “drooling” was gross until I ran across “salivary incontinence.” Gack.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book Review: Ghost by Alan Lightman

After losing his job at a bank, David Kurzweil takes an unlikely position at a funeral home. One night in a viewing room, for just an instant, he sees something he describes as a vapor hovering near the casket. David cannot reject what he has seen but cannot reconcile it with the physical world. The story of his sighting leaks to the press, and he finds himself in the middle of a controversy between scientists and believers in the supernatural. David struggles to understand his experience amidst those who believe him without question and those who question him without believing.

Ghost is a novel of ideas, and readers expecting a supernatural thriller will be disappointed. The novel begins with David speaking in first-person and suitably shaken. He has seen something that defies reason, and nothing can ever be the same. The first-person narration falls away quickly, and I felt cheated by the switch to third-person. It changed the story from an experience to an observation, distancing the protagonist from the reader.

Lightman has said that character depiction is the toughest part of writing for him, and that weakness is the chief problem with this novel. The quirky accessory characters in Ghost were sketched out with great potential, but Lightman failed to color them in. The members of the Society for the Second World, the three women in David’s life (mother, girlfriend, and ex-wife), the men of David’s rooming house, and the mortuary workers all seem as vaporous as the novel’s eponymous ghost.

Lightman waits until the novel’s near-end to describe what David saw, and even then the description is vague and unsatisfactory. However, it is not the author’s intent to tell a ghost story; thus, the particular manifestation of the supernatural being is irrelevant. What I enjoyed most about Ghost was the idea that a tiny moment can change your entire outlook, can make you find or lose faith. When you experience something that you thought could never happen, it makes you question everything you know. If A is no longer true, what about B? What about C? The point of the novel is not what David saw, but how he, as a contemplative, intelligent man, evaluates the inexplicable.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday OverThink #4, courtesy of the International Consumer Electronics Show

For today's OverThink, I have chosen two tech-geek products from the International Consumer Electronics Show that opened today in Las Vegas. As you will see, the combination of genius, testosterone, and complete lack of girls and sunlight begets true innovation.

Mind Flex
Mattel Inc. introduced Mind Flex, a toy that comes with a brain-scanning headset. When the dork in the headset concentrates, a fan spins to levitate a ball. Players can waste hours of their lives trying to guide the ball through the hoop obstacle course. A break in concentration will cause the ball to descend. (Be warned: Frequent game play may slow or even halt descent of the player’s balls.) Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Jedi Mind Trick. Boys, boys, boys, it’s just a movie. There is no such thing as The Force. What? Yes, I’ll wait while you go get your $500 replica Sith Lord lightsaber out of its display case. Nice cape.

GeForce 3D Vision
Nvidia Corp. also set nerd hearts aflutter with video game glasses that turn compatible monitors into three-dimensional displays. All the better to play gory killing games with. When future school/mall shooters dismember demon werewolves, they want organs flying out of the screen at them. Hey, man, I’m not making fun, so you can keep me off your People to Kill list. Those glasses look awesome with your trenchcoat. I would like to ask Nvidia one question that is surely on the mind of every avid gamer: Can you wear these over your existing glasses?

Mattel MindFlex - $80.00
Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision - $200.00
Overthinking guaranteed celibacy - Priceless

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Greatest Hits of 2008

One of the great things about writing a blog is that you can check the archive to figure out what you’ve done with the past year. From my greatest hits list below, it looks like I spent the bulk of my time attending youth sports, sitting in doctors’ offices, and embarrassing myself in the workplace. Thank god the ball has dropped.* Welcome 2009!

January - The brothers that wheeze together
Currently, smallpox is in apartment 2B, scarlet fever is in 7D, and consumption is about to get evicted for playing its music too loud.

February - I get the feeling we’ve been here before.
Keeping Paolo from the grave during his first winter yielded a considerable store of experience, which appears to be paying off.

March - Six-month checkup
AND THEN, just to lay down the buttercream frosting on the Screw-Your-Parental-Confidence Cake, the doctor pointed out that Gianluca's teeth are coming in wrong.

April - T-Ball or Die
One vice president would be inadequate to administer the complexities of five-year-old T-ball. Case in point, poor Paolo who was on two teams and is now on none. We need PEOPLE on this, for crying out loud.

May - Five’s been a little bit hard on me.
Paolo lectured me slowly, enunciating each word of the bungled lyrics like he was explaining 'sit' to a mildly retarded puppy.

June - Nobody told me there’d be a trophy.
At first I thought he was having a heart attack, but it turned out he was weeping…from the emotion…of T-ball.

July - The longest three minutes of my life
It’s incredibly rude to stare at someone, ESPECIALLY if you’re trying to sort out whether they have a prosthetic body part, but damn it, YOU try to look away from a glass eye. It can’t be done.

August - House of louse
Still, it was an uncomfortable paradox to declare that my boys are too good for the place while removing them before they gave other kids bugs.

September - I also jumped up and motioned for a handball foul. There are no referees.
In what world do the Mexican kid and the semi-Italian kid suck the most at soccer? It’s my own personal hell.

October - The longest three minutes of her life
I do have some people skills, and I can work a room without seeing glass eyes in every new face.

November - Rejoicing from a red state
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.

December - Post postscript
I’m the parent that walks him all the way to the classroom. You just drop him off at the front door like a stray dog.

*Am I the only person who had nightmares after seeing the Crypt Keeper, I mean Dick Clark, rockin’ in the new year? Clearly, the man died in 1998, and watching his corpse twitch every December 31 since is not my idea of celebration.