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.