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.