Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I'm in love with a stripper

Okay, so I'm not normally the kind of person who proseletyzes about products, particularly cleaning products, and if you've ever lived with me (Eric) or visited my home, you know why.

I'm not a particularly clean person. Not that I'm disgusting or anything, I do the necessary minimum, but I've never been one to, you know, put the mini-blinds in the bath tub with some Clorox to get them their sparkling white-y whitest. (It took me a while to come up with an example of what a seriously clean person might do, so if that is a ridiculously lame and/or improbable example, well, there you go. I don't know what I'm talking about in this arena.)*

I'm also a terrible procrastinator, but that's an issue for another post.

Put these two tendencies together and you understand why I'm panicking at the thought of selling our house. We've signed with a real estate agent and she came over to our house two weeks ago to walk around with me and kind of point out the things we needed to clean up/organize/pack before the first open house. She originally wanted to have the first open house on the 28th (this past Sunday!) but as we walked around, she said, "Oh, you're not going to be ready by the 28th. Let's push it back to February 11th."

And thank god we did, because there is no way we would have been ready by then. KB has been doing his best to help out, picking up here and there when he comes home at night, but it's mostly up to me, and I am not good at this! All the little half-done projects that I've been meaning to get to (spackle that hole in the wall, put all those recipes back in the binder, go through my clothes to decide what to donate to Goodwill, vacuum the cat hair off of the roman shade above their perch) are now looming with the urgency that only comes when total strangers will be invading your house to decide if they like it or not. ACK!

So I've been stocking up on cleaning supplies and those Rubbermaid storage bins like mad, but the coolest thing I've found has got to be:

The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

This thing is truly astonishing.

Exhibit A: My 50+ year old some-kind-of-plastic-surface kitchen counter after being wiped down with a regular kitchen sponge and Simple Green, our cleaner of choice. Looks okay, right? Not blindingly clean, there's that stubborn cup ring that never comes out, but good enough for government work.

Exhibit B: Same counter. Can you tell where I've wiped with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser?

Exhibit C: Now can you tell?

Exhibit D: Now I've cleaned the whole thing.

I said God DAMN!

I'm going to go back to the store and buy out their supply of these things. (The only drawback that I've found so far is that the pad tends to disintegrate pretty quickly, but it was only $2.50 for two of the things, so what the hey.)

Maybe, just maybe, with the help of my bald, earringed savior, we'll be ready for the open house in (less than) two weeks. ACK!

Thanks for reading.

*Ooh! I just thought of a better one! I'm not the kind of person who takes the burner cover thingees off of the stovetop and cleans around and under them to get all the gook that builds up in the crevices around them. That's what I should have said. I never do that!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

And you know that you're the only one to say O.K.

So Nolan and I joined Gymboree.* There's one right nearby, in a shopping center next to a grocery store that I never go to (right by the Great and Evil Wally World).

I went to a first birthday party there for a mom-friend's kid in November. It was pretty awesome, as far as these things go. It's basically a big padded room (I knew I would end up in one of those eventually) with lots of modular climbing equipment - ramps, ladders, slides, tunnels, cushions - and lots of things to throw around in said environment - balls, scarves, hoops, inner tubes, bubbles, etc. It's toddler paradise.**

Now, when I went to this birthday party, I was like, "Hey, this place is pretty cool." but I wasn't actually considering joining a class. It's $200 for twelve weeks, for pete's sake. But recently, I've made a scientific observation of sorts concerning Nolan's behavior:

If Morning Nolan is given a chance to run around like a madman and burn off a lot of energy, Afternoon Nolan (a.k.a. Post-Nap Nolan) is a much happier, much mellower kid. He wants to read books and drink milk. If there is no morning Energy Dump, Afternoon Nolan morphs into Captain Crankypants, and the rest of the day is shot to hell - he wakes up crying from his nap and things go downhill from there.

So, given this (admittedly lacking in rigorous statistical support) observation, and given that the weather lately, unlike earlier in the winter, has been FRICKIN' COLD, limiting the possibilities for outdoor, playground-based Energy Dumps, we joined a Gymboree Class. The class itself is only once a week on Tuesday mornings, but the Extra Added Bonus is that they have open Play Gym every weekday afternoon for a couple hours, which means when Captain Crankypants makes his appearance, I can whisk him off to Gymbo the Clown's*** house and let him work his anger out in a healthy, mom-approved way. Two hundred bucks divided by twelve weeks divided by five weekdays per week is roughly $3.50 a day, and there have been some afternoons when I would have paid $3.50 a minute to have someone take him off my hands, so I think we're getting a bargain.

And now, the story at the heart of this rambling post.

We went to the aforementioned Open Play Gym last Friday. Not this past Friday, when KB had to stay home from work because I was permanently ensconced in the bathroom with effluvia coming from both ends, no. The Friday before the Great Plague of Ought Seven, this was. (Can you tell I'm writing this post at twelve-thirty in the morning? You can, can't you?)

When we got to the playroom, there were already a couple other toddlers and their moms/guardians hanging out, running around and hooting. Nolan and I took off our shoes (rules of the house) and joined in.

We quickly became acquainted with a young boy named Khrystian, mostly because he ran up to us the moment we came in the door and said, "Hi! What's your name?" before scampering off again. I know "Khrystian", and not "Christian," is his actual name, because he was wearing a name tag on his back (another rule of the house) and because his mom must have said his name about thirteen thousand times in the hour and a half we spent there.

Now, what I learned later but did not know at the time was that just prior to our arrival, Khrystian (Gah! How it galls me to even have to type that bastardized name!)'s mother had given her son and another toddler named Ethan some peanut M&M's. This in and of itself would not have been a problem (aside from the potential for a sugar-induced mania) if Khrystian's mother had bothered to ask Ethan's aunt (his guardian at the time) if it was okay. This she failed to do. And, as fate would have it, Ethan has a peanut allergy. Oh yes.

So shortly after our arrival, Ethan started to cough. And gag. And generally seem to be feeling not so hot. When the information that her nephew with the peanut allergy has eaten peanuts comes to light, Ethan's aunt is...strangely unconcerned. She seems more put out with Ethan for having the allergy than with Khrystian's mother for giving him the peanuts. She allows Ethan to continue playing. (!)

A few minutes pass. I quickly discover that Khrystian is a pain in the ass. Or, to be more accurate, Khrystian is a high-energy, seemingly intelligent kid who needs some close attention and firm discipline to really guide him, and Khrystian's mother is a lazy slag who would rather stand by the door and drink her Diet Coke than play with her son (or keep him from walking all over the other kids). He keeps taunting Nolan with his smuggled-in contraband toy car (am I the only one who reads the rules?) and intruding on every activity I try to engage Nolan in FAR AWAY FROM HIM so Nolan will stop crying for the friggin' car. I am losing my patience with this kid and his do-nothing mom. (She occasionally yells at him from the other side of the room things like, "Khrystian! Give that car to me right now or we're going home!" but she never actually follows through on these promises. This kid is going to be one hellacious teenager, I'm guessing.)

Suddenly, a cry of dismay goes up from the other side of the room - Ethan Of The Peanut Allergy has vomited. All over one of the slides. Yuck. Of course, all the toddlers have to check it out, and Ethan's aunt comes running over and proceeds to scold the kid for vomiting on the slide. Nice.

The Gymboree supervisor, an RN, comes over with the industrial size package of Clorox Wipes to clean up the mess. She hears that Ethan Of The Peanut Allergy has ingested peanuts and becomes alarmed. She asks the aunt if she has an Epi-Pen. Sure, says the aunt. It's at home. Great. The RN insists that Ethan's aunt take him to the doctor right away. The aunt says she will call the pediatrician as soon as they get home. The RN looks at her like, 'Are you friggin' nuts, lady?' but very politely says, "I am going to call an ambulance. I suggest you wait in the lobby with Ethan until they get here." And she walks out. I cheer her in my head.

Poor Ethan tries to get up and continue playing, and his aunt actually YELLS AT HIM for wanting to play! She grabs his arm, shakes him, and says, "You cannot play! You're sick!" and hustles him out to the lobby.

Another mom in the room and I make eye contact above our toddlers' heads with that little widening of the eyes that means, "What the fuck?"

The ambulance comes. Six, count them, six strapping EMTs (all hubba hubba men) come in to check Ethan out. He's breathing okay and seems pretty calm, but his face is bright red and he's coughing a lot. They take him into the ambulance with the aunt, whose main concern seems to be what a crimp this is putting in her day.

Nolan and I continue playing and trying to avoid Khrystian the Annoying until Play Gym ends (with no further incident) at 5pm.

I later learn from a mom-friend who works at Gymboree that Ethan was given an Epi-pen during the ride to the hospital and another one upon arrival, and that he's doing fine now. The aunt has been schooled in the necessity of always carrying an Epi-Pen with her while looking after Ethan, although she seems to believe that it means she can allow Ethan to eat peanuts if he wants to as long as she has the Epi-Pen.

And I thought I was a bad mother. Bah! I'm Mother of the Decade compared to Ethan's aunt and Khrystian's mom.

Thanks for reading.

*Actually, Nolan was not consulted. I joined the friggin' class and he goes where I go. I said "Nolan and I" because it sounds more diplomatic, as if I gave him a choice. Ha!

**Have you ever heard George Carlin's bit about how toddlers are basically like monkeys on acid? It is so painfully true. They careen about frantically, flapping their arms, pooping their pants, and screaming, and then their gaze is suddenly halted by some tiny random object that they focus on until they trip out and start running around again.

***No shit. This is really Gymboree's mascot. Every time the Majoring-in-Early-Childhood-Development-college-sophomore (I'm totally guessing here) who teaches the class mentions "Gymbo the Clown" I get visions of Courtney Love working the pole at Jumbo's Clown Room and I shudder. Not the best frame of mind for interacting with your toddler.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Once upon a looking for Donna time

So Nolan had his first haircut this weekend. I was sort of putting it off and putting it off because I kind of felt that I was not conforming to the mainstream by not cutting my little boy's hair. Like, "Screw you, gender stereotypes! I'm gonna let his hair be as long as I want!"

Although possibly it was just laziness and not wanting to deal with him screaming and fighting in a hair salon, too.

But the upshot is, I was looking at some Christmas pictures of him recently, and he looked like a raggedy white-trash scruffian whose momma didn't care enough to do what needed to be done with his hair. Plus he was waking up in the morning with mini-dreads in the back from going to bed with wet hair, and those were a pain in the ass to comb out, de-tangling spray or no.

So I asked some of my mom-friends, and they all said either take him to the barber shop your husband goes to (not an option for us, as KB is one of these guys who just break out the Wahl in the bathroom every few weeks) or go to a specialty kids' haircutting salon.

And thus, at 10 o'clock on Sunday morning, we found ourselves with a number of other hapless parents at the Snip-its Salon in Hingham, Massachusetts, trying to get the kid's hair cut in time to go home and watch the football games.

They were pretty good there - they have plenty of toys and things for the kids to play with (Nolan found a Thomas the Tank Engine quite enthralling)and there are lots of LSD-trip colors and video screens to bring on the grand mal seizures. We told them it was Nolan's very first haircut, so they saved a lock of hair for us and gave him a little certificate. He actually did surprisingly well - he stayed in the chair and didn't fuss too much for most of it. It was only at the very end when she tried to blow-dry some of the hair off of him that he freaked out - he did NOT like that at all. But then a sour apple Dum-Dum pop was procured, and all was well again.

My little baby's not a baby anymore! He's a boy! A boy with a haircut!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Woke up this morning with the cold water

My dad's dog Jester died on Tuesday.

His "real" name (from the breeder) was Runlow's Majestic Jester. He was a big, friendly, goofy Chocolate Lab. He was fifteen years old, which is pretty damn old for a Lab, but it was sad news just the same. He had gotten quite debilitated in recent months, had a big lipoma on his ear and was slow getting up and lying down, but my dad said he still seemed to be enjoying life - he liked to eat, he liked whizzing in the grass, he still got excited about treats.

Then he developed a really bad sore on his side that started leaking serosanguinal fluid, so Dad and Ann took him to the vet. The vet was all, "Well, we can perform this surgery and then put him on a course of antiobiotics..." and they just said no. He was too old and had been through too much. So they had him put to sleep.

My dad called to tell me Tuesday night, and I could tell he was trying to keep it together and not cry, but he was obviously having a hard time and was trying to cut the conversation short. I wanted to tell him that it would be okay if he cried, that it wasn't the end of the world if he cried about his dog dying - he'd been my dad's companion for fifteen years and was a member of the family, so it's only natural.

But I didn't say that. I guess Dad was raised in that long-ago time when it was decreed that men must not cry, and he didn't want to show any weakness. So I said the usual things you say when a beloved pet dies - that he had a good life, that he was a good pet, you took great care of him, he loved you, all that stuff. Which was all true.

I'm glad we got to see him one more time - we visited at the end of September last year. Nolan was very fond of sucking his thumb while stroking Jester's soft silky ears.

They're going to have him cremated and bury his ashes under a tree out in the yard.

He was a good old dog.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I'm going to the river, get me a tangled rocking chair

I was reminded last night (not for the first time, let us say) of the uselessness of my brain's tendency to retain random pointless bits of information.

It was late afternoon. KB had made a pot of tea* and I was trying to open a new carton of milk. Here in the Thptpth household we have two kinds of milk: Nolan's milk, which is whole milk, and KB's and my milk, which is 1%. Nolan goes through about a gallon a week, while KB and I put together only use our milk for coffee, the aforementioned tea and the occasional bowl of cereal, so I usually only buy the cardboard half-gallon carton of 1%.

So I was trying to open the new carton and couldn't quite get it. I had successfully peeled back the two sides of the spout and was trying to push them together to get the point of the spout to "pop" forward, but the sides were structurally unsound and just kept collapsing. Each successive attempt to push them in only created new fault lines in the cardboard, making it more and more impossible to achieve the desired goal.

After a few minutes of fumbling I began to contemplate switching to the other side of the carton and trying to open that one. I realized that for some reason the other side of the carton was being labeled in my mind the "illegal" side. And then a word popped into my head: "Lactomangulation." Which is not actually a word, but a sniglet. You remember them, yes? Rich Hall? Not Necessarily The News? "NNTN" was sort of like the proto-"Daily Show." Well, if you had HBO on all the time growing up in the 80s like I did, you would remember. And in my head, verbatim, I had the entire definition of "lactomangulation," which is: "Manhandling the "open here" spout on a milk carton so badly that one has to resort to using the "illegal" side."

Why? Why would my brain decide that this particular bit of information is not only pertinent, but important enough to hold onto for the twenty years since that show went off the air?

(Here are a bunch of them if you'd care to read.)

And there are more that I remember that aren't even on that list!:

Banectomy - the surgical operation you perform to remove a bad spot from a banana.

Gazoonting - using your face to fold back the center of the newspaper because your hands are both occupied trying to turn the page.

Potentater - the prized largest french fry in a carton of fast-food fries.

Minutater - the smallest french fry in an carton of fast-food fries.

Jujuspection - holding your candy up to the light coming from the movie screen in order to determine what color/flavor it is before eating it.

Succubeebish - the gooey gel-like substance surrounding the actual food in a can of cat or dog food.

Cellostatic - the mysterious force that makes saran wrap stick to itself so thoroughly that it is impossible to use.

I'm just sitting here trying to remember more of them and they keep popping up. I ask you. What valuable information is missing from my brain so that these infernal non-words can continue their residence in my grey matter? What possible use could they be?


Thanks for reading.

*Do not snigger. Have you ever had a REAL pot of tea? Made with actual tea leaves instead of tea bags? The difference is astonishing. I used to laugh along knowingly with that Paul Reiser bit about how tea always SOUNDS good ("Hmmm, caramel apple cinnamon tea!") but when you drink it, it still tastes horrible, until I had actual brewed tea from leaves. It's kind of like always having had Sanka and being told it was "coffee" and then drinking real, freshly-ground-Peet's-Major-Dickason's-Blend coffee. Get yourself a tea pot and try it out, whydontcha?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I try so hard not to get upset

Well, now I'm in trouble.

KB and I were driving in the car with Nolan. I was behind the wheel. There was this cab right up on my rear bumper - apparently the driver felt my speed was not sufficient and wanted to express his displeasure by crawling up my tailpipe. So when the road finally widened to two lanes, he of course zoomed around us at high speed. Naturally, I shouted, "Asshole!" as he zipped by.

Not two seconds later, we hear a little voice from the back seat pipe up with, "Aaaaahoe."

Shit. He's such a little mynah bird these days.

KB gave me a look like, "Evil wench! Why dost thou corrupt my progeny so?" (Although, to be fair, what he actually said was, "That's not cool, Booby.")

Which was nothing compared to how I felt inside. Yeesh. What kind of a lousy mother cusses in front of her kid? This kind, apparently.

So I've resolved to try even harder. My new replacement word for tense car situations is going to be "Dude!"

I even managed to use it last night coming home from yoga, even though Nolan wasn't in the car with me. My light turned green and I started to go through the intersection, but then two college boys in an SUV decided their light wasn't red enough for them and went through it. I slammed on the brakes and yelled, "Duuuuuuuuuude!"

Hopefully it will take.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sooner or later, your legs give way you hit the ground

So it's official. Starting July 1st, we're going to be Princetonians.

KB got offers from Princton and Montclair, and after about a week of hard thinking and talking and hashing out the pros and cons of both places, we decided on Princeton. We were very lucky, because both of these places had all of the big requirements for us: Good public schools for Nolan, close to family, reasonably close (with public transportation) to a large city with lots of cultural offerings like museums and concerts, and a diverse makeup of the population. After that we figured everything was gravy. So we got to choose based on things like whether we'd be able to walk to a downtown area on a Saturday morning to pick up coffee and a bagel. Awesome.

The Princeton group seems like a good fit for KB, too. They've got a great relationship with the hospital and the doctors who refer their cases - as KB likes to put it, you're not just a "doc in a box," locked in your dark room staring at a computer screen all day. Plus all the people that we met there seem like totally normal, real, no-bullshit people. They have lives outside the office and are involved in the community big time. We both just got a really good feeling about everyone there - unlike another practice (one that did not end up offering him a job, btw) where one radiologist spent the entire dinner talking about her collection of 6 classic Mustangs and how many limited edition Star Wars nutcrackers (I shit you not) she had in her "media room." No thank you.

It's a big relief, just knowing where we're going to be - I feel like I can finally start making plans. Of course, now the hard work begins, too. Selling this house. Finding and buying a house in Princeton. Packing. Aieeeee! Plus Kaybles is going to be working his ass off (not that he's got much junk in the trunk to start with) the next six months studying for the oral board exam in June in addition to all his regular responsibilities at work and his moonlighting gigs. So it's going to be a tough six months or so coming up here. But I figure as long as you know it's for a limited time, you can do anything.

And I'm glad the uncertainty (or this particular brand of uncertainty, anyway) is past.

How about you all? Have a Happy New Year? Having any trouble remembering to write "2007" on your checks?

Thanks for reading.