Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Garfield Minus Garfield

A friend turned us on to Garfield Minus Garfield. Have you seen this? It's the Garfield comic strip - without Garfield. Totally hilarious and brilliant.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I was getting something out of a low cupboard, which required me to crouch on the floor. Piper came up behind me.

“Mom-mai?” She asked in her little baby voice.
“What, Baby?”
She patted me gently on the back. “Awesome.”
“Thanks, kiddo,” I said. “You’re pretty awesome too.”

I'm about to tell them they can't visit anymore.

My parents visited last weekend and brought another carload of CRAP. They did not bring my bicycle, but they did bring:

- 5 pairs of my old baby shoes, none of which Piper can wear (3 too small, 1 too trashed, 1 with soles so thick and hard I don't know how I ever learned to walk). My mom knew the too-small ones were too small when she put them in there. She brought them anyway.

- An assortment of clothes, baby clothes, books, and toys that I had put in the give-away bag before we left Michigan. I put them in the garbage bags along with the rest of the stuff my mom had designated for her monthly Purple Heart pick-up. The give-away stuff is always collected in the same spot at her house. She would've had to root through all the other stuff just to pick out the sackfuls of useless-to-me things she brought.

- A pile of fairly hideous 80's baby clothes that belonged to my siblings & me. All of which are either years too big or many months too small for Piper to wear.

- A crate of Fisher-Price Little People toys that, while pretty cool (and only partly because they are the old choke-sized ones), Piper can't play with for at least another year. She is too hard on things right now to turn her loose with so many small, fragile parts.

- A stack of baby/kid books, 98% of which I can't give to Piper because they are either too old and completely falling apart, or they are not the thick cardboard-paged kind, which means she will shred them. She's extremely hard on books.

- A crate of my siblings' and my old baby/preschool toys, in various states of crumbling decay. One shape-sorter dissolved into tiny plastic shards when we tried to wash it.

- My old Fisher-Price "School Days Desk," which was a beloved toy of mine, but is made to be used by someone 7 or more years old.

- YET ANOTHER crate of Piper's outgrown baby clothes. I'm pretty sure this is the last one, because it has a lot of things I couldn't find (like the tiny onesies we decorated for her when she was a newborn). If there are any more crates of clothes lurking about, I will probably set fire to them because I am so sick of trying to find storage space for it all and ye gods people bought us a lot of foofy pink atrocities.

- A HUGE crate of Lego Duplos, which I specifically told my mom Piper is not quite old enough to play with. She doesn't have the dexterity yet to put the things together and get them apart; all that will happen is she'll stick two pieces together and then scream because she can't undo it. I don't need any more reasons for her to screech, thank you.

- A random assortment of kid-sized silverware (there's like one fork, 5 spoons, and a butterknife). Plastic bowls bearing cartoon approximations of the characters from Willow. Willow was our favorite movie when we were kids, and my mom dutifully saved UPCs from boxes of Quaker oatmeal to get a bowl and matching spoon for each of us. She could only find one of the spoons, and I don't know what the hell I am going to do with these, but I don't think I can bear to throw them out.

I honestly don't know what the F my mother expects me to do with all this stuff. When I try to tell her to stop bringing it, she only whines "It's your stuff. You wanted it. You asked for it. I didn't do it. You wanted it."

It's all still sitting in mountainous piles in the living room. Piper has managed to scatter a lot of it throughout the house. The house is usually ankle-deep in debris by the end of the day anyway, because she just goes from room to room destroying things and making messes faster than I can clean them up. The debris is knee-deep now, and I am teetering on the brink of a full-scale meltdown because my house is so messy. I have been struck down with a malady that required an actual doctor's visit and medications, and Ryan has had an hellacious school week plus a part-time job, so we haven't had much chance to go through it, much less drop off the stuff we don't want at the Goodwill up the road. Therefore, the piles and clutter and junk have been spreading all week and I have been edging closer to insanity.

The house was spotlessly clean and 85% totally organized before my parents showed up; only three closets (one each in the spare bedrooms, one in the hall) remained for me to divide, conquer, and organize. Earlier this month, my house was so clean and organized that not only did I go to bed at a reasonable hour three nights in a row, I spent one entire naptime reading a book because I had done all the things that I usually try to frantically accomplish during that 1.5-hour window every day. My home was organized and my brain felt wonderful because of it.

Now it looks like somebody is setting up a thrift store in here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Desperate Measures

My parents are coming tonight and my house is a DISASTER. You can't even walk into the spare bedroom where they're supposed to sleep. Every flat surface in the house is somehow covered in clutter again, despite the fact that I had them all cleared two days ago. Piper got shots on Wed. and has been extra clingy and hard to please ever since. I let her watch the tail-end of Word World on PBS Kids just so I can drink a cup of coffee and asses the mess without her wrapping herself around my legs and screaming.

I always swore I'd never let my kid watch TV until she was older; 2 at least. No way, nohow. I hated the idea of TV for little kids, just training legions of mini-zombies to be the couch-potato consumers of tomorrow. My kid wasn't going to turn out like that. Never mind my own tv-viewing, I would save my child! I thought I would, I don't know, jump in front of the screen or something if she tried to look.

But this is not the first time I have caved. I have been known to pop in my well-worn VHS copy of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine just to get twenty minutes of work-time. She is transfixed by it and will actually sit there quietly and watch, instead of screaming at me and tearing apart whatever I am working on. My kid, who won't even sit still long enough to have her diaper changed, sat in one place for twenty whole minutes.

I didn't intend to let her watch it today. I turned on the TV to find a local news program because of a text message Ryan sent me. It was already on PBS, Word World was on and some computer-generated frog was jumping around. Piper looked up from unloading a file box of our important financial papers and giggled. Then she took a toy and went into the living room and stood in front of the TV. When I went into the kitchen, she didn't follow me and demand "Up! Up!" I got to drink a whole glass of water with no baby-hands grabbing it. The possibility of actually getting something done at some point during the day danced tantalizingly in front of me.

But my glee was short-lived. The show ended and she went back to chasing the cats around and trying to poke them with a plastic fork. Guess I don't need to worry about creating a TV addict so much as an animal abuser.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Unexpected Consequences

You get a lot of advice before you get your first kid.

Some of it is well-intentioned but stupid: “Sleep now while you still can.” As though you can hoard and bank sleep for months beforehand, as though restful, quality sleep is akin to pennies in a piggybank.

Some of it is just stupid: “Crib bumpers! You have to have crib bumpers! The baby will hit its head and get brain damage if you don’t have them!” Yeah, because so many generations of babies who did not have crib bumpers were desperately brain-damaged. Never mind the strangling and suffocation deaths every year from these things, it’s the ridiculous threat of brain-damage that should be driving our bedding purchases.

Some – very few – of the thousands of “helpful” comments people make when you say you’re about to become first-time parents are true. Of course, you don’t realize this until much later, after you are up to your neck in poop, plastic toys, and temper tantrums. One of “the things people say” has turned out to be true for us, in a way that we had not quite anticipated.

That gem of wisdom? “Becoming a parent changes everything.” That’s an approximation, of course, an amalgamation of all the variations on that thought that were so earnestly dished out by well-meaning folk (most of them parents themselves). It is, however you say it, true.

Before you have an actual child in your house, waking you up at night and demanding more of your energy and time than you ever thought possible, you are apt to laugh at these people. “Oh, come on,” you think. “It won’t change everything. Some things, sure. I’ll get less sleep. I’ll have less money. My clothes will be a bit more stained, and I’ll be intimately familiar with another person’s bodily inputs and outputs. I won’t spend my Saturday nights sucking down Cuba Libres and smoking American Spirits on the back patio of the hippie bar.”

You tell yourself that you will be exactly the same person you are now, just with a child in tow. Preferably a clean-faced little cherub who behaves well and whom you can afford to dress in tiny, cute, stylish clothing. It will be hard, of course, but you will always be certain that the work is worth it, buoyed by the strength of your love. You and your partner will watch this little person grow and help it become a wonderful human being, a majestic model of kindness, brimful of forward-thinking views, and probably the finder of the cure for cancer.

Of course, when the sleep deprivation or the crayon-drawings all over your walls or the anguish over “New Math” or the teenage door-slamming comes, as it inevitably must, it’s easy to poke fun at the person you were pre-kid, to say “Psh. Poor, clueless bastard. You thought you had it all figured out, didn’t you? Yeah, cure cancer, bring world peace, haw-haw.”

But there are also moments of total wonderment at the person you have become. You marvel at your distance from that chick who would walk down any alley in the dark and routinely got into cars with strangers, or how different you are from the college boy who spent his free Saturdays at “band practice” in someone’s smoke-filled basement. Sometimes it just smacks you in the face, this feeling of that is not who I am anymore.

This whole diatribe is rooted in an afternoon-tv showing of Trainspotting. I was idly flipping channels one day when Piper was six or eight months old, and Trainspotting was on. I can remember going to see that movie for the first time, I can remember how we obsessively watched it in college and memorized the dialogue. I have watched that movie at least twenty times in my life, and loved it every time.

Every time except this one. It got to the part where the baby is sitting on that disgusting floor, surrounded by passed-out junkies. She is filthy, it looks like she hasn’t had her diaper changed in days, she’s crying and crying and crying. Just sitting in the middle of the dirty floor, with nobody paying attention to her.

I felt like somebody had punched me in the gut. I felt sick; I almost sobbed out loud. I had to change the channel, I could not watch any further. I was perplexed. I turned the channel back, and again there was that horrible, sick feeling. I could not look at the screen, at that crying baby, for more than three seconds. I had to turn it off again. I thought about what happens to that baby later in the movie, and I swear to God I almost threw up, right there in the living room. I felt a physical urge to reach into the screen and pick up that poor, doomed junkie baby. Instead, I picked Piper up from where she was scooting around the floor drooling on stuffed animals and I hugged her so hard she squealed in protest. I put her back down, feeling at once shaky and edgy and agitated, like I’d ingested large amounts of caffeine on an empty stomach.

I also felt confused. I loved this movie, right? What the hell was wrong with me? I had always mocked people who talked about experiences like this, who sobbed for the children left motherless and the mothers left childless by some far-flung natural disaster or talked how about their mommyhood had ignited an urge to mother all children. I snickered, I rolled my eyes, I snerked at these mommy-zombies. Puh-leeeze, I thought. Spare me. Now it appeared that the sappy, overly-sentimental mommy-shoe was on the other foot. My foot.

I told my story to Ryan, and instead of laughing at me or calling me a mom-bot, he said “Oh my God, you are right. I just remembered what happens to the baby. I don’t think I can watch that movie ever again.” And then we both looked at each other: What the hell was going on here?

It happened again when I was discussing my bicycle. I have a very nice bicycle, which is my favorite color (blue), very cool and retro-looking, and still in Michigan. We don’t have a shed or garage to keep our bikes in, so they’re languishing in my parents’ rusty garden shed until we figure something out. I am so desperate for a mode of transportation that I have asked my parents to bring my bike when they visit later this month (preferably instead of, not in addition to, another carload of useless crap). I plan to put a baby-seat on it and ride as far as I can on our not-at-all-bicycle-friendly roads.

I was thinking about this, about how nice it will be not to be trapped in the house all the time (we have one car, which goes with Ryan every day on his 25-minutes-each-way commute) and how I’d have to get Piper a little bike helmet. And then I realized that I’d have to get one, too.

I used to look down my nose at people who wore bike helmets for casual riding; if you were a crazy mountain-biking mofo like my cousin, who frequently comes back from rides with body parts bloodied, broken, and otherwise damaged – well, I could see where a helmet would be an advantage. If you were a long-distance biker, sharing the road with a lot of cars on a regular basis – yeah, okay, I get it. But the slow cruises around the neighborhood, or the trips to the nearby grocery store? Only obsessive freaks wore helmets for that stuff. You know, losers.

Might as well paint a big fat L on my forehead, then, because caution is about to become my middle name. I laughed out loud at myself, and explained the situation to Ryan this way:

“I would never take Piper on the bike without her wearing a helmet, not even around the block. But what about me? What if we’re riding to the new elementary school up the street to use their playground and one of the many local asshole drivers runs us off the road? There’s not even so much as a shoulder for us to ride on, let alone a bike lane. It wouldn’t take much to send us into a ditch. She might be just fine in her tiny little helmet, but what the hell good does that do if I’m laying there with my head split like an overripe melon? What would happen to her?”

His eyes got big. His mouth made a little round O. “I hadn’t thought of that. Oh my God, you’re right. Holy shit.”


Holy shit, indeed.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


I just made vanilla-cinnamon biscotti from scratch, and while they were baking I made Chocolate-Bourbon-Pecan pie, which is in the oven right now.

I'm pretty sure this is what heaven smells like.

I'm also pretty sure that next time I make biscotti, I should have another adult around. Someone more observant and verbal than a 15-month old. Someone who can, say, point out that I have eaten nearly 1/4 of the raw biscotti dough and I am going to make myself ill if I don't stop shoveling chunks of it into my mouth.

Someone who can also remind me that fresh-from-the-oven biscotti may smell like heaven, but they are very hot and trying to eat them will result in a blistered tongue.

Someone logical enough to point out that if I didn't make myself ill snarfing up raw biscotti dough and gratuitous amounts of freshly-baked biscotti, topping the combo with a large handful of pecans and the dregs of my morning coffee would be a good way to guarantee that I feel sick by the time the pie is halfway done.

If you'll excuse me, I need to go make myself some peppermint tea...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Old Friends Long Forgotten

The other day I was moaning about how I have nothing to listen to all day besides NPR, which was making me kinda crazy, and then I remembered Pandora. I used to use it a lot, especially when I sat at a desk all day clicking my way to boredom. Looking at the stations I had saved there was kind of a time-warp; I hardly listen to any of those things anymore. So I made up some new stations and have been happily listening for days. Ryan even dug out the proper cable for me to hook my laptop up to the big cd/dvd player in the living room so I don't have to max out my laptop's speakers trying to hear it more than three feet away.