Saturday, November 12, 2011

All Your CVS Are Belong to Me

Yesterday I was just minding my own business at work, trying to accomplish as little as possible because it was a court holiday and I was irritated that I had to drag myself out of bed on a 27-degree morning, when the school called.

“This is Tonya, the school nurse.”

Those dreaded words. 

Tonya said Thomas had a fever of 103, which rocketed me out of my chair and had me lunging for my purse.  That kid doesn’t get fevers very often; certainly not 103-degree fevers. 

And then I paused, briefly, considering waiting for about twenty minutes before leaving work, because Thomas tends to get pukey when he gets high fevers and I wondered if mayyyyybe he could do me a solid and puke at the nurse’s office instead of in my car.

And then I called myself a bad mom and left.

So I picked him up and hauled him to the CVS Minute Clinic, because our regular doctor is like 45 minutes away and I’m not dealing with that.  The nurse at the Minute Clinic was awesome, and Thomas loved her – UNTIL she came at him with the long Q-tip to swab his throat for strep.

Then he FREAKED OUT.  Scared, crying, screaming.  NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO I’M SCARED IT’S GONNA HURT NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

Finally the nurse, weary, looked at me and said, “You’re probably just going to have to take him to his regular doctor; I can’t get a specimen.”

F******CK.

Out to the car we go, where I call up the regular doctor.  Whose receptionist listens to my tale of woe and informs me, “We don’t usually see patients on Friday afternoons.”

Uh.

“Well, can she call in a broad-spectrum antibiotic of some kind?” I ask desperately. 

“Well, no.  We really need to see him before she’ll prescribe anything.”

At this point, I’m frantic, and pissed.  “WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST I DO THEN?”

Silence.

And she sighs at me.  “Let me call you back once the doctor gets back from lunch.”

I fucking hate people.

So there we are, sitting in the car at the CVS.  Thomas, feverish, miserable, probably about to yack all over my backseat, terrified.  And me, phone in hand, disbelieving, wondering if the liquor store is open this early.

Moment of choice.

It must be done.

So I turn around in my seat. 

“If you go back into the CVS and agree to take the strep test – “

And here he starts whimpering again, but I cut him off.

“ – YOU CAN HAVE ANYTHING IN THE ENTIRE CVS YOU WANT.”

This literally stuns him.  Like, he is speechless.  Probably delirious with fever, but also, imagining the possibilities.

I take advantage of the silence to turn into the worst parent ever.

“You want candy?  YOU CAN HAVE ALL THE CANDY.  You can have toys!  You can have books and puzzles and Christmas ornaments and crappy candles that smell like burnt pumpkins.  YOU CAN HAVE ANYTHING YOU WANT.”

More silence.  And then –

“Okay!”

So we go back into the CVS, back to the poor nurse, who looks at us like Thomas might have bubonic plague instead of just strep. 

“Can we try again?” I ask her.  She sighs and nods, and pulls up our records again, and Thomas sits down, starting to get scared again.  Which means I now turn into the worst parent ever in front of a witness.

“ANYTHING YOU WANT,” I remind him.  “Christmas wreaths and coloring books and – how about a neck brace?  Or crutches?  Pain relievers and lip gloss and packs of cards!”

This calms him.  The nurse may or may not have raised an eyebrow.

She checks his temp, which is now at 103, having likely raised due to the combination of terror and abject greed that is now flooding his system.

Finally she looks up at me.  “You know,” she says.  “He might just have a sinus infection.”

I hear the beginning of the Hallelujah chorus in my head.

“Let’s just…. Call it a sinus infection,” she says. 

“No test?” Thomas whispers.

“No test,” the nurse says, and writes a script for Omnicef. 

Thomas looks at me.  “I CAME IN TO TAKE THE TEST,” he says, and I realize at this point I am thoroughly fucked.  He’s going to play semantics with me and demand his due.

So that is how we ended up leaving the CVS Pharmacy with Motrin, a prescription, a Spongebob Squarepants helium balloon, two coloring books, a Lightning McQueen racecar that talks, two Peanuts Christmas ornaments that light up, two bottles of ginger ale, some potato chips, a pack of crazy straws, and a bag of mini-Butterfingers. 


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Birthday Boy.

Today Thomas is six years old.  SIX.  He’s all angles and bony knees and quick movements and ideas, and he is astonishing to me.

He loves Legos and Spongebob Squarepants and books and his gerbil and robots; he hates peanut butter and carrots and is strangely averse to pizza.  He likes zombies and monsters, until it’s bedtime. 

He likes music of all kinds; he loves the 1812 Overture, which he calls “battle music,” and he loves the girl from iCarly, and he still loves above all else the Oasis song “Wonderwall,” which has been his favorite for as long as I can remember.

Last night I laid down in bed with him and told him what it was like to be pregnant with him six years ago, when he made me fat and unwieldy and slow.  And how he’d kick the hell out of me if I ate anything spicy or drank orange juice, and how he’d get the hiccups in utero for days at a time, and how weird and amazing it felt when he’d move around.  And I told him when he was born, he was the slimiest and most beautiful thing we’d ever seen, and how lucky we were to have him, and how loved he was.

And he started crying.

I asked him why he was crying, and he put those little gangly arms around my neck and his hot cheek on mine and he sobbed, and he finally said, “When I grow up I’m just really gonna miss you a lot.”

Oh, sweet boy.  Of six years’ worth of moments and memories – of walking and talking and first steps and first days of school and quiet nights – of all of these, this.  This is the one I maybe love and hate the most.  Such a double-edged sword, this childlike realization of time passing, this knowledge of love and how fast things go.  You can’t have joy without its twin, light without darkness.  And I hate that he’s learning this, but I love that he’s starting to feel how precious it can be.

I kissed him and told him in quiet tones how far off that is, that we have years and years and years before he’s grown up; that we have all the time in the world, that by the time he’s grown up he’ll be ready to be out on his own, that if we’ve done our job right he’ll be prepared for things and want to have his own space.

I told him all of these things, but man, I lied.  Eighteen is a long way from six; but holding onto that sweet, sorrowful boy, all arms and legs and smelling vaguely of chocolate and dirt –

It doesn’t feel very far off at all, somehow.







Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soulful Physical Therapy Update, and Warrior Dash

So I'm in physical therapy today, which is one big giant room, basically.  I'm on one of the tables, doing those stupid isometric exercises that make me look like a jackass ("Put your hand against your forehead; now push against it").  Try this.  You look like you're gesturing indicating what a moron you are.  For thirty reps.


The girl on the table next to me is a high-school cheerleader, a flyer who fell and broke her wrist.  Her friend is with her, gum-chewing annoyingly.

The wrist girl asks me how I put my hair up in a pen, which I did because it's a f*cking mess today.  So I show her how to do it.  And then I tell her if she has fine hair, it works best on 2nd-day hair, because the pen won't slide out as easily.

Gum-chewer:  Tsk.  I could never go a day without a shower.
Me:  Well, I shower every day; but I don't wash my hair every day because it would get too dry.
Gum-chewer:  Tsk.  Tsk.  Omigod.  I could never go a day without washing my hair.  I would just feel too... filthy.  *looks at me meaningfully*
Me (pleasantly):  Well, I guess you can't put your hair up in a pen, then.

It should be noted that during this exchange, Soulful Physical Therapist is nearly choking with laughter.

Also of note today:  The physical therapy group is planning a skit for their Christmas party.  So far the plan is to put Soulful Physical Therapist in drag and make him perform Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby, One More Time." 

Warrior Dash

 So, Matt and I decided, of all things to do to celebrate our eighth anniversary, to drive down to Manchester and run the Warrior Dash.

In case you are not familiar with the Warrior Dash, it's basically an exercise in pain and fear masquerading as a good time.  With costumes.  But there's also beer, which frankly was a major draw.

The race itself is a 5k.  Which, no problem, right?  Only they throw in twelve obstacles, consisting of some of the weirdest sh!t this side of ComiCon.  So this is how the race went:

Run run run run run, over grass and gravel and really terrible terrain.  It reminded me a lot of cross-country in high school, where the goal is essentially to make you run on entirely un-run-able surfaces.

At mile one or so, there's a water station.

Obstacle one:  Run up a pile of hay bales and down the other side.  Which is easy, which gives me a huge surge of confidence, which is just plain mean of the race organizers.

Obstacle two:  Run through some tires on the ground for about ten yards, climb up and over a few junk cars (girl beside me:  "People were, like, conceived in these cars. People had sex in them"), then through some more tires (guy to the left a few yards:  " *FACEPLANT * ").


Obstacle three:  A giant felled tree, which was probably just nature f*cking with me.

Obstacle four:  four-foot walls you have to get over, followed by planks you have to go under.  Repeat about six times.  At the end of this I realized I could feel my heartbeat in every part of my body and wondered vaguely if anyone had ever died on the course.

Obstacle five:  a GIANT F*CKING WALL.  You get to scale it with a rope, which I haven't done since gym class in the seventh grade (and I didn't make it to the top then) and climb down a ladder on the other side.  The climbing part was actually okay; what wasn't okay was getting up there, then straddling the top, then looking down.  Let me tell you, my fear reflex?  Is clearly operating just fine.  Hyperventilated for a minute, then realized that my fear of falling was slightly surpassed by my fear of having to be airlifted off the top of a g*ddamn wall.  Climbed down.  (Note:  This is not me in the photo.  I probably looked a lot worse.)


Obstacle six:  A pitch-black tunnel you have to crawl through.  I think they purposely put sharp rocks on the ground.  Tear up knees, mental note to wear stockings to work all week this week.

Obstacle seven:  Another f*cking wall.  This one is slanted, Matt tells me, so no problem, right?  Only it's slanted on both sides, like an inverted V.  Which means when you get to the top, you throw your leg over ... into total nothingness.  You have to slide out and down in order to get to the first rung of the ladder down, which means you have ample opportunity to look down between them and realize that if you fall, you're hitting like six struts on the way down before even landing on the ground, presumably paralyzed for life.


 Obstacle eight:  Crab-crawl your way across a rope net suspended about five feet above the ground, which is hard, but also the most precarious and humiliating pose to be in, ever.  HEY BACK THERE!  LIKE MY ASS?  IT'S STICKING WAY UP!  IN YOUR FACE!



Obstacle nine:  Climb up some steep bleachers, slide down a fireman's pole on the other side, chafe the sh!t out of the thighs.

Obstacle ten:  Wait, another wall?  I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS MANY WALLS, YOU F*CKERS.  This one is constructed of a frame, and then a rope net on both sides.  This one was oddly comforting after the previous climbs; at least a rope net gives you something you can actually wrap your hands around.

 

Obstacle eleven:  Jump over fire.  Which is JUST the thing you want to do after running three miles, because everyone likes heat at that point, right?



Obstacle twelve:  Leap down into a giant pit of mud about three feet deep, and crawl across on your hands and knees.  Realize not only have they covered the bottom of this pit in gravel that is further shredding your kneecaps, but also, you've started running at 4:30pm, which means this same mud pit has seen about five hundred sweating, disgusting bodies before yours.  They may as well have named the twelfth obstacle You Just Try Not To Catch Something Nasty In This Sh!t.


Then, the glorious finish, where you slog across in your ruined shoes.  The cameras capture you as you cross the finish line, and you realize you've just been photographed trying to fish gravel out of your bra.

In short, it was actually kind of awesome and I'm glad I did it.  But I believe somewhere around mile two and a half I deliriously and violently told Matt that next year we're taking a nice trip to a f*cking beach somewhere for our anniversary, and he is not to listen to any hare-brained schemes I have about this sort of thing, ever again.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Consumerist; also, Nostalgia.

I, ever the whore for marketing, succumbed to peer pressure this morning and bought a pumpkin-spice latte from Starbucks, whose very essence, I am told, would transform me into a unicorn/monkey/happy puppy. 

Sad to say, it did not.  Alas, pumpkin spice lattes are pretty good, but I find it hard to work up to the drooling, frothing anticipation people seem to have for the stuff.  It’s coffee, people.  Overpriced at that.  And mixed up by a surly teenager with more metal in his face than exists in my car frame.

Fuck, I’m old.


The nostalgia part of today’s post is that one of the boys I went to high school with is going to be on the tee-vee, y’all.  This is very exciting, because I do not know famous people.  I’ve had the odd brush with politicians, but since I grew up around DC this is not all that awesome.

So here is what you need to know about Alex, who is apparently magical with a sewing machine and will be on Mad Fashion, premiering on October 4 on Bravo:  



1.  He used to listen sympathetically to my bullshit boyfriend drama while we were in the darkroom of photography class in the eleventh grade and periodically would tell me I was an idiot and my boyfriend was a waste of skin (oddly insightful);

2.  We once both entered a photography contest for extra credit, involving landscapes.  His was of some bushes, entitled “Where’s Elvis #13,” in the hopes that the judges would think it was part of a series.  Mine was titled “This is the Table Upon Which I Left My Shoes” and was of some trees, dyed blue.  Both of these ended up being finalists.  It is nearly twenty years later and I still find this amusing.

3.  He is not to be confused with the other Alex in our photography class, who was a girl who wore Minor Threat t-shirts and was all FUCK THE MAN, YO, and I don’t think ever actually did anything except splice together some scraps from the trash bin and turn it in.  And I’m pretty sure she got an A.  Other Alex was also kind of awesome and I would like her to have a reality show as well, please; and

 4.  He was pretty heavily involved with the drama department in high school.  I did some stuff on the periphery there, because my older sister was into it and very naturally I wanted to fuck up her world as much as possible.  Regardless, I’m pretty sure Alex Bartlett played a waiter in our high-school production of Scapino! and if I find those pictures I’m not sure if I’m going to burn them or use them for blackmail.

October 4. 


Pumpkin Spice OUT.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Physically Impaired.

So yesterday I got to go to a physiotherapist.  This is all-new for me, being that I’m normally pretty well put-together, but since the Wreck of the Hesperus a few weeks ago, I’ve been having some random issues with muscle spasms and, most annoying of all, headaches.  So the doctor gave up on me and sent me to physical therapy.
I show up in my work clothes, because I don’t know any better.  Apparently you’re supposed to wear loose, comfortable clothing.  I was there in a blouse, a sweater, a lace skirt and four-inch heels.  Hm. 
When I walk in, I’m immediately greeted by a youngish woman who gives me the standard sheaf of paperwork to fill out.  I sit in the nice waiting area and start dutifully filling out my entire medical history.  I’m dimly aware of music in the background, which is filtering out to the waiting room from the therapy floor, which I can see from my chair. 
Lots of tables, weights, an indoor pool, and several young men looking purposeful are in the therapy room, along with the standard smattering of patients that make me feel like a giant f*cking hypochondriac.  These people have broken limbs and walkers and sh!t; I have a f*cking headache. 
So anyway.  It takes me a minute to place the music, which is really familiar, some kind of rock song from the 80s or 90s?  And then I hear the chorus and I audibly snort, seriously loud, loud enough that the receptionist looks up at me as I try to snarf quietly through hysterical giggles.
What kind of omen is it when your physiotherapist’s office is playing “Fat-Bottomed Girls” over their sound system?
After a while, I’m retrieved by a deeply-soulful young man who introduces himself as Brady.  Brady is younger than me by at least ten years and has perfect, earnest features and puppy eyes that are so immediately concerned for me that I feel even more like a fraud.  He sits me down on a table and is all, “Let’s dialogue” and I have to tell him all my symptoms.  And then he gets ALL UP CLOSE TO ME like the eye doctor does and puts his hands on my neck to sort of gently manipulate it, and I’m like, “Holy sh!t, Junior, not even my gyno gets this close,” and then I’m distracted because he’s asking questions again and I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to say.  Like, I’m concerned my answers are going to be wrong somehow or something, which is the dumbest fear ever, but like I said, I was already feeling like an assh*le for being there anyway.
So after some more deeply-unsettling close-massaging, Brady puts some electrodes on my neck and back and a heating pad on me and cranks that sucker up and man, it feels kind of awesome.  And then he leaves me alone for fifteen minutes which is the BEST thing ever, because I am really not a good physiotherapy patient.  At all.  Deeply-soulful Brady would be excellent if I was in my late 70s and only had a cat.  As it is, it’s just a wee disturbing and inappropriate. 
After the electrodes thing, the visit is over.  And Brady assures me that yes, I really am legitimately f*cked up, and I need to come back twice more this week and a few times next week, and we’ll go from there.
Which is really a double-edged sword.  Happy that this is something fixable, happy I apparently “passed,” but dude.  Five more close-staring sessions with Brady?   Seriously?   …..Maybe I could just take some Advil?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Experimental Cooking

So, Thomas and I have a kind of ritual.  When I inevitably have to haul him to the grocery store with me, he whines.  And I can’t blame him.  To a five-year-old boy, the grocery store is only slightly less annoying than the dentist’s office.  So our game is that he can pick something new, and I have to figure out how to make it palatable.

This time around, I took him to Whole Foods.  We’d been driving around on a Saturday morning, half-heartedly looking for yard sales after stopping at Starbucks for sustenance – our mother-son Saturday ritual.  We ended up near a Whole Foods, and, well, I remembered we were out of milk and sugar, so in we went.

To a kid for whom Whole Foods is not a regular experience, because we're not the Rockefellers, it can be a little daunting.  Crazy fruits!  Exotic vegetables!  Hold on – are those snails?  In cans?

So I knew it would be kind of a challenge for me.  I was abjectly panicking when he hit the cans of escargot, wondering if I was going to have to figure out how to cook f*cking snails on my electric range.

(Side note:  Whole Foods baffles me.  I love its exoticism and I admire its twee and intense passion towards the eco-friendly, the arrestingly healthy, the hand-crafted.  But to shop there for basic staples is an exercise in mind-boggling wastefulness.  The cheapest sugar I could find there?  $2.39.  For a pound of organic cane sugar, presumably hand-tilled or whatever by Tibetan one-eyed virgins.)

Imagine my relief when he decided on the daikon radish.  With which I am not at all familiar, but at least it wasn’t a g*ddamned invertebrate.

So, home with the startlingly-phallic daikon.  I asked for advice online, and the most family-friendly idea was pickling it overnight, which seemed like a surefire winner.  Thomas loves pickles, so anything with vinegar seemed like a slam-dunk.

Chop up the radish, salt it, let it sit in the fridge.  Drain it, douse it with vinegar and pepper and sesame oil, put it back in the fridge overnight.  Easy, right?



HERE IS WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU ABOUT THE DAIKON RADISH.  THIS RIGHT HERE:

Within several hours, we were all making faces as we passed through the kitchen.  Sort of unconsciously, barely noticing anything, but in that “Jesus, we need to clean out the fridge” kind of way. 

By 10:00pm CST, the kitchen was a total no-fly zone.  And it was all the fault of the bowl of pickling radish in the fridge.  Opening the fridge was like opening the door on every reeking horror of your childhood, multiplied by a thousand.  The near-tangible stench of this stuff would have stopped Freddy f*cking Krueger in his tracks and sent him screaming into the night. 

But I persevered.  I had to.  I left it in the fridge.  This was a lesson.  In trying new things. 

So today we pulled out the dish of radishes.

Thomas:  THAT STINKS LIKE ROTTING GARBAGE.

Me:  It might taste good.  Sometimes stinky things taste good.  Like cheese.  (Can you hear the desperation in my voice?)

Thomas:  I dare you to take a bite.

(Fuuuuuck. )

So I got a fork and speared a chunk of radish, trying to keep from gagging, and took a bite.  Surprisingly, the texture of radish held up – it was still crunchy.  But God, it smelled like chilled death.   Chewing it only made the smell magnify in my mouth (Holy sh!t, I could taste the smell).   And I chickened out and made a run for the sink, making any number of ungodly, undignified noises as I spit it out and desperately rinsed my mouth out.

Afterwards, trying to save face, I said brightly, “Well, you’ve gotta try everything once, right?” to Thomas’s seriously skeptical face.  He looked at me a long moment.  He went into the powder room off the kitchen.  And he came back with the citrus air-freshener spray and made a circuit of the entire room, with one spray in the fridge for good measure.  And departed for Spongebob Squarepants with one last withering look my way.

The Moral of the Story According to Thomas:  "Sometimes you should just stick to strawberry tarts. "




Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Top Ten Worst Toys Ever -- Little Boys' Edition.

With credit to both Thomas and my husband for their vitriolic, fervent input.

10.  Moon Dough.
Moon Dough is touted as, basically, Play-Doh that never dries out.  It comes in about six thousand colors and is also apparently waterproof or something, and the commercials show nothing strangely amiss, so we spring for it one Saturday afternoon.

The reality:  What they don’t tell you about Moon Dough is that it’s basically a slightly more solid form of talcum powder.  It’s so light it can practically be transmitted by air.  It is Styrofoam with slightly more give.  And as such, this sh!t will end up in every single g*ddamn nook and cranny of your house, even if the kid was playing with it in the garage.  Cleanup will involve putting your house on the market.  Also, it doesn’t hold its shape well, because it doesn’t have the heft of Play-Doh; so inevitably anything your kid makes will crumble like table salt and you will be left to forge your way through a late-afternoon tantrum.

9.  Legos.
Legos are epic.  And they are truly fearsome in terms of creative play.  There are, however, a couple of drawbacks to Legos.  One, the small pieces will forever damage vacuum cleaners, will forever be forgotten until stepped upon by bare feet at 2am, and will forever be lost when you need them. 

Two, if you have a linear-thought type of kid like mine, he will complete a massive, 7-14 project of 400 pieces – and then get bored.  I had to explain to him that you could make just about anything with Legos, and even then he was looking for instructions.  He’s like a little Communist sometimes. 

Three, they add the f*ck UP.  Right now we have a massive Rubbermaid bin full of nothing but Legos.  Which is awesome in theory; however, in practice, it sucks mightily because the one three-prong piece you need is somewhere near the bottom and will never, ever be found.

Additionally, the larger sets will sit around collecting dust, having been cannibalized of their coolest pieces, and will haunt your playroom like castle ghost towns.

8.  The Pillow Pet.
Seriously.  It’s a stuffed animal with a Velcro strap.  Why didn’t I think of this uselessness and make a million? 









7.  The Pillow Pet’s knockoff, the Happy Napper.
A Pillow Pet that you get to shove mercilessly and cruelly inside out so it fits inside its own skin, which is the habitat for the Pet – a barn for a cow, a house for a dog, an igloo for a penguin.  It makes me queasy to watch little kids jam their hands into the poor face of a bear just to get it inside its wee little hollow tree. 




6.  Hot Wheels Anything.

The cars are great.  And we have a million of them.  But where they really screw you is in the elaborate racetrack setups, which appeal like f*cking crack to little boys when you watch the commercial.  “The race cars LEAP over the canyon and land on the track opposite and then JUMP over the rocks and you get to see who wins!”  Well, great.  But until you’ve sat up late at night with a g*ddamned protractor trying to figure out why your particular track is off juuuuust enough so that the cars never land right, you have never known true pain.  Also, if you lose one piece of the track, nothing ever goes back together in any discernible, playable form. 


5.  The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine – the redux.

This damn thing is STILL AROUND, if you can believe it.  And despite the screaming, traumatized-child warnings in my head, I allowed Thomas to get one from a dollar store or something similar.  The results were depressingly still the same – twenty minutes’ worth of agonizing bicep work, producing exactly three shavings of ice.  If you really want to make snow cones, just use the blender and put a f*cking Snoopy sticker on it.





4.  Any Game Involving More Than Four Pieces.

 

This includes most of the newer games, with gimmicks and flashlights and a million tiny pieces that are vital to the game.  Lose one and you lose the game forever.   Puzzles are the same way, and Thomas specifically asked me to add them to this list.  You spend twenty minutes looking for one piece, only to eventually realize that it’s missing. 




3.  Noisy Toys.

This includes any of Elmo’s incarnations, a Transformer that issues commands, and an R2D2 we have.  The problem really isn’t the noise itself – I’ve never been too bothered by noise – but what happens when you come downstairs at 3am for a drink of water, wakened by a thunderstorm, and there’s a sudden flash of lightning and boom of thunder and Elmo is illuminated horribly and issues forth a falsetto “ELMO WANTS TO PLAY!”.   I really don’t think I’ve ever screamed so loud in my life. 




2.  Anything Valuable or Described as “Collectible."

We have a bunch of Schleich castle pieces – this was what Thomas got for his second birthday.  A massive castle, and like twenty knights on horseback, and a catapult, and several other pieces.  We mostly bought it for us, honestly.  The detail work was amazing, the knights were realistically dressed and everything was studiously and artfully done. 

Within a fortnight, the knights had taken up residence in the bathtub, under a bed, and warding off bad guys at windowsills, respectively.  One of the horses lost most of a head during a particularly trying period of molar development.  The castle pieces, while awesome, are enormous and unwieldy and defy any and all attempts at ergonomic storage. 

The good part about the toys is that they are astonishingly hardy.  Thomas is now nearly six, and the knights are still in heavy rotation, fighting Transformers and robots and Lego men.  Their fierce fighting facial expressions have taken on a look of grim, weary resignation.

1.  Thomas the Tank Engine.

Anything and everything about Thomas the Tank Engine toy-wise is evil incarnate.  I am utterly convinced.  The show was wonderful – narrated by George Carlin and Alec Baldwin, no less! – but the toys can bite my ass.  Children crave them desperately – mine in particular, because he shares a name with the eponymous Thomas – and these things are so g*ddamned expensive you can forget about ever sending the child to college.

You want a Thomas engine for your wooden railway pieces?  $12.99.  The damn thing is less than three inches long.   A Percy engine?  $10.99.  The most modest track set this company makes is a $40.00 no-frills figure-eight track.  It is the world’s biggest racket.   Thankfully, you can make do with the more affordable Melissa and Doug tracks; but you have to get the Thomas engines, because believe me, your kid will know the difference and will inform you via tantrums, screams, and weepy, unintelligible sobfests that he is going to end up in a f*cking clock tower because you bought a fake Gordon engine.

In short, my parents were right.  We really did all like the boxes better anyway.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Which We Are All Woefully Inadequate

Tonight we went to the Open House at Thomas's elementary school.

Bear in mind two things:  1, we are in the south; and 2, we are in the south.

The evening opens with all of us sitting at little benches in the cafeteria, while the principal, Mr. Coker, talks self-importantly into a microphone.  It is difficult to take this man seriously when you stop to realize they actually have a paddling policy at this elementary school.  We had to sign a waiver to get Thomas out of being PHYSICALLY STRUCK by his own principal if he misbehaved in a severe enough fashion. 

Mr. Coker likes to hear himself talk, so he does, for several minutes.  He calls the teachers "ladies" and "girls" and beams like a benevolent, dictatorial father figure.  Then he instructs the parents to be no more than thirty minutes, tells us to walk "in an orderly fashion" to the classrooms like we're all about to stam-fucking-pede, and then waits for the applause, which is conveniently begun by a woman in the audience whom I suspect strongly is the president of the PTA.

Thomas's classroom looks much like any other of the first-grade variety -- lots of color, lots of labeling, a lot of charts.  His teacher, Mrs. Foster, is overweight and reminds me somewhat of an unpleasant fifth-grade teacher my older sister once had, which isn't a good sign. 

She makes us sit at the desks, which are about twelve inches from the floor.  Thomas crowds into the chair next to me and begins to draw on my hand with a ball-point pen.  (Thomas:  "This is a good guy knocking a bad guy over the head with a bat.  See, these are his brains.")

Mrs. Foster tells us, dazzlingly, of "higher-level spatial learning," which I suspect is total bullshit jargon, and goes on to say she doesn't believe in homework.  She assigns a weekly packet, but it's sort of to be done "whenever you have the time."  This raises Alarm Bell Number One.  I raise my eyebrows at my husband, who raises his in return.  The rest of the time, she explains, we are to "use our resources" to instruct our kids in the list of skills she includes in the weekly newsletters. 

(I should note here that this is our "resource" drawer. Shit.)



Alarm Bell Number Two comes when she points out the clusters of desks, and says each cluster has one child who is solely responsible for getting all the other little kids in the cluster to clear their desks, get in line, take out materials, etc at the right times.  This seems like kind of a lot to ask of a six-year-old.  Her eyes gleam a bit as she says, "These selected children are our leaders.  They set an example."   Even Thomas rolls his eyes when she says this, which tells me a lot.  And also, fuck anyone who decides who the leaders are within one week of class.  I want to ask if these leaders will change, but I don't want to look like a whiner.  Particularly since the woman sitting across from me with her son sits up a bit straighter and beams at her child, who presumably will be responsible for correcting my kid's aberrant behaviors.

Mrs. Foster talks about the reading curriculum, and that's when That Parent speaks up.  There is always a That Parent in every class.  She raises her hand and says, "What if your child is reading far beyond the curriculum?  I mean, what if she's reading, you know, totally independently?".  Mrs. Foster looks pleased and says she'll tailor anything that needs to be changed for "more advanced children."  Ding ding ding, Alarm Bell Number Three.

Another parent raises his hand and asks about hair feather extensions, which are popular with little girls lately.  They're basically just clips with feathers on them, but Mrs. Foster looks solemn and says that apparently Mr. Coker has decided these are inappropriate for little girls.  And then she looks vaguely in our direction as she says, "Little boys are also not allowed to have mohawks."  Alarm Bell Number Four:  We already have a strike against us for this one.



After the presentation, she talks to us randomly and individually as we're getting our things together and trying like hell to get out of the tiny seats.  When she gets to us, I mention to her that Thomas still has some trouble paying attention and focusing, because he's right at the cutoff age and therefore he's kind of young.  And I swear, I can see her inwardly sigh, and she says, looking kinda hard at me, "Mrs. H, They all have that problem."  Aaaand here we have Alarm Bell Number Five.

Now, I am not six years old, but I have never, ever in my life wanted so bad to kick someone square in the damn shins.

Thomas seems to like her well enough, so I will bite right through my tongue if I have to in order to make it through this school year.  But I'll be damned if that child isn't doing some form of homework at night.  "I don't believe in homework."  Is she kidding?

You know what nobody ever tells you when you're pregnant and thinking fondly of raising children?  That children really aren't the difficult part at all.  The really tough part of being a parent is restraining yourself from raising your damn hand and asking, "Is there a paddling policy for teachers?".


 


Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Diamond Shoes, Y'all, They Are TOO TIGHT.

So, this week, on Tuesday, I was on my way home from work in my spiffy, shiny Nissan Altima, with its awesome 3.5 liter engine and its kick-ass sound system, just listening to some music, minding my own business on the interstate home. 

Traffic slowed down, as it always does at that time at this one certain spot, and came to a stop.  So I stopped, singing along with the damn radio, and I look in my rearview mirror and see a crappy pickup truck behind me, coming up fast.

He’s going to stop, right?  He’s going to stop right?  F*ck me, he’s not going to stop.

*Insert massive crunch sound here.*

It’s a seriously hard hit.  I limp the car to the shoulder, cursed because everything in my purse had flown all over the front seat and passenger side floor, and call the police. 

While I’m on the phone describing where I am, still dazed, Dude in the pickup is out of his truck and is knocking on the passenger window.  “Are you all right?  Are you all right?” So I hang up, and – not my best moment – screech, “NO I’M NOT FUCKING ALL RIGHT, YOU ASSHOLE.”

The damage to the back end of the car?  Extensive.  It’s not driveable.  I just bought this car three months ago, did I mention that part?

Truck Dude is a total stoner/weirdo, who says, “Oh, my God, I’m SO SORRY, my phone beeped and I just looked down for ONE SECOND.” 

I say pretty much nothing.  My head hurts.  My neck sort of hurts.  I’m shaky and dazed and I HATE HIM.

The cop shows up and takes our information.  Thankfully, Truck Dude seems to be insured.  The cop looks at me closely and says, “Are you okay?”

I sort of frown, I think, and say, “My head hurts.  And my neck sort of hurts.”

That, folks, is all it takes for them to call the ambulance, over my sort-of-weak protests.  I really DO think I probably need to be checked out, but an ambulance seems kind of like overkill, especially since I’m … well, ambulatory. 

The paramedics show up and ask me where I hurt.  I tell them my neck and my head.  And THAT, folks, is all it takes for them to strap me down to a backboard, with a neck brace, in front of an entire highway full of stopped traffic that is riddled with my coworkers on their way home. 

Humiliating.  

The car is towed to the wrecker, I’m hauled away in an ambulance feeling sh!tty for taking paramedics away from, probably, some real emergency somewhere. 

At the hospital, they leave me in the neck brace until they can take a CT scan of my head and neck to be sure I have no fractures or hematomas or any other completely scary thing which effectively whips me into a quiet, stoic panic. 

Two hours later, the verdict upon examination is a back sprain, and a cervical sprain.  Which is WHIPLASH, y’all.  I am inordinately excited by this.  I’ve never known anyone who’s ever had whiplash, even though it’s routinely trotted out on TV as a farcical and always-faked car-accident injury. 

An hour after THAT and I’m in a cab on the way home with a fistful of prescriptions, a belly full of muscle relaxants and painkillers, and a serious fucking headache.

Total time getting home from work on Tuesday:  Six hours.

Total damage to the car, according to the insurance adjuster and the mechanic:  $9,947.00.

Hospital bills:  Probably around $4,000, which includes medication, ambulance services, a CT scan, and an X-ray.

Cab ride during which the driver regales me with tales of horrifying car accidents he’s had (NOT comforting, assh*le):  $45.

Rental car for four weeks while they repair my vehicle:  $600.

BUT.  The sprains will heal in another week or so.  I was in the car alone, sans child.  The car was not totaled out.  Truck Dude was insured.

Life is still good. 


Friday, August 5, 2011

DEAR CRAIGSLIST,

Oh, how do I love your For Sale listings?  Let me count the ways.
1.  This was in “furniture.”  It’s called a St. Andrews’ Cross.  There are wrist and ankle restraints at each pinnacle of the X.  Does someone strap into this and watch Dancing With the Stars?  The caveat that it is “for novelty use only” is equally enlightening.  Don’t try to make your basement into a real dungeon!  
I might be scarred for life.  OMG Y’ALL I WAS ONLY LOOKING FOR A CHAISE.

2.  The guy in Collectibles who claims he is looking for obsolete police badges “JUST AS COLLECTORS ITEMS.”  Mmm-hmmm.  Suuuuure.
3.  Elk horns.  Artfully arranged with several firearms for authenticity, although “GUN’S NOT FOR SALE JUST FOR DECORATION.”  The seller claims the elk was “harvested” (ew!) by the guy who played Gomer Pyle.  That’s a lot of sh!t going on right there, people.   You would be crazy to pass that up for $200.  (Provided you’re brave enough to actually go to this guy’s house, that is.)

4.  An empty apple cider bottle.  Is this a thing?  Can I start selling my empty orange juice cartons and sh!t on Craigslist?
5.  The Money Chamber.  Look, I’ll pay $5,000 for this if the money comes with it.
6.  Cemetery plots.  I’m a little grossed out by the number of people selling plots on Craigslist.  I mean, what?  Did you change your mind about dying? 

Tips for sellers:
  • Do not type in all caps.  If you type in all caps I imagine you raving and drooling as you try to unload your old crap.  WHADDYA MEAN DONTCHA WANT THIS VINTAGE 1970s HUCKLEBERRY HOUND RADIO IT IS IN PERFECT CONDITION AND STILL IN THE BOX AND I ONLY WANT TWENTY LOUSY F*CKING BUCKS FOR IT AND MAYBE I’M HIDING IN YOUR BUSHES RIGHT NOW.  MAYBE.
  • Nobody wants to go through your old shed/garage/attic.  Don’t try to foist your housekeeping off on unsuspecting Interneters.  I cannot imagine the person dumb enough to respond favorably to an ad like that.  “Oh, awesome!  Yeah, I’ll come to your house in the middle of a field fifty miles from the nearest police station.  Clean out your basement?  Sure!  I bet you have some cool vintage stu—hey, are those manacles?  What are you doing with that wet rag?  Mmmf *thunk*”
  • Do your research and do not underestimate people.  I mean, MAYBE there is someone who wants your 1973 Jim Croce album badly enough to pay $20 for it, but your odds aren’t good.  I’m just saying. 
  • To the guy selling the “Original WW2 German Kriegmarine Overcoat wool eagle” who wants someone to make him an offer, I’ve got one for you:  I’m offering up that it’s creepy as f*ck to collect Nazi memorabilia.  You’re welcome.
  • If you’re selling replicas of firearms of famous people, learn how to spell their names.  It took me a good thirty seconds to figure out what you meant by “White Erp’s guns,” and another thirty minutes to stop laughing.

And lastly, I have found the perfect Christmas gift for my husband.  Who doesn’t like slightly used naked-lady playing cards??