Thursday, April 27, 2006

All in His Head

Kiddo: "You know how you give me time-outs when I do something bad?"

Me: "Yes..."

Kiddo: "Well, it's my brain that makes me do the bad thing -- not me -- so it's not my fault. It's my brain's fault, so you shouldn't give me a time-out."

Me: (trying not to laugh) "Yes, well, you have a point there. So how should I give your brain a time-out next time?"

Kiddo gently head-butts me in the arm and waves goodbye to me as he goes upstairs.

It Doesn't Take Much

Just now I was giggling out loud at Daily Mumps, and my son overheard me. "What are you laughing at?" he asked. I told him I was just reading something silly. "Oh," he replied. "I thought you were just laughing because I bring you such joy!"

Um...yeah. That, too. ;^)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Beagles and Balloons and Snot-Nosed Kids

Yesterday we went to the playground and the kiddo played with two boys, both of whom had slightly runny noses. As the kiddo was sitting across from one boy on the horizontal tire swing, he told me, right in front of the kid, "Look how much MUCUS that kid has in his nose, Mommy!" I ignored him the first time, so he said it louder a second time. Heh. I told him that's kids for ya, and also that the kiddo himself has been known to have a runny nose.

Also, as we were driving past the condo complex across the street, we noticed that their humongous balloon (which says "CONDO SALE") that's been up for a couple of weeks is starting to sag and sink. The kiddo asked why it was sinking. In keeping with our usual meandering conversational style, I told the kiddo that when certain things get left out in the sun and weather a lot, they sometimes start to get worn out and get little holes in them (like our drapes -- yuck!), and when a balloon gets worn out and gets little holes in it, the helium (I also explained helium) starts to leak out and the balloon can't stay up as easily.

Later, I was feeling him out to see if he'd want to meet Dorothy's friend, J., with me sometime, and I mentioned that I'd taken care of J.'s beagle for a week many years ago. The kiddo asked where the beagle was now, and I told him it had died. He asked why it died, and I said it just got really, really old and worn out and it was time for it to go to doggie heaven, where it wouldn't be worn out any more and it could play with all the other dogs there.

The kiddo thought about it and asked, "Did someone leave the beagle out in the sun for a long time?"

Monday, April 24, 2006

Searching for Dorothy

In my other life, before I became a magazine editor and eventually started editing freelance so I could stay home with my kiddo, I was a librarian. Guys always told me I didn't "look like a librarian" because I wore jeans and boots and clingy tops and had long, curly hair. (I still have the long hair, but that's about it!) I didn't intend to become a librarian; rather, I sort of fell into it. If you're ever wondering what you can do with an English degree, I'm here to tell you that one option is to become a clerical temp. at an aerospace firm and take the librarian job when one of the librarians retires to look after her ill daughter and your temp. time runs out and the company offers you a mega-raise.

My co-librarian was a kind, unassuming older woman named Dorothy. Upon learning that my official job title was "librarian," she expressed disbelief because it had taken her years to earn that title. Of course, she started back in the days when aerospace librarians had library science degrees instead of plain English degrees, and folks with my level of experience were called “library assistants.”

The work involved some primitive online research, a lot of cataloging (typing up those old-fashioned cross-reference cards that go in those cute wooden drawers), a lot of filing and even more refiling of government specifications, and ordering books. I grew bored and started to hate my job; surely I didn't do it as well as Dorothy or my predecessor. Nevertheless, Dorothy had a kind, quietly humorous way about her; she put up with me the way an older dog tolerates a puppy, trying to teach me as best she could, listening to me run my uppity mouth, occasionally becoming gently annoyed with my immature attitude, but usually indulging me and my shortcomings. In fact, during the years that we knew each other, I never heard her say an unkind word about anyone -- not that she didn't have the opportunity. I'm sorry to say that she heard me say plenty about others.

She and my predecessor had somehow developed a custom of bringing in Pepperidge Farm cookies and having a short tea break each morning, and I gamely took my turn bringing in the treats when it was time. I can recall running out to the store late some nights, having remembered at the last minute that I was on cookie duty, and not wanting to let Dorothy down. The two of us politely discussed little bits of our lives as we nibbled our cookies, never eating more than two cookies apiece. For Dorothy, two cookies was an extravagance; I gladly would have wolfed down the entire box, but didn't want to appear unladylike in front of the woman I was beginning to regard as somewhat of a friend and grandmotherly figure.

She was small and wore the same few humble outfits all week: combinations of cotton slacks and short-sleeved, plaid, cotton blouses. She wore pink lipstick and a little powder, and had short, wiry, curly, gray hair that she said she could never do anything with. I once saw her old badge photo, from her early years at the company, and her hair was pretty much the same; it was brown, but just as uncontrollable as ever. After our tea-and-cookies breaks, she would powder her lips and apply her pink lipstick. I can't be sure, but I think she may have used the same compact for the entire time that I knew her. She also saved every piece of string, every brown paper and every packing peanut that came into the library. That she'd been raised during the Depression was evident in her economy.

Occasionally Dorothy would tell me stories about her childhood. She'd been born in Santa Ana, and her dad had been a tailor. Each summer, he would rent a cottage a few miles away on Balboa Island on Collins Street, right near the ocean, and there the family would stay for a few weeks, enjoying the tiny beach and the general beach culture. This must have been during the late thirties. Her dad continued to work during these vacations, commuting from the island to his Santa Ana shop. After I rented my first apartment, Balboa Island quickly became my favorite walking place; sometimes as I wandered down Collins Street, I'd seek out cottages that appeared to be originals, wondering if perhaps I'd found Dorothy's childhood vacation spot.

Sometimes she would tell me about her college years. She'd attended Occidental College in Los Angeles during the fifties or so, and somehow had been nicknamed Pooh when her friends had decided to name everyone in their circle after Winnie the Pooh characters. Dorothy said she'd initially felt special because she got to be Pooh – the star! -- until she'd read that Pooh was "A Bear of Little Brain." I imagined her as she might have been, young and living in more innocent times.

Dorothy never spoke of any beaus, but she sometimes told me about two friends of hers, a man and a woman both named Beverly, who married each other years ago. “It was so funny when the minister said, 'Do you, Beverly, take Beverly...'” she'd recall with a smile.

Eventually the aerospace company began to suffer financially and, in a preemptive effort to thin the herd, offered early retirement packages to employees who were getting close to "that age" and would otherwise be laid off. Dorothy took early retirement and opted out of the medical insurance package included by the company. She was a Christian Scientist and did not go to the doctor, although I think she went to the dentist. We never discussed this in detail, although she mentioned it when we talked about her early retirement benefits.

After Dorothy left, I was alone in the library, as the company couldn't afford to hire a new librarian. As other employees left the company or were laid off, fewer people dropped in and the library became quieter and quieter. Eventually the company moved to a new, smaller facility; I continued the auctioning and packing of books that Dorothy and I had begun, and soon the library was reduced to about a quarter of its original size.

Once in a while Dorothy would meet me for lunch and we'd talk about her family and my life. She'd never married, but had a best friend -- a woman. I house-sat once for Dorothy's friend and took care of her beagle for a week. I sometimes wondered if this friend was her partner; the two of them attended each other's family functions and owned a vacation home together, but didn't live together. Although I always wanted to ask about it, if for no other reason than to let Dorothy be more herself with me, it wasn't any of my business, and we never discussed it.

After she retired, I invited Dorothy to my little apartment exactly one time. I never went to her house; she always said it was too messy, with stuff all over the dining room table and all the counters. I can still remember her sitting on my grandmother's old, fussy, pink sofa with scrolling wooden trim. She was wearing her usual cotton slacks and a short-sleeved, plaid blouse, and I was so proud to have her in my home. By that time, I was in my late twenties and had already lost both of my grandmothers and I so wanted Dorothy to see my very own place.

One time I invited her to see La Bohème -- her favorite -- then foolishly failed to buy tickets before they sold out. Feeling extremely stupid and embarrassed, I agonized over how to break the news to Dorothy, but she was characteristically more than gracious, and told me it was perfectly fine, as she'd seen it some years ago already. Sometime later I bought a boxed set of the opera and gave it to her, partly out of guilt and partly in thanks for her understanding.

The aerospace company continued to go further down the tubes and I hated my job more and more, especially since Dorothy wasn't there. I started making stupid mistakes, including forgetting to reclose a classified file cabinet (after an engineer dropped in to read a spec after hours), much to my boss's displeasure. Although no documents were missing, a security guard had discovered my mistake and filed a mandatory report. I took it as a sign that it was time for me to get while the getting was good, and consulted a manager friend for advice. He tipped me off when my department was told to reduce its head count and recommended the verbiage for my letter in which I volunteered for layoff. My boss was happy to be able to trim the head count without causing a lot of upset, and I was given several weeks' pay, with two additional weeks in lieu of notice. I had a government clearance and had access to too many classified documents for the company to want to keep me around for those two weeks, and the arrangement suited me just fine.

Within a month or two, as I lived off my severance pay, considering my direction, I was hired by a friend who was starting a Web magazine. I'd edited government proposals while still at the aerospace company (helping the overburdened editing staff), and proofed the company newsletter, so I had enough experience to get my foot in the door. After I proofed the first issue of the magazine (for free) and found hundreds of errors, I walked into my friend's office, showed him what I'd found, and told him he needed me. He hired me the very next day, and I credit him with helping me make the transition to work that I was much better at doing, and which made me happy.

I told Dorothy about my new job. She was so happy for me and, always the master of understatement, agreed that it suited me much better than the library job. Soon we began meeting for lunch again; she'd drive to my new office and we'd go to IHOP because it was cheap and close. She had developed what appeared to be a melanoma on her temple. It had started as an age spot and continued to grow, and it had become unsightly. She covered it with a band-aid; later it would take two band-aids to cover it. She dabbed at it with a tissue at times, embarrassed and looking at me apologetically from the corner of her eye as I looked away, not wanting to intrude or say what I so wanted to say: Please, please go to a doctor! We never discussed it; our friendship was such that we didn't mention certain things. Besides, I knew she would have to do what she believed was right for her, and going to the doctor wasn't in that category. Her religious beliefs didn't allow it, and her steady dignity prevented her from complaining about it.

After each lunch together, we'd awkwardly hug and joke a bit before parting. Looking back, I see that I should have hugged her more, but I was stupid then, and didn't know how to get over myself and just...connect.

The magazine moved to a new office -- one that wasn't convenient for Dorothy to get to -- and we fell out of touch. Soon afterward, I met my son's dad, became pregnant, gave birth and got caught up in the drama and excitement that came with that experience. After a time, I still thought of Dorothy, but was too afraid to try to contact her because I suspected she was likely dying or already dead. That probably seems crummy of me. The truth is that I just didn't want that to be real; I wanted to picture her smiling on my pink sofa.

In 2003, when my son was about two-and-a-half years old, we moved into our current place, about 100 miles from home. The move came with its own drama and excitement; my son's dad took me to court in an attempt to gain custody, and that was dramatic and exciting as well. Sometime soon afterward, I dreamt of Dorothy. In my dream, she was happy and sunny and headed somewhere on a road trip; she said something about going to Sonoma. I can only imagine that my brain somehow confused "Sonoma" with "melanoma," but I wouldn't rule out any travel plans Dorothy might have had. In her younger years, she'd traveled to Europe with her best friend -- she'd told me stories about struggling to manage a stickshift on country roads there -- and I knew there were still places she wanted to see. Finding no information about her online, I summoned my courage and dialed her phone number: disconnected.

I continued to put off finding Dorothy until about two weeks ago, when I had another dream about her. In this one, she had died and was lying in state in a beautiful Victorian bed-and-breakfast. Again, the travel element. When I awoke, I was determined to find an answer to my unasked question. I spent the better part of a day searching death records, obituaries, genealogy sites, aerospace “alumni” sites and the like online.

The reward for my efforts was no reward at all: a 2003 death notice for someone bearing her surname and first two initials, a notice of trustee sale for her address, and the mailing address of her best friend. I was close, yet not as close as I wanted to be, so I wrote a letter to her friend, asking if Dorothy was “still with us.” In the letter, I must have apologized at least four times for bringing up what was likely to be a difficult subject; I told her I'd searched exhaustively and hadn't yet found a solid answer, although I was fairly certain about what it would be. I told her I'd uncovered some information online that led me to think that contacting her was the right thing to do. I told her about some happy memories I had of Dorothy, and said I would be saddened, but not surprised, if she confirmed what I already thought I knew. I told her I had a son, and apologized for not having searched for Dorothy sooner.

I mailed the letter last Monday; on Friday I received a reply.

I was headed out to a movie, and had stopped at my mailbox on my way to the garage. There was the card, addressed in unfamiliar handwriting. I opened it carefully, thinking perhaps a prayer card would fall out; I was that certain that Dorothy had passed. Instead of a prayer card, however, I found wobbly handwriting covering the entire inside as well as the back. At first, I didn't want to read J.'s note; soon I had to refrain from reading it while driving.

She was, as Dorothy had been, extremely gracious. In squiggling cursive, she confirmed Dorothy's passing -- January 6, 2003 – and apologized many times for not having notified me. She said Dorothy's family had taken her address/telephone book and notified as many people as possible. I know the information in Dorothy's book dated back to when I had my apartment; I'd lived in three different places since then, and was fairly unfindable.

J. said that “Dot,” as she affectionately called her, had developed some difficulty in navigating the stairs at home, so she'd moved into Dorothy's condo to help out, making a bed for her in the living room so she wouldn't have to use the stairs at all. She said that Dorothy had insisted on going Christmas shopping for her family (a daunting task, as she had two brothers and numerous nieces and nephews with too many children to count) in late 2002. On Christmas Day, the two of them drove to at least four family members' homes to celebrate. In retrospect, J. said, it was too much. By January 4, 2003, Dorothy's condition was such that J. had to bring in a nurse to assist her in caring for her friend. The nurse recommended that Dorothy be placed in a nursing home; on January 5, Dorothy was settled into the home and her family came to visit her. On the morning of January 6, she died. There'd been no service, although her niece had held a gathering at her home in Dorothy's honor. J. had been left to settle Dorothy's estate.

Dorothy had been a very special person, J. said, and the time since her passing had been very depressing. She said she'd be very happy to keep in touch with me, and painstakingly scrawled her phone number at the top of the card.

Although I miss Dorothy for what she taught me and for the person she was, and despite my nagging feelings of heaviness and sadness, I can only imagine how difficult her death has been for J. The hopeful, trusting part of me that wants to believe that things like dreams have meaning and purpose imagines that Dorothy was perhaps nudging J. and me into contact, for whatever comfort we can provide each other.

I'll be calling that number very soon. Maybe it'll do us both some good.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Peering into the 21st Century

Well, I finished some work that was hanging over my head, watched most of the SpongeBob movie with the kiddo per his request (he was dying for me to "snuggle up" with him and watch it and I was feeling so guilty!), and ORDERED GLASSES ONLINE.

$113.90, baby. ;^)

Apparently they can ship in 3-4 days, so that'll be cool, as I'm going to a baby shower next weekend and would love to have the new specs by then. I must admit I'm a bit suspicious of how easy the ordering process was. If it all works out well, I'll definitely be writing a testimonial. Seriously, it was incredibly easy, although I had to call my OD to verify my prescription (the copy I had was a fax copy); also, I was unsure of decimal points, etc. Also-also, I called the optical center I ordered from last year (I'd ordered, then returned them) to get my pupillary distance measurement (distance between pupils), since I didn't think I could do this well in the mirror and they did it with a machine...and I doubt the distance between my pupils has changed much since last year (if it ever changes, which I doubt for the most part).

So...after wearing my baby-broken, soldered, taped, scratched, bent glasses for way too long now, I should be looking at some shiny new ones next week.

Can it really be this easy????

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

God Is Bill Cosby in a Silver Bed, Isn't She?

I was raised Catholic. I was even a church organist for several years, from age thirteen to about age twenty-three, playing for the children's choir, the teen choir and the young adult choir -- sometimes all three in one Sunday. In those days, I practically lived at church. I still identify myself as Catholic, although I don't usually attend Catholic Mass. (The reasons for that would require a separate post if anyone's interested.)

My son's dad was raised Baptist, and he was baptized at age eighteen. He still has a bible with his name engraved on the cover, which he received that day. He doesn't attend Baptist services nowadays, and spent a lot of time as New-Ager. Now he's still a New-Ager, but he also attends the occasional Methodist service and sometimes takes the kiddo along.

I still believe in God and give thanks for blessings like my son and the work that comes my way. It's just that my definition of God is evolving from the bearded-father image I held as a child. I've attended Catholic Mass a handful of times in the two-and-a half years that we've lived here, and I've taken the kiddo along. I've also attended Quaker meetings a handful of times, and taken the kiddo. I've researched Buddhism as well, but haven't sat with Buddhists.

Again, the details of my spiritual search would require a separate post, and I would have no idea where to begin it.

The kiddo isn't baptized, much to my mother's distress. Right after the kiddo was born, my mom would ask, with a pained face, if we were going to have him baptized. My father recently told me that when the kiddo and I lived with my folks, he secretly baptized the kiddo himself, presumably to satisfy my mom and to ease his own doubts about the kiddo's soul. I told him he is to check with me before doing anything on that level again; I also looked up baptism by laypersons and his wasn't "legal." But I digress.

Although I'm still sorting out my spiritual journey, I know that I want my son to have some religious education, at least as a starting point. It pains me that he has very little religious education -- much less than I had at his age. Oh, the guilt! I want him to know God...even if I don't have my own knowing sorted out. This was important enough to me that I battled my son's dad for an additional Sunday with the kiddo when we were going to court. Normally the kiddo goes to his dad's house on the first, third and fourth weekends every month (I keep him on the second and fifth weekends -- if you're counting, you'll notice there are only four "fifth weekends" per year) but I managed to secure that fourth Sunday, so now I have two Sundays with the kiddo, in addition to the rest of our time. (Recently my son's dad casually tried to get me to give up that other Sunday; he seemed to think I wouldn't notice, and he was critical when I wouldn't give it up. Again...separate post.)

Maybe none of this makes sense. Anyway.

Yesterday in the car on the way to the bank, my son and I were talking about kindergarten and school in general. I told him that soon he would be enrolled in some kind of Sunday school (probably through the Quaker meeting, although maybe through the nearby Catholic church).

He asked me what sorts of things he would learn there, and I told him he would learn about God and all sorts of bible stories. "God is only pretend!" he told me. Not so, I told him. God isn't a person you can touch, but God is everywhere. How does one explain God to a five-year-old who believes heaven is a place with gold and silver beds? How does one explain God to a five-year-old without saddling him with that bearded-father image? I'm working on this.

The kiddo asked what sorts of bible stories he would learn, so I told him about Noah's Ark. As I spoke, I tried not to confuse the Genesis story with Bill Cosby's Noah routine. To my credit, I did manage to avoid saying, "VOO-pah, VOO-pah!" or "Riiiiiiight," although I did almost do the echoing "NOAH!" a la Bill. But again I digress.

We pulled into the bank parking lot and I unbuckled the kiddo's seatbelt while continuing the story. "That's not going to happen to the Earth now, right?" asked the kiddo. I'd forgotten his fear of floods, born during the endless news footage of the awful tsunamis.

I assured him it wouldn't happen and tried to skip over the obvious implications of a worldwide flood -- like all the death that would occur -- focusing instead on the dove with the olive branch that came after the flood. I explained that this is a symbol of peace, although I wondered if I was perhaps mixing up two separate stories. It's been a long time.

As I told the story, digging deep in my memory for details and hoping he didn't ask how male and female animals could produce baby animals, I started to feel inadequate as a religious teacher and even, perhaps, as a parent. When I finished the story, my son stood up...and unexpectedly applauded.

Maybe there's hope for us both. One thing's for sure -- we're on this journey together.

The Big Rip-Off

My son has a marble jar, which comes in handy when I want him to learn a new behavior/habit. I washed an empty peanut butter jar, bought some blue floral arrangement marbles at the local craft store, and drew up a chart. The chart has six items on it: brushing teeth, going potty, eating fruits and vegetables, drinking water, putting away toys, and getting dressed. Each one has a little picture next to it, since my son can't read.

The idea is that the kiddo gets a marble each time he completes one of these tasks, and when he collects enough marbles, he gets to choose a small prize from a bucket I keep in the cupboard. The bucket contains mainly Hotwheels cars and superballs, although occasionally I throw candy or odd little games in it. However, I made the marble jar chart back in the days when things like going potty and brushing teeth were a big deal -- now they're old hat, and we haven't been using the marble jar all that much lately.

This morning there were a lot of pieces of paper scattered around the living room -- tissue paper from wrapping presents for an upcoming shower, old valentines, etc. -- so I told the kiddo I'd give him one marble for each piece of paper he collected and put in a pile to be thrown away. He was excited at the prospect of earning a lot of marbles (and possibly a prize) all at once, and promised me he'd start on the task in a minute. I went upstairs to brush my teeth and heard little noises coming from downstairs: squeaking floorboards, shuffling, and...ripping?

Yes, the kiddo thought he'd tear up some of the larger papers to boost his paper count and get more marbles. I put the kibosh on that and although he grumbled a bit, he collected the rest of the papers without incident. Still, I'm sorta thinking he might someday find a career in government.

Then again, when I went downstairs to count the papers he'd collected, he voluntarily removed the papers he'd torn up, so maybe not. ;^)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

All I'm Gonna Say... that the most magical thing about Magic Jewelry is the way it makes huge chunks of time disappear. Getting back to work now...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Guys Do TOO Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses,
and No, You May NOT Try Them On

My glasses are seriously thrashed. I'm soooo not kidding. My delicate, aubergine, semi-rimless spectacles have suffered being grabbed and bent by my son when he was a baby, broken by said baby, soldered by a dubious technician (and unskillfully repainted over the solder, which is now peeling), broken again on the stem-joint by yours truly (and taped enough times that I'm getting good at it), and scratched in general. Oh, they have also suffered being repeatedly slept on and smushed.

You might assume I'd be dying to buy new glasses.

Believe me, I've tried. I shopped and shopped, noting special discounts and trying on hundreds of frames until my son began to balk if we so much as came within 200 feet of a glasses store. I actually spent over $300 on a jazzy little rimless number, only to have a clueless employee bend them all out of shape before admitting she'd never fitted glasses before. I discovered there was also a weird reflection in the lenses due a combination of construction on my high prescription, and, fed up, I got my money back. And I have lost my glasses gusto.

Glasses have always been a big deal for me. Well, since second grade, anyway. After getting my first pair of glasses as a seven-year-old, I was surprised to discover that I could see leaves! Blades of grass! The shag rug! (Hey, it was the seventies.) The blackboard! The clock!

Today I'm working up the nerve to order new glasses. Nothing flashy -- just your basic pair. You may ask why I'm hedging, especially given my five-year endurance of crappy glasses. Well, I suspect I've enjoyed having a bit more money in my savings account. Or maybe it's more fun to imagine what the new glasses will look like, instead of getting the actual glasses and getting them fitted somewhere and hoping they really do work out. Or maybe I'm afraid I'll wreck the new pair. Or maybe I'm putting too many expectations on the new pair to solve more problems than they could possibly handle. Hmm.

I'll admit that I do get pretty crabby when I first try on a new pair of glasses. See, I have a high prescription (I'm unbelievably nearsighted) and it takes me a while to get used to a new pair because I wear them all the time and each pair has a different set of distortions for me to adjust to. I often get headaches for the first day or two after bringing home a new pair of glasses, although I seem to recall having really great luck with my current pair five years ago, and being able to wear them comfortably right away. I'm going to hope for the same with the new pair I'm ordering today.

But just in case, you might want to steer clear of me right after I get them. Until the crabbiness subsides, I mean. ;^)

Wednesday Haze

Last night (okay, this morning) I dreamt I was walking on the beach, smoking a cigarette and blowing smoke rings a la Mr. Big from Sex and the City (known as Saxophone City around these parts).

I don't think I want a cigarette, seeing as the last cigarette I even partially smoked was the one I had in college. I'd gone out to a Mexican restaurant with my roommate and loaded up on salsa and coffee. Later, I'd visited a friend's apartment, where I had a bit of vodka and bummed a cigarette. Never mind that I was never a drinker and my last cigarette prior to that was the last one in a multi-pack series that I'd secretly smoked at age twelve, and which had contributed to a weeks-long bout with canker sores that baffled my parents. You'd think that would have squelched any attraction to smoking that I might have had. Yes, you'd think that.

Anyway, I had the salsa, coffee (many cups), vodka and cigarette...then walked upstairs and fell into bed without brushing my teeth. In the wee hours of the morning, I awoke with a queasy stomach and spent the first half of the day throwing up and (ahem) revisiting the previous night's indulgences. I tried watching TV, but the Denny's commercials just made me extra-nauseous. By the end of the day, I felt much better, but I never had a desire to smoke after that (you'd think the canker sores years prior would have convinced me), and I didn't touch alcohol, coffee or Mexican food for quite a while afterward, either.

Years later I dated a chainsmoker who told me I was lucky to have had the experience I'd had; he'd loved the taste of cigarettes ever since his first drag. He was probably right. But I was really in love with my dreamy smoke rings last night. How strange.

Just the same, I don't believe that all dreams hold deep meaning; some are just related to the residue of the day, and the image that keeps coming up for me is that of a particular exhibit I watched at the science museum yesterday, in which participants tried to make a big cloud of vapor puff upward by pushing down on a bellows thingie.

I don't think I have a point to this. Maybe I need more coffee. And salsa. ;^)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Said Monsieur Mess:

"Mommy, I just saw the commercial for the Swiffer carpet plaque,* and it only costs three dollars, and if you buy it, you won't have to go pulling out the vacuum for every little mess. It's for pesky little messes."

* Swiffer CarpetFlick

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Small Misunderstanding

Yesterday as my son and I stopped at the store for a few emergency items, we saw a group of teenagers. One boy had a pretty significant case of acne. My son, who has not yet learned not to whisper -- or, better, keep quiet -- when he notices someone unusual (to him), asked me, "Why did that boy have those red bumps?" I waited until we were out of earshot, then told him that sometimes teenagers get red bumps on their faces, called --

"Called smallpox?" he asked brightly.

Blanket Issue

The other day, as we drove home from the store, my son asked me why I don't ever come over to Daddy's house. He's asked this several times over the past year or two, and sometimes I simply reply, "Oh, not this time, sweetie. Hey, want to go to the playground?"

Sometimes I tell him the truth. After all, I don't want to get his hopes up, seeing as I loathe the very idea of going to my son's dad's house under our current circumstances. Why go there and have to deal with feeling like we're a family, only to have to leave and go home alone? Why put myself through that unnecessarily? *

When my son asked me yet again why I don't ever come over to Daddy's house, I told him the truth: "I really don't feel comfortable there, but I'm glad that you and Daddy always get to have lots of fun there together."

He pondered this, then replied, "You don't feel comfortable there? Hmm. I know what you mean. Is it because the blanket is too bumpy?"

If only.

* The kiddo lives with me two-thirds of the time, so it's not as though I have to go to his dad's house to have time with him anyway.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Drawing Boundaries Yet Again, or
Anyone Know Any Good Eye Diets?

Yesterday we were at the kiddo's doctor appointment, in preparation for his starting kindergarten in the fall. Everything was going great (eye test, peed in the cup -- always fun for a five-year-old boy! -- blood pressure, weighed/measured height, etc.), then the doctor came in and did the usual stuff, poking and prodding, looking in eyes, ears and throat. Standard stuff.

Then he started talking about the growth curve that the kiddo is on. The kiddo's dad (who was with us at the appointment) is 6'2" and I'm 5'4", and the doc was explaining how you add __ inches to the mother's height and average that with the dad's height and that's how you estimate how tall the kid will eventually be. Alrighty. Then he charted the kiddo's weight curve. He weighs 46 pounds, and has for a long time. I always say the kid grows up, but not out -- just like his dad. I find this to be a very good thing.

But the doc started going on about obesity and how if the kiddo continues on the curve the way he's going, he'll be 5'11" and 195 lbs. by age 16, which is too heavy. Hello? The kiddo is active as a squirrel and has weighed the same thing for most of the year and is hardly in danger of becoming obese. The doc also said the healthiest little kids have visible ribs. I said, "Well, okay, going by your criteria, I can see the kiddo's ribs, but you're saying he's overweight?" Doc said, "YOU HAVE FAT EYES! It's all relative. If we took YOU [pointing at me] to SAMOA, the Samoans would think YOU were ANOREXIC!"

I was starting to wonder if the doctor had forgotten who his patient was.

The kiddo, of course, was totally bored out of his mind by all the lecturing (I was getting there), and was noisily fooling around on the table a lot, so I quietly told him to settle down or hop down from the table. Without a noticeable transition, the doc then launched into a different lecture: "There's three kinds of behavior: good, junk and dangerous. What kind of behavior was the kiddo just doing?"

"Junk," I heard myself say, hating myself for even playing along with his little quiz game -- so condescending! I felt like I was being treated like a child. Time slowed down a bit for me, enough so that I had time to wonder if I was putting out some vibe that gave the doctor the impression that he could talk to me this way. But isn't it just like a lot of us to wonder how we caused someone else's bad behavior? Why didn't I just firmly say, "We're done here," or "I'll thank you to watch your step, you arrogant schmuck"? Anyway, the doc went on for several minutes about how when you correct your child, you have to give at least 20 compliments or supportive gestures to compensate for it, blah-blah-blah. Clearly he'd read the first chapter of some popular self-help book.

I finally said, "I certainly hope you're not judging my parenting based solely on what's happening in this little room -- on this small sample!" Because I will tell you, readers, that I am all about love and support and kisses/hugs and cheering for the kiddo and rewarding good behavior and giving the kind of love that he doesn't have to earn and all that stuff. Geez. And I don't make the kiddo eat food beyond what he can eat. How ridiculous to think that I could, even if I wanted to.

"Why shouldn't I??" he challenged, eyes wide.

This time I didn't bite. "So have we moved away from the weight conversation?"

He said, "Yes, because when I see a teaching opportunity, I take it! [Blah-blah-blah, I have kids, I'm a doctor, I know a few things, blah-blah-blah.]"

(Incidentally, the kiddo's dad, a psychologist, stayed characteristically quiet during the appointment, for the most part, but did side with me later. To be honest, I could've used his support right then and there, but at least we agreed afterward that the doctor was an arrogant schmuck.)

Oh, somewhere during the appointment, the kiddo's dad asked about thimerosal in vaccines and wanted to verify that it's not used as a preservative any more. (He asks this of every new doctor we encounter, partly, I suspect, because he's checking for consistent answers.) The doc then went on about how people used to be wary of fluoride because it's one of the components of rat poison, and sodium is in sodium cyanide and it's also in table salt, and people objected to mercury in thimerosal, and there was never a negative reaction to thimerosal, but people knew mercury was dangerous [blah-blah-blah, writing "NaCN" and "NaCl" on the paper covering the exam table], but people insisted it not be used, just like California has long insisted that tap water not be fluoridated. "California is a hotbed of anti-fluoridation activists!" proclaimed the doc. (The kiddo's dad also has a Master's in chemistry, but I think he was just giving the doc enough rope to possibly hang himself.)

Finally, after the doctor stepped off his soapbox, the kiddo got three shots; his dad and I both had to hold him still because he was terrified and screaming/crying/squirming. Fun stuff. We gave him some Motrin afterward and all I'll say about that is it's a good thing it has a childproof cap because apparently it tasted so good that the kiddo wanted to lick the dose cup (and he did just that). ;^)

The three of us went to lunch afterward and, in a very mature attempt to regain our equilibrium, mocked the doctor. I repeated his "hotbed" line. "I've been saying that for years," the kiddo's dad drawled. He's pretty funny sometimes. He also noted that the doc had been "pretty opinionated," and pointed out that the doc, in jumping all over my correcting the kiddo, was doing exactly what he was telling me not to do -- paying attention to "junk" behavior. (I won't even get into the fact that one has to set some limits when the kiddo-monkey is at the height of limit-testing behavior. You know what I'm talking about, and I defy anyone to ignore such behavior for one solid hour in a cramped and dim exam room.)

Really, though, right after the appointment and before lunch, I felt exhausted and felt like I was going to cry partly from having dealt with my son's emotions for the past few days regarding the three shots he needed, and partly because I'd let myself get sucked into the doctor's quiz and judgement game and I felt I should've stood up for myself more. I felt I was once more a child being lectured by my dad and I wondered how that had happened yet again, at age almost-40.

Feh. Damn learning opportunities. The doctor may have taught me something, but it wasn't the thing he thought it was. What he taught me is that I must work harder to protect my boundaries. He also reminded me of what it feels like to be judged unfairly, and this will go a long way toward my not judging others.

I should probably thank him, and I may actually write him a note to this effect. Or maybe I won't. Although writing such a note may make me feel a little better, the truth is that people like him rarely change. I guess I'll have to decide what my expectations would be if I were to write him a note, and go from there.

At any rate, we will definitely be going to a different doctor next time, although probably at the same practice. If we run into Dr. S. again (like for an emergency), you can bet I'll be much more prepared and stop him in his tracks. No more boundary crossing.

I'm learning.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Can't Ante Up

Well, I'd like to write a nice post about going to see The King and I at a newly renovated historical theater nearby, and being thrilled that I heard the original (1951?) orchestration -- 31 orchestra members instead of the movie version mob -- and how that is the recording I have and oh, what a joy to be able to sit in the very front row and watch not only the show, but the musicians in the pit, and know to watch the piccolo player and the percussionist at the right times because I'd practically memorized the music, and the way the soprano playing Tuptim totally nailed those killer high notes...

But right now I have to return to battling the ants that have attacked an oatmeal bowl and are roaming the kitchen. One moment they weren't there, then we went to the grocery store, and when we returned, there they were. I hate bug spray, but I notice the spray bleach cleaner I have seems to do what I need it to do in this case.

Now to wipe the place down yet again...