Next Stop: Batty

Hangin' by a thread, here. I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bad Bear! Bad, BAD BEAR!

Friends #27 and #28 (Kathy and John) came last week for a sleepover -- brought their kids, their dog, a big bottle of red, and Kathy's prize-winning apple chocolate cake. Oh my, oh my, that cake was good. But even better than the cake was the following story:

Kathy and John met in Mexico while trying to save the world. They fell in love, got married, and went on a posh and pampered honeymoon in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Yeah, nothing says young love like the buzz of a mosquito in your ear and a complete and utter lack of SHOWER facilities.

Actually, I think the honeymoon in the wildreness thing is a pretty cool testament to the strength of their relationship. Steve and I would have ended up with an annulment. Did I ever tell you about our second anniversary when we went canoeing in the New Jersey Pine Barrons? Yeah. Portaged most of the way due to drought. Bumped into 83 Boy Scouts in 25 canoes -- and never shook 'em. Sprayed gallons of bug spray in an effort to rid ourselves of pine flies -- only to find out that the little f---ers LOVE bug spray. And somehow -- I don't know how -- it was all Steve's fault. Oh, how I LOATHED that man! (Loathed him for a good 5 to 10 minutes when the only way to discourage the flies was to build a fire, and we discovered that the Scouts, like a plague, had stripped the land of every stick, log, dry leaf or shred of bark which could have been used to feed a fire. I wanted to burn the boys themselves, but Steve wouldn't let me and oh, how I loathed him for it.)

But I digress. So, there are Kathy and John, canoeing and camping in Minnesota, bathed in the warm glow of newlywed bliss. The waters are sparkling, the birds are singing...the bears are watching. Yes, BEARS. Gotta love the bears on the honeymoon. Apparently, bears are certifiable PESTS in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildreness. On their way in, Kathy and John were advised by Mr. Safe-In-My-Little-Green-Hut Park Ranger to treat the bears like pests. Shoo them, yell at them, scare them, make them go away.

Am I the only one who thinks "shooing bears" is a super bad idea? I mean, do they just hand out the Park Ranger credentials to anyone willing to wear the funny hats and the knee socks with the elastic holder-uppers? Shoo the bears. They're not squirrels; they're BEARS. And "scare the bears." Please. Let me see...bears = big, carnivorous dudes with many teeth and property rights. Kathy and John = THE OTHER WHITE MEAT. Yeah, I can just imagine all the bears shaking in their big, black, furry, spectacularly clawed boots.

But I digress. So, guess what happened? Yep. Kathy and John smooched and paddled and smooched and paddled until it was time to find a spot to camp for the night. A cursory inspection showed no signs of bears in their chosen little love nook. One is supposed to look for claw marks on the tree trunks and bear scat on the ground, says Mr. Oh-So-Helpful-In-The-Funny-Hat. If this story were about me? The statement, "If you don't see claw marks on the trees, you're probably okay," would lead me straight to the Marriott, please pass the key to the minibar.

But our intrepid explorers, Kathy and John, are snuggled in for the night in their nylon (i.e. NOT bear proof) tent, when SHOCKINGLY, they hear noises outside. They take a peek and WONDER of WONDERS! It's a BEAR! Now, it's that special time in the honeymoon when we "shoo the bear" and "make the bear go away." So they yelled at the bear from inside their tent. But the bear, being... oh, A BEAR... was not dissuaded by the little talking drumsticks in the little tent. That bear went right on helping himself to Kathy and John's pack, which was hoisted up in a tree for better bear access. That's when Kathy saw the bear going after the Snickers bar stash, and something inside her snapped. My friend Kathy then RUSHED THE BEAR, "Bad Bear, Bad Bear!," and GRABBED THE FOOD FROM THE BEAR, "Bad, bad bear!," and then HIT THE BEAR. At this point the poor bear, appropriately chastized, took off...

...only to return later, prompting a very naked, very white John to CHASE THE BEAR through the woods with his spikey red hair and his skinny, glow-in-the-dark butt.

The next morning, a slightly more thorough inspection of the campsite revealed trees with more claw marks than actual bark, and enough bear poop to sink a ship. They had camped in the heart of Bear Central and had lived to tell the tale, Snickers intact.

If you didn't LOVE this story, drink a liter of red wine and read it again.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Postcard from the Barfbucket

Sorry to be so long between posts; was busy barfing my way through our florida vacation. YES!

Now, believe it or not, I have quite a few thoughts on the subject of barfy vacations. Where to begin...

First of all, there's my new earthshattering theory of human behavior: we have an irrational need to know. When your five year old -- all dressed in her new Target bathing suit and smothered in sunscreen -- blows all over the white diningroom carpet of your parents' rental condo, what's the first thing you do? Comfort the child? Grab the carpet spray? Curse the vacation Karma gods who just keep stickin' it to ya'? NO! You take a rather longish gander at the vomit, of all things. In the blink of an eye, you are running a mental list of what you have fed the child, and are actually attempting to identify the contents of the substance by size, shape and color. Others have gathered around and are also rubber necking the hazmat spill. As if it were the most natural thing in the world, they begin to offer theories on the concoction:

"I think that's the ham. Was the ham old?"

"No, that's not's too thick. That's just bread. And bananas."

"Bananas are not that color."

"Yeah, but things change color in your stomach; you can't go by color."

"She didn't eat any bananas. Did you eat bananas, Dear? She didn't eat any bananas."

And later, on the occasion of the child's second Jackson Pollack treatment of the carpet, the scientific commentary continues:

"Now THAT'S not ham, either."

"That's just fluid."

"What did she drink that's pink?"

"Well, that's probably watered-down red. What did she drink that was red? Did you drink something red, Dear?"

Maybe this is all born of some nurturing instinct -- we are trying to assess the situation so as to better treat and cure the child. Except, really, is there such a broad range of approaches to the treatment of a barfing child? It's pretty much Get a bucket and then Don't feed the child anything or Don't feed the child anything and then Get a bucket. No matter what the color of the vomit, the overall goal is going to be NOT to produce any more of it. Oh, yeah, and clean the carpet.

In the end, I don't think it has anything to do with the care or feeding of the beast. We look because we can't help it. Picture this: you're in a crowd, and someone farts. You know someone has farted because others are now protesting said fartage, frantically fanning the air with their hands, pointing and laughing, etc... But miraculously, you don't smell the offending emission right away. AND NOW, time stands still. You cannot move, converse, or otherwise participate in the gathering until you have smelled the fart. You must. Smell. The Fart. You actually send your nose into overdrive -- sniffing and snuffing in hopes of catching a passing whiff. And when it comes -- as it invariably does -- Holy Gasmasks, Batman! It's disgusting! Your eyes water, and you want to die. How could any self-respecting adult have befouled the air thus? But you just had to smell it, didn't you?

We have an innate need to view the vomit and smell the farts. Don't say you don't, because you do. I'm just puttin' it out there, no extra charge.

Also, a question for the philosophers among you: When a child begins erupting like Vesuvius all over your family vacation, and you're the mommy, is it better just to catch the damn bug or dodge the bullet? Not that one can control such things, but I think I'm gonna have to vote for going the sick-as-a-dog route.

Yes, it's Florida and the condo is ON THE BEACH and the temperature is 83 degrees and you bought a new tankini, but let's think about this rationally. A HEALTHY mommy really needs to get on her hands and knees and at least make a show of helping to clean the white carpets. But Barfy Mommy gets to go lie down. Healthy Mommy skips the beach to stay with the sick child because of the FOUR adults on the scene, Mommy is the only one deemed acceptable by Clingy, Whiny, Barfy Child. Barfy Mommy skips the beach, too, but is too feverish to care for CWBC, so an ADDITIONAL ADULT is assigned the task. I mean, how beautiful is THAT?!? Healthy Mommy's vacation mornings are...just like all the other mornings. She has to get her vacationing ASS up with the kids, pour the juice, dole out the vitamins, oversee the toothbrushing, beg people to eat things, apply two gallons of sunscreen, find the goggles and the flip-flops, etc... Barfy Mommy stays in bed on her vacation mornings because she' know...BARFY.

And then there's the obvious: Barfy Mommy is still white as a sheet at the end of her vacation, but she IS inarguably skinnier. What more can I ask?

All in all, it was a very nice trip. Next year, I'm hoping for something nasty that comes with laryngitis so that in addition to lying in bed all week, I can avoid actually speaking to anyone.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

My Waldorf School Kids Are Just So WEIRD

Heard from the peanut gallery in the backseat of the minivan:

Taylor (7): Okay...pick a game. You have to pick a game first. Space Galaxy Battle or Finding Fishies?

Carly (5): Space Battle.

Taylor: Space GALAXY Battle.

Carly: Yeah.

Taylor: Click here for Space Galaxy Battle.

Carly: Okay.

Taylor: Okay, Go!!

Carly: Aaaargh! Bam! Bam! Ahhhhh!

Taylor: Okay. Pause it. Pause it! You have to use the mouse to move left and right, okay? Ready, go! No, faster! Get that guy! Get him! Get him! Use the super fuel button!

Both: Yeah!!! Whooo-peee!

Taylor: Now, it's my turn.

Carly: Okay, just let me close this down. Click! There.

Taylor: Okay.

What happened here? Did Mommy give in on the electronics and media thing? Did alfalfa-chompin'-TV-bannin'-progress-shunnin'-ME relent and purchase the dreaded GAME BOY??

Hell, no. But years of deprivation have obviously and irretrievably twisted my children. They now play hand-held computer games in the backseat of the car using...a plastic green baby wipes box. God, they're weird. And God, I'm proud.

Ladies and Gents, here's my battle cry: toss the TV. Cut the computer. Defy the Disney tide. And you, too, can have wonderfully weird kids, like mine.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Musical Meme

Well, "She Who Must Be Obeyed," (Betsy, who writes My Whim Is Law ) has tagged me to do my very first meme. Isn't that cute? Mama's taking off the training wheels (or the gloves, or the skirt or something).

Brief aside for those who, like me, are just clawing out from under a rock: a "meme" seems to be a prescribed writing challenge which involves listing aspects of one's life/personality, etc... Memes are used in a tag-like game; a person completes the assignment, and then passes it on to others.

The challenge: List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

1. Aerosmith, Pink. I just like tough rocker Steven Tyler growling the words "pink" and "flamingo." No, it's not my favorite color, but the tune makes me happy, and happy mama = ain't nobody gonna die tonight. And my kids like it because they think they understand it (which they totally do NOT).

2. Eminem, Mosh. Rap is great for running to if you've been on a diet, like, your whole damn life, and you're never gonna ever ever EVER have thin thighs, and you want to send out a big "fuck you" to diets and the fact that you care about thin thighs so much in the first place. Mosh has the added bonus of taking me back to when the video came out, like a week before the election, and Bush must have been having fits all over the Oval office. I smile every time I think about it -- honest!

3. Capella Gregoriana, Gregorian Chants. My 5-year-old has gotten into the habit of having these playing in her room when she falls asleep. I like hearing them when I go in to snuggle her good-night. The music makes the moment feel so sacred -- which, of course, it is.

4. The Diane Rehm Show theme song on NPR. It's 10 AM, I've just driven my kids to everlovin' mars to attend the Baltimore Waldorf School (so it was really Baltimore we went to, not Mars...same difference). Now I'm looking at several hours to myself -- all strung together, and Diane is a' talkin'. God, I love Diane Rehm. I might marry her one day. It doesn't even matter what she's talking about; it's what she's not talking about. See, Diane is a grown-up and she's talking to ME about stuff OTHER THAN not wanting any more salami sandwiches in her lunch, needing additional Pokemon cards (especially Shining Charizard), and wanting to watch TV (can she, please? huh? can she? can she? WHY NOT?) I could just pull the car over and do a jig when I hear Diane's theme song.

5. Anything Johnny Cash because, yep, I thought he was just some old -fashioned country dude until I saw the movie. Never consciously listened to single tune. Ashamed to admit it, but there it is. And Joaquin was amazing, but Johnny was the Real Deal in every way, for sure.

6. Pete Seeger's version, Des Colores. Gosh, because we just saw Pete in a die-and-go-to-heaven concert with Tom Chapin, Tom Paxton, John McCutcheon, Sweet Honey, and all these gods and goddesses. Pete is a man who exudes integrity, soul, and love. He's just one of those. Knows what he's here for and has never shied away from living BIG. Years ago, I was lucky enough to sing Des Colores with him on stage (along with 40 other women in the Anna Crusis Women's Choir), so that song has a special place in my Pete-lovin' heart. And that's him in the photo up there, but I can't figue out how to do captions.

7. Willy Mason, Oxygen. Because he describes the real State of the Union, and actually believes we can improve it. Willy says:

I wanna be better than oxygen
So you can breathe when you're drowning and weak in the knees
I wanna speak louder than Ritalin
For all the children who think that they've got a disease
I wanna be cooler than t.v.
For all the kids that are wondering what they are going to be
We can be stronger than bombs
If you're singing along and you know that you really believe
We can be richer than industry
As long as we know that there's things that we don't really need
We can speak louder than ignorance
Cause we speak in silence every time our eyes meet.

That's it for me, and now, I am tagging Shelley, Chelle and Trista...and the first four delurking today will also be tagged.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Howard County Summer Camp Mania

Oh yeah. I got sucked in. But good.

Howard County summer camp registration was February 2. That means I needed to be on the web typing furiously at 12:01 AM, or all the good spots would go to the ubermommies, and their kids would be better than mine. And what would happen if my girls didn't get into some sort of structured summer activity? Listen, if you need to ask that question, then I don't even know where to begin with you. I mean, hello? Life Enriching Experiences? If our kids don't get those amidst the deafening din of a commandeered high school cafeteria in the middle of July while wearing special-issue t-shirts and My Name Is... stickers, applying gloppy paint to papier mache bunnies under the direction of a perky pimple-faced counselor named Britany, then WHERE DO WE EXPECT THE SUMMER ENRICHMENT TO HAPPEN?

My friend, Katherine, tried to save me. After I scoured the camp description booklet (39 pages of fun, fun, fun) for the sessions which would really turn my kids' lives around, I called to give her a head's up on what I considered to be the best offerings for 2006. This was a true gift: best camps, bar none, offered to Katherine and her boys just in time for registration -- on a plate with fries on the side. But was Katherine grateful? No. She called my Chesapeake Bay selection contrived. Contrived!

"But, listen to this," I said, "'Kids will go tonging, feed algae to an oyster, dress like a waterman, and catch and weigh a rockfish.'"

"Where?" she replied dryly in that I'm-a-mother-with-integrity-and-I-don't-need-camp kind of a way.

"At Town Center Middle School," I reported, "Says here, 'science lab.'" So there! Science lab. Science. Science in the summer. Hey, if Katherine doesn't recognize a life enriching experience when someone hands it to her ON A PLATE, then that's on her. My kids'll be curing cancer someday with all their extracurricular science background. Hers will be...well...NOT doing that.

"Why don't we just pack a cooler and some fishing rods, and take them to the Bay one day? Catch some oysters. Meet some watermen," she offered.

Okay forget Katherine. I don't even really like her. She's too good for summer camp, wants authentic experiences for her kids, lah-dee-dah.

Hey, at least my motivation is good! I'm just trying to find some cool stuff for my kids to do. Most of the ubermommies worked themselves into a total tizzy weeks before registration, whining to each other about what were they gonna do with the kids all summer? Yeah. A lot of these people are just looking for ways to get their children OUT OF THE HOUSE. Not me! I want to educate mine (okay, I guess there's a small part of me that wants to avoid ripping them limb from limb by Labor Day, but I'm not, like, in a panic about it or anything).

So there I was, CALMLY staring at the registration website, fingers nimble, camp selection marked in red in my dogeared booklet, waiting for that digital clock to tick over to 12:01. God, I'm good.

By 12:09, the system was all clogged up. As I stared at the little "page loading" hourglass, I couldn't help but imagine all the other women who had waited up until midnight ON A TUESDAY, IN FEBRUARY to do this. Women by the hundreds, crazed by a. the need to raise uberkids or b. the need to have a kid-free summer. Was I one of them? Exhibit a: me and my computer, 12:09 AM, slogging through an interminably slow registration process just to get the "Craft It!" camp from 9 to noon August 7 through 11. Damn. If that ain't the dark side, I don't know what is.

Got to bed at 1:22 AM, feeling like an uberidiot. Woke Steve up to let him know which camps I had gotten. He likes to be kept informed. He was very appreciative and impressed that I stayed up until 1:22 ensuring a rich and varied summer for our two girls. He was so glad I wasn't like those slackers who decided to deal with it later and went to bed. He didn't say this stuff, but he was thinking it.

The next morning at approximately 10:17 AM, the entire Howard County Parks and Rec website CRASHED due to the morning wave of crazy people like yours truly. And then the trouble really began. The moms got ugly, like in the 80's when you told Santa you had to have a Cabbage Patch doll with red hair, green eyes, and one dimple, and there was resulting yuletide bloodshed at Toys R Us. Back in Howard County, the poor woman at the parks and rec office had to endure the entitled rants of streams of women who probably should have stayed with their legal careers or started on meds -- one or the other.

That afternoon, I was talking to my semi-sane friend, Denise, about the whole camp thing. Feeling cheap and sheepish, I announced, "Next year, I'm not even doing this camp rat race. We'll just do things on our own. Maybe we'll go to the Bay one day and, you know, bring a cooler and stuff. Taylor's almost ready for sleep-away camp, anyway, which I do think is a good experience. Maybe we'll just do an occasional Girl Scout Camp from here on out."

"Good luck," Denise said, "People have to camp out the night before to get slots in the Girl Scout camps around here."

I kid you not.

Friday, February 03, 2006

We May Have to Amputate

Oh, my Baby! The blood! All the blood everywhere! (Not was just a scraped knee.)

Carly was wearing these shoes which she dug out of one of the sixty places where I stash hand-me-downs. (That kid digs stuff out of everywhere -- the fact that she still believes in Santa just astounds me.) When she put the shoes on and claimed they fit, I was too busy, like, picking my nose to check. Well, sportsfans, those shoes did NOT fit. No, no, oh no.

I wasn't there when it happened (nor was I there when the same child tried to "walk" our poor dog across the electric fence and ended up losing the battle -- badly). Child runs on the driveway with ill-fitting-mommy-didn't-check-because-she's-a-bad-mommy shoes. Child meets driveway with hands and knees.

She comes screaming for me. I try to channel my husband (mr. cool in the face of blood) and check for major gashes while trying to act like I haven't a care in the world.

No major gashes. One bumped knee. One scraped knee. Two red hands.

Okay, don't even TRY to tell this kid she's gonna be fine because she's not having it. Don't try the ol' "let's go pick a Band-Aid out" trick; she hates you and your Band-Aids because you failed to save her from the driveway. She's BLEEDING, you understand. BLEEDING. Oh, the HUMANITY!

I love that I remember what my mom did in such situations. She put me up on the countertop and gave me a cool, wet cloth to hold on the injury. It was just right -- always made me feel better. I have such clear memories of it.

So, I put her up on the countertop. I show her on the antiseptic bottle where it says, "hurt-free." (She doesn't read, so it could say "burns like hell and you'll wish you were dead," and she wouldn't know. But she believes me. She believes me, but can I believe the bottle? There's always that moment of truth, isn't there? God, please let it not hurt, please let it not hurt. Johnson and Johnson, I will find you myself and make you BOTH pay...)

It doesn't hurt, and we're both so relieved that we giggle. I wipe her tears and find a really BIG Band-Aid. She's good to go.

Fast forward two hours. Child is DYING. Child cannot go on. Needs to be carried. Is in PAIN. Needs a popsicle. Not a red one! Child with grave knee injury does not LIKE red ones! Oh, the PAIN. Cannot straighten leg. Cannot bend leg. Needs crutches. And new band-Aid. Old one is old. Needs popsicle of correct color! Ow! Owowowowowowowo!!

It is now that I go through the seven universally recognized stages of mother-of-a-minor-scraped-knee-hood:

1. Nurture: draw her to my bosom and hold her, rocking gently, and comforting her in her pain, no matter how minor, remembering how little she is.

2. Reasoning: tell her in soothing, loving voice that she's alright now, she can stop crying, she's okay. It'll be okay. She can stop crying.

3. Bargaining: "Honey, listen to Mommy. You're okay. If you can stop crying now and be a little bit more brave, we'll pick out a brand new box of Band Aids at the store tomorrow. Yes, even Barbie, but you have to stop crying."

4. Senseless Repeating: You have to stop crying. Honey, stop crying. Okay, stop crying now. Ready? 1-2-3 stop crying.

5. Going: That is enough now, Sugar.

6. Going: Okay. No new Band-Aids for you. You lost that priviledge. No, you needed to be brave and were you brave? No.

7. Gone: Oh, COME ON!!! IT DOES NOT HURT THAT MUCH!!! LOOK AT IT! IT IS A TEENSY WEENSY SCRAPED KNEE!! This is ridiculous! And I'll tell you something else: you're gonna have a whole lot MORE scraped knees in your life so you'd better get used to it. Mommy has had HUNDREDS of scraped knees, one back labor, and two c-sections. DON'T TELL ME ABOUT PAIN!! Now knock it off. I don't want to hear it anymore. I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT!!

7.a. Repentance: Oh, oh, oh... okay. I know it hurts. You're right. Mommy didn't mean it. Mommy will kiss it. Oh, bad boo-boo! Look! It's only 7:00! Mommy has time to carry my bwave wittle soldier upstairs to bed before sticking my head in the oven... Okay? Would that be nice?

7.b. Recognition: Gaze upon exhausted, sleeping child. Gigantic Band-Aid already flopping off tiny knee. Marvel at how little child is. Notice how baby face shows up when she sleeps. Remember perfect firstborn skin and thank God for healing. Think of inevitable boo-boos that cool cloths and Band-Aids can't fix. Thank God for watching over her. Ask God to keep doing that. Ask God to keep doing that. Ask God...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Pre-School Sex Ed: Where Babies DON'T Come From

I want to go on record right now with the following: when it comes to the well-rounded education of our daughters, my husband is elected to handle the birds and...the other birds and their little tiny bird penises and how they make all those baby birdies.

Carly (5 years old) likes me to sing a Fred Small song to her at bedtime. It's called Everything Possible (great song), and states the following (among other things): Some women love women, and some men love men; some raise children, and some never do...

Carly loves this ritual of ours, but for the life of her, she cannot get her little I-own-62-girl-dolls-and-49-boy-dolls-and-I-need-more brain around the "some never do" part. "What do you mean, 'some never do,' Mommy?" she finally asked last night.

"Well, some people don't have kids. They choose not to have kids. Or they just don't have 'em." (Flustered already; what about those who want to, but can't? Well, certainly, that's too complicated for a 5-year-old. Yeah. Keep it simple.)

"How do they not have them?"

Red Alert! Red Alert! Stuff about "how!" Change the subject!

"They just don't have them. Want a glass of water?"

"How, though?"

Oh, this is somebody's idea of a joke and I'm on Candid Camera, right? I can't just your garden variety, "Where do babies come from?" Noooo! I have to deal with, "Where do no babies come from?" Or, "Where don't babies come from?" Or, "Where do babies come from, not?" And that, my friends, is what I get for exposing my children to this damn mind-opening pinko PC communist folksy strap-on-the-birkenstocks-and-pass-the-pot music. Think, Tracy, think, THINK!

"People decide not to have them, and you could decide that too, if you wanted, and then you wouldn't have them. Let's sing another one. How about "Old MacDonald?" No, no, no! Where did all those farm animals come from? Different song, DIFFERENT SONG!!!

"Or, how about This Little Light of Mine, I'm Gonna Let It Shine?"
(as long as I use protection...) "Ummm...or, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" I wonder if you come from sperm, like babies... "You know what? Mommy is soooo tired. No more songs. Time for sleep."

"Everybody does have them, Mommy, but they let them be adopted, right?"

"No, Angel, not everybody has them. Don't you ever sleep? STEEEEEVE! Carly wants to say good night!

On the positive side, maybe the Fred Small song will "turn them into lesbians," as I'm sure some people might think. In that case, I can tell them babies come from turkey basters (except in Indiana, but that's a post for a bitchy day) and be done with it.