Dana: April 2006 Archives

Last week I did what no other mothering being should attempt: I gathered She Who Sells Houses (Jen), She Whose Husband Works at AB (Megan); Ozarks Amy, Chris's cousin Brit (who babysat the boys after school last Tuesday so I could work), myself, and all of our children for a trip to the zoo. It was a caravan. Liam wouldn't stop mooching other kids' snacks, even though I brought SEVEN BAGS of snacks from home. As we stood pretending to be interested in the sea lions as much as our children, Megan discovered that a semi-hippie female collegiate of the non-patchouli variety was taking notes regarding human behavior. I think our group display gave her an entire semester's worth of disorders to study.

 

And in Dude Who Punched Saddam in the Mouth:


Army guys flanking Samir and Chris

 

Last year Chris and Doug attended something to do with River City Rage's new season and were introduced to Samir, who has the AWESOME privilege of being known as the dude who punched the crap out of Saddam Hussein.

Dude is my HERO. (Samir, not Saddam.)

Reunited

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Last Friday I met Amy at our favorite Mexican restaurant and we reconnected over quesadillas and lime margaritas after a twenty-year hiatus. I knew who she was the moment I saw her and as we sat and talked, it reminded me of all those summers ago when we would play all day together. It was like we'd barely skipped a beat.

She's as energetic and excitable as I am and we also share another trait: Neither of us can do math in our heads. We felt like two second-graders as we sat there for FIVE MINUTES trying to figure out how to divide our bill and add 20% for the tip.
We are an embarrassment to public education.
Unless it comes to diagramming sentences.
As English nerds, we can diagram us some mean sentences.

The weirdest encounter I've ever had

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Earlier today I had a meeting downtown, the exit of which was rendered exceedingly long by all of the baseball fans leaving the stadium who were NOT RESPONSIBLE PEDESTRIANS. Please, for general sanity, take care to learn the meaning of street signs, the difference between a flashing red hand and flashing block person, how to distinguish a cross walk from regular paved street, and other pedestrian laws before going downtown. For anything. Ever. I waited two minutes at a green light while a woman and her husband stood in front of my bumper and argued about whether or not they should walk out in front of the CAR THEY'VE ALREADY WALKED OUT IN FRONT OF!

Afterwards, I stopped at the Super Wal-Mart - and I did get the letters telling me that by shopping at Wal-Mart I'm endorsing it and wasn't I aware that Wal-Mart hates women, beats puppies, sets fire to orphans and sells the cheap cheese? Yes, but I LOVE those things!

Anyway, I went to the SWM pharmacy to pick up Liam's Zyrtec. Unfolding at the counter was a situation that lies at the top of my pet peeve-I-want-to-scratch-my-eyes-out list: Someone unloading the ENTIRE contents of their cart at the pharmacy to checkout because they're too lazy to walk over to the regular checkout and CHECK OUT. So I'm behind this elderly woman (late 60s? 70s?) who was stylishly, yet eccentrically dressed. First, she wore panty-hose with gold lame open-toed sandals, and I hate both open-toed sandals and panty-hose. Especially together. She wore a beautiful, perfectly coiffed wig, except that her witchy gray hair poked out underneath at the base of her neck.

I gathered that she had bad gas, a rank foot order problem, a yeast infection - any nasty thing you could possibly buy to embarrass yourself with at the checkout this woman had in her cart. And she accompanied each item she unloaded onto the pharmacy desk - much to the chagrin of the ladies behind the counter - with a story on why she needed this or that product.

Like how she noticed how the spaces between her toes smelled weird, so she though she might as well buy some Odor Eaters. I give her props, because Chris' grandma can hardly kneel down; this woman can actually BRING HER FOOT TO HER HEAD. Dude! I stood there totally impressed for a few minutes until she started asking whether or not this particular gas relief medicine would treat her farts' sting and smell.
Then I bit my lip so hard that it began to bleed.

I didn't want to laugh because I love old people and I love any old lady that even remotely resembles Phyllis Diller, and if I wasn't at the SWM I would've SWORN that this was her (if she's still alive. Still alive?). I caught some of the people waiting behind me rolling their eyes, but I assumed that it was because they couldn't be second in line, front row like me to enjoy the show.

Another register opened and I got and paid for my prescription. As I turned to leave, Phyllis touched me on the arm and briskly demanded that I turn around so she could see the front of my outfit. I was wearing a plain brown dressy t-shirt (don't ask), jeans, brown heels and a big chunky Xena Warrior Princess belt. (I have a fascination with ginormous belt buckles.)

"Oh, you look just DARLING," Phyllis said with her flat red lips. "I just love this belt. Tell me, where can I go to get a good scarf? I just love scarves, I'm new here and I need to know where the places are to shop."

"Uh..." I stammered, because Phyllis obviously mistook me for someone of fashion and would laugh her wrinkled arse off if she knew that I exclusively clothes-shopped at Target and Old Navy. I told her such and her eyes dimmed.

"I'm sorry, I've got two kids and the only other places I know of that might suit you are the boutiques in Clayton," I responded.

"Oh, okay," she replied, and then turned around to ask if there was anything on the market better than Beano.

And I cook for CHILDREN

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After Chris and I got married we briefly rented a tiny bungalow across the highway from a place called Meacham Park, a.k.a. the Kirkwood ghetto. The house had one owner, a chain-smoking couple who died, months apart, both in the master bedroom from complications due to what else? Smoking.

The smell of cigarette smoke emanated from every surface in the house. We had the carpet ripped out and we repainted, yet that old stale smell lingered, no matter what chemical or scent we tried to mask it with. The first time I cleaned the house I spent an hour wiping nicotine off of the doors. The house was cheaper than other places, minutes from our jobs, and convenient - I was pregnant and throwing up so many times a day that my doctor threatened to hospitalize me for dehydration - I could barely work much less house-hunt.
I was so glad when we moved.

Saturday night I decided to get all Barefoot Contessa and made chocolate-covered strawberries using the three-pound bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips I got at Sam's. The recipe called for two tablespoons of vegetable shortening for every two cups of chocolate used. I followed the recipe and noticed that the smell of Crisco reminded me of something and as I took a bite of the first chocolate-covered strawberry, I realized what it reminded me of: It tasted exactly like our old house in Kirkwood smelled.
Apparently, bad Crisco smells like a 1950s bungalow that's been smoked in for forty years.
I threw out the Crisco and the entire POUND of chocolate-covered strawberries because they all tasted like that old house smelled.

"Ohmygawd! This, this is literally the worst thing I've EVER PUT IN MY MOUTH." Chris choked.

I half-vomited my bite back up in the trashcan; we both raced to the bathroom and brushed our teeth with huge heaps of toothpaste, but we still couldn't get the taste out.

"Did you make that with food?" he asked incredulously.

"Yeah, strawberries, chocolate, and Crisco. The recipe specifically asked for Crisco."

"How old is that Crisco?"

"Um, Crisco ages?"

"Okay, well, we're either going to die or have the runs now, so keep an eye out."

How to be a hoosier in two easy steps

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One: After the purchase of a new appliance, leave your old appliance square in the middle of your front yard like so:

Take care to assure that all of the wires, hoses, etc. stick out like stray hairs:

Two:
Refuse to clean up the mess incurred from adding two hibiscuses to your garden while blaring a Cult CD at the same offensive volume as the neighbor's Skynard. Leave clods of dirt all over the sidewalk and all of your tools scattered across the lawn for authenticity:

You're done! That was easy! Top it all off by downing a beer while wearing a wifebeater and sitting on your front porch.

BONUS: Sit in your kitchen and watch your new appliance in action, hypnotized by that thur new technology and stainless steel face:

Alternate titles for this post:

The Repairman Laughed When Asked How Much It Would Cost to Fix Our Dishwasher

and

The Entire Check Amount of My Last Contract Job, in Dishwasher Form

Disclaimer: Chris won't stop bothering me until I write: "It [dishwasher] didn't SIT in the front yard; it was there for like, ten seconds until I moved it into the garage."

Eau de hookers et hoosiers

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Our dishwasher broke down this week and leaked all over and UNDER our wood floors. How will I wash dishes now?! Oh. You mean in the sink? Actually wash them in the sink BY HAND? Yeah...no. Not only did the dishwasher break down and spew water over and under the floor - which subsequently leaked through the floor and dripped from the floorboards onto the basement floor, but it was 90 degrees the other day. Muggy, Midwest heat + semi-dry floors = the smell of my hoosier uncle Charlie's body odor. Which smells like mildew. Hoosier body odor smells like mildew.

I tried telling Chris this last night via a text message as he was tracking an album for a client and couldn't be bothered with his wife's dramatic wails about how weird the floor smelled.

"did u call repair guy b4 they closed?" I typed.
I normally don't type things like "U" in place of "you" because I am a grown woman who doesn't wear glitter and I have an unflinching hatred for combining numbers and letters to make some literary chimera, but I was typing on a cell phone which is like trying to fix your hair with your feet. I am not cool enough to possess a cool Treo 650 like some super important cool people.

"Why?" Chris typed back.
I refuse to use "text" as a verb. Just like "conversate" is not a word. Converse! CONVERSE.

"bcuz the floor smells like butt."
This continued annoyingly for the next 10 minutes until I threatened to chuck my phone off the deck if he didn't just CALL ME ALREADY.

"What, did the floor get wet again? It cannot be mildewed."

"Oh, but it is. It smells like butt in here. Nasty, sweaty butt."

"Well, [sigh] can't you call the repair guy?"

"NO. I will not call the repair guy because you are the man. That is your job. In addition to mowing the grass and taking out the trash, you handle all home repairs. That's the deal. I do the rest. We aren't swapping now. Besides, I have no clue what to tell the dude."

"Fine, but it cannot smell that bad."

"You're not here."

"It can't smell any worse than all the candles you've got going on in there."

"It smells so bad you'll actually want me to buy MORE vanilla candles."

"I doubt it. It smells too vanilla-y in there, too perfumy. It smells like a bunch of hookers. The stuff you use to wash our clothes, our sheets, our bed smells like a hooker bed."

"Since when is the smell of vanilla and fresh baked cookies associated with hookers?"

Because chocolate crosses is TASTY!

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I spent Easter morning in a crowded church pew with two indecently sassy children, the eldest of which recently discovered his free will and relishes exercising it at the most inopportune times. He's also learned how to roll his eyes with such an exaggerated force that I worry that they'll up and roll right out of his head. I asked him if he could sit down, stop wrestling his cousin, and stop trying to crawl under the pew please and he responded with Excessive Sighing, a phenomenon not normally witnessed until the teenage years, and eye rolling. After the third time of asking politely and trying to nudge him into a different behavior, I decided to pluck him from off the floor, take him into his grandpa's office, and swat him into a different direction. Usually, I spank after my first warning is ignored and as a result, Liam knows that when I ask once or furrow my brow he'd better knock it off or LO, THE SECOND COMING. As a result, I rarely have to swat him.

After we emerged from the office, he bleary-eyed not because he got a swat but because I told him to behave or else the Easter bunny would DIE - I'm kidding, I threatened to sit him out during the egg hunt - did his behavior perk right up.

Mary, the woman organizing the egg hunt, asked everyone to bring candy-filled eggs, if they wished, for the children's egg hunt. WE HAD FIVE HUNDRED EGGS. WE HAD TO HIDE THEM ALL. Twenty minutes of thick, Midwestern heat later, I gave up trying to creatively hide the eggs and settled for flinging them all over the grass instead. I looked up and saw that everyone else had opted for the same method.

The kids tore out of the building like they were on fire and began the hunt. Ewan wasn't so much concerned with the quantity of eggs he found, but with opening and closing the same ONE plastic egg for the next hour. It took us a half an hour to fling five-hundred eggs all over the place and ten minutes for the kids to gather them all.
I didn't anticipate the heat; the temperature hovered in the 50s last Easter; yesterday it was 90 degrees.
And we hid candy-filled eggs.
Mostly chocolate.
OH YEAY.

 

Liam and his best friend J.J. sat on the pavement while going through their loot and got melted chocolate everywhere. I told Liam eleventy-thousand times: "DO NOT OPEN THE CHOCOLATE. It is melted, you are in a suit." Liam heard: "Screw that, GET CHOCOLATE ALL OVER YOUR SUIT."

Each of the boys' grandmothers bought an unholy amount of chocolate for each of the boys, plus toys. Chris and I got them each a chocolate cross, which Chris later decried as kinda Satanic and totally weird, just get a stupid chocolate rabbit next time. Initially I thought "Hey, cool! The symbol of Christianity upon which our Lord and Savior totally died! In chocolate!" TASTY.
Okay, it is kind of weird.

 

(I now have a hideous quantity of chocolate in my refrigerator: Six rabbits, two crosses, three boxes of mini egg whoppers, a bag of chocolate eggs, two Reese's peanut butter eggs.)

Afterwards, we conducted a behavioral experiment at Chris' aunt and uncle's house wherein we fed the kids tons of sugar, chocolate rabbits, and assorted chocolate eggs, let them refuse their naps and run wild.
I'm still twitching from it.

The other night Chris and I were watching "Only in America" with NY Times pretty boy Charlie LeDuff. I am certain that he hauls around a gym bag filled with hair products as to keep his man curls fanboy-perfect.

We really like this show if for no other reason than because LeDuff's purpose has a direct opposite effect: Instead of highlighting and subtly poking fun at American idiosyncrancies, it only serves to amplify his own, a vanity he generously exhibits with every episode.

The first episode that we watched featured LeDuff wandering all deer-in-headlights-like into Oakland's famous fight club scene, where he got his backside handed to him by a 270+ pound man. IT WAS AWESOME.

The most recent episode details how LeDuff got all up in Detroit's grill by exploiting their hip hop scene and torturing my soul with his privileged, Hollywood attempt at rap by using expensive iambic pentameter. He got into a friendly rap battle with some guys who could verbally gut him like a fish and of course thought he was all cool because he parsed a string of forced rhyme together. The group of aspiring rappers clapped because who were they to make fun of free publicity, even if it was at the hands of a patronizing, trying-too-hard dude who uses "product?"

In yet another episode, LeDuff travels to the armpit of Appalachia to interview the snake-charming, tongue-talking zealous sect who seem like real-live characters created by the writers of Napoleon Dynamite. He made a complete butthat out of the tent-revivalist preacher whom I personally felt was out more for fame than salvation and highlighted the often exclusive charismatic community practices. Finally, in what no reporter has ever before attempted, LeDuff differentiated between "evangelicals" and plain old Christians and discussed the redundancy of the term "born again" with a popular pastor.

"You know what? At this moment, I'm kind of glad that he didn't get killed in Oakland." I remarked to Chris.

"Yeah, me too."

Still, Hunter S. Thompson rolls in his grave.

A few more than three teeth

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It's time for Chris to mow our lawn. I can tell this when the grass starts peeking wildly around the sidewalk and garden pavers in an unwelcome manner, like rogue untrimmings peeking out from behind a bathing suit. All of our neighbors saw this and made a concerted effort to manicure their lawns so now our lawn looks like hillbillies live here. Which wouldn't be entirely untrue, given my lineage.
 

It seems like we're in a constant battle with our neighbors to see who can mow their lawn the most; we're also covertly fighting over property lines by always mowing a weensy bit over onto the other person's property. One of our neighbors always mowed five feet over onto our property until I put a ghastly flowerbed in the middle of his path, which made him stop. Maybe it's all in my head, but I doubt it.

Our excuse for our pitiable yard is that Chris and I've been incredibly busy: Chris has spent most of his afternoons at city hall preparing for this morning, where his company was finally awarded special TIFF funds to help with the residential portion of Shock City's studio project; I've got things coming up next month, including a trip to the east coast which I'll go into later, that I've been preparing for these past several months.

Despite this, I was ahead of the yard game last weekend; I listened to Snow Patrol (whom Chris and Doug saw at SXSW, rendering me infinitely jealous) while separating my lilies and weeding out the beds. I was trying to separate my red hot pokers - which if you've never seen one they resemble giant phalluses - if separate means to PSYCHOTICALLY STAB WITH A SPADE. It was like trying to divide a cabbage the size of a pig's head. I tried to leverage it out with a shovel and ended up flinging my stick frame off the top of the three-foot high flower bed wall, straight to the ground, where I landed on my butt.

Three Teeth wandered over with his requisite can of beer and told me how he was in the doghouse because his ol' lady had done seen him giving his friend's bikini-topped girlfriend a ride on his new motorcycle. He then told me that he finally found and read my website and that he wants it known that he has a couple more than three teeth and proceeded to demonstrate their virility by using them to pop open his beer can. I asked him since when do rednecks read blogs written by SAHMs and he countered with a jab at my music.

"I can't stand this fruity your-o-peein' music" he said, motioning to the CD player, when lo, I put on some AC/DC and Three Teeth was happy. "Well, I'm glad to hear that some good, old-fashioned rock'n'roll still's getting' played."

His Math Skillz is Crazy

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Kindergarten registration has arrived and the reality that we've chosen to homeschool is hitting me full on. During a recent outing, a friend of mine told me that she had to leave a little early to register her daughter (who's the same age as Liam) for kindergarten. She confided that she really wanted to homeschool, but that her husband and family were totally unsupportive of the idea. Afterwards, my mind kept repeating KINDERGARTEN REGISTRATION over and over again.

We're in the end process of conducting a dry run this year, figuring out which time of day works best for "class," the order of lessons, curriculum, meeting co-ops, keeping records, discovering the best way to sedate Ewan, all before things get official this fall. OH YES, THEY WILL GET OFFICIAL. We're fortunate enough in Missouri to have our local government recognize our right to home-educate our children without screwing us via a bunch of "regulatory" laws designed to intimidate and micro-manage homeschoolers as a form of penalization, unlike New York.

Among the things I've learned: Liam is a visual learner and very advanced in math. Advanced as in he finished an entire ABeka math workbook in the time it takes me to balance my checkbook. We've had some rough times, like when it took two weeks for him to differentiate between the short vowel sounds of "i" and "e," but actually seeing the lightbulb flick on over his head, his eyes brim with excitement, his face radiate with knowledge that he worked hard to acquire, it's worth it.

We feel ready enough now to brave the weird looks we've already started getting from some friends and family. Things get sticky when much of your family is peopled with public school teachers, or if your family is like my mother's, who believes resolutely in three things:
1) The superiority of Budweiser
2) Bush sucks
3) Public education is the panacea of our times

A close friend of mine once asked why on earth I wanted to teach my kids at home when I could send them to school and have my afternoons free. I don't really think I should base important decisions in my children's lives on what will free up my time. I realize that when I knowingly engaged in baby-making I was nonverbally consenting to never again use the bathroom, eat a meal, or do anything remotely selfish like enjoy an afternoon IN PEACE. (Semi-fully. I never thought I'd have to use the bathroom with a crying baby on my lap because he wanted to be held RIGHT THEN as the treble in his screams threatened to crumble our walls to dust.) They're minor inconveniences of which I think most parents happily sacrifice.

While I personally endorse homeschooling for my family, it's not for everyone. It benefits some families to send their kids to an outside place of learning rather than teach them at home. However for us, it works.

Things I've learned as a parent

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That a Weeble, when thrown full-force by a 16-month-old directly at your face, can leave a knot on your forehead the size of a marble.

I bet she says "warsh," too

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My friend Elle straight freaked my bid'ness out the other day when she sent me an e-mail titled: "A friend from the Ozarks - FOUND!"

I was all, "What on earth?" She went on to say that she spoke to her friend Amy not long ago, whom she told about my site. Amy became a regular reader and thought she recognized me.

"She recently called me and told me that she used to live in the Ozarks and you seemed familiar - you used to play on your 4 wheeler together as kids! When I told her your maiden name - Eaton she was like 'Oh My!'"

My jaw hit the floor.

As a little girl, I spent my summers in Mill Spring, Missouri, just south of Piedmont (Piedmont was on the news a few years back because they got a stoplight, their ONLY stoplight). Mill Spring is a weensy little town by Black River. My father's parents owned a tavern there - not a bar mind you, or a even the more classy "pub," I mean an alcohol-soaked gin hole where you could only enter if you wore a gratuitous mullet and/or rolled a pack of cigarettes in your t-shirt sleeve. I spent a good part of my youth learning how to play billiards from Hell's Angels and playing Bob Seger on the jukebox. I never saw anything more inappropriate in the tavern than what I would see at my typical family holiday gatherings, thus it didn't really affect me. The place was situated directly across the street from the mini-mart and had a full view of the town from its huge plate glass window. I was perched there the morning the Coke trucks came by to deliver the first shipment of their then-new product, Cherry Coke, to the town citizens, all of whom had assembled outside the mini-mart's entrance. It was like Christmas in June. Everyone knew/was related to everyone. I used to drive my three wheeler to the nearby spring, sit on its banks, and snack on watercress. Those were the happiest times - the only happy times - that I ever spent with my father's family and remain some of the happiest of my entire childhood.

Behind the tavern was a quiet, idyllic country street with tidy little houses. One of them belonged to Amy and her family. She and I played together all summer long, rode my miniature three-wheeler around the tavern's gravel parking lot, and watched A LOT of "Adam's Family" reruns. I remember that she had long hair and her little brother, Andy, had blonde hair which sort of shrieked out from the top of his head like a pineapple stalk. They were so incredibly nice and were my only friends in Mill Spring. When they moved I was really sad and I thought, "Well, I'll never see them again." They disappeared somewhere in St. Louis and never returned. (Down in the kuntry people call any land north of Farmington "The City." I was told that Amy and her family had "done moved to the city." The town in which I currently live, a little over 3,000 people, is called "The City." When kuntry folk actually do go to downtown St. Louis they are overtaken by a strange phenomenon which renders them completely nervous; incapable of driving, reading maps or using escalators. I am not joking.)
In time I left too. My grandparents left town and sold the tavern, which burned to the ground several years later, and my relationship with my father deteriorated into nothing. I had no reason to ever return to Mill Spring in person or in my mind.

That brings us twenty years into the future, to present-day, and my receipt of Elle's e-mail. I'm excitable by nature, so I immediately began to freak out and only gave a minor consideration to the possibility that Elle was on crack and that this was not THAT Amy. Oh, but Elle knows everyone on God's green earth (she knew Chris and I before we knew each other) including THAT Amy. So after several e-mails brimming with more exclamation periods than I have ever used in my life, I finally spoke to THAT Amy last Thursday and on the phone yesterday afternoon. Since my jaw was already on the floor I had to resort to filling my pants when I found out that she lived in the same county.

Out of all the awesome people I've met and cool things that have happened as a direct result of this website, this has to be one of the tops.

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