Sunday, April 27, 2008

Yeah, Sometimes I Am

While choosing a sweater, Mrs. Rodius asked me if I liked the orange one. I said no, I didn't. She asked which one I liked better. I said the yellow one. She explained that yellow does not go with her skin tone. I told her I thought it was funny how she asks my opinion about these things and then explains why I'm wrong. She said she doesn't tell me I'm wrong, but in this particular case, I WAS wrong.

Later, at home, she embarked on a lengthier explanation of clothing color and skin tone and hair color and which one goes with the something and the other thing. I was trying to pay attention. Well, actually I was trying to look like I was paying attention while I tried to listen to Edward Norton telling me about Strange Days on Planet Earth. At some point during her explanation, I laid my head back, closed my eyes, and snored.

First she said she was going to tell her mama on me. I pointed out that her mother loves me. Then she said she was going to tell MY mama on me. But then she got it: she said she was going to go on my blog and write a post about what a fucktard I am. So I figured I'd better beat her to it.

I love you, honey!

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Gadgets

This week we looked into a water softener system. We can put up with the calcium scale on the shower walls and on the drip tray for the water dispenser in the refrigerator door. But we have a suspicion that high magnesium levels in our water contributes to both of the cats urinary tract infections ("UTI's" to those of us in the business). High levels of magnesium in non-prescription cat food is known to contribute to struvites, which scratch up the bladder, which allow bacteria to develop. So if magnesium in the food is a problem, magnesium, a component of our hard water, in the drinking water is probably a problem, too, right?

But yeah, it turns out our water comes into the house on the wrong side. Two plumbers explained why this is a problem, but I kind of spaced out and went away to my happy place for a few minutes while they were talking, and I can't really recreate for you here their explanations. But both of them said it meant we'd either have to spend tons of money digging up our driveway or spend tons of money digging a trench and running pipe all the way around the house. And yeah yeah, we love the kitties, blah blah blah, but thousands of dollars of plumbing work? Uh, no.

So we're getting the kitties a $370 countertop water distiller instead. We've been double-filtering their water (the refrigerator water's got a Pur filter on it, and we run that water through a Brita pitcher filter, too), but apparently to no effect. So we're going to distill their drinking water instead.

Part of me feels like a heel, like if I explained this to, say, a random sampling of my co-workers, a high percentage would point and laugh at me. $370? For cat drinking water? Heh heh. Sucker. Then part of me thinks it's not just the compassionate thing to do, but the smart money. We could easily spend that $370 on one, or maybe two, UTI's. So let's be proactive! You've got to spend money to save money. Or something like that.

And then part of me was sad that we wouldn't be getting the calcium scale-reducing benefits of the water softener. And I swear my skin's been drier and itchier since we moved here. So I just bought a $70 shower filter, too.

Heh heh. Sucker.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Brain Stains Are Hard to Remove

Holding young Thumper on my lap, I reached behind me to get a book to read to him before his nap. As I did so, my ear rested against the back of his skull. At that moment, he chose to grind his teeth. The sound reverberated inside my own skull, and my brain suddenly exploded. And I died. The end.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Brainwashed and Right on Time

For as long as I can remember, I've tried very hard to be punctual. Being late, or even the possibility of being late, gives me anxiety. I am often early in order to avoid being late. I'm not sure when it began; perhaps my mother would say that this concern with punctuality did not begin when I was a child. Whenever it began, I hate being late. I try not to get mad when other people are late, but mostly I steam. I fume. And then when they show up, I say, "Oh, that's OK." And then they do it again the next time, and I fume some more.

I don't generally consider myself an uptight person. When Mrs. Rodius and I met, I was a lazy slob, and she was a tightly-wound neat freak. She and her sisters had and have the highest standards of cleanliness, inherited directly from their mother, of any people I've ever met. I wouldn't go so far as to call them obsessive-compulsive germophobes, but hey. You draw your own conclusions. Over the years, I've increased my standards, and she's lowered hers. Otherwise, we might have killed each other. Or divorced. I know that she pines for a home as clean as her sister's, but neither of us really want to commit to that level of time and attention, and we've reached a sort of happy medium. We don't clean the bathrooms as often or vacuum as often as we used to back when Mrs. Rodius was crazy. We rarely dust. There are piles of opened mail, baby equipment, and other various daily detritus piled on the kitchen table and counters. But now, I find myself doing things, and my mother would certainly confirm this, that I would NEVER have done as a child: this morning, I swept up bread crumbs to maintain the cleanliness of the kitchen floor that I swept and mopped on Friday. Am I becoming one of them?

That's what I wonder: As I age, am I becoming an uptight prick with standards way out of whack? Is it just an Austin hippie thing? There is virtually no one that I know who pretends to care even on just a theoretical level that punctuality is mildly important. Am I crazy? I found myself giving a lecture on punctuality the other day, explaining that I think that being late is disrespectful and communicates that you don't care very much about the person or people that you agreed to meet at a specific time. I got the feeling my lecture was less than convincing.

And I've been in other people's homes. I've been to the homes of friends who were expecting me. When I buy things off of Craigslist and am invited into the homes of people who knew I was coming, more than occasionally the word "squalor" comes to mind when I see the conditions in which they conduct their daily lives.

Am I crazy? Have I been brainwashed by my crazy in-laws to believe that it really is easier to maintain a clean home than it is to clean a dirty one? Am I the only one out there who regularly shows up fifteen minutes early in case I run into traffic or other easily predictable delays? Let's get together for lunch and discuss it. Say, 12:00? I'll be there at quarter 'til. I'll be fuming until you get there around 12:30 or so. It's a date!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

His Fingernails Now Have a Chalkboard

The boy's two teeth are now four, soon to be six. Unused, as he is, to having something hard against which to work those two bottom teeth of his, he is spending much of his time today rubbing his four teeth together. It produces the most horrifying sound. It gives me chills. I have actual shivering sensations going on over here just thinking about the sound. Lord, please let this period of experimentation with tooth texture be blessedly brief. Amen.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Die! No, Don't Die.

This is a post about mixed emotions and guilt. It is not a post about what a horrible, callous person I am. I promise.

Sometimes I wish the cats would reach the end of their lives already. I don't feel good about it, and I don't really wish they would die. But sometimes I really do. Sort of.

Before we had a child, I almost felt like the cats were our children in a way. We took care of them because we loved them. They helped to fill our home with a little more love and affection, a little more cute and fuzzy. They filled a need deep in Mrs. Rodius' heart. And they killed bugs.

Then Cat #1, who had colitis and an unpleasant tendency toward diarrhea and a willingness to express his unhappiness at feeling poorly by peeing on our possessions while angrily staring right at us, developed diabetes. Shit, piss, vomit, and now injections! Yay! And as a bonus, the guilt for choosing not to move him across the country with us and not wanting to continue trying to control his uncontrollable roller coaster blood sugar numbers. Mrs. Rodius still occasionally sheds a tear for him.

Then Cat #2 was murdered in our living room. Cat #4 demonstrated a life-long tendency toward struvites and infections despite the expensive surgery that saved his life. That surgery has prevented subsequent blockages, but he still gets at least 2 or 3 bladder infections per year.

Cat #3, perhaps in solidarity with Cat #4, has also decided that regular urinary tract infections would be a wonderful way to spice up life. She also has seasonal allergies that give her rashes, making her scratch her ears to scabs and overwash so that she has bald spots. It's wonderful to wake up at 3AM to the relentless "flapflapflapflapflap" of a cat obsessively scratching her ears. She also hates Cat #4 and likes to have screaming fights with him. Also at 3AM.

Now Cat #4 has been acting, well, a little iffy. He's been vomiting white foam. He's breathing heavily. He's spending more time alone under the bed. He may have lost some weight. Thumper and I took him to the vet this morning, and now I'm waiting for them to call and tell us what's going on. I'm hoping he'll be OK. I'm hoping that it's not that he scratched a big wad of carpet fuzz off of the scratching post and ate it so that he has an intestinal blockage that will require surgery to remove. I'm hoping it's just a minor, easily correctible problem so that he'll be back under the bed tonight, back attacking Cat #3 and puking on the patio. But part of me, just a small part of me about which I'm not proud, hopes that it's something catastrophic. Something big and incurable. Something fatal. Something painful so that we won't feel as guilty about euthanizing him. And maybe, and don't tell Mrs. Rodius I said so, but maybe something contagious.

I know, that's horrible. And not just to the cats, but to Mrs. Rodius. Her cats are a part of her. Each one owns a little piece of her heart, and she will hurt so whenever they meet their ends, however it may happen. But I think maybe her need for them has abated somewhat. That if these cats move on to meet their maker, perhaps she won't need to find new cats to save. Because, yeah, they're our cats, and I love them too, blah blah blah. We made a commitment to them when we took them in. But now, with Thumper, the coughed-up furr balls and the scratched-up furniture seem less endearing somehow. The constant cat litter maintenance seems more tedious. And with the reduced income that came with staying at home with the baby full-time, the regular expense of vet bills and antibiotics and prescription food seems extravagant. Irresponsibly extravagant, even.

I know, I'm going to hell. Definitely going to hell.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Feelin' Groovy

Thumper's crawling on his hands and knees now. He's pulling up on every object in sight, so that he's increased his vertical reach from about a foot to about three-and-a-half feet in less than a week. We really ought to get serious about baby-proofing the joint. He's getting better and better at getting food into his mouth himself. He has several top teeth threatening to poke through. The changes are coming fast and furious, so I sing to him:

Slow down, you movin' too fast
You gotta make the moment last
Just kickin' down the cobblestones
Lookin' for fun and
Feelin' groovy

To which he replies, "Really, father, your grammar is atrocious."

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Golden Age

I've heard this period of time through which Thumper is now trekking referred to as "the golden age of babyhood." Social Worker Sister-in-Law ("SWSIL"), too, said that this was her favorite age. I can see why. Every day, there are changes and firsts that make for a lot of fun. There are so many firsts, it's hard to keep up. Mrs. Rodius is trying, though, with a first year calendar that has stickers for the major achievements. She gave the boy his "crawling" sticker yesterday. I had been holding out, saying that he's not crawling, he's doing that military on-your-belly-under-the-barbed-wire kind of scoot. He gets up on his knees, but his forward locomotion is almost exclusively on his belly. She tolerated my opinion for awhile, but yesterday she informed me that there were 25 recognized forms of crawling and gave the boy his official "crawling" seal of approval.

He's also probably saying Mama and Daddy. It's hard to tell, because he makes those noises all the time, but mostly without meaning. Sometimes, though, I think he means it. A few days ago, when he had clearly had enough of being in the car, he wailed out a truly pathetic "Da da!" But if he's saying Daddy, he's definitely saying Mama, and I think we have to count that one as his first word. He follows her around the house saying "Ma ma!" as he scoots. Er, crawls.

And he's hit us with his first kisses, too. We've both got them. Sometimes he returns a kiss that he's been given, but sometimes they come completely unprovoked and unexpected, as on Bluebonnet Picture Day, when he laid one on Cousin Freckles. I said, "Aww, he kissed you!" And she replied, with good-natured disgust, "I know, he licked my lip!" So sweet.

He's pulling up, too. So far, he can only do it on low objects, like the treadmill, or me when I'm laying down. He tries and tries on the chairs, the loveseat, the coffee table, but they're all a little too high for him and he loses his balance before he gets upright. He's obsessed with the treadmill now. The front room used to be a sea of toys, but I finally got him a bookshelf so we could get his books off the top of his toy box, which makes the toy box infinitely more useable. So now we put the toys away and just take a few out to play with at a time. He doesn't care about the toys, though. He heads straight for the treadmill and pulls up. And falls. And pulls up. It's hard watching him faceplant or execute fantastic spinning falls. I cringe, but I figure he's probably learning as much from the falls as from the standing. And unless he cracks his head a good one, he usually gives me just a token complaint and then gets right back up to do it again.

I think the thing I'm most surprised by at the moment, though, is the effectiveness of the word "no" when said with the proper tone of voice. A couple of my co-workers told me that they believe in spanking and especially in hand-swatting in infants. They said that a child must be afraid of his parents because he doesn't have enough sense to be afraid of all the things out there that could hurt him. I don't have to lay a hand on him, though. I'm sure it won't last forever, but all I have to do is tell him firmly "No." as he reaches for a forbidden object. He can even distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable uses of an object. He loves to twang the spring door stops along the baseboards, for instance. I let him twang away. But the instant he starts to put his mouth on it, I say, "No, don't eat it." He cries, he tries again, I say it again. He cries, he tries it again, I say it again. And now, he doesn't even try. He just twangs happily away. The same thing is working for the cat bowls, too. And my glasses. It's amazing. If only the power of my voice would restrain him over the many years to come, when this Golden Age has become history.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


When you birth a baby in Texas, you're required to sign a contract agreeing that every spring, you will take a photo of that child plopped down in the middle of a field of bluebonnets and that you will take a similar photo every year until such time as said child is old enough to compose a 500-word essay specifying the reasons why it is dumb and/or stupid and/or boring to continue doing so. Thumper did not submit his essay this year, therefore: Thumper in Bluebonnets, 2008 edition.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Laguna Gloria

This morning, Thumper and I strapped on the Snugli and set off to the Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria to seek adventure. We may not have found adventure, but we did find a really good time. And oak pollen. Lots and lots of oak pollen. I gave him a bottle on a bench under an oak tree upon our arrival, and by the time he finished, we and our stuff looked like we'd been spattered with bright yellow paint. We were ready for some art.

If you're unfamiliar with Laguna Gloria, as I was, it's an historic Italian villa surrounded by gorgeous grounds. I wasn't really expecting an experience like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (OK, maybe I kind of was, a little), but the museum itself was, um, understated. Beautiful, but understated. It consists of black-and-white photos in each room depicting what the room looked like in its glory days as Clara Driscoll's home. Scattered throughout the villa was the current exhibit, a handful of paintings and photographs inspired by the grounds.

Thumper was surprisingly receptive to the exhibit, kicking and squealing in delight at more than one of the paintings. He particularly liked the more monochromatic offerings, like the deep blue pre-sunrise view of the lagoon and the vibrant green watercolor renditions of the flora. His favorite, though, was "Baby in a Bathroom Mirror." He has loved the replica we have here at home for as long as he can remember, but to see the original in a museum setting was particularly fulfilling.

The grounds, of course, are the real attraction to the place. We wandered down meandering garden paths around the lagoon, occasionally surprised by a sudden sculpture. We paused in one or two appropriate places for photographs. I let him practice his stair climbing skills. I plopped him down amongst the plants here and there to take his picture. I snapped one or two touristy shots of the grounds without the baby. Mostly, though, Thumper just wanted to grab everything and put it in his mouth. So we picnicked, watched the "big birdy" peacocks for awhile, and when the bluest one started to get territorial and puff himself up and threaten to kick our asses, we headed back to the car and home. Thumper was asleep within half a block, and thus, a fabulous time was had by all.
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