Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Now I Lay Me Down Not To Sleep

This should be classified as a rant and I'm not sure what the purpose of it is, other than if I can't sleep, why should anyone else? The hours I've slept over the last few weeks have been shrinking progressively.

Typically, I'm In Bed for 6 to 7 hours per night. In Bed does not necessarily equate with sleep, but on good nights, I get close to 6 hours of sleep. Lately, I'm lucky if it's 5 hours. This morning? Awake at 3:30 with maybe 4 hours of sleep.

Back in my college days, going to school full time and working the equivalent of a full time job (bouncing around with 2 to 3 part time jobs), I did just fine on 4 hours of sleep. A smidge over a decade and a toddler later, not as fine...or at least more pissed off about it.

I should Go To Bed. I'm tired, but I'm wired and I know sleep ain't happening yet. And, when it does happen, I just pray I don't have to pee in the middle of the night...if I do, it's a precarious journey to the bathroom on tiptoes to not set off 1 of the minimum 5 brains that Rodius insists I have crammed into my skull. (Not suggesting that I'm as smart as 5 brains, but rather that I have at least 5 things going on in my head at any given moment...)

Rodius went to Bed a while ago. I'm sure he was Out in less than 5 minutes. Both he and Thumper know how to sleep. I could use some lessons. I do what I'm supposed to....I don't watch the late night news....I don't drink caffeine in the evening...I have something to write down things that pop up on my To Do list just isn't always enough. Maybe I need to bust out the Ambien, but I'm not so keen on pharmaceutical induced sleep. It is a necessary evil once or twice a year, though, when the insomnia lasts a week or longer. Too late for it tonight. I can't be comatosed in the morning...I have my T-Day assignments to attend to.

Yeah, the words of Barenaked Ladies

Now I lay me down not to sleep
I just get tangled in the sheets
I swim in sweat three inches deep
I just lay back and claim defeat

My hands are locked up tight in fists
My mind is racing filled with lists
of things to do and things I've done
Another sleepless night's begun

Lids down, I count sheep
I count heartbeats
The only thing that counts is
that I won't sleep
I countdown, I look around

Who needs sleep?
(well you're never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep?
(tell me what's that for)
Who needs sleep?
(be happy with what you're getting)
There's a guy who's been awake
since the Second World War

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tales from the Playground: Trapped!

Thumper and I had coupons for free food at the brand new Chick-fil-A.

(Aside A: Huh. Am I crazy, or didn't it used to be Chik-fil-A? When did they put the extra C in? Was the mispelling of Chick an affront to God, but the mispelling of filet stands? And did you know Chick-fil-A is all religious and whatnot? The things you learn by searching the nutty, nutty internets.)

Anyway, we had coupons. They were mailed to us. We even got two sets of coupons in our mailbox, and if you think I'm going to walk six houses down to return their coupons to them, you're crazy.

So we went to the new Chick-fil-A today. And so did everyone else. It was a madhouse. The drive-thru (Thru!) line was a mile long, and the dining room was packed. If I hadn't felt so rushed, I might have read the menu a little closer and realized I could have substituted sides, which sort of takes the wind out of this rant, a little bit:

(Aside B: I had a "Spicy Chicken Cool Wrap Meal." I did not add the dressing they cheerfully offered me. I'm assuming the meal comes with "Medium" Waffle Potato Fries, which, by the helpful calculator on their website means that I had 780 calories and 33 grams of fat. Good Lord! Thumper had a 4-Piece Chicken Nuggets and presumably small Waffle Potato Fries, or 410 calories and 22 grams of fat. Yeesh! Good thing he's a pain in the ass about lunch lately and didn't eat it all. He ain't so keen on fries. And he flat-out refused fries with ketchup on them. Smart kid. I mean, seriously, fried brown lumps of chicken and fried brown lumps of potato? That's what's generally considered an acceptable meal for kids? I gave him bits of lettuce, tomato, and cabbage out of my wrap. While we were eating, I perused the menu again, and I saw that I could have substituted sides "for additional cost." I saw the Cole Slaw (370 calories and 32 grams of fat!) and the Fruit Cup (70 calories, no fat), but I didn't see Carrot & Raisin Salad (260 calories and 12 grams of fat) or Side Salad. Maybe they were there, and I just missed them.)

(Aside C: Did you know those stupid cows painting mispelled billboards have been around for 13 years now? What is it with this company and poor spelling?)

Anyway, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah. We ate, and then we entered the playscape for some post-lunchin' fun. Hopefully the little snot machine isn't contagious anymore. I mean, it's been almost a full week now, and he doesn't have a fever anymore. That's the key, right? Fever? No fever, no contagion? Or something? Well, whatever. Maybe we spread the contagion, but we had to get out of the house. And there's one certain child that I wouldn't mind so much if we infected. See if you can figure out which one it is!

So he played on the ground level for awhile, but with the several hundred (or maybe dozen or so) other kids running and climbing and sliding, he finally decided to check out the upper floor. So up he climbed. And he crawled through the tubes. And he sat in the race car and spun the wheel. And then he said, "Daddy? Daddy?" And then he started to cry.

I could see him through one of the plexiglass windows, so I got his attention so he could see me. That didn't help. "Down!" he sobbed. And I thought, "Crap. The fat man's going to have to climb up there and get him." And so I did.

Thank you, whoever builds those playscapes for Chick-fil-A, for engineering them well enough to withstand the weight of a dozen little kids and one fat man. Loathe to put my weight on the hanging tubes, I climbed up and poked my head in and called to him. He kept sobbing, but didn't poke his head out of the next tube, where I knew he was, about six feet down the line. There were three three-to-four-year-old girls standing at the next junction, right outside his tube, looking at me like I had three heads.

"Would you help him come out so he can see me?" I asked. They stared at me. "Please?" I added. "The baby, who's crying right there? Would you help him out, please?" They stared at me. And so I thought, "Crap, the fat man's going to have to put his weight out there in these hanging tubes and hope for the best." And so I did.

And crawling down there, I discovered what the real problem was. A four-or-five-year-old boy in an Indiana Jones costume was laying in the entrance to the tunnel. Completely filling it. To be fair, he wasn't carrying the whip and machete, but still. Thumper was just on the other side of him, still sobbing. He couldn't get out because Indy wouldn't get the hell out of the way.

"Would you move please, so he can get out?" I asked. He just looked at me. "Would you move out of the way, please?" Nothing. "You," I said, and pointed right at him. He seemed to wake up. "Move." And so he did.

So I grabbed the boy and tried to reassure him as I huffed and puffed and grunted my way backwards through the tunnels and back down the steps, trying not to crush any of the small children who continued to tear through the tunnels at top speed as if I weren't even there. Thumper calmed down almost as soon as I touched him.

So, lesson learned:

A strange adult out of context will make small children freeze like they've seen the basilisk.

Related corrolary:

Asking four-year-olds for help in a crisis is folly of the highest order.

If He Runs Fast Enough, Maybe the Earth's Spin Will Reverse

Not a very creative attempt at Velvet Verbosity's 100 Words; it's just that Time has been on my mind lately.

How does time move both fast and slow? Five days creep by like the passing of a month, trapped in the house with a sick kid, trying not to spread his contagion. But sixteen months flit away like a fly I'm trying to catch with chopsticks. Those framed photos must be some other baby we knew once, because they're not him anymore. In constant motion, he's moved on. Now, for a moment, he'll stop and let me hold him. He'll press his head to my shoulder and gently pat my back, and the clock will freeze. Then time races on.

Monday, November 24, 2008


There's spoilers ahead, if you have any intention of reading this massive volume. Just so's you know.

I just moments ago finally finished The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. And the feeling that overwhelmed me as I turned the last page was:


This is precisely the same feeling I get when I've committed two or two-and-a-half hours to a (usually artsy "independent") movie only to reach an ambiguous ending that answers none of my questions. Only this time it wasn't a couple of hours. It was seven weeks. Seven weeks of my life reading a 900-page book, and what did I learn? Is Agnes dead? Maybe. Probably. Does William bleed to death from his injuries, or is he perhaps robbed and murdered before he can make it home? I don't know. Does Sugar escape and make a new life and a new family? One would think so, knowing what we do about her resourcefulness and her financial situation. But maybe not. It's not a kind world to an unmarried woman.

So yes, it was a compelling ride, and yes, he was an able writer who evoked an engaging world that sucked me in so much that I committed two (Two!) entire naptimes in a single day to finish it.

But what do I get for my commitment? A tongue-in-cheek afterword and fifteen "Readers Group Guide" questions to properly direct my thinking about this book.

And no, I thought I knew where we were going with the title, but I didn't, really. I mean, yes, generally, I get the whole "the good and the bad," "the moral and the immoral" implications. But who are the crimson and the white? William and Agnes? William and Edward? Sugar and Emmeline? William and Sugar? Sugar and Sophie? Sugar and Caroline? William and Caroline? All of the above?

Eh, whatever. That was a long way to go.

Oh yeah, and while I'm at it, who wrote the blurb on the back of the book? Did they even read the goddamned thing? Probably not, since it's freakin' 900 pages long. It says:

"Meet Sugar, a nineteen-year-old prostitute in Victorian London who yearns for escape to a better life. From the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, she begins her ascent through society. Beginning with William Rackham, a perfume magnate whose lust for Sugar soon begins to smell like love, she meets a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters as her social rise is overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds."

What? Rackham makes his pitch for Sugar on page 180, and he's nowhere near a "perfume magnate" at the time. And she leaves his house on page 868, no higher in her "ascent through society" than a (slightly higher class) servant in his household. Maybe this was an effective blurb as far as marketing goes, but man, it misses the actual book by at least as many inches as the book is thick. I wonder if the author scoffed audibly the first time he read it.

So there you go. There's my literary analysis of the book, one that would make the professors who shepherded me through my English major proud: it was pretty good. I liked it. But the ending kind of pissed me off. The end.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


In school, work, and social situations, I've generally been content to remain anonymous. I can be employed for years with a significant segment of my co-workers not even knowing my name.

But now, in my ushering job, I'm suddenly as unanonymous as I can get. I'm like Norm when he walks through the door of Cheers. It's all because I created a database that directly affects the part-time income of several hundred people. Now those hundreds of people all know my name. And my email address. And they have questions. And they have suggestions.

I worked on Sunday. I went in a little early so I could eat some lunch before we got started. It took me 10 minutes to walk the 40 feet to the microwave. And some of them aren't even asking about the database; it's just that now they think of me as the resident computer expert. Retirees ask me questions like, "If I use Outlook Express and put all of my contacts in there, why does Word use some other address book when I want to do a mail merge?" And I'm paraphrasing here, because it took several minutes just to get to the point where I understood that he was trying to do a mail merge in Word. He doesn't know phrases like "mail merge." Or "Outlook." Or "Word." Yet he was filled with hope that I would be able to solve his problem without ever laying hands on his computer.

When I was finally at my post, all afternoon ushers stopped by to chat. What about this? What about that? Could it do this? Can you reset my password? Can you check and see if my grandson has an account? I took a restroom break. Just as I was pushing open the door, behind me I heard, "Hey, Rodius, I've got a question for you." So I had to have a 10-minute hypothetical discussion outside the restroom about what wonders the future might hold if my bosses have the vision to approve some of the more grand ideas.

It's not that I'm complaining. Well, I guess I am complaining. But really, part of me likes it. It's like I'm a rock star now. It's just unsettling. What if things go bad? It's one thing to have everyone know your name when they're thrilled about what you've done, but they're still all going to know my name when they don't get on the events they want or when the server crashes. And then, there will be no hiding at the back of the room.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ready to Roll

In the Playroom

We're coupled, inflated, oiled, adjusted, and tightened. Man, inflating 2 tires to 95 psi with a clip-on hand pump is a workout in itself. Well, honestly, I only made it 65 before crapping out and saying, "Close enough."

Unfortunately, my gel bike seat melted in the shed, and now I'm thinking maybe we need helmets. We need helmets, right? So maybe a trip to the bike store after lunch, and then an afternoon test drive.

Also, just because I want to, here's our morning in the playroom today:

Friday, November 14, 2008

But We Haven't Hit 16 Months Yet

My mother, formerly known as Pure Light and now affectionately referred to as Gumma in our house, once told me that while people often talk about the Terrible Twos, in her extensive experience, 16 months was harder. Well, I think I'm beginning to see what she's talking about. Thumper has entered into a period in his life when he has discovered the intoxicating joy of seeing one's parents completely lose their shit.

He hits and pinches Aerie's face and laughs out loud if she flinches. He knocks my glasses off. He stands on the furniture. He goes after the TV, the stereo, the books, the CD's, the computer, the files, and absolutely anything else he can reach, and as tall as he is, that's a lot. And what's worse, what really just makes my blood boil, is that he does it all with an evil little smirk on his face. If I can, I'll try to take a picture of it some time, but I'm usually too busy trying to keep my cool to think of the camera. His devious smile looks a lot like this kid's, though.

I start out calm. I tell him no. I remove him from whatever it is. I hold him still and make him look right into my face for several uncomfortable seconds while I tell him no and no and no and why no. But he keeps at it and at it until I'm yelling at him and removing him rather roughly. I don't hit him. I don't shake him. But sometimes I think I'm getting close to it. I don't want to yell, because he's demonstrated just how ineffective it is. I have to get louder and louder each time for it to have the same effect, and eventually, even at top volume, it doesn't phase him at all.

Aerie was the calm one, talking me down, but now she's kind of starting to lose it, too. I know intellectually that it's not that he's in a power struggle with me or that he's laughing at my frustration. It's not that he's sophisticated enough to think it through to the conclusion that he can do whatever he wants, and we're not going to hurt him. It's just that he is revelling in his ability to have an impact on his world. He's destructive not because he's demonic, but because his fine motor skills aren't developed enough for him to be constructive. He likes to watch us lose our shit because it's a pretty good bang for his buck.

So Aerie suggested that maybe it's time for time out. I don't think he'll get the concept yet, but at least it will be a negative consequence for him to begin to associate with his defiance of the No. I don't have any illusions that he'll just sit in one place until we tell him he's done serving his time. Aerie tried the high chair once, but we don't want him to associate it with punishment. Ditto the crib. So I think I'm going to keep an eye out on our Goodwill trips for a small, preferably tip-proof, chair. And maybe I can add a seat belt to it if it doesn't already have one.

Really, all of that was just to get to this: what do you experienced folks think? Is 15 months too early for time out? Do you have any other suggestions for us, short of locking him in his closet?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lectured by Lito

Thumper had a fabulous time playing with two girls, about five and three, at the playground today. They were there with "Lito" and "Lita," which I'm guessing to be Spanish nicknames for Grandpa and Grandma. Perhaps a shortening of "abuelito" and "abuelita," which are, again perhaps, affectionate versions of "abuelo" and "abuela?" This is all conjecture based on my extensive ignorance of Spanish.

Anyhoo, he had a fabulous time. But Lito's extreme concern for Thumper's welfare was starting to make me nervous. He stopped the swing when Thumper was still 20 feet away. He gasped and sighed and jumped every time Thumper so much as wobbled a little. He kept instructing the little girls to take care of him. I began to take it personally. I wondered silently if he would show such concern if I were female, and then wondered if I would be so cavalier about Thumper's safety if I were female. I let him climb on his own. I even let him fall sometimes, but nothing serious, like a four-foot dive off the playground equipment. I let him approach the swings without yelling at him, but I wouldn't have let him walk right into them. I don't think I let him get into dangerous situations, but then I thought about the various scratches and abrasions on his left cheek, his elbow, his knees, his shin, etc., and I thought to a stranger, it might look bad.

Then a dog showed up. On a leash, with an owner. I don't know dog breeds, but the top of its head came to about Thumper's chin. Thumper yelled "Doggie! Doggie! Woowoowoowoowoowoo! Doggie!" and headed in that direction. Usually Thumper approaches dogs but doesn't get closer than 4 or 5 feet. I followed close behind. The dog seemed much calmer than most. I asked its owner if it was OK if Thumper got closer, and she said, "Yes. Roxie's a good girl." Roxie didn't seem at all excited, which I suppose explains why Thumper got closer than usual. The owner asked, "Do you want to pet her?" and patted the dog's side. Thumper patted her gently, and I said, "Good job. Do nice to the doggie." Then he smacked her a good one, and I picked him up, carried him away, and said, "No, do nice to the doggie. No hitting."

That was it. The dog didn't react to Thumper's hit at all. The interaction lasted no more than a few seconds. But as I walked away, Lito came up to me and lectured me, though in a very friendly and smiling sort of way. He told me I should be more careful with the boy, especially with dogs. The dog respects me because I'm so big, but because Thumper's right at eye level, that dog has no respect for him, and bad things can happen. He knows because he used to be an emergency room surgeon.

"Ah!" I thought. "That explains a lot." I thanked him, and we walked back to the car. I struggled with some resentment. Did he think he needed to warn me because I'm the dad and am probably just filling in for the mom for the afternoon? Would he have said something to a woman? Was he right?

I don't like to think I put the boy in danger. I like to think that I let him explore and discover things for himself. I like to think that I'm helping him not to be afraid of the world around him. I see kids at the playground all the time that fall apart at the slightest injury or who don't want to be pushed too high on the swings or who don't want to climb too high or get too dirty, and I think it's because they have protectors who follow them around telling them how dangerous everything is.

But then again, maybe I'm really going to regret it when he cracks his skull open or gets suddenly mauled by a dog that seemed quite calm a moment before.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fetch. Also, Noisy.

I tried to teach the boy a scaled-down version of catch this afternoon. I rolled him the ball. "Roll the ball!" I said. When it gently nudged his foot, I said, "OK, now roll me the ball! Roll it! Roll me the ball!" while making various gestures indicating motion in my general direction. He looked at me. He looked at the ball. He looked at me. "Roll me the ball!" I encouraged.

"Ball?" he asked?

"Yes, ball. Roll me the ball!"

"Danku!" he said, picking up the ball and carrying it over to me.

"Thank you!" I said. "OK, I'll roll you the ball!" And so forth, and so on. I affected my most enthusiastic tone. I rolled. I encouraged rolling. When he accidentally dropped it, I praised him shamelessly. "Yay! Good roll!" To no avail. My first game of catch was really a game of fetch.


I vacuumed today. The boy lost his mind. I guess that's testament to how rarely I vacuum. I think the last time I did so, his grandmother (affectionately referred to by the boy as "Mungo") was here, and she took him for a walk outside while I cleaned. That may have been as much as 6 weeks ago. It's amazing how much stuff he finds to eat on the carpet.

So I vacuumed. He freaked out. I only did one room. I stopped frequently to reassure him. "It's OK. It won't hurt you. It's OK. It's just noisy. It's not going to hurt you." And then I vacuumed again.

By the time I finished the one room, he was sobbing. And shaking. Seriously. Visibly trembling. I reassured him again. And for some reason, of all the words I used, he latched on to "noisy."


"Yes, it was just noisy. It's not going to hurt you. And it's all done."

"All done?"

"Yes, all done."

Etc., etc. So for the rest of the day, he's periodically looked toward the closet where the vacuum is stored. "Nosy? All done?" He said it for Aerie when she got home, too, and it seemed apparent that "Nosy?" is about the cutest damn word he's ever squeaked out. I think I'll torment him again tomorrow with another room. I'll tell myself I want to desensitize him to the vacuum so that it doesn't traumatize him so much, but really, I just want to talk about the Nosy some more.

All done!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Maybe I Need a Chief of Staff to Keep Me Focused

Thank you, Lisa L, for the congratulations on my weight loss so far. As I may have mentioned, I'm a bit of an attention whore, and that kind of positive feedback might really help me right now. I'm at a point that I have reached in previous weight loss attempts, the point where I'm losing motivation and on the verge of chucking it all in.

I'm sick to death of my workout routine, and I dread getting out there and doing it. And it's been much harder lately, because I've had some on-going respiratory difficulties ever since my pneumonia incident in September. My knees ache, my back hurts, and I just don't want to jog. Good thing Thumper asks me most mornings: "Dog?" To the untrained ear, that may sound like he wants a puppy just like Sasha and Malia, but really, he's asking to get out into the world and see a few cordles (squirrels), dogs, carsh, tucks, bushes, and mosiles (motorcycles).

I'm sick to death of counting points, too. I think I'm done with that. I'm glad I did it, though, because it was kind of a shocker how over the top my portion sizes were before. I have a better sense of mealtime propriety, now. Without counting, and keeping track of every day's point totals, it's a lot easier to tell myself that it's a special occasion or an anomaly when I eat too much. But I'm certainly not going to count points the rest of my life, and overcoming that little voice in my head that says, "Go ahead, it's just this once," is part of winning the battle that will let me keep a reasonable weight. It's a lesson I'll have to learn eventually.

So, solutions? I'm thinking of getting a bike trailer to strap the boy into so that I can mix up my jogging with some bike riding. The best thing about jogging is that, with the jogging stroller, I can include Thumper in my workout, so that when he's napping, I can use that time for other pursuits. And I like to think that I'm providing him with a good model for physical activity by including him in my exercise routine. Aerie has expressed misgivings about strapping the boy into a bike seat because I have been known to wipe out on my bike now and again. Like the time that I broke my wrist. She feels like a bike trailer might be a little safer, and she may have a point.

As for diet, I don't know. Just keep slogging through, I guess. With the exception of some Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops around Halloween, I really have done a pretty good job at eliminating chocolate candy from my diet. I love M&M's, so this is no small feat. Weight Watchers did show me what a waste it is, when you have only so many calories per day, to commit such a high percentage of them to a nutritionally void treat that will not leave you feeling fuller or more satisfied. And I've demonstrated in the past my inability to engage in moderation when it comes to M&M's, Special Dark, Twix, Kit Kat, Reese's, Watchamacallit, Butterfingers, Milky Way, etc. etc. etc., so succeeding in stopping myself when I pass them in the grocery store is a dietary success. I just need to keep working on saying no when I want to eat that bag of popcorn at 9:30 at night, or to eat a small bowl of pretzels instead of half a bag. I also need to find more creative recipes instead of eating big bowls of pasta because I'm sick of raw sticks of celery and peppers and zucchini and cucumber.

So, onward ho! If I don't go completely off the tracks, and remember the success that I've had and how I did it, maybe I can weather the slump and come out the other side with a renewed sense of motivation. And stop thinking things like, "Only 50 more pounds to go!"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Favorite Post of the Week

This might be my favorite blog post of the week. I'm such an attention whore.

Thanks, Ms. McQ!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Belief Is a Delicate Flower; Please Be Gentle With It

I haven't been, as so many of the bloggers that I follow have, as desolate and as despairing in my perception of the Bush administration, its goals, or the results of its pursuit of those goals. I've talked a little bit here about why I became more politically conservative, why I was disappointed in the Bush administration and its abandonment of most truly conservative ideals, and how I was, through my little glimmer of hope that Barack Obama really is who he seems to be, ready to believe that the coercive power of government, and the forced redistribution of wealth, may actually be the best conduit for justice, charity, equality, and sustainability.

Consequently, I wasn't as enthusiastic in my support of Obama as some. I voted for him, but I didn't donate to his campaign. I didn't proselytize. But now that it's here, the moment that could mean so much on so many levels for this nation and its people, I want to rejoice. I want to feel, like so many do, that this is morning in America, that all things are possible again.

Please, sir. Please, Mr. President-Elect. I don't see how you can possibly live up to all of the expectations that are placed at your feet, but please, just be a decent man. Act in good faith and in good conscience. Continue to talk to us as though you believe in us as much as many believe in you. Keep using your position to keep us focused. Remember what you've told us about sensible energy policy, about sensible taxation. Remember equality of opportunity. Remember love and pride and hope. You can't fix everything, but you can continue to inspire. And when the news media turns on you, as it eventually will, remember that you can talk to us without them. You did it in unprecedented ways through the election. Don't forget us out here. We're still watching. We're still listening. We're still hoping.

Oh yeah, and don't fuck the interns. Please.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

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