Sunday, May 28, 2006

My own private river in Egypt

Denial is not just a river in Egypt it's also a highway in New Jersey, a bridge over the Mohawk and a twice annual argument over the marching of time.

I've spent the last several months thinking of all the things willed into non-existence thanks to differences of opinion that make it difficult for otherwise affable people to see eye to eye.

We all know these people, right? They are the folks who -- regardless of their esteem or genuine regard for you -- never believe a single word that you say.

When I was just out of college I met the KING off all disbelievers. He was a guy who, although highly educated, wasn’t terribly motivated and couldn't conceive of anything that conflicted with his view of the world – regardless of how sane and straightforward the information offered as proof may be.

His answer to virtually everything that went against his grain was always: "I don't think so."

For those who have never encountered such a person, let me further confound you with a hypothesis: The 'I-don’t-think-so' reply of his is virtually the same response as the more adolescent retort "SO?" There is really no way to refute either one. No matter what facts you throw at this naysayer, they won’t believe you.

If you think you haven't encountered someone with this particular gift, just try to send a seasoned Capital District driver over the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge. A few blank stares and a MapQuest search later, and they'll still be standing there dumbfounded and questioning your grip on reality until you add: "You know, the twin bridges? The Dolly Parton bridge?"

My husband still has disagreements with his grandfather over how best to get to the old family homestead in New Jersey. According to the elderly gentleman, who hasn’t driven on the highway since 1970, the I-287 bypass just doesn’t exist. Nothing his grandson can say, even hauling out a map and pointing out the line that clearly reads I-287, can convince him otherwise.

Of course, in my case, the tendency for folks to write me off as unreliable isn’t too far fetched. I am, after all, the person who believed for YEARS that Tommy Chong was killed in an airplane crash; that Mikey (who hates everything and is fed Life cereal anyway) died tragically when a chemical reaction between Poprocks and Pepsi caused his stomach to explode; not to mention that long-held fallacy of my youth that Sex Pistols front man, Sid Vicious made a guest appearance on Sesame Street.

But no matter, when you have lived through more than 30 sets of time swaps -- two a year -- it galls you to have to defend the "Spring Forward, Fall Back" dynamic.

ME: I hate this time of year. I never feel good until I get that hour of sleep back.

HIM: No. It's Spring AHEAD. We GAIN an hour.

ME: No. The CLOCK goes AHEAD, which means we skip an hour thereby losing an hour of sleep.

HIM: I don't think so …

ME: &$!@ #@&!! … We go through this EVERY YEAR. And every year I am right. Could you please, FOR ONCE, just suspend disbelief long enough to commiserate with me, and then you can go back to whatever it was you
were doing? HUH? Just this once!

HIM: (Eerie silence).

Before he tiptoes away from the crazy, sleep-deprived weirdo he married, I can see the glint of recognition in his eyes. "Oh, I get it. This is your road leading to New Jersey."

Yeah, something like that.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Soap scum and impulse control, who needs it?

My husband tries to pretend as if he's immune to consumerism. He acts as if he's been vaccinated against caving in to impulse items craftily placed at checkout counters and the lure of soft-sell advertising by nature-bestowed testosterone.

The things he buys he NEEDS. He's a MAN. Men don't make purchases out of some strange super subconscious urge to feel better about themselves when they’ve had a tough day (that would be too womanly.) When men need two KING-SIZED Snickers bars and a Truck Trader magazine it’s because they have to eat and they have to have a way to get to work. Period.

Whereas I have come to embrace my irrepressible urge to fork over $80 at Target every time I just stop by to get diapers. Small things — socks, picture frames, baby clothes and paper goods — call out to me. I'm drawn in by the bright colors like a raccoon to a shiny trinket.

So it is with understanding that I laugh as my husband walks into the house with a box containing the answer to all our prayers.

Yep. He needed the Dow Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner unit as much as I needed Don Aslett's Multi-purpose Two Piece Broom Set (as seen on TV) or the Swiffer Wet Jet. Where my pet peeves are pet hair and floor gunk, his are mildew and soap scum.

After scanning the directions and assembling the apparatus, he hangs it in the shower and prepares to test it out. To me, it looks like a soap dispenser masquerading as a flea bomb.
I can’t help but giggle as I look at the package assertions: "So easy, it’s like having a maid!" As for instructions: "Touch, Spray and Clean." Simple enough.

"Says here you push the button and you have 15 seconds to close the door or pull the curtain before the sprayer goes off."

The cautionary literature is pretty entertaining as well: If you get this stuff in your eye, a light rinse is sufficient because it contains few irritants; safe for cosmetics containers and tub toys. Not toxic.

"This is good," I think to myself. "Who needs a pesky emergency room visit when house guests mistake it for a soap dispenser."

I half expect to see a recipe for a tasty salad dressing under its "safe for all kinds of tubs" advisory.

"Ok, stand back. Here we go."

Fifteen seconds later I’m piggy-backing and peering over the shower door as the 180-degree sprayer spits out a nearly invisible mist with the assistance of a deafening mechanical whirring sound. As I stand there trying not to inhale the patented Fresh Scent smell that has now filled the room, I inwardly doubt the contents of the shower bomb will live up to its promises. I make a mental note to make space for the device in the closet alongside my family of useless floor cleaners.

"Well at least my impulse buy makes a cool noise."

I swear he can read my mind.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

WARNING: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

eat yer heart out

I’m going through a phase in my own development in which I am repeatedly forced to ponder the primordial and often painful parental question: "Where did she come up with that?"

As my little mime walks in circles, chanting "I know, I know, I know," I am actually staring into a tiny mirror. Almost everything that leaves her lips, from "Oh, wow!" to "Sooooo cute," comes from hanging out with me.

Much of what she repeats is immediate. As soon as the words “OH, DARN IT” fall from my mouth at the exact moment whatever I am holding catapults to the ground, the same words and inflections tumble out of hers.

And it's not just speech, either. As we left a coffee shop the other day, she put the lip of her sippy cup between her teeth and smiled widely as I juggled the tot, a diaper bag and my own cup of java dangling from my mouth and dashed across the street to the car. Monkey see monkey do.

Most parents don't think their kids are watching as closely as they do. The standard joke: when the call from the teacher comes to report Junior has slung the most repugnant of all four-letter words, the constantly cursing parent wonders where he bleepin' picked that up.

I marvel all the time that Ittybit's first regurgitated words weren't some variation of human waste products. The slips on my part have occurred far too often for them to have gone unnoticed.

Of course, more egregious mimicry has occurred. On the occasion of an unavoidable social function, which she was also attending, I snidely informed her we are going to meet some "annoying people."

She immediately grasped that last couplet and ran. "Oh yay! Meet annoyyyyyying PEEEEEPLE." And I spent the rest of the day trying to convince her that we were actually meeting NEW people. "Can you say NEEEEEW people?"

What toddlers choose to repeat and how they do it is fascinating. As she sits and talks to herself, a rambling stream of conversation she’s recorded in her VIMEO memory comes to life.

And while some influences are evident, others are more elusive.
I know most of the behaviors she displays are based in something she’s witnessed and somehow adapted for her own purposes.

The other day, our sitter reported through peels of laughter, that Ittybit was smashing a play hammer into a bean bag dog, flattening the toy time and again.

"Ahhhhh. All better," she was quoted as saying soothingly, while wrapping the toy dog in a blanket and continuing to apply her medicinal services to any and all exposed parts.

"What are you guys doing at home?" the sitter laughs into the phone.
"I’d tell ya, but then I’d have to … well, tell ya. And to tell you the truth, I really don’t know."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Watch and learn, watch and learn


The creaking of the swings can be heard long before we reach the playground. She's fighting her third (and hopefully last) cold of the season but I've convinced myself that a walk to the park will be good for both of us.

When we reach the green Ittybit squirms to get down.

"I need to running, mom?" she looks at me for permission and lopsidedly waddles over to the BIG slide.

"Go up there, mom?" This time her tone is more of a command than a question, but still she waits for my nod of approval before she makes her ascent.
I'm not sure how we managed to harbor an early walker (10 months) who is still content to stay in her crib until we come to "wakt" her up, especially now that she's over the ripe old age of two. But I thank the same gods who decided she would — of her own volition — ask permission BEFORE she gives any of her food to the dogs; throws fruit down the stairs; or puts her favorite book into the VCR expecting it, no doubt, to come to life.

Of course, when you have a child who hangs back and watches every move, you have the tendency to try and get her to take the bull by the horns once and a while. Some might call me naïve and even unwise to let a toddler make such decisions as whether to climb the 14 feet straight up before careening down a chute on her own, but I've always learned by watching, too.

Before I was a parent, I observed in amazement as my cousin asked her toddler if he "felt safe" climbing to the top of the jungle gym by himself. He said 'no' and promptly came down. That same child, standing on top of a stored canoe one year later, weighed his mother’s words as she asked him if he thought standing on the wobbly boat was "safe." This time he answered a defiant "yes" and simultaneously came crashing to the ground.

She picked him up in her arms and calmly checked him over, dabbing at a little blood on his lip with a kitchen towel. She spoke calmly and without sarcasm asked him if he’d be doing that again. Through tears and sobs he answered as honestly as any preschooler could: "YES!"

We laughed. But it became clear to me that the work of being a toddler is mildly dangerous out of a kind of necessity. They need to go IN so they can find OUT. Getting a few scrapes and bruises along the way, isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

I knew right then I wanted to be my cousin's brand of mommy.
I remind myself of her example as Ittybit wants me to go up the slide with her like I use to when she was a "baby." I tell her she can do it by herself now, but I will be at the end waiting to "catch" her.

She sits at the top for a second before giving herself a lifting push. Down she comes, laughing joyfully, her eyelids press tightly together and her wispy hair aloft on the breeze. She pushes my arms away as she scrunches to the end of the slide and drops to the ground by herself. Wheeling around toward the ladder, she shrieks with glee, "Do it again, mommy. Do it again."

No questions asked. No help necessary.