Friday, January 27, 2012

Economy of language

Every night, I put Josie in her bed and I sit in a little chair next to it and read her stories.  Lately The Snowy Day and Llama Llama Misses Mama have been in heavy rotation.

The Snowy Day is one of my all-time favorites.  I read it to my children a lot, and every time I do, I find it magical.  I never get tired of it.  I love the illustrations, the way the book conveys the beauty and wonder a child finds in heading out to play in the snow, and the simplicity of the language.  (Plus, it's very free-range -- Peter lives in the city and goes out to play all day long by himself, though he's obviously fairly young -- too young for snowball fights with the big boys, after all).

Well, Josie may have one up on Ezra Jack Keats in the simplicity department.  Lately she has taken to reading the books to me ("Mama, I read it!").  This is The Snowy Day, Josie-fied.

"There's a boy.  And he's outside and there's LOTS of snow!"

"Crunch crunch crunch! He walk in the snow with his toes."
"Whee!  He goes down a hill!"
"There's his mother!"

"Night Night!  The end."

She slams the book shut.

"Song, mama?"

I turn off the light and sing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Everybody's got a random

Sometimes in maintaining a blog, I get too into the notion of themes -- of telling stories that have some overriding point, or of depicting life in a way that betrays some grand plan. Because it makes for more interesting writing (and reading).

But truthfully, I think that's all bullshit.  Most of life is totally random.

Like the other day I was on the bus coming home from work.  Sitting across the aisle from me was this huge guy that looked a bit vagrant-ish.  Not quite homeless, but certainly someone who has seen brighter days.  I got the sense that he spent a lot of time riding the bus and striking up conversation with people, just to pass the time.

Which, whatever, ya know?  More power to him, I guess.

Except that I am not one for idle conversation with strangers.

Every once in a while the planets will align and I will enter into a conversation on a plane or whereever with a seatmate, and it will be genuinely interesting.  But this is an exceedingly rare occurrence, and not something that I actively seek out.

So this guy across from me on the bus has been bothering some poor guy who was in a Navy uniform, so Almost Homeless Dude starts in with the, "oh, you're a Navy man, eh?  Did you know [some obscure fact about the Navy that may or may not have been true, but was a way to ingratiate himself with the dude in the uniform] blah blah blah." Navy Guy humored him for a while, but finally reached his stop and practically flung himself off the bus, he was so overtly happy to be free of Almost Homeless Dude's conversational stylings.

I could practically feel Almost Homeless Dude searching around for some new shlub to talk to.  And eventually he settled on me.

I stared straight ahead, and then was stunned to be smacked across the face with a scarf, which Almost Homeless Dude had flicked at me, like a 10th grade boy smacking ass in the communal shower after gym class, in an effort to get my attention.

I whipped my head around and glared at him.  He sort of chuckled and said, "oh, I'm so sorry," as if it had been an accident.  I frowned.  He tried to talk to me, saying things like, "oh, I see your ID badge, where do you work?" but I grunted one-word answers until I reached my stop and got off the bus.

And there isn't any grand point to this story. It's just an example of a random encounter that is a part of commuting on public transportation.  One that I would never remember, if I didn't record it for posterity here  on the internet.

And the day had been sort of random like that.  I spent the day going from meeting to meeting, never quite getting my bearings with a big project -- just small encounters and questions that were unrelated.  I felt kind of disjointed and off-kilter all day.

The day ended randomly as well.

I was lying in bed with Zeke, snuggling with him to help him get to sleep.  He had been quiet for awhile, so I thought he was settling down and falling asleep.  But I should have known better.  My mother once remarked that when she thinks about Zeke she's reminded of those machines that measure brain activity -- the red areas show areas of heightened cerebral activity.  She envisions Zeke's brain as all red, firing on all cylinders at all times.

I don't disagree.

We were lying there in the dark, quiet and cozy.  Suddenly, he lifted his head and exclaimed, "Mama!"  He sounded very excited.

"What is it, honey?" I asked.

"Mama!  Have you ever heard of the number 139?"

I chuckled.  "Yes, I have heard of that number."

"You have??"  He seemed incredulous.

"Yes.  I've pretty much heard of all the numbers."

"Oh."  He sounded skeptical.

He put his head back down on the pillow, his little brain continuing to fire away.  I put an arm over him and pulled him close.

Eventually we both fell asleep.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Me love you long time

Let me start by saying that my mother is a highly intelligent, sophisticated, worldly individual.  She is extremely well read and has traveled all over the world.  I would never describe her as naive or sheltered.

Which makes this story that much funnier.

She's been away on business the past few weeks, traveling in China, Vietnam and Cambodia (there might be other places, but I don't remember). Mostly she worked, but from time to time she and her coworkers had a few hours here and there to do some shopping and sample the local culture.\

She arrived home and immediately called me. We usually speak on the phone at LEAST once a day, and we had only a brief 5 minute chat the entire 2 weeks she was gone, so we were jonesing for that mother-daughter connection. She was telling me about how the trip went, some random friend of my dad's that she ran into in the hotel restaurant in Cambodia, and the various tchotchkes she bought for the kids.

"Oh, and I got the cutest t-shirt in Beijing!"

"Oh, yeah? What does it look like?" I asked.

"It says 'I love BJ' on it, you know, with a heart. In honor of your dad."

Before your head explodes, let me clarify that my father's initials are "B.J."

"You bought a shirt that says 'I love BJ' on it?"

"Yeah, you know, 'BJ' for Beijing. Only really for your dad." She sounded very cute and proud. It made me sad to have to break it to her.

"Mom, if you wear that shirt in the United States, do you realize what people are going to think it means?"

"What? Uh-oh." Her voice took on a somber tone.

"'I love blow-jobs.'"

"Oh, no! Really? Come on!"



"Yeah. But hey, you would have been really popular if you had worn it out in public!"

"That's really what it means?"

"I'm afraid so."

"Shit. I guess I'll just use it as a sleep shirt."

I think that would be best for everyone involved.

Or maybe I'll just get my dad one of those super-classy "Free Mustache Rides" shirts, and set them both loose on society.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Give me an earworm, toot suite!

There's a lot of talk about tooting in my house.  We're all quite adept at it, and we all think it's funny.

Immature, yes.  But funny.

"Mama, I tooted," is uttered by one or both of the children multiple times a day, followed by giggles and exclamations of "that stinks!" from the non-perpetrator.  I generally join in the giggles.  And I've discovered that a sure-fire way to get my kids to pay attention and mind me in the morning is to talk in an accent like Borat's.  I get far fewer objections and grumbles from them if, instead of saying, "come ON, for the fiftieth time, PUT ON YOUR UNDERPANTS!" I say, in a silly accent, "Come on-a, now, Meester Zeke, we need to put on your-a underpants (pronounced, AHN-dare-ponts), we need to-a cover up a-your tooty-booty."

Go ahead.  Say "tooty-booty" in a vaguely Eastern-European-mixed-with-Father-Guido-Sarducci accent.  It's fucking hilarious.  The children giggle their butts off -- and are amazingly compliant.

So there's this song by Breathe Carolina, a local Denver band, that has received quite a bit of airplay in these parts.  I have no idea if it's popular elsewhere in the country, but their song Blackout is on, like, all the time.  And it's kind of catchy.

I spend virtually no time in the car, save for the 4 minute drives to drop the kids at school and then go back home to catch my bus.  So I'm not really up on what's on the radio.  But J does a fair bit of driving and generally pays more attention to what's on the radio than I do, so he's up on what the kids are listening to.*  And one day when after he picked the kids up from school, they were driving around and Blackout came on the radio.  It has a chorus that goes like this:

I’m only getting started, I won't blackout
This time I got nothing to waste
Let’s go a little harder
I’m on fire, I won't blackout
I’m on my way

So J, being J, cleverly replaced the lyrics thusly:

I think that Josie farted, she backed one out
It smells like poop in here
I think that Josie farted
She farted, it came out of her butt
We've gotta get away...

They proceeded to sing this for the next 30 minutes.  They gleefully told me about it when they got home, and taught me the song as well.

It has now become something of a family anthem.  When we hear the song on the radio, we automatically replace the lyrics.  Quite honestly, I prefer them to whatever they're saying in the song. 

The kids have even started singing it when they toot.  The other day Josie was in another room.


"Yes, sweetie?"

"I tooted, Mama!"

"That's wonderful, honey."

Then she starts singing.  "I think Josie farted, she back one out, it smells like poop in here...*giggle giggle*"

That's my girl.

For your listening pleasure...and by all means, sing along and change it to the toot version.  It's much more fun.

*Not our kids, necessarily, just kids generally.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Real World: Colorado

This is the true story...of 4 people (well, mostly 3 of them) in a family...are forced to spend time together, all day, every day, for 10's what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.

[Various shots of Denver in rapid sequence, finally settling on a crooked shot of a dilapidated Victorian in Congress Park.  LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem plays over the sequence]

Day 1:  Everyone is happy and in a good mood.  Whee!  We're on vacation!  We're heading to the mountains to see our cousins!  We've never been to Carbondale!  It's pretty! Yaaay!

Three hour car ride proceeds uneventfully.  Kids sleep through much of it.  We admire the scenery driving through Glenwood Canyon.

We arrive at the cousins' house, and Zeke and Josie reunite with the cousins' 2-year-old and everyone plays and has fun.  We go for a walk down by the river.  The children throw rocks and run around.  We have the traditional Jewish Christmas eve dinner of Chinese food.  Cousins are alarmed by how much J eats.  "Welcome to my world," I tell them.

Cousins are slightly horrified by my childrens' bedtime habits, or lack thereof.  Their kid goes to bed at 7:30.  Our kids are still up and partying like rock stars at 9.  I make them go to bed and we watch Bridesmaids.  Josie and Zeke keep popping out of the room to try to join us.  We finally get them to settle down.

[Shots of mountains, the town of Carbondale, and Aspen, especially women in ugly fur coats, leggings and boots, and horrifying plastic surgery.  Pink's Stupid Girls plays.]
Mt. Sopris.  Pretty.
Day 2:  Christmas Day.  As Jews, we do nothing to commemorate the holiday except to say, "hey, it's Christmas! Merry Christmas!" and then go about our day.  The children play nicely.  The guys take the kids into Aspen to go to a park.  Cousin and I get some quiet time (she's 7 1/2 months pregnant and could use the rest).  I exercise.  We drive into Aspen to meet everyone.

Josie is fussy.  Zeke is obnoxious.  The guys seem harried.  Aspen is vulgar.  We go to lunch at a diner.  We manage to contain the children long enough to scarf down a turkey reuben (me) and a club sandwich (cousin).  The guys go skiing/snowboarding, and we take the kids home.  Cousin's kid naps.  Mine don't.

We walk by the river again.  Kids play and wear themselves out, but the lack of naps means they are acting like assholes much of the time.  We light Hannukah candles.  We make lasagna for dinner.  It is yummy.  Zeke proclaims it to be the best thing he's ever eaten.  Everyone is, again, astonished by J's ability to inhale ridiculous amounts of food.  "Tell me about it," I say.

Bedtime.  Cousin's kid passes out at 7:15 without a fuss.  At 8:00, Zeke proceeds to have a total meltdown.  He loses his shit.  I lie down with him to try to calm him down and we all fall asleep at 8:30.

[Shots of kids sleeping, then slowly waking up.  Shots of toys all over the floor.  More mountain shots.  Chorus of Rocky Mountain High plays.]

Day 3:  Everyone wakes up happy, having gotten lots of sleep.  The children play nicely together.  Zeke tells his little cousin, "you're a really nice baby!"  Josie pushes her doll stroller around.  I take Zeke down by the river again so he can throw rocks and sticks.  He digs this.  We see a bald eagle flying around, which is really cool.

We pack up the car and head home.  I can tell the cousins are happy to be rid of us and our noise.

The kids sleep on the drive home.  The rest of the day we chill out, unpack, watch movies. 

So far, so good, mostly.  But the true test starts tomorrow, when J goes back to work.

[Shots of traffic on Colorado Boulevard, people walking in and out of the coffee shop on 12th Avenue, finally settling on the crooked shot of the dilapidated Victorian.  Drake's Unstoppable plays.]

Day 4:  Everyone sleeps in.  We get up, have some breakfast, and watch some Pink Panther episodes on Netflix.  We don't have diddly in the fridge, so I load the kids into the car and we go to Target to go grocery shopping.  Josie sits in the seat part of the grocery cart, Zeke sits in the basket because all of the double-kid-seat carts are taken.  He is remarkably good natured as I proceed to bury him in groceries, no doubt helped by the fact that I buy his cooperation with animal crackers and little mini boxes of goldfish.  And a new box of crayons. 

We head home and have lunch, then the kids are sent to their rooms for quiet time.  Josie naps, Zeke hangs out on his bed and plays Angry Bird on his new Kindle Fire (a present from my mother -- doesn't every 4-year-old need one?), and I exercise.  The day is going well.

Later we color and play with trains, then a friend of Zeke's stops by and invites us to go sledding, so we put on our snow gear and head out to the sledding hill.

We go home and light the Hannukah candles -- it's the 8th night so the menorah is full and beautiful.

Everyone is happy.  I feel like a success as a mother.

Day 5:  I've still got some tricks up my sleeve.  We go to the indoor community pool, the one with the big water slide.  Josie, who thinks she can swim even though she really can't, requires all of my attention, so Zeke ends up swimming much more independently than I would otherwise be comfortable with.  He ends up going down the big water slide by himself a number of times and then swimming to the side of the pool alone - the first time he has ever done this.

We make it out of the rec center without anyone drowning.

[Neighborhood footage.  Overcast skies.  Eminem's Things Get Worse plays.]

Day 6: The wheels start to fall off the wagon.  Everyone is getting tired of being around everyone else.  I try to rally the kids to do something -- anything -- but no one will get dressed and everyone is whining and no one wants to do much but lie around, watch TV, play on the Kindle and make a mess.

Both children are going through very bossy phases, particularly towards each other.  At one point, Zeke is annoyed with Josie because he keeps telling her to do something and she won't.

"You're not her boss, Zeke.  She doesn't have to do what you want.  Stop ordering her around," I tell him.

"Go away, Zekey. Leave me alone," Josie says.

"Josie, stop telling people what to do!" Zeke yells.

He clearly has an under-developed sense of irony.

By late in the afternoon, I'm losing it.  I'm supposed to go to a retirement party for a coworker, but J gets called out on an emergency job so I have to stay home with the kids.  The one thing that I'm clinging to is J's promise to take the kids to Jump Street when he gets home so I can have my weekly banjo lesson without the monkeys interrupting me.

He walks in at 5:45.  "Oh, man, I guess it's too late for Jump Street," he laments.

"Nooooo!  Please! You have to take them out of here!"  I'm practically in tears.

He does me a solid and hustles the kids out the door in under 15 minutes.  I have a good lesson and I get some peace.

I'm all Scarlett O'Hara, thinking, "tomorrow is another day."

[Shots of cultural points around Denver - the zoo, City Park, Mile High Stadium, the Museum of Science and Nature. Howard Jones's Things Can Only Get Better plays.]

Day 7:  Determined to avoid the disaster of the previous day, as soon as the kids are up and fed, I hustle them off to the science museum.  We go see the real dinosaur exhibit, then look at the wild animal dioramas, then we go to the kids' center.  They run around and play hard for 3 hours, then go home for lunch and a rest. J gets off work early, and my time as a stay-at-home mom officially comes to an end.

That night, one of the daycare teachers comes over to babysit and J and I go see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  It's really great (the movie, too!).

Day 8:  I had been planning to take a solo ski day, but the weather is shitty -- crazy gale force winds that end up forcing most of the ski resorts to close their lifts -- plus my uncle and his family are in town and invite us to have lunch with them at the Four Seasons.  We take the kids and manage to eat and get out of the hotel without anyone getting injured or summoning the fire brigade.

That night it's New Year's Eve.  We had been planning to go up to Frisco for the weekend to stay in a friend's condo, but the condo is under renovation so we can't use it.  We go over and visit some friends in the neighborhood around dinner time, but go home at 7:30.  J and I are asleep by 10:30.  Woop-dee-freakin'-doo.

We do, however, manage to take a picture of us kissing for the cover of our 2011 yearbook.  Every year since we've been married, we have made a yearbook and the cover shot has always been one of us kissing. This year, we had never taken a kissing shot, so we got it in under the wire.

[Interior shots of a messy house.  Toys on the floor. Crumbs on the floor. Garbage pails needing to be changed.  Matchbox 20's How Far We've Come plays.]

Day 9:  Another write-off of a day.  Nobody has slept well.  Everyone is tired and grumpy.  I try to clean the house.  I spend all day cleaning, and every time I turn around, a child is making a mess behind me.  Even when they're ostensibly trying to help.  I clean the kitchen 3 times and it's still a mess.

I manage to get out of the house to pick up my new skis, which have been in the shop getting bindings put on.  Come hell or high water, I am taking a ski day before going back to work.

[Shots of the Rocky Mountains and cars driving on the highway in the early morning.  The end of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, where he says, "free at last" is playing in a voice-over.]

Day 10:  I leave the house by 6 and get to Copper Mountain by 8.  I have a cup of coffee and head out to the lift when it opens.  I proceed to ski my ass off for the next 3 1/2 hours.  The lift lines are non-existent and I rarely stop to rest, so I'm just going up and down and up and down the mountain.  My new skis are awesome.  I'm flying.

Heading up the Super Bee lift.
My legs turn to jelly by around 12:45, so I head back to the car and go home.

I'm happy to see my children again.  We go for walks and watch football and get to bed early, ready to begin the new year in earnest.

[Shot of the kids under closing credits.  Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World plays.]