Monday, March 11, 2013

In Case You Were Wondering About the Dead Hamster

It’s been almost a year since I last posted something here, and you may be wondering if that wasp had me locked in my office for good.  No, I’m sure the wasp flew away, but as I have come to realize lately, it did not die a lonely death here in my quaint rental home. There are others that locked me in the office, behind the strange sliding glass doors. But I should fill you in on few other things you have missed.

Thing One started first grade. For some reason I decided I was qualified to be the class room parent. My skills in this area include: emailing a group of parents whom I have never met with information about what is going on in class and sounding confident that what I am saying is accurate; planning parties for first graders based on holidays but never actually addressing, celebrating, or using the name of the holiday in question; coordinating an elaborate system by which each family will bring in snack (and by snack we mean something slightly smaller than lunch, but larger than a hand full of crackers) for the entire class of 23 kids every day for a whole week on a specific week.  These are my tasks, and I embrace them with excitement! Hooray for first grade! I could go back in time and post date blogs for each party because there are too many stories. Needless to say, I have taken on some interesting new roles.

The class email has been something that has really been the most interesting. I went back and looked through a few of my letters from the very beginning. Our teacher must have thought I was a complete nut at the beginning of the year. I attacked with full force. I think I had my wires crossed about what I was supposed to be doing. Partly because I really wanted to do everything by email, and never actually go into the classroom. I think he’s kind of the opposite, so when I received no response from my page long play book of volunteer spreadsheets, time tables, field trip sign ups, etc, I just went ahead with stuff anyway. Then, of course, I said I was going to do things that required me to come in and pick things up-- then I never did, because that would mean I would have to come in and actually show my face and have a conversation with someone. Heaven forbid.

My emails became a bit more, shall we say, spunky. I didn't really have much to do anyway. We had couple field trips. I over planned a couple holiday parties. One involving vegetable car racing, the other a life sized pretend snow man named Fred the kids got to decorate. But I digress, my point is that my job got less complicated and my emails became silly. The only hard part was getting people to get on board for the snack, because I felt sort of guilty about it. Partly because I couldn't find the time remind people, and partly because it seemed sort of hard to make people bring that much food in the first place. So I kept putting it off. 

In one of my last letters, in a colloquial turn of phrase, I swore “on the grave of my dead hamster” I would get that snack list I had been putting off to everyone. This brings me back to the beginning of my story, with the vermin, and the house, etc.  My husband, (who has spent too much time on his fantasy football email threads), replied to the entire first grade parent list “you don’t have a dead hamster.” Which may have been funny if it read in the context of the letter, instead of preceding it for all of the class parents. Now all of the parents are wondering at this point why my own husband is questioning my sanity, and mentioning that I've gone and left the dead hamster somewhere again. They may be thinking we should keep our personal life out of the class email thread. Secondly, (and more importantly) I did have a hamster, and she is dead now. Her name was Ginger. When I was in about first grade I never cleaned her cage and my mother had it put to sleep. Which seems ridiculous considering now we live in a house where a mouse consumed not only all the Decon, but the actual box the Decon was in. Now we have the subtle hints of putrifaction in the wall right near my computer, the very place where I sit to write my emails. That may account for the dead hamster metaphor. . . This is just a hypothesis.   

There is no moral to this.  But I did just manage to combine the role of class room parent and the dead hamster into the same short essay. Perhaps now it will make sense to anyone who was wondering.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

All Females are Capable of Stinging

This morning I posted something on facebook about the return of the blog, so now I am sitting here not disappointing myself by composing a few sentences. It is possible that in honor of National Poetry Month I may add in some extraneous

Line breaks.

Or not.

Really, I am only writing to see if I remember how. It’s been so long since I last posted something. At least three candy holidays have come and gone. I can’t remember any of the passwords to my blog, and it will take some real soul searching to actually remember that whimsically witty and elongated subtitle that I found so amusing at one point.

In the span of this one day there are numerous things I have done to avoid sitting in this chair and writing.

Some of these things include: (not necessarily in this order)

 •Planning a six-year-old’s “Rockstar” birthday party. (There will be a piñata. Maybe an actual band. I was very thorough in this endeavor).

 •Helping my husband paint the garage.

 •Teaching Thing One how to write an acrostic poem about every member of her family.

 •Making meatballs.

 •Eating meatballs.


 It was only moments ago, post bedtime tucking in, that I turned the television on to go through my nightly channel search, the time I spend foraging through the On Demand museum of television history, scanning titles of movies and television shows for one that will be a nice pairing with my mood, and the kind of snack I feel like eating at the time. There are nights when I spend a solid hour looking through the menu with high hopes before I finally watch a rerun of crime drama. I am almost convinced that I enjoy the searching more than any of the shows themselves—but perhaps that topic is for another time.

But, you see, my computer was there, too. Opened. Ready for action. If only I could find a show to provide adequate background noise. . . No, this time it wasn’t the television that hindered me from productivity, it was the giant yellow jacket vibrating the light bulbs in my dining chandelier (or what would be that if we put a table under it). It is April 3, and has been raining in Seattle everyday of the year except yesterday. What is a yellow jacket doing around at all, especially inside my house? I couldn’t sit on the couch, it was much too close to what I was sure would end in mupltiple stings after getting stuck in my hair and down my shirt. Every time the giant wasp flew into the light fixture it was like someone being tased behind my head.

I would like to say I ran and took cover next to the front door, but it was more like I yelped and jumped with my hands flailing, then stood there, trapped, without a plan. I was completely unarmed; no tea towel of destruction was anywhere in the vicinity and there was an overall sense of dread keeping me from peeking out around the corner. I had the tv remote in hand with an excellent view of the television, so I just stood there and browsed the guide for much longer than any person should while standing and hiding from a bee. It was only then that I realized the giant predatory wasp was a sign that I needed to grab my computer and go far, far away. Not only from the insect itself, but from the television which is the same kind of poison for my fragile attention span.

I grabbed the computer, ran into my office that is hermetically sealed with a sliding glass door between me and the rest of the house (another excellent topic for another time, maybe tomorrow). And then I wrote this. And I posted it for everyone to read. I’m not sure if this is better or worse that compulsive tv browsing.

Thank you Poetry month, don’t mind if I do.
Haiku for the day:

 Carnivorous wasp--
I hear you ramming light bulbs,
and I run away.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Post Traumatic Standardized Testing Stress

I knew it was a bad sign that, as I sat in the waiting room for my impending test, I could not remember what GRE stands for.

I suppose the rain this morning set the tone for doom. Of course I wore my flip flops to the event, accompanied by my yoga pants that I never have used for yoga, and my hoodie sweatshirt proclaiming my love of beer—casual, everyday comfort. When one embarks on a journey into standardized testing one must first feel comfortable from head to toe, and I, having lost my mind in many ways, decided I needed to take the GRE (again) because an MFA wasn’t quite enough. Perhaps a PhD? Why not? Now I know better.

The first thing you must know is that this test occurred at 8am. I left my house at 7am. I awoke at 5am to make sure that my coffee intake was sufficient. It wasn’t. The waiting room was lit by thousands of watts of fluorescent buzzing. They make you sign away your life so that you won’t repeat questions you read during the test. You copy in your best handwriting an entire paragraph, almost like the ancient punishment of copying sentences on the blackboard, “I will not repeat these test questions. . .” And then you sit and wait with your photo I.D. in your hand. Since you are not allowed to take anything into the test, especially your electronic devices, there is no quick game of Angry Birds to play, no bookmarked page to read, just the ID and the paper, which you should have already read and copied.

I sat and studied the intricacies of my driver’s license as if it were a foreign thing, a foreign person staring out from the tiny box on the front. Who is that woman? Face puffed out with seven months of pregnancy, never ending straight, flat hair, fancy earbobs peeking out from the strands. It says that she weighs 145lbs, is 5’7”, and has hazel eyes. I have certainly never met that girl, for I haven’t weighed as much since before both of my children were born, nor have I ever quite measured that extra inch. As for my eyes, well, they are mostly brown and a little bit green. What compels us to lie so blatantly on our driver’s license, and how important is the accuracy? In the top right corner I have a tiny heart next to the word donor, and for those few silent buzzing moments I considered which organs would be useful to someone if I were to die in a car accident on the way home.

They pat you down before you go in. “Empty your pockets,” they say. “Roll up your sleeves,” they say. “Show me your ankles.” And this last one was particularly embarrassing because underneath my recreational yoga pants was the stubble of all the weeks since I last cared about what my legs looked like out in public (which is a considerable amount). And after all the pulling out of pockets and pant legs, then the wand—which I always makes me nervous it will go off and I won’t know why. I felt like I was walking into a court room rather than a tiny blank space filled with computer cubicles.

And then, the test. Did you prepare? you ask. Did you spend $35 on one of those study books with the attached computer program so you could practice at regular intervals for at least six weeks prior to your test? you ask. Of course I bought the book and the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but not the road to a doctorate. I did use the program for the vocabulary matching game, which was fun because I almost always got 100%. But, as it turns out, they don’t have the cute vocabulary matching game on the actual GRE. And, as it turns out, the language is so incredibly dry and grandiloquent that it takes twice as long to comprehend. I am convinced they find the most superfluous and poorly written sentences to fill in the blank. I know that I gagged a couple times.

After all this madness I have learned a couple of valuable lessons. The first is that I am an adult now, and by definition I should never, ever, have to solve for x, y, or any other random alphabetical variable. I should never have to find the sine, cosine, or curve equation for x, and y on a plane. Calculating percentages is right out, unless I am figuring out a tip average. These are things that define me as an adult: the right to never do algebra again.
The second priceless nugget of truth I gleaned was that I don’t think I want to get my PhD. It is possible that I don’t have quite enough stamina for the rigorous academic schedule. I would like to teach, I will never stop learning, but it is not worth losing my hair and gaining twenty pounds for, which would certainly happen if I had to devote all my free time into finding childcare. Now is not the time. I will stay here and continue to peddle my complaints via this blog.

I did remember what GRE stands for, later that afternoon as I explained to my little Thing One on her way home from kindergarten. She asked, “What does requisite mean?” and then I had an aneurysm.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Didn't Your Mother Tell You Not To Suck Helium?!

Since turning thirty I have continued on my reckless path of doing questionable to stupid things. Like this evening, when I sucked up all the helium.

Perhaps you remember the birthday balloon and it’s five dollars worth of helium. The one I was so excited to receive as a token, as a gesture—the balloon itself was a free for all for little kid squabbles. I have spent the past three weeks untangling the balloon string from around hands, necks, and toes. It has given Thing One and Thing Two a new found passion for “teasing” (that would be Thing One having it, and Thing Two wanting it). Too many times I have hidden that balloon in my closet only to find it floating along in the kitchen ten minutes later, all happy smiles and birthday tinsel.

You may wonder, why doesn’t she just deflate the balloon? Yes, I asked myself that question many times. Five dollars worth of helium is like a giant three foot sphere. This is the kind of helium balloon that, given a giant bouquet of these balloons, could float a person away. It was impressive and I sort of didn’t want to spoil the awesome largeness, no matter how annoying it was. Then this evening it occurred to me that I had the perfect opportunity to show my daughter the “trick.” You must know what I am talking about. That thing your older brother showed you how to do when you were 4 years old, stealing your prized possession and sucking the helium out, only to make you laugh hysterically at his Chipmunk rendition of “Grandma Got Runover By a Reindeer” or something else equally absurd and age inappropriate. Everyone has their own version of this story, I am sure of it.

Tonight I took the enormous, shiny, floating orb that was blocking out the ceiling lights in my living room and asked Thing One if she wanted to see something cool. She had to take a break from her inventory of Princess lip glosses, but she was game. I punched a little hole in the bottom and took a nice deep breath, and suddenly I was possessed by an elf. Thing One wasn’t too impressed yet. I had to try again so she could really get it. More sucking in the air, and then, a song: Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Still, the kid was not totally impressed, although she was laughing. So, a little more helium (and I must tell you, there was still a lot left) and I whipped out the Chipmunk ABC song, and then she finally thought it was funny. I know this because she said, “My mom is so funny!”

But then I had to stop. I started to feel, uh, a little weird. I’m pretty sure the helium quantity of the balloons we pillaged as kids was slightly lower. There was never a point in time that one person sucked in that much helium for the sake of entertainment. Let’s just say, it’s been about an hour and I’m still flying kites over here in my living room.
If someone would have told me an hour ago that helium would make my brain float for a while, I wouldn’t have listened to them, but I am telling you now, it’s not worth it. Kids, don’t try this at home.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Idea of Ice Cream

This is a piece that was 86'd from my thesis. My mentor [hated]it, so I took it out. But, as I am completely blank this evening I will post it here with all of its uncomfortable metaphors, and with the knowledge that "it wasn't quite there yet." (But, I always kind of liked it the way it is).

Dear Children,

What I have to offer you is not real. I may say that we will get ice cream, but it is the idea of ice cream that you love. The sea green paint color of mint, the pink pearl of strawberry, the creamy drops of vanilla dotted with hints of chocolate chips, or better yet—the polka dots of M&Ms, their shellacked candy shells bleeding out into the stew of it. It is the idea of the ice cream that you love, which is why I do not bother to get you ice cream.
I will offer you many of these suggestions in the course of a day to keep excitement levels high and drive away boredom. Most of these carefully hinted at plans will never come to fruition, or if they do, like the trip to the library, the outing to the zoo, they are an utter disappointment. Someone assuredly falls on his or her head, or in the end does not have the perfect experience that the excursion promised in theory. It is the anticipation that makes the excitement. It is the idea of ice cream that makes it taste so good.
I wonder how old you will be when you start to recognize this behavior of mine as broken promises. These magical whims we have, where I take you to impossible places, and plant notions of glossy maraschinos and bananas drowning in chocolate sauce. When will the day arrive that you notice that there is no ice cream?
Last week was our first visit to the ice cream truck. It was a coincidence that we had four dollar bills at the same time. We were at the beach. The tinny, music box sound of Popsicle Joe was warning siren to all the children. The sound even I was condition to chase after at the first echo, clutching my coins and running after the truck if that’s what it took. I wanted that for both of you, too. So this time we got ice cream.
Son, I carried you on my hip. Daughter, you held my hand, and between our clammy, lake-pruned palms rests the money that we can barely spare. We walked to the back of the truck, music still blasting The Entertainer so loud the pitch is almost distorted (it is the idea of a song, the ostentatious projections, not the song itself that makes it exciting). Anna, you pointed at what looked best: a Drumstick. A dipped cone covered in peanuts. A classic. You get one for yourself, one for your little brother who is begging. I paid, received seventy-five cents change in frozen quarters.
We walked back to the beach towels and each of you ate off every piece of chocolate, sucked out the milkshake-like drops coming from the hole in the bottom of the cone, then someone suggests swimming. With the suggestion of jumping into the freezing, duck filled lake you both chuck your ice cream into the dirty ashtray ground of the public beach, racing to the water, flapping your puddle jumper and pink water wings. But, like the ice cream, it is the idea of swimming. As you shiver in the waves it is the idea of home, of the bath tub, of fuzzy sleepers, that you will protest. You will fight off home for as long as you can until I carry you away, and you are finally warm in your pajamas, snuggled on my lap the same way we do it every night, the way neither of us could end a day without.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Don't Judge Your Neighbors By The Dead Cars In Their Driveway

There are two houses next to ours that are for sale. One across the street, recently sold, however, I’ve yet to see a new neighbor appear. The house next door to ours has been on the market for a few months and we’ve heard that it has had zero offers.

We rent our house. It is the size of a very rich person’s closet. Things are falling apart. I mean literally, two Thanksgivings ago the kitchen ceiling caved in due to a leak in the roof. Half of the house is sinking so our door frame has sort of a strange tilt to it. I won’t even start about the raccoons that died underneath the house, or again, with the birds that have recently hatched in the attic.

But, that is our house. There’s nothing wrong with the houses around ours (that I can see). The one across the street was for sale for almost two years. They completely remodeled it before they moved out. Had trees cut down in the yard, replaced major appliances, etc. The same goes for the house next door, which is a little small but has a beautiful yard and the addition of new siding gave the house a revitalized “curb appeal.”

I’ve started to take things personally. There must be something wrong with us as neighbors. True, we aren’t much at landscaping. At different points in time the front yard could have a two foot tall blanket of dandelions covering not only the lawn and the “not lawn,” which I guess is where we would put beauty bark if we had such notions, but the dandelions also add a nice covering to our gravel driveway, leaving to strips where we pull the car in and out.

Speaking of cars, we had one sitting in the driveway for three years. It was a giant burgundy 1987 Oldsmobile with 57,000 miles on it, which we lovingly called “Big Pimpin’” for reasons that seemed very obvious when looking at the car. We inherited Big Pimpin’ from my grandparents at one of those difficult points in time between blowing up Subarus. Thing One had just been born and I was still a little worried about taking the bus everywhere with an infant. My grandma signed over the title to me for nothing more than the license fee, which was $25. It was a great car until the transmission blew up a few months later and it sat in our driveway untouched and turning green with moss until the day I finally donated it to the first people who would come and take it away for free.

We looked slightly less white trash after that. I’m sure all the neighbors applauded as they saw their property values visibly shifting upward, but then we decided to get a second car. My husband found a bright blue, 1976 Ford F-250. The same car he and his dad drove around in back on his farm. Not exactly ideal for the city, but it was in our price range, which was about as big as the space between the two numbers. The truck is pretty cool. It drives fast, it a novelty for the kids, who love to go outside and use it as their own personal jungle gym, but it is a little bit loud compared to our Prius and Mini-Cooper driving neighbors. Not to mention, the truck sometimes has troubles. . . and by troubles I mean it sounds like choking death, and then screeching and sputtering. All the sounds that cars make that cause a person to cringe. I can hear the truck from around the block as my husband drives home at night, and sometimes even when he turns the truck off it sounds like it just barely made it. Yet, it somehow keeps going.

I think about these two cars, added to the current green Subaru (Yes that color green. The original green that everyone in Seattle drives causing me to almost break into someone else’s car at least once a week), the Subaru with breaks that squeal like a piccolo when you back out of the driveway, and the serpentine belt that sounds like your squeezing a cat to death every time you turn the steering wheel; I think about these little additions to our falling apart cardboard façade of a house, and wonder if maybe we aren’t the real reason why we don’t have any neighbors.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Five Dollars Worth of Helium Happy Birthday

As every person reading this probably knows, I turned 30 yesterday.

I did not go sing karaoke as I had planned for the last half of my 20’s. Nor did I make it to the park to play Frisbee, as I had planned since the last part of last week. I did not get to a coffee shop to sit and sulk, alone, as I had relished doing on my 29th birthday. I did not have an impromptu BBQ, given by my husband only to have him be reminded by our guests that it was my birthday (and I should say he has never forgotten since then). I did not make a tour of bars in Tacoma, ending in a colorful array of shots and a game of ping pong, as I had done on my 21st. I did not have a skating party at the Skate Deck, with the private party room that smelled of popcorn and shoe spray, as I had for my 8th birthday. It probably doesn’t count as a slumber party, since I am married and always share the bed, and rarely do we have pillow fights, so it was nothing like my 10th or 11th birthdays, either. I did not get my driver’s license, like at 16. I did not dress up and eat dinner at The Palisades or El Gaucho, like I did at 17 and 23. I didn’t have a brand new baby to take care of like I did for my 25th and 28th birthdays, respectively. It was probably a lot like my 18th or 20th birthdays, since I have no recollection of either of these significant years.

Perhaps yesterday will be memorable for several reasons, not the least of these being that I actually made it to 30. The Rapture contained itself, the world as we know it did not end in flames and damnation, and I got to finish out my 20s, thank you very much, God.

The second greatest moment was waking up to a giant balloon. Not just a mylar-helium Happy Birthday, this was the big one. My husband said that there was at least $5 worth of helium holding this up in the air. If I had been turning 3 instead of 30 I may have carried it around with me everywhere I went—for the rest of the week.

More exciting than the balloon, the bouquet of flowers, the subsequent mimosa after my husband finally woke up, was the excitement in my children’s faces and exclamations when they realized that it was my birthday. There was no need for me to get all worked up because both kids ran around the house jumping for joy, as if it were really the most fantastic holiday, better than Christmas. Each one wishing me Happy Birthday sporadically throughout the day, including hugs, and sometimes a song. There is no way karaoke can compare to a two-year-old singing you happy birthday, then helping you blow out your candles—twice (I relit them because I am a grown up and I am allowed to use a lighter if I want).

I began my day with a giant balloon, later rode the bus (for fun) to the UW Street Fair with my daughter, who was heartbroken when I tried to go to the library by myself and do some “work” on my special day. But, we ate kettle corn, had a slushie, some 17 year old kid in clown pants made us an awkward balloon creation, and we dodged weirdos together all afternoon. Who could ask for more than that?

Then my husband and Thing Two picked us up in the Subaru and we headed to my mom’s house for the most amazing dinner of Black Cod, my favorite roasted corn and avocado salad, clilantro lime rice, and a gluten free chocolate cake that my mother adorned with the traditional flaming 3-0. I drank wine, but not too much. Ate a lot of great food. Saw my family. Went home. Watched The Killing, (which, as a side note, I was slightly perturbed by the scenes of the Public Market, whereby the perpetrator is spotted at the bottom of the escalator in what looks like a mall, not the Pike Place Market I’m used to). It was an excellent birthday. When you plan nothing you will always be surprised.