Thursday, August 31, 2006

We have a burger emergency

There is a hilarious audio clip here, in which a stressed-out mom (her children are HUNGRY! don't you understand?!?) actually calls 911 to try to resolve an issue she has with... Burger King.


The woman apparently was given the wrong burger at the drive-through, had a confrontation of some sort with the manager, refused to just take her money back and move on, because, again, her children (think of the poor children!) were hungry and she had to go get on some freeway somewhere. What to do? Well, call 911, of course. Egads.

It's worth a listen, if for no other reason than to appreciate the Job-like patience of the 911 operator. Though incredulous throughout the call, she does calmly offer some good advice. She also asks the right questions, such as, "You want us to protect you from the wrong burger?"

Monday, August 28, 2006

It's a girl thing

One of my buttons, which gets pressed frequently, is the idea that a large percentage of a particular child's behaviors can be explained just by looking in his/her diaper and checking out the genitalia. I would never deny that there are general differences between men and women, particulary in relation to physical size. Clearly, the brains of adult men and women are different, as well -- but it's impossible to know if the changes are due to socialization or if they actually cause emotional and intellectual differences in men and women. This point seems to get missed consistently.

DT and I always vowed to raise our children in such a way that they could become whoever and whatever was comfortable for them. I think we've done a fairly good job so far. WonderGirl definitely loves pink and spends a large percentage of her time modeling dress-up clothes and performing in imaginary ballets. She also loves bugs, plays with boys and, like Hammie, would jump from the fridge to the dishwasher if we didn't have a strict "no jumping from furniture to furniture" rule in our house. I hope and expect that Rocco will also feel comfortable exhibiting a blend of his masculine and feminine energies.

It's tired territory, so I'll just say briefly that I don't know why we, as a society, have so much invested in teaching boys to be boys and girls to be girls. My gut feeling is that there's an element of truth in it all -- girls are probably more likely (on average) to enjoy ballerina endeavors, for some biological reason, but who can say that for sure? The socialization starts early and is aggressive. Even my mother-in-law told me recently that buying presents for her granddaughters is much easier than for her grandsons because "girls like everything." One of her grandsons loves cooking and all things kitchen-related, but she's never indulged that interest with a relevant gift because... well, who knows? When I asked, she just looked at me with a bemused expression and repeated several times that it would be "weird." When we were shopping together for Rocco's recent birthday, she found a wonderful, soft pillow-type stuffed animal. It met most of her criteria for purchase: happy eyes (don't ask), fur that didn't come out when you pulled, and conservative political leanings. The only problem? It was purple. She danced around the issue for a good three minutes, assuming that I wouldn't want him to have it because, you know, it was purple. We ended up taking a different toy home for him - a nice, masculine puppy.

My real pet peeve, though, are parents who have two children, a girl and a boy, and ascribe all differences in their children to sex. As a statistician, I'm completely offended by this: if you have a sample size of 1 in each category, you simply can't draw conclusions. When I see differences in Rocco and WonderGirl, I assume that they're differences in Rocco and WonderGirl, not girls and boys. The next parent that tells me that their children were different from the beginning because they were boys or girls damn well better have at least three of each.

(Technical issue: I can't get the cartoon any larger, but if you click on it, you can read it.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Good thing I never get embarrassed anymore

I have never been the world's most graceful woman. Not as a child, even though I took ballet for years; not as a teenager (ha!); not in my pre-mom days; and apparently, definitely, not now.

I just walked into a plate-glass window. While holding Rocco.

Luckily, we're both fine, although the young man on his way to work at the Italian restaurant by the dastardly plate-glass window certainly seemed concerned. I have to say, I've often wondered what it would be like to be a bird: wearing feathers (even to casual events), being able to employ vertical space, and using a beak to eat are all activities that I find intriguing on some level. Flying into a window? I didn't need that part of the avian experience.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Although I don't quite believe it's possible, WonderGirl started school this week. I've actually been a bit surprised by my own reaction -- even though she has been in daycare/preschool since she was a baby, it feels like a huge step. The cliches about time flying are feeling true (for the first time ever, quite honestly). I also lay in bed last night, thinking about my two growing children, each asleep in bed, and got almost overwhelmed by a sense of responsibility to them. Usually I am good at doing the daily tasks of parenting, and I usually manage to complete the medium- to long-term tasks that are required. I think, though, that keeping up with the "tasks" has prevented me at times from really considering the fact that DT and I are now the Dad and Mom. We're not playing house; we truly are a family, and Rocco and WonderGirl will think back on these exact times when they think of their childhood. I know that none of this is particularly insightful on my part, and it's something that I always know on an intellectual level. For some reason, right now, I'm feeling it viscerally in a way that doesn't always happen. It's a little scary.

Hmm, that's not what I meant to write about today, but there it is.

Moving on -- the good news is that WonderGirl is overwhelmingly in love with her school, her teacher, her new experiences, her lunchbox, the blue bars on the playground, everything. It is a honeymoon like I never expected her to have. Instead of being frightened or having a difficult transition as she came to realize that things were going to be different from her old preschool, she has flourished. She is positively looking for things to enjoy, and DT and I are basking in her reflected glow.

It reminds me of people traveling to unfamiliar places -- WonderGirl clearly takes after DT in that she is eager to soak up the new culture, learn the rules and integrate herself as quickly and as much as possible. She has a 4-year-old confidence about these things that I can't relate to at all. Her tendencies are encouraged by the attitude and philosophy of her school; there is clearly a lot of attention paid to making students feel welcomed. I would be lying if I didn't admit my own jealousy. I'm starting my sixth year in my department and believe that, after two days, WonderGirl is more a part of her school's family than I am. Perhaps if I wore ponytails and mismatched shoes more often I would be similarly welcomed.


One of the odd things about WonderGirl's move is that I truly have no idea how things work at her new school. Our family was/is a fixture at the daycare, and there is nothing there that could surprise me. Now, however, I'm reliant on WonderGirl to describe her new situation to me, and some things are clearly getting lost in translation. I hear all about recess (both of them! each day! hallelujah! says WonderGirl) but don't quite get the other classroom routines. Actual conversation as WonderGirl described the "centers" in the room:

Ruth: What center did you choose?
WonderGirl: Blocks.
R: Who did you play with? Were there other people in the block center?
WG: Not me!
R: I thought you said you chose blocks.
WG (looking at me like she is already tasked with caring for an aging, slow parent): I thought you meant this morning.

So things come out slowly (turns out she was at the listening center in the morning, then the block center in the afternoon with two other kids, DUH, Mom) but they're coming out. Meanwhile, I have to wonder if they truly do have "silent lunch" and if so, how much her teachers charge in consulting fees to share their secrets of coercion.

Monday, August 21, 2006

We're baaaack....

We're recently returned from a great adventure. Pitiful as this sounds, we just completed what I believe is our first vacation not to see family since before WonderGirl was born. It was wonderful. We spent almost a week at the beach, where WonderGirl got closer to her version of sea legs, Rocco proved that he has neither sense nor fear when it comes to the water (and, particularly, to auto-face-splashing), and DT's mom babysat one afternoon so that DT and I could ride bikes to a cute little wine bar, then ride home embarrassingly buzzed after one glass for people who did actually attend college. Typically, our vacations are enjoyable because they allow us to reconnect with family, but this one was actually relaxing. (Did I mention we saw a shark the last day? But still.)

The only downside to the experience was that the house we rented had a wonderful selection of books, including Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which I've wanted to read for some time. I wish I hadn't read it; now I have an unquenchable thirst to use semicolons.

In further family-reading news, WonderGirl loved Beezus and Ramona, no surprise there, but appears to have missed any negative associations with Ramona's behavior. I may have unleashed something larger than myself and not entirely pleasant for the family.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ramona Quimby, age timeless

The Lovely Mrs. Davis is celebrating Sesame Street's 37th season with a blog carnival of sorts. She asks this question: What television, music, movie or book from your childhood are you excited about sharing with your own children?

This is timely for our family, as I am salivating (but not on you this time) at the prospect of WonderGirl's entry into the world of chapter books. We read to WonderGirl a lot, mainly because that's the only way we can get her to sit still and cuddle with us, and we absolutely need some cuddling to balance various other "joys" of parenting. Now, WonderGirl's beginning to read on her own just a bit. I think she's almost ready to appreciate two crucial points: the advantage of being able to set her own reading schedule instead of relying on us to read to her and the payoff of following characters and stories over a longer arc than that contained in a picture book.

To that end, I made a purchase this week to which I've been looking forward for a long time - Beezus and Ramona. I had a serious Beverly Cleary habit as a child, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I can't wait any longer to get WonderGirl hooked also, so I'll be reading chapters aloud to her tomorrow as we drive to the beach to begin our vacation. I'll read to her and remember my own mother reading to us on our long car trips. (At some point, I'll probably wish I'd picked a book with a slightly less implusive main character than Ramona.) Hopefully, when we come home, WonderGirl will want to read the next book in the series, and on some future trip, I'll watch her in the back seat, her expression changing as she reads it to herself.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Whoring myself for family

Our nephew just returned home to his own nuclear family yesterday after wrapping up an exhilarating five days with us. Perhaps he would use a different adjective to describe his time, but he's a typical understated, world-weary 13-year-old, so I'll spare him the embarrassment of appearing excited and confirm for you that yes, the visit was exhilarating. WonderGirl and Rocco were especially... um... exhilarated to have a new good-natured body on which to jump and climb, respectively.

While he was here, I did two things that surprised even me - played Advanced Civilization and visited the World of Large Soft-Drink Company Based in Atlanta, to which I refuse to link. Any company which can convince so many people to pay $9 each for the privilege of entering a "museum" and looking at their advertising doesn't need publicity from my blog. My whoring does have limits, after all.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

An inauspicious beginning

Since my paper has been accepted, it's time to get cracking on the next topic for my dissertation. It will be in the same field as my first topic, but only barely - I'm going to change gears pretty completely, and (gulp!) do something that's even a bit more technical. In a way, I'm looking forward to this. It's refreshing to know that I get to start from scratch, since I don't know a damn thing about the theory behind my next project. At the same time, I can't feel behind, because I haven't been in a position to learn about any of this before. Ever.

...Which is why it was demoralizing when yesterday, in the course of some crucial background reading, I came upon this sentence: "This section is quite technical and can be skipped by the disinterested or intimidated reader."

I'm just hoping that my leanings toward the latter don't turn me into the former.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Where the heck have I been?

Life has taken a turn for the busier over the last few days. A roundup:

  • WonderGirl had her last day at her old school last week, and is in half-day camp for the next two weeks before we head off on an actual vacation, at which point she will start Big School. Before that happens, we have forms to fill out, committees for which we must volunteer (must remember to blog about the whole public/private school decision), lunchboxes to purchase and regressive behaviors to tame.
  • Rocco, bless his heart, has had yet another lovely mystery illness. He had three days of fever (which is, of course, not that big a deal when it's 120 degrees anyway outside), followed by a beautiful rash. Lots of little happy red dots, starting from his trunk and moving, inexorably, down his limbs. Now it's settled mostly on his face, but would only look truly dramatic if it was 120 degrees outside. Oops. Luckily he's happier again now, and has been fever-free for over a day, so he's back at daycare and I'm back at school for the first time this week.
  • The fact that I haven't been able to work is okay, because I just got word yesterday that my paper was accepted! Although I'm thrilled to know that I've made a contribution that is worthy of publication and that hopefully will make a difference somewhere in the world, I have to admit that my first emotion was simply relief. Not that it was accepted, but that this meant that none of my advisors could ask for any more changes. Stop the merry-go-round, I'm officially getting off!
  • DT's mom flew in this weekend, making both WonderGirl and Rocco officially Very Very Happy. She's the consummate grandmother - always has time and energy to play, and always sticks up for the kids vs. the parents. She'll be here for a few weeks (I think I mentioned her mini-colonizations on an earlier post) and it should be fun. I do sometimes feel a bit invisible when she's here, as I don't think she knows exactly how to fit me into her worldview. DT thinks I'm exaggerating, but last night, as we were all looking at the pictures we've taken of the kids since her last visit, she came to a picture of WonderGirl and me at the park and said, "Now, who is that lady?" We thought she was kidding. She was not. I'm actually happy, because now DT can never claim that I'm imagining things. Either that, or she really needs to go ahead and get that cataract surgery sooner rather than later.
  • Our nephew is coming to visit for several days, starting this weekend. We're excited and trepidatious at the same time - we don't really know how to entertain a 13-year-old boy, and neither DT's sister nor his mom are giving us lots of clues as to his care and feeding. It'll either work out nicely, or he will vow never to visit That Boring Family Down South again. Hopefully the former.
  • Rocco's birthday party is this weekend, and we just realized last night that we haven't planned at all. Not that he needs much, but with the way my mind is going right now, I would have been surprised when the guests showed up at the door, and potentially would have just spread Cheerios around the floor and hoped everyone had fun. Which is not, actually, a bad idea...