Friday, January 29, 2010

Bad Hair Year

Two weeks from today, I turn 36.

I feel like I am at the top of the first hill on a tall roller coaster. The center of balance of the car is about to tip, plunging me downhill at 70 miles an hour. The momentum is building, and it all goes so fast from here. Pretty soon I'll be pulling into the station, windblown, battered, and possibly screaming, asking, "That's it? It's over already?"

35 was a hard birthday. Middle age had come. I wasn't too bothered by the upcoming 36 until I remembered that the average life expectancy for a person born in the U.S. in 1974 is 72, which means I am statistically halfway done. (Though if you want to get technical about it, a white woman born in the U.S. in 1974 has a life expectancy of 76.7. The 72 is just what happens when you throw the males in the mix.)

Apparently, cancer survivors aren't allowed by their friends and relatives to complain about birthdays much. Anytime I start to make a comment about how I'm getting old, someone who means well says, "Well, it beats the alternative," or the more to-the-point, "Just be glad you get to celebrate that birthday."

True, true.

But I am going to allow myself one post a year where I complain about how it kinda sucks to get old.

Most of my group of friends are also 35. In talking to them, it seems that, at least physically, we all had a rough go of it this year.

"35 feels different than 34," my husband said the other night, nursing a sore back and shoulder that he probably earned from the strenuous activity of sleeping late.

One of our 35-year-old friends has had pretty serious back problems this year, Jason has had regular shoulder and neck problems, and I definitely have something going on with my knee and toe joints. When your doctor tests you for gout, you know you're getting old.

And yet, here's how shallow I am. Of the struggles I am facing right now as I start trying to get used to listing my age as 36 before I even really had a grasp on saying I was 35, the biggest hair.

I blame the author of a little book I picked up at the library this summer, How Not To Look Old. I have to confess that I picked it up as much to pat myself on the back for what I thought I was doing right as to learn new ways to keep myself from looking "Old Lady." I mean, it's not like I wear Mom Jeans and applique sweater vests. Anymore.

However, it turns out I'm doing a lot of stuff wrong.

Before I even checked out this book, I had done an evaluation of my wardrobe and ditched a lot of clothes containing items I could pull off in my 20s but that recently were just making me look like an old hippie. After reading the book, I saw that I still have much work to do. The book says not to wear graphic tees under any circumstances and to pretty much avoid any top that isn't fitted and tailored. Oh, and throw out any shoe (besides athletic shoes) that doesn't have a heel. I say that you will pry my The Lady and Sons tee with the classy "Our Hoes Are Complimentary" logo off my cold dead back. And if you touch my Crocs, which I only wear on weekends or to the grocery store, anyway, I will hurt you.

The chapter that has caused an existential crisis, though, was the hair chapter.

According to the author, all women of a certain age should wear bangs (of the soft, fringe-y, side-swept variety), should wear their hair long and layered and light in color, and should wear said long hair down.

And to think: I've been so proud of my short, bobbed, bangless haircuts that I thought were edgy, young, and hip. Even Kate Gosselin got extensions recently. I've been so wrong.

Like someone in mourning, I've spent much of the fall and winter in anger and denial and not so much in acceptance. My hairstylist did a really terrific job on my pre-Christmas haircut, and it just enabled me.

"Ha!" I thought, walking out of the salon with fresh highlights (the one thing I do right according to "the book") and a shorter-than-usual cut that swung and bounced like a model's in a shampoo commercial. "This haircut is awesome, and I totally rock the short hair."

A picture taken of me at Christmas, when it hadn't been styled and blown out by a professional, told a different tale.

"Do I REALLY look that old?" I asked myself.

There's a difference between having a great haircut and having a great haircut for you.

Jason got a new computer recently, and he moved all of our pictures over to it. He had all pictures of me taken in the past 7 years all on one screen and pulled me over.

I was shocked. In the pictures of me in the 3 years post-cancer, when I was wearing that little pixie I was so proud of, I did not look like Mariska Hargitay, which is what I was going for. I looked vaguely transgender. When you have a small chest, straight body, and your dad's face, and your first name could either be a boy's or girl's, maybe the pixie cut's not for you. I should have learned from "It's Pat." I am sure I confused a lot of people.

Later pictures show me with varying degrees of grow-out from the ultra-short cut. In some of them, I don't look awful. The depressing trend, though, was in the last year or so of pictures. My face has changed quite a bit in a short amount of time. Maybe it's all the stress, maybe Time is just now starting to march across my face. My eyelids are heavier, more hooded. My jawline has softened and become vague. I have deeper lines in my forehead and throat. My lips are more crepe-y and less full.

I'm starting to think that short, severe hair is doing me no favors. One look at me in the "Tequila Bandeliro" I got for Christmas, and which I am wearing in the worst picture I have seen of myself possibly ever, and I knew. Something must be done about the hair. Plus, I need to move that red tracksuit (Sue Sylvester might be able to pull it off, but I clearly can't) to the part of my closet reserved for workout wear, or possibly I should just burn it.

So, when I went last weekend to get my hair cut, I swallowed hard and put my pride on the line.

"It's time. Short hair is no longer for me. Let's grow it."

Don't worry. I'll never go back to the really long locks of my 20s. But a change (and definitely some long, side-swept fringe) is in order. On the eve of my 36th birthday I am finally accepting. I am of a certain age now. It's time to start not looking like it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Purple Boas and Lady Gaga. Oh My.

After last night's cheerleading practice, Ainsley informed me that each girl needed to buy a purple feather boa (!) for the big floor routine they're learning for Cheer Fest, their end-of-season exhibition where it's not about the basketball team, it's all about them.

I sighed. A purple feather boa. First of all...

Where do I find one? That's not exactly something I buy regularly, especially this long after our honeymoon (ba dum dum.)

And secondly...there's something so wrong about a seven-year-old doing a dance in a short skirt and a feather boa. I am not sure I approve. One day it's a cheerleading uniform and a boa; the next, it's a "Bumpit" in her hair and red lipstick and clothes from Forever 21. It's a gateway to skankdom.

My fears were confirmed on the way to school this morning when "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga came on the radio.

"Hey!" Ainsley said. "That's the song our big dance routine starts with! After that first part with all those words, one of the girls yells, 'H-O-T-T' and then we all yell, 'H-O-T-T.' It's really neat."

Lord. Have. Mercy.

Yes, when you're a cheerleader, your team isn't just "hot." They're "HOTT."

Oh, help.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Crazy Ferret Lady

So, what happens when you take your typical Crazy Cat Lady and give her a ferret?

She sits next to me at the vet's office and makes me bat-crap crazy, that's what.

Scout visits the vet every four weeks now. A few weeks before Christmas, she gave us quite the scare and was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease. Think Crohn's Disease, but feline. While we've been told that her disease is progressive and that she probably won't get much better, we're managing it with regular medication and steroid shots and she's relatively happy for now. She still enjoys playing with her fake mice and napping in front of Mom's new "Amish" fireplace, and what more can a nine-year-old cat ask for, really?

As I checked Scout in at the reception desk, earning a quiet hiss from inside the cat carrier for my efforts, a lady who had had her back to me until she heard Scout's protests turned around, holding something faintly rat-like.

"Whatchoo got in the carrier?" she said. Or at least I think that's what she said. The poor woman, one of those older women who dies her hair jet black and wears it long so as to make it impossible to tell if she's 50 or 90, had a speech impediment that made all her r's and l's sound like w's. Which is unfortunate if you want to introduce the entire vet's office to "Phywwis," your pet "fewwet."

I was introduced to Phyllis when she stuck the creature in my face, and I found myself suddenly nose-to-nose with a member of the weasel family.

"Have you evew seen one of these befowe?" she asked.

"Yes. Yes I have." I sighed. Encounters like this are nothing new to me; I regularly attract people outside of society's bell curve of normalcy. I just usually don't come so close to being bitten on the nose by these people's pets.

Our vet's office puts dogs and their people on one side of the waiting room, and cats and everything else on the other side. Since dogs usually come in on a leash, and cats and miscellaneous animals are usually penned up somehow, it makes sense. Otherwise, it could become a Tom and Jerry cartoon pretty fast.

What doesn't make sense is keeping your pet ferret out of its carrier and trying to introduce it to the cat you're sharing the waiting room with by putting the ferret's head right up next to the bars of the cat's carrier. I kept thinking that the last thing Scout needed was to get bit by a geriatric ferret (Crazy Ferret Lady kept telling me the ferret was 7, and I am guessing by the shabby condition the thing was in that that's pretty damn old for one of those things.) And then I started seeing in my mind how Scout likes to grab her extra large fake furry mouse by its throat and shake the hell out of it, and I prayed that the cat carrier was as good of a jail as it looked. Scout's eyes narrowed to green slits like a feline Disney villain.

"Wook at Phywwis's taiw!" said the crazy lady after introducing Phyllis to every human and animal in the office. "It's fwuffy! She must be ma-ad!"

I cannot imagine why.

For the next five minutes or so, I learned all kinds of interesting things about Crazy Ferret Lady. I eventually just started smiling and nodding and stopped listening and tried to maintain my personal space, but I did catch some key points. She has five cats at home, one of which is 13 years old and very fat; Phyllis has diabetes and gets her glucose tested at the vet's office every two weeks; she loves to look through the photo album of cats on our side of the waiting room and the picture of the cat with the beer can on its head cracks her up; and she loves to snuggle with her ferret on rainy days.

Oh, and she loves to let the ferret just run around on the floor of the waiting room. But she didn't need to tell me that. I could see that one for myself.

I don't know that I've ever been happier to hear Scout's name called to go back into an exam room.

I'm not trying to be mean. I'm really not. My heart goes out to this woman and her various pets.

I just wish it could have gone out to her from a distance, not while I had a ferret in my face.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dribble It...Pass It...Let's Get A Basket!

Ainsley cheered her very first basketball game Sunday. And I have to say, despite my predictions, maybe even (I am ashamed to say) despite my wishes to have Sundays free...

She's really good at it.

I thought I knew my kid well enough to predict how this would go. In her school plays and musicals, she's the kid who spends part of the show either smiling and waving at mom and dad, or clamming up altogether and standing on stage like a deer in headlights. I thought cheerleading would go the same way--she would see the crowd, get nervous, and try to hide in the back, mouthing the cheers and smiling a big toothy grin at two of her spectators but not really playing along.

But a funny thing happened. Her coach put her in the front row, and except for occasionally trying to catch my eye and then pretending she wasn't looking at me when I spotted her, she did everything she was supposed to do. She yelled, she smiled, she did her moves in that precise cheerleader-y way. She looked good. She sounded good. She got it.

Though I have no idea where she got it.

I'd like to be all cool and tell you I never wanted to be a cheerleader, but I kinda did. What little girl doesn't at some point? I was no girly-girl, but there was a short time when I fancied the idea of wearing a short skirt and waving some pom-poms with a big bow in my ponytail. The other little girls on my street and at my elementary school and I used to make up cheers and play cheerleader, sometimes with the help of a girl in the neighborhood fortunate enough to actually be a cheerleader for the local pee-wee football team, and it became depressingly clear that I wasn't cut out for it. I couldn't so much as cartwheel, I could never seem to be able to remember what arm motion went with what word, and I just knew that I didn't thave that stiff, precise look to my motions that the other girls did.

Some of the girls I used to play-cheer with later went on to be real cheerleaders in middle- and high-school. I remember the week that 7th-grade girls were invited to try out for basketball cheerleading. Part of the tryouts involved making up your own cheer.

"You should try out," one of my friends said, a girl who made the team and cheered through the rest of her secondary education. "You're clever enough to come up with a cheer."

I toyed with that idea for half a day until I realized that there were different kinds of clever. Could I come up with a good 5-paragraph essay for English class? Yes. Could I come up with a good 30-second cheer? No. Most certainly and definitely no.

I didn't try out, and never regretted it. By that point in my young life, I knew I wasn't that girl. I never had the skills; I no longer had the desire.

So as Ainsley tries this world on, a world of pom-poms and matching socks and hairbows, I have no resources to help her. Not that she seems to need my help. All weekend long, she went around the house practicing her cheers, getting them mostly right with no guidance from me. No one should worry that I'm going to become a rabid, over-coaching cheer mom. I don't know enough about it to do anything besides watch and enjoy.

Sunday night, following her big debut, she sat for some time alone in her room. It's recently been made more girly; a trip to Ikea led us to buy a couple of pink flower wall lamps and a new scrolled mirror to go above her dresser so she can stand there and do her own hair. I spied her in the pink glow of her lamps, listening to Demi Lovato on her DS, her hair back in a headband, barrettes, AND a ponytail (did I mention she does her own hair now?) practicing writing her signature in her flowery newly-learned cursive hand. She is a pretty pink princess born to a mom whose only princess icon was Leia.

I know her, and yet I don't know her. She continues to surprise and amaze me as she grows up into a person that is like me in so many ways, and yet so unlike me (or Jason, for that matter.)

It's still early and cheerleading may lose its shine for her before the season is even out. She's only 7, after all. I'll support her and cheer for her (in my awkward, uncoordinated way) from the stands (or the audience, or as reader of the school paper, or whatever) no matter what she decides to do for fun through her school years. I may not always understand where she's coming from, but as her mom I'll always root for her to get where she's going.

Go, Ainsley! Go! Fight! Win!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Inside Scoop

One my school's new initiatives this year is to match each teacher up with a group of students who share a common career interest so that the students can learn more about that career and, in theory, get valuable information about how to be that when they grow up.

I lucked out and got the group of kids who want to grow up to be either teachers or librarians. (I wanted just the librarians, but shocker, there weren't that many of them so they threw some future teachers into the mix.) For the most part, I can answer their questions and give them good guidance. It makes me feel almost bad for the teacher who has our future security guards.

At the last meeting I had with them, a student asked,

"So, what exactly do you all do at faculty meetings? What do you talk about?"

The kids probably think it's all about them, that we all sit behind closed doors and swig coffee and name kids by name and gossip. Or that we have big dramatic confrontations with each other or with our leaders like you see on those TV dramas that try, so hard, to capture what it's like to work in a school. The truth is so much less interesting and not even remotely sexy.

Yesterday we had a faculty meeting that I kinda wish some of those future teachers could have visited. Any kid still wanting to teach by the end of it should have gotten handed their teaching certificate immediately, before they could think about it too much and change their minds.

It started with a guest speaker from outside the world of education who Bless her heart. She's trying to get us onboard with a new program that would teach high school kids about sexual assault and abuse towards women in a way that would hopefully get them proactive in stopping such acts. I applaud her efforts if not the execution.

She rubbed me the wrong way, but so does 99% of the adult population.

Our auditorium has a habit of sucking the signal from presentation remotes so when someone wants to show a PowerPoint-type-thing during faculty meetings, I almost always have to stand in the back of the room and advance the person's slides for them. It isn't hard; the person nods at me and I hit the space bar. A trained monkey could do it, and at my school, I am proud to be that trained monkey on the merits of me having the title School Media Specialist. We apparently learn to push buttons really well at grad school.

So, anyway, the presentation remote won't work in the black hole of the auditorium so I am advancing slides for this very energetic woman. Rather than just nodding at me, or pointing, she tells me VERY LOUDLY over the microphone when she wants me to advance her slide and gives me about a nanosecond's worth of reaction time before she tells me again. It's as if she expects me to be a mind-reader and is very disappointed in me as a human being.

After this had gone on about 3 slides, and after she sent me one slide too far at one point by nodding her head at me and a moment later telling me to advance, thus giving me a mixed signal, she decided to single me out.

"Let's all hear it for your media specialist, isn't she great?"

Okay, first of all--
1. I don't really think you mean that.
2. Second of all, please don't draw attention to the fact that I am back here pushing a button when half my colleagues think all I do all day is check in and out books and resent that I get paid on the same salary scale as they do. There's a chance you're being sincere, but you're seriously not helping my cause back here.

About this time, she also takes notice of Ainsley. See, Ains gets off the bus about 5 minutes before our faculty meetings, so she's been tagging along at them for 2 1/2 years now. I've often said she's better behaved at them than our teachers are.

"Some of this content isn't age-appropriate," she said, pointing at Ainsley. Who wasn't even remotely paying attention at this point; she was having a snack and doing her homework.

One of our counsellors, who means well, came up behind me. "If this is the same slideshow I saw, then you probably don't want Ainsley in here," she whispered.

But I'm the designated button-pusher! If I take Ainsley outside, who will we find who can do it with such skill and finesse?

"Well, I'm kind of stuck. What do you suggest I do?"

"You might want to let her go to the library by herself until this is over."

So, instead of just learning about sexual assault, I can contribute to one taking place by letting my seven-year-old take herself into the library after hours, unsupervised. Brilliant.

I sent the kid out into a little alcove right outside the auditorium where I could see the top of her head while I continued to push buttons. And there wasn't even anything remotely graphic in the presentation, after all. In fact, I think the average episode of As The World Turns would have been less "age appropriate."

When that whole thing mercifully ended, we were told we needed to each take a section of a practice ACT in order to refresh our memories about what the test items are like, the skills a student needs to do well, the time constraints, etc. Not ideally what I'd like to do at 3:15 in the afternoon after an agressively energetic woman gives me a long talk about sexual abuse, but I wasn't going to complain.

Others complained. A teacher sitting close to me voiced objections to one of the administrators that sounded just like the kind of complaints this same teacher probably jumps all over his/her students for.

"Why do we have to do this? What's the point?"

I wasn't quite close enough to hear what the administrator said back, but whatever it was, it must not have made the task seem rigorous and relevant enough to make it worth this teacher's time; s/he up and left (I'm not revealing the gender so as to protect the innocent/petulant.)

It was 15 minutes of our time. Seriously. Read the section, answer the 7 or so questions, see if you can do it in the time allotted. We ask our kids to do this. Big. Freaking. Deal. Maybe (gasp!) we'll even learn something.

I left with my head spinning from more than the cold medicine I've been living on.

There it is, kids--just your average, everyday faculty meeting. A little learnin', a little complainin', and a whole lot of crazy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Verdict

This is going to be kind of hard for me to say, as I sit behind a library's circulation desk wearing my librarian glasses and wearing my librarian shoes (sensible, not sexy, of course.)

I finished my first book on a Kindle. And I loved it.

Yes, my husband, who spoils me sometimes, bought me one for Christmas. I confess that at first I was mad, because I know how much they cost. But when I sat in my living room on December 26 curled up in a blanket and downloaded the newest Celia Rivenbark book in something like 30 seconds for about half the cost of buying it in the bookstore...well, I wasn't quite so bothered by it anymore.

Just a couple of years ago, I was turning my nose up at the concept of these e-readers and e-books.

"I like books just fine the way they are," I said. "I like turning pages, dog-earing pages that I want to come back to, writing in the margins, carrying them to the pool, loaning them to friends. I can't do those things with a digital version. And who would want to read off of one of those screens? Blech."

But despite myself, I love technology. I may have kept an uncharged dinosaur of a cell phone for a bunch of years, and my primary job responsibility may be to be the protector of the books, but really I'm kind of a gadget geek. After all, a big part of my job is also to provide electronic resources and multimedia equipment to my school. When I first started being lured by the Kindle, I rationalized it by saying I needed to be intimately familiar with e-readers because they are the future of reading (possibly).

But really the reason why they started to appeal to me has to do with clutter. Of course I am a big fan of libraries and the idea of borrowing a book, but more often than not when there is a book I really want to read, I want to read it now and I'm not going to wait until it gets returned to my local branch. I certainly don't like to spend 3 months on a waiting list for a really popular book. So, I buy those books that I am dying to read. Books by my favorite authors (Dave Barry, Celia Rivenbark, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, John Irving.) And books that just plan ol' catch my eye when browsing a book store. One of the big reasons we bought the house we live in was that it has built-in bookcases that support my book-buying habit. But both the built-ins and the individual book shelves in our home are getting full. I give books away and loan them out, but all it really takes is a 2-for-1 sale at Borders or a summer spent reading by the pool and I am reminded of the limited space we have.

Thus, I have a Kindle.

It's not perfect. But to think that it can hold thousands of books and is smaller than a day planner...amazing. I got used to the whole digital ink display thing pretty quickly. And I can do many of the things I can do with my paper copies: I can bookmark and digitally dog-ear pages, underline passages, and make notes. I can't (yet) loan out a book, though, and I don't know if I am brave enough to take such an expensive gadget to the pool or the beach. And not everything I want to read is available on the Kindle. (Darn you, Thomas Pynchon, and your distrust of technology; your newest book so would have been next on my list.) Libraries and brick-and-mortar book stores are far, far from obsolete.

Which is good news for me, I guess.

Do any of you have a Kindle (or Nook)? Are you lured by the technology, or will you stick by paper books until the day you die?

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Vacation Home on Pandora

Every so often, a movie comes along that you feel like you have to see in the theater. A movie that, if you wait for it to come out on video, you just won't get. A movie that becomes part of the pop culture dialogue and divides moviegoers between those who love it and those who just say... meh.

I had decided in my cynical mind that I wasn't going to fall for the Avatar hype. I had heard that it was a little short on plot. I had seen enough of the trailers to believe that it was just going to be a big CGI showcase, and I have to confess I am not that impressed by most CGI effects and motion-capture characters. Sometimes they're awesome (thank you for mixing them so well with traditional model and live-action shots, Peter Jackson) but sometimes they're like watching a really long video game sequence (looking at you, George Lucas.) I figured watching Avatar would be like watching an overwrought 2-hour cartoon and had decided to pass. It's much cooler to go see Up In The Air.

Until I started hearing word of mouth that you kind of have to see this movie and that it represents the future of filmmaking and all that stuff. Okay, then. I'll bite.

Finding ourselves without the kid for a few hours on a snowy Friday night, Jason and I caved to the peer pressure. We sat in the theater, 3-D glasses on, ready to be underwhelmed.

Did the movie really have anything new to say? Well, no. Did it make me laugh out loud, or make me tear up? Not really. Was the dialogue clunky and at times predictable? Yeah. After all, this is a James Cameron-written film we're talking about.

Would I spend a chunk of change to go see it again or buy it when it comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray? Yes. Absolutely. Because it's one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen.

There were a few times that my eyes could tell that what I was looking at wasn't "real" and was animated. But I didn't care. I thoroughly enjoyed my two-and-a-half hours on Pandora.

When Jason and I talked about the movie this weekend, we didn't have a big heavy discussion about the grand social issues in the movie (I'm already on board with the whole "save the planet" and "all living beings are intertwined" thing, so Cameron was kinda preaching to the choir there). We talked about how we would like to have a vacation home in the glowy parts of the Navi's planet, and how beautifully expressive Neytiri was, even though she was CGI (I think some of the credit there has to go to Zoe Saldana, who gave quite possibly the best motion-capture performance ever.) And we talked about how this is ultimately a movie that you want to own so that you can re-live some of the beauty. I don't see us watching the whole movie over and over (though Ainsley probably will; I think this movie will be right up her alley) but there are definitely "wow" moments that we will want to see when the world outside our window isn't so pretty to stare at.

Some critics and moviegoers are slamming the movie for not living up to the hype and not really having a great story. To them I say: phooey. Sometimes it's enough to go to a theater and be dazzled.

Have any of you seen Avatar yet? Did you get to see it in 3-D? What did you think?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Buzzkilling a Snow Day

So, we've had some weather up here in the Cincy tri-state area. Not the kind of snow that would impress anyone from, say, Buffalo or St. Paul. but enough to send everyone to the grocery stores and cancel school for three days.

By the end of this, the first full week in January, I've already experienced all three of the types of snow days we get here in a semi-rural school district. I got the surprise call on Tuesday, one of those calls where you go to bed thinking you're just getting flurries and wake up to a call that school is cancelled. I looked out the window and immediately understood why--the flurries miraculously accumulated into about an inch (3 inches in some places) and the road crews were taken off guard, leaving suburban streets a skating rink until late in the morning. Then there was the two-hour-delay-becomes-a-closing call when a really impressive clipper moved through Thursday morning. And finally, the one where you get the call after suppertime and know that it's no longer a school night. I love all three. I'm just sad to have gotten them so early and in one big clump.

Leave it to the kid's Catholic school to kill the buzz, though. The last couple of years they have been following my district's lead in snow days, which is great. In kindergarten, under a less snow-fearful principal, I was hauling her to school on most of the days we were off. I like having my house to myself every so often, but mommy guilt never let me enjoy dropping her off at school in my pajamas very much.

Since most people who have lived in my school district a year or more could have predicted Thursday's snow day, Ainsley's teacher included, Ainsley came home with a backpack full of snow-day work to do in the event school was cancelled. I've never seen that before. I thought most adults appreciated that on snow days a kid's job is to get bundled up like Randy in A Christmas Story and go sledding, throw snow around, and make the very Catholic-school-approved snow angels.

But nooooo. Ainsley spent a couple of hours yesterday doing work and book-learning. Way to go, Mrs. Buzzkill.

Little did she know that any time Ainsley and I are snowed in together there's a lot of learning that takes place. Over the past week, Ains and I have learned a lot about this big ol' world and each other. For instance...

1. Nature shows might be real interesting and educational, but they also just might make sensitive children turn pale and puke.

We like to watch Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and TLC in our house. We're geeks that way. One afternoon we had a show on about Africa's deadliest animals. They were focusing on venemous creatures, and Ains seemed interested in the snake they were profiling, But then they switched gears and started talking about this teeny tiny jellyfish that you won't even feel stinging you or see in the water but which, apparently, can cause a slow and painful death before you can even make it to the lifeguard station. Or so the graphic dramatization of a teen surfer suffering cardiac arrest while still in the water would have you believe.

I happened to look over at Ainsley, who had stopped eating her lunch. Her lips were so pale that they looked blue, and her eyes were glazed over.

Crap. I thought. Stomach virus.

"You okay?"

"No. This show is making me feel sick." And she burst into tears. We had to turn the TV off, pour her a little Coke (the Cranky family cure for many ills) and get a cold cloth on her forehead.

We should have known this would come; she had a similar reaction a couple of years ago during an episode of Mythbusters when they showed what would happen if you microwaved a jawbreaker and tried to bite in to it. Curse you, Discovery Channel. The price of learning about the effects of jellyfish venom on the central nervous system and about the physics of overheated sugars trapped inside a hard candy shell is a high price, indeed.

2. Snuggies might look ridiculous, but when it's 15 degrees outside and your heat pump is working harder than it's had to in years just to make your house a balmy 69 degrees, they are the greatest invention this decade. I can raise my arms above my head while napping and they stay warm! Genius!

3. Our cable's On Demand network features a free selection of a dozen or so KidzBop videos. Score!

4. African dwarf frogs are really fun to watch, and so far as aquatic pets go, they beat the heck out of goldfish.

We finally got these little guys (don't let their girly names "Candace" and "Vanessa" fool you; they're boys) after debating for a while whether or not we wanted to continue to tend Ainsley's aquarium following Ila's demise. So far, they are very entertaining, low-maintenance, and even educational. And so frickin' cute you just can't believe it.

5. Good deeds, done even in cold weather, warm the heart.

The snow we got this week was super-light and powdery. So much so that Ainsley and the ten-year-old girl up the street were capable of shovelling some of it. While many of the street's adult inhabitants were out shovelling yesterday afternoon, Ainsley and her friend decided to shovel our young neighbors' driveway. The are new parents and understandably hadn't made it out yet. The two girls did if for them, and Ainsley grinned from ear to ear and was so proud of herself for doing something so adult and so helpful. Which made me pretty happy, too.

See, Buzzkill, we didn't need all that work to have a productive break. We just needed each other. And our TV. Of course.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Hey there, readers! Here's hoping you had a good holiday. I did not come back to the blog the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve the way I thought would because, for the first time in a few years, I can honestly say I had a great vacation. No one got sick, we didn't get snowed in, we didn't over-schedule ourselves. Before I knew it, my two weeks were over. And here I am, munching on leftovers, writing during lunch. Yeah, it kinda sucks to be back in the land of 9 to 5 (or 7 to 3, as the case may be.)

I only have one real resolution this year, and I am hoping you can join me in this one. It's a request that comes from a friend of mine. Let's call this new year "twenty-ten." Not "two-thousand ten" like I keep hearing, or the awfully awkward and nonsensical "oh-ten." Twenty-ten has a nice symmetry going for it and sets up a pattern that will save us all a lot of wasted syllables in the coming decade. I shudder at the thought of trying to roll "two-thousand-seventeen" off my aging tongue.

Whatever you do call it, happy new year, y'all. I will be back later today to resume writing about my life as usual.