Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The baby broke my heart this morning.

We have our routine. We wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, pile into the car, and Youngest and I head for Grandma's house while Dad waits with Oldest at the bus stop. However, today Grandma had arranged to come to our house and play. Dad, Oldest, and Youngest would hang out at home, and my piece of the morning puzzle was not needed.

So I kissed everyone good-bye and went out to the garage, started the car, and spent a few moments fumbling through CDs.

As I was fumbling, I noticed that the doorknob to the door between the house and the garage slowly turned. The door slowly pulled open. And in the doorway, still clinging to the doorknob above her head, stood a lone little girl with a mix of confusion and betrayal in her wide, blue eyes.

"What about meeeeee?" she cried.

She might as well have said, "Why don't you love me anymore, Mommy? Don't you cherish the special times we spend together on our morning drive? Remember yesterday when I pointed out the Big Tuck and you told me that it was called a Garbage Truck. And I said, Bawrbidge Tuck! I wiggled in my carseat and sang a little song about the Bawrbidge Tuck, and we both laughed. We laughed not because it was funny, but because we loved to hear the sound of each other's laughter. Don't I mean anything to you?"

Fortunately, within seconds Daddy swept her up from behind and explained the situation. I blew kisses. She waved, reassured.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The Care and Keeping of You is an excellent book and I highly recommend it to all young girls. However (and this is not necessarily a bad thing), it has taught my eight-year-old the "V" word.

The "V" word is one of the hazards of being a mother of girls, as well as being a girl yourself. There is no neutral alternative to the "V" word either, and believe me I've searched for it my entire life. You either come across sounding like a semi-verbal two-year-old or the business end of 1-900-HOT-SEXX.

One of the things I contemplated upon first becoming a mother was how I would call all parts of the anatomy by their proper medical terms and approach all discussions of natural bodily issues with frank, unembarrassed honesty so that my children would grow up free of shame.

For the first years of my daughter's life, I pointedly avoided any nonsense names for the nether regions. In fact, I avoided any names at all. I realized this was a problem when daughter, a well-spoken six-year-old, got kicked in the crotch by another kid and yelled, "Ow, my pancreas!"

By then it was too late to introduce baby names, and I was going to have to teach myself how to say the "V" word without flinching. I asked her again where it hurt, and then said, trying for nonchalant: "You know, it's called your V. . . "

"My what?"

"You know! Your Vuh. . . Um. The thing that's connected to your bladder."

"Oh. Okay."

Later, I overheard her threatening the kid that if he ever kicked her in the bladder again, she'd rip out his pancreas. We were not quite there yet.

I bought her the above book recently because it is published by American Girl, the wholesome alternative to Barbie and pop culture for the 7-12 female demographic. It contains friendly, illustrated discussions of the proper way to brush your teeth, how to eat a balanced diet, and other wholesome, healthy things.

I stopped by daughter's room one evening while she was lounging on her bed turning the pages. I plopped down next to her and glanced at the headline on the page she was reading.


"Christ!" I shouted, and grabbed the book out of her hands.

I was slightly relieved to find that it was referring, Judy Bloom-style, to that time of the month… or as we like to say, her first visit from Aunt Flo. Healthy, normal body discussion, I told myself.

I handed the book back, and she continued reading. At one point, she pointed to a word and asked, "What's this word? Vaaaa...?"

"Yeah, that. It's the thing connected to your bladder."

Friday, September 05, 2003

Youngest daughter is the only one-year-old I know who has mastered the Sneeze Ritual.

When she sneezes, I tell her, "Bless you!" in a tone of voice that one might also use to exclaim, "Wow, your head just exploded!"
She says, "Think-oo!"
"You're welcome," I say.

When I sneeze, she points her finger accusingly at me and says, "Bahs-oo!" with the same undercurrent of threat she uses when she sees the cat on the kitchen table and shouts, "Dit DOWN!"
"Thank you!" I say.

She is a very thoughtful one-year-old.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

There are two things that will ruin just about any barbecue: bees and wetting your pants.

In my defense, I've never been stung by a bee and I could very well be so allergic to them that a simple sting would send me to fatal anaphalactic shock within minutes. Large swarms of bees are spooky, and bees crawling into my soda can remind me of the girl I knew in third grade who swallowed a bee, and the bee stung the back of her throat, and her throat swelled up so she couldn't breathe, and they had to cut a hole in her trachea so she could breathe through a hollow pen, just like that episode of M*A*S*H. (Well, it could have happened.)

Also, it is not my fault that I wet my pants. It is the fault of a giant, inflatable moon jump recreational thing, my co-workers' insistence that it would be fun to act like children, and the fact that I've given birth to two healthy, eight-pound babies.

I've often told my oldest daughter that when something unfortunate or embarrassing happens, you have every right to act like nothing's wrong. When you wet your pants in front of twenty of your closest coworkers, there is no reason to stop and exclaim, "Holy hell! I just wet my pants!"

In the same way, a third-grade girl with a pen in her trachea has every right to ignore the stares of onlookers and go right on picking bees out of her soda. If you don't draw attention to yourself, no one will even notice anything is out of the ordinary.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I don't like being told what to do. Especially when it's coming from peanut-headed little order takers who don't know what they're talking about.

Today's drama unfolds in the local post office, centering on an issue that has become very near and dear to my heart. For a variety of reasons, I refuse to sign the back of my debit card. This little card is the access point to all of the money in my checking account, and unlike a credit card bill that I can refuse to pay, an unscrupulous person with my debit card can simply TAKE all of my money. Therefore, since never in my adult life have I EVER seen a cashier check my credit card signature against the signature I provide, I feel that signing my debit card is equivalent to signing over all my money to some random stranger.

I don't want to do it, and you can't make me do it.

For years I just left the signature field blank and very rarely encountered any resistance. When asked, I simply offered my driver's license as proof of my identity. What a great plan! So much more secure than a signature. And so, I decided to print in the signature field, "Please ask for ID."

Since then, I've been asked for my ID from people who never seemed to care before, and that makes me feel wonderfully secure. They feel secure, I feel secure. It's a very secure transaction.

Apparently, the post office has no interest in security.

I walked up to the counter and asked for a simple book of stamps. I hand the man my card, and he takes it, asking whether it's credit or debit. When I tell him debit, he immediately asks if I want any cash back. I decline. Then he flips over my card.

"Whoa, uh…"

"Oh, right," I say, reaching for my ID.

"I'm sorry, we can't accept unsigned cards."

"Well, my signature is on my driver's license. Let me get that out for you."

"The card itself has to be signed."

"But my name is on the card, which matches my driver's license, which has my photograph AND my signature."

"You have to sign your card," he says, pointing vaguely to a "NO CID" notice at the counter.

"So you're saying that if I sign it right now, I could go ahead and use it?"

"That's right."

"But then ANYONE could do that! How do you know I'm who I say I am? How do you know you didn't just offer some random stranger a book of stamps with cash back from MY checking account?"

"I'm sorry…"

"Okay, fine. I'll use my credit card." I hand him my signed credit card, which he flips, scans, and then hands back to me.

I take it, then hesitated. "You're not going to check it?"

"Um, I did."

"You looked to see that the back is signed. You didn't check it against my signature on the receipt. You have no idea whether the signatures will match. If they don't match, will you decline this transaction?"

"Um, we just have to have a signed card."

At this point I realized what I was dealing with. There was no battle to be won here, he just didn't care. He was doing what he was told until his next bathroom break, and when he came back he'd do what he was told some more. I was looking to the eyes of apathy, and before me stretched a vast, bleak expanse of not giving a shit.

Well, okay. Seems like a good time to redirect my frustration and pay a call to Pamela, the Spineless Insurance Adjustor Who Won't Return My Calls Because She Owes Me a Settlement Check for my Totaled Car.

I think I feel a latent spinal injury coming on…
There are many things that are wrong with today. Following are the highlights.

--the color red--
I pieced together an outfit this morning based on two shades of red, having no idea whether they are compatible or not, because I am colorblind. But don't tell anyone. I'm hiding my colorblindness from folks in the design department who will soon be instrumental in helping me modify my job description to include graphic design. Is that twisted or what!

--my subconscious--
I'm having recurring dreams in which people I work with are urging me to open up, take risks, reach out to others, and make friends. To my subconscious, I say: Shut up. Why can't you just make nice with the disembodied voices? They're not so bad. Now go back to your box and leave me alone.

--bad weather--
Two sweaters later, I'm still shivering. When rain causes the temperature to plummet from 80 to 60 outside, somehow our building misses the memo and keeps churning out frigid air until somebody kicks it (it's always me…)

--another survey--
I've got news for you, mister corporate communications. I don't know what our company's long term goals are, and I don't give a rat's patoot. And the next time you ask me to fill out a 30-minute long electronic survey about how you're doing, it had better prompt a secret door in my computer to open and spill forth unending Hershey's Kisses.

--your commute--
No matter HOW difficult it was for you to drive into work today, believe me I couldn't care less. I'm sure the traffic was miserable. I'm sure you left your house over two hours ago. I sympathize. Really. Okay, not really. We all drove in the same traffic and the same weather conditions, and you are not special for having done so.