Thursday, July 27, 2006

"The Ruins"-induced sanity watch

So yesterday and last night I was still weirded-out by "The Ruins", and again I had nightmares.

My spouse has been under a lot of stress last night, for different, less frivolous reasons. At dinner, I confided, "I feel weird", but before I could go on to describe my state of "The Ruins" induced madness, he interjected, "Me, too! Do you think it could be the croquettes?"

The croquettes? THE CROQUETTES?? How dare you question THE CROQUETTES!! The croquettes in question were a three-day-in-the-making gourmet extravaganza, a Barcelonan recipe I'd been meaning to try for ages. They were painstakingly made by hand and safely stored (day one: create fresh breadcrumbs; day two: create and freeze filling; later, when frozen, cut up filling and dredge into three different things to create outer layer, then refrigerate; day three: fry in good olive oil, drain, serve). May I note that I wash my hands when in the kitchen like a cross between a surgeon and an OCD patient. I am hygienic beyond complaint when it comes to food (although a bit of a slob outside the kitchen).

I barely spoke to him for the rest of the evening. Mind you, the croquettes were fabulous; even he liked them when they were served, although he turned on them again so soon. The man may deserve someone who will just serve Tuna Helper day after day, instead of painstakingly prepared gourmet food (which is what you get from me several days a week; the other days, I make stuff like mac 'n cheese or leftovers).

Anyhow, our scorecard now for "The Ruins" damage is three nights of disturbed sleep and one spat with husband (why would he be so foolish as to imply he got food poisoning from my croquettes? I note that the health of everyone is perfect after having consumed the questioned croquettes), plus one evening of neglecting husband and children while reading "The Ruins". This book stands alone. Apparently Ben Stiller has the film option, although I think he's a bit long in the tooth to play the character he's probably itching to do.

speech therapy (and why does it piss everyone off?)

So, my youngest daughter has a speech problem. Hers is called developmental apraxia (sometimes called dyspraxia), which means an inability to control the movements of the mouth needed to produce speech. Stroke victims also often have apraxia. Thankfully this can be treated by professional speech therapists, who can work with the child (or stroke patient, but I'll limit myself to children ) to train the child to make sounds reliably.

Lucy's apraxia was very severe. She was basically incomprehensible to anyone other than Iris and me. Her preschool teachers and other kids understood about zero (yes, zero) of what she said. She "telegraphed", speaking in as few words as possible, and relied heavily upon body language and facial expressions. She would go to extremes to avoid speaking to anyone other than me and Iris. Even Anton understood less than half of what she had to say. This began to affect her personality after she started nursery school, and she became silent and sad. "I can't talk", she said tearfully to me.

We had her thoroughly evaluated by an excellent speech therapist, who ranked Lucy in most ways as being in the 2nd percentile in speech for her age. At over 3, she was below the average 18 month-old in verbal abilities. She even had difficulty doing things like sticking her tongue between her teeth, her apraxia was so severe. However, at the same time, her vocabulary (shown in her ability to recognize spoken words, albeit not say them herself) was way above her age, and she was obviously a bright little girl.

Now here comes the part which pisses everyone off: Immediately we started Lucy in private speech therapy twice a week. This is not covered by our insurance (it would be if she'd had a stroke), so we are paying out of pocket. We did not request an evaluation and services from the local school district.

Are we fabulously wealthy? No, we are not. Anton took a second job to pay for this, also we made budget cutbacks (no vacation this year, no curtains for our room, put off replacing the roof, etc.., etc..). As Anton said, "This is the biggest problem we have right now, so it's what we need to throw money at. What's more important?"

I never expected putting Lucy into speech therapy to piss everyone off. It continually surprises me. I have had so many people lecture me that the right thing to do is to call the school district, have Lucy tested, get an IEP written, and then let the school district treat her for free. Evidently Anton and I are just morons is the implication. But more than that, there's anger at us. Now, I understood that when it came from someone who is getting free school district-provided speech therapy for her own child; she is bound to have conflicting feelings. (By the way, I don't run around bragging, "Oh, my child gets the finest in everything, including speech therapy! Nothing is too good for my darling!" It comes up in conversation, as her speech issues are a huge part of our family's life, sad to say). But why would a person with a child with no speech issues get mad? Or a childless person?

The other night, a friend-of-a-friend got a little heated in discussing this. I explained that what my child needed (one-on-one intervention, multiple sessions a week) was more than what I could get from the school district (group speech therapy, most likely once a week). She insisted that "you can get whatever you want. They have to do exactly as you tell them!" Umm, actually I did look into this, and it turns out that if you believe your child's IEP is not good enough, you generally have to file a lawsuit and slug it out in court. I knew a family who did that. Also, I know a special ed teacher who used to create IEP's for my school district who told me that she got into trouble for creating too ambitious IEP's. She was admonished not to suggest too many services. And I did check and discover that the official policy for children my child's age is group speech therapy, not one-on-one speech therapy.

Additionally, there is a pheonomenon called "generalization." That means that apraxic children must not only learn how to make sounds; they must learn how to use those sounds in a variety of words and situations. A child we know for a long time was only able to say words correctly if someone was holding a flashcard up to her; she could not generalize and pronounce that word in conversation. Part of "generalization" is that if a child takes speech therapy in a clinical office, she may not be able to reproduce what she learns in other atmospheres. It has been shown that children who receive speech therapy in the home (where so much of their lives unfold) have much better ability to generalize, so the speech therapy tends to be more effective. I brought this up in the debate with the friend's friend, and although she took the point, she was still irked. That didn't seem a good enough reason to opt out, for her.

The school district where we live is in a state of continual financial emergency. Schools are being closed each year. Teachers are going out on strike. Services are being trimmed. Why shouldn't people be happy that we, who can, opt out of requiring expensive, specialist services? Why is it better that we burden the district by demanding extensive, expensive services (and by suing to get them)?

Anyhow, the difference Lucy has made in six months of extensive speech therapy is amazing. Her therapist says that she has never had a patient make such astronomical progress.

But the thing that makes me almost happier is that she's not so ashamed of her speech any more. She's feeling a lot better about how she talks.

Recently we spent the day hanging out with one of her friends from preschool, and Lucy tends to mispronounce this little girl's name. The girl, tactfully enough for her age, brought up how "a lot of kids can't say my name right." L. got the subtext (that she wasn't saying the name right) and said, with confidence, "Jill comes all the time to teach me, and I practice every night in bed, and soon I will be talking really really good!" She told her friend that she would work on her name in speech therapy. I was so happy that she wasn't shutting up in shame, like she always used to.

Now: I understand about 98% of what she says, and even new people (especially parents, who are used to talking to little kids) can understand most of what she says. Every now and then she stumps me (today I had a lot of trouble figuring out the word "sneaker"), but the sheer fluidity of her speech and the confident way she trots out new words makes tears come into my eyes.
Today in speech therapy, she worked on words ending in "ish", on pronouncing c/k without sticking an l in there (and her speech therapist taught me a touch cue to show her not to put an l in: speak k and then hold your own tongue down with an index finger), and on the name "Louise."

Her speech problem was wrecking her natural, sunny personality. The first speech therapist, who evaluated Lucy, was so worried about her that she contacted our preschool director to express her concern that we might not have her problem treated intensively enough (that speech therapist had a 6+ month waiting list for her practice and could not treat Lucy personally). By hiring a great pediatric speech therapist who works with Lucy one-on-one, we've changed Lucy's life. Why should that piss everyone off?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

the Wall Street Journal gave me nightmares

On Saturday, the WSJ ran a rave review of "Ruins" by Scott Smith, an unusually strong review ending with a plea for Mr. Smith not to take so long to provide the world with another book (he wrote one prior book in the '90s, which I never read. When I was practicing law, I NEVER had time to read anything more than the paper, which I tried to read on the bus going downtown. Just about the only things I read in the '90s were "The Pelican Brief", which associates furtively passed around at my law firm, hissing, "It's so true" and Camille Paglia's giant book about art, sexual roles, and history, which I lugged around for months). I had to go to a bookstore anyhow on Sunday, because I had promised Iris some beautiful books she wanted as her reward for enduring a root canal (yes, I am a bad parent: my child had an abscessed tooth requiring a root canal and a cap. The dentist said judgmentally to me, "I hope you knew this was going on", which left me to wonder: wouldn't I have been a worse parent if I'd known my child had a cavity and I didn't bring her in? Puzzled, Iris asked me, "Are cavities supposed to hurt?" She had never felt a twinge). So of course I grabbed one of the two remaining copies of "Ruins", even though I'm not supposed to buy books due to budget issues. Hey, the WSJ made me do it! It's my husband's fault for splurging and renewing the WSJ! The bookstore guy said, "This is the hot book."

I read "The Ruins" on Monday (I am a powerful speed reader, which is actually bad because it leaves me craving more; I'm a gaping maw seeking books now that I'm not overworked as a lawyer). I didn't realize from the WSJ that the applicable genre here was not suspense, but horror. And horror it was. The book was masterfully unsettling, disturbing, and whatever adjectives you feel like throwing in along those veins. I finished it up around midnight, and of course, my sleep was utterly fucked. I had horrific nightmares, when I could doze off.

The next day, the mood lingered. Driving to a preschool group playdate, I pondered what I would have done in the characters' place. It was all too real-feeling. As I was getting Lucy out of the car, my friend Tina called out, "Carole" behind me, and I must have looked insane as I jumped. Thankfully Tina is also a horror aficionado and after I explained my state of mind as being book-induced, she determined to drive to her favorite bookstore and procure "The Ruins", rather than wait to hook up and borrow my copy.

Lucy lived her own nightmare yesterday: the heat left her lethargic and crabby, lurching around the playground like a zombie. We left the playdate early and went to the beach, but she cried that it was too windy. We went to a grocery store to buy her Fudgsicles, but she cried that it was too cold in the store. Back in the heat, she fell asleep in the car, and I ran in leaving the front door open, put our Fudgsicles in the freezer and grabbed "The Ruins", and ran back out, where I sat in the car re-reading sections of "The Ruins" and waiting for her to wake up. When she did, she had a fever, which was brought down by Fudgsicles. Today she has a slight sunburn on her feet on the parts which were covered by her sandals when I applied sunscreen, as she must have taken her sandals off just long enough to burn. It's her first sunburn, and she's feeling proud and dramatic. I, on the otherhand, am still preoccupied by "The Ruins" and feeling just a bit off.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

what I'm reading

This morning I neglected poor Lucy (I did make her the breakfast of her choice, and I did clap when she made up a song, so it wasn't all Living in Neglectville) to finish "Lost and Found" by Carolyn Parkhurst. I almost didn't pick up this book at the library, because it seemed too light: it's set in a reality show, a la "The Amazing Race." I love "The Amazing Race", but I don't necessarily want to read reality show novels. But! I loved this book so much that I may buy it; I'll want to re-read it at some point. I loved her cynical but loving approach to reality show contests; I adored her flawed characters.

Parkhurst writes from the point of view of different contestants on the show, and her one mother character perfectly voices what motherhood is like:

"No one else ever loves you the way your children do when they're young. No one else will ever cry when you leave the room. I try not to spend too much time thinking about those days, because I know they're perfect only in memory, and I know I need to focus on the girl I've got in front of me right now. But sometimes I can't help but give in to it... To remember what it was like, back when she smiled just to see me, when she needed my help to move a spoon to her mouth or to walk down a flight of steps. Back when she had to reach up to hold my hand. Back when she thought I could turn on the sky....

During the first week after we brought her home, I remember saying to my husband, 'I love her, but I don't know if I love her enough.' It was a terrifying thing to me to be responsible for this child, unfathomable and fragile, with all her squalling need. I was scared to be alone with her. I didn't know how I was going to carry out this job I'd taken on, the raising of this new person. It seemed too great a task. . . . I don't know what it's like for other women, women with calmer temperaments and vast inner resources; for me, it was very hard. I knew how mothers were supposed to be, and I knew I wasn't holding my own. A mother isn't supposed to cry because the baby keeps kicking off her socks; she's not supposed to feel utterly defeated by the task of clipping minuscule fingernails. She's certainly not supposed to stand over the crib in the middle of the night and say, as I once did when we'd been awakened four different times in three hours, 'I hate the fucking baby.'"

So there you have it: the utter, mindroasting high of the complete love and need you get from your baby, but the horrible feelings of inadequacy and stress, especially in those dark, sleepless nights. And for those of you not so interested in reading about motherhood, other chapters feature gay sex, the art of the Swedish subway system, violence, and the politics of reality television.

Before this, I read David Housewright's "Pretty Girl Gone." I liked "Tin City", and this one was entertaining enough, but I spotted the ending a mile away. It's irritating when you read a book with a protagonist who's allegedly brilliant, and he can't see the obvious clues screaming out at him. Also, Housewright's dialogue is incredibly clunky. Can you imagine the retired cop who would deliver this speech:

"Have either of you ever stopped to look at this painting? You've probably passed it a thousand times, but have you ever taken a moment to really look at it? The lines, the blending of color, the woeful expression on the ballerina's face? Critics didn't like the ballerinas that Degas painted. They said he was vulgar and cruel. But he was neither. It's just that while everyone else at the time was painting dancers in all their resplendent glory, Degas wanted to capture them offstage, catch them when they were worn down by tedious tryouts and exhausting rehearsals. He wanted to show us the pain they endured, the suffering that went into their art. Perhaps he thought it would help us to appreciate them more."

To make it even worse, the retired cop delivers that speech while he is being abducted at gunpoint.

In contrast, I recently read Tim Parks' "Rapids", and that book's glory was the dialogue. Parks's characters spoke just like people do in real life, which is so hard for any author to do. He beautifully captured the painful-to-listen-to, overly cheery cant of a group leader speaking to a bunch of itchy, hormonal adolescents. He had down the tring-to-be-funny-and-failing thing of a teenaged boy trying to impress girls and come off as edgy and daring, but instead coming across as an awkward geek. I hated the ending, but the dialogue made the book a joy to read.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

the hopefully last tragedy from Petrataluma

Suddenly I have all sorts of free time (note the sudden rash of blog entries), and it's because the pet rat crisis of 2006 has largely been resolved, but not without a final tragedy.

To refresh your memory: a man was discovered to be living in a one room cottage in Petaluma with over one thousand (1,000!!) living rats and countless dead rats. The rats were living many layers deep in cages; what an absolute hell that must have been. The Petaluma pound had the terrible job of clearing out the animals, and the head of the pound, Ms. Nancee Tavares, announced that she would be keeping the rats and offering them out for adoption. Without notice or fanfare, Ms. Tavares ordered over 900 of the rats killed... including the mothers of still-nursing babies. Rat enthusiasts, who were rallying to rescue the rats, were heartbroken and thrown off course. However, after regrouping, the remaining hundred odd rats, and their babies, were gradually all removed from the pound and sent off to foster and permanent homes. The last group was taken out in a hurry after Ms. Tavares announced her intent to euthanize them all, including a nursing mother and her babies, but she relented and kept them alive a few more days after she was promised they would all be taken away by rat rescuers.

One incredibly dedicated rat rescuer, herself in the third trimester of her pregnancy, undertook the mission of driving a large carload of these last rats to Missouri, where Midwest rat fanciers would take them. Her car's air conditioning broke down in Martinez, California, and five of the rats died of heat stroke.

These poor, poor, poor rats. They survived the hoarding hell, and they survived the hideous culling at the Petaluma pound, which was truly like a rat Auschwitz selektion, and then, just as they were en route to loving homes, they died a painful death. And the poor woman driving, someone I've met before who has truly devoted huge amounts of energy and work towards saving rats, how absolutely awful she must feel.

jobs with animals?

This past week, I've been reading "Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs" (ed. by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe, and Sabin Streeter). It's a fascinating compendium of people talking about their jobs, including such jobs as transvestite hooker, long distance truckdriver, Kinko's "coworker", computer chip designer, crime scene cleaner, etc.., etc... It's a huge book, with over 200 jobs outlined.

But what struck me after finishing it was that there careers related to animals were underrepresented. It's almost as if the editors occupy an animal-free world. Where were the veterinarian, vet tech, goat farmer, wildlife rehabilitator, animal activist, zookeeper, dairy inseminator, dogcatcher, etc...? Where are even the lab rat breeder and animal testers? (You can guess how the Drunken Housewife feels about those last professions, which is probably fair enough, given that the people in those jobs probably, like society at large, despise lawyers and housewives). To be fair, there was a dog trainer and a man obsessed with gathering geckos.

Even worse, when I was a disgruntled lawyer I took a class at a career center, which I referred to as "disgruntled lawyer class." (It was actually called "New Careers For Attorneys"). We met weekly for months, and we networked, took personality assessment tests, read about careers, etc... and NOWHERE were animals mentioned. There were booklets about one's interests, and the closest it came was "careers outdoors" for people who just love the outdoors. You could be a landscape artist or a roofer or a park ranger, but there was no category whatsoever for animal lovers. I brought this up, and I got a weird stare from the woman leading our class. She suggested that I teach high school, which is a pretty bad idea.

That class was almost as worthless for me as my friend's mandatory welfare career assessment. My beloved friend, when she was on welfare as a single mom, was compelled to spend a day being tested for her career compatibilities. At the end of a long, dreary day, she was told that she was suited emotionally and intellectually for two jobs: mortician and president. "President of what?" she asked. "Oh, a company, I guess, or the United States." Talk about helpful. (She's back to gainful employment as a graphic artist now, no thanks to her career testing).

When I somehow get to the position where I can have a second career (or third, if you count stay-at-home parenting as a career, which I guess I should), I'd like it to be with flexible hours and working with animals. I am not prepared to go to vet school, although I may do a vet tech course so I could work hands-on with animals. (My own teenaged niece is considering the same option). I'd like to do wildlife rehabilitation, and I should start volunteering again in that area. But to the world at large, animal lovers' jobs are non-existent.

Friday, July 21, 2006

crime wave?

I live on a very quiet, secluded street. It's an obscure little corner of the city, very near busy, major streets and retail areas, but surprisingly sleepy and residential. The parking is to die for; the neighbors are, nearly to a man (and I do mean man) responsible gay high-earners who maintain their homes meticulously. You would not know (other than the pretty views of the Financial District) that you were in a major city here.

Not long ago, we were awakened by a phone call at some ungodly early hour, which turned out to be a police detective who wanted to ask each of us separately if we'd "noticed anything unusual" on the previous Tuesday around 1:00 p.m. We weren't home, so of course we hadn't, and the detective was not forthcoming. My neighbor Brad swears he will get to the bottom of this and find out what transpired, but of course, my opinion was that no one bothers to do any investigative detective work unless someone died.

Then last weekend, I heard what I believe was a gunshot. I'm not exactly an alarmist there; the only other time I heard a gunshot in the night, it turns out that the lead singer of a band I loved, Buck Naked and the Barebottom Boys, was gunned down right in front of my apartment building by a morbidly obese pigeon feeder whom I'd exchanged weird eye contact with before. On this occasion, the newspaper did not reveal any details as to the shot, but when I discussed it with Brad, Brad shared that someone had broken into the house two houses up from him. "During the daytime", Brad intoned meaningfully.

I posited that the ideal cover in our neighborhood would be posing as a dogwalker, as professional dogwalkers haunt our streets every day. No one would think twice if someone leading a pack of dogs on leashes was fumbling at a particular door (unless I was around and it was the neighbor on my other side, whom I know to possess nothing more animated than a few houseplants). Brad was alarmed at this idea. "How do you even think of these things? There's something wrong that you would even think that up." I reassured Brad that I'd cut off any potential life of crime in the bud when I got fingerprinted as part of taking the California bar exam. Also, has he seen me with my pack of dogs yet? No, he has not.

And then this week, Brad phoned to tell us that he'd learned of another daytime break-in. Sigh. I think the onus is on me, as pretty much the sole unemployed adult in the neighborhood, to keep an eye on the block, but we drunken housewives do have lives (of a particular sort) and are not always around evil eyeing everyone who passes by.

circus camp

Iris is enrolled in three weeks of "circus camp", and today I got the chance to see a show. This week's theme was "Creepie Crawlies", and the children pretended to be insects, staged a "Bug Olympics", and cavorted about.

Circus camp's greatness is its sense of humor. So many little kid activities are unbearably pompous (a certain ballet instructor comes to mind, although Lucy's current ballet teacher is endearingly down-to-earth). The parents get so emotionally invested in their child's alleged greatness, and there's a lot of pseudo-seriousness. At circus camp, there's none of that. There were actually some mindbogglingly accomplished children doing amazing stunts, but with humor: plenty of pratfalls, insect make-up, and funny background music. Some of the children are obviously hams, while one African-American girl seemed so shy while she performed seemingly superhuman feats of preternatural strength on the trapeze.

a crisis, possibly of hypochondria

Last night, I had a freaky thing happen. Anton hugged me, and it hurt. There was an incredibly bad pain, out of the blue, around my navel. Later I probed inquisitively with my hand, and when I pushed to the right of my navel, the pain was agonizing (I leaned against the counter with tears in my eyes and said, "Motherfucker!" out loud; an obscenity I normally do not use). It hurt when I moved or when it was touched.

I looked up appendicitis online, and I learned that the pain usually starts around the navel but then moves down and is worse when touched or when the patient moves. That seemed right. I was running a low-grade fever.

But then I laid down, and the pain went away, and today it's not really back. I probed around with my hand, and it only hurt a tiny bit. I haven't called my doctor, because it seems asinine to call and say, "I had a lot of abdominal pain yesterday, but it's gone now." If it were appendicitis, it wouldn't just go away.

Today I feel tired and under the weather, possibly slightly feverish, but then again, both my girls were sick this week (Iris was home sick yesterday with a fever and sore throat). I am feeling a bit nervous about my decision to wait-and-see if the pain comes back again. I hate going to the doctor when there's no clear reason to go (plenty of time in the waiting room, copayment, embarrassment of wasting my excellent doctor's time), and my doctor normally only works a half day on Fridays anyhow, which would mean it would be hard to get in to explain "I was in pain yesterday."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

the Drunken Housewife goes to the theatre

I have two friends named Kim in my life: both of them live sadly far away from me, and both of them are strongly interested in the theatre. Kim #1 came to visit for a few days, and our major activity was seeing some shows. Anton and I also share a love of live theatre, but alas our budget does not provide for hiring many babysitters to see many shows. So, leaving Anton at home with the children, we got out to some plays. (Anton was okay with this, because he was sucking up to me so I'd agree to his going to Chicago next month).

On Sunday, we saw "Killer Joe" at the Magic Theatre. I'd been vaguely wanting to go to this play all summer; it enjoyed a sold-out run at the Marin theatre company, and then it moved down to the Magic and was extended there. It was billed as a dark comedy, but as Kim noted at intermission, "I'm seeing a lot of dark, but not much comedy." We did laugh out loud at some point during the second act, but comedy was definitely not the applicable genre.

The first act had quite a lot of female nudity, and Kim said during intermission that she hoped to see a penis to make up for this during act two. Right on order, a penis was exhibited in a display of full-frontal male nudity in Act II, which saved us from finding the play overly sexist or exploitive. We loved the trailer set, with its wealth of details. We loved all the actors save one, and, weird as this may be to say, the play had the best use of stage make-up I have ever seen. Kudos to the make-up crew, who were obviously working hard behind the scenes as the play went on.

I'm being purposefully vague about the plot, so as not to spoil anything for anyone, and I highly recommend seeing this play, with the sole caveat that women who are past victims of sexual assault or molestation may find the play to be triggering and upsetting.

On Tuesday, we saw "Restoration Comedy" at the Cal Shakes festival. I am ashamed that I have lived in the Bay Area for almost twenty years, but never attended the Cal Shakes festival. Anton's attitude ("You are driving to the suburbs to see comedy??") was pretty negative (on Sunday, he asked me, "Which play are you seeing tonight? The good one? Or the one in the suburbs?"). However, the setting was fabulous, an outdoor stage in the beautiful hills. We saw cows grazing behind the stage, and we picnicked beforehand. The only problem was that, as always a picnic overachiever, I packed my picnic basket, with real flatware, champagne flutes, a bottle of sparkling wine, cloth napkins (the mood was slightly marred by my plastic plates with pictures of duckies on them). The picnic basket did not fit under my seat, and I could not leave it in the aisle, as the performers often ran up and down the aisles. I had to sit awkardly with my feet on the basket through the show, and we had to assist the others seated in our row in getting in and out.

"Restoration Comedy" was the anti-"Killer Joe": a comedy of manners in costume, with light, stylized sets (as opposed to "Killer Joe"'s extremely detailed and realistic set), beautifully broadcast harpsichord music (as opposed to "Killer Joe"'s deliberately distorted and fuzzy occasional music), a large chorus ("Joe" had only 5 actors), occasional forays into verse, and the "breaking of the fifth wall" for humorous effect ("Killer Joe" was so intense that I worried about the effect the performance must have on the actors). More trivially, the stage make-up in "Restoration Comedy" was the sort of over-done make-up I hate. But! Never have you seen such luscious, wonderful costumes! I was left longing to go to "Burning Man" this year, so I could sew myself some crazy historical costumes. Men in long, curly wigs and gorgeous purple frock coats, women in corsets and huge skirts, beautiful colors and textures... With some good-looking actors, the stylish sets, and the luxurious costumes, "Restoration Comedy" was true eye candy.

Again, I refuse to spoil the plot, and I do recommend "Restoration Comedy", but maybe not for those who may have struggled with infidelity issues unhappily. The theme of "Restoration Comedy" is that monogamy is a hopeless endeavour. (The Drunken Housewife isn't usually so nitpicky in her recommendations, but these excellent plays could overly affect the previously traumatized).

On the way to the stage, we passed several huge, expensively printed banners proclaiming that Cal Shakes is "for all ages" and a quote from someone about having achieved a lifelong love of Shakespeare and the theatre from attending Cal Shakes as a wee tot. The program guide touted drama classes for ages 4 and up. However, then the performance went on to have quite a lot of sexual content, which made it seem a lot less child-friendly than touted.

Lately there haven't been any movies I've really wanted to see (I'll wait until "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Strangers with Candy" come out on DVD to catch them). Going to the movies is so expensive, especially if one adds in babysitting. The live theatre is a better entertainment choice, in my opinion. Even if you see a bad play, somehow you have more fodder for conversation. The presence of the actors commands more attention. I've never left a play with that left-a-bad-movie feeling where you say, "My God, I'll never get those two hours of my life back." I have left a few plays at intermission (notably the hideous rap version of Moliere which the misguided ACT staged some years ago), but even so, I didn't regret having gone in the first place (okay, maybe I would have regretted the rap Moliere if I'd bought the tickets to it; I went as part of my season subscription). I'm eager to see more plays, and I feel bad that Anton missed "Killer Joe."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

general busy-ness

Yesterday, when I was driving to Petaluma, I drove by a wildfire. It had obviously just started, in the dry hills of North Marin, as there were no firefighters there yet. I'm sure it was put out soon thereafter, since it wasn't in the paper this morning (there are currently some huge wildfires raging elsewhere in the state). I was on a tight time schedule (take Lucy to Joyce's! Drive to Petaluma! Get rats! Drive to Vacaville! Drive home!), so I couldn't stop. I didn't call 911, as I didn't feel safe dialing out while driving 70 m.p.h., and I rationalized that surely one of the other drivers in our heavy traffic had already called 911. I wanted to stop and see the fire, from a little distance, because it was so beautiful and strange, the largest fire I've ever seen personally. It was the most interesting thing which happened in a day where I spent nearly six hours on my rat errands.

Today I have to pick up some neutered lady rats at a vet in Pacifica (let us all take a moment and think well of Dr. Hurlbut, DVM, who does huge amounts of reduced-cost veterinary work for animal rescues, and whose name never fails to amuse my three year-old, as it sounds like "butt"). I'll be holding them for a fosterer who will come by after protesting at Neiman Marcus in an anti-fur demonstration (I should be in that demonstration myself, but it's a crazy day). The Baby Violet will be dropped off so I can repay some of the babysitting I owe and so her parents can go see a movie. I will in theory clean my entire house and do all the laundry, because my incredibly tidy, uberhousecleaner friend from high school is arriving in the morning to be horrified at my gross untidiness. "Just don't get a tattoo" was Anton's plea when I told him she was coming (we got matching tattoos for her birthday last year).

So why am I sitting about on my voluptuous rump with so much to do? I'm touching up my roots as we speak, waiting for it to be time to go shower, and waiting for my tired Iris to get up. Lucy is at ballet, driven by the anti-ballet Anton (he's got second child burnout, being sick of watching adorable three year-olds dance and also sick unto death of parent-child woodworking and parent-child swimming classes).

the dreaded metablogging

It's so self-referential to blog about blogging, but here goes: I'm wondering whether I should use the real names for my innocent spouse and children. My oldest child is getting to the point where she can be embarrassed by silly anecdotes. On the other hand, I personally find it annoying when I read blogs where a mother refers to her children as "The Boy" and "The Girl" or by pet names (not that we don't have pet names, we're oversupplied in our house with those). Columnist Ellen LastnameIcan'tremember always wrote about her daughter, and she paid her daughter a token sum whenever she did. The daughter, though, was affected by this (I say this from the viewpoint of having dated someone in college who went to private school with the daughter). On the other hand, Ellen Whatever was nationally syndicated, and this is a fairly obscure blog. My own role model in writing about my children is the inimitable Shirley Jackson, who wrote a couple of delightful books about her own children using real first names, but not the last name used by her children, when she wasn't writing gripping horror novels (sidenote: the fascinatingly strange Sally I loved in those books grew up to be my acquaintance Sadie, who lives on the Russian River, goes to Burning Man, and urged me to freeze my placentas and make a form of "tea" from them).

My husband asked me if he could give the URL to the blog to my mother-in-law, and I (in my mind shrieking, "NOOOOOOO!") said, "I'm not giving it to any family yet. I don't feel comfortable with that. It's one thing for my friends and total strangers to read it, but I don't want my parents reading it." I wanted to give the URL to my niece and nephew, but I don't want my sister to have it. (Yes, the family dynamics which produced our flawed Drunken Housewife are obscure and often unappetizing).

Blah, blah, blah. It seems a bit grandiose to think or write about this sort of thing, but I have started to get comments from people whom I do not know and did not give the URL to, so someone out there is reading this. Also, the blog may get an infusion of British readers, as it will be a stopping point on Ayun Halliday's virtual book tour when "Mamalamadingdong" is released in the U.K. (More, much more, on this later, when the Drunken Housewife declares Ayun Halliday Day, which is quietly in the works). But does that matter, that British people whom I personally do not know will learn that a girl named Iris taunts her sister, named Lucy, into peeing in the backyard under the pretence of "having a penis" and "being a rockstar"?

Friday, July 14, 2006

chauffeur to the rats

If you wonder why I'm not blogging, arranging playdates for my children, or even doing the most minimal housework, it's because I'm obsessing about the surviving rats recovered from the Petaluma rat hoarding horror. There's an email list for people trying to help the rats, the petalumarats yahoo group, and I'm posting and reading there or exchanging email with rat activists. I've also been doing a lot of driving rats hither and yon, with more driving today and tomorrow.

This afternoon I'm driving up to Petaluma, after leaving my three year-old with my very patient friend Joyce (whom I now owe a lot of babysitting). It's wonderful for Lucy to get to spend an afternoon with her friends Joyce and "The Baby Violet", as Lucy always calls her, rather than spend another day in the car driving rats around. I'm going to pick up three nursing mother rats with their litters of babies, and then I'll drive them out to Vacaville to rendezvous with a famed rat fosterer, who has the magical superpower of being able to find homes for whole litters of baby rats. Then I'll drive back to the city, undoubtedly getting caught in rush hour traffic, and missing my six year-old's gymnastic camp show.

I got a guilt trip from the old husband yesterday about missing the show. "I feel that for a stay at home mother, I'm missing a lot of Iris's special moments," I said. Instead of reassuring me, he said, in a judgmental voice, "Do you have to go in the afternoon so you miss the show?"

"But the pound doesn't open until noon, so I can't go there in the morning. And the person I'm meeting isn't free to leave until after one, so she can't meet me before 2:30."

"Can't you do it another day?"

"I can't do it tomorrow, because I'm picking up the rats who got neutered in Pacifica. And the pound's closed on Monday, and we can't do it Tuesday, so it's either tomorrow or Wednesday. And the rats could get euthanized before then." That last remark was actually unjustified, as now the pound knows it has someone who's taking those specific rats off their hands, they are unlikely to kill them, but Anton failed to call me on it. He just gave me a cool, disappointed look. Of course, he was pissy because we bought a new cage for our adopted rats and a rat carrier as well. "Anton thinks the carrier is a waste of money," artlessly tattled Iris.

The Petaluma pound will soon have about 20 rats left which need homes. Please spread the word. I will personally lavishly reward anyone who adopts some.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I waste a glorious day

Today was one of the rare true summer days of San Francisco: beautifully warm, with no clouds in the sky. It would have been a great day to go to the beach, but Anton hates the beach, and I thought the beach would be overcrowded, hot Saturdays being so unusual. Anton is feeling generous in spirit right now (he said to me the other day, in a rare moment, "This is the best marriage ever!"), so I could have gotten my beach wish granted. What instead did I squander my marital capital on? A trip to Target.

I hate driving to Target; I hate the particular freeway exit and parking lot and lane merges required for that outing. Anton hates all retail, and he is trying to get us to live within our means. But Iris needed a leotard and some other clothes appropriate for the day-long gymnastics camp she's starting on Monday, and I felt like stocking up on stuff like tampons and envelopes, and I wanted to do it on the cheap, so a trip to Target seemed called for, prevailing upon the husband to do the driving.

My God, I must be losing whatever verve was left in me.

On the other hand, I did enjoy having my coffee outside, and I drank quite a bit of yummy cava while cooking a cucumber risotto and baked radicchio. My verdict on the meal: the risotto was okay, but since I've already made the discovery of the fabulousness of cooked cucumber, it wasn't particularly enlightening. On the other hand, the baked radicchio was miraculous.

Baked Radicchio

Preheat oven to 400. Oil a large, shallow baking dish.

Wash and chop a head of radicchio. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 20 minutes. Top with lots of slivered gorgonzola and liberal amounts of balsamic vinegar; return to the oven until the cheese is melted.

From the Farmer John cookbook, my new obsession.

insane desserts of New York

The New Yorker recently profiled Will Goldfarb, an insanely creative and cranky pastry chef. I'm spellbound by his ideas and wish I could visit "Room 4 Dessert" in New York. Here are a few of his past and present excesses, not all of them desserts:

- "Picnic", pancetta, tomatoes stewed in olive oil, and vanilla (yes, as a vegetarian, I'm not really in favor of bringing meat over into the one area of the menu which is traditionally meat-free, but I love craziness in food),

- a rose-petal vapor served via gas mask,

- tobacco sabayon,

- "an interactive Futurist menu that included a starter served on silk and sandpaper, a dish that required the customer to be blindfolded and bound, and a desert that a waiter injected with a syringe of hot oil at the table";

- "St Barts May 2001", meant to capture memories of a beach vacation, served with a beach towel and spray can of salt water;

- "Mr. Clean", a cocktail including a very strongly scented pine liquor (this I actually would not want to try).

You'd think the man behind these ideas would be a genial performance artist type, but instead, he is a tightly wound control freak who is obsessed with how the kitchen towels are folded. I don't think I'd last a day in his kitchen, but I'd like to experience some of his concepts.

speech therapy

L/L (she's switching back and forth betw. the names in a very confusing manner) has made astronomical progress in speech therapy this year. But the thing that makes me almost happier is that she's not so ashamed of her speech any more. She's feeling a lot better about how she talks.

Yesterday we spent the day hanging out with one of her friends from preschool, and L. mispronounces this little girl's name. The girl, tactfully enough for her age, brought up how "a lot of kids can't say my name right." L. got the subtext (that she wasn't saying the name right) and said, with confidence, "Jill comes all the time to teach me, and I practice every night in bed, and soon I will be talking really really good!" She told her friend that she would work on her name in speech therapy. I was so happy that she wasn't shutting up in shame, like she always used to (the day she said so quietly and sadly, "I can't talk" was heartbreaking).

Those of you who were on the camping weekend might have noticed that she didn't talk to you for the most part. She's not comfortable talking with new people, usually (although we had a charismatic cabdriver last week who got her to give him directions). She loves attention, but she can be shy about her speech. I was so thrilled with her little speech to her friend because it showed her own pride in her work and her optimism.
it's night and day. Black and white. It is absolutely MINDBOGGLING the progress she's made this year. She's done more in half a year than I hoped she'd achieve in two years of speech therapy.
Before: only me & Iris able to understand much, and we understood about 80% of what she said. Anton understood about 30-40% of what she said. Her preschool teachers and other kids understood about zero (yes, zero) of what she said. She "telegraphed", speaking in as few words as possible, and relied heavily upon body language and facial expressions. She would go to extremes to avoid speaking to anyone other than me and Iris. She was diagnosed at being in the 2nd percentile (second!) for speech ability for a child her age; at 3 1/2, she was speaking BELOW the level of the average 18 month old.
Now: I understand about 98% of what she says, and even new people (especially parents, who are used to talking to little kids) can understand most of what she says. Every now and then she stumps me (today I had a lot of trouble figuring out the word "sneaker"), but the sheer fluidity of her speech and the confident way she trots out new words makes tears come into my eyes. I was so afraid for her, but speech therapy has fixed her up to an almost unbelievable extent.
Today in speech therapy, she worked on words ending in "ish", on pronouncing c/k without sticking an l in there (and her speech therapist taught me a touch cue to show her not to put an l in: speak k and then hold your own tongue down with an index finger), and on the name "Louise."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Elizabeth Wurtzel annoys me

I just read "More, Now, Again", Elizabeth Wurtzel's memoir of her addiction to Ritalin (which she ground up and snorted) and cocaine. I can't really understand why I read the entire book, other than that I have been puzzling mentally over addiction and rehabilitation issues since our pet alcoholic relapsed (a childhood friend of Anton's stayed in our living room while going through rehab).

Wurtzel is one of those academically bright people who can't stop telling you, "I'm smart, I'm smart, I'm smarter than you and everyone else." She reminds me of a boyfriend I had for a while in college, who made sure everyone knew he was a National Merit Scholar (I was also a National Merit Scholar, but none of my college friends knew that, as I didn't bring it up all the time, although now I've mentioned it here and somewhat weakened my arguments vis-a-vis Ms. Wurtzel). Stop telling us how smart you are and instead let us infer it, puhleeze.

Even more irritating, Wurtzel finds the people around her are insufficiently interested in "culture." She brags that she is able to interest people in "culture" if she puts it right under their noses. And what is this "culture" which is so glorious, to which regular people do not sufficiently attend? Movies, popular music, and glossy magazines. Ms. Wurtzel's version of "culture" seems frozen at a high school level. She's not exactly attending Mark Morris Dance Group performances or current photography exhibits and performance art installations; she's not knowledgeable about opera or ballet.

Wurtzel's sense of entitlement is truly staggering. Arrested (and rightfully so) for shoplifting, she demands that her Ritalin and her glossy magazines be brought to her holding cell. Later, after she was bailed out, she calls a large firm lawyer she knows, haranguing the woman to file a civil rights lawsuit based upon the denial of her magazines and Ritalin. Oh, yes, the Constitution protects one's rights to "Vanity Fair" and the prescription drug that one is currently grinding up and snorting at a pace of forty pills per day.

Lastly, Wurtzel irked me no end in her dismissiveness of her well-behaved young adolescent nieces. She harangues the nieces to rebel, telling them that at their age, she was listening to punk and sneaking out to give guys blowjobs. What is wrong with these young girls, that they won't listen to the music Wurtzel prescribes? Wurtzel never asks herself why her nieces should take her as a role model, given that she has struggled with depression and addiction, is unable to manage her finances, has screwed up many professional opportunities, and is unable to get into a relationship.

Did I learn anything about the nature of addiction? No, not really.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

when we all got along vs. today

When Lucy was a baby and toddler, Iris, Lucy and I spent our days largely in an atmosphere of love. Yes, we did have the hassles any household containing a baby and a preschooler has, but we three got along during the days. When Iris was five, she suddenly turned upon her formerly beloved "Mr. Goose", and a new, harsh reality of sibling rivalry set in. Here, however, a paean to the days in which "Iya" (Lucy's toddler version of "Iris") and "Mr. Goose" (the most enduring nickname endowed upon Lucy by Iris) lived together in peace and love:

Lucy used to ask Iris to give her a horsey ride by climbing on top of Iris and reaching out with her hands. I have not seen anything cuter than a four year-old giving a toddler a horsey ride.

Baby Lucy also took to kissing rather elaborately. She would only kiss me and Iris, but when she did, it was like getting a big, climactic screen kiss. (Poor Anton was left out of this).

Iris loved to make Lucy laugh. She had a cute malapropism: she called Lucy a "gigglepush." Another overly adorable thing Lucy baby habit was to say "gigglegigglegiggle." Who can resist a baby, who sports "gigglegigglegiggle" as one of her first words?

A less adorable thing Lucy did was to constantly carry my shoes to me and say, "Go! go!", meaning I was commanded to take her somewhere. She cried if I didn't put my shoes on at her command (plus she cried if I tried to put on a different pair of shoes than this one pair she likes). We spent very little time at home in those days, but that suited the Luce. During the afternoons while Iris was at preschool, Lucy and I were fixtures at the nearby playground, where we made friends and enjoyed the sun.

Ah, the good old days. Now poor Lucy lives under the tyrannical thumb of an often cruel older sister. Today Lucy had a four year-old friend over, an only child, who was not afraid of Iris. Emboldened by this company, Lucy said to Iris, "Shoo! Shoo!" Her friend chimed in, "We don't need you!" (although they did enlist Iris to assist them in building a fort, which I was forbidden to see). Now here's the double standard: if Iris had a friend over and they shooed Lucy, I would have intervened, but in this instance, it felt like Iris getting a taste of her own medicine, and I allowed it. It's a cruel sibling world we now inhabit, and we, the nominal rulers, are not sure how to govern the battling siblings.

The other day, Anton completely was stymied on how to handle the sibling relations. He had declared bathtime and run a bath. In the good old days, the girls bathed together and played together in the tub, but those days are over. Iris always insists on going first (does she pee vindictively in the water? I wonder). Lucy wanted to watch Iris get her hair washed, and she pulled up a stool and sat so sweetly on it, her little arms folded. Iris wanted privacy from Lucy, but she wanted Anton to hang out with her while she bathed.

Anton came to me for a ruling, and I felt like a Supreme Court justice weighing various constitutional mandates. On the one hand, it's good for Lucy to see a hairwashing role model, and Lucy was being nicer than Iris. In sibling disputes, I usually side with the one who is being (however temporarily) nicer (perhaps akin to Prof. John Hart Ely's Constitutional law theory that the outcome favoring greater representation should always be preferred). However, I ended up creating a new rule for our home: you can pick whoever you will be naked around. If you do not want to be naked around any particular person, you don't have to be. This one resonated with the children, just like the "one person, one vote" Supreme Court ruling resonated with the public. I learned in law school that there is no real Constitutional basis for "one person, one vote", and analogously I lacked any good child developmental basis for my parental ruling. Some rules just sound good.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Petrataluma: the road trip

Unforgivably the Petaluma pound summarily euthanized almost all of the rats from the recently discovered hoarding situation. (I note that I personally called the pound the day the rats first went up for adoption and was assured there was no firm kill date and that "these rats will be around for a long time"... that same day, nine-tenths of them were killed by the pound). When this news came out, the individual animal lovers who were organizing to save the rats were devastated. However, Ratty Ratz, a registered 501(c(3) in the Bay Area, made a plan for the surviving babies, and I was able to take part in saving these fabulous little animals.

On Saturday, I met Nicole of Ratty Ratz at the pound. We did not know what we were going to find; her plan was to "pull rats" to be placed for adoption at the upcoming RMCA (Rat and Mouse Club of America) in L.A. The RMCA were looking forward to finding homes for some of the Petaluma rescues. We found that of the ~1,000 original rats, fewer than 100 survived the pound's culling. There were two cages with small babies, one small cage with a few rats who'd bitten staff members, which were being quarantined, and two cages of about 25 rats who were quarantined because they'd shared a cage with the biters. These adult rats were not separated by gender, which means that any female in those cages must be presumed to be pregnant. Sigh. I offered to separate the rats by gender while I was there, but my offer was declined.

I left with one cage of three baby boys (the pound director told us not to take all available baby boys as she felt, based on the calls coming in, that she didn't have enough baby boys to adopt out; I had to bite my tongue from remarking that she shouldn't have euthanized so many then. Because I was there as a humble volunteer for a group which must get along with the pound, I felt a need to be politic), another cage full of 25 baby girls, and a cage of ten grown up female rats from a separate hoarding rescue (there have been a lot of rat hoarders in California recently).

These rats, all adorable beyond belief, stayed at my house for a couple of days. The plan was for me to drive them halfway to L.A., to be met by an RMCA volunteer, on the Monday before the 4th of July. I figured I'd go to scenic San Luis Obispo for the handoff, or maybe meet at the Hearst Castle parking lot, and then go on a tour after I passed on my little charges. However, the RMCA volunteer flaked. Anton was acting very pissy about having the rats in our home any longer than planned. I suggested a different rat activist to do the driving, but it turned out that although he was ready to pick up the rats with no real notice, he was not willing to drive farther than Bakersfield that day. Sigh. We negotiated a meet-up at the Motel 6 off I-5 in Buttonwillow, near Bakersfield, so I wouldn't have to get off the freeway and I could spend the night for only $32. These glorious accommodations were found for me online by my husband, who didn't want me to spend a cent more than necessary. "This is charity work," he noted.

So, far from enjoying San Luis or wallowing in the endless, glorious tack of the Hearst Castle, I had to quickly pack and drive 32 rats in the blazing heat of the Central Valley down I5. It was heavy traffic all the way, the sort of traffic which tailgates you at 90 mph while you're passing a poky truck, and when you finally manage to get by the truck and pull into the slower lane, it is revealed that the aggressive, road-raging tailgating SUV was sporting a Jesus fish or a "Peace is Patriotic" bumper sticker. I stopped twice at rest-stops, but I couldn't leave the rats for more than a minute without fearing for their safety in the heat.

I finally got to Buttonwillow around 8:20 p.m., just in time to meet Dan, driving up from L.A., who reported happily that he'd made great time with no real traffic in his direction. On my end, I felt lucky to have survived the drive. He took possession of all the rats, and as I subsequently learned, managed to well document his time with them before passing them over to the RMCA.*

Dan regaled me with sad stories of other rat rescues, including one in which a woman died leaving 300 rats. Her father gave them to a pet store but refused to tell Dan where it was. Dan spent weeks fruitlessly calling petstores of SoCal, before he had the brainwave to offer to pay the father $200 to reveal the petstore's name. For $200, the father told only the location, but it was enough. Dan refused to pay up and found the rats, which were still alive, and the petstore owner was glad to give back the rats.

After Dan took off with my adorable little travelling companions, I was left in Buttonwillow, which appears to be a small conglomeration of businesses serving truckers and people transporting horses. I tried eating at Denny's, but when no one came to take my order (I read over 20 pages of my novel while waiting), I left. I ended up getting a sandwich from Subway on verrrry stale bread and some Mike's Hard Lemonade from a gas station convenience store (again facing some difficulty in getting the teenaged retail workforce of Buttonwillow to conduct my transaction in a reasonable amount of time), which I consumed in my Motel 6 splendor. There were flies in the room, and nothing better than "Titanic" on cable. Sigh. Let's just say that there were signs posted warning that this was a dust zone. On the other hand, I heard a lot of birds in the morning, which is always pleasant, and the Motel 6 did have a pool (which I didn't get a chance to use, but still, credit must be given).

Lucy and Iris got into a fight on separate phone extensions over who was supposed to talk to me and who missed me. Lucy kept saying, over and over again, "I have something else to say! I really really miss you because it is dinner time and I am used to having dinner with you so I really really really miss you."

The next morning, I got up, pulled myself together, had a slight altercation with yet another inept teenaged customer service professional, this time at the Starbuck's, and finally, coffee and fireworks (sold very professionally by the only grown-ups I had retail dealings with in Buttonwillow) in hand, I got on the highway. Again I5 was heavily trafficked with speeding, aggressive SUVs and pick-up trucks elbowing each other past the sluggish trucks. The radio options near Bakersfield were heavily slanted towards "soft rock"; evidently, the people of Bakersfield have an insatiable appetite for soft rock and the rap stylings of "Daddy Yankee."

I got home almost exactly 24 hours after leaving, having had almost no fun, no rest, and no relaxation. I felt lonely once the rats were gone. I'm not accustomed to being alone in a crappy hotel; usually, I have my spouse to listen to my carpings and my children to entertain me.

Oh, and, completely foreseeably, we ended up keeping two of the rats for ourselves. What is not foreseeable is that we didn't keep two of the famous Petaluma rats; we kept two grown-up rats (one hooded, one rex) from the other rescue. They are now named Cutebone and Tinky Winky and live in the study. Anton is very bitter, but he agreed to this (I left it completely up to him when Iris asked to keep Cutebone, leaving the room to avoid the conversation).

What I learned: I hate driving on I5, I should never go on a roadtrip without bringing CDs or a book on tape, and crappy hotels are only fun with good company. Anton told me if I'd only asked, he'd have loaned me the book about the Cold War he's currently listening to on tape.

"But I thought that wasn't any good."
"It's good enough for I5."

If I ever do a trip like this again, I will do SOMETHING to add some entertainment value for myself. Exploring Buttonwillow is not a vacation. It's no Visalia (I once broke up a drive to Death Valley by crashing at a cheap hotel in Visalia, which was well worth the brief visit).

* See Dan's website for great pictures of the amazingly perfect babies (I am referred to here as a bit player in the rats' drama, with my name misspelled).

Monday, July 03, 2006

all the news, according to Iris

Inspired by newsreaders, Iris drafted her own broadcast, with Anton's assistance:

Today is Saturday, July first, 2006. The weather in San Francisco today is overcast, with temperatures not too chilly and only light breezes. It's a good day for walks, picnics, and playing in the park.

Here is how to feed the cats. First locate some canned cat food. If none is stored in the laundry area, a trip to the grocery store may be necessary. Then, count the cats present. One can is sufficient for up to two cats, but three or more require more cans. For each can, grasp the tab firmly with an index finger and pull hard. It may help to brace the can against a hard surface such as a countertop. Once the lid is removed, discard it and empty the can contents before the cats.

But anyway. You may not understand as many people that a bearded dragon is not a real thing but it is a kind of lizard. And bay area aquariums well most are closing down all barracudas. Thank you and good night.

Lucy's dinner party conversation

We had a dinner party last night, and we set up a little table for Lucy and her young guest. The little girls were very excited about their own pretty table, and they sat down to eat before everyone else was ready. They were talking so animatedly, so I drifted over to eavesdrop. Lucy was holding forth: "My mommy has a BIG BUTT! It's so really big!" Rising in her chair, spreading her arms out for emphasis, Lucy concluded, "I call it a FIREBUTT!!!"