Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the trouble with Lola

Last year, Lola decided to be a princess for Halloween (rejecting the painstakingly made Tinky Winky costume I had saved from when Iris was her age, a costume so good a little child followed Iris down the sidewalk and into her Kindermusik class, saying in awe, "Tinky Winky! Tinky Winky!"). I made her a fancy pink princess gown with medieval veiled hat.

This year, she said ahead of time that she would be a princess again. That was fine by me, as we had two suitable princess gowns, extremely elaborate gowns sewn by me (one so difficult to make that I now feel qualified to sew the girls' wedding dresses should they ever marry, assuming they'd allow their aged mother to be their couturier). I figured I didn't need to lift a finger. Iris's costume of choice was to be her cat, Frowstomatic the Immortal God, and later she decided to add a cape reading "Super Cat" and be Frowstomatic the Immortal God & Super Cat. She already owned a black cat cap, courtesy of our friend M's Bunnywarez, so instead of sewing her a catsuit, I lazily bought her a black turtleneck, black leggings, and a black marabou boa, which I shortened to tail length. (This was the first year I didn't sew her an elaborate costume, and I feel ashamed).

Then, after we had assembled Iris's costume, Lola changed her mind. She wanted to be Al, her semi-retarded scrawny orange tabby (poor Al's natural idiocy is demonstrated on a daily basis). I couldn't just put this costume together so lazily (have you ever seen an orange turtleneck, size four year-old?). She stuck to this Al idea quite firmly, although I tried to convince her to be a fish,as I fell in love with a fish pattern. I ended up buying a pattern, yards of orange fake fur, and so on. After I'd cut out the fake fur pattern pieces, Lola announced she'd changed her mind and she was going to be Sleeping Beauty. I said, "Hell, no! You are going to be Al! I can't use that fake fur for anything else now, and I am NOT going to make another costume!"

She went back to thinking it was a good idea to go trick-or-treating as her cat.

The orange fake fur was terrible to sew, a frustrating fabric, but I finished the costume in a timely manner, and the fit was great (I'd altered the pattern pieces to ensure a good fit). However, Lola was in tears last night. I probed as to the reason, and it turns out that she felt she couldn't be a cat for Halloween because she is a vegetarian. I suggested that she could be Fashion Kitty, the vegetarian cat with super powers and a flair for fashion and helping others. This soothed the sniffling child. (We love "Fashion Kitty" and are eagerly awaiting a sequel).

God, I am ready to resign my role as Halloween Costume Creator. Needless to say, with all the sturm und drang over Lola's costume, I had no time to make myself anything decent. I picked up a cute Venetian mask, and I'm going to wear a formal gown and my black Venetian mask and be myself, but at a masqued ball in Venice. (I did once go to Venice, but not to any masqued balls, alas, and I need to return. I love Venice, and also due to constantly climbing all those little bridges over the canals, I returned with thigh muscles of the gods, which sadly atrophied the next month when I was put on bedrest for premature labor).

Monday, October 30, 2006

the end of the Vegan Challenge, and a big fight

Iris and I successfully wrapped up our Vegan Challenge last night. Despite our failings on Friday at lunchtime (before we realized it was the first day of World Go Vegan Days... which incidentally fall during World Pizza Month, which Iris learned about at her school and which we also observed), once we got started, we did fabulously. Iris nearly dropped out of the challenge last night, consumed with lust for the lollipops I was decorating a pumpkin with and for the chocolate chip cookies from the store, but she stayed the course.

However, even the enticements of Kenneth G. Williams have not encouraged us to make this experiment permanent. We ate well, and what I thought would be our biggest temptations (cheese for me, chocolate milk for Iris) were not issues. What were issues were butter and non-vegan sweets. Butter is more ubiquitous than you'd think. I had thought of getting Indian take-out, but of course, although all that food is so easily vegetarian, it's drowning in ghee, so it's not vegan in the least. We use butter on our toast, which we replaced by spraying on canola oil, and we upgraded the toast to cinnamon toast, which turned out to be a delightful vegan breakfast food, but not particularly healthy.

I think, unlike vegan bodybuilder Kenneth G. Williams, I'd find it hard not to gain weight on a vegan diet. I made a great nut roast last night, and it turns out you can make a lovely creamy sauce from pureeing sauteed onions and grated carrots with nuts, which creates a creamy matrix to hold together various vegetables and other nuts. I liked the results (and liked the connection to one of my favorite novels, "The House of Sleep" by Jonathan Coe, where one character is said to be always dining on nut roasts), but the children were adverse to even trying it. They were more interested in the vegan lemon cupcakes I made, as promised.

So what was achieved? I dunno. Iris demonstrated great willpower; I learned I can do without cheese without missing it. I think I may cook more vegan foods, but I'm not ready to convert from lacto-ovo vegetarianism to the more strict veganism, especially with fusspot children.

The vegan challenge sparked a nasty fight between Anton and me, and I'm still upset. Seeing Iris pass up a cupcake at her soccer game due to the Vegan Challenge made him think of all the times he sat in restaurants, watching other people eat meat while he ate vegetarianishly out of deference to my beliefs. (We have a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" treaty in place, where our household is vegetarian, with the children and myself eating vegetarian, but Anton eats meat out of the house. This bothers Iris to no end; once she shouted at him, "SHUT YOUR MEATLOVING HOLE!"as an insult). He picked a fight, accusing me of hypocrisy because I let the children eat marshmallows (I won't eat them myself due to the gelatin, but I have such fond memories of s'mores from my childhood that I didn't want to deny my kids that experience of toasting marshmallows).

"Why is it okay for an animal to be killed so you can have a snack?" he said with an uncharacteristically mean edge to his voice.

"But I don't eat the marshmallows! I never eat marshmallows. When you guys eat s'mores, I never have one."

We had agreed years before not to discuss marshmallows in front of the children, and he broke this agreement, while the girls, who are unaccustomed to their parents fighting, were silently rapt in the backseat. Anton let loose that he feels he's missing out on life because he can't eat whatever he wants in restaurants. I was silent, shocked. Then he made the strategic mistake of getting out of the car to go buy a kite for Lola, while I had time to gather my thoughts.

When he came back, I ripped into him, saying how dare he accuse me of causing him to eat less well when I'm constantly cooking him gourmet meals (I say this matter of factly: I am the best cook you'll ever meet who is not a professional and who is self-taught) and when I met him, he was living on ramen noodles and chips and salsa. Plus, he can eat whatever he wants when he's not around me, and if I were to die the next day, he'd still be equally uncomfortable eating meat at home due to Iris's hardcore beliefs (she called him to tell him off once when he hid a bunch of beef stew cans on the front porch, which we saw. "I didn't bring it into the house," he weakly attempted to defend himself, but Iris ripped back with "THE... PORCH... IS... PART... OF... THE... HOUSE!!!" She was only five at the time, and a born litigator, with natural rhythm, timing, and logic). Next, I felt ambushed, as we'd been getting along so beautifully (and even had put our shower to some very inventive uses only a few hours earlier). Finally, when he attacked my love for animals and my vegetarianism, plus my cooking, he attacked the very core of my being. I define myself more than anything else as an animal lover and a passionate cook, so rejecting those things about me is rejecting me as deeply as one can reject. It couldn't have been more thorough without throwing in a lawyer gibe (although I may be nonpracticing, I'll always be a lawyer in my black, litigious heart).

Today, I'm still upset. I'm (childishly, no doubt) going to withhold my cooking from him. If he misses his bachelor days of food freedom, let him re-experience those so-called joys. He knew what he was getting; on our first date, he learned that I was an animal loving vegetarian, and he willingly signed up for a lifetime of that (he married me not once, but twice, once in a civil ceremony, once in a religious ceremony). I never had this particular problem in my first marriage; Husband 1.0, the Scotch Drinking Husband, was a committed vegetarian, even stricter than me. I wonder if Kenneth G. Williams ever fights with his lovely vegan wife.

Lemon Gem Cupcakes from Vegan With A Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

1 1/3 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 C canola oil
2/3 C + 2 T sugar
1 C rice milk (I substituted soy creamer)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 C lemon juice
1 T lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 12 muffin tin with paper liners.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In separate bowl, combine oil, sugar, rice milk, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour dry ingredients into wet and mix. fill each cup about 2/3 full; bake for 17-20 min (mine weren't done then, but my oven sucks. I cooked them about 24 min). Remove cupcakes from tin and cool on rack. Frost when completely cool.

Vegan Lemon Frosting

1/4 C nonhydrogenated soy margarine, softened
1/4 C soy milk
2 T lemon juice
2 C sifted confectioner's sugar

Whisk margarine until fluffy. Stir in soy milk and lemon juice; add confectioner's sugar and beat with mixer until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Vegan Challenge, Day 2

So yesterday Iris and I took our vegan challenge seriously. It started for me as early as my morning coffee, which I normally take heartily diluted with 2 % milk. We had no vegan milk substitute. I can't stand black, unsweetened coffee: it has to have either milk or sugar (or, as they drink it in Borneo, sweetened condensed milk... so yummy, but alas, too fattening for me to drink regularly). So I put sugar in my coffee and drank it black. Suboptimal, to say the least, and more calories than with my 2% milk.

It turns out that the Nature's Valley granola bars I've been eating lately for breakfast are vegan, so that was easy enough. Iris has been having oatmeal instead of her usual cereal in milk.

Later in the day, Lola and I walked to the playground, and I picked up a soy latte at Spike's Coffee, which was a big improvement.

Iris was worried about whether the snack would be vegan at her soccer game. "What will you do if it's not vegan?" she fretted. (Snack is the highlight of the game for the U7 Viking Soccer League players. There's no official score, and the real winners are the team with the best snack). Often there is fruit, but yesterday, it was slices of cheese and cupcakes. Iris was about to inhale a cupcake when Anton called me to check in. Since most frosting has butter (not to mention that the cake part probably contained egg and milk), I said it could not be considered vegan. Poor Iris put the cupcake down and felt a bit glum.

We hadn't managed to get to the grocery store, so I insisted we eat at Nirvana. Nirvana is like the Drunken Housewife: boozy and Buddhist-influenced. It's not a vegan or vegetarian restaurant, but it was easy to order a ton of yummy vegan food there and eat until we all agreed we needed to go home and lie down. We had spring rolls, lettuce wraps ("Bodhi cups"), noodles with tofu or seitan and vegetables, and lemonade drinks (mine with Ketel One, the girls with raspberry or mango juice). We could have gone on to dessert and had the sticky rice with mango, but we were all too stuffed for that.

I begged the husband to go by the grocery store after dinner, but, in what I thought was a passive aggressive move, he didn't pick up the stuff I needed for my vegan recipes. He did get some soy milk, but he also got half-and-half, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and parmesan cheese. Oy vey.

This morning, Lola jumped up and down shouting, "IRIS IS A VEGAN! IRIS IS A VEGAN! IRIS IS A VEGAN!" She refused to try my granola bar. "That is veeeeg. I am not veeeegan." Iris and I definitely have no buy-in for this challenge. We'll see whether the non-vegans can resist tonight's nut loaf (British recipe) and french fries, followed by vegan lemon cupcakes (the only thing which cheered Iris up from the loss of her cupcake yesterday was the promise of multiple vegan cupcakes today).

Saturday, October 28, 2006

who will prevail?

I had what I think is a great idea for a Halloween costume for Anton: Jeffrey Sebelia from "Project Runway." All I would have to do is draw the tattoo on his neck with a black eyeliner pencil, maybe gel his hair up a bit, and he could wear sunglasses and his regular old jeans and a black shirt. No expense, easy, topical, and funny. Iris LOVES this idea.

Anton's response? "I can't begin to tell you all the things that are wrong with that idea." His stuck-in-the-mudness listed some of them: he doesn't want to look tattooed, "I hate that show and that guy", "when I saw that show, it was just painful", and "no one will get it."

My prediction for his costume: once again, he'll get out that moldy old Dr. Who scarf he got as a premium for donating to Chicago public radio as a teenager and be the Tom Baker Dr. Who. Iris, however, wants to force him to be Jeffrey Sebelia.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Iris and I get off to a late start

So today is the first day of our Vegan Challenge, but we forgot. I thought it was Saturday, so I had the "Temple of Spuds" at Boogaloo's for lunch (potatoes with cheese, salsa, and sour cream), plus milk in my coffee this a.m. Iris had an egg salad sandwich for lunch. In the evening, Iris asked me to check whether it was our Vegan Challenge or not before she put cheese on her pasta. We determined it was, and she went without cheese. So I guess we started our Vegan Challenge tonight, after lunch.

Lola decided to take a "Veeeeg Challenge", too, so she declined her Parmesan cheese. Then she decided to take a "Vegetarian Challenge" instead, so she asked for cheese. After dinner, Iris idly popped a Goldfish cracker in her mouth. "Iris, that has cheese in it!" She froze, hunched over. Anton suggested, "Spit it out in the trash." She shuffled over, bent, to the trash and spat out the offensive cracker. I had the idea that some other crackers on hand might be okay, and it turned out that our perfectly palatable Roasted Vegetable Ritz crackers were vegan.

I offered Lola a Ritz, and she refused. "That is Veeeeg challenge, and I am vegetarian challenge!" She showily ate Goldfish crackers instead.

I made a menu for tomorrow, featuring tofu scrambles and pumpkin muffins for brunch and either vegan paella or corn chowder for dinner, plus frosted lemon cupcakes for dessert, and asked Anton to run by the grocery store so we'd get the morning off to a decent start without vegan faux pases. Anton made some sarcastic remarks about the subject of tofu scrambles. I fixed him with an evil eye.

Earlier in the day, before we realized we were on our Vegan Challenge, we stopped by a Starbucks because the snack parent had forgotten to bring snack to soccer practice. I had a coffee light frappucino; Iris had a vanilla soymilk and a pumpkin muffin. While I was waiting for my change, I told Iris to go sit down in one of a pair of wingback, comfy chairs in a set of four. She did, but an old woman in one of the other four chairs told her the chairs were taken and intimidated her into giving up. I was offended by this, because obviously the chairs were not claimed. I asked the only other person in the shop who could conceivably be using the chairs, and she was not. So I went right back over with Iris and sat down, and the old woman refused to meet my eye. My conclusion: she's another one of the many child-hating people who doesn't treat kids like real human beings. Iris is a polite, quiet child of seven who did nothing inappropriate at the Starbucks; she sat quasi-silently (I attempted without much success to engage her in conversation about her day) and nibbled and drank appropriately. She did not litter. She had as much right as any adult to occupy the chair, and she did so politely, unlike the older person who was needlessly rude to her.

the husband's desk

One of the other mothers from Iris's school asked me to refinish an antique, child's rolltop desk in ill repair, with missing drawers, for the school's fall fundraiser. She knew that I had an interest in refinishing old furniture, as we'd discussed it before (most notably, I refinished ~20 chairs for Iris's pre-k in a variety of ways, some tea party themed, some dog and cat themed, some partially metallicized, etc..).

We got the desk over the summer, and it just sat around. I was sick much of August and all of September; I had to focus on first Iris's birthday party, then fundraising for Lola's school's auction and Lola's birthday party, etc... It got to the point where I was obsessively fretting over that desk (which oddly enough did not translate to getting the damn thing done). I did borrow a friend's belt sander and detail sander, but that was the extent of it. I knew things were going too far when I found myself unable to take my mind off the stupid desk while having sex.

So we struck a marital bargain: while I was maniacally finishing my sewing projects for the preschool auction (plus caring for my foster kittens), Anton would sand down, disassemble, and repair the desk. When he removed the rolltop, he discovered ancient children's papers which had fallen in back, preventing the rolltop from functioning. He carefully preserved the shreds. Sanding gave a poor result, so he ended up using a chemical stripper. He did some structural repairs.

After all that, the desk was ready to refinish. I had a couple of ideas. One was to paint the desk white, as white, countryish furniture is popular at the moment (viz. the Pottery Barn Kids catalogues). Another was to colorwash the desk with pink paint, giving it multiple coats so it would have different layers of color. I thought those were both treatments which would suit the desk and be pleasing to a small girl. Anton completely balked. He asked me to simply stain the desk in a natural tone, but I didn't want to. I wanted to do something more creative. Finally, Anton, who had become very emotionally involved in the matter of the desk, said firmly that he would himself stain the desk as he could not stand for it to be painted in any way; he felt "the beauty of the wood grain" must not be obscured. I let it go, finally, as it wasn't worth fighting over and I was happy to have a project taken off my plate. My only participation in the project was locating some beautiful handwoven baskets online to replace the missing drawers

In the end, his desk sold first, before the others which were refinished more whimsically, so perhaps I have to admit that he was right. However, rather than be enheartened by his success, he said, "That almost makes the time and effort worth it" and "I'll never do that again."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

God, I love Google

Through the magic of the Blogflux people, I can see the google searches people have used which have led them to the Drunken Housewife. Here are my most recent favorites:

a foreigner in her native land This is sadly all too true, especially when I venture out of my special adopted homeland, the Bayeria. The last time I visited a red state, I unintentionally got into a number of arguments about politics and began to think I was going to have to fight my way out: "The Drunken Housewife's Escape From Red Island."

drunken housewife Panama
I did go to Panama once, how did they know? I got pretty spectacularly drunk there, as well (as opposed to such destinations as Austria and France, where I was rather modest in my consumption), making it quite a propos for finding this blog.

when is ringworm in kittens not contagious anymore
Answer: when hell freezes over.

housewife+farting We'll leave the fart jokes to the children, please.

mr. clean and housewife costumes How hard could that be? People, please. We must do SOME of our thinking for ourselves.

rapt housewife (sounds so poetic)

dollhouse miniatures foods sardines tins How the hell does that lead to me? Was I 1,299th of 5,775 possibilities, and the first 1,298 failed to satisfy?

drugged housewives
(I wish).

crabby housewives clip art When you find some, let me know.

yogurt tequila drinks If I were drunk enough, I would try one, but I'm not going to walk into a bar anytime soon and ask, "Can ya make me somethin' with yogurt and tequila? And maybe a cherry?"

"fucking short stories"

tuesday subway sandwich special petaluma

vegetables that can't be found in the philippines
I didn't get served any eggplants or rutabagas when I lived there; is that helpful to anyone?

+"study" +"homeopathy" +"screenwriter" +"baby"

"the simpsons" + "smokes butter"
I told Iris about this one, and it made her happy. She loves to rant about how Homer smoked butter.

using orthodontic elastics on braids
This is so basic a concept that it causes one to wonder: Why the hell is someone googling that? Just put the frigging elastics on the end of the braids! Did you think it would straighten curly hair? Or were you concerned that angry orthodontists would pluck the elastics out of your child's hair?

buck naked bare bottom boys This is not so funny, as I was an auditory witness to Buck Naked's death. I miss you, Buck Naked. There will never be another video as perfect as your "Teenage Pussy From Outer Space".

DRUNKEN RAT My first pet rat got drunk once. I was enrapt in a phone conversation, and when Husband 1.0 yelled at me, I noticed my rat hanging from his hind legs into my cup of sake, sucking it down feverishly. He ran around kind of crazily for awhile, and then laid down blearily in his cage for the rest of the night. I imagine he had the cage-spins, poor thing.

pictures of mid age housewives (sorry, maybe someday)

and the winner for Best Google Search Yet That Ended Up Here:

just ate soup i scraped mold off

I only hope I was of some meager help to you, dear moldy-soup eater, and that you have recovered fully from your fateful meal.

how I go to the bathroom, as opposed to how a childless person does

So after school today we were at the playground, and several other spritely pairs of only children and their mothers departed to go to glamorous restaurants, rather than boring old home. After that, there was no satisfying my children with macaroni and cheese at home.

At the restaurant, of course Iris needed to go to the bathroom, and of course we were seated at the very table which was the furthest from the bathroom of all, requiring careful weaving between seats and squeezing past people to reach the facilities. Just turned four Lola cannot be left alone at a table in a busy restaurant, so I had to herd the two cats back, timing this for after our order and before the food arrived.

A childless person would just gracefully glide back, use the toilet, wash her manicured hands, and return, carefree, to the table. Me: "Watch out for that lady, Lola. Give the waiter some room! Watch out, Iris!" as we stressfully progress back. Then, once arrived: "Iris, go in there. Use that one. Lola, aren't you going to use the potty?"

(very obstinately) "I don't need to. I used the potty once already today."

"I want you to try. Just try."

(extremely obstinately). "No."

I gave up. Next, to make Iris wash her hands. This normally sharp-as-a-tack child, who has been described to me as "having an unusual mathematical mind" by a non-relative, stared dumbly at the sink. "Push back on the handle, Iris. Use some soap! Rub your hands!" Iris entered into some form of trance, staring vacantly at the water as it streamed over her motionless hands.

"That's enough!" Given the lack of response from the possibly hypnotized child, I turned off the water forcibly, gave her a paper towel, and herded the cats back out. After another stressful round of "No, Lola! This way! Give the waiter some room! Watch out for the lady!", we arrived back at our table just as the food arrived. Lola instantly turned to me, her face a mask of stress, and cried, "I need to use the potty!"

An expletive escaped my dainty lips.

the first day of summer

Lola has been stuck on the first day of summer lately, constantly interrogating me about "when is the first day of summer", "what is the first day of summer like", and so on, ad nauseam. Today, as we walked to her preschool, Lola said brightly, "We can make a finger puppet play about the first day of summer, and we will call it 'The Trouble With Parents!'"

Monday, October 23, 2006

Iris and I accept a challenge

Iris obtained a postcard advertising World GO VEGAN Days, October 27-29, 2006, featuring hunky vegan spokesmodel Kenneth G. Williams. (Yes, I am not the alpha vegetarian in this family; Iris is always happy to inform anyone of how she saw her mother eat a fish before and a fish is not a vegetable; she used to call me MommyLovesMoogieFisheater back when her self-anointed nickname was "Moogie"). After some brief discussion, we agreed to take a Vegan Challenge and eat vegan for the three days of World GO VEGAN Days.

It turns out that Iris had previously asked Anton about vegans and what they eat. "And Anton said the only things they can eat besides vegetables is salt and water."

"That's crazy! For example, pasta is vegan if you don't put cheese on it. You can eat all kinds of pasta. And grains. And breads."

"Well, Anton said the only things he could think of were salt and water."

"If you have a question about food, don't ask your father. That's stupid."

So we'll see how we do. The biggest sacrifice for Iris will be chocolate milk (but I'll get her some Soy Dream or something like that); for me, it will be Parmesan cheese.

Coincidentally, Lola has just figured out that there is such a thing as a vegetarian and that we are that thing. She has taken to musing, "I think this is good for vegetarians" about a wide variety of things, ending in this morning's showing of a sheet of stickers. "I think these are good for vegetarians," she said somewhat doubtfully.

thank you notes

Since I'm finally quasi-healthy after being sick half of August, the whole of September, and the beginning of October, I'm getting back into kick ass mode, Drunken Housewife style. I'm productive, dammit. Don't stand too close; you might get trampled.

Yesterday I finally got Lola to do her thank you notes from her fourth birthday party. This was not easy. Lola became obsessed with the first thank you note and did not wish to progress to any later ones. I wrote, and she kept dictating. After some language thanking her little friend for the present, Lola ordered me to write, "I like you, but Soandso is my best friend. I love her the most. I liked her first."

"I am NOT writing that, Lola. You're going to hurt your friend's feelings!"

"But it's truuuuuue."

She colored and stuck stickers on that one card for half an hour, until I ordered her to move on to the next card, which involved a few tears, but then, after we overcame that we became more businesslike. Finishing up the cards for her friends, we got to the grandparents. For Anton's mother's card, Lola dictated, "I hope you will give me another present for my fifth birthday. It will be really fun, and I will play with it all day." Although I knew this present-grubbing wasn't really the language of a great thank-you note, I wrote it down anyhow and sealed up the envelope. Job done.

Iris is old enough to write her own thank-you notes, and I didn't proofread the last ones before mailing them out. This was a mistake, as I learned when my mother called me to read Iris's thank you note:

"Dear Grandma, Thank you for the present. I forgot what you gave me. Love, Iris."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Don't push me, other parents, 'cuz I am close to the edge

Incidentally, my just turned four year-old does a delightful version of "Don't..push.. Lola.. 'cuz.. she's ...close ... to ... the ... edge", with crazy jazz hands, and it's even better when she gets it slightly wrong and sings, "Don't push Lola 'cuz she's close to the side."

Okay, I am having a rough week, admittedly (the worst part is that two of my baby foster kittens died. I tried so hard with these little guys, so tiny. The necropsies revealed that it wasn't my fault; they had incurable illnesses. There is something gravely wrong with a universe where a tiny baby kitten would die before he ever experienced life).

But meanwhile, other parents are left and right pissing me off. Unbelievably, I have maintained my cool with my children, husband, and other drivers, no matter how imbecilic they may be (the drivers, not the children and husband). But meanwhile, I am on the verge of not a nervous breakdown but a fit of rage. A tiny taste to only slightly suggest what is working my last nerve:

The preschool's lack of inclusiveness toward vegetarians issue: I hope you can understand that in order to be open to all types of eaters, we are not making the step to become a vegetarian school. I also feel it is important for you to understand that we feel that ultimately, the board will not be held responsible for enforcing anything beyond what we stated in our policy (veg alternatives must be encouraged through a sign-up sheet and labeling must be made available). I can't even begin to explain the (probably to a large degree irrational) irritation this causes in me. First, I never proposed that the preschool become vegetarian, so it pisses me off no end that I am being asked to try so hard to understand why they won't do WHAT I NEVER ASKED THEM TO DO. This is compounded with the never-failing-to-irk remainder that we need "to be open to all types of eaters." My God, how on earth does serving vegetarian food to anyone mean not being "open" to them? Is there a place on earth which refuses entry to non-vegetarians and shuns them (and if so, where is this paradise located and do they serve booze?). Finally, the bureaucratic doublespeak in the last sentence genuinely baffles me. It's important for me to understand their feelings that they don't want to do anything? Or what? So in just two sentences, that little communique achieved a hat trick of annoyance.

Here's another exhibit from my day, although the sender in this instance was not idiotic (identifying information removed to protect the annoying and the non-annoying alike):

Another Mother has expressed concern about carpooling. Apparently her daughter rode with the Sober Husband a couple of weeks ago and sat in the front seat. A.M. is convinced that this is against the law and wasn't happy. I tried to tell her that it is perfectly legal to seat a child in the front seat of a car that doesn't have an airbag. In fact, I called the CHP to confirm, and they agreed that if all available seating in the rear of the car is taken, the front is fine in a no-airbag vehicle. The argument was lost on A.M. who still insists that it is illegal and that a child must be in a booster until they are 4'9" (she also refused to believe that this is a sort of safety initiative supported and advertised by some sort of safety coalition and not an actual law).

Of course, my husband did put the other mother's child in a booster seat as requested, so I am surmising that the complaint about illegal lack of booster seats stems from my own child. We actually do put our seven year-old child in a booster seat normally, but if we are travelling short distances at city speeds (30-35 mph or less) and there are younger children present, we put the younger children in the available booster seats. At highway speeds, we insist on having our child in a booster seat, even though that is above and beyond the legal requirements. (My husband's little sister died in a car crash, so he is especially attentive to safety and is in fact somewhat of an annoying old fussbudget in this regard, poking along waaay below the speed limit and driving a huge old car which is akin to a tank). It's not annoying to me at all that someone is conscious of safety; I am also, but it is annoying that someone would complain that we're breaking the law when we are not and when in actuality we are quite committed to safety while driving.

I would say that conservatively speaking, at least seven other parents have deeply, thoroughly annoyed or angered me today. On the other hand, no childless person, child, or animal has offended me yet (and I'll be going to bed very soon, so the window of opportunity is slamming shut). Childless people of the world, rejoice! You are free from the society of annoying parents (except perhaps your own).

Of course, it would be dishonest for me not to mention, in closing, that my extreme crankiness is building up and that indeed my own society is far from pleasant. How many other parents have I pissed off today? I think four, but two of them pissed me off first, and so my pissiness was provoked.

Monday, October 16, 2006

How to make a Medusa costume

My biggest Halloween success came waaay back in the 90's. I decided to be Medusa. Another associate at my law firm said, "That's a terrible idea. No one will know what you are." I more than had the last laugh, as he went as a bunch of grapes, attempting to adhere balloons to his body, and looked terrible.

As for me, I had such a success that the crowds were parting around me and people were calling, "Medusa! Medusa!" I got separated from my erstwhile best friend, but she said she could always find me by just listening for the people saying, "Meduuuusa!" Some guys took an ad out in a local weekly later trying to track me down, but being married to Husband 1.0, I didn't follow up on it.

Being spoiled by the attention I got, and being relatively lazy, I stayed Medusa for years and years after that, just making the costume more and more elaborate. I also noticed, not to take credit, but that every year I saw more and more Medusas around. I was probably just ahead of the Medusa curve, tapping into the zeitgeist without realizing it.

Anyhow, without further ado, I shall share with you The Secrets Of Being Medusa:

Basically, you need a lot of plastic snakes and a lot of little rubber bands. Are you with me here? Don't cheap out on the rubber bands; you will go insane if you have the regular size rubber band (you need the teeeny ones; if you know any poor soul who wears those old-school braces with elastic torture bands, you need about a year's supply of orthodontic elastics). Get yourself at least 20 plastic snakes, not too big, not too little. You can get up to 50 snakes, but I can tell you from experience: if you go overboard with the snakes, you're going to feel like one of those African women who amazingly carry massive weights on their heads for long distances. Optional: get some silver, gray and black face paint and some black lipstick.

Next, you will need a lot of time. I recommend to you that you put on some excellent music, nothing too fast or furious, something more mellow. You'll be sitting around braiding and fastening with elastics, and you need to get into a groove. Have a glass of wine nearby.

Your options are either to use a wig or your own hair as a base. I used a wig for years, and you will achieve superior results as you can see what the hell you are doing much better, and your arms won't get so tired. On the other hand, if you use your own hair, you won't have to buy a wig. Your call.

Create a head full of braids. The smaller and more numerous the braids, the better. Take your time, and don't get frustrated and just make a few big ol' braids. Being Medusa is not for the easily frustrated. If you don't have hair long enough to create braids to which you can fasten artificial snakes, you need a wig.

Next, you will rubber band 1-3 snakes to each braid. In order to achieve the best look, you will want some snakes with their heads up on top of your head, at the crown, and some with their heads hanging down below. If you are using a wig, this part is a lot of fun, as you can arrange and rearrange your snakes to achieve a fabulous end result. If you are using your own head as a base, you'll probably need to call in someone for assistance to do the back of your head for you. I like to get one snake to curl just so on my forehead, but then, I spent about a decade doing this costume.

It is possible to get carried away and have too many snakes. I added more snakes every year to my Medusa headdress, and finally, the last time I wore it, I had difficulty holding my head erect all night. After that, I put the Medusa away for a few years, and the next time I took it out, all the rubber bands had aged and were disintegrating. So the last two Medusa outings were done using my own, personal hair as the base.

If you wish, you can also purchase some giant artificial snakes for fashion accessories. When I was younger and considerably more hot, the basis for the Medusa costume was a fishnet dress, and I would coil one looooong fake snake around my waist with its head resting up in my evil cleavage. This caused a liquor store owner to unsolicitedly give me free alcohol, which has never happened to me before or after. Nowadays, it would probably cause people to say, "Give it a rest and act your age, why don't you?", so I left that snake at home last year.

And now for the part which separates the extra-fabulous Medusa from the ordinary Medusa: the make-up. Obviously you want extreme black eyelashes and black eyeliner. Black lipstick is also best for this costume, and you'll get an extra good lip if you use a black kohl eye pencil for a lipliner. If you feel up to it, especially after all that braiding and rubber banding of snakes, make your whole face, neck, and visible cleavage silver. Using either a black eye pencil or black facial paint, draw in some scale lines on your forehead, the edges of your face, and into your cheekbones, but no more. Don't cover your whole face; just do the forehead, sides of the face, and tops of the cheekbones. The outermost scales can be shaded slightly with gray facepaint, if you wish.

Finally, do not go insane on the footwear. A fabulous Medusa draws the eyes to her head and away from the feet, and thus she may wear a sensible flat shoe which will enable her to have comfortable feet.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Husband 1.0, 2.0

Ages ago, when I was an ambitious young litigator in high heels and Italian suits, I almost had an affair on our firm's annual associates' retreat. We all got terribly drunk, and I ended up getting into bed with the hottest male associate at the firm, but then I freaked out and had a moment of drunken clarity that I didn't want to deal with the marital aftermath of this, so nothing happened. I confided all this later into my beloved paralegal friend and said, "I find him so attractive, though." She looked at me and said, "Well, of course, he's your type."

"I didn't know I had a type."

"Well, duh."

"Huh. I have a type? How 'bout that."

Then, as the years went on, I ended up divorcing my husband (maybe I should have gone for it with the hunky lawyer after all... God, I just wrote "hunky lawyer." Shouldn't that be an oxymoron?). The same day husband #1 packed to move out of our apartment, I ran into and gave my phone number to the man who ended up being husband #2 (known as the Sober Husband, which is especially fitting as Husband 1.0 drank more than I did and should perhaps be called Scotch Drinking Husband or Self-Medicating Husband). As we dated, the similarities between husbands 1.0 and 2.0 became more and more uncanny, and it became, well, duh, more than obvious that I do have a type. A very specific type. There may not be many more of this phenotype out there, so I'd better make sure this one drives carefully and doesn't get food poisoning (note: he would NOT get food poisoning from my cooking, but he is prone to leaving crappy food out unrefrigerated overnight and insisting on keeping it and eating it. I make him swear he won't feed his toxic unrefrigerated leavings to the children. Most memorably, he insisted on keeping and eating liquid nacho cheese in a giant Costco can which was left over from Burning Man and had visible mold on it. He scraped off the mold and ate the remainder, which left him ill for over a week. The words "I told you so" did spring to my lips, I am ashamed to say).

Anyhow, here are a few of the similarities which have caused me to call this husband "husband 2.0, the upgrade":

- both have degrees in physics and worked as physicists;

- both have advanced degrees (husband 1.0 a master's, husband 2.0 a Ph.D);

- they each left physics and moved into developing computer software;

- their fathers both died when they were each quite young, in their 20's;

- their mothers both hate the Drunken Housewife, and both are bad cooks;

- they are tall (1.0 is 6'4"; 2.0 is just exactly six feet tall);

- both have very dark brown hair (quasi-black) and dark brown eyes;

- they are skinny ectomorphs, although 2.0 is much more underweight than 1.0;

- they both have the same funky heart valve issue, mitral valve prolapse (the main consequence for 2.0 is that he has to take antibiotics before he goes to the dentist; I heard on the street that 1.0 had his valve replaced after our divorce);

- both smoked a lot of pot as teens (they were each scruffy stoners as teens who went on to become high achievers in adulthood);

- both fathers spoke German, and they each grew up hearing a lot of German spoken;

- both fathers were scientists;

- each is the oldest son in his family and was the Golden Boy in his parents' eyes;

- each wished to marry the old Drunken Housewife (although that is not such a strong identifier for this phenotype, given that the old D.H. also received marriage proposals from four or five other guys who were more dissimilar). To be precise, I was a drunken lawyer or drunken grad student in the days of those proposals. It was Husband 2.0 who took a perfectly good litigator and turned her into a drunken housewife.

Friday, October 13, 2006

my labors are rewarded (but only by myself, sigh)

Lately I've been obsessed with meeting my fundraising requirement for Lola's preschool. This preschool is a non-profit parent cooperative which charges unheard of low tuition, and in order to make ends meet, the parents put on a charity auction each year. Each family must generate auction items. This year, the amount was raised to $600 from last year's quite doable $400.

I had procrastinated getting started on this, in part because I am lazy and wait until the last minute so often in life, and in part because I've been sick since mid-August (today was the first day I felt semi-healthy, and I enjoyed it). It's been all I could do to get the girls to and from their schools and to get us into a new routine.

But anyhow, at the last minute I had my own sewing projects,and I had donations to gather, and I turned in a total of $1,049 in auction items (nearly $900 of those were turned in this morning, ten minutes before the final deadline for all items to be physically turned over). Dollar value of items raised by the Sober Husband: ZERO. He was supposed to, at a bare minumum, donate a copy of the software from his primary start-up job (this is a shrink-wrapped product which is sold to the public), but he flaked at the last minute for reasons which remain obscure. Shame, Mr. Husband, shame. I've been bizarrely stressed over this for six weeks, and he could have created something, but maybe next year.

On the other hand, I'm feeling the love from my delightful donors, Isotope Comics, Colorbox Salon, the Mechanics Institute, and Kids Only, on Haight St., all genuine San Francisco icons, plus my mother (who genned up $300 worth of children's clothes).

I hadn't done anything but slave on my sewing projects in my spare and non-spare time for ages (I made three children's jackets to be auctioned off), and I had run out of make-up, a crisis in the world of the Drunken Housewife. I rewarded myself for getting all my work done (I didn't finish until midnight last night) by running off downtown on BART. I'm telling you, Macy's in Union Square has become a fabulous beauty destination. I think they have really amped things up out of fear of the new competition (Bloomingdale's has just opened a massive store up in the shopping district). Walking in off the street, I was able to get my custom make-up made at the Prescriptives counter, pick up some fabulous lip gloss, get an amazing half-hour massage from the talented Pippin at the Origins instore day spa, and have my eyebrows professionally done by the fabulous Janet at Benefit (and the Benefit people so nicely hand the somewhat disheveled client, but with fabulous brows, off to have her make-up freshened for no extra charge).

The massage was a huge surprise. I did it on the spur of the moment instead of eating lunch, because I could see what looked like a surprisingly good massage going on while I got my make-up made. Everything exceeded expectations about it. The last massage I got before today was at an actual spa, the Kabuki Hot Springs, and it sucked. I had a $200 package of spa services, and I left cranky and unrelaxed. My massage was painful; the therapist did something particularly excruciating around my hips which had me bracing for agony, rather than relaxing. The facial was brutal and left my face feeling slimy. I had to sit in a waiting room, the only woman surrounded by gym queens, in an ill-fitting tacky little bathrobe which I had to hold shut (these men did not want to see the Drunken Housewife's merchandise). Then came the worst part, the body scrub, which was in a charmless and chilly room which looked like a hospital operating room... probably a veterinary hospital at that (in my experience, San Francisco hospital operating rooms are much more spa-like, featuring a heated operating table that is well-nigh cosy for those nervous moments before the general anesthesia kicks in). The water sprayed on me was COLD, and the spa attendant was brisk and unpersonable, making me feel like a filthy kitchen floor which needed a strong disinfection. I left, feeling cheated and greasy and uncomfortable.

Now, unlike the Kabuki Hot Springs spa, the Origins people at Macy's know what they are doing. They serve white tea while you fill out their little medical form, served in cups which were peculiarly nice to hold, and they drape a hot beanbag scarf around your neck (I usually hate those things, but this one was lovely). The din of the shoppers is like white noise, more relaxing than the New Agey music most massage professionals favor. The massage chair was cosy. And best of all, Pippin was an accomplished massage professional, doing some interesting diagonal stretching on my back which I've never encountered before. She was thoughtful, too, occasionally tugging down my shirt whenever the massage pulled it up, so as to spare me the unrelaxing knowledge that my butt cleavage was showing (sidenote: I am so sick of the low-rise pants fashion. In the future, everyone will mock this decade for our overly low pants. I have seen more than enough butt cleavage and underpants to last me the rest of my life).

I left feeling invigorated, healthy for the first time in nearly two months, and with sculpted eyebrows and reduced tension in my backfat (that is a Simpsons reference, by the way. The computerized house of the future massages Homer's shoulders and notes, "You're carrying a lot of tension in your backfat, Homer"). I just made it back in time to pick up Lola.

I love this city. My child goes to preschool in a frigging eucalyptus grove up a long, rocky path, and yet I can run off and get custom made make-up, a world class massage, and a brow make-over with no notice and no effort. I love mass transit, which I don't take often enough (I never even drove until age 30, and I didn't own my own car until age 37, when I was in the 3d trimester with my second child and just couldn't hack the hills or the Muni buses any more). I drive far too much, shlepping the children and their possessions about the city, and it's wonderful to be able to go off on my own, accompanied only by an obscure Swedish crime novel, and take the subway. I'm so glad to be finally feeling healthy again and to have achieved my major goal for the fall.

Now just one question remains: as more than one mother asked me today, "Are you gonna buy your stuff back at the auction?" My daughters and I are in love with the jackets I made, and asininely enough, I may well end up buying them back. Last year I slaved and slaved over the Ultimate Princess Dress-up Gown, which I ended up buying back for Lola, and so it was a bit of a farce overall. I should perhaps keep my sewing projects and my fundraising separate.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


This morning, the Sober Husband opened up a letter from the IRS which asserted strenuously that we made a mistake on our 2004 taxes and, with penalties, owe over $12,000. The man's blood pressure skyrocketed, and he found himself unable to read the multiple-page letter further. If he were a Victorian maiden, we'd have said he had been taken by the vapors.

I pulled the letter from his weakened hand and quickly figured out that the IRS was obviously completely wrong and that a review of our records should prove that. (The IRS got it into its silly little head that we only paid about $300 in mortgage interest that year but claimed oh-so-much more. Would that our mortgage interest was only $300 a year, would that it were). The Sober Husband was then able to perk up and resume an interest in life, incidentally emailing our tax lawyer/accountant.

Then I took Lola to her preschool, which is located in a large park in the city. Her school is located a third of a mile off the road, up a dirt pathway in a forest. This park is relatively obscure; most people I know are not familiar with it. As we walked in, we saw four police cars parked by the side path into the canyon. I hesitated, and we waited for some time to see what was going on. A police sergeant came by, and although I asked her repeatedly whether it was safe to take my child in to the preschool, she failed to answer. She did tell a man we slightly know that it was okay for him to walk his dog in the canyon, so I took that for a green light. We walked in. The school was eerily quiet, with no children or grown-ups outside, and I had to satisfy a nervous voice with our bona fides before we were admitted.

It turned out that the police had been chasing four men with guns, two of whom were apprehended, but the other two had managed to escape into the canyon. We were supposed to be "on lockdown", and the doors were literally barred. One parent had a serious asthma attack, and there were no inhalers or meds on hand as the parents had not expected to be closed in indefinitely at the school. I tried and tried to reach Anton by celphone, but his phone was malfunctioning.

After about an hour and a half, the police advised us that it was safe again outside. The parents were a bit shaky, but all the children were unperturbed.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Lola, curled up on the floor tightly hugging her cat, murmured to him, "I spy something with my little eye that is orange, and it's you."

On the way to her preschool, which is located in a forest a third of a mile off the paved road, she likes often to play hide and seek with me. The last time, she shouted at me, "DON'T SEE ME!" as she performed a particularly lame bit of hiding.

Somehow she picked up a phrase, "When you eat chicken noodle soup, there is a party in your stomach", and she kept saying that for days. I let it go, but finally one day in the car with Iris there as well (Iris is my Vegetarian Conscience; the child is like PETA personified), I felt I should say something (largely to pacify the seething but oddly silent Iris). I said gently, "You know, because we are vegetarians, we don't actually eat chicken noodle soup. Iris and I love chickens." Indeed, Iris has requested that we move to the country so she can have chickens for pets, and her planned date for this is as soon as she finishes the 8th grade. (She also plans to move to Italy when she turns 24; she's got it all figured out).

Lola said quite condescendingly, "But those are food chickens. That is different." Silly mommy, not realizing that soup is made from "food chickens."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

waiting by the telephoooooooooooone

or actually, by the computer. A friend went to the hospital yesterday morning to have a baby, and there's been no word yet which has trickled down to me. Now, normally I wouldn't be that concerned; I'd assume the best and want to give the family some space while they celebrated the new arrival and the new mother recovered. But in this instance, the friend had surgery during her pregnancy for brain aneurysms, and there were some medical concerns about the effect pregnancy might have on her brain, as one aneurysm could not be completely repaired. She was most likely going to be c-sectioned.

I called the house today, hoping to get my friend's mother who would be looking after her existing child, and left a message. I'm not going to do anything else which would be pesky.

UPDATE: a fabulous looking baby was born; I have seen a picture. I haven't heard any details about how the process went, but the mother has lived to tell the tale. Everyone's glad that's over.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Is there something in the air today?

There seem to be an unusual number of aggressive losers out and about today. First, I was on the road for only a few miles, but I had several near-accidents caused by abnormal jerkitude on the part of other drivers. (I myself was driving particularly conscientiously, as I was carrying a litter of foster kittens, not to mention that I was enjoying the perfect level of caffeination after a Red Bull and a half cup of coffee). Now, San Francisco is home to many an erratic or inconsiderate driver, but today the streets were extra hazardous. I normally don't drive on nights such as St. Patrick's or New Year's or Valentine's Day, times when I think there will be drunks galore, but who would expect an October Saturday to be so crazed. For example, there was the guy in a big red pick-up who was honking at me and theatening to rear end me when I didn't take off when the light turned green.... BECAUSE THERE WAS A FIRE TRUCK WITH ITS SIREN ON ABOUT TO SPEED THROUGH THE INTERSECTION. I'm so sorry I didn't get into a serious accident in order to prevent you from waiting for a whopping 15 seconds, Big Boy.

But that was nothing compared to what went on with the rest of the nuclear family across town in the Marina. Anton took the girls to see an airshow featuring the Blue Angels, and he had arranged ahead of time that he could park in the driveway of a business he currently consults, conveniently located in the Marina. Another consultant did the same, driving up from the Peninsula with his child for the airshow. The driveway in question is wide and deep, such that two cars can legally park in it without obstructing the sidewalk. When they went back to the car, they found a man in a frenzy, who had parked his car on the sidewalk blocking pedestrian access to the sidewalk and blocking in both cars. The man was in such a violent state that a policeman had been attracted to the scene. It turned out that this man owns the building, which he rents to the business which gave Anton and the other consultant permission to park there. The owner is accustomed to parking in this space, even though he does not use the building or its garage but instead has rented them out. He was ticketed for illegally blocking the sidewalk, and this set him off: he threatened Anton physically, refused to move his car, and was threatening to the policeman. Eventually Anton and the other consultant agreed to pay the man's ticket, which they split.

Anton was deeply ashamed that he had "taught the girls some new words" (namely "asshole" and "motherfucker", which he used in conversation with this new acquaintance, the landlord). I cheered him up by noting that I had already taught the girls "motherfucker" the day I stepped on the jacks. But I was really troubled that he paid this bully off, and I expressed that he was teaching his children to give in to threats.

"There was a police officer right there! I would have said, 'Officer, are you going to stand there and watch this man is commit extortion and threaten me physically.'" (The Drunken Housewife's past life as a litigator has left her prone to getting verbally aggressive).

"I just wanted to get out of there. I had children with me."

"I'm sure you were being more pragmatic than I would have been, but damn. I could have used that fifty dollars for something better."

I hope the forecast calls for increased civility and greater chances of kindness amongst strangers.

quasi-divine husband

The Sober Husband has outdone himself today. I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep due to a horrible cough (I've had this respiratory bug since mid-August). He let me stay in bed until 10:30, and when I got up, he was making blueberry pancakes with the children. Usually his cooking is, well, subpar to say the least (he makes a fine Ramen noodle, but don't ask for more than that), but the pancakes were fabulous.

After breakfast, he was cozily teaching Iris about prime numbers, and now he's down in the garage starting the Horrible Project I Am So Far Behind On And Consumed With Guilt Over, refinishing an antique child's rolltop desk to be sold at Iris's school's fall festival... which is coming up very, very soon. He promised earlier this week to strip the desk so I could paint it, and he's getting started.

Also, last night he went to some trouble to get me copies of "Project Runway" so I can get caught up before the season finale. I need to reward all this fabulosity somehow...

Friday, October 06, 2006

ah, romance

We had a six year-old over for a playdate yesterday, and this little girl has her romantic future in mind. Conversation between two first graders, overheard by your Drunken Correspondent:

"Iris, do you know how to treat a boyfriend?" (my alarmed, eavesdropping ears perked up)

Iris made a noncommittal noise.

"If you're feeling love for somebody, then you have to show it. Like you say you have two socks, so you'll give them one. Or maybe you have two pairs of socks, so you give them one pair. Or you have two dead rats, then you can give them one."

Hmmm, I have had the problem before of having dead rats on my hands (if the weather's bad and a pet has passed away, I've been known to store the tiny dear departed in the freezer. I've had to warn guests before who were going for ice, "Don't freak out, there's a dead rat in there!"). It never occurred to me to use the corpse as a love token.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Show and tell is under siege

At our preschool, the children in the afternoon program are allowed to participate in show and tell once a month, which is called "sharing", instead of "show and tell", for some obscure reason. During the designated Sharing Week during the month, children may bring one object one time only.

My daughter did not participate in this for months after starting preschool; she avoided occasions calling upon her to talk due to self-consciousness over her severe speech disorder. When she finally did start joining in (not coincidentally she was working hard in speech therapy at the same time), she could not get enough of it. She was always plotting and planning what she would bring in the next time. Once she tried to double dip and bring in a second toy for sharing the last month. (I was a wimp that day. I knew the rules prohibited it, but she cried and cried, so I allowed her to take the toy in to ask her teacher if she could share again, but I laid the groundwork that I believed the teacher would say no. Lola was angry, but she accepted the ruling). Over the summer vacation, she talked about sharing a lot and kept a mental list of which toys she wanted to bring in when school resumed.

This year we haven't celebrated the festival of Sharing Week yet. Our director sent out an email to the membership expressing that some parents feel show and tell is "too materialistic" and that perhaps we should move to having "themes" for show and tell, like "things I made" or "pictures of my family" to move the focus away from commercial products. I was annoyed by this. The children LOVE show and tell. They tend to bring in bedraggled stuffed animals, rather than glossy action toys. I'm in favor of allowing the child freedom of choice and not controlling the decision in this regard.

My child has never asked me to buy her anything based on show and tell, and I wondered if others were truly having an actual problem. I asked in an email to our listserv that if other parents were having issues, please share their experiences, but no one spoke up. I expressed my personal preference for allowing freedom of expression and autonomy (in other words, the Drunken Housewife does NOT want to be bothered to remember the frigging theme of the month and to argue with her child about whether she can bring in her toy rabbit when the theme is Pictures Of People We Love or Things We Found or Global Warming or whatever uplifting theme it might be). I'm the only one saying publicly that show and tell is not broken, why fuck with it (although one parent pulled me aside and confided that she agreed with me completely and had composed a rant on the subject, but she reconsidered before sending it). The other parents are using a lot of lofty, vague-sounding talk about enrichment:

> Lastly, we're always looking at ways to promote
> talking about and understanding our emotions; an idea
> for a theme could be along the lines of
> "something/someone that makes me feel better when I'm
> sad" (gets all those stuffed animals included!) Maybe
> we could find a way to incorporate the multiple
> intelligences that our director spoke about the other week,
> highlighting a different one each month to get
> different kids excited? Just brainstorming.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Iris's version of history

Today we had one of Iris's friends over after school. "Can I tell you the story of how my mom met my dad?" asked Iris's friend as they ate pizza left over from Lola's birthday party.

"Let me tell you the story of how Carole met Anton!" (Iris is rather domineering with this friend).


"Well, Anton went to this thing called the Burning Man Festival. He went with friends and with couches. He drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to get there. And there was Carole from San Francisco! She drove across the Golden Gate Bridge! And she was camping with her brothers.* And Anton and his friends forgot to bring any food. So Carole went over, and she took a bag of pretzels."

I really wanted to hear the rest of this, but alas, the phone rang at this point.

* I have no brothers, just one sister. I have no idea why Iris would refer to mysterious "brothers" of mine. In reality, I was camped with my first husband, my erstwhile law partner, my ex-husband's best friend, the semi-autistic coworker my first husband may or may not have been cheating on me with, the ex-h's best friend's German journalist friend, who wrote an article about me published in some big German newspaper but refused to give me a copy of it, and a woman the ex-h's best friend was hoping to screw. This colorful encampment was full of outsize personalities and veiled hostilities. Although, come to think of it, maybe it's not so bad if she continues to think I was camping with some "brothers" I dug up somewhere for the occasion; that's a lot less weird.

The person who really "forgot" to bring any food was the Evil Coworker. When we stopped at the grocery store in Reno so my law partner and I could pick up some last minute perishables, the E.C. chose to stay in the parking lot, flirting with my then-husband. It transpired that she had come out for a Labor Day camp-out bringing only a bag of low-fat biscotti and a partially eaten bag of low-fat tortilla chips. Nothing else. I refused to cook for her, as I had laid the law down to this entire assembly ahead of time that I was going on my frigging vacation and I was not going to be anyone's servant and that the normal attitude of "oh, Carole will feed us; she's always cooking" was NOT going to apply. So for meals, I would whip up some gourmet fabulosity over a camping stove (no one cooks like me in the wild; I usually pack sundried tomatoes, Kalamatas olives, etc..). My law partner and I would eat this, sitting in camp chairs like human beings. My then-husband, furious with me for not offering any to his wretched Evil Coworker whom HE invited without my permission, would skulk around, eating his without sitting down and joining us, shooting me black looks and being agitated. The husband's best friend and his German sidekick would eat those terrible dehydrated, just-add-water camping foods. Then they would offer the Evil Coworker their left-overs, and she would clean their plates, "like a dog" I observed cattily. Talk about a restful, peaceful vacation. I filed for divorce three months later.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Here be Hippogriffs and the Freewheeling Spirit

As you may or may not recall, the Drunken Housewife went on a bit of an Ayun Halliday trip this summer, after old friend Kim II nagged the Drunken H. into reading "The Big Rumpus" and then Ayun responded to my slagging her here for calling a vagina a "bukiluki." That trip was about how Kim II and I saw ourselves in "The Big Rumpus" and could relate so much that we felt ripped off (especially if "we" means "Kim II") that we hadn't written it ourselves and gotten it published. Yes, we are urban! We like to see people flying their freak flag! We have filthy houses! And we breastfeed like frigging dairy cows! Etc.., etc... In summary, "The Big Rumpus", c'est nous. The Ayun Halliday Trip wrapped up when I interviewed Ayun as part of her virtual book tour for "Mama Lama Ding Dong" (which is what "The Big Rumpus" calls itself when it is in the U.K.).

It turns out that many of the bloggers who read and reviewed Ayun's book could not relate to it. In particular, they couldn't relate to Ms. Halliday's big city lifestyle. Shlepping the baby past crack addicts, shudder. I relate just fine (once my friend Joyce and I were at the playground across from Joyce's house when a park attendant found a little baggie of crack). Some other mothers perceive that Ayun looks down on suburban mommies; I don't perceive Ayun as a snob, but there is always the city mouse/country mouse clash.

I'm from rural Maine, from the absolute sticks myself, with parents who both grew up on farms, so I get both sides of this. I have never lived in a suburb, though: I've either been in the absolute, far out sticks or in a large city (with the exception of two years during which I lived on military bases in the Philippines). The town I grew up in was so small that it had no traffic lights or sidewalks or grocery store. As a little kid, I puzzled over what a "block" was. I had one of those fill-in-the-blank, write-a-book-about-yourself deals and it had something in there about blocks, and it absolutely stymied me. I had never seen a city block and couldn't figure out what it was. (Before you conclude from this that I must have been mentally deficient, I think I was six or seven at the time, and I was more familiar with dairy farms than with inner cities).

Anyhow, I ended up reading one of the more suburban blogs from the virtual book tour, (or perhaps it's more fair to call this one a rural blog with a bloc of suburban readers), Here Be Hippogriffs. I can't relate so much to Julia's life (her blog largely chronicles her epic and terrifying struggles with fertility, as she has had, I think, eleven miscarriages caused by genetic issues and one alarmingly genius-like child). When I read her stuff, I want to sit her down at a table, give her a box of tissues and a strong cocktail, and then hand her a ton of advice, but then again, the title of her blog is not "Advice Sought From Drunken People, Please." The point though, is that she can write beautifully. Here she is, arguing with her husband (whom evidently she once bit on the leg during an argument):

"This morning I said, "GODDAMNIT! The next pair of underpants that fails to make it into the dirty clothes hamper, cast or no cast, I am going to batter, fry and stuff down your fucking throat." And then I said some things and he said some things and then I told him I would like to pound him into unconciousness with his own crutch and he said he wished I would, if only to get a blessed release from the irritant of my conversation and I said, hmm, good one, and he said, thank you, and then there we were, sweethearts still."

That's positively Wodehousian, and that's about the highest praise I can give.

A very different blog indeed is Freewheeling Spirit, which is often bicycling-themed but which departed into a four-part series on Why Freewheeling Is A Vegetarian recently. No one EVER asks the Drunken Housewife why she is a vegetarian or how she became one, and I'm wondering why (probably because I have a million and one pets and they can connect the dots all by themselves and conclude that the Drunken Housewife is a crazy animal lady who'll be eaten by her cats one day). I always love it when someone other than me is a big ol' vegetarian and is more vegetarian acting than me (it made my whole day when a friend of mine got a lot of mutual friends of ours in a tizzy when she sent out a vegan rant once). So, anyhow, these two blogs have brought me reading pleasure the last few days.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Questions? He has answers.

Why not ask the man with not only a Ph.D. in physics (thus qualifying him to answer all sorts of annoying questions like "why is the sky blue?" and "how much longer does it take a normal sized pot for cooking pasta to come to a boil than a little, tiny pot of water"), but also the patience to live with the Drunken Housewife? Just don't ask for fashion advice. And without further ado, I turn this over to my more sober helpmeet.

Here is my question: Why would a man with a degree in physics use far too little water when boiling freshly made tortellini? As Lydia Bastanich (sp?) says, you have to have room for the pasta to dance.

I disagree with this formula, that there must be sufficient water in the pot for the pasta to dance. Cooking is packed with such arbitrary conventions. It's a kind of folklore. All that really matters is that the pasta is submerged. I admit that the pasta I made came out underdone, but there was sufficient water in the pot. I just didn't cook it long enough.

I put enough water in the pot to immerse the tortellini, and no more. This was because I wanted it to be ready as quickly as possible. The real point of departure between my wife's cooking and mine is not in our methods for pasta; it is in our recipes for boiling water. Carole likes to have abundant water and to leave the pot uncovered, which makes sense for someone who plans to spend an hour preparing food. I calculate the minimum amount of water required and then use a lid, because my goal in cooking is usually to overcome hunger as quickly as possible.

I wouldn't be surprised if extra water improves the quality of the pasta, maybe improving its consistency or texture. I'm just saying, quality has never been my goal. Other legacies of my past as a single person include eating off of dirty plates to conserve dishes; buying batches of identical socks in bulk so I don't have to match them after the laundry; and entering multiples of eleven into the microwave to avoid excess navigation of my finger among the buttons.

I have a question for the sober husband please. I have a lamp. It's two + years old. Today when I went to dust it, I noticed that one of the lamp thingies was slightly discolored and cracking. A piece even came off in my hand. Upon further examination I realized the heat from the lightbulb is melting the ... "casing" or whatever the word is. Am I going to light my room on fire? Is it time to buy a new lamp? I should throw this one out, right? But it's okay to buy virtually the same thing from Target right? Because I really like the look of the one I have. Or no?

It's common in my experience for plastics to craze, crack, and become brittle over time, especially when they're subjected to cycles of heating or pressurization. I can't imagine any harm coming from this in the case of your lamp shades though, other than maybe sharp shards of plastic. I wouldn't worry about fire, as long as the lamp uses regular light bulbs. (The plastic can't get hotter than the light.)

If only one of the lamp shades is failing while the rest are OK, I'd call that a manufacturing defect and try to get a replacement part. But that is a hassle and could take months, so I don't need to tell you your life would be simpler just getting a new lamp. Then again, if you really want simplicity, you could go find a cheaper, more basic, more reliable lamp of a conventional design. My favorite is simply to use whatever lamp life sends you, abandoned on the sidewalk or whatever, and abandon your investment in aesthetics because it only leads to grief.