Sunday, December 31, 2006

my new goal in life

My adored angel, Eric Felten (if you don't know who he is, shame on you. Mr. Felten writes the "How Is Your Drink?" column for the Wall St. Journal, bringing erudition and an inquiring mind to world-class coverage of sots and their drinks), has given me a belated Christmas present: a new goal.

I've been casting about, a bit shiftless of late. The first part of the year I was busy running my very own halfway house (we took in a crashing alcoholic, also we attempted briefly and fruitlessly to intervene in the life of a pregnant teen). Then, after we had to shut down the halfway house because our inmate relapsed and nearly burnt the house down, I became involved in the horrific Petaluma rat hoarding tragedy of 2006. That was like having a job over the summer, what with networking, making phone calls, checking email, picking up rats, delivering rats, hosting rats here in my home, etc.. When that was over, it was time for the annual auction at Lola's preschool, and I had a lot of work on my hands to fulfil our family's fundraising requirements. I was looking for a new tattoo artist off and on (this didn't rise to the level of a big, time-consuming quest, but it could have), and that's been achieved (Shannon of Braindrops on Haight Street!), but it has become apparent that each tattoo I get will result in a big hissy fit from the husband, who'll sulk and storm about for a day or two. (I'm still getting a little rocket ship on my right leg in January). I've been fostering kittens, and that gave me some intense weeks (when a litter is tiny and not really mobile, you have to feed them many times a day, do at least one load of kitten-caused laundry a day, bathe them, etc..) But my life had a big purpose for much of 2006, apart from ferrying my children about the city and doing laundry: first my virgin forays into codependence with my halfway house and next the saving of the Petaluma rats. I've felt kind of empty and purposeless since then.

But now Eric Felten is here to (temporarily) save me and redeem me. Mr. Felten confides that anyone who is not a shiftless loser can create their own cocktail. Why should you drink a regular old Manhattan or Cosmo when you should be drinking a personal recipe which reminds you of your heritage or travels? (But what about the people from undistinguished origins they would rather forget, who haven't really been anywhere? What about their pain??) Remember, most great cocktails follow a simple formula:

Take 1 1/2 of a base (vodka is the easiest to work with; spirits such as whiskey, gin brandy, or tequila are more complex and interesting, however).

Add 1/2 ounce of an aromatized or fortified wine (vermouth, Dubonnet, Lillet, sherry, port. Port?? Have I ever had a cocktail with port in it? I love port).

Finish with a 1/4 ounce of a liqueur of your choice (ooh, I love liqueurs).

Jeff Hollinger, the "chief mixologist" (I hate that "word") at the Absinthe Brasserie and Bar and coauthor of "The Art of the Bar"(and incidentally creator of the Galapagos, a cocktail I have greatly enjoyed when I've been to the A.B.&B) says one should fine tune a recipe by making four or five variations of it and line them up right next to each other. As you drink through them all, a greater understanding of the subtleties will emerge (although I imagine I would become seized by some idea that the proportions just don't matter and start flinging the ingredients about willy-nilly).

Anyhow, I am determined to create the Drunken Housewife cocktail. I'll post the recipe when I've reached perfection. I haven't invented a drink since college, when I created the Trash Fairy (whiskey and grapefruit juice with a maraschino cherry). My own child has outdone me in this regard; she came home from kindergarten one day and invented a (non-alcoholic, natch) drink she dubbed the Saint-Saens (god, I love that child).

Friday, December 29, 2006

I need more Christmas letters in my life

So I only got one true Christmas letter, a letter for mass consumption on a Christmas letterhead, but it did not disappoint in the least. One of my very oldest friends in life is getting a divorce, but her job is going well (a complete reversal from last year's letter, where we found our heroine pluckily persevering in marriage counseling and endeavoring bravely to overcome career setbacks).

God, I love Christmas letters. I used to get more, but there were some dark years when I didn't manage to send out any Christmas cards whatsoever, and I got ruthlessly trimmed from just about everyone's lists, the bastards. I should have been carried for a few years, seeing as how I had a divorce, a new marriage, two children, and two houses, plus a life-threatening illness, which in itself took up almost a whole year.

Even my parents and my mother-in-law don't even send us their annual Christmas letters. My mother once clandestinely passed me one of my mother-in-law's Christmas letters, and it was excellent entertainment value. (I was only mentioned in passing as having procreated that year). I still get some Christmas cards, but not with Christmas form letters, dammit.

In today's mail I got an excellent letter written to me after Christmas from a college friend. I'm guessing he had self-medicated himself extremely before taking pen to paper as a divertissement during a holiday exile at his parents' house, as the letter was all about the exciting gay sex life he is conducting these days. It would seem that there has been a reversal of our college days, when our Drunken Housewife was quite the scamp and her friend was less amorously successful. It could only have been better if it had been a photocopied mass mailing letter; there's just no scandal in telling only me about one's sex life. (I'm just a fountain of Too Much Information; why, once I was taken to a karaoke lounge, where I got drunk and demonstrated fellatio techniques on a bottle. Thankfully I chose not to sing that evening).

But all Christmas letters must pale beside the letter sent out this holiday season by Lisa "Blair from 'Facts of Life'" Whelchel, which the excellent folks at the Blair Necessities have exposed to the world:
Dear friends

Is it just me? Am I simply incredibly small and insecure, or do you sometimes want to throw up after reading certain family Christmas letters too? I mean, isn't this the time of year when we are supposed to be sending good tidings of great joy? After reading a litany of child prodigy feats and perfect family success stories, I often feel like pond scum. Oh, and by the way, "Merry Christmas."

Perhaps it is a knee-jerk reaction, but I decided to write this year's family Christmas letter from slightly below the surface of the pond. Although my whole family is onboard with this idea, it is probably only fair that I begin with me and my "accomplishments" in 2006.

For starters, I gained ten more pounds this year and went up two pant sizes. The bathroom scales hadn't seen those high digits since my third trimesters. The publishing company I'm currently signed with sold to a publisher that turned me down two years ago and they still don't want me. My last book way undersold projections and is probably available at your local bookstore on the clearance table.

This year, Steve finally decided we could no longer ignore the financial woes associated with the fact that we both stink at handling money. We got all of our back taxes cleared up, and we are ready to tackle the debt we got into when we couldn't get enough women to attend our MomTime Getaway events back in 2003. This living on a budget is for the birds.

Tucker fell in love for the first time and, subsequently, experienced his first broken heart. After six months, he is still recovering from the break-up. On a happier note, he finally completed his geometry curriculum. It took him a year-and-a-half, but I'm sure all those theorems will come in handy in the life of a musician.

Haven is no longer part of the student ministry worship team at church. She was replaced this year by a drummer with fancier fills. She received a "D" on her first English Lit essay, complete with notes from the teacher like, "Don't use such lame sources" and "Did you even read the book?"

We are thrilled to report that after three years, Clancy finally made a friend here in Texas. She played "Juliet" in her homeschool academy's school play last year, only to earn a bit part in this year's production. After playing the bass guitar for three years in the junior high worship band, she's a bit bummed about the fact that she's not yet good enough to play on the high school worship team.

Donut, our family dog, no longer has the run of the house. She has been relegated to a pen in the kitchen with a doggie door to the backyard. After failing two obedience schools, we resigned ourselves to the fact that she just wasn't going to get this whole house-training thing down. As soon as we get this whole budget-training thing down, we'll replace all the carpet in the house.

Now, don't you feel better? Merry Christmas! In my opinion, this letter more accurately reflects the spirit of Christmas. No, stay with me here a minute, I'm serious. Why did Jesus come to earth in the first place? Because we desperately need a Savior! We are fat, yet so empty. We owe a debt we cannot pay.

I knew I had very little in common with crazy Lisa Whelchel (who has been excoriated in liberal mothering circles for her draconian methods of discipline, such as dousing little children's mouths with Tabasco sauce and hitting them). I'm taken aback by her publicizing her children's embarrassing problems so blatantly (particularly the child who spent three friendless years, so heartbreaking). My reporting that my child made up a song about "I am a rockstar and I pee everywhere with my penis" seems so innocent and sweet in comparison. It seems unfair that the husband got off scotfree; his only alleged failing is having figured out how broken the family finances were.

More on point, she cannot appreciate the glories of that magnificent seasonal literary form, the Christmas letter, even as she has added to its canon so spiritedly. Let us all vow to celebrate the holidays next year by writing Christmas letters, and be sure not to forget to send one to the Drunken Housewife and one to Lisa Whelchel.

the message

Iris overheard me in part leaving a phone message for our friend Joyce, a rather banal message, but Iris was nosy. "What was that you were saying in the message?"

"Oh, I was just returning Joyce's call."

"But what were you saying?"

"I asked her if she wanted to come over and bash Hassenpfeffer* with me. I said that if she wanted to bring a small club, that would be okay, and we could chase you around and whack at you."


"And then we could hang up candy way up high, out of your reach, and watch you and Lubrick** jump up and try to get it."

"That sounds like fun!"

"Then we could throw eggs at you guys. We'd put you in the backyard and throw eggs at you and give points for whoever hit you."

"That sounds terrible! And you would lose anyway."

"What, you think Joyce would win? You'd get hit more, anyway, because you're larger. You make a better target."

"You'd lose! I want to play the candy game, though. Candy canes!"

Iris left the room and went off to find Lola. "They're going to hang candy up high and we're going to try to get it down."

"But I can't reach that high," Lola said in a tiny voice.

"We'll use glowsticks to get it down."

Hassenpfeffer = Iris
Lubrick = Lola

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

crazy Lola

Four year-old Lola insists I help her call her father at work today. "I have something I need to ask him!" Eavesdropping, I hear her inquire, "What are you wearing?"

Later, at home, Lola asks him, "Do you know what makes me so special?"

"No, what?"

"It's because I'm very special! That is what makes me special!"

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

a low quality photo

Lola loves my new tattoo:

That poor quality image was taken by me, using the tiny li'l camera on this computer (I am afraid to use the husband's overly elaborate digital camera, which technically belongs to his company). And here, to refresh your poor retinas, a higher quality image taken today by a four year-old who happens to be an expert user of Photobooth:

Sunday, December 24, 2006

the best compliment in ages

We were playing sardines tonight, after hosting a little get-together, and Lola said to Anton as they were seeking, "Mommy is the best hider in five thousand years."

Friday, December 22, 2006

I am an idiot.

Currently I have three foster kittens, formerly feral and fierce, now adorable lap cats who purr endlessly and chase each other around. They are large enough and more than tame enough to be adopted out... but they can't go back to the pound and go up for adoption until they are free of their ringworm (ringworm, a ridiculously misnamed ailment, is not a worm but instead a fungal infection which causes cats' fur to fall out in little circles). There are several schools of thought about treating ringworm, but my rescue program currently believes in sulfur dips. This means taking writhing, clawing animals and dousing them completely in buckets of bright yellow liquid until one's entire body, clothing, and home smell like rotten eggs.

Today I felt like multitasking and getting two things done simultaneously that I'd been procrastinating over for days: touching up my roots and dipping the cats. The latest sulfur protocol calls for shampooing the cats before dipping them. I put dye on my roots and put the cats in the shower, with the bucket of sulfur handy. I got in myself. One of the crazed kittens jumped on my butt and clawed herself up to my shoulders, and I started screaming obscenities. I got out of that shower as fast as I could, and all the kittens escaped, taking refuge in the large, covered litterbox, which seemed like the best hiding spot available. When I pulled them out of there, of course their wet fur was coated with cat litter of varying degrees of cleanliness, which got all over the bathroom, which now looked like a hellhole as well as smelling like one.

Later, much later, after all the hell of the morning was over, I said to the husband, "I think that was the most stupid thing I've ever done."

"What were you thinking? It would be fun? That they would gambol around your feet while you showered?"

"I thought they'd cower over in the corner when I wasn't washing them."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

a gracious loser

Four year-old Lola voices her feelings about not winning the Christmas igloo decorating contest on Club Penguin: "Those people are wicked! Wicked! Wicked! WICKED GAME! I WILL DESTROY THEM ALL!" (There was no humor in her voice).

in which I entertain (smallish) masses of small children.

Growing up, I never had any slumber parties. My parents weren't the type to throw parties for me (I did have two birthday parties growing up, two and only two, which I guess is better than one or zero). In contrast, we have birthday parties for our own children each year, and we had a pseudo slumber party last weekend.

The occasion was that her best friend from kindergarten was in town and was planning to attempt a first sleepover. We invited some other girls from the same kindergarten class and made it a slumber party themed event, but with the girls to be picked up by their parents around 8 or 8:30 or so (which is bedtime for most of these first graders, so I figured it would be more practical if they were already in their pajamas). We had several last minute cancellations, but the girls who did show up made such an unbelievable racket that I was somewhat relieved we didn't have more. They had pillow fights (I gave each girl a heart-shaped red pillow as a party favor). They frolicked about. They ate cheap frozen pizzas (I was going to call out for good pizzas, but the husband felt that frozen pizzas were good enough for seven year-olds).

The next day, Iris and our foster kittens and I were all exhausted. (The kittens were a little too popular at the party). Those kittens didn't get off my bed for about six hours, nearly three of which Iris and I spent slumped on the same bed watching the videotaped "Survivor" finale. Lola, who was less exhausted, spent the afternoon playing at a friend's house, and I even managed to get Anton to pick her up for me. "I'm sooo tired, I feel I can't drive", I successfully whined over the phone.

I had figured that if things got dull, I'd break out my nail polish collection and we could do pedicures or we could watch a movie, but it never came to that. Whacking each other with pillows and hauling the kittens around proved to have hours of entertainment value.

Meanwhile, Lola has suddenly unearthed a grudge from her birthday party... which was held over two months ago! It's all about that damn pinata. As the more devoted readers may recall, we hate pinatas, but we completely caved and got a pinata for her party. The actual pinata experience seemed so uncontroversial and anticlimactic. The little four year-old girls in attendance (the sole little boy invited declined to participate) ineffectively patted at the massive pinata with sticks for ages and ages, with hordes of protective grown-ups hovering around and overly anxiously monitoring the situation. Mind Eventually I gave in to the grown-ups' vigilance fatigue and softened the pinata up with a few whacks, and I brought down the house by remarking, "I can't believe how far I'm stooping", as everyone present over the age of four knew (and shared) our antipathy towards pinatas.

So we thought the pinata went off as well as it could, but suddenly two months later, Lola's mind was seized with the thought that at her friend Louise's birthday party, Louise went first at pinata time, but at HER party, Lola did not go first. Mind you, Louise's party was over six months ago, so it's not as if this were some fresh new injustice. I asked Anton who went first at Lola's party, and he said he lined the children up in order of size and let the most petite child whack the pinata first and that Lola made no complaint about this at the time. Lola has been bringing this up over and frigging again, sinking her head into her hands in despair over the lost chance to be the first to ineffectively wave a stick towards an effigy of Patrick the idiotic pink starfish. I've sworn that next year, she can whack first (therefore putting myself on the line to buy another frigging pinata and once again fail to uphold my ideals). Sigh.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

what happens when the laptop is left unattended

I was stunned to find many self-portraits on my laptop of the household four year-old, all done without assistance. Since the husband has formed a specialty in UI ("user interface"), I pay more attention to such things, and let me say the Macintosh Photobooth program has the easiest user interface to master I've seen yet. An illiterate four year-old can master it quickly.

This picture is my personal favorite:

However, Lola herself vastly prefers the following one, which makes her laugh endlessly. I call it "Lola as Frankenstein's Monster", but she doesn't yet understand the idea of Frankenstein or his monster.

We both like this one:

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

it's time to be thinking about our New Year's resolutions

Every now and then I make a life change in the form of a New Year's resolution. There have been some huge successes with these. I used to be shy and quiet, and in high school I made the resolution to become more outgoing. (That was so successful that the following year, my resolution was to be less outgoing). In 1986 I made the resolution to become a vegetarian, and that has been a resounding success, as I have not knowingly eaten either a mammal or a bird since then (I've vacillated and had weaknesses about seafood, my Achilles' heel of ethics, but as far as birds and mammals go, I am made of steel).

Two years ago, the Sober Husband made a solemn New Year's resolution that we live within our means. I signed on to that, and we drew up budgets and spending lists and lists of cutbacks (amongst the things I gave up: Brazilian waxes, pedicures, professional eyebrow treatments, the Wall St. Journal, and professional hair dying). We managed to pull that one off through great discipline and constant conferring.

Last year, I made a resolution the Sober Husband joined with enthusiasm: to have more sex (I made a numerical goal, and I'll spare y'all the details, but I'm only one away from my goal, and there's another week and a half left, so odds are that resolution will be more than successful).

So what will it be next year? I'm thinking my resolution should be to exercise regularly. It needs to be a realistic goal, and it needs to be spelled out. To work out on my rowing machine twice a week? Walk for an hour every day? Hmm...

in which I come to grips with the holidays

As last we joined our errant Drunken Housewife, she was feeling unhappy and stressed, her nerves sadly frayed at the idea of buying gifts for family members, in large part due to a family crisis under which an infant was placed in foster care, and the overwhelming family reaction was to engage in a cover-up and pretend nothing had happened.

I would like to thank everyone who wrote kind words, and it was greatly appreciated. I thought about the situation more, and what I felt, very strongly, was that I did not want to spend any time, energy, thoughtfulness, or love right now for certain family members. At the same time, I didn't quite feel like cutting them all off or starting any kind of new family snits. So I simply ordered a gift basket from a local company, and unbelievably enough there was one for $19.95 with free shipping which was entirely adequate (surprisingly good for that value). Amount of time spent: about three minutes. Amount of effort expended: virtually none. Cash spent: $19.95 (almost nothing). Because I had spent so little on my sister's family, I gave some extra cash to a family which I think is pretty damn deserving (okay, I hate to even write about this, because it makes me feel like a spoiled bitch, but yes, I have a family which comes in twice a month to clean my house. Our lives have been so much improved by this, my husband's allergies are better, and we fight so much less. When we had The Horribly Traumatic Plumbing Disaster resulting in the husband taking a second job and me taking a temporary job, we didn't cut out our cleaning. We will work more jobs rather than live in the pathetic squalor which results when we are the only people who clean this house). They work hard and have a child the same age as my youngest daughter, and I gave them the money I would have spent on my family (and I got two really cute sweaters for their son as well).

I did also donate to needy families anonymously through a really fun program my older daughter's school does every year. They post little gift tags with the age and gender of a child and what is wanted (the parents can pick an item of clothing, a book, or a toy). So every year, Iris and I pick a couple of those, and this year we bought an item of clothing for an 11 year-old girl (Iris selected a black dress with sparkly trim from the Gap) and a toy for a two year-old boy (we picked a fun, colorful wooden dragon that can be pulled on a string). Last year, the charity added the ethnicity of the children, which was a little weird for me. I wanted to buy a beautiful pop-up Cinderella book, but as the recipient was an African-American girl, I had a weird, liberal white moment of feeling that perhaps I shouldn't buy a book with all white characters (it would have also felt weird and condescending to buy something very ethnically-oriented, like a doll wearing kente cloth). This year the tags left off ethnicity, which allowed us to pleasantly pretend we live in a world without race issues.

For my extended family I do love (and miss, as they live so very far away from me), I bought little boxes of Joseph Schmidt truffles (I live within walking distance of the Joseph Schmidt factory, and Joseph Schmidt chocolates are my very favorite). This is a holiday tradition, as most years (except the years I have been poor) I do this, and my extended family loves getting these, as much for the beautiful, handmade artisanal boxes as for the yummy chocolates within. (I stopped buying them for my mother after she dissed the truffles and said she only loves the boxes).

Iris and I made some beaded Christmas tree ornaments, and I was intending to put one in with each box of truffles. The problem is that I'm so much in love with the ornaments, which came out much better than I expected, that I just hate to give them away. I'm wanting to keep them all for our own collection. I haven't wrapped up the truffle boxes yet, because I haven't been able to make a definitive decision yet as to be overly generous and give the ornaments or keep them, on the theory that no one will appreciate them so much as their makers. Making a lot more so there will be enough to give away AND keep is not a good option, because Iris is sick of this crafts project and unwilling to bead any more. (My child labor is just not biddable enough).

For Christmas for myself, I asked Anton to buy me a beautiful new piece of jewelry for my nose piercing, which made him wince and cover his head in his hands. I also pointed out to him my handy book list (visible right on your left, if yer curious).

With seasonally appropriate good will for all, and a glass of Meridian Chardonnay in my sole remaining Christmas wineglass, from yer old Drunken Housewife

Saturday, December 16, 2006

just because: another cocktail recipe from Eric Felten

Just because I love Eric Felten's "How's Your Drink?" column in the Wall St. Journal, and just because I'm a sucker for raspberry anything, I present to you the Florodora (named after six singing Gibson girls, the Florodora Sextette, who were a huge hit on Broadway starting in 1900):

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz framboise
1/2 oz fresh lime juice (and don't let me ever hear of you using that nasty Rose's stuff)
3-4 oz ginger ale

Build in a highball glass with ice. Garnish with a slice of lime and some fresh raspberries, if you have them handy.

Friday, December 15, 2006

the big old gay post

This is the third in an occasional series: Reader Requests. The indefatigable Hughman has requested that the Drunken Housewife write about gayness, which could mean retelling humorous anecdotes about Gay People I Have Interacted With In A Hilarious Way, or, more seriously, talking about educating my children about gayness, and in the event, I'll attempt a little of both.

As Hughman could discern from between the lines, the Drunken Housewife has a big ol' fag hag streak. I like the gay male culture (I'm differentiating here between mainstream gay male culture, which I am somewhat immersed in as I live in the Castro in San Francisco, which pretty much sets the pace for gay men around the world, and mainstream lesbian culture, which is much less in-yer-face. There aren't so many lesbian bars, lesbian nightclubs, lesbian t-shirt stores, lesbian restaurants, etc...).

In college, I had an openly gay friend who was one of my closest companions (he now works for "The Amazing Race", which was one of my all-time favorite shows even before I found out my beloved college friend was on the staff). I also briefly and frustratingly dated a very hunky and adorable guy who was sort of the Universal Object of Desire. That didn't work out, but we still are friends, although he's a lousy correspondent (as students, we both worked at an NPR station in Boston, which hired both of us full-time after graduation. I left after a year, but he's still there, now working on nationally syndicated radio shows).

Several years after graduation the Universal Object of Desire came to San Francisco a few times. Once he came with a friend and stayed at my apt., where I then lived with Husband 1.0. We hooked up with another, now openly gay, college friend who'd also worked at the radio station and moved to SF (sidenote: I was puzzled in college that this other friend had not asked me out, and when a few years later I walked past the Dolores Park tennis courts and saw him playing tennis with a hunky gay guy, I instantly thought, "Oh, so THAT'S why he didn't ask me out." And another sidenote, if you're puzzled about why I was puzzled over a given man's lack of pursuit, you'll have to ask me later about my college years. I was one of the belles of Boston University, and no one would have predicted that I'd end up a frumpy, Drunken Housewife). At the time, I was leading sort of a lame double life: during the days, I put on conservative business suits and went to work at a large law firm, hiding my piercings and tattoos, and during the nights and weekends, Husband 1.0 and I led a funkier, grungier existence, associating mainly with SM friends and going to shooting ranges for recreation. During this visit, the Universal Object of Desire was the inadvertent cause of a huge fight between the other gay college friend and his boyfriend, as the old gay college friend was talking at dinner about how "I used to always think I could really see myself settling down with" the Universal Object of Desire, and we were reminiscing about how everyone had had crushes on him.

After this visit, the Universal Object of Desire wrote us a letter, saying that he was coming out of the closet. Visiting us and seeing how I led my adult life, not being afraid, supposedly inspired him to do this. This was very hard for him, because he'd been raised by a very close, very conservative Catholic family (we used to sit together at mass in college; although I was never Catholic, I used to go to mass at B.U. because it suited me better than the Protestant services and I had various Catholic friends). I felt after he came out that we could have a full, authentic friendship, without any weird blank areas.

Anyhow, I am myself not homophobic (if anything, I'm predisposed to like an openly gay person). When I was pregnant, I said, "If I have a son, I hope he's a drag queen, so we can go shopping together." I ended up having two girls, and one of them is an illustration of how sexual orientation is something you're born with (the other one is more of a mystery in this way). Iris is a straight girl, all right (sidenote: her middle name, "Alison", is in honor of amazingly talented lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel). She has had incredibly strong crushes on boys and adult men from phenomenally early ages. She was the five year old femme fatale of pre-k, going after one little boy and, after winning his affections, moving on to another, who ended up proposing to her on a field trip. (I was engaged at age four myself to an older boy who lived down the street). One of my mommy friends said to me, after seeing the normally quiet Iris acting up around her cute, beloved gymnastics teacher in order to get his attention, "You better put that girl on birth control the moment she turns 13." (Anton was appalled by that. He says loudly and often that he doesn't want the girls to engage in any premarital sex. My sarcastic response? "Oh, that was certainly one of your core values when I met you." He propositioned me on our first date).

I assumed that raising our children on the fringes of the Castro was all I needed to do to educate them about gay people and ensure they were not homophobic or ill-behaved. After all, we have gay neighbors all about us (we adore our next-door neighbors, a gay couple who have been together now for a mind-boggling 25 years; that's mind-boggling as they are only in their forties. They met in college and lived happily enough ever after). Lola's preschool has so many lesbian families that she and I once engaged in a spirited debate about whether one little playmate had two mommies or a mommy/daddy set. (There are so many lesbian families in the San Francisco upper middle class-lower upper class circles we travel in, that one lesbian mommy friend reported to me that on a school tour, she was told firmly by the director that being a lesbian does not count towards increasing the school's diversity; "There are so many lesbian family applicants that we can't just admit all of them.").

But then I was shocked one day when after kindergarten, I heard Iris call someone "gay" as a put-down. I immediately called her on it. "How can you say that like it's a bad thing?" I reminded her of various gay people we know and love and asked her if she thought they were so bad that saying someone was like them would be a good insult. She seemed to get my point, but she also seemed to want to cling to the word "gay" as a put-down.

At the time, I was volunteering in the school library, and I ran into the lower school's glamorous art teacher, who is incidentally an out lesbian. (There is a rumor among the parents that she is dating k.d. lang, who was supposedly spotted as the teacher's date at a school function). I shamefacedly told the art teacher about this recent, shocking-to-me event and asked for advice. She told me that Iris had undoubtedly picked this up at school and that the girls did use this as a put-down. The art teacher, who keeps a picture of herself with a girlfriend (I resisted the urge to ask if it was k.d. lang) on her desk, calls the girls on this homophobic talk. She told me that she'll say to the girls, "You know I'm gay" when she hears this, and they never know how to respond. It makes them realize that this slur hurts real people's feelings, and indeed, since this art teacher herself is an object of great admiration the girls must feel ashamed. Coincidentally the art teacher was in the library at that moment because she was asking that copies of "And Tango Makes Three" be ordered, and she learned about that infamous gay penguin picture book because Iris brought a copy to school. (This book is a beautifully illustrated account of how some gay penguins in the New York zoo were given an orphaned egg, and they hatched it out and raised the baby. The book leaves out that later one of the gay penguins dumped his gay mate and took up with a lady penguin hussy. Iris saw it in the gay bookstore in the Castro and asked for it, and I bought it for her because I can never resist her when she asks for a book and also because it is a beautiful book).

So anyhow, even raising a child in the epicenter of gay culture, naming her in part after a lesbian artist, and buying her "And Tango Makes Three" doesn't ensure that she'll always be a paragon of politically correct behavior. I haven't heard the word "gay" used as a slam since then, so hopefully that episode has concluded. Indeed, at the end of her kindergarten year, Iris announced that when she grew up, she wanted to have a girlfriend like her art teacher has a girlfriend, and she wanted that girlfriend to be a triplet (this is undoubtedly because one of our next door neighbors is one of triplets, a fact fascinating to Iris and me). I'm not expecting her to bring home any cute triplet dykes anytime soon, though, given her overtly heterosexual behavior from babyhood. Also, I'm suspecting that it could be hard to find just the right lesbian triplet.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

like a bad dream

We were trying to put four year-old Lola to bed, and she resisted. "It's like a bad dream! IT'S THE WORST NIGHTMARE IN HISTORY!"

Aside from a sense of hyperbole, the child also has a well-developed sense of nostalgia. Putting her head down on her arms on the table, she mused yesterday, "I wish I were three again."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

oh, the humanity: husband consigned to hell

So, Iris's best friend from kindergarten, a greatly beloved little girl, moved to Chicago last summer, but she is returning for a weekend visit. In a moment of madness, I had the idea that I should throw a little party for her on Sunday, when she is going to attempt her Very First Sleepover (we all understand that she may not make it through the night and may need to be ferried back home in the wee hours). Accordingly, Iris and I are hosting about eight little girls, all friends from those halcyon kindergarten days, for a sleepover-themed party. In reality, only the visiting girl will sleep over, but the others have been asked to come in pajamas, and we're going to dance, have a (carefully supervised) pillow fight, eat popcorn, do pedicures, and if things get either too boring or too exciting in a bad way, we'll throw on a movie.

I had the additional idea of getting pillows for the girls, as a party favor and also to emphasize the slumber party theme. I will strew them all about the living room floor, and then the girls could take them home at the end of the party. I thought this was a no-brainer, as a few years ago I bought a lot of fabulous throw pillows for Iris's old preschool. I went to Mervyn's, where I had previously bought big, funky pillows for pennies, and all their throw pillows were about $29.99. I found some on sale for $15, but I am not about to spend $120 on the pillows for this party (I'll be buying pizzas and drinks as well, and I need to be more financially responsible as I've already dropped some cash on Christmas presents).

By now, I felt committed to the idea of the throw pillows, and I asked the husband to swing by Cost Plus on his way home today. After checking the Cost Plus website, it seemed again that the whole throw pillow market had veered sharply upmarket since my last foray into that world. There were only two reasonable alternatives left: abandon the throw pillow as party favor concept (and I do hate to let a cute little hostessy idea like that go), or send someone (possibly even myself) to the dreaded retail hell, shudder, Ikea.

I hate Ikea. It's purposely laid out to be monstrously confusing; I have been lost and wandering about in the Emeryville Ikea to the point of rage. I feel nervous in Ikeas, because they are so crowded and confusing, and if there is ever a big earthquake, there are going to be tons of corpses at that Ikea. After you've identified some crappy piece of cheap furniture you wish to purchase, you must go down and seek it amongst the huge bins and high stacks, and if you're me, invariably whatever you wanted is out of stock, and you'll end up fleeing with empty hands rather than brave the insanity upstairs again. So I sent the Sober Husband, using the excuse that the East Palo Alto Ikea is theoretically convenient to his Palo Alto office.

The man must have called eight or more times to discuss his pillow choices. He hates choices, he hates retail in general, and he hates Ikea in particular. He was unable to find a suitable throw pillow; a reasonably cute one I identified on the Ikea webpage was not to be found in the store computer. We had the idea then of getting regular bed pillows with cute pillowcases, but all the pillowcases were bundled for sale with sheet sets, rendering that concept too expensive. This was all made more difficult by the fact that celphone reception was nonexistent in the pillow and bedding department.

Eventually we agreed upon a pillow choice, a rectangular, longish pillow with a colorful pattern. I informed the husband during this phone call that I had begun blogging about his Ikea trip (yes, up to the minute reportage here at the Drunken Housewife site), and he laughed. But then down by the register, as an impulse buy, there were the cheap throw pillows I'd envisioned from the beginning. He called three times and sent a picture from his celphone camera, agonizing over the decision. We took a vote here: Lola and I voted for the heart-shaped pillows, Iris voted for the flowery one.

Poor old husband, condemned to the Ikea, wandering about with no celphone reception (his celphone and his Swiss army knife are his security objects). I suspect he drowned his sorrows in those cheap meatballs they serve at the Ikea cafeteria (once he confessed that when he was mad at me, he'd go in the kitchen and drink milk straight out of the carton; I think he eats meat in moments of marital anger as well).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

we have a winner; I have a headache (not related to our winner)

In the first of what will undoubtedly be an occasional series here, Reader Comment Contests, we have a winner: Hughman wins in the Post Six Weird Things About Yerself contest for his having been a gay porn scout! (Did you scout locations or participants or both?). His prize, which he may claim at his leisure, is that the Drunken Housewife will write a post on the topic of his choice.

I have some time this morning and should be writing something entertaining, but I'm dulled down by a headache. I've had a headache now for an entire week. I've chugged ibuprofen in scary amounts. The headache is such that I haven't been drinking, as I don't want to put anything potentially headache-inducing into my body (you know I'm sick when I don't drink and I don't put on make-up. Normally, I am not to be seen without my beloved Prescriptives). On the worst days, I had dizzy spells and nausea. The girls were complaining of headaches the week before, so I think it's a non-stomach virus thing. I'm starting to think I should call my doctor, but the one area in which she sucks (I love her otherwise) is that she is not one for prescribing pain pills. If you're going to visit your inlaws, she'll give you some Xanax or Ativans quite happily, but if you drag in there feeling like a sledgehammer is striking your head repeatedly, she's going to tell you to take some Tylenol (and implicit in that is an admonition to quit yer whining).

Coincidentally I picked up at a fabulous used bookstore a memoir about a woman's epic headache lasting for years, "All in my Head" by Paula Kamen, a few days before my headache hit. I can't decide whether to read it now or not. It might perk me up to hear of someone else's much worse headache. Then again, perhaps Paula Kamen herself handled the particular volume I bought, and her mysterious headache germs were on it and I got them, and now I'll be in pain for years.

Wishing you all good health, and bracing myself for the topic of choice by our dear Hughman, yer old Drunken (yet strangely sober of late) Housewife

Monday, December 11, 2006

the joy of carrots

I made the most amazing dish last night, a side of carrots (the entree, a rosemary and Chianti risotto, was pretty fabulous, too, but it was the carrots which were a revelation). This caused me to re-evaluate carrots: who knew they could taste this way? They were still identifiable as carrots, but somehow richer and more intense, like special, treasure carrots grown for a millionaire.

The problem, though, is this is true Slow Food. Perhaps you have heard of the Slow Movement, in its book, online (reader/commenter the Freewheeling Spirit writes about it occasionally). Here's your chance to take a foray into the world of the slow movement:

Slow Cooked Carrots by Jack Bishop (my idol! He also taught me to caramelize endive, and caramelized endive is one of the wonders of the world, I'm telling you)

1 1/4 lbs carrots
5 T butter
Salt to taste

Peel carrots. Slice carrots into 1/4 in. rounds on the bias. Put in lg. saute pan with the butter. Cook, at low heat, stirring often, for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hrs, until the carrots are brown and shrunken. Sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately (best if it accompanies a rather plain entree; I served it alongside a red wine & rosemary risotto).

From now on, whenever I have a big dinner party when I'm going to be in the kitchen for hours, I'll do the Slow Cooked Carrots.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

weird Iris

I asked seven year-old Iris to tell me six weird things about herself.

#1: "I'm book-smart."

#2: "That I like to be weird."

#3: "One is that I like rats and I get scared if there is one that is not in a cage."

#4: "That I'm weird."

#5: "That I'm kind of smarter than a bunch of older people, in a way."

#6: "Also that I dip my french fries in my milkshake."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, & weird

A frequent reader/commenter, 2AMSomewhere, has tagged the Drunken Housewife with a blogger "meme": "THE RULES: Each player of this game starts with the ‘6 weird things about you.’ People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says ‘you are tagged’ in their comments and tell them to read your blog.” The Drunken Housewife has hated chain letters ever since, as a small child, she joined in a send-a-postcard chain and was bitterly disappointed to get nothing out of it. Hence, she refuses to formally tag anyone. However, it is an occasional feature of this blog that the drunken author writes a post on the topic of a reader's choice, and so she will honor this request and treat this as Number Three in an Occasional Series: Reader's Requests. All readers of the blog are invited to add, in a comment, six weird things about themselves, and the writer of the best comment will receive, as a prize, a post written about the topic of their choice (no holds barred).

So, here we go:

WEIRD #1: My father is a self-proclaimed faith healer, and growing up, our family always had to do these painfully awkward laying-on-of-hands praying rituals. None of those ever achieved anything so far as I know.

WEIRD #2: I suffered from a rare syndrome in which I had multiple episodes of aseptic meningitis, resulting in numerous hospitalizations. A neurologist who saw me for this told me he was writing an article on me because mine was the worst case of this syndrome he'd ever heard of. Thankfully he was correct in telling me that I would eventually stop getting meningitis, as (knock on wood) my last episode was in 1996.

WEIRD #3: I was for a brief time engaged to two different men at the same time.

WEIRD #4: In my intensely Christian phase as a virtuous teenager, I used to fast every year from Good Friday until Easter morning, so I would be conscious of the suffering of Christ. (I was also borderline anorexic, so this served the ulterior motive of allowing me to be freakish about food without getting my parents mad at me).

WEIRD #5: My first fiance was a former SEAL who habitually slept with an authentic samurai sword which was declared a national treasure of Japan and had been smuggled out. When he went out of town, he requested that I sleep with the sword for self-protection. (I was completely untrained in swordplay and probably would have stabbed myself if there had been an intruder).

WEIRD # 6: I once whipped a masochistic man so hard one New Year's Eve that I sprained both my wrists.

And there you have it. Six unusual facts about one Drunken Housewife. Share your own in the comments.

Addendum: Regular reader and commentator Hughman says, with an audible sniff, that these facts were just not weird. Interesting, maybe, but not weird. I think that I don't have a good enough grip on "weird" these days. What is weird? What is normal? Someone once told a friend of mine, "Carole and Anton are the weirdest people I've ever met." My friend refused, irritatingly enough, to tell me who had said that. My response: "If I'm the weirdest person someone has ever met, they need to get out of the house more."

Anyway, here are a couple of bonus, possibly-weird-but-what-then-what-is-weird-in-this-day-and-age facts:

- Once I had sex in the bathroom at our preschool during a mandatory parents' meeting;


- I once breastfed a fussy baby while getting a full Brazilian wax. I felt that I should have gotten a gold medal for an Outstanding Feat of Insane Power Mothering for that.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I don't know about you, but I'm raising Pharisees

I was brought up by extremely strict born again Christians. It is difficult to overstate how absurdly draconian and uber-religious my parents were (and are, for that matter). My father spends a couple of hours a day reading the Bible and praying, and he is known to speak in tongues around the house on a daily basis.

As a child, it drove me completely, frigging insane that my parents were so obsessed with what I was thinking and feeling. It was not enough to obey them instantaneously without complaint; if there was the slightest indication that I had anger, impatience, or any other forbidden emotion hidden in my heart, I'd be punished on the spot. The worst example of this was the time I came home from elementary school to be informed that since someone had drawn with crayon on the freezer (which was easily removed, with no permanent harm to the appliance), my sister (the guilty one!) and I were both to be punished until one of us confessed. She was forbidden to watch TV; I was forbidden to read. On Sunday, my sister cracked and confessed, but my parents informed me that they intended to continue my punishment throughout the entire weekend because, although I had been obedient and had't said anything, I had had a bad attitude about being punished-- for something I didn't do!

Now that I am a parent, I not-so-secretly like my Iris's sassy attitude. She's allowed to talk back so long as she is witty; indeed, at age six, she brought me to the point of laughing so hard I nearly threw up when she screamed at her father, "SHUT YER MEAT-LOVING HOLE!" I view Iris as an experiment: she's incredibly, uncannily like me in personality, so I figure she'll turn out the way I would have if I had been raised by loving, indulgent parents who wanted me and who raised me in an exciting, cosmopolitan city. (I can't wait to see how I would have turned out!).

That doesn't mean that she's allowed to be that openly rude to anyone other than her parents. Her actions towards others must be Miss Manners-ish. My whole parenting shtick is that children are allowed to think and feel whatever they want in the privacy of their own brain, so long as their actions are acceptable. This, I have learned, is "raising Pharisees." Take in the wisdom of Maranatha Chapman:

If I tell my son, Benjamin, to take out the trash, he may take it out but in his heart resent having to do the chore and wish he was doing something else. This is unacceptable in our home. He must obey fully, not just in deed and action, but with his whole heart. Both are imperative! I am sure to some of you it sounds like we are too hard on our children or that we are looking too deep. But I am convinced the Lord desires full surrender of our hearts and therefore we need to train and require full surrender of our children's as well. [Ms. Chapman explains that outwardly excellent behavior which is not completely sincere is akin to the loathed Pharisees and then returns to self-righteously criticizing her own children in an article for public consumption].

It takes discernment to know where your child's heart is. I remember one morning I watched my oldest daughter go from one task to another. She is a "doer." She was getting so much done and was truly helping me. But the longer I studied her I realized that she was not "with" me at all, and I was unable to taste of her heart. In her effort to serve she lost the main point of serving, which is to love. What I witnessed was her pushing her siblings aside and being very short in her answers. On the outside everything was accomplished, but I knew I did not have my precious daughter. She also left the heart of following and took on her own agenda. She was being very independent and self-absorbed. The world tells us that independence and self-reliance is good. The Lord, on the other hand, teaches that we are to lean on him and draw off of His life. If we allow our children's hearts to live independently of us then when they are adults they probably will not have a capacity for yielding, trusting, and depending on the Lord Jesus. I have seen so many people who grew up this way and as a result, their hearts wandered from the Lord.

So there you have it. My Iris, who has certainly never given "full surrender" of her heart when doing menial chores around the house, is a Pharisee. I suspect Iris would say something along the lines of "SHUT YER MEATLOVING HOLE!" to that.

inspiring thought

I saw a blinds installation company's truck today, with the painted slogan, "If it weren't for blinds, it would be curtains for all of us."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

a few reasons I am not a regulation "Christian"

Have you ever noticed how many vehement, holier-than-thou, bustling proselytizers of born again Christianity seem to hate animals? Here's just a tidbit from "Unless The Lord..." magazine, written by the oh-too-aptly named David Crank:

"The CVA (Christian Vegetarian Association) believes that vegetarianism expresses the compassion and peace of Christ because the diet spares animals from suffering, alleviates world hunger, protects the environment and preserves human health."

With a statement like CVA’s above, we might question whether this organization is Christian in more than just name. The reasons given in support of a vegetarian diet sound so much like those given by non-Christian vegetarians who draw their values from eastern religions or animal rights activists.

Oh, yes, wanting to spare animals from suffering means you are not a true Christian, only a questionable one who sounds suspiciously like a godless animal rights activist. Crank is sadly not alone in his beliefs (I wish I had a dollar for every Christian who smugly informed me that I was wrong to be a vegetarian because God wants people to eat as many animals as possible. I would use those dollars to buy bottles of Blanc de Noirs to drink around Jesus's birthday). This sort of blend of conformity, suspiciousness, and meanness is what drove me out of organized religion, although I continue to believe in God, after I left the born again Christian home I was so severely raised in.

Years ago, when I was new at the mothering game, I sought support and knowledge at It turned out that the boards were overrun with hypercritical, hypocritical Christians. One detailed her husband's plan to stab raccoons with a kitchen knife. Their crime, which made them deserve this gory fate? They had gone into this family's yard. Evidently God had spoken to them and told them that they were allowed to brutally stab any living creature which dared cross their border.

Another one delighted in condemning everyone to hell: she stated that since she had personally informed us all that if we didn't accept Jesus the way we were supposed to, we were all going to be held accountable when we died because we had been informed of the truth, by her. Imagine the power that one chubby housewife wielded: one poorly written, mean-spirited post on a message board, and tens of thousands of lactating mothers were condemned to hell. I wonder about the ultimate fate of those who merely read the topic header but didn't click on it; did they save themselves an eternity of hell and brimstone?

The raccoons, the Christian Vegetarian Association folks, all those mommies who read the boards years ago, and me: we're all bound for hell, I guess. See you there?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Chilling at the club

We've been spending a lot of time at the club. Club Penguin, that is. Is this some new and exciting spot for aged hipsters? Hell, no. It's an MMPORG (God, I hate acronyms) for small children, and the children of this house are addicted. What's more, the parents are enabling that addiction in the most degenerately codependent of ways.

First, Anton insisted upon taking out paid subscriptions for BOTH children. I would have been happy to make them share a penguin avatar, but this way, each gets her own "peng." In the world of Club Penguin, hordes of penguin avatars mill about, chatting in a simplistic way, decorating their igloos, and playing games to earn penguin coins. The ways in which children may upgrade their penguin's homes and possessions are seemingly endless.

I caught Anton sitting up, after the children had gone to bed, playing Club Penguin, trying to earn some penguin cash for Lola to spend (she was so excited when she bought her first acquisitions, a scarf and a watch for the penguin). I scoffed at him. I should have held my tongue, because I ended up promising Lola I'd help her earn enough to upgrade her basic igloo to the deluxe, two level, pastel pink igloo. This was not easy, because (a) whenever I built up any cash in Lola's penguin's account, she'd immediately spend it on pink clothing for the penguin and Christmas tree lights for her tiny, basic igloo, and (b) I stayed up until 1:00 in the frigging morning, earning thousands of penguin coins, and then the Club Penguin server froze up and I lost everything (I was too embarrassed to complain to the Club Penguin support people).

This morning I complained to the old husband that I felt stressed by everything I have to do. I had (and have) a massive To Do list, featuring such diverse items as buying Christmas presents (the husband insists on getting an ipod), finding a new tattoo artist, finally getting my frigging flu shot (I've tried twice unsuccessfully to get one), finding an attorney in a different state, mailing the property taxes, figuring out a good ornament-making crafts project for the first grade holiday party, making fruit salad for fourteen people to bring to a faculty appreciation lunch, etc.., etc... not to mention earning enough Club Penguin money to upgrade Lola's igloo to the finest one available (I would have chosen the more affordable tiki hut upgrade). Anton suggested, dryly enough, that I might drop the igloo upgrade from the top tier of the list.

Sad to say, I scratched off the property taxes and the igloo upgrade today (the Christmas shopping will just have to wait). But I'm no farther ahead. Now, in the interests of sibling equity, I must assist Iris in achieving the same igloo splendor. Sigh.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"fixing" things which weren't broken in children's tv

I used to think "Dragon Tales" was a great children's television show. (For the non-parents out there: "Dragon Tales" is a PBS kid's show featuring the adventures of two upper middle-class Latino children who discover a way to travel to a magical land populated by chubby, talking dragons. Since this is PBS and kids' TV, hilarity does not ensue. G-rated adventures with a big dose of preachiness ensue).

What I liked about "Dragon Tales" was that the main character was a little girl, Emmy, a child of about first grade age, who is smart, brave, and bossy. She alienates her friends and little brother upon occasion by being inflexible and insensitive, but it always works out in the end. Most children's media hews inflexibly to the asinine rule that "boys won't consume things which are about girls, but girls will consume things which are about boys." So "Dragon Tales" stood out, and unlike other girl characters in children's television (such as the insipid, always wearing a vapid grin, annoyingly named Emily Elizabeth of "Clifford"), Emmy was not a girly-girl. She was athletic, pushy, and arrogant, but her friend and little brother loved her for her ideas and spark.

Despite the conventional wisdom, the little boys we knew loved "Dragon Tales." They tended to pick Ord, a large, witless blue dragon, as their favorite character, whereas girls usually named Emmy or Cassie (a saccharine sweet pink dragon who was allegedly the brains of the dragon clique).

The "Dragon Tales" world clicked along quite well for years. But then the geniuses (typed with sarcastic fingers) at PBS decided to introduce a new character, Enrique. Enrique moved next door to Emmy and her brother, Max, and soon was inducted into their secret dragon cult. Now Emmy has been reduced to an admiring sidekick of the older, more outspoken boy. Enrique blathers on and on, speaking in the particularly annoying version of Spanglish which public television producers think is educational, where he drops in a carefully enunciated word, like "casa" here and there. (I do not think this is educational in the least. I think it creates the false impression that children may become bilingual if only they consume enough "Dora the Explorer" products. Learning a few words here and there AND NONE OF THE GRAMMAR is witless, leaving a child with a Spanish vocabulary of about 15 nouns, no verbs, no adjectives, no adverbs, and no ability to put two words together).

So thanks a lot, "Dragon Tales." You completely cut the ovaries out of Emmy and turned her into a boy-following, older boy-worshipping little loser. The show suffers as a whole, and little girls have lost their spunkiest public television role model.

On a less gender-charged note, the Canadians have screwed up their main public television export, "Caillou", as well. "Caillou" is a very ugly little bald boy with beady eyes, a four year-old who is not particularly advanced or lovable. (Everyone is drawn ugly in "Caillou"; the mother's hideous green shirt with a floppy collar makes me want to poke my eyes out. I hate the limited color palette, with its over-recurring one ugly shade of green, royal blue, and basic red. Give me some beige, people! The world is filled with browns and blacks and purples, put some in, dammit! I thought I hated pastels, but after being subjected to "Caillou", I'll take the world of "My Little Pony" as eye candy).

"Caillou" used to alternate between animated stories of this extremely whiny, hairless Canadian boy and between incredibly charming puppets. The puppets were supposed to be Caillou's cat, Gilbert, a lizard, and something else which I never quite figured out, and this was beautiful and weird. When first Iris and then Lola were fans of Caillou, I would genuinely put down my book/newspaper/whatever and watch with enjoyment during the puppet segments. The atmospheric lighting, the charm of the puppets: we were enthralled.

But the "Caillou" people cast about for something idiotic to replace this endearing and well-executed puppetry with, and they fell upon the idea of recruiting some children and drilling them, in the manner of the foul "Barney" program, in little dances and songs. Now we have no more magical puppets; we have zombie children jerkily dancing and singing. Feh.

All that is left to me in children's television which is not insufferable is "Arthur", but that, thanks to the programming geniuses at KQED is now on at the unwatchable hour of 6:00 AM (KQED, by the way, is comprised of heartless bastards. Iris wrote to them when she was four and they took "Bearenstain Bears" off, drawing funny and fabulous pictures of herself watching "Bearenstain Bears" happily and then crying in front of "Clifford", which replaced them; I threw in an articulate cover letter, if I do say so myself, and NO ONE could be bothered to even send us a form letter in reply. Feh, feh, feh I say. Incidentally my first job out of college was at a public radio station, and one of my primary duties was to respond to each and every letter from the public, so it can be done. I know it can. Needless to say, we had donated before in the past, but not after my child sadly gave up checking the mail for a reply). And what has replaced "Arthur" during the magical time when Iris is chivvied out of bed and directed to pull on her school uniform, which used to be done before the bribe of "Arthur" to distract her from the warm, cozy glories of her bed? "Barney." Jesus wept.