Tuesday, January 30, 2007

hacked widgets, cleanses, and husbands worried about cats

No one seems to have noticed the passing of my Cocktail Widget, the cocktail recipe du jour which my friend Janababy found for me and which graced this blog for some time. I'm mourning its loss myself, but it had to be killed off. It started out with interesting and believable cocktail recipes, even one called the Felix which I was dying to try myself. But I noticed its language got overly slangy and full of errors. Then the last straw occurred: the widget provided a receipe for a Lemondrop (a perfectly acceptable cocktail I myself have been known to toss back from time to time). This Lemondrop recipe called for four shots of frozen vodka and a box of icing sugar (confectioner's sugar, if you please). The instructions were to toss back the shots of vodka and then lick one's fingers and stick them into the box of icing sugar (albeit it was all phrased less elegantly and grammatically). Either the widget site was hacked, or its owner had lost his mind.

If the Drunken Housewife is anything, she is a Liquor Purist, a Drinks Snob who is practically unbearable, and hence the cocktail of the day recipe was promptly killed. Requiescat in pace, dear Cocktail Widget. If I were not so lazy, I could post a cocktail recipe of the day myself. Posting a cocktail of the week might be more feasible, but that project shall wait because.... I'm not drinking at the moment. As a hairdresser acquaintance of mine says, "I am having a cleanse."

I think it's time for my poor old liver to have a rest. Last year, I held a Month of Health, during which month I didn't drink and I ate sensibly, according to the Weight Watchers' guidelines. I planned to do this again this year, and I realized that a week had gone by without any drinking (I got that week of no drinking as sort of a freebie from being sick). So, I think I'll carry on for another three weeks. The month of non-drinking idea stems from a doctor friend telling me over a decade ago that the early stages of cirrhosis can be reversed by just not drinking for a month (this doctor friend, who was a drinking friend, went on to share unsolicitedly that the both of us undoubtedly were in those early stages of cirrhosis).

Not drinking feels easy today: overcome by a fit of nausea and a pounding headache, I asked the Sober Husband to call a friend whose child is in the same gymnastics class and beg her to give Lola a ride. While we were waiting for the friends to come, Lola said to me confidentially, "I have an idea. When they are coming, I want you to wear something fancier! While we are waiting, you go put on something fancier!" I guess my Boston University t-shirt and sushi print pajama pants were just not up to par. I managed to pull my black silk robe with the embroidered dragons on it on, and Lola gave me a thumb's up. As she drove away, Lola called to me, "Remember, when they come back, be wearing something fancy!"

And if the idea of a fancy yet sober Drunken Housewife drying out seems unlikely to you, consider this: the Sober Husband showed concern and caring for a cat. When Iris Uber Alles and I have her pet rats out for quality time, we always put I.U.A.'s large, fluffy cat in a closed room. Lola's cat, Al, is too feeble mentally and physically to serve much of a threat, and the third cat, Rachel, is a more intellectual cat who understands that the rats are members of the family and that she is not permitted to harm them. (I would not leave her unchaperoned with them for a minute, but she knows not to bother them when someone's watching). Frowsty, however, is an untamed spirit and a bold hunter, and the other night, we closed him in the downstairs bathroom (which is where the cats' litterbox, food, and water are kept). However, we forgot to open the door again. In the morning, the Sober Husband found Frowst in the backyard, curled up on a deck chair. "He spent the night outside," the S.H. said accusingly many times to me. "I found him trying to keep warm on a chair."

"Eh, he's got plenty of fur," I said.

And there you have it: the Drunken Housewife, strangely sober, evidencing less concern for a cat than the cat-hating husband. What will happen next?

don't channel Paris Hilton in the WSJ

There's a large ad in my Wall Street Journal for a company which is "Transforming IT Management":

"This is hot. CA software solutions have been rated as industry leaders a dozen times."

"This is hot"??? That is supposed to make CEOs and CTOs sit up and take notice and make people like the Sober Husband (this very minute out at a Silicon Valley start-up job interview) want to work there?

to the bone

"I'm bling bling to the bone!" pronounced seven year-old Iris Uber Alles.

"I don't even know what that means," said forty year-old Anton.

"Everyone has to be 'to the bone.' I'm bling bling to the bone! Frowsty* is beautiful to the bone!"

Intrigued, I asked, "What am I 'to the bone'?"

Silence, followed by a diplomatic "I don't know yet."

* Frowsty = Iris's fluffy black cat

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Oh Yeah Oh Yeah Rock On

Yes, this is exactly how Iris Uber Alles and Lola behave all the time: singing so adorably until the sibling rivalry flares up.

Friday, January 26, 2007

oh, the unanticipated benefits of illness

Your Drunken Housewife is sick: sick enough to not have had a drop of alcohol in days (you know I'm really sick when I don't want a glass of wine in the evening), sick enough to just want to lie around having the odd swig of Nyquil and coughing. I've been around small children hacking their guts up for weeks, and finally I've succumbed to whatever upper respiratory bug is de rigeur these days. (Disgusting sidenote-- and STOP READING NOW if you are fastidious: Lola hacked up a piece of phlegm for the first time in her short life, and she burst out into freaked-out tears. It took some questioning for us to establish what had occurred. "There was something in my mouth!" she cried. Oh, the grossness of life, my poor Lola, you're only starting to learn. It reminded me of the first time poor toddler Iris Uber Alles vomited. She had this astonished "what the fuck" look on her face as she repeatedly projectile vomited).

But there is no cloud without a glorious golden lining, and mine is that the Sober Husband took Lola to the pediatric dentist for her Very First Fillings this morning. This dental practice is big on a ritual I call Shaming The Parents, where the personnel roll their eyes, lean against the cabinets and sigh after asking a series of questions aimed to shame: "You do time brushing her teeth, don't you? You have a timer you use? You do floss her teeth every day, don't you? How often do you floss her teeth? You do apply the fluoride gel to her molars, don't you? Why not?" I wouldn't be surprised if they were to pull out a version of "The Big Book Of British Smiles" the next time we're there. The hygienists and the dentists alike pull this, and Iris Uber Alles and I pine away for our beloved lost dentist, the goddess of all teeth, Dr. Judy Huey, who moved to Scottsdale and who never made her patients feel like disgusting dental losers who are wastes of perfectly good toothpaste and who should be eliminated from society to make room for those with better teeth.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I usually hate these things and musings on True Love

but this one was dead on for me, unlike most of these little bagatelles:

Your Love Life Secrets Are

Looking back on your life, you will have a few true loves.

You're a little scarred from your past relationships, but who isn't?

You expect a lot from your lover - you want the full package. You tend to be very picky.

In fights, you seek compromise and back down from conflict. You always try to smooth things out.

Getting over a break-up doesn't take long. Easy come, easy go.

The only thing which is off-base is the judgment that "you seek compromise and back down from conflict. You always try to smooth things out." Ha, the Sober Husband wishes I backed down from conflict. I wasn't a litigator for nothing. We actually do get along very well day in and day out, but it's not from any fear of conflict.

The things which are surprisingly true and dead-on are the judgments that I would have a few True Loves and get over losing them well. That has been the case (although given the amount of interdependence we share, I would NOT get over the Sober Husband easily and will endeavor not to be in that position. We're what the codependent people call "enmeshed", all right. It's a complex business, keeping our carefully cosseted children, pets, and insane mortgage all on track, and it requires more than one grown-up to keep it all functioning).

The first time I fell in love and had my heart broken, I believed that I was destined to live a loveless life from then on. I thought that not everyone falls in love and that, for the ones who are fortunate enough to fall in love, that there is just one True Love apiece. If someone, like me, didn't manage to make a life with their love, then that was it. That person had been extremely lucky to find their one person and fall in love, but that was the end of their luck. (In retrospect, this was an artifact from my own rather loveless childhood, and perhaps, more positively, due to my parents' relationship dating from their own high school years).

My teen-aged nephew came to visit us the year before last, and he was brooding over the end of his first relationship. He expected us to feel sorry for him over this when he referred to it self-pityingly at the dinner table, and he was visibly shocked when Anton barked at him, "So you had your heart broken? Get used to it!" with a humorless laugh.

A bit more gently, I elaborated: "At your age, it's extremely unlikely that you're going to stay with the person you are with for ever. Probably not even 1 percent of sixteen year-olds stay with their high school girlfriend. You're going to be in lots of relationships, and you're going to get dumped and you're going to dump people."

"So get used to it!" Anton interjected again (the man clearly has some baggage from his own teen years which is best left unexamined). Our harsh advice had a salutary effect upon my nephew, who could be seen to enjoy the thought of dumping someone else in the future. It's a wonder more people don't turn to us for romantic advice.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

fabulosity in fur

The last of our foster kittens from 2006, Crazy Horse (also called "Silk Horse") is going up for adoption tomorrow at the San Francisco Animal Care & Control.

Crazy Horse earned her name due to her beauty and her proud spirit. She's an unusually silky haired, fluffy black kitten with bright green eyes. The Horse is an extremely affectionate kitten, good with children, grown-ups, and other cats. This entire litter was unusually intelligent and loving; their mother must have been an outstanding feral cat, indeed (this litter was discovered in the Mission Terrace neighborhood; I had them since they were just learning to walk). Her sisters were adopted by the charming and talented D.J. Mermaid, whose life is now even more filled with furriness and love.

Stop by the ACC at 15th and Harrison and check out Animal # A225875. Spread the word!

a suspicious Lola

Lola watched a little bit of the Teletubbies this morning, and she was charmed by seeing multiple Laa Laas splayed across the screen. "Look! Four Laa Laas!"

"Hey, imagine if we had four Lolas!" I said.

She immediately frowned and folded her arms in front of her chest. "I wouldn't like that."

"Why not? Imagine four Lolas! We could have so much fun!"

Lola kept frowning.

"We could have a team! A team of Lolas!"

With a huge expression of distaste, Lola said darkly, "I wouldn't be surprised."

"Fat Girl" and the sense of smell

On Saturday I finally got around to reading "Fat Girl" by Judith Moore, a very brief memoir. I had been meaning to read this since I'd seen Ms. Moore's obit, which praised this book to the skies. It was a painful, messy read, dragging one along through Moore's hideous childhood.

There are a lot of brilliant things about this book, but I'm never going to read it again, and I don't want to keep it in my house, either. I don't want to feel like poor Judith Moore again, although, like Moore, "I am not that pleasant. The older I get the less pleasant I am."

My favorite part of the book was the introduction:
I am fat. I am not so fat that I can't fasten the seat belt on the plane. But, fat I am. I wanted to write about what it was and is like for me, being fat.

This will not be a book about how I had an eating disorder and how I conquered this disorder through therapies or group process or antidepressants or religion or twelve-step programs or a personal trainer or white-knuckling it or the love of a good man (or woman). This will be the last time in this book you will see the words "eating disorder. . . .

I know, from being thin and listening to thin people talk about fat people, that thin people often denigrate fat people. At best, they feel sorry for them. I know too that when a thin person looks at a fat person, the thin person considers the fat person less virtuous than he. The fat person lacks willpower, pride, this wretched attitude "self-esteem," and does not care about friends or family because if he or she did care about friends or family, he or she would not wander the earth looking like a repulsive sow, rhinoceros, hippo, elephant, general wide-mawed flesh-flopping flabby monster.

Among other things, Moore made me once again extremely grateful that I have a very limited sense of smell. Over the years, many tactless people have informed me how very unlucky I am not to have a keen sense of smell and just how much my life is tragically blighted as a consequence, but I firmly maintain that there are many more bad smells in the world than good ones, and if I run across a nice one, I can ram my nose right up into it and huff away and therefore get some little bit of smelling joy into my usually odorless life. Moore must have had an excellent sense of smell, and she certainly was able to convey it, and after reading about all those body odors and cooking smells, I didn't even want to think about smelling anything, much less actually catch a whiff of anything.

Just as I was finishing up "Fat Girl" in bed Saturday night, the Sober Husband started putting the moves on me. There is not much I can think of which is a more powerful antaphrodisiac than reading "Fat Girl." All I wanted was to retreat to a clean, white, odorless, foodless, empty sanctuary and cleanse my body and soul, NOT enter into a world of secretions and odors and terrible, terrible flesh.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

we're on a first name basis

This is another in an Occasional Series: Reader Requests. Hughman requested that I write about why Iris Uber Alles (and yes, I know about the umlaut but I'm just too lazy right now to figure out how to do it on this keyboard) calls us, her parents, by our first names.

I've never had a name I felt comfortable using for either parent. We weren't really close, and it always felt strange to call them "Mom" or "Dad"; those names seemed too intimate for the relationship. I remember my mother hissing at my sister and me once, "Don't you ever call me Mama" (pronounced "Mumma" in our neck of the woods), which was weird because I don't think it had ever slipped across our lips. I largely avoided calling them anything.

Currently they use their first names in correspondence and over the phone, and that just feels weird to me. I can't bring myself to speak their first names, which makes sense to me. After all, my mother felt very strongly when I was a child that I was not allowed to call any grown-up by a first name. This was particularly awkward when I was in my later teens and one of my mother's closest friends of the time insisted I call her by her first name. If I called her "Mrs. Friend", she'd be offended and say, "Oh, call me Mary." If I dared speak her first name, I'd see the glare of my mother (who had no shortage of time or energy for punishing me). So she became another adult I had to address without using any name.

When I became a parent, I didn't have strong feelings about what my children should call me, except that I preferred them to stay away from "Mom", which felt overly associated with my own mother. One of Iris Uber Alles's first words was "ma ma", which made me happy. Anton, who would like to be his father if he could, decisively plumped for "Daddy" from the onset, which was what everyone called his father.

Pretty much as soon as toddler Iris Uber Alles learned to speak our first names, she often used them, but not exclusively. Being an imaginative child, she also bestowed a series of nicknames onto us. As a two year-old, she called me "Mommymama", which I loved, but Anton glommed onto it and bugged her to call him "Daddydada", which cheapened "Mommymama", and both fell into disuse. She dubbed herself "Muggie", and for a while, she called me "MommylovesMuggieFisheater", scandalized at age 2 1/2 by seeing me eat some crab. Around the age of three, she called me "Momo", which I liked very much, but which she dropped after starting preschool and having the other little kids ask, "Momo? Who is Momo? Why is she calling you that?"

Of course, she still at times called us by our proper names, and her preschool reinforced this. Both my children have been enrolled in parent cooperative preschools, nonprofit descendants of the progressive education movement. In parent co-operatives, the parents are required to work regular workshifts alongside a few professional preschool teachers, and at the co-ops we know, the children are led to call the working parents by their first names (although, as Iris was a more memorable personality at her preschool, the other little kids there often tended to call me "Iris's mommy", which was fine by me).

It's easy to read Iris: when she wants to suck up to me, she calls me "Mommy" or by a cute nickname (currently she likes to call me "Flatfoot" affectionately), and when she doesn't, she calls me "Carole." I find this a useful barometer. On the other hand, Lola, a product of the same liberal San Francisco co-op preschool environment, calls us "Mommy" and "Daddy" almost exclusively.

Even in San Francisco, it's shocking to some to hear a child use an adult's first name. We've had numerous double takes and appalled looks over the years. Possibly the most judgmental on this point was an elderly artist, owner of a house we went to see when we were looking for a larger home. This house was probably at some point in time a beautiful house of the sort sometimes called Rousseauvian, with a weird little courtyard so small as to be unusable for more than a light well, and strangely shaped rooms. It was all quite filthy and in bad repair, but so large and in such a great location, and I was imagining what it could be.... until I found the tampon. There was a dried out used tampon next to one of the beds, and irrational as it may seem, the house was thereafter The Old Dried-Up Tampon House and I just wanted to flee. Anton argued with me that it was "a piece of art", but I said, "I know art and I know tampons. That is a tampon." As we were leaving, Iris called my attention to something, and the owner, who was supervising our showing to the real estate agents' palpable dismay, said, "Did she just call you 'Carole'?" She sniffed judgmentally and looked down her nose. "Is she two? And she calls you 'Carole'?" Whatever, old hag, at least no one's going to find used tampons lying around in my house, was my thought.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

the beautiful princess

Lola's song:

"The beautiful, beautiful princess, she was pretty as ...

[Lola pauses to think, then finishes triumphantly]

...a whale!"

Thursday, January 18, 2007

ten years and counting

So the Sober Husband and I celebrated the tenth anniversary of our forming what should have been our partnership in crime, but which has instead turned out to be a partnership of virtue, industry, and restraint in the service of our child overlords.

Gifts bestowed upon the S.H. by me: 18 volt cordless DeWalt drill, faux suede hat with earflaps (we're having a cold snap), and a refillable butane lighter (for miscellaneous fires, not cigarettes).

Gift bestowed upon the D.H. by the Sober Husband: the dining room print I've been wanting in a series by a local artist (I have the kitchen print hanging in my kitchen, the bedroom in my bedroom, and the bathroom print in the downstairs bathroom).

We went to one bar/restaurant, one just plain bar, one bar/cafe, a library (yes, a library, where I scored the new Richard Stark and the husband got a heavy tome on medical bioethics), and a nightclub.

Highlight for the Sober Husband: we had sex in the nightclub bathroom. (It would have been the more obscure stacks at the library, but it was too close to closing time).

Highlight for the Drunken Housewife of the rare outing sans children: as we were arriving at a fashionable new nightclub downtown, the two bouncers, one male, one female, rotely asked for I.D. The female bouncer immediately did a double take, noticing my tattooed cleavage, and said, "Don't show me your I.D., show me your tits!" I pulled down my low-cut neckline further to reveal a red push up bra, and she threw her head down and nuzzled into my cleavage, kissing my right breast.

Yes, indeed it has come to this: having an anonymous stranger feel me up is more exciting than actually having sex. As I remarked to the husband, I have sex with him all the time, but it's been years since I've been out of the house in a low-cut shirt and had a stranger get so excited about my tits. (Fittingly enough, his strongest memory of that fateful night ten years prior was taking the excuse of assisting me with a nametag to feel up my left breast).

how not to talk to a small child

Today as I was walking along a trail in Glen Canyon, one of the children from Lola's preschool saw a woman clipping the fur of her large, shaggy dog. (Incidentally this answered a question I've been pondering for some time, which is "where do those big clumps of hair come from? It's not the red-tailed hawks leavings' or there'd be bones in there. It's not human. What the hell is it and why is there so much of it?"). He ran up and asked her, full of beaming, friendly curiousity, "What are you doing to that dog?"

The woman, a middle-aged nondescript person, shouted at him (she seemed to be adapting the turn-up-the-volume approach stupid people have towards talking to foreigners to talking to children), "What does it look like I'm doing? I'm cutting his hair" rudely.

"Does that hurt him?" the little boy asked nicely enough.

The woman laughed snidely and shouted, "DID IT HURT YOU WHEN YOU HAD YOUR HAIR CUT?" (A more observant person would have noticed the long, shaggy hair on this child and realized he probably had no memories of having his hair cut). "DOES IT LOOK LIKE I'M HURTING HIM?" She gave a fake laugh and shook her head at the child's ignorance, muttering about what a stupid thing to ask.

How cold does someone have to be to be so rude to a polite child? Okay, littering dog-owner, so you won a war of words with a four year-old. I wouldn't place money on you outwitting seven year-old Iris Uber Alles, though.

Iris picks a winner

First I would like to say thank you for your time to the people who tried to think of a name on Drunken Housewife's blog. And now I will tell the public who the winer is. And that is... Iris uber alles! And wait there is still more good news! Their will be prise, and that is that sillyak will be able to ask his questons! Love Iris Uber alles.

An aside from the Drunken Housewife: Iris Uber Alles had a lot of difficulty deciding on a winner. She loved many of the names, except Bossy Older Sister, which I think hit too close to home (she denies being bossy) and also over-emphasized her relationship to Lola, whom she'd like to vote off the island. Silliyak's prize is an interview of our young tyrant!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

the most fascinating subject

"Let's talk about my favorite thing in the world," Lola said to her father.

"And what would that be?"


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

it's been ten years

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the day on which the better half and I formed that social bond known as being a couple. It was the day I had to do that horrible ritual, the Dividing Up Of The Stuff, with Husband 1.0 (I had filed for divorce already, but it took him some time to find a new apartment, during which point we lived together more peacefully than pre-filing for the most part). Stressed from squabbling over the CD's and liquor, I called a cab at nearly midnight and took off alone for a party I'd heard about (a friend I'd intended to go with was sick). There, with no intention of finding a new husband, but only shallow hopes of cheap sex and liquor, I ended up with the man who has become known as Husband 2.0, and the next thing you knew, I had two children, a giant mortgage, and no career.

We rarely get out without the children. We used to have a delightfully responsible and personable transsexual babysitter once a week for date nights, but our babysitter got out of the babysitting business, and economic realities caused us not to get a replacement. We formed the resolve to live within our means, which meant, amongst other things, not paying babysitters the going San Francisco rate of (brace yourself for it) $15 per hour. Last year we did find a pair of fabulous and glamorous teenaged twins whom the children worship and who come for a combined rate of $10 per hour, but they are extremely busy with their sports teams, academic work, and social lives, so they are available to babysit about three or four times a year, it seems. (It's not that they hate our children. They play a LOT of sports).

I am aware of the fact that I could trade babysitting with other parents. I used to do that on a regular basis back when I had just the one child. The problem is that then I have to reciprocate and babysit someone else's child, and invariably Iris and Lola are total pills and do nothing but complain about the Alien Invading Child Who Steals Mommy's Attention And Touches Our Toys. Plus, I can't handle a ratio of too many children to one aging housewife that often. I do regular shifts at a co-op preschool, and that's enough for my fraying nerves.

Anyhow, so my dating instincts are completely atrophied. Anton has arranged for a friend to watch our hellions for four hours, and there appears to be nothing for us to do. The man is completely clueless and without ideas. I did think of attending the Crucible's fire ballet, but it's completely sold out. Sometime ago we were planning to go to Barcelona for this anniversarsary, but that fell through when the husband's second start-up failed (before paying us $25k in back wages, aaarggh).

It has been suggested to me that we go rent a hotel room or a hot tub somewhere, but eh, we have already had plenty of sex this week. (Sex and drinking: these things occur regularly, albeit with small children on the premises, usually lightly dozing in the next room). Not to mention that we have a four hour window for this potential date and we're not going to have four hour sex. It has been TEN YEARS. It's not the same exciting voyage of discovery and learning each other's bodies it was back in the last millennium. Plus, since I've gained weight and had two children over that decade, there are whole sections of my body I don't want explored. If it has a stretchmark on it, it wants its privacy).

I guess seeing "The Good German" is going to be it, but then we'll both go home wanting to have sex with Angelina Jolie instead of each other. Oh, well. (Incidentally, if anyone has any ideas for interesting presents suitable for an overeducated geeky guy, please drop me a line in the comments. I'm usually the queen of gifts, but I just got him the books & ipod he wanted for Christmas, and he hasn't had time to work up any new cravings since then).

it's a dangerous place, the breakfast table

"Get me a fork!" four year-old Lola demands.

"Say please."

"Please.... or I'll whack you," followed by an evil chuckle.

Monday, January 15, 2007

guest appearance by seven year-old Iris

As a person in the family, I am the older sister in the family. And I think I should have a special name too, such as Drunken Housewife or Sober Husband. So I think there should be a contest on who thinks of the best name, because I can't think of one. I will choose the wining name.

Iris tells it like it is

Me: "Brush your teeth, children!"

Iris, to me, her mother: "You, brush your humanity! Brush your dignity!"

San Bruno is no place for one with delicate sensibilities

Pathetically enough, I don't go beyond the city limits of San Francisco all that often. In my youth, I was a bit of a world traveller, but these days I have two small children and a hefty mortgage, so flying about is usually out of the question, plus my children absolutely suck in the car ("Are we there yet? How 'bout now? I'm bored! I DROPPED MY SIPPYCUP! I want different music! Lola spilled her drink all over the floor! Are we there yet? LOLA TOUCHED ME! NO TOUCHING!! I'M TELLING!") so road trips are really out of the question.

Anyhow, I've become so spoiled in my multicultural, leftist, little foggy paradise here in oh so many ways. My children, who are native San Franciscans, are even more spoiled, having never faced the adversities of a hard Maine winter or a brutal Filipino typhoon or the poverty of a penniless grad student or sitting through long sermons or any other significant hardship.

Lately we've just started weekly swimming lessons for Lola down the peninsula in San Bruno, and just a trip to San Bruno is testing our fragile San Franciscan nerves. "It's so far," frets Lola. "It is too far from our house! It will take FOREVER to get home to our house."

After the swimming lesson, the children refused to get into the car without having first been taken to a restaurant or cafe. "We're huuuuungry," they whined. We all walked down to Never Too Latte, choosing an independent cafe over the giant new Starbucks across the street. First, the two twentysomething suburban rock chicks working there completely ignored us (one was a Goth waif, the other a beefier heavy metal chick). They got really excited when a male friend of theirs walked in behind us, one of them pressuring him to tell who he was talking to on his celphone and the other one begging him to place his order. At this point, I decided I was going to go to Starbucks, but the friend displayed some gallantry and pointed at us, indicating we were before him (as would be obvious to even the most stupid). At this point, the heavy metal chick agreed to take our order (the Goth one never acknowledged our existence). I ordered a double, low fat latte. This taxed the intellect of the heavy metal enthusiast, who had numerous questions. Then I ordered a bagel for the children (the metal girl was unable to handle taking a multi-part order at once).

While the children were eating their bagel and I was sipping my latte, I saw the Goth one blow her nose by blocking one nostril with a finger and blowing hard. Snot flew out towards a distant trashcan. She then went back to making a sandwich, without washing her hands or putting on little food prep gloves. I pushed my latte away, having lost all appetite.

On our way out of town, we were almost creamed by a car which blew through a stop sign. My nerves, positively shattered, were calmed by returning to my nice, safe, cosy San Francisco neighborhood (okay, to be honest, we have stop sign runners here as well, but snot flinging and failing to wash the hands? One would be run out of the Castro for such behavior). It's just not safe out there for the fragile, people.

Friday, January 12, 2007

about the cats

An anonymous commentator asks the Sober Husband, "I would like to know why the Sober Husband dislikes cats? (Unless this is a topic which would cause contention - but I am genuinely curious.)" Seeing as how this is Ask The Sober Husband Day, an answer was forthcoming. However, unlike the prior questions answered by the Sober Husband, I take issue with many declarations presented as fact in his answer, which are in actuality false! false! false! and therefore I have had to interject some actual common sense into the matter (see the footnotes). Anyhow, herewith I present to you the Sober Husband, discoursing upon cats:

I do not dislike cats. I love and respect them.* I appreciate their gracefulness, their prowess as predators, their delicateness, and their cuteness. I just don't like having them around the house.

They destroy property. They make the house stink.** They keep me awake at night. They coat the house in hair. They bloody my legs when I'm sitting at the table.*** They make me sneeze. They cost money.

Worst of all, we suffer these cat problems in proportion to the number of cats in our house, and my wife is always trying to bring in more.*** She tells me that some cat or other is temporary, and then begs to keep it after she has become attached to it. She frequently***** pleads that some cat or other is special and therefore should live with us. She thinks cuteness outweighs every practical concern. She would be a cat hoarder if I did not restrain her.******

Last month we had one that was listless, and so she spent $400 to receive advice that she should spend a further $1000 on cat dental work.****** If you love a cat, you can hardly let it die over money. And I'm not made of money. So we need fewer cats.


The cats carry ringworm, a stigmatized skin disease that infects humans*******. It is spread by spores, and it has become endemic to our house. We're obligated to disclose it to our guests and to the schools. Our daughter has a splotch of it on her face.

What would you sacrifice to save a cat? Would you mark your child's face with a communicable disease?

* He let our seven year-old read this, and she said, "But that's a lie! You don't love and respect cats!"

** I clean the litterboxes like a motherfucking OCD patient.

*** The last batch of foster kittens liked to jump into our laps at the table, which I will admit resulted in the odd scratch, but they, not being fools, learned to avoid the Sober Husband.

**** Foster cats come and go, and I have only asked to keep two of the many, many fostered cats.

***** TWICE. TWICE. Is that "frequently?" TWICE over a period of two years.

****** I spent huge amounts of time and energy trying to help save animals rescued from a hoarder in 2006. I am a responsible, sane animal-lover who would NEVER amass an unhealthy number of animals. Yes, I may become a crazy cat lady in my senescence, but a hoarder? Never.

******* The cat was moribund, and for the ~$400 the cat was hospitalized for the day, given IV fluids, given a number of tests involving both blood and urine work, administered both antibiotics and steroids by shots, and given multiple prescriptions. The cat, which had been running a high fever, not eating, and lying still in the closet, was restored to vitality for this. Yes, it is true that the vet is after me to spend ~$1,100 to have the cat's teeth pulled, but that does not discount the value received in needed medical intervention for this one year old cat.

******* It looks like tiny, round patches of eczema. No guest, schoolmate, or neighbor has contracted ringworm.

and yet more from the Sober Husband

It is one of the Occasional Features of this blog that the readers' questions are put to the Sober Husband. Completely coincidentally the Drunken Housewife got very angry, in an unrelated matter, after soliciting questions, and consequently the Sober Husband has, in a conciliatory manner, been working extra hard to get those questions answered. Herewith Another Question Answered By The Sober Husband, this one going out to one of our delightful Texas correspondents, Texzmissy:

My question for the Sober Husband: True or false: You can microwave a cup of water and when you take it out of the microwave, if you are not careful, the water can more or less "explode" and you can get your face burnt with the presumably boiling water.

I say no, but my daughter insists that her science teacher says it's possible. Of course, it could be that the teacher said it was NOT possible, or only theoretically possible, and she wasn't listening, but I'd still like to know.

My first response is that it seems ironic when a science teacher is cited as an authority, especially on a subject that is so easy to explore experimentally. If I were the teacher, I would say: Try and see.

Anyway, I've tried. I have certainly been able to generate fairly violent splatters from a mug of hot water.

The idea is that while boiling requires high temperatures, it also requires sites for "nucleation" of the gas phase, like particles suspended in the water, or rough structures on the surface of the container. If the water is clean and the container is large enough, I think the water may well become "superheated" in the center (hotter than its boiling point) while still not converting into gas. Then when some nucleating material is introduced, like a teabag, there can be lots of thermal energy ready to generate a lot of steam in a short time.

I suspect a lot depends on the oven, the container, the heating time, and the stillness of the water. First, put the container in the oven, wait five minutes for the water to become absolutely calm, and then see how long you have to heat it before it starts boiling. Then, put the exact same amount and temperature of water in the same container in the exact same part of the oven, let it become calm, and heat it for ten seconds less. Leave it in the oven, but drop in a spoonful of sugar.

Let us know what happens.

Please perform this experiment at your own risk. The Drunken Housewife is not responsible for any injuries or damages sustained in the pursuit of science.

guest appearance by the Sober Husband

Which of your children is more like you and which is more like Carole?

Our older daughter shares Carole's aptitude for reading and her social competence. I am a slow reader, and I'm terrible with people.

Our younger daughter enjoys absurdity, as I have enjoyed Monty Python.

But the older one and I watch Dr. Who together, which Carole loathes, and the younger one dotes on the cats, which I resent.

From my perspective, we are all quite distinct individuals.

Are you SOBER sober or just sober?

I am not a teetotaler, but my wife definitely drinks more. I am always the designated driver when we go out, and I never drink alone.

Do you ever do the cooking?

Well, I do prepare food, but I'm not sure one would call it "cooking".

I often make breakfast food, like coffee and toast, and I can pour milk on cereal. I make french toast on the weekends, and pasta on weeknights. When I make food, I always offer some to the wife, but she invariably declines.

Have you ever thought about having your own blog?

I operate many web sites with various kinds of content, but I do not identify myself with any of them personally. I have a work image to maintain.

Whenever I encounter any new professional prospect, I'm certain that the first thing they do is google me. I can not allow these people to learn about me through the lens of personal anecdotes.

If I were to blog, it would have to be on a technical subject, for the purpose of promoting my reputation as an expert. Or it would have to be anonymous, in which case I wouldn't tell you about it anyway.

How do you feel about being married to a woman who is adored by millions? Have you ever been introduced as "Mr. Drunken Housewife"?

I am happy for every bit of success that my wife achieves.

I have never been introduced in that way, but if more people in our personal life knew about her blog identity, then it would surely happen. It's a matter of time.

Did you ever use Mathematica?

Yes, I have used Mathematica many times since its invention twenty years ago. It's a fascinating and useful program. I used it last year for working out the details of some linear algebra I was doing for a machine navigation project.

But when you mention Mathematica, I don't think so much about its usefulness as I think about Stephen Wolfram, the creator of the program. He was a brilliant, promising young scientist, but it turns out that his only substantial contribution to the world is a piece of software. This is something like my image of myself.

My dad was the only man in a house chock full of...uh...colorful women. He was the master of the Smile and Nod when we were all at a 10 and he needed us at a 4. How do you cope being the sole man?

I smile and nod a great deal.

But keep this in perspective. I have to cope with so much in life. The sexual mix of our household per se does not present a challenge.

1: Did you REALLY have sex in a elementry school bathroom?

This is a slanderous rumor. It was a pre-K. I also add that it was at night. And that we did this to escape from an oppressively tedious parent committee meeting. It's only human, like all those Londoners during the blitz.

I want to run away and stop being a grown-up.

Childless people (and some fathers), no matter how old, don't have to be grown-ups. They can have one night stands or go to a bar after work or run off to Burning Man or sneak out of the office early to go to the movies or live on junk food.

Being a mommy forces me into being a grown-up all the time. I remember the first time I had to write a note to Iris's teacher excusing an absence, and I felt like an impostor. It felt so deeply, deeply wrong to be the parent writing the note, not the child asking for the note! (Mind you, I was pushing 40 at the time).

Last night, I lost my temper. I work hard to make nutritious and delightful meals which are suited to the palates of my children and husband, food which is good and comforting but also a reasonably healthy diet, only to have ungrateful children snub the vegetables and argue with my husband over whether it's reasonable of me to require a child to try the fucking roasted carrots (which were magnificent, by the way, and the children in question do not dislike carrots).

Last year we had days of acrimonious discussions in order to create "Family Food Rules", which was supposed to get rid of this issue, but I'm the only one in the world who is interested in abiding by this policy (which everyone signed, including Lola).

I'm sulking upstairs with my laptop, having just informed my husband that "I fucking quit" and "I am NOT having this fucking argument any more" and "you can all eat whatever trash you want for the rest of your lives, I am sick of this." I'm so sick of being a grown-up. (Now, mind you, the husband brings in the cash in our nauseatingly fifties-ish arrangement, and he must, in a supremely grown-up way, worry about financing our menage. But when it's his turn to make dinner, he's been known to call milkshakes or ice cream sundaes an entree).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Questions, anyone?

Once again, I think it's time to return to what will be (until he refuses to participate any longer) an Occasional Feature of this Blog: Questions for the Sober Husband. Ask your questions here, and we'll get him to respond. You don't have to take my word for anything, people; here's your chance to get a second opinion on anything I've said.

the fusspots ate the peas

When Iris was a baby and a toddler, she was the best eater imaginable. She was breastfed to begin with, and when she was an older baby, we carried a little food mill around with us which would convert whatever we were eating into baby food. [Most people feed their children baby food from the store, which smells, looks and (probably) tastes inferior to what the parents are eating. There's a perception that you either buy unblemished organic produce and painstakingly cook, blend and freeze homemade baby food in a nightmare of work, or you conveniently buy the prefab, vile-looking baby foods, but what a truly lazy but yet gourmet parent does is shlep a tiny foodmill about, rendering whatever fabulous food she is eating into baby form]. She grew up loving risottos, frittatas, and all manner of vegetable. The only food she rejected was endive, which was noteworthy, and somewhat understandable, given the bitter flavor.

Then at age five, suddenly she turned into a food fuss. "Green food is not good for me", she said, picking the fresh spinach off the same yuppie pizza she'd devoured before on countless occasions.

Lola was a food fuss from the day one. Later I learned that this was part of her speech problem: children with severe apraxia have difficulty controlling the muscles of their mouths, and this affects chewing and eating as well as speaking. Her speech improved dramatically with intensive, expensive speech therapy, but her food issues remained.

Anyhow, last night this pair of culinary crabs ate peas. They had to be nagged to try them, but once they started, they continued willingly. Herewith my latest service to humanity:

Peas Fit For A Fusspot (from Jack Bishop's Vegetables Every Day, where they are referred to merely as Blanched Peas and where Jack B. explains that this is the very best way to serve frozen peas)

10 oz frozen peas
2 T chopped fresh herbs, preferably mixed, whatever you have around (I had sage, parsley, and basil, and conveniently I needed one cup of mixed fresh herbs for my pasta entree, and it was no effort to do a bit more for the peas. What's more, fresh herbs normally stand out as a splash of color, attracting the attention and scorn of the fusspot, but here they have protective coloration and hence add flavor without being observed by the normally keen eye of the child fusspot)
1 T butter

Bring a pot of salted, water to a boil. Add the peas and boil for two minutes. Drain and set aside (I shocked them with cold water so they wouldn't get mushy). When you're ready to serve them, melt the butter in a saute pan, add the peas and herbs, and cook just until they're hot. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

the magic of squealing

Tonight I was driving the children home after an exhausting day, and Lola was complaining. "I had a rough day." It turns out that at her playdate, Lola "wanted to watch TV, but she made me play with her toys."

"Were the toys cool?"


Lola also expressed the complaint that her little friend had been rude to her (although give that she also expressed the worry that her friend would think Lola wasn't really a friend, I suspect the alleged rudeness was bilateral, to say the least). Here big sister Iris jumped in with some advice:

"Lucy, you're going to have to get used to rudeness. EVERYONE is going to be rude! What you have to do is squeal."

"I always do squeal."

(By this point, I was riveted and, not wishing to interrupt the flow of conversation, remained silent behind the wheel).

"By squealing, Lucy, I mean tell the teachers. Tell EVERYONE. That is what I always do. That is squealing."

Lucy made admiring noises, and Iris continued on. "I always squeal. Squealing works! But once one of my friends squealed on me, and I was hating on it. It was really her fault. She was wrong."

Believe me, this is not how they were raised.

the Dutch, such an admirable people

I once spent a week in Amsterdam, and I was astonished at how fabulous and nigh-flawless Dutch society seemed to me. It seems as though the Dutch have solved the modern and urban problems which so plague American cities. Even the junkies were presentable and not begging for change. Everyone seemed so well-educated (the average Dutch person appears to be multilingual and highly versed in history, not to mention polite as all get out). I stumbled upon a huge, open air book market, and I so strongly wanted to become Dutch and stay there forever. The drug problems, the crime problems (yes, I know there is crime in the Netherlands, but I'll take the very worst neighborhoods of Amsterdam over the killing zones in Richmond and Oakland, any day), prostitution, environmentalism: everything seems so tidily sorted out. (Incidentally last year I planted tulip bulbs, but they won't thrive in my mild climate. It turns out you need a frost to shock them into a true hibernation in order for tulips to excel. I may or may not see mine again this spring, but I knew that when I planted them. I figured I'd try to enjoy what I got, seeing as how I am too lazy to dip up the bulbs and put them in my refrigerator for three months like a true gardener would).

The long arm of the Dutch has reached out and tapped me on the shoulder, and I've started doing more housework. Why? Self-absorbed as always, not to mention always attempting, in my poseur way, to be international, I noticed there was a sizeable influx of Dutch readers, and I followed them back to this saucy Dutch website*, where, as best as I can determine, someone recommended me to the other readers as a good source of unimportant information (and yes, that does not insult me. It's a pretty accurate description of me. For example, want to know the difference between an aperitif and a digestif? Ask me. Want some useful information? Go elsewhere). The Dutch website taught me that regular housework is likely to reduce my risks of breast cancer. Being fond of my tits (my best feature, aside from my sparkling green eyes--- forget the rest), I have obeyed this Dutch mandate.

We'll see how long it lasts. My history with housework is one of faux feminist-tinged laziness.

*The Dutch website discusses a recent, irritating study showing a significantly lower incidence of breast cancer in women who do regular, significant amounts of housework.

Monday, January 08, 2007

when I think of you

Iris said tonight, "Carole, when I think of you in my mind, I think of you as the mommy who is telling me so many things. I think of you as the Mommy Who Says So Many Things."

I expected her to go on to specify that I should shut up more, but she left it at that.

Lola takes a yuppie swimming lesson

Lola has been on the waiting list for months to take swimming lessons at La Petite Baleen, the yuppie swimming school of the Bayeria. She did her time in parent-child swimming lessons at a public pool, singing songs and being cajoled to blow bubbles, but she was never going to learn to swim that way. It was time to scoop her out of her mother's arms and put her into a more authoritarian atmosphere, where the children are made to swim in short order.

Today was her first lesson. We talked it up ahead of time, explaining how warm and fabulous the water would be, and how she was big enough now to learn to really swim. She seemed excited and enjoyed getting out her sparkly green bathing suit. She didn't cry during the lesson and could be seen singing along to the alphabet song (which is actually highly commendable; her older sister cried at her lessons until I questioned my sanity and parental judgment and dithered about pulling her out. I didn't, I rode it out, because I figured swimming is a survival skill she needed to learn and that if I had her quit, she'd be left with a fear of swimming and the water. It worked out in the end, and Iris wound up loving her swimming lessons, but it was traumatic getttng there).

Afterward, I asked Lola how it was, expecting her to tell me that some of it was fun. "It was terrible," she said.


"It was scary."

"What was scary?"

"All of it. Especially when we had to move along the side of the pool. I wanted you to help me."

"Did you ask the teacher to help you?" (In fact, there were two teachers with these two children, a ratio of one-to-one, so Lola was never ignored for a second).

"I wanted help from Mommy."

"But honey, mommies aren't allowed in this class." [Note: this is true. La Petite Baleen has formulated strict policies regarding parent control. Parents must remain in the waiting area, away from the swimming pool. Parents may observe the class through the glass wall, but they must not interfere or loiter by the pool edge].

"But they said Mommy could help if she wanted to. Mommy could come in the pool and help."

"Who said that?"

(extra mendaciously) "Everyone knows that Mommy could come in the pool and help. Everyone knows that."

I put her on the phone to her father to report on her first swimming class. "It was terrible. It was all scary. They put things on my feet, and they were weird." After complaining more in this fashion for some time, she abruptly commanded, "Call me back when I'm home" and folded up the phone.

I have the impression that it's not going to be easy getting her back down there next week.

quality parenting

The children were playing a game where one was a monster and the other one a giant, and they were talking on their imaginary celphones. I left the room as their playing seemed peaceful, but soon I heard them both shouting, ""I'm going to tell!"

"No, I am going to tell!"


"I'M TELLING FIRST!" They tore upstairs, screaming.

I covered my ears with both hands and chanted, "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU, LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

Lola burst out laughing and was instantly charmed out of her anger, but Iris is made of sterner stuff. She screamed into my left ear as loudly as she could, "CAROLE, LUCY TOUCHED ME!"

Hours later, my ear is still ringing.

parting is such sweet sorrow

So it's time to give my last batch of foster kittens up for adoption. It's in fact high time, as they are well over two pounds (at our kitten rescue, we work by weight, not age. It's just like lobsters, all about the weight). Their cuteness has already peaked, and they need to go before they uglify more.

The problem, of course, is that we are hyper-bonded to these kittens. Known as Love Love, Crazy Horse (also called "Silk Horse"), and Smart Horse, these three little cats have been cavorting around our house for months. I begged Anton to let me keep Smart Horse, offering to go out of the cat fostering thing altogether in exchange, but he was inflexible.

"NO CAT! No more cats! NO NO NO!"

We kept these kittens longer due to one having a touch of the old ringworm, which at our pound, is grounds for euthanasia. Ringworm is merely a fungal infection of the skin; it is not a worm of any sort, and it's a minor nuisance. However, it is highly contagious, spread by spores and surface contact, and it can (and does) spread to humans. Currently our kitten rescue believes that the optimal way to treat ringworm is through sulfur dips, meaning the animal in question is shampooed against its will and then submerged in a bucket of stinking yellow liquid, until, clawing and screaming, the kitten stinks like a rotten egg. I need to give these cats one last sulfur dip for old time's sake before they go, such joy.

To add to my joy, I have to take Lola to the dentist today, and I think she has a cavity. If there's anything worse than being harangued about flossing oneself, it's getting interrogated about flossing one's child. I do make her brush her teeth every day, using toothpaste (Lola resisted toothpaste; an epic battle ensued which lasted for months), and there have been occasions when we've flossed her teeth, but c'mon, people, there is more to life than teeth! My nerves are just not up to the battle required to floss a four year old's baby teeth every day.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

the child is inscrutable

Seven year-old Iris writes on pads of paper and leaves them lying about the house. I picked one up this evening:


I have been to where I am now many times, but I dont have anoufe money to afourd much money for the process, but I may be able to move the building matereals.

"I have been to where I am now many times." Me too, Iris, me too. Likewise, I don't have enough money to afford much money for the process, but you've lost me on moving the building materials.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

the Biosphere

I'm currently reading "The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2" by Jane Poynter, and I'm enrapt. I went to considerable trouble to get this book, which deserves to be ubiquitous (I couldn't find it at bookstores in San Francisco; I attempted to order it at one, who later called me and told me their distributor wasn't getting any more copies. Finally I got it from Amazon.com, and I hate patronizing Amazon, but hey, what can you do when your beloved independent bookstores and then even your local giant chainstore let you down? Even Borders didn't have this book).

I paid very little attention to the Biosphere in the late eighties/early nineties, and I never appreciated the engineering and scientific work which went into it. The building was successfully built to be more airtight than the space shuttle. For the swamp and sea environments, the scientists and engineers felt unequipped to make conscious decisions, so they simply transplanted existing environments as completely as possible. This resulted in some octopi stowing away into the Biosphere, and the octopus is a wily predator. The biospherians were not able to capture the clever octopi, which fed voraciously off the fish intended for the biosphere's residents.

Poynter was charged with determining which insect species to include in the Biosphere (I stopped the book to marvel, They brought insects in with them?), a huge and fascinating task. The decisions were in the end a mix of science and personal taste: giant Madagascar roaches would have been a great choice, as they are efficient at devouring plant material and easily managed, but Poynter and the others balked at the thought of being cooped up with giant roaches. They ended up bringing in four kinds of bees, none of them honeybees, as honeybees would require far too many resources in order to create honey. Consciously bringing stinging insects into a sealed environment is not my idea of common sense. I'd have preferred the giant cockroaches.

she sees dumb people

Four year-old Lola dresses down her forty year-old father, the holder of a PhD in theoretical physics: "You are dumbing every day! You need a brain power machine!"

At bedtime, I overheard Lola shouting at the top of her lungs, "YOU ARE THE DUMBEST DADDY IN FIVE THOUSAND YEARS!" I went in to see what had provoked this, and it turns out that the Dumbest Paternal Act in Five Thousand Years is scratching Iris's back first, before scratching Lola's.

Monday, January 01, 2007

oh, the compatibility

The other night, the Sober Husband (who has been known since Christmas as "Mr. Ipod" as he has become completely obsessed with his ipod) and I were sitting up in bed playing with our gadgets. We both have spanking new laptops, mine a birthday present from the husband and his bought for him by his boss after the husband grew jealous of my lovely laptop.

I was idly surfing the web when, thanks to the geniuses at "The Blair Necessities", I happened upon Lisa 'Blair from "The Facts of Life"' Whelchel's scrapbook account of "When Daddy Fell Off the Roof." It would seem that Lisa Whelchel's born again preacher husband fell off the roof putting up Christmas lights, a feat worthy of Homer Simpson, and Lisa's reaction was to run for her camera and start snapping away. (Now when people in my family have had serious accidents, my immediate reaction has been to toss whatever I'm holding aside, race to the person, evaluate their injuries, and arrange transportation to the nearest hospital. Lisa Whelchel's reaction is to grab her camera and get in the face of any mangled loved ones and crying child bystanders). Lisa later purchased schmaltzy, cutesy-pie stickers and created a hideous, yet compelling, scrapbook account of what was possibly the greatest trauma in her husband's life. I was laughing so hard tears coursed down my face, and I bit my hand to try to get a grip on myself.

This mirth disrupted the studious husband. "What is so funny?" I showed him "The Day Daddy Fell Off The Roof," but he was not amused. "That's not funny! It looks like that man was seriously hurt. Look, there are EMT's there." He sniffed and then complained that my laughter was disrupting him as he was "downloading podcasts of lectures on medical bioethics to put on my ipod." He attempted to engage me in a discussion of the ethics of frozen fetal embryo adoptions, but I chose instead to return to those magical memories Lisa Whelchel had recorded of The Day Daddy Fell Off The Roof.