Friday, July 30, 2010

a parent's nightmare: they are comparing notes

Today we were driving with a little friend of Lola's in the car, and Lola and her friend fell into deep conversation, ignoring Iris and me. Lola's friend shared that she'd gotten her mom to make a "really big brownie", a giant mutant brownie. Lola wanted to know how that was possible, and her friend started to explain. "She made the brownie mix, I don't know how, and then put it all in a big pan.."

Lola interrupted. "No! How did you get her to do it?"

"Oh! I kept asking her, and I said, 'You never bake anything, and you can't make a good cake, and I don't really like cake, and we never have anything baked, and I really need something.' And I wouldn't leave her alone, and I kept asking. I would never leave her alone, not even when she was trying to nap, especially when she was trying to nap." She carried on like that at length, Lola listening attentively, no doubt storing up this child's wisdom.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the morning

Although Iris and I had stayed up after midnight for no good reason, I got up early this morning to get Lola ready for her morning dance camp. Upon awakening I went into the upstairs bathroom, where we are keeping our hardcase feral kittens, to see that they had tipped over the clean sheets and towels onto the floor and scattered the contents of their litterbox about. This was a hideous mess which couldn't wait until after I'd had my coffee, and I started on it immediately. One of the kittens escaped while I was working on this, but I trapped her in the study and left her for later. The other one cried over being left alone. All the while my baby parrot was shrieking like a crow, jangling my uncaffeinated nerves.

Once I got the bathroom reasonably hygienic and fed the kitten in the bathroom, I went down to pack Lola's lunch, and I asked the Sober Husband if he could make Lola get up and get dressed. He didn't see the problem. After all, Lola had slept in the same clothes she wore yesterday to dance camp, so by the Sober Husband's reasoning, she was all ready to go back. I pointed out that she was supposed to dress by theme every day and today's theme was international travel and sent him upstairs. As well as cleaning up after the kittens, I'd dug around in my closet until I found an old scarf of mine with a beautiful print of a map of Africa on it.

While I was still making lunch, the Sober Husband came downstairs. "Lola can't find anything to wear." I went up. Virtually all of the children's clothing was on the floor in a pile. Lola, in her underpants, was hopping around on top of piles of clothing. I enlisted big sister Iris, who pointed out, "Lucy, around the world, everyone wears pants. Just put some pants on." Lola halfheartedly started poking her foot at a pair of pants which were both inside out and backwards. "Lola," I said, "I want to take you back and get a piece of paper that says you are profoundly retarded, to keep with the piece of paper I have that says you are profoundly gifted." The children laughed uproariously at their horrible old mother. I turned the pants right side out.

After Lola refused other suggestions for shirts, I found a "Carnevale di Venezia" t-shirt the Sober Husband was given as a gift from some nuns who were selling clothes on a sidewalk in Venice years ago. I presented this to Lola, who regarded it with suspicion. "Does it have chest hair in it?"

"First off, it is clean. And secondly, if you haven't noticed, your father has very little chest hair."

"Does it have underarm hair in it?" Lola made a face.


After a lot of back-and-forth with Lola over getting her to hold her hair out of the way, I tied the African map scarf jauntily around her neck. By the time she got downstairs, the Sober Husband thought it was time to leave. "Wait! She needs breakfast! She can be a few minutes late to eat breakfast!" Iris and Lola were eager to inform their father of their mother's potentially traumatizing speech: "Momdude said she wants a piece of paper saying Lola is profoundly retarded to keep with the one that says Lola is gifted!"

"Profoundly gifted," I corrected. The Sober Husband gave me a look but spared me any commentary.

"Oh no, she still has face paint on from yesterday," I said as I spotted a little painting of a kitten on Lola's forehead. The Sober Husband got a good grasp on Lola and went after the paint. "Don't get it in my third eye! Be careful of my third eye!" shouted Lola.

"I'm rubbing it right into your chakra," said the Sober Husband as he ground off the old facepaint.

"Ow! My third eye!" mourned Lola.

Lola turned her nose up at cereal and claimed to have developed a fear of toast. Somehow we got her out the door, with Iris helpfully spotting that Lola had left her lunch behind. We caught the errant kitten.

The Sober Husband returned from dropping off Lola, only to accidentally release the same kitten that got out before and to complain that Iris was watching "crappy television." I took a steadying sip of coffee. It was only nine a.m.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Henry's fears

Lola regarded Henry, our three year old tabby. "Henry is afraid of two things: rollerskates and brooms. I caused both fears", she said gravely. After further reflection, Lola added, "Henry is also afraid of being intense. I caused that, too."


Last week I turned in my perfect kittens, my beautiful gray and white darlings, to go up for adoption. When we got those kittens, they didn't want anything to do with people, but they immediately saw the point of living in a house. They had been trapped from a feral cat colony in the city by an intrepid former military man who is that rarest of creatures, a crazy cat man who devotes much of his retirement to kitten rescue. Since these kittens grew very, very slowly (I think they are going to be small cats as adults), we had them for two months, which is really too long because it leads to excessive attachment. Lola and I cried over returning them, and everyone except the Sober Husband wanted to keep one of them (a tricolored tabby called variously "Adventuroso", "Clarice Bean", and "Clementine", the latter two names coming from children's fiction of the spunky little girl genre). By the time they went up for adoption, they were beautiful, sweet kittens who would be a joy in any home.

Then we were asked, as a special favor, to take some difficult kittens. Iris was pushing hard for me to take very small kittens, bottlefeeding kittens, due to their excessive cuteness (of course, bottlefeeding kittens is a ton of work, work which would fall exclusively on poor old Mommy). Instead, we were suckered into taking the hardcases. These kittens are old enough and large enough to be adopted out, but they aren't tame enough.

When Iris and I took a day long class on fostering feral kittens, our instructor was firm. Over and over again she stressed, "When you have these kittens, you need to mark a date on your calendar and keep it. If they aren't tame by then, you have to release them. You can't let that go by." Someone broke that rule, and now these kittens are broken. They are now too soft, from living too long indoors with people, to be returned to their feral colony (where they wouldn't be remembered after months of captivity), but they can't pass the behavioral test to be adopted out as pets.

We're supposed to try to work our magic on them for a week and then return them, at which point supposedly the local SPCA may take them on as a project. It's been no fun whatsoever, just stress and depressing work. First they acted catatonic. They didn't eat for a day and a half after I brought them home and set them up in our upstairs bathroom. They just cowered in a corner, shivering from fear, and staring. After a couple of days of catatonia (if we picked them up, they remained in that catatonic state), they managed to make a break for it due to a child forgetting to close the bathroom door. Thus they were able to spend a day loose in the house. We found them in the traditional hiding place of the feral kitten (and where Ray Charles, RIP, used to hide during Lola's rowdier playdates), in the guts of our dishwasher. Iris's lithe little arm was used to pull them out, which, as always, led to Iris complaining of strained muscles in the neck and shoulder.

After this adventure, they became livelier and took to biting me and the children when we tried to hold them. Iris and I tried a trick from our feral cat seminar, wrapping them up firmly like burritos in towels and holding them down, and in that position, one of them managed to bite my upper arm. On the bright side, they were playing with each other and eating, and they do use a litterbox. Sometimes you can pick them up and they will submit to being held for a while, but after a bit, they thrash violently until they can escape. Yesterday Lola had a friend over, and they were careless, resulting in two kitten escapes. I can't imagine it does anything for these kittens' socialization to have me poke them out from behind the washer and dryer with a broom or have the entire family attempt to dredge them out from under a couch.

Last night Iris and I slept in the big bedroom together with the feral kittens. At times they would climb up and cross the bed, which seemed like progress, tiny progress.

It's been a lousy week. I felt slightly ill for half the week, not sick enough to be able to stay in bed and not do anything, but too lousy to enjoy myself, and these damn kittens have been nothing but stress and work. Given how unrewarding these kittens are to be around, the children aren't particularly interested in helping with them, and I've had to threaten to quit kitten rescue altogether to get any assistance out of Iris and Lola. At the same time, Iris is overly aware of these cats' precarious position, and she keeps haranguing me with difficult and depressing questions. "What will happen to them? No one will want to adopt them, will they? What about the black one? What's going to happen to him? Are they going to be put to sleep? They hate me. Why do they hate me?" There's nothing like holding a struggling, biting feral kitten and being peppered with worrying questions by a concerned ten year-old to make a person with a severe headache and nausea feel comfortable and relaxed.

"Next time I'll give you really cute little ones," promised the head of my rescue.

Monday, July 19, 2010

comment of the week

Our second Comment of the Week winner is Marketeer, for "Actually, Cupy is alive and well and running a coffee shop in Virginia, although he had to change his name slightly." Congrats and thanks for the news on Cupy!

sensitivity to holidays

Yesterday Lola and I were walking down the hill where we live, and Lola showed me a section of sidewalk which frightens her. She explained. "Before I fell on leaves here. I hate those leaves! I really hate them." Lola expounded on the evil leaves at length, denouncing them and the tree from which they fall quite thoroughly. Then she paused. "Of course, I wouldn't say that on Earth Day."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

poignant post-its

This evening I ran across a morbid reminder of the departed Cupy family. Whoever cruelly disposed of the Cupy family while I was in the hospital stacked up the little Post-it notes Lola had attached to them, reading "Cupy", "Cupy Family" (with little flowers drawn all around), "Cupy Jr.", and so on, and left those behind in a corner of the sideboard. It reminded me of the horrible artifacts the Nazis saved, the shorn-off hair and gold fillings.

Why would someone throw away Cupy and his family but preserve the labels? In fear of bringing sentimental Lola to tears, I did not mention this grisly find.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

food or friend?

I took Iris uber Alles down to the Aquarium of the Bay the other day. We had the misfortune of being there at the same time as an exceptionally loud little boy of about nine years old, who was not only exceptional in decibels but also in monotony. Over and frigging over again, with no change in his sense of wonder, this little monomaniac kept shouting, "I WANT TO BARBECUE THAT FISH THERE! WHAT IF WE BARBECUED ALL THESE FISH? SEE THAT FISH? I WANT TO BARBECUE THAT FISH!"

This went on, louder and louder, for half an hour, as Iris and I marveled at all sorts, shapes, and sizes of fish. "My God, Iris, will he ever stop?" I complained. Iris laughed. We agreed that this young fellow seemed rather simple, as he bellowed out his one thought over and over and over again, and his mother made no effort to get him to either lower his voice or change up his conversation.

By the time we got to the sharks, a European tourist snapped and very loudly told this boy off. "FEESH ARE FRIENDS, NOT FOOD!" she lectured. The boy's mother was just as passive in the face of this Euro-activism as she was with all that shouting about barbecuing. Iris and I choked back our giggles.

Although Iris had held her vegetarian stridency in during all that time we'd spent enduring the "I WANT TO BARBECUE ALL THESE FISH" shouting, she let loose on her mother when we walked to the car. "You eat fish!" she said accusingly.

"I do not!"

"I saw you eat a tuna when we were in Panama!"

"That wasn't a tuna, and that was YEARS ago. Why are you nagging me? Why don't you nag your father? God only knows what he eats! He had three hundred dollars worth of sushi a couple weeks ago!" (It always drives me crazy that Iris uber Alles nags me incessantly about my less-than-satisfactory level of vegetarianness and lets her meat-eating father off the hook).

Iris uber Alles was silent for a moment, knocked off stride. "Wait -- that wasn't vegetarian sushi?"

"Iris," I said wearily, "they don't charge hundreds of dollars for cucumber sushi."

Iris took a moment to take that in. Soon restored to her customary aplomb, she resumed her digging at me. "You eat crab!"

the aquarium.

i just wanted to say this because I thought it was very odd:

The Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco now has chinchillas and hedgehogs.

what will humanity think of next?


The animal songs

Today, I was bored. And I was staring at kittens, because they have dominated our house. And all of a sudden I started singing, because, as you know, human intelligence fails per proximity to a cat. Anyways, the song kept going on and on and eventually I decided it was very good and I would write it down:

Kittens Are Small
by Iris

You are kittens you are small
You know kittens are not tall
If you were tall you'd be 6 feet,
and that would not go with the beat.

You are kittens you are small
when you stand up you are tall
but only at the shopping mall,
which is not always fun for all.

Kittens, kittens, are so small,
I wish sometimes that you were all
a bit less short and more a quart.
Because, Because, Because,

You are kittens you are small!

Then I asked Momdude if she had a song for Pigwidgeon, our pet parrot who is supposed to be very smart, yet can not speak. It turns out Momdude did have a song. It went like this;

"You are a bird, you can't say a word, you poor dumb bird."

There was a silence. Then Momdude remarked that her song is the blues. Then I said, "My song is upbeat. Yours is the blues."


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lola Answers Your Questions

Hughman asked, "1. Are you planning on learning to cook like your dear mother once you get the new stove?"

"No, not really. I don't really enjoy cooking, but I like baking cookies."

"2. are you looking forward to one day going to summer camp?"

"Soooort of, but, you know. Yeah."

"3. It sounds like you enjoy acting from your performances at school. would you want to be an actor when you're older? what actors do you like? "

"YES YES YES! [directs mother to type in capitals] I like Angelina Jolie! And Johnny Depp!"

NonymousGoatsePants asked, "If Mom-dude was a shape (Circle, triangle, square, duo-decahedron, etc.), which shape would she be and why? Same question for Dad."

"I think circle because I imagine a circle being nice. And Daddude would be a triangle because triangles look smartsy. I mean square. Yeah."

Christy asked, 1. If you had to eat the same thing every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

"CANDY! But my second choice would be pizza."

"2.What is your favorite book?"

"I have a lot of favorite books, but a lot and a lot more of books I hate. My favorites are any Octonauts books, Clarice Bean books, yeah. I hate and I say hate, so many I can't remember. I really dislike.... Can you really write down what I'm saying?"

"I AM writing down what you're saying."

"But not like 'uh.'"

"Go back to the books!"

"Uhhhhhhhh..... (giggles) uhhh....... I really dislike, um, uh, I have a question."

"What is it?"

"Tough question!"

"What is your tough question?"

"NO! I was saying to the person, 'that was a tough question'!"

"Let's go on to the next one."

Carroll: "What do you like best about living in San Francisco?"

"Probably [long, thoughtful pause], I don't know. There are no chinchillas around here, you know. I mean, also, have you ever seen a chinchilla before? Not in San Francisco at least."

"But what do you like about it?"

"Well, I like the, uh, good building things?"

"Do you have anything else to add, Lola?"

"There's good cookies."

Friday, July 09, 2010

announcing Comment of the Week and Ask The Lola

For ages I've meant to introduce a "Comment of the Week" feature, since often there are some comments here which are pretty damn amusing (sadly the comments can outshine the content, but I'm not afraid to give credit where it is due). The first Comment of the Week goes to AnonymousGoatsePants, who started out here as a troll sniping at the other commenters and the poor old Drunken Housewife herself. Now he's the alpha troll!

And, upon much pressure, I need to bring back "Ask The Lola." Lola has deigned (insisted) on entertaining your questions once again. Please leave your questions here, and I'll pass them on to her. Why she wants to do this given that she doesn't read the blog, I don't know. Recently I asked her, in a moment of parental caring, whether I'd written anything which bothered her here, and she looked at me blankly. "I don't read it." Then, kindly, Lola reached over and patted my arm consolingly, murmuring, "I almost never check my own blog, either." She's in a helpful mood, though, so come on with your toughest questions!

fading quietly into the background, yer Drunken Housewife

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

dumb arguments I have had with the love of my life

There have been so many, oh so very many, abysmally stupid arguments I have fallen into with the man I consider the love of my life, the father of my children. Herewith, for your amusement, the two stupidest arguments we've had recently:

I. The Fishnets Argument: A ten year-old we know wore a micro-miniskirt and fishnet stockings to an event we attended. The Sober Husband and I argued over whether a micro-miniskirt (the shortness of this skirt cannot be exaggerated) and fishnets are sexy clothing.

Sample dialogue:

Sober Husband (snidely): Maybe it's just you with the dirty mind, who is reading into it.

Me (heatedly): I'd be happy to drive you down to the Tenderloin and show you a ton of whores wearing that same outfit on the job!

Sober Husband (loftily): What if I could tell you that dressing like that was the very best way of defying authority? Don't you want children to question authority?

Me (becoming incoherent): As a feminist, I'm really troubled by a prepubescent wearing sexualized clothing [raising my voice to drown out repeated accusation that it is only me, with my dirty mind, who sees a micro mini over fishnets as sexual] which is likely to put a little girl in situations she's not prepared to handle!

This argument droned on and on, with neither combatant willing to back down. I am still incredulous that an intelligent man, a man with a Ph.D for God's sakes, would argue so hard that fishnets and a crotchskimmer are fine, admirable clothing for a ten year-old, particularly since he's arguing with the woman who doles out the fellatio and the food, but there you have it. Outcome: Unsettled.

II. The Relative Intelligence of Parrots: An evergreen, this one never dies completely. Whose parrot is smarter: the Sober Husband's, the crabby twelve year-old Amazon parrot, or mine, the sweet, little one year-old African Grey? Sample dialogue:

Sober Husband (snidely): Your bird is dumb. Mine can talk.

Me (in a feisty manner): Yeah, well, my bird can find her way upstairs! Your bird can't go upstairs alone!

Iris uber Alles (siding with her mother): That's because his bird is too fat! It's too fat to get up the stairs!

Sidenote: As I was composing this piece, I asked the Sober Husband if he could give me some examples of stupid arguments we have, and he said, "How to load the dishwasher." I gave him a look. "That's not a stupid argument; you just won't do it right!" Readers, I submit to you: the man won't follow the simple directives that Tupperware always goes on the top rack, and the non-stick pans are hand-wash only. That's not an argument worth debating; it's someone who refuses to remember two simple rules and damages valuable dishes in his carelessness.

On the brighter side, during the one millionth and one iteration of the Your Parrot Is Dumber argument, the Sober Husband recently had a generous moment and allowed, "Maybe they're both dumb. Maybe my parrot is dumb, too." Outcome: a temporary tie.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

the farewell

Yesterday ten year-old Iris uber Alles set off for sleepaway camp, for the first time. She has never been away from her family so long. Iris did go on a 3 day, two night field trip at the end of fourth grade, with no homesickness at all, but that time, she was with her entire class and all her teachers.

Iris didn't show any signs of reluctance until it was time to say goodbye to her father (who didn't drive down to San Jose to say goodbye, as he had work obligations). It was very hard for her to part from him for a week.

The camp itself is run by the Girl Scouts, and it's in a scenic, secluded spot half a mile from the road. The girls take a 3 hour bus ride from a gathering point in San Jose and then walk the last half mile. Their duffle bags and sleeping bags were shlepped in for them in a sherpa system, which offended the Sober Husband. "They should have to carry that stuff. Toughen them up."

"Iris can't carry that much for that long."

"There'd be even less of her left if she did," cackled the Sober Husband with odd enjoyment. "They'd all get whittled down."

I had trouble trying to find the bus stop. My computer-generated driving directions were useless. We got lost once, but I finally found some likely looking buses, although in a spot which was, based on the numbers, seven blocks from where it should be. "Wait here", I instructed the children, and I hopped out to investigate. The domineering mother of Iris's off-and-on friend who is attending the same camp charged over, "We finally found you!" I braced myself and turned back to the car. "Everyone out! This is it!"

The take-charge mother kept issuing instructions to me, instructions I didn't need. I did ask "where is the check-in desk?", but this prompted a flow of "That is where you take your health form, and you get your bus pass for Iris", which I found maddening. The other mother even somewhat spoiled a surprise I had for Iris, as I was being very secretive about some bulky envelopes I had managed to successfully hide for days, which I was clandestinely dropping off (mail delivery to this camp-in-the middle-of-nowhere is erratic and so the camp offers the feature that you can deliver all your letters ahead of time to be doled out to your beloved child), but the other mother's loud "You DID drop off your packages, right? Like I told you?" tipped Iris off that there were packages in her future.

Lola and I hugged Iris good-bye (Lola's hugs coming over Iris's protests), and we stood so we could wave to her repeatedly. We did a lot of waving, because the buses left fifteen minutes late, due to an epic case of reluctance. One little girl, who looked to be no more than eight, did not want to go to camp. Her mother had no empathy with her, refused to talk to her, did not get down on her daughter's level, but instead indulged in a physical battle with her (the mother keeping an icy smile in place, no doubt for the benefit of the onlookers). The little girl kept taking off her bus pass and daypack, refusing to submit to the yoke of the oppressor, and trying to make a break for it. The mother was physically dragging and fighting with the girl. At one point the mother tried to enlist a couple of counselors, I think hoping they would be like bouncers or asylum attendants and carry off the little girl, but clearly they weren't comfortable with that. They tried speaking to the little girl (which the mother wasn't doing), but they weren't about to grab her.

I was really close by, since Iris was in the back row of the first bus and this little girl's mother was trying to strong-arm her on to the second bus, and I felt sick watching this. I had told Iris that if she changed her mind, she could stay home. I couldn't imagine why it was so important for such a small child to go away from home for a week. Finally the mother managed to physically deposit the child on the bus steps, and then she actually ran away, without saying goodbye, just sprinting out of there. The little girls' feet protruded from the bus. The counselors spent some time talking to her, and eventually the little girl pulled her feet in and gave up. Then the buses were free to leave.

Lola and I walked alongside Iris's bus, waving and waving, until it was gone. We drove home. I felt terrible for that unknown little girl, who fought so hard not to go to sleepaway camp.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Lola vs. The Tiny Art Director

Yesterday we stopped at a bookstore, and I ran across a highly charming book, "The Tiny Art Director: A Toddler And Her Vision" by Bill Zeman. Zeman is a highly accomplished artist, and he has a very demanding little girl for whom he draws. She tells him she wants a picture of a crocodile or something, and he goes off and creates a fantastic painting and comes back, and she shouts at him something like "I hate it! You are so dumb!". Zeman has recorded all these interactions deadpan in his book, listing "The Commission", "The Critique", and the outcome, Accepted or Rejected in forms next to the beautiful, funky art in question. (I found last night that there is a blog about the Tiny Art Director, but the book is much better, as much of the charm is in the large, beautiful pictures and the mock-professional forms recording the Tiny Art Director's commissions and comments, as though these were real submissions to advertising agencies or magazines).

I showed this book to Iris and Lola, who roared and roared. "This is the funniest book I have ever seen!" said Iris. They particular loved one of the Tiny Art Director's critiques, where she said, "You are dumb! Why don't you grow up, Daddy?" The three of us thumbed through the book in perfect harmony, laughing and laughing.

What I liked about it was the bloodthirstiness of the Tiny Art Director (one drawing was rejected because it didn't show enough blood. "Can't you draw blood?"). I've come under some criticism for recording the darker side of Iris and Lola here on my blog. Sometimes Iris and Lola, sweet little pretty girls that they are, do things like pretending they are vampires drinking blood from goblets, toasting "to the death of a human! To the death of a human!" Also, much has been said over the years about Lola's desire to murder her older sister. This sort of thing has led to people asking me, with only helpfulness and good wishes, why I don't have these children in psychotherapy. Next to the Tiny Art Director, Lola and Iris are straight out of the Osmond clan (the Osmond clan of yore, before Marie struggled with post-partum depression and Donny attempted to go hard rock).

On the way home the children squabbled over who should get "The Tiny Art Director" book for her birthday. Then a more vicious fight broke out: who is funnier, Lola or the Tiny Art Director? This one led to tears, as Lola is accustomed to the title of Funniest Person Anyone In the Family Knows In Person, and Iris was strongly contending that the Tiny Art Director is infinitely funny. No moment of happiness lasts for long enough.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

haphazard hospitality

Iris and Lola were enjoying Otter pops yesterday in Golden Gate Park, and like Proust's madeleine, Iris's Otter pop brought back memories.

"I remember," she reminisced happily, "how once Momdude was shouting because there was no food in the house, and she was having a dinner party and people were coming in like five minutes and she wanted a big dinner and there was NO FOOD in the house. So me and Daddude went to the store, and he said, 'We're just here for the fundamentals; we're just gonna get what Mommy needs for dinner. Oh, and Otter pops.'"

(I assure you all that whenever I have a dinner party, I plan the menu the day ahead, and I start cooking well ahead of time).