Monday, May 30, 2011

big progress

After years of disappointingly failing to learn to speak, our witless African grey has a phrase! Today she's been working hard, repeating over and over again in a hoarse, croaky voice, "la la la la" (which we are not counting as a word) and "step up" (which we are claiming as Piggle's First Phrase). This is as though a dog had learned to say "heel": "step up" is the basic parrot command, used when you want your parrot to stop doing whatever the hell it is doing and step onto your hand (or off your hand and onto a perch or another person).

"You must be so proud," said the Sober Husband after his skeptic nature had been overcome. He had assumed we were imagining this through wishful thinking until Piggle croaked "step up" intelligibly at him.

"I wouldn't say proud," I said judiciously. "I'm less ashamed."

"Step up! Step up! Good bird!" said Iris lovingly.

"You're breaking that as a command," the Sober Husband said chidingly. "It's not going to work any more."

"Yes, it will!" Iris and I shouted him down. He left the room quickly, saying on his way out, "Very proud."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oprah! Oprah! Oprah!

I don't know why, but Iris uber Alles has been a passionate Oprah follower since she learned of Oprah's existence. Neither the Sober Husband nor I have any idea how she became so fixated on Oprah. To this day the Sober Husband has never watched an entire Oprah episode (Iris forced him to watch most of the episode about the dangers of using cellphones while driving and bullied him into signing Oprah's "No Phone Zone" pledge). Likewise I had never seen the Oprah show (I'm not much of a television watcher in general. It's extremely rare for me to voluntarily turn on a television). But somehow Iris became a fan.

In the second grade, Iris was supposed to make a painting in art class of an imaginary planet, and she created "the Oprah Planet", populated by Oprahs. This picture (and the pillow made with the same images) disturbed all of the white people who saw it in our house, inspiring guilt and shame in the white liberal heart. It begged the question: had the Sober Husband and I unwittingly raised our child in such a racist way that black people looked like space aliens to her? I wanted to tack up a disclaimer that we'd had African American families over to our house and that this was not my fault. Eventually we tactfully moved the painting, but not before I'd shamefully blurted out to people looking at it with an eyebrow raised, "I really tried to raise her in a multicultural environment."

But of course the adults' reactions and worries were all baseless. Iris didn't think Oprah looked like a space alien. She just loved Oprah. By the age of 10, Iris was using her own saved-up allowance to pay for a subscription to O magazine. She was hounding her parents to apply to be on the Oprah show (I have sent in applications for shows themed "my parents need a makeover", "worst dressed couples in America", "my dream is to meet a celebrity", etc.., etc... at Iris's behest, but somehow the producers have failed to select me as a candidate for revamping at Oprah's expense). On a visit to Chicago, her chief desire was to see the Harpo Studios, and she treasured the Oprah flipflops she bought at the gift shop. Her Chicago grandmother sent her Oprah sleepwear, which Iris wears nearly every evening (this grandmother, not an Oprah fan, asked me about Iris's obsession, saying "Where did she get this Oprah stuff from?").

Of course, nothing lasts forever. Back in the eighties I was crushed when the Talking Heads broke up, and so I feel I can relate to Iris's angst as the Oprah show ends this week. Today is the last new Oprah show's airing, and Iris is heartbroken.

Her only consolation is that Oprah herself is moving to our state, and Iris has been agitating for a roadtrip. Again though her parents are failing her. "Iris, I am NOT driving you down to LA to stalk Oprah," I said firmly, as I rejected a plan to spend vacation time lurking outside Ms. Winfrey's SoCal estate. Iris's lips thinned. Clearly if she could, she'd leave us all behind and go off to live the rest of her life with Oprah, "living her best life", as Oprah herself would say.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

my motivation

Frankly I am sure that the world on the whole would be a happier place without me. The world has too many people as it is. My family of origin has never liked me (I was always told that they didn't want another child and that I was an unhappy mistake, and additionally I was told on many occasions as a child that everyone would be happier if I died in an accident. One parent went so far as to threaten on several occasions, "No jury would convict me if I killed you now"). Because I was thoroughly loathed by my very own family, I grew up as a result of that believing I must be loathsome by nature. Magically in my late teens and early twenties I morphed from despised child into a fine example of that particularly valued, welcome everywhere member of society, a Hot Chick, but those days are over. Now I'm a middle-aged former lawyer, not something anyone particularly thinks adds a lot of value, and no longer a femme fatale. On the bright side, no one is stalking me any more (my three former stalkers having presumably moved on to younger targets of freaky obsession). But! I feel like I'm holding the Sober Husband and children back: if they didn't have me, the Sober Husband (who is aging very well) could easily acquire a superior second wife who would fit in well at the children's private school, wouldn't bother everyone with her pesky vegetarianism and animal rights beliefs, and wouldn't fill the house up with messy, noisy rescue animals.

What keeps me going? This:
U.S. and Swedish investigators compared suicides, psychiatric hospitalizations and violent crime convictions over 30 years in more than 500,000 Swedish children, teens and young adults (under the age of 25) who lost a parent to suicide, illness or an accident, on one hand, and in nearly four million children, teens and young adults with living parents, on the other.

Those who lost a parent to suicide as children or teens were three times more likely to commit suicide than children and teenagers with living parents. However there was no difference in suicide risk when the researchers compared those 18 years and older. . . .

In addition, those who lost parents to suicide were nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for depression as those with living parents. And those who lost parents to accidents or illness had 30 and 40 percent higher risk, respectively, for hospitalization.

Losing a parent, regardless of cause, increased a child’s risk of committing a violent crime, the researchers found.
My husband would arguably be better off without me, but not the children (and not my stupid parrot).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

depressed again

When my parrot, Pigwidgeon, was lost, I sunk into a deep morass of depression. I felt like such an incompetent and horrible person for having lost my poor, witless little bird. Even though we got little Piggle back again, thanks to the kindness of a complete stranger who saw her, tired and hungry, on a busy street in the Mission, I haven't been able to climb out of that funk.

To add to that, I have three little foster kittens right now (named "Elvis", "Pumpernickel", and "Jubjub" by the children), who are endlessly messy and noisy. I got them from my rescue before they could walk, when they needed to be bottlefed, and as a result I have become their mother. That means that, like a real mother, I have to bathe them and clean up their horrifying messes and listen to their crying. The noise can be relentless: the kittens set off the parrots, who then shriek and shriek.

And the sounds the parrots make are irritating to no end. Piggle has recently added to her meows and horrible-child-snuffling-up-snot noises with a disturbing and realistic gulping sound, like an unmannered child sucking down a chocolate milk furiously as though a Nazi-like parent were posed to snatch away the cup. The green parrot shouts, "Anton! Lola! Anton! Lola!", the gray parrot makes noisy snuffling and gulping noises, and the kittens cry, and meanwhile a person is trying to serve a civilized meal of fettuccine with asparagus in blue cheese sauce. It's truly nerve-wracking, and there's no one to blame other than myself for acquiring these noisy, noisy animals.

Both of the children have been going through rough patches as well. Thankfully the Sober Husband has perked up. He spent the last year in a funk himself, but his new job has rejuvenated him. It's nice that someone around here has some energy, although he expends a lot of it on nagging. He seems to feel that a person in a depressive state can get nagged right out of it, and he's not above calling in reinforcements. Over the weekend I caught Iris staring at me in a judgmental way. "What? What are you looking at me like that for?" I asked. "Daddy thinks you need some nagging," was the artless reply.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

being accepted as one is

Last week in my Warcraft raid, I was afraid I had offended the Canadian members of the raid team. The team sought to reassure me. "There's always a place in a raid for a drunk gamer girl," one said. The rest chimed in with strong agreement.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

a memory

Iris and Lola love to reminisce about their toddlerhood, a magic time when there was no homework and no early mornings, just plenty of toys and their aged mother taking them to play with other children at their part-time preschools. Recently Iris unveiled an interesting memory.

"Once you came upstairs, and you said, 'Iris, I have good news for you,'" recalled Iris uber Alles. "I thought you got me a toucan for a pet! I was so excited! I thought I was going to go downstairs and see the toucan. Then you said, 'Uncle T. is here.'" Iris laughed heartily at her own heartfelt toddler disappointment.

"You honestly thought I'd bought you a toucan?" I asked curiously.

"Yes! Yes, I did."

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

in my car

My main duty is driving these days, driving the Sober Husband to the train station (with his new job, he takes the "Baby Bullet" commuter train down to Silicon Valley), driving the children home from school, driving here, driving there.

Yesterday in my car, the following things happened:

- one child spilled a Snapple all over the car;

- said child scolded another, younger child until the younger child was tearful. The offense drawing this scolding was "getting my stuff wet" -- relating to the Snapple the first child had spilled herself;

- a condescending husband turned the radio off in the middle of a really good song and made annoying remarks about how he needed to turn the radio off "because traffic was stressing" him and he "needed to keep an eye out" when he wasn't even driving;

- after radio is restored to its proper on position by the driver, husband makes condescending remarks about the song "Eff You" to wife. "I bet you didn't know this song was heavily censored";

- husband made loud, passive-aggressive remarks in a very self-righteous tone of voice about not being able to have a conversation "until Mommy turns the radio down";

- smaller child vomited all over self;

- after I made inquiries about how the small child feels, whether she has a fever, etc.., and the husband superiorly said it's clear "she's not sick; she just choked on something" when the child wasn't eating.

As I filled the tank with gas at that really grungy gas station in the Mission which gives a nine cent discount for cash, I contemplated walking away from the car and checking into a bar and then a hotel. However, I have a litter of tiny, bottlefed kittens and Lord knows none of these music haters, Snapple-spilling scolders, and vomiters would have managed to make a bottle of kitten formula. Tiny lives hung in the balance. I got back into the car of passive aggression, spilled Snapple, and vomit to drive back home to feed the mewling babies.