Thursday, February 28, 2013

the jigsaw puzzle

Recently I put a package of hand-me-downs together for a friend with a toddler.  I wanted to include a puzzle, but I didn't feel right sending it without ensuring that it had every piece.  I still remember the sturm und drang from the large floor puzzle of an enchanted castle which I bought for then-toddler Iris, which was missing a piece from the get-go, having instead a duplicate of another random piece (and the people from the Melissa & Doug toy company PROMISED to send the missing piece but never did).

I set myself down on the floor and began the 100 piece jigsaw of kittens, suitable for a preschooler.  Lola's cat Zorro drew near.  She batted at some pieces with a paw, and I shooed her away.  Undeterred she pounced in a flash, seizing a piece in her mouth, and ran into Iris's room, carrying the piece under Iris's massive bunk bed.  After some effort I reclaimed the piece, locked Zorro in Iris's room, finished the puzzle, disassembled it, and mailed it off along with some of our more presentable cast off clothes and a random assortment of picture books.

This gave me a whole new insight into why at Christmas time we were unable to complete a large monochromatic Escher jigsaw I'd thought would be a good holiday divertissement.  I expect cats to bat pieces off the table with their paws; I don't expect them to carry them around the house in their mouths.  We'd been able to do big, complicated puzzles in the past, picking up a few pieces from under the table from time to time... but we hadn't had Zorro then.

I told this story to the Sober Husband that evening.

"To make jigsaw puzzles harder, instead of getting ones with more pieces, you should have to do them with more cats," he opined.

Monday, February 25, 2013

the trials of Coconut

I finally had Coconut, the partially tamed feral cat we appear to be keeping, neutered.  I had put this off as Coconut was not tame enough to put up for adoption or be handled, but the time had come (or, according to the head of my rescue, was long overdue).   It was presented to me, by a more senior crazy cat lady in the world of crazy cats, that Coconut should be processed through Feral Fix and given back to me.

"Feral Fix" is a program whereby feral cats are neutered for free and re-released.  The tip of one ear is cut off, to signal that the cat has been neutered.  We agreed that since Coconut was not easy to handle, it made sense to neuter him through Feral Fix, where it is assumed none of the cats can be picked up, rather than through the regular neutering program."I'll tell them to make a shallow tip," said the more senior crazy cat lady.  "It won't bother you, will it, having his ear tipped?  I'll tell them to just take a little."

I was dreading the day. Since no one can pick Coconut up, cramming him into a small box seemed highly problematic.  "I need all hands on deck for this," I said gloomily.  The last time I tried to pick him up, he sank all his fangs deeply into my arm, ran away, and wasn't seen for hours.  Everyone stood at battle stations, ready to grab the cat, and I threw a large towel over him and then quickly wrapped him up in it before he could react.  I then roughly crammed the towel-wrapped cat into a waiting carrier.  "That was easier than I expected," I said wonderingly.  Cries arose from within the towel.

I couldn't face taking Coconut in myself, as he is my greatest failure and I'm embarrassed around the other crazy cat ladies.  I had negotiated with the Sober Husband to deliver him to Feral Fix, which he did on the condition that "I only have to drop the cat off, right?  I don't have to do anything more? I just say, "Here is the cat' and walk away?"

A day later it was time to pick up Coconut.  Lola and I drove over to the SPCA's clinic.  It was reported to me that Coconut "had not done well."  Evidently he had not gone gently into that anesthetized night.  The clinic attendant who returned him to me said she was not surprised he was not tamer.  "Once a meanie, always a meanie."

This offended Lola and me.  "He's not a meanie," Lola said fiercely on the way home.  "She called him a meanie!"  We knew Coconut was frightened, not vicious.

At home we reviewed our instructions.  We were supposed to "feed and care for animal in his trap for one day."

"In his trap!" We laughed.  At home, Coconut had shot out of his carrier.  We had intended for him to spend a day in Iris's room, resting away from the other cats, but he rocketed out of the door the moment it was opened and reestablished himself in the resident cat population.

I looked at the Feral Fix handout again.  It instructed me that I could return my feral to his colony in a day or two, but "the ultimate decision is up to you."

"What is 'the ultimate decision'?  It sounds like 'the Final Solution'," I said.

Coconut, meanwhile, basked on the back of the couch, unaware that he was meant to be convalescing "in his trap", subject to an "ultimate decision."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

behind my back

The children made some disparaging remarks the other day, and I said, "I'd hate to hear what you say about me when I'm not around."

Iris was noncommital, but Lola forged ahead.  "We sometimes talk about your musical taste."

I drew her out more.

"Like about that stuff you play that isn't ABBA that sounds like ABBA.  What is that?  And that other song we don't like."  Lola beamed winningly.

Friday, February 22, 2013

a memory

"I remember when I was really little," reminisced Lola.  "I was tired, and you decided I needed to be more hyper, so you gave me some coffee!  And it was cinnamon coffee, and I think I would have liked it better if it wasn't cinnamon."

"When was this?" I was incredulous.

Lola explained that it was when she was just a toddler.

"And I said I wanted you to be 'more hyper?'"

Monday, February 18, 2013

not before coffee

The Sober Husband tends to ask a lot of questions, and this morning was no exception.  Lola woke me up while I was in the middle of an intense dream (evidently I had gone to war in the Middle East, but yet I was living in a luxury penthouse).  I stumbled downstairs to get some life-giving coffee, only to be intercepted by the Sober Husband, who began peppering me with questions about my plans for the day.

"Don't interrogate me until I've had some coffee!  No questions!" I snapped.   I poured a cup and leaned against the counter while I took a sip.

Meanwhile the large feral cat I have adopted caught sight of me.  He regards me as a can-opening mechanism, and he made eye contact with me and began crying noisily.  The Sober Husband looked at the squawking animal.  "Don't interrogate her until she's had some coffee!"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

a bridge too far

After a good night's sleep and time to reflect, thirteen year-old Iris appeared to have recovered from watching "Silence of the Lambs."  She said to me, "Momdude, I want to watch 'Clockwork Orange.'"

I quailed.  "That's too much for me.  I can't watch that again."  I saw the X-rated version of "Clockwork Orange" my freshman year of college, at one of the popular dollar movie nights at the giant Warren Towers dorm, and found it far too intense.

"Why?  What happens?"

"Too violent!"  I didn't even want to go into details.

"Can I read the book?"

"Yes.  Go ahead."

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Tonight I watched "The Silence of the Lambs" with thirteen year-old Iris.  Just before watching it, I quavered.  "It's scary," I said.

"I'm pretty much inured to horror," said the jaded Iris.

The Sober Husband refused to be in the room for it.  "This movie has something I can't stand:  sadism."

"If you're scarred for life, will you forgive me?" I asked Iris.


We watched the movie.  Afterward, I asked, "Are you scarred for life?"


Due to a cat vomiting during the film (which we had both silently decided to postpone cleaning up until after the movie), we went out in search of cleaning supplies.   We met up with little Lola, who'd stayed safely away during the film.  She took in her sister's somewhat shaken state.

 "Let's stay together; it's safer," I suggested.   I remembered how I'd felt when I was young and I saw "Blue Velvet"; I'd been so shaken that the trip home from the movie theatre was an ordeal, with me peering suspiciously at everyone and every car I walked past.

Lola flicked a switch, putting us in complete darkness.  Iris and I emitted a squawk.  Lola laughed hysterically before turning the light back on.  "Lola, for someone so cute, you really can be evil," I remarked.

We moved as a squad down into the kitchen, obtaining the necessaries, and then back upstairs.  "It's a good thing there are no moths around here," I observed.

Friday, February 15, 2013

called out

"Momdude, you are a hipster snob," sniffed a judgmental child.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

a timing issue

This Friday is "Grandparents And Special Friends Day" at Lolz' school.  It is also the day after Valentine's Day.

As I pointed out to the Sober Husband, this timing means that for everyone who has family living out of town, this means that their inlaws will be in town for Valentine's Day.  He hadn't quite connected the dots between the date on the calendar and the note on the calendar to pick his mother up at the airport.  

"We'll have some romance another night," he said optimistically.  "On the bright side, my mother always puts out on Valentine's Day."

"I think you should rephrase that," I said.

It took him a few minutes to understand my objection.  "I mean she comes through.  She'll bring something for the children."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

feeling French

Yesterday we visited the U.S.S. Hornet, a decommissioned aircraft carrier.  A friend of mine who volunteers there had offered to take people to areas not open to the public.   The Sober Husband loved the engine room, while I found the little zone where the nuclear bombs had been kept to be the most fascinating (the warnings were still up declaring it a classified zone of the highest level, and there was a guard station by the door, and a small group of people lived down with the bombs).

As we walked up to the Hornet, one of the children felt uneasy.  "It's scary!  I'm looking at it, and I'm feeling scared.  What am I, French?"

Saturday, February 09, 2013

our dreams

In the car, today I shared some dreams I remembered.  "Last night I dreamed I had a dog.  Oh, and I dreamed I went on tour with Metallica.  They had some seats for superfans on their tour bus, and in the dream I was a superfan.  And the Sober Husband was with me, we had terrible seats, and there was this guy across from us who was vomiting all the time and just awful, and the Sober Husband held the bag for him to vomit in.  Then the Sober Husband had that bag of vomit, and I wanted to get rid of it.  Oh, and there was a bean cake, and I didn't eat any because I didn't think it would be good, but it was gone right away and everyone was saying how great it was, it was some special cake they always had, and I was sorry I didn't have any.  Then the guy who was vomiting turned out to be a wanted criminal, and I took him down!  But the Sober Husband didn't help!  He was just standing there!"

Little Lola chimed in.  "THAT'S JUST LIKE WHEN I DREAMED ABOUT THE DOUGHNUT APOCALYPSE.  He was just standing there!!"

We both turned and looked at the Sober Husband accusatorily.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

scrabbling around

Ever since our holidays blow-up, the Sober Husband and I have been prioritizing our relationship.  In general we've been looking for Things We Can Do Together (Without Fighting).  One of these things is playing Facebook Scrabble.  I've been playing it for a long time and secretly revel in being the highest rated of all my friends.

Normally the Sober Husband destroys me in any game we play which is not a game of chance (and even at games of chance he will win more than he should, as his mathematical mind is better able than my whatever-you-want-to-call-it mind at figuring out odds and calculating what might happen).  But at word-based games, like Scrabble or Boggle, he can't touch me.

Or at least he couldn't, until he wrote himself his own Scrabble-cheating program.  Suddenly now he leads.  Since he wrote his program to suit himself precisely, it's extremely helpful to him.

This irks me, as I am a pristine Scrabble player, and in this household I falsely suffer from a reputation of being a Scrabble cheater.  This stems from the fact that years ago -- AT LEAST SIX YEARS AGO -- I used to pay to play Scrabble on a large website, where one was allowed to use assistance.  After I discovered Warcraft, I let online Scrabble fade away, and I don't even know if that Scrabble-for-pay site still exists.  Eventually I returned to online Scrabble via Facebook (but not "Words with Friends", which I despise as I do all Zynga products).  In Facebook Scrabble, I am a queen of verity and ethics, but the children all call me a cheater, evidently on the basis that anyone who ever used a Scrabble help site is forever tarred as a Scrabble sleaze.

I exposed the Sober Husband's cheating ways to Lola, thinking she would denounce him.  But she thought he was clever and made a ruling that he should be allowed to use his program.  I guess she was thinking that if I were smarter, I could make myself a cheating program as well.

So thanks, Sober Husband!  Now one of my zones of feeling intellectually superior has vanished.  So far he hasn't driven my ratings down measurably, but that day will no doubt come... AND MY SCRABBLE ENEMIES WILL REJOICE.

Monday, February 04, 2013

educating the hipsters

Little Lola is enrolled in another session of the 826 Valencia St. youth newspaper.  On the way over to her first meeting, we discussed what she might write about, and her thinking seemed to be to cover "hugs:  heartfelt or horrible?"

Lolz was very tense about getting to 826 on time and kept ostentatiously checking her watch.  We had actually arrived very early and I took her to a nearby art gallery to kill time while enjoying art, but Lolz's mind was on nothing but punctuality and 826.  "You promise not to make me late?" she hissed at me.

I gave up and took Lola over early.  "Welcome back," said the hipster at the desk to Lola.

"Lola!" said the hipster behind the chain which keeps out hoi polloi like me while admitting the elite, such as Lola.  "We missed you last time!  How was your break?"

A few hours later I returned.  Lola told me that she had decided to write about "different kinds of popular music."

"Kids always write about music," I said.  "I thought hugs was a good topic."

Lolz got a bit haughty.  "As far as I could tell, no other kids were writing about music.  And the tutors, they don't know about music, different genres and things.  So it's educational."   Lolz continued in that vein for a bit, explaining how she could enlighten these poor, ignorant tutors about popular music.

I let the subject drop, but I was secretly amused.  These hipsters who help the kids write look like they are straight outta Coachella, but yet their musical ignorance appalls little Lola, who views it as her responsibility to educate them.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

living the noir life

The Sober Husband and I scored a couple of seats at a showing at the Film Noir festival, which is based at the Castro theatre this year, and we stumbled out onto the streets after being fully immersed in the smoky and treacherous world of noir.  We wandered up the streets past homeless people and inebriates, up the hill, discussing the plot.

When I walked into our house, there were no lights on downstairs.  A steely little voice came from the shadows.  "I was waiting for you here, watching for you."  I jumped, taken by surprise.

Little Lolz emerged from the darkness, having successfully startled her mother.  "It's like living in a film noir, living with you," I said.

"I was waiting here in the dark, watching for you," Lolz reiterated, giving me a hardboiled stare.  All she needed was a cigarette.