Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kid Stuff: New Normal Outtake

Mom, when I turn eighteen, I'm not going to college.

I'm going to Air Force college.

Oh.  Like the Air Force Academy?


Still college, baby - you go to regular classes, AND you do your military service on top of that.

Oh.  Well, that's okay.  As long as they teach me to fly B-2 Spirit bombers.  I also want to fly an SR-71 Blackbird.  And, of course,  I would have to take an iPod with me.


So I can listen to "Blackbird," IN A BLACKBIRD.



It's possible that I have the coolest kids in the entire world.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kid Stuff: The New Normal

The scene:  I am watching the end of "The Kids Are All Right."  The seven year-old walks in, wanting me to play the second half of "The Voice" that he didn't get to see the night before, because it was bedtime.  I tell him, "Okay, but let me finish watching my movie first."  I decide that it's okay to finish watching said film in his presence, because we are well past the (enthusiastic) sex scenes between Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo and, to my recollection based on prior viewings, also past all of the F-bombing, so what's left is a sweet scene where a college-aged daughter asks to be left alone in her very first dorm room, and then panics when she thinks that her family has taken her at her word and truly left her, and then is relieved to discover that they just went to move the car.  There is hugging, and then, on the car ride home, a son tells his parents who are going through a rough patch that they should soldier on, because in his estimation they are too old to start over.  And this makes the parents laugh, and also has some resonance with them, and one assumes that the healing process is beginning as the credits roll.

All family-values stuff - except that the parents in question happen to both be female.  Which, in my opinion and the opinion of Spouse, doesn't make it any LESS family-values.  So I let Little Kid watch with me, and, as predicted, he has questions:

Wait - are they leaving her there?

Yes, because she's in college now.  And that's what you do when you start college:  you go off and live on your own.  [Are you processing this, kid?  Because you will be expected to remember this information 11 years from now.] 

Do you get to come back home?

Absolutely.   For Christmas, to do laundry - whatever.




Um, sure, if you want.  [I decide not to explain the concept of exactly how fun a college Halloween party can be.  Plenty of time to discover this on our own, at a more age-appropriate time.]

So that's her family?


Is that her younger brother?

Yes, and now he will have the house to himself, but he will also miss her and be happy when she comes home.

So who's the other woman hugging her?

Which one?

Duh, the one who isn't her mom?

Well, they are both her moms.  She was raised by two moms, instead of a mom and a dad.

Oh.  [Long pause.]  The new girl at school has three moms.


THE NEW GIRL.  We were playing "Two Truths and a Dream" today -

Wait, what?  Is that like "Two Truths and a Lie"?

I guess.  It's called an icebreaker, Mom.

Yes, I know what it is, but last I checked, an acceptable icebreaker within your peer group was, "Do you like velociraptors?" and also last I checked, organizational communications was NOT on the second-grade curriculum, and you were NOT a member of Junior League, or Woman's Club, or Toast Masters, so I'm trying to process why you were participating in an icebreaker.  Is this what the cool kids do on the playground nowadays, instead of tetherball?

Mom, are you done?  We were doing this in our G/T enrichment class.   

Ohhh, okay.  Back to the girl with three moms?

Yeah, when it was her turn, she said that she had an iPod, an iPad and three moms.

And which one was the dream?


Of course.  Because if you have an iPad, your parents might not spring for an iPod, because you could just stream music through the pad.

And that, my friends, is life as the Little Kid knows it:  some families have a mom and a dad, some have one or the other, some have two of one, and a few even have three.  It's all good in the 'hood. 

And the thing that makes his mom blink is, "Seriously?  Icebreakers for seven year-olds?  They're too young to have any ice to break.  They're frost-free."

MISSING: My Creativity

A few months ago, Friend Robyn had a ridiculously cute baby boy, which means that (1) she is now a card-carrying MOM (Mother of Male) and (2) we have ANOTHER thing in common to talk, or text, about at random times.  On today's list of topics:  did I find myself feeling less creative after either pregnancy?  Hmm, interesting.  I definitely noticed some subtle personality shifts - and other odd stuff.  My hair changed texture and got darker.  And I started craving a good red sauce.  But a decline in creativity didn't ring a bell - at first.

As we discussed the likely extent to which temporary personality changes were attributable to hormonal effects on brain chemistry versus flat-out emotional and physical exhaustion, the bell rang:  OH.  I DO remember a sudden drop in creativity - but it wasn't tied to a pregnancy.

It was tied to a flippin' house.

And it hasn't completely been set to rights (my creativity, not the house - okay, who am I kidding, there's still a few boxes around the house as well).  By the way of evidence, I would point to the infrequency of my blog posts. Yes, I had an excuse through roughly the end of June, but after that, I could make my way from point A to point B in the house without running into a wall of boxes, and I had breaks in my evenings where I wasn't unpacking or dealing with house stuff, and I could (and did) find the time to get on the computer.  I just couldn't muster anything funny, or meaningful, or even coherent, to say.

And I have decided that that's okay.  Because the roller coaster that is life after a major insurance casualty (particularly when it's your first - and, PLEASE, let it be our ONLY - major insurance casualty) is not at all unlike the process of becoming a parent for the first time.  You go through things for which you have no frame of reference, and some conditions just spring themselves on you without warning, and you have to push through a lot of nasty stuff through sheer force of will, emerging on the other side deliriously happy, but knowing that your way of looking at the world is forever changed.   And, also, you're in a little bit of shock:  what the hell?  Did all of that just happen?

Recovering from anything life-altering and paradigm-shifting is a process, I guess.  And you have to respect the process.  So, on those days when I pull up a blank blog post page, give my surviving brain cells the opportunity to engage, and they radio down to my waiting digits, "Yeah, we got nuttin'," I have decided not to despair.  I will  start to find the funny, more consistently, at some point in the (hopefully near) future.  But I will endeavor to stir the brain coals more often, because I think that that's part of the process, too.

Looking for the funny, starting . . . now.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Adventures in Party Planning: Saber-Shaped Stuff

Party Like a Kid's "Jedi Training Academy" party theme has me feeling kinda conflicted about PJ's upcoming eighth b-day shindig. We're both pretty committed to the "art-y party" concept, but, seriously, how cute is this?

Okay, making the robes could be time-consuming (and buying them, quite expensive), but the light sabers are a must-do.  Pool noodles, duct tape, some Sharpie marker details - done.  I won't even bother to include a photo, because if you have ever been on Pinterest, you have seen the awesomeness that is the pool noodle/duct tape light saber by now.  But have you seen the awesomeness that is the ICE POP LIGHT SABER?  Credit the proprietress of the Rips in My Jeans blog for this one:

(By the way, can I tell you how hard it was to type "ICE POP" in lieu of "OTTER POP"?  THEY WILL ALWAYS BE OTTER POPS, PEEPS. At least to me they will.)

Not enough saber-shaped items for you?  Wrap foil around a wine cork (to make the handle), stick a bamboo skewer into that, and go to town skewering stuff - fruit, marshmallows, whatever.

Also love this idea from Natalie Putnam's blog:  menu items displayed on tricked-out cardboard paper towel tubes.  My personal favorite menu selection:  Sandtrooper Sandwiches.

This last item is NOT saber-shaped:

But I do see something cardboard tube-shaped behind the pilot - two such things, actually. Which makes sense, because what you are looking at is AN X-WING FIGHTER MADE OUT OF RECYCLABLES, as featured on Clever Faeries' blog.  I love it, because it is exactly the kind of random thing that I would do have done for my boys.  (Example:  The ginormous cardboard Viking ship that sailed into the midst of Big Kid's sixth birthday party.  With yellow paper plates stapled to the sides to look like portholes.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Nostalgia: It Came From My Clock Radio

When I was a small fry, living in San Francisco (okay, technically Walnut Creek - but no one outside of California seems to know where that is, so I just say San Francisco and call it good), we had a whole-house intercom system that was hooked up to a radio, and - as evidential proof that I was then a VERY BIG GIRL (all of five years old?), I had full radio dial privileges and could listen to music in my room whenever I wanted (well, up until bedtime).

When we moved to Houston, midway through my kindergarten year, I could not help but notice that the new house lacked a whole-house intercom system hooked up to a radio.  Also quite noticeable:  the lack of furniture and other personal effects.  See, because the truck with all of our furniture in it somehow managed to get flooded with water (don't ask me how - it didn't make sense when I was five, and it doesn't make sense now), and everything had to be dried out, so for the first two weeks, I did not have access to my toys, and I had nothing in my room, really, except for a mattress on the floor.  So I lobbied for, and received, a clock radio.  And I have vivid memories of my bedroom finish-out initially consisting of just a mattress and a clock radio, and I remember feeling INCREDIBLY MATURE (even more so than when I was awarded intercom radio privileges) because my parents had entrusted me with such a sophisticated piece of electronic equipment.  And actually consented to letting me set it to wake me up in the morning.  Double bonus score.

I think about that clock radio often, because I spend a lot of time listening to satellite radio through the TV, and my go-to station is "70s Hits," which might as well be called "Kathryn's Circa 1976-1977 Clock  Radio Top Forty."   Ah, so many memories.

The Eagles' "New Kid in Town."  I don't know why I thought this song was so cool, but I so totally did.  Maybe because it was kinda melancholy, and melancholia was a "big person" thing? And I was growing up to be a VERY big person - witness Exhibit A, MY VERY OWN CLOCK RADIO.   It wasn't until years later that I learned that J. D. Souther co-wrote this song - the same J. D. Souther who sang "Her Town Too" with James Taylor in the early 1980's, which was another melancholy song that I thought was way cool.  (Still do.)  It was MANY years later when I learned that J. D. Souther was a dude.  Hey, in my defense:  J. D. is an androgynous name.  And his voice tended to occupy a higher register.  And since when do dudes duet, when they aren't issuing warnings about babies growing up to be cowboys?

Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou."  Again, with the melancholy.  I was convinced that Linda was singing this song to me.  Because I was new to Houston and was attempting to get acclimated.  And, although I had a very limited grasp of what bayous WERE, I knew that I was supposed to pay attention to them, because we were the "Bayou City," after all, and we were also supposed to fear them, because an awful lot of bodies seemed to wash up on their banks.  The same year that "Blue Bayou" was released, a group of police officers beat up a young man named Joe Campos Torres and dumped him into Buffalo Bayou.  Said murder was, obviously, quite a scandal, and was discussed ad nauseam in the press, so as a young person living in Houston in 1977 and 1978, the evening news sounded, to me (and perhaps a lot of other, older people), basically like this:  "Joe Campos Torres.  HPD.  Buffalo Bayou.  Body.  Dead.  Joe Campos Torres.  HPD.  Buffalo Bayou.  Body.  Dead.  JOE CAMPOS TORRES.  HPD.  BUFFALO BAYOU.  BODY.  DEAD."  I developed a healthy fear of bayous - whatever they were.  And then here came Linda, singing about a bayou in a very soothing tone, and it put my mind at ease - just like in the song.  Buffalo Bayou may have been a scary place, but BLUE Bayou was the kind of bayou that we, the people of H-Town, could get behind.  (Never mind that there isn't a Blue Bayou in H-Town, and Linda wasn't addressing me personally, nor was she directing all of that emotion towards the then-current level of bayou-related angst in my new hometown - she was covering a Roy Orbison song.  Again, something that I learned much later.)

In case you were wondering, my confusion over bayous in those days was eclipsed only by my confusion over the naming constructs for roads.  Service roads aren't "service" or "access" roads in the Texas Gulf Coast region - they are "feeder roads."  So there were signs everywhere:  EXIT FEEDER ROAD.  And I came to believe that FEEDER ROAD (which, no doubt, was named after a Mr. Feeder, who was quite important in Texas history) was THE LONGEST ROAD IN THE WORLD, and was also the second most interesting road in the world behind BUFFALO SPEEDWAY.  Was it truly a raceway for buffalos?  And what, exactly, was up with the BUFFALO thing?  It's a bayou, it's a speedway - was there a MR. Buffalo who, like Mr. Feeder, perhaps stood shoulder to shoulder with Davy Crockett at the Alamo?

Kenny Rogers' "Lucille."  As if the whole bayou/speedway thing wasn't confusing me enough:  I was convinced that Mr. Rogers was accusing Lucille of heartlessly leaving him with FOUR HUNDRED children and a crop in the field.  Which crop, apparently, wasn't abundant enough to feed FOUR HUNDRED children, nor could it be harvested by said four hundred children - because of child labor laws, perhaps?  It was a great many years later that I worked out, "Oh - four HUNGRY children."  But, see, in 1977, four hundred children seemed plausible, because that was the year that the documentary, "Who Are the DeBolts?  And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?" was released.  The DeBolts had five children of their own (unhungry ones, based on the documentary) and adopted another fourteen (primarily with special needs), so while FOUR HUNDRED was a bit of a jump from NINETEEN, it seemed possible that Kenny might have that many kids - five were probably his and Lucille's biological children, and 395 were adopted.  Maybe from the same orphanage that all of those extra DeBolts came from.

What can I say?  I was a little kid.  My mind moved in little kid ways.  And now, through the power of satellite radio, I get to reminisce about those days, while simultaneously enjoying my own Little Kid's unique world view.  Or not-so-unique.  The apple didn't fall too far from the tree.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Kid Stuff: World History As Explained By My Seven Year-Old

The first week of second grade, the Little Kid had to fill out a questionnaire.  One of the questions:  in what subject do you need help this year? 

Little Kid responded, "Backstroke." 

He's not wrong.  Backstroke is his weakest event.  But it's become apparent that a good alternate answer would have been world history.

First, he told his friend E's mom that his grandfather "was there when the Germans bombed Hurricane Harbor."  We managed to keep a straight face while explaining to him that:
  • Hurricane Harbor is a local water park.  The word you're searching for is "Pearl."
  • The Germans didn't bomb Pearl Harbor.  And you're a little too young to be watching "Animal House."  And, if you do watch "Animal House," you need to know that John Blutarsky is not a role model - he's more of a horrible warning.
  • Neither grandfather was at either harbor on December 7, 1941.  Your maternal grandfather celebrated his third birthday two days prior, and your paternal grandfather was roughly your brother's age.
  • If we catch you doing the "I'm a zit" thing from "Animal House," you're cleaning up whatever you splatter, and losing computer privileges for a week. 
After he had left the room, the parental riffing started:

"The bombing of Hurricane Harbor - they took out the Bonzai Boggins, first, right?  Or was the first attack on Oasis Island?  I can't remember:  which came first, the storming of Boogie Beach or the Battle of Six Flags?  You remember the Battle of Six Flags:  those three soldiers planted a flag on top of the Mr. Freeze ride?  And then repeated the process with five more flags?"

Then Spouse informs me that the Little Kid was overheard to describe the Vietnam War as "a bunch of people from Mexico running around in black pajamas and shooting people in the jungle."  Um - wow.  I don't even know how to begin to address that one.   For starters, he didn't actually say "people from Mexico."  He said, "Mexicans."  In his defense, the subject of when it's appropriate to use that term came up during the Olympics:  the Big Kid asked me which divers were in medal positions going into one of diving finals, and I responded, "an American, a German and a . . . um . . . Hispanic diver from Mexico."  Because I am so used to avoiding the word "Mexican" that I could not bring myself to use it - even when it was totally appropriate.  The competitor from America is an American, the competitor from Germany is a German, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that the dude competing for Mexico is a Mexican - but politically correct me could not get the word to come out. 

Little Kid, apparently, carries no such PC baggage.   In his mind, those snipers with the tanned skin and black hair were from Mexico, and, therefore, Mexicans.  Notwithstanding that Mexico is over HERE, and Vietnam is over THERE.

Adding "atlas" to list of "birthday gift ideas for the Little Kid."  Along with "second grade-appropriate book of world history."

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Adventures in Party Planning: Toy Story

I shouldn't call these posts "Adventures in Party Planning." A better tag line would be "IT CAME FROM MY PINTEREST BOARD" - evocative of the disorganized horror that is my "Boyish Party" board, which as of this evening is up to 382 pins. I really ought to start a version 2.0. Or split the original into multiple, theme-specific boards. But that would be a TON of boards, and ultimately, probably, more trouble than it's worth.

So, instead, I'll attempt to curate a bit through the Blogger platform.  Concept du jour (du nuit?) is the Toy Story films.

Found this adorbs photo booth concept on the Let's Explore Web site.  Photo props are Mr. Potato head parts, natch.  (Click here for more Toy Story-specific party planning ideas from motivated mom Amy.) 

You could make two sets of Mr. P. H.'s features, and cut out a potato shape (requiring a little brown kraft paper and very little artistic skills - it's a potato, so misshapen is the right shape) to mount on the wall.  A little double-sided tape, a blindfold, and voila, "Pin the Face on Mr. Potato Head."

Love these little green men cupcakes from the Disney Family magazine:

Again, one does not need to be an artiste to pull these off.  (Okay, "du jour/du nuit," "voila" and "artiste" - what the heck?  I don't speak French.  And yet I have pulled off a French trifecta.  And NOW I have inexplicably switched to Latin.  Anyway.)

Likewise, you don't need to be a cupcake blogger to create camo cupcakes like the ones above - but it helps.  These beauties were created by Sarah at The Cupcake Table.  Wouldn't they be cute with actual green army men on them?

Continuing with the army men theme, instructions for making these camo cupcake sandwiches (baked in a whoopie pie pan) can be found on Life is Sweets' blog:

You could make the traditional cupcakes (the cakes themselves, not just the icing) camo as well, using a similar process as what is at work here:  just split the batter into several bowls, tint each one a different camo color with food coloring, and then swirl the colors together in your cupcake tins.

Mustache straws would be appropriate - or is that Mr. Potato Head overkill?  If so, I won't suggest potato skins - wait, I just did.  They would go great with some HAMMburgers.  And these Jello-and-whipped cream parfaits (image courtesy of BChsMamaof3) are evocative of the "cloudy sky" background that PIXAR used for its advertising.  And also Super Mario Brothers.  But that's another party post.

Treat bags would be easy-peasy:  mini Slinkies from the Dollar Spot at Target, some rubber dinosaurs,  perhaps some actual gumball machine aliens (you know, the tiny ones in the little plastic bubbles?).  Wrap everything in a bandana and tie it to a stick, just like Woody would do.

Done, and done.  Who doesn't love "Toy Story"?  Okay, parents don't love the third installment, because it makes them cry.  But 1 and 2 were all kinds of awesome.  And if you don't agree, then (to quote Buzz - and my children, frequently) you are a sad, strange little man (or woman), and you have my pity.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Everything Cracks Me Up - Seriously, EVERYTHING

My dad had to have an inpatient surgical procedure this week, and said surgery was performed at a private hospital owned by a group of doctors.  I initially pulled up the hospital's Web site to confirm driving directions, but I lingered and kicked the tires a bit, because I have a client with a similar business model, and also because I was just generally curious.

The site offered a "virtual tour" of the hospital, which turned out to be a short but fairly slick promotional piece, complete with long camera pans, graceful "dissolves," soothing background music and an equally soothing female narrator.

Some of the things that the female narrator said were FUNNNNNNNNNNNNY.

Three items of note:

1)  The surgical waiting room was described as an "idyllic space."

Let's go to the dictionary, shall we?

Idyllic adj  \ī-ˈdi-lik:  1.  Extremely happy, peaceful or picturesque.  

It's a surgical waiting room.

2.  Charmingly rustic.  

Not sure that the idea of a rustic hospital waiting room - or a rustic hospital anything - appeals to me.  Kind of prefer my hospitals on the modern side.  Unless we're talking about "Appalachian Emergency Room."  You know, on SNL?  Chris Parnell always had something improbable up his backside, and Amy Poehler would come in complaining of an injury caused by her "druggie son" and then bogart the hospital gown to wear as a housedress.  Funny stuff.  Only time that "rustic" and "hospital" have ever seemed compatible to me.

3.  Simple and carefree.

Again, I have default back to "surgical waiting room."  Hardly my definition of "simple and carefree."  "I was worried about Grandpa's procedure, and then I stepped into this beautiful room, whereupon I was transported to a mythical paradise not unlike those featured in the pages of this significantly aged back issue of Travel and Leisure Magazine, and I totally forgot that my loved one's life hung in the balance until the doctor nudged me out of my reverie, and offered me a complimentary cappuccino."

2)  The narrator made a point of stating that the adult outpatient recovery rooms have a yellow color scheme, and the color scheme in the pediatric wing is blue.  This is relevant how, exactly?  For identification purposes?  "If you see a lot of blue, you probably made a left when you should have made a right.  Oh, and you probably also noticed that all of the patients in recovery are under four feet tall and clutching stuffed animals, and have far less nose and ear hair than your Uncle Norman."  But this makes more sense than the notion that color scheme might be a deciding factor in selecting a hospital facility.  For starters, you don't really pick - the doctor does.  And, also, I find it hard to believe that anyone on the fence about consenting to a procedure ever said, "Well, I wasn't going to go through with it - but then I learned that the recovery rooms were PREDOMINANTLY YELLOW."

3)  The inpatient suites were touted for their "hotel-like" feel, and the narrator went so far as to say that, because a lot of the monitors and stuff are hidden behind cabinet doors, "you may forget that you are in a hospital and think that you are in a hotel."  Um, you know what's keeping me from getting confused?  THE IV DRIP LINE INTO MY ARM, AND THE "ARTWORK" THAT LOOKS SUSPICIOUSLY LIKE A VITALS CHART WITH A DRY-ERASE REMINDER THAT I GET THE DIABETIC MEAL.

For the record, it was a nice hospital - but a hospital's a hospital, you know?  Unless it's fictional, and in Appalachia, in which case it's HILARIOUS.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The LEGO Taxidermied Deer

In reference to yesterday's post:  here is the $28 deer replica in the flesh.  Or, you know, plastic brick. 

Disclaimer:  I knew nothing about David Cole, or the David Cole Gift Shop, or his "unofficial" taxidermy deer LEGO kit, until I was blogging (ranting?) about the American Girl Shop and Googled "$28 LEGO kit" to find something that was the same price point as AG's allergy-free doll lunch.  (That would be an allergy-free lunch FOR a doll, as opposed to an allergy-free lunch CONSISTING of a doll - which might not be allergy-free,  if you had Latex issues.)

But I love everything about this deer, and the description of it.  Particularly the opening salvo, "Remember your hunting days with this mounted deer LEGO kit: the morning dew, the crunch of the field under your fancy boots, the sad eyes of the majestic, dying animals. It will all come swirling back to you as you assemble these 60-ish pieces."  Sarcasm is to LEGOs as white is to rice.

I also love that:
  • Mr. Cole's shop offers three taxidermied LEGO animal kits (other options:  bear and fox)  and pixelated temporary tattoos - and nothing else; and
  • Mr.Cole's bio includes the following information:   "When I'm not too tired, I'm . . . designing a survival board game about zoo animals that's been called a blend of Mario Party and Dungeons and Dragons. I once interviewed an autistic man who designs planets in his spare time. I accidentally inspired a small subculture of Pokemon fans to tweet in character."
 This could be the Big Kid's Web site in ten years.  Seriously.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

LEGO Smack-Talk Retraction

Dear Kirk Kristiansen  Family, Owners of The LEGO Group:

I take back every bad thing I ever said about your product.

Yes, it is annoying to fish the little one-button pieces out of the vacuum cleaner canister.  And there is nothing worse than stepping on one of your bricks in the middle of the night.  (Girl moms have told me that Polly Pocket shoes are equally painful, but this strains credibility.)   But I will gladly spend an hour standing in the painfully overlit, Genius Bar-reminiscent bulk brick section of your eponymous store, waiting for my children to decide between the bricks with the doors that open to the left versus the bricks with the doors that open to the right, if it means that I will never have to enter an American Girl store.

For some reason, I am on AG's mailing list.  The most recent catalog arrived yesterday, along with the latest LEGO Club magazine, just as we were heading out to dinner.  Spouse was driving, and the boys were going to be fighting over the LEGO mag in the backseat, so I decided to check out the AG catalog, just to have something to do.

The first few pages didn't offend me one way or the other.  Then I got to the "My American Doll" section, which promised to sell me a friend who looked just like me.  I started skimming through the hair and eye color combinations.  Brown, brown, blue, blue, hazel, brown, blue, blue, brown.  Um, excuse me?  Why are we green-eyed folk not represented?  Oh, there's a doll with green eyes - and she's a GINGER.  Stereotype much?  Gingers do not have green eyes on lock.  Plenty of green-eyed blondes in the world.  (Good thing that these dolls didn't exist when I was a little kid:  I had enough of a complex, given that I could never find a keychain or a bicycle license plate with my name on it.  Plenty of Kathys, Katies and Kates, but NO KATHRYNS.  Really resented the 'rents for that one.)

So I started to get mildly annoyed with the American Girl Gods over the green-eyed thing.  Disclaimer:  when I got home, I pulled up the "My American Girl" page on their Web site, and they offer three additional green-eyed dolls online.  One of them has sandy blonde hair, and bangs, and two prominent upper front teeth.  In other words, she is a dead ringer for little kid me.

Criticism withdrawn - but on the one point only.

Then I got to the page offering me "McKenna's Loft Bed."  And I could not decide whether to laugh or have a coronary.  For $225, you, too, can be the proud owner of the following (descriptions taken from AG's Web site, my editorial comments in parentheses):
  • A loft bed with an attached ladder and hooks for hanging clothes (STRAIGHT OUTTA THE PB TEEN CATALOG)
  • A soft purple mattress and two plump pillows (creating "a cozy place to dream")
  • A reversible quilt to keep her warm—solid purple on one side, star print on the other
  • A purple metal chair for her desk, featuring an open scrolled back and a green cushioned seat (STILL CHANNELING PB TEEN)
  • A pretend clock with hands that "move" (WHY IS THIS WORD IN QUOTES?  EITHER THE HANDS MOVE, OR THEY DON'T)
  • A faux lamp for her desk
  • An achievement certificate (OH, I PROMISE YOU DON'T WANT TO GO THERE, AMERICAN GIRL GODS; I HAVE ENOUGH TROUBLE WITH PARTICIPANT RIBBONS FOR ACTUAL PEOPLE, LET ALONE VINYL REPLICAS), starry trophy, and three gymnastics ribbons from past competitions
  • A toy version of McKenna's adorable pet hamster, Polka Dot! Your girl can keep the hamster inside a clear cage that opens up, and comes with a faux water bottle, an exercise wheel, and treat bowl (THANK GOODNESS THAT WE CLEARED UP THAT THE PET HAMSTER IS A TOY, BECAUSE THIS WAS LEFT AMBIGUOUS IN THE CATALOG, AND I STARTED TO WORRY A LITTLE BIT THAT PEOPLE WHO MIGHT SELL YOU A $225 BEDROOM SUITE FOR A DOLL MIGHT ALSO THINK THAT SAID DOLL MERITED A LIVE ANIMAL AS A PET)
  • Three faux pencils (SERIOUSLY?) and a lined pad of paper for homework
  • Confidence boosters (REFER TO PARTICIPANT RIBBON, ABOVE): a letter from her mom, an encouragement mirror (WHAT IN HADES IS AN ENCOURAGEMENT MIRROR?) from a friend, and a heart note that says "Never give up!"
  • A faux bumper sticker (AS OPPOSED TO AN ACTUAL, FUNCTIONING BUMPER STICKER?) that says "I love gymnastics" and a gymnastics poster
  • Three mini hardcover books McKenna uses to practice her reading skills: Harry the Dirty Dog, Judy Moody, and Charlotte's Web
  • A shaggy green rug, plus a comfy floor pillow for Cooper, McKenna's pet goldendoodle (sold separately) (OKAY, AGAIN, NO REFERENCE TO A TOY ANIMAL HERE)
  • Removable stickers girls can use to decorate the loft 
At this point in my trip through the AG catalog (snippets of which I had been reading out loud in an ironic tone of voice), I whipped around and thanked the inhabitants of the backseat for having male genitalia.  Okay, that's not exactly how I phrased it, but that was certainly the sentiment.  So grateful was I that I almost (ALMOST) offered them a thank you in the form of the LEGO Death Star ($398.99 price point - don't ask how I know that - and as close to a functional equivalent for McKenna's Loft Bed as you can get in the LEGO universe, from a parental indulgence standpoint).

I caught myself (saving $398.99, plus tax), and kept reading.  I learned that the owner of McKenna's Loft Bed ("Girl of the Year 2012" McKenna Brooks) was a budding gymnast.  And, for the ultimate dose of realism, AG was willing to sell me (for the low, low price point of $30) a "McKenna's Cast & Crutches" playset - complete with "replica get-well card."

And here's where I lost it.   Because, back in the day, when you wanted to cripple a doll, you used this little ol' thing called imagination - and gauze from the first aid kit.  (For a Barbie, you used that paper adhesive tape, because it was sized more to scale.)  In lieu of a "replica get-well card," you would take a piece of paper and some crayons, and you would make an ACTUAL get-well card for your faux-disabled doll.   And if you wanted to make a doll a gymnast, you flipped over a kitchen chair, stretched a rubber band between the two front legs, inserted a Barbie, WOUND UP THE RUBBER BAND AS TIGHT AS YOU COULD, and let go.  Barbie would flip, and flip, and flip, and ultimately fly across the room.  PERFECT DISMOUNT!  NINE-POINT-NINE FROM THE EAST GERMAN JUDGE!  (Oh, that was also back in the days when East Germany was a thing.)

But my fit of pique didn't stop there.  It peaked (hey, a peaking pique!) on the second to last page, where I discovered Item # F0902 . . . the American Girl replica "Allergy-Free Lunch":

Said lunch (available for $28, but - like McKenna's loft bed, cast and crutches - backordered for all eternity; THESE ARE POPULAR ITEMS, PEOPLE!) contains:
  • A medical bracelet and allergy stickers to keep her safe while she snacks
  • A faux allergy shot, just in case (AGAIN, I THINK "FAUX" WAS IMPLIED - WASN'T IT?)
  • A fabric lunch bag to hold it all
HUGE disclaimer:  I am not making light of food allergies.  And I appreciate that the idea is to make children more comfortable with their individual differences through appropriate and imaginative play.  But:  there is no functional equivalent in the boy universe for  the American Girl "Allergy-Free Lunch."  Hasbro does not offer a Transforming Peanut-Free Birthday Party Play Pack.  And I cannot decide whether this makes me happy or unhappy.  I can only note that, as a society, we (still) seem to encourage more navel-gazing in females than males.  A little girl gets eyeglasses, and her parents are likely to make a point of telling her that wearing glasses doesn't change who she is (as they hand her one of nine different styles of American Girl doll eyeglasses, all reasonably priced at $8 a pair).  What does a little boy hear when he gets eyeglasses?  "YOU BETTER NOT BREAK THEM.  BECAUSE THOSE SUCKERS WERE EXPENSIVE.  NOW RUB SOME DIRT ON YOURSELF AND GET BACK IN THE GAME."

By the way, Spouse taught me early on in the parenting process that the correct response to any situation is, "rub some dirt on it and get back in the game."  And I have wholeheartedly adopted the philosophy.  Which, I guess, is why the American Girl brand of introspection seems so foreign to me.

Also by the way:  I used my Batman detective powers to piece together that the lunch probably belongs to "Girl of the Year" McKenna, although it was not attributed as such in the catalog.  It was Cooper the goldendoodle that tipped me off.  Non-shedding breed.  Definite allergy tell.

And apropos of absolutely nothing:  for the same $28 that would snag you a faux allergy-free lunch (if it wasn't backordered), you can get an "unofficial" taxidermied deer LEGO kit from the David Cole Gift Shop.  Which, coincidentally, might be on order as a "thank you for having male genitalia" gift for my children.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Shoe Shopping With Dad

We were halfway through dinner (and a pitcher of on-the-rocks margaritas) with my grandmother when Big Kid reminded us that he needed new track shoes.  This reminded me that Little Kid also needed new soccer cleats.  Then Spouse remembered that there was an Academy around the corner from the Mexican restaurant where we were currently encamped.  It was quickly decided that nothing about shoe shopping, shoe shopping with children, Academy and my grandmother was remotely compatible.  (This was also decided quietly, because said grandmother - God love her - does not like to be reminded about her physical limitations.  Or, particularly, about her age.  Because, quote, "What's the big deal about being in your nineties?  My sister Katharine lived to be one hundred and seven.  ONE.  HUNDRED.  AND.  SEVEN.  And she was active right up to age 105.  Nineties are nothing.  NOTH.  ING.  Stop making a to-do."  Fortunately, Gigi was enjoying her margarita, and a chicken-and-cheese-stuffed avocado, so we got in a sotto voce conversation under the radar.)

We were in one car, but we were also due to rendezvous with my mother, and somehow it ended up that, when Gigi got handed over to Mom, I ended up being handed over as well.  Which was fine, because I really didn't want to go shoe-shopping with three males, and a half hour hanging out with my female relatives, watching "America's Got Talent," sounded like the better end of the bargain.

Except a half hour turned into an hour and a half.

At the 45-minute mark, I called Spouse's cell phone and got a rather terse report:  "Yes, we're still here.  Why?  Because it's not going well.  Who's the problem?  PICK ONE."

He did not elaborate.  Another thirty minutes passed.  I called again.

"YES.  WE'RE STILL HERE.  I'll call you when we're on the way."

Finally, they arrived.  I got in the front seat.  The backseat passengers took turns shoving newly shod feet in my face.  Big Kid:  ginormous black and red Adidas running shoes.  Little Kid:  bumblebee-striped Adidas cleats to coordinate with our (very) yellow-and-black soccer uniform.   (We're the Lightning Bolts.  Spouse is coach-by-default this year and inherited the team name from a prior coach.  Spouse suggested that we put nicknames on the jerseys.  And everyone's nickname would be Usain.  Spouse was outvoted.  But I am thinking of ordering him a t-shirt with the Jamaican flag on it for the first game, just to let him know that I appreciate the joke.)

I let my curiosity win out over better judgment and ventured to ask:  what was the holdup?

Before Spouse could open his mouth, Big Kid blurted out:  "Well, I would have been finished with my shoe purchase inside of five minutes, but Dad wouldn't accept that I was happy with the first pair that I tried on.  Instead, he made both of us do this weird March Madness bracket-y thing."

Spouse started to issue a retort, but I cut him off:

"This bracket-y thing of which you speak:  was it like an eye test?"

"Huh?  What do you mean?"

"Well, when Daddy and I shop together, he does this eye test thing, where he asks me if I like something, and I say yes, and then he holds up another thing, and asks me which of the two things I like better.  And I have to choose, and then he compares my choice to ANOTHER thing, and I have to choose again."

"Exactly.  But why would you call that an eye test?"

"Because it's like when the eye doctor fits you for lenses, and he puts two different-strength lenses in front of your eyes in rapid succession, and asks you, 'Which one is clearer?'  Oh, wait - you have perfect vision.  So the eye test for you is . . ."

"Yeah, the thing with the big E on top.   But I get what you're talking about."

"And I can see why you would call it a March Madness bracket.  The number one seed plays a sixteen, and the winner goes up against - wait, was he comparing two pairs of shoes, and then two OTHER pairs of shoes, and the winner of those two contests went head-to-head?"

"No, it wasn't quite like that."

"So, some pairs of shoes got a bye?"


At this point, Spouse announced that HE WAS STILL IN THE CAR AND COULD HEAR US.

Then the Little Kid blurted out a loud and more-than-a-bit agitated "uh-oh."

"I'M STILL WEARING THE TRY-ON SOCKS.  I wore my cleats out of the store, and so I never took them off."

Of course, Big Kid had to chime in:  "Way to go, genius.  You just stole two socks.  Wait - do you still have two socks on one of your feet?"

[Don't ask.  I surely didn't.]

"Yup.  Meaning . . . "

". . . you stole THREE try-on socks."

Ten minutes after we arrived at the house:

"Mom, I need a Sharpie marker."


"For sock puppets."

"Excuse me?"


Apparently, our guilt over unwittingly committing sock theft was short-lived.