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faulty vision http://www.faultyvision.net "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." -Victor Borge Tue, 21 Aug 2012 21:37:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v= A Good Idea Followed by a Bad Idea http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/08/21/a-good-idea-followed-by-a-bad-idea/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/08/21/a-good-idea-followed-by-a-bad-idea/#comments Tue, 21 Aug 2012 20:24:56 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1904 I had a moment a couple of months ago when I realized that I was getting to that age where stuff that I thought was really dumb when I was younger suddenly started to seem like a good idea. I’m pretty sure I was a shitload of fun in my youth, in the same way [...]]]> I had a moment a couple of months ago when I realized that I was getting to that age where stuff that I thought was really dumb when I was younger suddenly started to seem like a good idea. I’m pretty sure I was a shitload of fun in my youth, in the same way that doing taxes and getting your first endoscopy are fun, because I know I was totally up for anything as long as it didn’t involve anything that would result in (1) loss of dignity; (2) noise; or (3) mess. Now that I’m older though, I’m starting to lighten up on requirements 1 and 2, partly because I’ve discovered that I have no dignity and probably never will (though I still hold out hopes for my 70s, assuming I get that far) and 2 is pretty much ruled out because I went and had a kid.

(By that same token you could also rule out 3, but hope springs eternal, and I hate doing laundry.)

The other thing I realized is that you have to make your own fun. I discovered that because Hobbes is constantly demanding to be entertained, like he doesn’t have a fully functioning brain of his own. 1

He alternates between wails of, “I want to do something fun!” and “Come play with me!” which are both really cute the first time, because he has really bad diction so they come out sounding like, “I wanna do somefin’ fun!” and “Come pway wif me!” 2 After the fourth or fifth time, not to mention the fortieth or fiftieth time, they get a little old.

“Go find something to do!” is my standard response, though I sometimes mix it up with, “Use your imagination,” or “I am not your pet poodle.” He doesn’t really understand the poodle thing, because he continues to have a deeply skeptical relationship with dogs as a species ever since a shiba tried to eat his head for smelling like a sausage (not really, but I think that’s how it ended up being stored in his wee brain, so whatever) but the other two he understands perfectly.

His retort is usually some variety of, “I’m using my imagination, and it says you should come pway with me.” I’ve told him repeatedly that hearsay is not admissible, and unless he can produce said imagination to testify that it actually said that, he’s not getting anything from me. One of these days he’ll be smart enough to ask whether I even have a law degree, at which point I will pat him proudly on the head and say, “Well played, grasshopper. Well played.”

That probably won’t happen for at least another year, so I have some time yet.

Anyway, this takes us back to the subject of fun — just go with me here — and the Good Idea part of this title. Basically, I decided to dye my hair (“Was I supposed to spell that with an ‘i’ or a ‘y’?” asked my sister the nurse, busily texting on her phone, “because my boyfriend’s freaking out now.” Well done, Sako!) an attractive shade of smurf blue.

Behold.

 

20120821-132351.jpg

 

It’s in streaks, in case you’re wondering, and it looked fantastic for the three weeks it lasted until it blanched into an odd greeny-yellow color. Lesson learned: do not go swimming the day after dying your hair.

Hobbes was an immediate fan, and promptly put together a relatively cogent argument about why he should be allowed to dye his own hair purple. I exercised my authority as an arbitrary and inconsistent straddler of galaxies, and told him he wasn’t allowed to do it until he could pay for it himself.

“You should give me money, Mommy,” he said craftily.

“Not unless you work for it.”

“I do evewyfing,” he said with exasperation.

I’m proud of the boy. He may be remedial in other areas, but he’s already whining at a 7th grade level.

On the other front, the Bad Idea front, we’re going to be going on a long road trip shortly. A long, multi-state road trip. With a 3-year old. This isn’t the brightest thing we’ve done in our time, but then again, I’m almost positive we’ve done dumber things (though none immediately come to mind. Still, I’m sure if I give it some thought, something will occur to me.) I’m tempted to see if I can make myself journal through the entire thing, but given my attention span and inability to stay conscious in the car, that might not be something that happens.

In the meantime, Hobbes is obsessed with dinosaurs, and makes us read him fat encyclopedias and reference materials about the subject every fucking night. It’s getting so I start out our bedtime ritual with, ”Please. I’m begging you. Let me read something with a plot.” Unless his dad intervenes, Hobbes just stares at me like he’s James Cameron and doesn’t know the meaning of the word, and shoves yet another dinosaur book in my face.

He’s turning into an expert. It’s infuriating. The kid can’t even say “thumb” without including an extra ‘f,’ and he’s lecturing me about the proper pronunciation of Latin words. “Di-PLOD-a-cus, Mommy!” Or the other night, “Ark-e-OP-trix.” Which, I tell you, is not how ‘diplodocus’ and ‘archaeopteryx’ look like they should sound.

DIP-lo-DOKE-us. ARCH-e-op-ter-ix. Right?

“Say ‘library,’” I ordered.

“Libwawy.”

“When you can say ‘library’ like a real person, then you can lecture me about Latin, okay?”

He rolled his eyes so hard, I swear they were about to lose suction and spring out at me like ping-pong balls. “Oh, Mom,” he sighed. “You’re hiwarious.”

 

20120821-132340.jpg

Show 2 footnotes

  1. He doesn’t, by the way; I think it’s because it’s so small, but I’m pretty sure there are some parts missing. Don’t tell him I said so, though. I’m hoping those missing parts make him gullible enough to think I’m a supportive and nurturing parent.
  2. See? I really am a supportive parent. I transcribed him like he was an articulate human being the first time. That totally counts. In years to come, when he’s being eviscerated by the press for pounding on a podium and announcing, “My name is Hobbes and I am wunning fo’ pwesident!” he’ll think back to this and realize how nice I really was.
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Childrens’ Day and other things http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/05/08/childrens-day-and-other-things/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/05/08/childrens-day-and-other-things/#comments Tue, 08 May 2012 23:19:37 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1881 mine -- was this past weekend. May 5th is the specific date for the celebration. When I was growing up, it used to be about celebrating the presence of sons in a household. Nowadays, it celebrates the presence of any kids at all. Someone in Japan is paying attention to the census.]]>

"I am FWEE." "He means 'three.'"

We were in a local park the other day, and Hobbes was swinging on the big kids’ swing. He is very proud of himself for this graduation from the little kid swings, which consist of buckets that even toddlers can’t figure out how to fall out of. He is now responsible for staying in the swing by himself. This is accomplished by sheer force of will, as far as I can tell. His grip on the swing chains is erratic at best. I let him swing on it anyway, because how else is he going to learn? As I have taught him to say when prompted, “Gwavity is a witch.”1

A couple of swings away, a slightly older boy was driving his father mad.

“Stop whining!

“But daddy–”

There’s a sonic scream quality to a child’s whine that you can’t really appreciate until you have one living with you. I think that was the original inspiration for Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver, to tell you the truth. Some clever writer noticed that whenever a kid whined, something happened — a door got opened, a stepstool got dragged over, a popsicle got unwrapped — and extrapolated it out further. What if the whine had magic powers? What if the whine was sciencey? What if you encapsulated the whine, and got rid of the enfant terrible — that role already being taken by the eponymous hero — and the intervening grown-up? What if you made it a device that you could turn off?

In my imagination, it’s that last idea that sold it to a room full of exhausted producers with little kids at home.

Daddy, I want you to push it like running and you diiiiiiiiidn’t.”

“I did it just like that!”

Daaaaaaadddddddyyyyyyyyyyyyy–!” The rest of his complaint was lost in the ear-scraping wail of whine hitting soft palate limitations.

They’d been going at it for the last five minutes, and the father was rapidly losing his mind. My teeth were starting to itch. Hobbes, less impressed, had been attending with great interest through the entire scene. Neither of us were able to figure out what the little boy wanted, which made four of us. 2

“Mommy,” Hobbes said with disapproval. “He should stop whining.”

“Honey,” I said. “You ever hear of the pot calling the kettle black?”

Pot, what? “No, the boy,” he said. “He is whining a lot.”

“So do you.”

I don’t whine.”

“Yes you do. And you sound just like that.”

Hobbes listened intently to the other child, whose father was just hitting the hair-pulling stage.

“I whine too much,” he decided at last.

Hallelujah. I patted my son proudly on the head. “Truer words,” I said, “have never been spoken.”

Step 1. Admitting there is a problem.

Bad Parenting 101

***

Children’s Day — once known as Boys’ Day, but now rebranded as a gender-neutral holiday in these modern days, I don’t know why when there’s a perfectly good Girls’ Day on March 3, but okay, I’m all for equality of the sexes if it means getting an extra holiday in for mine — was this past weekend. May 5th is the specific date for the celebration. When I was growing up, it used to be about celebrating the presence of sons in a household. Nowadays, it celebrates the presence of any kids at all.

Someone in Japan is paying attention to the census.

I didn’t bother to explain to Hobbes about the new incarnation of the holiday. Boys’ Day was good enough for me as a kid, so it’s damn well good enough for him.3 He was excited enough by the idea of an entire day set aside just for boys, an explanation of the holiday’s evolution probably wouldn’t have penetrated anyway. He still retains only the loosest understanding of the difference between boys and girls. The other day, as I was undressing for a shower, he rediscovered some anatomical differences between us and commented loudly and inquisitively on them for a full minute.

I was all ready to explain to him some physiological realities, but the child has the attention span of a rabbit. He’d already moved on.

As part of the Boys’ Day celebrations, we finally put up the koinobori display — literal translation, “carp rising upward,” more or less — which my grandmother had sent from Japan during his first year. It was the first time we’d flown it outside, and Hobbes was very pleased with the effect, associating the carp correctly with each of the family members they were designed to represent. The black one at the top, the largest, is meant to represent the father. The orange one below that, the mother. The small blue one at the bottom stands for the first son. Any subsequent sons are added on below, with additional fish.

I don’t know what Catholic families do. I know someone who grew up in a family of 11 kids. This may be why displays like this didn’t really evolve in European countries.

“This is for Boys’ Day?” Hobbes asked, while I was putting them up.

“Yes, honey.”

“It’s a holiday just for boys?” he pursued.

“That’s right.”

I’m a boy,” he confided.

“Well done!”

“I have a willy.”

“I applaud your recognition of that distinction, though you do realize you’re not personally responsible for its generation.”

“Look!”

“No, thank you. –Put that away, Hobbes.”

You’re not a boy,” he said with great satisfaction. “It’s for me.”

I’m hoping he was talking about the holiday.

Our HOA has a policy against outside displays like this, which I was willing to rebuff with outraged denunciations of cultural oppression and insensitivity. Sadly, no HOA official showed up to challenge me. We left it up all weekend and most of Monday, to the great interest of our neighbors. I took it down when I got back from work, and now — barring the dead potted plants I have been collecting; oddly, there is no HOA policy about that — the decrepit front of my townhouse looks the same as it ever did.

“Is Boys’ Day over?” Hobbes asked, watching as I detached the string of koi from its hook.

“Yes, dear.”

“I can’t wait for Boys’ Day again,” Hobbes said, waving his hands in the air. “I waited forever for it. I waited twenty days.”

***

What, you were expecting an essay about the rich tapestry of traditions from my motherland?

***

What happens when you give a 3 year old a camera. I have no idea what my husband is doing.


Show 3 footnotes

  1. I’ll teach him how to articulate that last word better when he hits high school. I’m a good mommy.
  2. Hobbes, me, the dad, and — I’m pretty sure about this — the boy himself.
  3. To be fair, as a girl growing up with a sister in a two-child household, Boys’ Day was more of an abstract concept for me when I was a child. We girls had our own thing going on. It involved dolls. With swords.
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Stories on an afternoon drive http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/05/01/stories-on-an-afternoon-drive/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/05/01/stories-on-an-afternoon-drive/#comments Tue, 01 May 2012 20:59:12 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1871 “I want a story!”

Hobbes is insatiable, absolutely relentless, when it comes to stories. He loves to have people read him books, or tell him stories, or watch stories, no matter what the medium. Even classical music must have a story, which he demands as soon as I put in any piece of music.

I tell you, I love my son, I really do, but sometimes I really want to put him in a box with packing peanuts and ship him to Thailand. And since the Guy had already plodded his way through a retelling of Three Little Pigs, followed by a recusant version of Goldilocks, I figured he’d had enough.

Apparently, he didn’t agree.

“I want a story! I want a story! Mommy, I want a story!”

“Don’t look at me,” the Guy said. “I already did my time.”

So had I. And I was tired. And run down. And nearing the end of my rope. “Fine,” I snarled. Which means, in wife language, I hate you.

“I want a story!”

I raised my voice. “Once upon a time, there was a duck named Bob. And he lived in a pond with other ducks. But then the farmer got hungry and ate him, so he died, the end.”

In terms of story structure, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end, which made it good enough. Maybe it wasn’t such a success in terms of dramatic tension, but it was a goddamn duck. Fuck dramatic tension.

“I want another story!”

“Once upon a time, there was a chicken named Alice. And she lived at a farm with other chickens until the farmer got hungry and ate her, so she died, the end.”

“I want another story!”

Once upon a time–” I will admit it, I was starting to sound a little bit crazed by this point, “there was a goat named Justin, and he lived at a farm with other goats until the farmer got hungry and ate him, so he died, the end.”

“Another story!”

Once upon a time there was a cow named Egbert and she lived at a farm with other cows until the farmer got hungry and ate her so she died the end!

There was a small, merciful silence then as Hobbes digested the hidden moral to the stories. The Guy glanced in the rearview mirror. “He’s got his hands behind his head,” he reported, “and he’s thinking.”

But not for long.

“I want a longer story!”

I gritted my teeth and prepared to give it my all.

“Once upon a time there was a farmer named William. And he had a cow, a goat, a chicken, and a duck. And he ate them. But then one day an alien came to visit, and it got hungry, so it ate the farmer all up the end the absolute end there is no more.

There was another silence from the back seat. Then: “Why did the alien eat him?”

Because the farmer was all fat from eating the cow, the chicken, the goat, and the duck!

“Aliens like to eat people,” the Guy said. “It happens all the time. Because they’re soft and squashy.”

“Like you,” I said darkly.

For a 3-year old fan of Star Wars, this news was not as dismaying as I would have thought. He looked more intrigued by the possibility than alarmed. At any rate, he didn’t ask for any more stories. I suppose he didn’t want to find out if there were things out there that ate aliens, too.

Shut up. I am an awesome parent.

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Bring your kids to work day http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/30/bring-your-kids-to-work-day/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/30/bring-your-kids-to-work-day/#comments Tue, 01 May 2012 00:26:45 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1829 Bring Your Kid to Work Day. (Coincidentally, the Dow Jones plummeted the following week. Take that as you will.) ]]> Thursday evening

So, today was bring your kids to work day….

(Excuse me. I suddenly feel a need for a drink.)


Friday morning

So, yesterday was bring your kids to work day.

(Shit. Hold on. I want another drink.)


Friday afternoon

I foget what I wanting talked to.

Oh, so sad!


Monday

So, last Thursday was Bring Your Kid to Work Day. (Coincidentally, the Dow Jones plummeted the following week. Take that as you will.)

Hobbes loves coming to my office, for reasons that I can’t understand very well. About all you can say for the place is that there isn’t any blood on the actual walls, and people are not regularly flogged in public1, but other than that — it’s a cubicle farm, and I live in a cubicle. I’m Dilbert, with more hair. Despite that fact, Hobbes regularly asks if he can come to work again with me, on the off chance I might have hit my head and forgotten the last time he came with me. Every so often, mostly on holidays where his daycare is closed, he lucks out.

For the first time since I’ve been there, my company went all out on a half-day event for the kids of employees. It was well-organized and run by young, enthusiastic people with — and this is key — no kids of their own. Volunteers at the company offered up hitherto unrecognized talents. There were scheduled activities, a tour of the office, a pizza lunch, balloon animals, face painting, and some art activities. They had company ID badges made up for the kids that had their pictures and names for them.2

Hobbes waiting for a balloon animal.

There was also sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. Chocolates, lollipops, gummy treats, juice boxes, fruit.

See above re: young, enthusiastic people with no kids of their own.

I wasn’t able to stick around for a good hour of the event. I had a meeting at the same time, scheduled during a fit of amnesia. “Can I leave him with you guys?” I asked the young, childless woman from HR.

Perennial optimist that she is, she looked delighted at the prospect. “Sure! We’ll have fun, won’t we, Hobbes?”

But Hobbes had already dashed off to explore something else. I looked after him. “Maybe if I give you my cell phone number,” I suggested. “That way you can ring me if he causes you trouble and you feel yourself on the verge of hurling him out a window.”

I was untroubled by phone calls during the meeting, which puzzled me. When I returned an hour later to the main conference room, site of the jamboree, everything was quiet and still.

“Have they killed all the kids?” I inquired of the sole person remaining, a guy from IT.

“They’re on a building tour,” he said. “They should be back any minute now.”

The building isn’t that big. It isn’t that interesting. One and a half floors, blanketed with cubicles. And yet, it was another 45 minutes before they came back downstairs.

Hobbes came dashing into the room through the crowd of children, full of beans, and unleashed a barrage of disjointed information at me before disappearing again. One of the young, childless women from Marketing approached me. Her face was drawn and haggard. “Is he yours?” she asked.

“Yup. Why? What did he break?”

“Nothing.” She offered me a wan smile, the shell-shocked, autonomic response you might get from the victim of a horrific crime. “He’s really high energy, isn’t he?”

“You could say that,” I said. Hobbes was pinging around the room, chattering indiscriminately at people at the top of his lungs. When I glanced over at his last known location, I discovered him wedged half-in, half-out of a spinning office chair, in imminent danger of breaking off one of his legs.

One of the other young, childless women from Marketing hurried past. “She was taking care of him,” she reported, indicating the first girl. “We had three people for all the rest of the kids,” — a little over 20, I estimated, ranging in age from 9 months to 12 years — “but we had to dedicate one person for Hobbes. We called him the Deflector.”

This baffled me. “He wasn’t answering questions?”

“No, because he kept deflecting–” She demonstrated with a hand, angling it off-line. “Everybody else would go this way, and he’d always go some other direction–”

“Oh.” Yes. Well. “He does that,” I said. He really does. We’ve given up. Nowadays, our standard method of leading him somewhere is to plant one hand firmly on his head and keep it there, steering him by turning his skull in the direction we want him to go.

This is only moderately successful. He apparently does not feel that his head needs to accompany him on all outings.

The girl wilted. “He’s cute?” she said, without much conviction.

At one point during the tour, someone apparently asked him what he did. “I boss my mommy and daddy around,” he’d announced.3

An astonishing number of people came up to me over the next few days to tell me about this. They seemed to think it was funny. “Your kid is so bright,” they said.

“Ah,” I said. “Hah. Er.”

A rare moment of peace and quiet. Thats a lollipop in his mouth, not a cigarette this time.

Later on in the day, one of our lawyers called me over to her cube. “I’m sorry about the cupcakes,” she said.

Cupcakes? What? “What cupcakes?” I said. Hobbes was bobbing up and down beside me, but apparently feeling, six words into the conversation, that there was nothing of importance about to be discussed, he started wandering in and out of people’s offices.

“I brought cupcakes,” said the lawyer. “See, this is why I’m not allowed to have children.” She appeared to be congratulating herself on this.

I don’t know what committee decided this, but they were obviously asleep on the job when The Guy and I had one.

***

The problem with the Bring Your Kids to Work Day thing is that all the activities ended after lunch, which meant that around 1 pm I ended up with a sugared-up, hyperactive, deranged escapee from the Toddler Ward parked (and I use that word very loosely) at my desk.

And so did a lot of other parents.

“Do you want to take them to the park?” a coworker asked, while our kids careened off the walls like demented pinballs.

I assume this was a rhetorical question.

Three kids set off to the park, arguing about their respective ages and what that meant. My son, at 3, was the youngest. Then there was a 4 year old and a 5 year old, which for some reason meant that Hobbes was (according to him, anyway) in “the middle.” He has an combatively nonchalant attitude towards mathematical progression. Part of the way there, one of the parents turned back to go to a meeting, leaving his son with us.

Right before we’d left, I’d not-very-pointedly asked him about whether he’d brought a change of clothing for his son. Turns out that this was a good idea.

I don’t know why the inevitable outcome of this outing wasn’t obvious to me. Fountain. Little boys. Duh.

This is why I shouldn't be allowed to babysit.

"It's okay. He's had his polio vaccine."

This is why, near the end of the day, I found myself in the building garage with a stark-naked little boy dancing in the back of my car — just as one of the senior directors in engineering came strolling out. “Ah,” I said, while Hobbes hugged my head and attempted to rub his willy on my shirt.4 “Er. Hi.”

He (the director) smiled weakly at me and quickly got into his car.

...wet.

To be fair, this could probably only improve my reputation at work.


Show 4 footnotes

  1. any more
  2. Strangely, these ID badges didn’t actually work on any of our security doors, which is how I ended up locked in the stairwell partway through the day. If I have a real criticism, it’s that they didn’t activate the kids’ badges. Because what could possibly have gone wrong?
  3. Which is true. In fact, we have told him this, though the way we phrased it was, “Hobbes, do not boss your mommy and daddy around.” I am heartened by the improvement in his listening skills, though it seems we still need to work on comprehension.
  4. My son finds this indescribably funny. What is it with boys and dogs? You know that saying, “Why do dogs lick their balls? Because they can.” Right? Well, now you do.
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Tech support. http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/26/tech-support/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/26/tech-support/#comments Thu, 26 Apr 2012 20:55:55 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1812 Also known as “my husband.”

I took a picture to prove my point, putting the SD card (taken from the camera) and putting it next to the array of available slots. I know how tech support works. They always want proof.

My husband sent the following picture back. And [...]]]> Also known as “my husband.”

I took a picture to prove my point, putting the SD card (taken from the camera) and putting it next to the array of available slots. I know how tech support works. They always want proof.

My husband sent the following picture back. And right about then….

…in fact, right before I got the picture, I realized I might have accidentally pulled the wrong thing out of the camera. I blame it on the camera’s design. The card is located right next to the battery, in the same slot. It was a reasonable mistake to make.

No, really. Totally reasonable.

Jackass.

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Candyland http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/23/candyland/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/23/candyland/#comments Tue, 24 Apr 2012 05:01:18 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1744 Sunday…

So I woke up this morning to Hobbes chattering at me about pillows and bad guys, and that was at 7:30 am. It is now 7:34 pm. The fact that he hasn’t stopped talking since he woke up — and I include those periods of time when he was either eating or ostensibly napping — gives me the uneasy feeling that something has gone horribly wrong with my life. It’s like a story out of a Philip K. Dick anthology, where at the end you discover that the main character is an AI trapped in a virtual simulation of schizophrenia brought on by isolation so that scientists can study the effects of long-term space travel on the clinically deranged and the voice that won’t ever ever shut up is in your head and won’t stop not even if you beg him to because he loves you so much and wants you to know all about how his feet smell like poopie and why doesn’t poop have feet? why not? why? why? why? why?

Mom has listened to my complaints on this subject with the satisfaction of a good woman seeing justice done. “I remember,” she said nostalgically. “When Sako was little, we were worried because she never talked. We thought there was something wrong with her.”

“There is something wrong with her,” I said automatically, as is my responsibility as a big sister.

“Yes,” she said, and beamed happily at me. “It was you. You never stopped talking, so she never had a chance to say anything.”

I hung up on her.

It’s not the talking that I mind so much — actually, I do, but let’s set that aside for a moment — It’s the constant demands of why. It is endless, and persistent, and even when I give the same answer 5 times in a row, it continues to come.1

I didn’t do that when I was a kid,” I texted self-righteously to a Japanese friend.

“That’s because the word ‘why’ in Japanese is so hard to say,” she pointed out2, and suddenly I started to wonder about my parents’ decision not to teach me English.

***

King Kandy

King Kandy fuels his jollity on the illegally harvested pancreata of small children.

For Hobbes’s last birthday, the family of one of his little friends gave him Candyland, or as I like to call it, ‘Happy Fun Times with Childhood Obesity.’ He loves it. He thinks it’s brilliant. This is because he’s 3, and has the emotional maturity of a cocker spaniel. Me? I hate this game with the passion I usually reserve for clowns, mosquitos, and Horatio Caine.3 Every time the goddamn box comes off the toy shelf, I start rehearsing words that would get me suspended if I still worked with children.

Andy Warhol weeps.

This is your brain on drugs.

Have you ever played this game? If you were raised in the US during the last 50 years, you probably didn’t escape it. I will go far as to say its early childhood influence might be the leading cause of clinical depression in my generation. First there’s the game board, which itself is a cry for help.4 The playing field consists of squares in different colors, periodically interrupted by pictures of other sweets: ice cream cones, licorice, jelly beans, etc. There are characters around the edges of the board that I’m sure some coked-up business executive thought would make great franchising material. I can just hear it now. “We can take candies rejected by quality control, ink eyes onto them, then spray them in clear plastic, and sell them at cost to kids!” Unfortunately, these characters look like they were peeled off a bathroom stall after a nasty run-in with ipecac Skittles. They have names like “Queen Frostine” and “Gloppy,” and barring the fact that Gloppy looks like the inevitable biological end product5 of too much Queen Frostine consumption, there is absolutely nothing enticing about any of these them (Yes, I just equated Gloppy with poop. Yes, I am stretching the definition of the word “enticing” to a criminal degree. This is called creative license.)

Gloppy

"Dammit. How many prunes did you eat, child?"

Gameplay goes as follows. The player picks a card from a deck, which when flipped over shows either a square of color, two squares of the same color, or a picture of a sweet. Now, here’s where it gets tricky, so follow closely here. When it’s your turn and you flip over a card, you take your piece (a thematically apropos plastic gingerbread man in green, yellow, red, or blue) and move it to the next square on the board that has the same color or picture. If your card has two squares of the same color, then you go to the next square but one. The goal is to get to the eponymous Candyland at the end of the road.

This is the kind of intellectual challenge that prepares children for careers in fast food service. According to its Wikipedia entry, it was invented in 1945 by someone recovering from polio. I can only imagine that the long hours of being trapped in bed drove the designer into a black pit of insane rage, the kind that needs to inflict pain on others and leads people into careers as oral hygienists.6 There are about 300 squares on the board, and it moves at a glacial pace. Playing through an entire game is like watching radioisotopes decay. I would do pretty much anything to get out of this activity, up to and including selling my child to Mongolian yak-herders.

“Play with me,” Hobbes said.

This is how my day usually starts to go downhill. My inner monologue said, oh my GOD. Out loud I said, “Honey, I have a headache.”

“Candyland. I will get it.”

At which point, my inner monologue said, oh my FUCKING God, which I didn’t say out loud because I’m a good decent not completely incompetent mother. “Headache,” I said again. “Ache in the head. Ache is another word for pain. I don’t think I feel like playing right now, Hobbes. Because of my headache. Which hurts.”

He was setting out the pieces on the floor, completely ignoring me. You know those Charlie Brown movies, where adults are always portrayed with that weird wah wah, wah wah, wah wah sound? This is exactly what Hobbes hears when I talk.

“I need to set up the cards,” he said.

“I don’t understand why you get to make entertainment choices in this household.”

“Open your eyes, Mommy.”

“Headache,” I said again, while Hobbes carefully gathered up handfuls of cards from the box. “I have a headache, so I can’t play. Get used to that, because that’s what’s in your future. You should thank me. I’m preparing you for future relationship hurdles. When a woman says ‘I have a headache,’ what you’re supposed to say is, ‘That’s terrible, what can I do to help you feel better?’”

“You’re yellow.”

“That’s racist, sweetie. We don’t say ‘yellow.’ We say ‘Asian.’ And we don’t say ‘blotchily pink,’ either. We say ‘honky.’”

He put the yellow piece on the starting place on the board, then put the red one next to it. “Yellow is your favorite,” he informed me.

“I was kidding just then, honey,” I said. “We don’t really say honky. That was the pain talking. We call them gaijin. In fact, everybody is gaijin except for Japanese people and your father, who married into honorary Japaneseness. Because gaijin means ‘barbarian,’ and that’s what they are. Barbarians. They eat rice with forks.”7

Hobbes ignored me. He’s good at that. He started putting each of the little playing cards on the floor, one at a time — which, you know, I hate this game with the fire of a thousand burning suns, but you should still play it right.

“You’re supposed to stack them together, face down,” I told him.

“We’re going to play it different,” he announced. “You pick the card you want and then you play.”

Even through the headache, it only took me a split second to realize that this would make cheating a lot easier, thus making the game a lot shorter. Normally I have to cheat by picking up several cards at a time and then picking through them to find the one that’ll skip us ahead to the end. It’s so much easier when you can see the cards upfront.

He finished laying out the cards, then picked up a blue one. “I go blue,” he said, and forwarded his piece three squares.

I leaned over from the sofa and picked up one with an ice cream cone on it. “I pick ice cream,” I told him, and advanced my piece about 270 squares.

I sat back, smug. It may not take much to outsmart a 3 year old, but by God, I was going to enjoy it.

He frowned at the board. I closed my eyes and yawned. When I opened my eyes again, my yellow piece was back at the starting point.

“…Wait,” I said. “What?”

“I pick ice cream,” Hobbes announced.

I admit, I was stung by the unfairness of this. It’s possible that I’m mildly competitive.8 “Why is my piece back at the beginning?”

Hobbes advanced his piece to the point I had it before. “You didn’t play right.”

How didn’t I play right? You can’t play that card again. I already played it.”

He looked at me inscrutably. “Your turn, Mommy.”

“Fine. Fine. I pick ice cream, too. Again.”

I picked up the card and advanced my piece again, whereupon Hobbes immediately plucked the card out of my hand and moved my piece back to the starting point. Again.

Why are you putting my piece back there?”

“You’re playing bad.”

“And you’re a big cheater.”

“I like to win. Winning is important,” he said. The boy has the moral compass of a Wall Street banker.

I was outraged and impressed at the same time. Where did he learn how to cheat like that? It wasn’t from me; I am a subtle cheater. “What is wrong with you?” I’m not proud to admit it, but my voice was starting to rise.

“It’s my turn,” Hobbes said, and he placidly picked up another card. “Now I go purple.”

“You can’t go purple. You didn’t pick up a purple card.”

“And now I want to go here,” he said, unheeding. He moved his piece to the end goal, the eponymous Candyland. “Yay, I win.”

I realize that it seems counterintuitive to argue with a 3 year old about the fact that he’s cheating, especially when his cheating will shorten the duration of a game one hates like barium enemas. I couldn’t seem to stop myself. It’s so rare I get to have the moral high ground in these kinds of arguments. Mostly I just have to rely on, ‘I’m your mother and I say so.’ “You didn’t pick up a card.”

“The game is over, Mommy,” Hobbes said kindly. “I won. You lose. Too bad.” He patted me on the hand in a sympathetic fashion. All lies. The child is a sociopath. A competitive sociopath.

“Honey,” I said. “If you cheat, nobody will ever want to play with you.”

That was hypocrisy right there, warm and runny. It tasted like bacon.

***

The aftermath…

“Hobbes, please clean up the Candyland game.”

“Can I be a doctor?”

“Yes, you can. After you clean up the Candyland game.”

“Doctors don’t clean up. They leave a terrible mess.”

“Yes, they do. Which is why you’re going to be a doctor after you clean up the Candyland game.”

So there’s something to look forward to. No worries. He’s got the attention span of a gnat. However, if one day my ethically-challenged son does take his talents into the medical sphere, I apologize in advance to his patients. Sorry, guys. You’re fucked.


Show 8 footnotes

  1. An especially annoying variation of it is when I give the same answer several times, tell him the answer won’t change, and then am informed, “You’re wrong, Mommy.” Which can’t possibly be based on any past evidence. I am totally with Louis CK on this one.
  2. Which it is. In Japanese, it’s doshite, which you pronounce as DOH-she-teh. For a child who still thinks ‘spaghetti’ is pronounced ‘pisketti,’ it’s almost insurmountable.

    There are two ways to look at this. One way is to view it as an example of how the Japanese culture at large doesn’t encourage questioning of the status quo by the young. The other way is to view it as an example of how Japanese-speaking parents are hella smarter than English-speaking ones. Because the word ‘why?’ It’s just too damn easy to say.

  3. Yes, I realize that’s redundant with clowns and mosquitos. Deal with it.
  4. Imagine if Willy Wonka met Sweeney Todd and Snooki in a bar and they got high on heroin together. Then imagine all three of them threw back some mojitos on top of that and went clubbing with the Kardashians, during which activity one of the party — probably Sweeney Todd, because he seems the most likely to have plumbing that worked, even if it might not originally have been his — ended up pregnant. Got all that? The game board looks like it was designed by their waiter.
  5. Hur hur. “End” product.
  6. If my oral hygienist is reading this, I just want you to know that I meant all the other oral hygienists. Not you. Please don’t hurt me. again.
  7. You know how I said I don’t say the word ‘fuck’ in front of my son? This is because it’s redundant with all the other good things I teach him.
  8. To be clear: I’m mildly competitive in the same way I was mildly pregnant in 2008. It’s the kind of competitiveness that leads me to beat my 3 year old son in certain games.

    Don’t judge me. If his legs are really that short, he shouldn’t challenge me to race, should he?

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Negotiation http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/23/negotiation/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/23/negotiation/#comments Tue, 24 Apr 2012 04:58:51 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1768 Hobbes is standing at the top of the stairs right now, trying to negotiate with me. It is 9:56 pm.

“I want you to keep me company, Mommy.”

“No, dear. It’s time for you to go to sleep. So go to sleep.”

“Mommy, I can stay up all night, or you can keep me company. [...]]]> Hobbes is standing at the top of the stairs right now, trying to negotiate with me. It is 9:56 pm.

“I want you to keep me company, Mommy.”

“No, dear. It’s time for you to go to sleep. So go to sleep.”

“Mommy, I can stay up all night, or you can keep me company. Which would you rather do?”

Obviously he’s been listening to what I say after all, though I’m pretty sure the choices I give him are a lot more reasonable than that.

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Maintenance http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/19/maintenance/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/19/maintenance/#comments Thu, 19 Apr 2012 19:27:19 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1740 I was hacked.

Shit.

So it appears that this happened at some point in the long desert stretch of time that I didn’t bother to update (or even look at) this site. Random users who were getting here through links in google+ were being redirected to pharmaceutical spam — both ironic and deeply annoying, but ultimately not critical. At least, I don’t think it was critical; it looks like it was traffic generation, as opposed to something more severe like, say, keystroke reading or genetic engineering. Nobody visited the site and then ended up a Tribute to Panem or anything like that, is what I’m trying to say.

The Guy spent a frustrating evening doing some cleanup, and the end result is that the site is clean. It’ll be another day or two before I’m done doing other kinds of maintenance: updating plugins, fixing links, trying to figure out why I have two sets of subscribe and share buttons, neither of which seem to work — stuff like that. There’s a reason that I’m not a linux admin, besides the fact that I suck at linux (and should I be capitalizing that word? I don’t even know. See? That’s how hard I suck at linux.) This is because I find system admin work so boring, I’d rather fill 200 pound bags of sand USING CHOPSTICKS than do it. In fact, I find it so boring, I can’t even finish this sente

I’ve started thinking about moving the responsibility of maintenance to suckers my husband people who are experts in the field, rather than going at it in the ad hoc, can’t-really-be-bothered way that I do it now. Maybe a transfer to WordPress.com is in order? True, I don’t spend a lot of time on this site, but after so many years it feels like giving up just to shut it down now. After all, you never know. I might start blogging more regularly someday. True, my attention span isn’t going to be getting any better the older I get — in fact, just yesterday I suddenly realized I didn’t have any pants on, and had no idea how I’d gotten where I was. Fortunately, I also realized I was sitting on a toilet, so I was at least able to figure out why I was there.

…dammit. Where was I going with this?

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A little daring http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/18/1702/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/18/1702/#comments Wed, 18 Apr 2012 18:11:51 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/18/1702/ There was this thing someone told me when I was still pregnant and discovered that I was going to have a boy. I remember thinking at the time, gosh, that’s good to know, but for the life of me I can’t remember if it was, “You are so screwed,” or “Boys are really dumb.” I wish I could remember, because I’d like to thank that person for the keen insight into my future.

Whichever it was, ma’am, you were right.

Thank you.

***

The Guy and I were standing at the foot of the stairs, getting ready for our respective days. Hobbes was at the top of the stairs, preparing to do something dangerous and stupid with the bannisters, which are the type that involves rails. Back when we were looking at houses, the real estate agent looked at those railings and warned us that we would need to do something about them if we ever had kids. We didn’t have any at the time, so we had no idea what she was talking about; I just assumed she meant kids would push shit through them, which is what I would have done. The real estate agent, who had raised a couple already, told me it had more to do with having to saw through them to get heads out. Saw through the rails, that is, not through the kids, though that would probably be cheaper to repair afterwards.

“Why would anyone stick his head through a railing?” I whispered to the Guy.

“Because he has a small head?”

“Would you do that?”

“I have a big head,” he pointed out. “It wouldn’t fit.” Which didn’t exactly answer the question about whether he would if he could.

Now that I have a child of my own, I can conclusively state that small heads encompass small brains, which is why kids do the things that they do. I’ve caught Hobbes trying to wedge his head between the bannister railings a couple of times, only to be thwarted by the fact that we have blessed him, genetically speaking, with a disproportionately large head1 for his age (my contribution) and ears to match.2

I’ve had long conversations with Hobbes about what a bad idea it would be for him to get his head stuck through the railings, which is what the realtor said had happened with her own kids. In her case, her husband had to go out to buy a special saw, and then they’d had to spend a lot of money to remodel the entire stairwell. “And that would be bad and expensive,” I told Hobbes. He eyed me with the skeptical amusement of someone who doesn’t have to pay a mortgage, and I saw that I would have to add some other repercussion that would emphasize the severity of the situation to him. “You know your daddy,” I said darkly. “He’d probably just leave you there for days and days. You’d be stuck there, and you wouldn’t get to play with your toys, or watch TV, or do anything fun.”

Hobbes gave this some thought. He didn’t question my assessment of his father. “You could get me,” he suggested.

“I don’t know how to use a saw,” I lied. I’m all about teaching my son that women are the equal of men in every way except the one that involves actual physical labor, in which case men should do it because women are really more management material.

“You could learn,” he said persuasively, which was just cute. 3

Anyway, back to my story. The Guy and I were getting ready for our day at the bottom of our stairs, and Hobbes was preparing to do something asinine and dangerous at the top of them. I didn’t actually see him preparing to do this, but I’ve been a mother since 2008, so I don’t need to look to know when my offspring is about to try out for a Darwin Award.4.

“Don’t do that, Hobbes,” I said, still without looking. “That’s dangerous.”

Hobbes is only 3 years old, but he’s already mastered the traditional skill of aggressive Not Listening. A couple of seconds later, I heard a small voice.

“I’m stuck,” he said.

When I turned around, I was relieved to discover that I wouldn’t have to call into work to explain that I wouldn’t be coming in because I had to saw the kid out of some furniture, because that’s an excuse that only sounds convincing the first time and I was planning on saving it for some day when I really just didn’t feel like going to work. Hobbes had just managed to sidle out on the wrong side of the bannisters until he was hanging off them from a probably-not-life-threatening-but-maybe-a-trifle-maiming distance off the ground floor.

I sighed. I trudged up the stairs, plucked him off the bannister, and put him down someplace safe. “Don’t do that again,” I said. “It’s dangerous.”

He looked at me with shiny eyes. I trudged back down to the Guy.

Right about the time I got back to looking for my keys, I heard that little voice again.

“Mommy, I’m stuck again.”

“What is it about boys, do you think?” I asked the Guy, still looking for my keys. He was busy checking email on his phone, and hadn’t budged at the first or second call for help5. “Why is it when you tell them, ‘don’t do that,’ they automatically do it?”

“Help me?” said Hobbes.

“Do you suppose it’s a genetic flaw? Or a character flaw?” I pursued.

“You’d think he’d learn,” said the Guy, despite all prior evidence to the contrary.

Stuck, Mommy,” said Hobbes.

“That’s what I’m wondering. Is it a guy thing? I think it’s a guy thing. You think of something that’s absolutely dumb and could be really dangerous, and instead of doing the sensible thing, which is to say, ‘That’s a bad idea, let’s think of something else,’ you go, ‘That’s sounds disastrous. Let’s do it.’ I don’t understand how it is that humanity is at the top of the evolutionary ladder. You’d think out of sheer necessity, women would’ve had to develop parthenogenesis by now, because men would have wiped themselves out already.”

“Daddy?”

“Not all guys are that dumb,” said the Guy, without conviction.

It was at this point that the genius dangling from the bannisters decided to offer his opinion. “It’s because I’m three,” Hobbes announced from the railing. “I don’t have any fear.” Which, by the way, is a big fat lie, because he is scared of everything, where “everything” means puppies and dramatic music and shadowy camera work, but — and this is key — excludes the stuff that is actually dangerous to him, like strangers and moving cars and sharp objects and running lawnmowers and unidentified drugs.

I trudged up the stairs and unhooked Hobbes from the bannister. I put him down. “Don’t do that again,” I said.

“It’s because he’s three,” the Guy snickered.

For all you non-parents out there, I’ll give you a hint. It’s not because he’s three.

20120418-110946.jpg

***

A few weeks ago, I installed this plugin that makes it easier for me to create footnotes in blog posts. That might have been a mistake. I think I’m a little out of control.


Show 5 footnotes

  1. Seriously. If we shaved him and dressed him in green, he’d look like one of those aliens that pop up on shows like the X-Files and Alien Abduction. Except he’d be asian, which come to think of it isn’t that far from what aliens look like anyway, according to the National Enquirer. There’s a thought. Man, can you imagine if one day North Korea fell, and then the entire world discovered that the North Koreans have been randomly abducting people from Kansas all this time to perform experiments on them, because they wanted to learn more about white people? And ever since then, the North Korean government has been basing its international relations with the western world based on a few bewildered Midwest farmers and their cows?

    That would be brilliant.

    Edit to add: Initially, I wrote “Chinese” instead of “North Korea” for the previous footnote, because I thought that was funny. But then I saw pictures of the birthday celebration in North Korea that Guy Kawasaki posted, and was struck by how expensive those celebrations looked when everyone — and by everyone, I mean some guy on TV who acts like he knows what’s going on up there — says North Korea is on the brink of starvation. Which made me remember how fucking nuts the North Korean government is, and suddenly it all made so much sense. Sort of.

  2. To be clear, the ears were the Guy’s contribution. My ears are petite and delicate, completely appropriate for my enticingly fragile femininity.
  3. Actually, it was a ridiculous idea, but probably made sense to him because he’s three. Of course, this is the same boy who sneezes in my face and then reproaches me with, “Sharing is caring,” when I complain about it, so it’s not like he’s a role model for sound thinking.
  4. “Survival of the fittest” is meant not to mean survival of the best, but rather is meant to describe the survival of the one that has best adapted to the present environment. This is one of the reasons why I don’t let other kids into my house, because it is a deathtrap. With careful training and careless accident, Hobbes has managed to adapt to his environment. What that means is that he has learned to just bounce when he hits the ground. As he has informed me on more than one occasion, “Gravity is mean.”

    Yes, we have had this conversation. Yes, he learned it from me. What can I say: we have a 3-story house with a sheer drop plummet from the top to the bottom floor. Letting an unprepared child into my house would be akin to tying a copy machine to a kitten and then dropping it into a shark tank.

  5. Which proves, I think, that my son was correct in not questioning whether his father would just leave him stuck in the bannisters if he ever got his head wedged in them. It’s good to know that my son has inherited his father’s judgment of character. Mine sucks. I leave it to you to figure out what that means, when you consider that I married the man, and that he married me — we think. Note to self: I really need to call the County Clerk’s office.
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I don’t know about you…. http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/12/i-dont-know-about-you/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/12/i-dont-know-about-you/#comments Thu, 12 Apr 2012 20:20:26 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1698 …but I’m always on the lookout for some hot bear-on-bear action.

(Although when I get the chance, a little hubba hubba bobcat is always good, too.)

There is something seriously wrong with the internet today.

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…but I’m always on the lookout for some hot bear-on-bear action.

(Although when I get the chance, a little hubba hubba bobcat is always good, too.)

There is something seriously wrong with the internet today.

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A little bit of validation http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/11/a-little-bit-of-validation/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/11/a-little-bit-of-validation/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2012 20:40:36 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1695 13 more years to prepare before he has to start applying to colleges.]]> There are times when I’m worried that I am not a good mother. This is, I’m sure, something all mothers go through (all mothers who want to be good mothers, anyway). The fact that Hobbes is 3 and a half now, but has yet to start an instrument, can’t read, and only speaks one language makes me worry about his future. Because, you know, he’s already 3 and that means there’s only 13 more years to prepare before he has to start applying to colleges.

Then I have moments like last night. Amazon delivered a DVD I’d ordered, a “movie”-like rendition of La Cenerentola, and in the middle of building a wooden block castle with Hobbes that evening, I decided I wanted to watch it. The Guy popped it into the player, and the music started.

And Hobbes put down the blocks and crawled into my lap, and immediately started demanding a translation for all the Italian.

And then he started offering his own opinions about the music.

And then, after Act I was done, we had the following conversation.

“We can watch the rest of it tomorrow, honey. It’s too late tonight.”

“I want more opera.”

“Tomorrow. We can watch the rest of it tomorrow.”

“I want more opera!”

“No. It’s late. I can tell you what happens in the next part, how’s that? And we can listen to it tomorrow. Did you like the music?”

“Yes. But Mommy–!”

“No, dear.”

More opera now!

I can’t deny it, I felt pretty proud of him. “Good boy,” I said. “No.” Obviously I’m doing something right, when I can have an argument with my son about opera. I’d been worried about that. What if he’d inherited his music appreciation traits from his father? My God, the man doesn’t even get Aaron Copeland, for crying out loud. What’s not to get? Why did I marry him again?

Hobbes scowled at me.

“Tomorrow,” I said. “Not tonight.”

He eventually surrendered, with ill grace, then immediately forgot about the subject in the distraction of making his parents cart him upstairs as the cross-piece in a familial capital-H.

“Look at him,” said the Guy, as we carted him upstairs. “Our future metrosexual.”

Damn straight.

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In which good intentions mean diddly-squat http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/10/in-which-good-intentions-mean-diddly-squat/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/10/in-which-good-intentions-mean-diddly-squat/#comments Tue, 10 Apr 2012 23:03:20 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1637 Do you know, I started this blog post in March. Is it still March? No. I’m past apologizing for my delinquency. Things happen, and given my attention span, things will continue to happen. Also, that attention span of mine — hopeless.

Suffice it to say, we’ve all been fine. We are fine. We’re dandy. Except for the fact that the Guy had the flu and was between jobs for a while (personal vacation), though he officially started as of last Monday. Hobbes had some kind of virus and then pink-eye, which incidentally resulted in the doctor removing a blood clot the size of my thumbnail from his ear — it’s charming, the things that parenthood forces you to witness, and also children are disgusting — but neither of those was serious, and the important thing is that I’m still healthy, so there you go.

Everything’s fine. Moving on, now.

***

In August (and September and October), I went through a strange funk where my usual sunny good-natured underwent an identity crisis, and became instead a desire to make everyone’s lives suck. From a certain point of view, you could call it a midlife crisis. Men try to feel younger by getting the stuff they would’ve liked to do when they were adolescents, but: (1) couldn’t afford; or (2) were too smart to do. Me, I went for the gift that keeps on giving. I did damage to other people’s psyches instead of my wallet, showing (if I do say so myself) an excellent grasp of ROI1. I moped, I whined, I complained at length until my coworkers started to bolt for the door the second I walked into a room. I took people’s fragile joys, crushed them to pieces, and then added a pinch of lemon juice and chili pepper for flavoring.

Which just goes to show yet again how much better women are at everything. Men only play at being teenagers. Women actually become teenagers. It’s all about the commitment. 2

"My rabbit just died, and it's only Monday."

Frowny McFrownson and the cheeks that ate Japan.

Happiness is not one of those things that came naturally to me. As a kid, I must have been depressing subject for pictures. Photograph after photograph shows me standing in frowning disapproval next to some smiling relative or family friend. The ’70s were a great decade for everyone but me, apparently. “Look!” each family friend or relative seems to be saying. “What joy to be alive! The sun is in the sky, the Soviets haven’t blown the shit out of us, big mustaches and lapels are in — life is one grand, sweet song!” And down by said adult’s hip, there’d be a sullen little bundle of hair and cheeks, exuding the bonhomie of your average postmaster.3

I’ve always wondered if misery was a nature or nurture problem. Everyone’s cases are different, and my own parents were pretty awesome — but then, there are those pictures, and who can tell how freaked out they were with their very first child, especially given the fact they had me so late. Fortunately, Hobbes has set some of my own anxieties to rest; my childhood inability to grasp the intricacies of the smile do not seem to be a genetic trait. My mother occasionally comments on his cheerfulness, with the pensive awe of someone witnessing karma go very wrong. “He’s so nice to be around,” she told me once.

“But I was too, right?” I said. “I mean, I was a happy kid.”

“Mmm,” she said, regarding Hobbes in that reflective way again, and that’s all she would give me on that front.

Happiness was something I had to work at, and I didn’t work on it until later in life. I was too busy making other people sorry that I existed for the first 10 years of life. Then I spent another 10 years making other people sorry that they existed. It was a lot of work. I did it well. True, it didn’t leave a whole lot of time for mucking about with personal happiness, but that isn’t even in the Asian vocabulary, so it wasn’t that big a loss.

In my 20s, I decided to be happy.

This was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I say this as someone who once tried to earn a living as a classical pianist. I tried all kinds of things. This was before the internet was really big, so there wasn’t a google or a wikipedia to answer all our questions. Even then though, there were all kinds of useless tutorials bound up in these flappy, soggy bundles of paper we used to call, “books.” For instance, there was the one that said you should look at yourself in the mirror every day and say, “I’m okay and you’re okay.” Which I tried for a while, until one day the person in the mirror started to argue with me. At which point I self-diagnosed schizophrenia and got rid of all my mirrors. Then there was the one that suggested I spend 5 minutes every day thinking “affirmative thoughts.” Which is how I found out that I have the attention span of a gerbil, and can’t think of one subject for longer than 31 seconds, because if I try, on the 32nd second I start shedding and grow extra nipples on my elbows.

...ew.

It's amazing what comes up when you get curious and start a search for elbow nipple. Thank you, google. Also, who knew that elbow nipples were an actual Thing? See what you learn when you read blogs? Also, disclaimer: not my elbow. Or nipple.

There were a few other suggestions, a lot of activities that you could do to make you happy, but most of them were new age things like, “meditate,” or modern age, like, “medicate.” Neither of these were appealing.

So then I did the unthinkable. I asked my mother.

Voyages of self-discovery are not conversations I normally have with my mother. We are family, yes, but there are a lot of subjects that are not — if explicitly taboo, have become a bit of a minefield. I use the word “minefield” with apologies, because there are no mines in my family; only gently phrased reproaches, which lay their kindly larvae into your ears and slowly work their way to the brain, to latch in after reaching full maturity to control your every word and deed several months after they were first implanted.

The following are things we do not talk about:

  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Feelings
  • Finances
  • Movies
  • Books
  • Politics
  • History
  • Relationships
  • Technology
  • My father
  • Reality

The things we do talk about:

  • Okra
  • Gardening
  • Japan
  • Hobbes
  • Her friends and family who are dying.
  • Her imminent demise and all the arrangements that will have to be made around it.
  • Natural disasters

Happiness falls squarely under “feelings,” which is under the “We do not talk about it” category. Nonetheless.

“So what about it?” I said.

“Hm,” she said. And then, “Yuuuuuuhri,” with that hint of exasperation that she gets whenever I do something deeply stupid. You know, like in those conversations where she says, “I’ve put the money on the table, here, so don’t forget it,” and I respond, “Okay, okay, okay. Wait. Where’s the money?”

As it turned out, my mother had been giving me information to be a happier person for the last 20 years. I just hadn’t been listening. You know that famous, apocryphal Mark Twain quote, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” I suppose this is an indication of what’s going to happen with me and Hobbes over the next 17-odd years. I’ll dispense hard-won wisdom, and he’ll know Mom doesn’t know what she’s talking about because she is: a girl/old/never gone through the same thing/inexperienced/naive/innocent/insane/stupid. And then I’ll get to say, “I told you so.”

I spent the next two years practicing what my mother had preached, and you know what? I ended up pretty happy as a result. It continues to be work — there are days and months where it’s harder than most — but mostly, I’ve learned what makes me happy. And that’s not something to scoff at, these days.

I spent some time yesterday trying to pass on what I had learned to Hobbes, who frankly is happier at age 3 than I’ve probably ever been in my entire life, so it’s a bit like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs4. Still, it seemed like it behooved me to make the attempt, so I sat him down in the living room and gave him a lecture.

Actually, I gave him a list of things you could’ve pulled out of a fortune cookie. It just seemed easier than repeating what my mother had told me verbatim, because she used a lot more words.

“Listen, Hobbes,” I said, while he stared at me with big eyes. “It’s a poor workman who blames his tools. Do you know what that means?”

He held up his forefinger, and looked momentous. “Bad guys,” he said.

This seemed to indicate a lack of understanding, but then again, maybe it didn’t. I tried again. “Be grateful for everything,” I said. “Morning to night. Everything. Even the bad stuff. Okay?”

He tilted his head and tried to find a common meeting ground again. “Good guys?”

“Also,” I said, “you have to like yourself first, or else why should anyone else like you?”

His face fell. “You don’t like me?”

This was not going the way I had hoped. “No, no. I like you. Do you like you?”

He looked exasperated. This was getting into deep waters, and he just didn’t have time for it. “I love you,” he said firmly, with the air of one determined to close the subject. “I want Daddy.”

“Because Daddy doesn’t have deep philosophical discussions with you. Daddy doesn’t try to improve your life. Daddy isn’t here trying to distill the knowledge and wisdom of generations into bite-sized pieces for your tiny little 3-year old brain.”

“Calm down,” he said with sympathy, and patted my shoulder. “You’re my favorite. Where’s Daddy?” He climbed down off the sofa and went in search of the Guy, abandoning me and my wisdom with absolutely no sign of regret.

“Fine,” I called after him. “One day, you’ll regret not listening to me more carefully.”

What?” he yelled from the kitchen.

You’ll be sorry!” I yelled back.

Which, you know what? Cheered me up tremendously.


Show 4 footnotes

  1. That’s “Return on investment,” for those of you not in the business. How much you get out of an effort vs. how much you put in. It’s pretty easy if you spend any thought on it.

    Fully-loaded Porsche Panamera 2012? $98,718.

    Affair with hot blonde who makes you buy expensive gifts, and then results in a divorce that results in misery, loss of house, alimony payments and cup-o-noodle dinners with internet hookers in a motel? $346,293.

    The look on the face of a person who asks you how you’re doing, and then is forced to listen to the real answer because goddammit, they asked even though really they should have known better? Priceless.

  2. Or it’s about method acting at its most extreme. Fortunately, most women exercise good sense in stopping short of reenacting puberty.
  3. Disturbingly, the sprog’s face looks almost identical to mine at that age, except that most of his photos show him grinning like a madman. It’s as if Dr. Evil gave birth to Austin Powers. One of them is evil, you’re just not sure which one. I mean, okay, one is actually named Dr. Evil, but besides that, I mean.
  4. Does my grandmother suck eggs? Note to self: ask Mom. Do other people’s grandmothers suck eggs? Further note to self: google.
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Things I need to remember not to forget http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/09/things-i-need-to-remember-not-to-forget/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/09/things-i-need-to-remember-not-to-forget/#comments Mon, 09 Apr 2012 18:03:15 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1675
  • File taxes.
  • Do taxes.
  • File taxes.
  • Find out whether our statement of marriage actually made it to the county office.
  • Get official copy of marriage license if it did. Just in case.
  • Something else I’m not remembering right now oh shit I think it’s really important.
  • …goddammit.
  • Oh look! Bagels!
  • ]]>
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    Sometimes they will surprise you http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/08/sometimes-they-will-surprise-you/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/08/sometimes-they-will-surprise-you/#comments Sun, 08 Apr 2012 20:23:10 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/2012/04/08/sometimes-they-will-surprise-you/ We were at Bed Bath and Beyond to buy a foam pillow for ergonomic reasons — too personal to explain here, but not related to sleeping positions (or any other kind of position, for that matter, in the sense of “position” meaning anything scatological or, I daresay, fun) — and Hobbes did not approve.

    Not of the pillow, so much, as of change itself. For a child, he is not a fan of anything that requires exertion. Things like getting into the car, say, or once inside the car, getting out. I didn’t give birth to a son, all those years ago. I had Newton’s first law.

    “I want to stay in the car with daddy,” he informed us en route.

    “Daddy’s going in the store,” I said.

    “Then I want to stay in the car with Mommy,” he said.

    “Mommy’s going into the store too,” I said.

    He gave that some thought. “Then I want to say in the car myself,” he announced. One had to admire his persistence and give him credit for optimism, if not sense.

    ***

    20120408-131813.jpg

    ***

    On the way out, I found him shepherding a little girl, much the same size but slightly younger, away from the automatic doors.

    “No no,” he said officiously. “you shouldn’t go outside without your mommy.”

    Which proves that he does actually listen when I tell him the rules, even if he thinks I only mean them to apply to everybody else.

    20120408-134555.jpg

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    England and other errata http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/10/07/england-and-other-errata/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/10/07/england-and-other-errata/#comments Sat, 08 Oct 2011 07:19:55 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1620 Oh. That’s right.

    We’re back from England.

    (hi.)

    ***

    I was standing at my kitchen counter, slicing ham, when I felt little fingers messing about at my rear end. Hobbes was wandering around the kitchen, and for the last five minutes he’d been actively running interference on the dinner-making operation. By comparison to his earlier activities, poking my butt was a relatively innocuous entertainment; I ignored him, and kept on chopping.

    And after a while, he started to chuckle.

    There’s something so — categorically mischievous about a preschooler’s private mirth. In quality, it is somewhere between Big Bird’s laugh and the Roadrunner’s tongue-waggle, right before something drops on Wile E. Coyote. It behooves any intelligent, nearby adult to wake up and pay attention when such a chuckle sounds in the nearby vicinity.

    I turned around and looked at him. He was hugging a half-opened stick of butter that he had somehow snuck off of the counter. He beamed up at me with obvious self-congratulations.

    The stick had divots in it.

    He’d been buttering my ass.

    “He’s like the Eye of Sauron,” said the Guy, observing him. “Everything’s so peaceful when his attention is somewhere else, but the minute he focuses on you, everything goes all pear-shaped.”

    ***

    England was just fine.

    All irritations aside, the Delta gate staff in San Francisco were absolutely brilliant, and I mean that in both the American and the British sense. I interrupted their gossip at a different gate to inquire whether they’d be able to do something for me. I started to ask them if they’d be able to “help us with our seating on our flight to England, sorry, I know it’s not your gate–” but they interrupted me to promise they’d be there in two minutes and that if I just waited, they’d be happy to take care of me.

    Beggars can’t be choosers, and it wasn’t as though they’d been rude about it. I obediently went over and stood by the counter.

    Eventually, the gate staff wandered over and started setting up. I hovered uncertainly around the desk, unsure whether they were open yet. During my moment of uncertainty, another man cut in front of me and began to request assistance. “Just a moment, please,” the Delta man said politely. “I just need to finish setting up the computer.” Which seemed to answer that.

    I hovered some more, until the clerk looked up with that bright, shiny-eyed enthusiasm that used to be part of the hiring criteria for airline staff back in the ’80s. He motioned me to the counter. “Oh good,” I burbled, and bounced up to the head of the line. “I have this problem–”

    He placed three boarding passes on the counter and just looked at me with shiny eyes.

    It took me a while to catch on. I examined the passes. I read the names on them. I looked at the dates and the destinations on them. I processed the seat numbers and the fact that they were all in a row: 27A, 27B, 27C….

    I am not, perhaps, the brightest bulb on the marquee. You could practically hear something turn over in my head when enlightenment hit. I opened with, “Holy crap.” And then I followed up with the insightful, “That’s us!” And then, just to drive the point home that he was dealing with the bottom of the IQ tree, I said, “Those are tickets! For us!”

    To be fair, it wasn’t as though I’d ever told him our names, or what the actual problem was. There’s also the fact that the airport experience up to that point, which had included the impersonal and inefficient treatment dispensed by the TSA’s unloving hands had not, let’s say, engendered in expectations of independent or proactive customer service.

    “Holy crap,” I said again, because it needed repeating. “I think I just fell in love.”

    The Delta guy smirked.

    In a couple of minutes, he sorted out the rest of our flights as well, with the exception of the Atlanta to Manchester leg, which it turned out was booked solid. “But you can ask at the gate in Atlanta,” he said, “and things happen.” He left unspecified what those ‘things’ might be, but the optimism with which he said it indicated that they would be good things, which might work out in our favor — and so it proved, actually.

    While we were waiting for the plane, I sat down in the gate lounge, stole the Guy’s laptop and the airport wireless, and sent the following to Delta.

    Just had the most wonderful customer service experience at the
    gate of Delta. The entire experience up to then was horrible — up to
    and including the lackluster performance and unenthusiastic-with-shades-of-outright-hostility attitudes exhibited by the phone customer service,
    the baggage check-in staff, and — well, nobody can do anything about
    TSA. But the staff at the gate were outstanding! They were the first
    ones to smile at us and look as though they understood what the phrase
    “customer service” stood for. A gentleman with the nametag ‘—-’ took
    excellent care of us, and even had our problem solved before I’d
    finished my caffeine- deprived attempt to explain it. He reduced out
    travel stress entirely. Up until that moment we were swearing we would
    never travel Delta again; now we’ll give it another shot. Thank you!
    Submitted: Mon Jul 18 2011 06:47:27 GMT-0700 (PDT)

    By the time we landed, I had gotten the following reply.

    Dear Mrs. Hirata,

    RE: Case Number 3915377

    Thank you for sharing your thoughtful remarks. On behalf of everyone at
    Delta Air Lines, we appreciate your kind comments regarding the service
    received from one of our team members who was working at the boarding
    gate.

    We believe our employees are our most important assets, and I am happy
    to learn that —- exceeded your expectations. Please know I will be
    sharing your comments with our Airport Customer Service leadership team
    so appropriate recognition is extended, on your behalf.

    Mrs. Hirata, again thank you for writing. As a valued Delta customer,
    your business is important to us and given the opportunity of serving
    you in the future, I am confident Delta will not only meet but exceed
    your expectations.

    I note that they avoided remarking on the complaint portion of my comment, but at least good performance will get some recognition.

    ***

    Yes, it’s a boring story. Leave me alone. I haven’t written a word in — what month is this, anyway? Shit, October? And my last post was in July? 10 – 7 =… uh.

    …hold on, I’ll get it in a second. Give me a break. I went to music school for college. Music school. I majored in piano performance.

    3! It’s 3!

    Told you I’d get it.

    ***

    I’ve lost track of this somewhere. Stop.

    Start again.

    (never mind.)

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    T-minus 5. http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/17/t-minus-5/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/17/t-minus-5/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2011 05:34:50 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1618 The airline, in its infinite wisdom, has seen fit to assign us seats.

    Individual ones that we can sit in. Apart from each other. All the way from SFO to Manchester.

    I wish them luck with that. Actually, I wish the entire airplane luck with that. I called the airline to find out if [...]]]> The airline, in its infinite wisdom, has seen fit to assign us seats.

    Individual ones that we can sit in. Apart from each other. All the way from SFO to Manchester.

    I wish them luck with that. Actually, I wish the entire airplane luck with that. I called the airline to find out if this could be corrected, and the bored customer disservice lady (“We aren’t happy unless you aren’t happy!”) informed us that there was nothing she could do about it until I showed up at the ticket counter. There are no corrective measures that could have been or could be taken until then.

    On the off chance that the information was now available, I checked to see if return tickets had also been seated. Indeed they had! I could swear they explicitly asked me if Hobbes was a child under the age of 6. I could swear that’s why they charged me an infinitesimal amount less than the full adult fare. And yet there he was, all on his lonesome, seated between two complete strangers on the other end of the airplane, while his parents were scattered helter-skelter about the rest of the compartment.

    The ticket counter and I are going to have words, gentle words, about their seating algorithm. And if they can’t manage to find us seats together, I’m willing to bet that the rest of the airplane will, upon arrival, have words, four letter and really ungentle words, with the airline.

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    that can’t be right. http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/17/that-cant-be-right/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/17/that-cant-be-right/#comments Sun, 17 Jul 2011 08:44:39 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1614 Our plane to England leaves at 7:20 AM out of SFO on Monday, which means we’ll have to be out of the house by 5:00 AM at the latest. What with toddler, luggage, long-term parking, checking in, not to mention changing diapers, changing clothes, feeding toddler, suppressing urge to muzzle toddler (none of this listed [...]]]> Our plane to England leaves at 7:20 AM out of SFO on Monday, which means we’ll have to be out of the house by 5:00 AM at the latest. What with toddler, luggage, long-term parking, checking in, not to mention changing diapers, changing clothes, feeding toddler, suppressing urge to muzzle toddler (none of this listed in any particular order, mind) setting a 5:00 AM goal means we’ll probably get out of the house around 6:00. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the airport from here, and then there’s the parking and the shuttle to get to the airport from the parking lot– what is that, 15 or 20 minutes additional?

    I think my math is right. I should probably double-check that come morning, though. Ten minutes ago I put my checkbook in the washing machine.

    Anyway, that schedule is why we’re awake right now at 1:15 AM, the second to last night before we leave. Ostensibly, we’re packing. What we’re really doing is– well, I have no idea what the Guy is doing. Brooding, it looks like, over his laptop. And tablet. He does that. It’s something tech-related; he’s discovered a bug of some sort, or he’s feeling defied by his gadgets, and has therefore dropped everything to wrestle them into submission. It’s a Silicon Valley thing, I swear to God. I don’t know why women go to clubs to meet men around here. All you have to do is hold something with a monitor in an empty room, say, “It’s not working,” and immediately twenty guys will swarm out of the woodwork with the fire of righteous outrage burning in their eyes.

    Of course, what they say about Alaskan men — the odds are good but the goods are odd — goes double down here. If you try out the scenario above, you probably deserve what you get. I don’t know. The only reason I met my husband was because my friend Amanda tricked me into thinking he was a starch-heavy casserole.

    What the hell was my point with all this?

    ***

    Oh. Right.

    When I’m talking– wait. Back up. On those occasions when I listen to myself talk, as in hear myself, you know, the voice thing, echoing in my head — on those extremely rare occasions? I sound like Lauren Bacall dealing with an incompetent waiter. Low and growly with authority and sexy gravitas, a mix between Edward James Olmos and Jessica Rabbit. I sound like I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it; like I’ve seen it all and done it all; like I straddle galaxies and drink black holes with my highballs.

    Strangely, digital recordings of my voice utterly fail to capture this quality. I think there must be something wrong with our answering machine. If you go by the way it rendered my last message home, in real life I sound like the offspring of Fran Drescher and a mainlining hamster. I sound like the last of my species; like a matched pair of socks flailing around the dryer; like the lemming jittering on the turntable, wondering if she remembered to turn the oven off before she left and was it really a good idea to sign that contract with Disney before reading the fine print?1



    1. According to Wikipedia’s article on lemmings, they aren’t actually suicidal. The prevailing belief in that myth really got its kick from an Academy Award-winning Disney documentary, where they staged lemmings hurtling to their death off of cliffs. Apparently, “a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary, Cruel Camera, found that the lemmings used for White Wilderness were flown from Hudson Bay to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where they did not jump off the cliff, but were in fact launched off the cliff using a turntable.” There are all sorts of jokes I could make here, but all I can deal with right now is that someone, somewhere, must have launched something off a turntable and thought, “Hey! This could net me an Academy AWARD!” And that, my friends, tells you everything you need to know about the entertainment business.

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    A life of sin http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/16/a-life-of-sin/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/16/a-life-of-sin/#comments Sat, 16 Jul 2011 21:38:20 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1588 On Tuesday, I woke up a married woman.

    I went to bed a single one.

    Some days are just like that.

    ***

    So let’s backtrack about 7 years.

    It was the evening of my wedding, and a good time was being had by all. We didn’t have a wedding and reception so much as we had a catered party with a boring ceremonial prologue. Beyond the marriage itself, there was little else in the way of formal events: no first dance, no speechifying (beyond some charmingly short ones offered by a couple of friends) and all that other stuff that came with.

    And then there was the open wine bar. People were enjoying the wine bar, which we’d stocked with random assortments of wine we’d picked up over the course of a week or so. “It’s like being at a wine tasting,” one guest told us happily, “except we get to swallow without being yelled out.” I think she meant ‘yelled at,’ but she’d really been enjoying the aforementioned swallowing, so who knows.

    In other words, the marriage was important, but we’d given a lot more thought to how we would entertain our guests. Which is why the caterer, who had gotten to know us over the past couple of months and had developed a fairly accurate assessment of our intelligence, thought to ask while he was packing up: “Did you get the paperwork done?”

    “What?” I said. “What paperwork?”

    “You know,” he said. “The marriage license. You need to get the minister and witnesses to sign it.”

    “…oh,” I said.

    I looked out over the dark garden and thought about the wine bar. “Uh oh,” I said.

    So by the light of a car’s dome light, our minister — one of the Guy’s best friends — and two of our witnesses signed off on the paperwork. I would like to point out that only one of them was completely sober, and that was the one from the bride’s party.

    Adding to the complexity was the fact that there was Britishness to take into account. Also the fact that we weren’t entirely sure what county Saratoga city was in. “How do you spell–” got mixed up with, “Maybe San Mateo? Or Santa Clara?” and in a burst of enthusiasm and bonhomie, our British friends cheerfully wrote in both.

    “Good enough,” someone decided, and toasted our marriage.

    I just have to say this. The state of California has no absolutely no sense of humor when it comes to marriage licenses. Ironic, when you consider the constantly revolving state of marriage in California.

    “You can’t do that,” the clerk told us in Redwood City when we came to turn it in. “You can’t cross things out or use whiteout on the form.”

    “They were British,” we said apologetically.

    “Can you get it fixed?” she asked.

    We looked at each other. This is the problem with British people. Eventually, they go home. Ours had gone home. Or gone traveling. Or — generally speaking, were no longer available, mostly. “Um,” we said.

    Now, here’s what I will swear to my dying day happened next. The clerk accepted the form, and informed us that while she would record us as officially married, we had to submit a corrected form in order to get a certified copy of the marriage. This would be something we’d need for assorted legal reasons in the future, but was not critical at present.

    Okay, we said, we’ll take care of it. And then we went away. And in subsequent months we actually did try to take care of it, but two of the witnesses were traveling all the time, and neither of them were what you’d call conveniently situated in the same country as the others at any given moment, and eventually we just sort of … gave it up as a wash.

    “We’ll see them all again eventually,” the Guy said. I was fine with that.

    Fast forward to this week. We are headed to England on Monday, and for the first time since 2004, we will be seeing all the guilty parties in the course of two weeks. It was a perfect opportunity to get delinquent signatures. With that praiseworthy motive, I called up the San Mateo County Clerk’s office on Tuesday to find out how to get a copy of the paperwork and a new form.

    When did you say you were married?” the clerk said after doing some investigation in their system.

    I told her.

    There was a long, long silence.

    “And what did you say your name was?”

    I told her again.

    “Could you spell that? Is that your married name or your birth name?”

    I repeated it all for her. Reader, I hadn’t changed my name at marriage. “–so now you’re just making me nervous,” I told her.

    “Well,” she said. “Let me spell that back for you to make sure I got it right.”

    And a few seconds later, she said, “I don’t have any marriage recorded for you.”

    “Under that date?” I finished helpfully, in case she’d gotten something mixed up.

    “At all,” she said.

    I have to say, there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room in that statement.

    After the not entirely unreasonable burst of hysterical laughter, I made several thoughtless statements that I will never live down with the I/T department, who sit next to me in the office. To wit:

    1. “Are you telling me I’m not actually married?”
    2. “Now I just feel cheated.”
    3. “Aw, my poor little bastard kid.”
    4. “Shit. I wonder if he’ll marry me again.”

    The background hum of conversation on my entire half of the floor stopped during this admittedly ill-advised monologue. It was a little hard to hear over the subsequent gales of mirth. (For the record, it took almost two days for the I/T department to stop laughing about this. Every so often when I pass by their cubes, I still get the occasional glance and giggle.)

    “What the hell?” I asked the clerk.

    I stand by my version of what happened with that clerk from 7 years ago. The one I was speaking to now didn’t question my story, which I have to say was nice of her. I don’t know how often she’s had to break the news of unexpected single statehood to wives in the past, but I’m willing to bet that the usual reaction doesn’t involve laughter. Or, okay, cackling.

    So this, apparently, is what that clerk 7 years ago should have told us.

    1. We could not submit a marriage license with errors.
    2. We had up to a year to fix it.
    3. If we didn’t fix it in time, they wouldn’t record it as a legal marriage.
    4. The end.

    “Well, that sort of sucks,” I said. “We’ve been filing taxes and getting mortgages and stuff. What do we do now? Lose our house and get audited?”

    No, apparently not.

    “We’ll have to get married again,” I told the Guy that night.

    He said nothing.

    “So you’ll get to live up to that thing you always say when I ask you if you would do it all again if you had the chance,” I said brightly. “You know, not many guys get to put their money where their mouth is.”

    He said nothing.

    Do you want to get married again?” I said, after giving him ample opportunity to step up and be a man.

    “I’m thinking,” he said.

    Jackass.

    If any of you should ever get into this kind of situation in the future, rest easy. Apparently, this is something that happens often enough that the state of California has something called a “Declaration of Marriage.” This is a document that you and the (reluctant) spouse must go into the county clerk’s office to attest to together. They make you fill in your personal details, backdate to the day you were married, sign, then raise your hand and take an oath swearing the facts are as stated. Then you take the form away and have one or two witnesses who were present at your wedding sign as well.

    “Of course, it’s not like we’d know the difference,” the clerk at Santa Clara County’s offices told us. “You could just go and grab any random stranger off the street.”

    I’m pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to tell us that.

    “And when do we have to turn this back into you by?” I asked.

    The clerk, a nice and obviously intelligent young man who’d listened to our story with every appearance of enjoyment, regarded me thoughtfully. “Let’s say … ASAP,” he said.

    It was a learning opportunity, I told the clerk. “And now we know for next time,” I said cheerfully.

    “Hm,” he said.

    We got the form done at the clerk’s on Thursday morning. Hobbes enjoyed it tremendously; this time around, we got to have our son with us. He didn’t entirely approve of the kiss we exchanged — in jest — to commemorate the occasion. Thursday evening, the Guy dropped the paperwork off at our friends’ house. That night, she and her husband signed off on it. This morning, I dropped it off in the post office box.

    So congratulate me. I’m married. Again.

    Meanwhile, I’ve started an email to my son.

    “Dear heart, let me tell you about the three days you were a bastard.

    First of all, it wasn’t my fault….”

    ***

    Needless to say, news of my marital difficulties made the rounds at work. My boss kindly gave me some time off to go get married again.

    She called me later that night to ask me to file a feature request we’d been talking about earlier that day. I was on my way home, so I took the call in my car. “No problem,” I said. “I’ll do it as soon as I get home.”

    Well, ‘as soon as I get home’ inevitably turned into, ‘as soon as I pick up some groceries, make dinner, feed my family, wrestle him into bed, clean up the kitchen, clean up the living room–’

    She emailed me to ask me if I’d done the feature request yet. “I’m just about to,” I wrote back. “Hold on–”

    And it occurred to me that technically, this was my wedding night.

    And technically, my boss had knowingly called me on my wedding night to ask me to do some work. “Someone needs to talk to HR about our work/life balance here,” I wrote on the feature request, because I am very professional. “Making someone work on their wedding night is just cruel.”

    “Yes, but why should I listen to you?” my boss said, when I pointed this out to her in the morning. “You were living in sin for 7 years and lying about it.”

    Well, there is that.

    ]]>
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    letters from history http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/07/letters-from-history/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/07/letters-from-history/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2011 21:37:06 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1593 “You should journal that,” my husband told me, the last time I passed on something ridiculous and funny that our son had done.

    “Meh,” I said, because I am lazy.

    “Or you should just email him, so he can read it later, like in that commercial,” he said. “He has an email.” (Fact: we might [...]]]> “You should journal that,” my husband told me, the last time I passed on something ridiculous and funny that our son had done.

    “Meh,” I said, because I am lazy.

    “Or you should just email him, so he can read it later, like in that commercial,” he said. “He has an email.” (Fact: we might have preemptively farmed out some domain and login names on popular services.)

    (…but not on Facebook.)

    (He’ll thank us later.)

    (Gosh, I wish we’d chosen a shorter name for him.)

    So that’s what I’ve started doing. I kind of wish I’d done it earlier, but you know? I had a really embarrassing tendency to get all … sappy when he was younger. It’s probably just as well I didn’t.

    In other news, he’s not technically allowed to have an email address, did you know? It’s against the law. After all, parents can’t be expected to do the work of actual parenting all on their own. That would be too much like taking responsibility, and that would be UNAMERICAN.

    However, breaking the law is completely American, so I’m well within my God-given rights on that front. And that there, my friends, is what we call Internet Logic.

    ]]> http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/07/letters-from-history/feed/ 0
    role models http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/01/role-models/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/01/role-models/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2011 08:50:59 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1580 I have insomnia, so I am sitting on the sofa, surfing the internet.

    My husband has a video game, so he is standing in the middle of the living room, shooting mutants and listening to Bing Crosby. (Fallout: New Vegas, for those of you who are wondering.)

    It is now 1:49. AM.

    It occurs to [...]]]> I have insomnia, so I am sitting on the sofa, surfing the internet.

    My husband has a video game, so he is standing in the middle of the living room, shooting mutants and listening to Bing Crosby. (Fallout: New Vegas, for those of you who are wondering.)

    It is now 1:49. AM.

    It occurs to me that we really don’t have a leg to stand on when we harangue Hobbes about going to sleep early. Tonight he finally tossed and turned himself to sleep around 10:30. That would be PM. At least he managed it on the right side of midnight.

    We’re going to be awesome parents.

    ]]> http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/07/01/role-models/feed/ 1
    The benefit of experience http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/06/29/the-benefit-of-experience/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/06/29/the-benefit-of-experience/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2011 12:32:20 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1574 If I had ever owned a cat, I would have recognized what the hacking and coughing sounds meant. As it was, some hindbrain instinct warned me just in time, and jerked me out of sleep right on cue to miss a spout of projectile vomit directed my way.

    That was at 4 AM.

    By 4:30 [...]]]> If I had ever owned a cat, I would have recognized what the hacking and coughing sounds meant. As it was, some hindbrain instinct warned me just in time, and jerked me out of sleep right on cue to miss a spout of projectile vomit directed my way.

    That was at 4 AM.

    By 4:30 AM, Hobbes and the bed were cleaned up, washed, changed, and back in business. By 4:45, both husband and child were curled up next to each other, sound asleep.

    I, on the other hand, was playing host to the insomnia fairy, who moved in about two weeks ago and brought all her own bedding. She is a fucking inconsiderate houseguest.

    It is now 5:28. I have done the laundry, cleaned the kitchen, cleaned the living room, and even cleaned the strange sticky goop that showed up on the lid of my laptop a month ago, which I have until now been too apathetic to clean off.

    In the grand scheme of things, 3 hours of sleep isn’t that bad. It’s about par, all things considered. Nonetheless, I find myself vaguely resentful. Prey to uncharitable thoughts. It would be satisfying beyond words to go upstairs right now, for instance, and blow an air horn over the peaceful heads of my spouse and offspring.

    The only thing that stops me is the fact that I do not own an air horn. Also, there would be whining. Not to mention what the child would do.

    I am nicer than they deserve.

    ]]> http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/06/29/the-benefit-of-experience/feed/ 0
    little truths http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/06/14/little-truths/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/06/14/little-truths/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2011 20:03:11 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1575 is smarter than average. Go figure.]]> “Did I tell you what he said to me today?” the Guy asked.

    “No,” I said.

    “We were at Trader Joe’s, and he wanted to buy some snacks. I told him no snacks, because I was fat enough already. And he said, ‘Yeah, you’re too fat.’”

    I laughed. (Well, who wouldn’t?) Hobbes was busily pushing trains around the living room floor, and didn’t look up.

    “Hobbes,” I said. “Is Mommy too fat?” Dangerous territory, but I had to ask.

    “No,” he said.

    So now I know: my kid is smarter than average. Go figure.

    ]]>
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    the great outdoors http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/06/12/the-great-outdoors/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/06/12/the-great-outdoors/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2011 06:21:54 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1561 “I’m getting sick,” the Guy said, and sniffled.

    “Again?”

    “I think I’m getting a cold.”

    “Oh,” I said.

    Hobbes, sitting on the Guy’s lap, craned his head to stare up at his father.

    “You’re old,” he said.

    ***

    We went camping.

    It was The Guy’s idea, which is ironic enough. Almost seven years [...]]]> “I’m getting sick,” the Guy said, and sniffled.

    “Again?”

    “I think I’m getting a cold.”

    “Oh,” I said.

    Hobbes, sitting on the Guy’s lap, craned his head to stare up at his father.

    “You’re old,” he said.

    ***

    We went camping.

    Hammer. Stakes. Toddler. This will end well.

    It was The Guy’s idea, which is ironic enough. Almost seven years Sako has been trying to convince us to go visit her in Yosemite; in the space of one hour, one of his coworkers manages to convince the Guy that what we absolutely want to do this weekend is drive down to Watsonville and spend a night in the mountains.

    Sako’s got to learn salesmanship from this guy.

    To say that Hobbes was excited about the idea would be to say that the sun sort of rises in the east. He only mentioned it about once every two hours for the entirety of the week before, and spent most of Saturday morning (which we spent at a birthday party for one of his best little friends from daycare) mentioning it obsessively to anyone who would listen.

    It was a short trip, and a short stay, but it was a beautiful site. Due to the aforementioned birthday party, we weren’t able to leave until mid-afternoon, and we stopped off in Gilroy en route to buy the little yellow and blue coat that Hobbes is wearing in the picture.

    Thank God we did, because it turns out that the mountains in June are fucking cold.

    Helping with the tent. Manly!

    The Guy bought gear for the occasion, apparently not concerned about the fact that it was his first time camping. “Oops,” he texted me on Friday, en route to the house after an REI run. “I spent $250.” I sighed heavily then, and sighed heavily again when he proudly spread out the six different kinds of lamp he’d found it necessary to buy.

    The man has an obsession with lamps.

    “Don’t we have a lot of perfectly good flashlights?” I asked while he demonstrated another.

    “But this one fits on your head,” he said earnestly, and donned it triumphantly to show me all the ways in which that made it superior.

    “Oooo,” said Hobbes.

    He saw nothing wrong with his father’s hobby of acquisition.

    “You don’t want to get some of this stuff secondhand? Or borrow it?” I asked him at one point.

    He just stared at me, with one of his, I do not understand you. Are you speaking American? looks. “Why would we do that?” he asked, obviously baffled.

    Because we might never go again? We might not like it? We might not need it? “No reason,” I said. So now we own a tent.

    Hobbes really likes the tent.

    The trip was actually a group camp with several friends of the coworker’s, all of them hilarious and charming people. As is his way, Hobbes started out shy, and five minutes later had decided they were his best friends ever. It was, in fact, the first thing out of his mouth when he woke up the next morning. “Where are my friends?” He’s a social little beast. I don’t know where he gets it from; certainly not from either of us. Since he immediately fell asleep again on my arm, it seems plain that his concern wasn’t pressing.

    Sako would have laughed — a lot — at the amount of stuff we took in with us. “Car camping is different,” the Guy said with authority, his own lack of experience notwithstanding.

    I have fond memories of camping with my family, much of it involving my parents struggling with the heavy tent that just barely housed four in those days before fiberglass poles and high-tech waterproof nylon. We lived in the Pacific Northwest, after all. Going out camping was something you did when you were growing up. Somewhere along the way we stopped doing it, I don’t really know why. We got too old, maybe, or too whiny, or had more social engagements than we could untangle ourselves from.

    The social instinct skipped a generation in me. My parents always had friends who were willing to lend their cottages/land/houses in the woods/mountains/shores so we could spend a weekend or a week fishing, crabbing, hiking, boating, oyster collecting, clam digging, what-have-you. I can’t imagine what I thought of it then. Now, looking back, those are the memories I regret. If only I’d appreciated them more when I had the opportunity. That kind of thing.

    “Did you have a good time?” I asked Hobbes, afterwards.

    “Uh huh.”

    “Do you want to go camping again?”

    His little face lit up. “Now?”

    After all, he’s only two. I have another eleven years to enjoy before he learns how to ruin it all.

    ***

    “Here, a riddle. ‘Knock knock,’” said the Guy. He was reading a library book to Hobbes, who had demanded some attention. Elmo’s A to Z. A true masterpiece.

    Hobbes just stared at him.

    “No, here. Hobbes. ‘Knock knock.’ And now you say, ‘who’s there?’”

    Hobbes stared.

    “‘Who’s there,’ Hobbes.”

    “Who’s there?” Hobbes repeated obligingly.

    “‘Boo.’”

    Silence.

    “Now you say, ‘Boo who?’”

    Hobbes again repeated, with an air of patient suffering. “Boo who?”

    “‘Don’t cry,’” said the Guy, and started to laugh. Dorothy Parker, he ain’t.

    Hobbes continued to stare at him, now with obviously rising toddler concern. I took pity on him.

    “It’s a joke,” said the Guy.

    “Did you get it, Hobbes?” I asked him kindly.

    Hobbes said, “No,” and lit off for the wild blue yonder.

    ]]> http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/06/12/the-great-outdoors/feed/ 0
    Bay Area Maker Faire 2011 http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/24/bay-area-maker-faire-2011/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/24/bay-area-maker-faire-2011/#comments Wed, 25 May 2011 07:01:56 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1534 It was a hectic weekend.

    I don’t know what it is about our planning that fills our regular weekends to bursting with activities, but leaves our long weekends relatively desolate. We’re working on adjusting that pattern. Downtime is all well and good, but Hobbes has a limit to the amount of parental quality time he [...]]]>

    Hobbes and the Lego Jeep

    It was a hectic weekend.

    I don’t know what it is about our planning that fills our regular weekends to bursting with activities, but leaves our long weekends relatively desolate. We’re working on adjusting that pattern. Downtime is all well and good, but Hobbes has a limit to the amount of parental quality time he can take before he blows an emotional gasket; in that respect he is a lot like his parents. We all need our personal space from time to time, and if the Guy uses his to catch up on blogs, I use mine to do some writing, and he uses his to consider new ways to introduce the word, “poop,” into everyday conversation, still the principle remains the same.

    Saturday was the Mountain View Art and Wine festival (which is called something else depending on which one it is, but remains invariably the Art and Wine festival on my schedule, like every other Art and Wine festival out there.) Once a year I purchase a piece of jewelry from Mark Poulin’s booth, which I subsequently gloat over and flaunt until the next year. It is tradition.

    Hobbes, who had to be convinced to cooperate with the project by the judicious use of bribes, tromped manfully through the festival demanding to get his “pwesent,” an abstract concept to which he increasingly added criteria as the morning wore on. At noon, it had to be red. At 12:30, it had to be, “a book.” At one, it had to be very small, “in my hand,” he announced, cupping both hands delicately around the hypothetical treasure.

    It is very hard to find a present for a toddler at an Art and Wine festival. You’d be surprised.

    Fortunately, we struck gold at the children’s alley, which was infested with jumpy castles and slides. I was concerned that Hobbes might latch onto the inflatables, most of which were beyond his age (and height) range, but I might as well have not bothered. An old man had set up a booth there, where he was selling used toy cars and trains. Hobbes was enchanted. His previous schematics were completely forgotten. Despite the fact that he was too short to see over the edge of the booth, he rummaged like a professional, inspecting each car in turn and replacing it on the counter in some myopic order of preference he couldn’t remember the key to. The old man, without quite hovering, suspended himself over Hobbes like an anxious librarian, reassembling his display along parallel lines wherever my son’s little fingers appeared over the edge of the counter again.

    Eventually, Hobbes bore off a Thomas the Train Engine pull-along toy, complete with attendant passenger calls. It rattled along behind him at the end of a slightly too short string, wreaking havoc with the pedestrian traffic. Hobbes didn’t care. He toddled along with his head turned back to watch his toy’s progress, his other hand held firmly in the Guy’s.

    He — the Guy — rolled his eyes at me. We’d walked about two miles from the car through the fair. “This is going to take forever,” he said. The Thomas train was not the most stable of toys; it had a tendency to tip over onto its side and require repair.

    “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “He’ll get bored in a little bit, and we’ll pick it up and go home.”

    Hobbes, it turns out, has inherited a degree of bloody-mindedness that I don’t think has ever been seen in either of our families before. He walked the entire 2 miles back to the car, dragging that toy behind him. In toddler distance, that’s, like, 20 miles.

    ***

    And then there was Maker Faire.

    Kings of the World

    We got tickets for 5 adults and one child — Hobbes was free — and visited Maker Faire on Sunday with some friends. It was our first time going, and was fairly spectacular, for what I got to see of it while following an inquisitive 2 year old around.

    One of our friends admitted that she didn’t really understand the point of Making. “I look at something like that,” she said, gesturing at a massive statue consisting of a giant rod of metal around which were suspended three huge boulders, “and I think, what’s the point?”

    “I think,” I said, “that it’s got more to do with, ‘Because we can.’”

    “It just looks like a waste of energy to me,” she said.

    The funny thing is, I’ve had this conversation with the Guy before, and at the time, I was the one who didn’t see the point. I’ve long since learned that if ever someone wants me to understand their point of view, all they need to do is to argue against their own case. I’m pathologically incapable of simply agreeing with someone.

    “Well, look at it,” I said. “Someone made that, because they imagined it. It’s cool. And kids look at that and think, wow, that’s awesome, and their imaginations are fired up because there’s a new possibility they haven’t encountered, and they start to wonder, how was that done? How would I do that? And maybe they start trying to learn something they didn’t have an interest before — engineering, physics, mathematics — and maybe their imaginations expand a little….”

    On the other hand, robots are just cool.

    We stopped by the human mousetrap, which excited the Guy more than it did Hobbes or myself. Hobbes was more interested in cotton candy, which he rained down on bystanders with indiscriminate generosity. Assorted robots zoomed by, as did several gaudy and impressive vehicles. A self-balancing green Android bot, near the same size as he was, informed him that the answer was 42.

    He accidentally triggered a leopard-skin high-heeled shoe car, which zipped away from him and almost knocked him over. This resulted in alarm from the ostensible driver and the vehicle’s actual attendants, who hadn’t realized that it was on.

    One of the best things about the Maker Faire though, is that unlike most festivals, almost everything — excepting the flamethrowers and oh, perhaps the Tesla coils — is touchable. Experimentable. Creatable. Craftable. Hobbes had a fantastic time at the Lego jeep, which is exactly what it looks like: a jeep that has had lego pieces glued to its sides, so that children can build on top of its panels willy-nilly. A few steps further, we found an igloo made entirely of plastic milk bottles.

    It’s possible that the igloo had a point, but I have no idea what it was. No matter. The kids were enjoying that, too.

    Elsewhere on the grounds there were flamethrowing dragons, a swing surrounded by a rain machine that would never (it claimed) rain on the person in the swing (a coworker who was also there: “It lied.”) robotic wargames, which we were unable to attend, and lots and lots of legos.

    There was also a solar-powered train.

    Needless to say, we rode that one.

    Twice.

    “It’s about the journey,” the Guy said during the ride home, when I told him about the conversation I had had with our friend. “Not so much the … thing at the end.”

    “I like the thing at the end,” I said. “I hate the journey.” Instant gratification girl, that’s me. “You know what would be really cool? Musical instrument prosthetics. If you could tweak the digits, so they compressed strings, and then used a bow–” I mimed it out in my head. “Or you could–” And I was off.

    “I don’t have the skills to do that,” the Guy said.

    “I don’t have the attention span,” I said. “I could probably learn the skills, if I had the attention span. But since I can be out-thought by a squirrel–”

    “Between the two of us, we have a Maker,” he said.

    “I hope Hobbes ends up one.”

    “I just want him to be a Renaissance man.”

    I glanced back at the car seat doubtfully. Hobbes was sound asleep. He was drooling a little.

    ***

    That evening, the Guy and Hobbes sat down together to assemble a robot kit they had acquired at the Faire. The attention span of a 2 year old is a fickle thing; he held it together for half an hour, after which he wandered upstairs to cuddle with me on the sofa and watch Kipper cartoons.

    “Did you have a good time?” I asked him.

    He nodded.

    “What was the best part?”

    He considered. “Twain,” he said simply, and settled against my hip.

    Cycle cars, human-powered

    Cupcake cars with driving caps

    Handmade metal zepplin with ... pillbug?

    Leopard skin high heel remote control car. (I don't get it either.)

    Owl car

    Pteranodon flaps its wings as cyclist pedals in its rib cage.

    Small child, milk jug igloo -- no reason necessary.

    ]]> http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/24/bay-area-maker-faire-2011/feed/ 1
    the blues http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/23/the-blues/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/23/the-blues/#comments Mon, 23 May 2011 21:03:31 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1527 Operating Instructions for the last week or so. I'd forgotten how beautifully it's written, not to mention how much it makes me laugh. When I initially read it, Hobbes wasn't even a glimmer in the eye; nowadays I read it with an eye angled backwards, to the same first year experiences I had with a new baby at the age of 35. The laughter has an extra edge of rue to it, a kind of, "I hear ya, sister," that it didn't have when I first read it.]]> “Daddy! Daaaaaaaaaaddy! Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy! Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy!!!!”

    “Honey, Daddy is downstairs.”

    “I want daddy.”

    “Well, he’s busy. You’ll have to wait. Can you be satisfied with just Mommy for a little while?”

    Silence.

    “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy! Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy! Come here, Daddy! Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy!”

    Having a 2 year old is a lot like living with a small, deranged air raid siren.

    ***

    I’ve been rereading Anne Lamott’s wonderful book, Operating Instructions for the last week or so. I’d forgotten how beautifully it’s written, not to mention how much it makes me laugh. When I initially read it, Hobbes wasn’t even a glimmer in the eye; nowadays I read it with an eye angled backwards, to the same first year experiences I had with a new baby at the age of 35. The laughter has an extra edge of rue to it, a kind of, “I hear ya, sister,” that it didn’t have when I first read it.

    I wish I’d reread it sooner.

    Hence the quasi-regular journaling. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I have the staying power of your average squirrel. I blog by fits and starts, depending on how introspective (never) I’m feeling. The Guy continues to believe that I have an active brain, in which things are always firing off. The reality behind my occasional lapses of silence, as I’ve frequently told him, is that things have gone fzzzzut. There are entire days when nothing ever happens between synapses: my brain leads its life without sin, largely wrapped in saran wrap. When I’m dead, they will be able to transplant it into someone as an almost new, barely used product.

    Lately I’ve taken to wandering through the lavender and blue fields of depression. This is only noteworthy in that it’s pretty rare that I get depressed. Generally speaking, depression implies self-analysis, at least to me. Thinking, creative people get depressed — people like Poe or Shelley or Van Gogh or Beethoven — whereas I’m a suburban product manager with the attention span of navel lint. Of course, theirs was the clinical kind that these days require meds, and in those days ended in knives and earlobes and symphonies and syphilis.1 Mine is the kind that would be resolved with small life changes, which I’m too stupid to make.

    Lacking the dramatic flair or the talent to do anything meaningful with my mopes, I generally just tromp around like a Billy Goat Gruff, announcing to everyone I encounter that I’m in a Bad Mood. It is all very gratifying and vaguely soothing to my wounded spirit when my coworkers (accustomed to a more sunny-tempered me) fuss over me and offer sympathy. It is less so when one of the more pragmatic among them points out that her 3 year old does much the same thing, except higher-pitched.

    The next phase in all this will probably be for me to stop being cranky and instead shift into martyrdom. Never having been a martyr before — it is, I’m told, a position with limited career growth opportunity — it should be a novel experience, at least.

    ***

    Hobbes raised his little fist in the air. “Chicken!” he shouted.

    It was an opportunity too precious to be missed. “Honey,” I said. “Say, ‘Black Power!’”

    Yellow power,” the Guy objected.

    Hobbes stared at us.

    “Ignore your daddy, sweetheart,” I said kindly. “Black power, Hobbes! Say black power!”

    “Black poop!” he shouted, and raised a valedictory palm.

    We’ll have to work on that.



    1. Or maybe started with knives and earlobes and symphonies and syphilis. I’m not sure about the knives and earlobes and symphonies, but I’m fairly sure about the syphilis. [Back to top]

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    out of the mouths of babes http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/17/out-of-the-mouths-of-babes-2/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/17/out-of-the-mouths-of-babes-2/#comments Wed, 18 May 2011 02:35:56 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1512 The Guy was grousing about the Amazon app store. “It’s not downloading,” he grumbled.

    “Chuzzle,” Hobbes said. This was the free game that the Guy was attempting to download to his tablet. Hobbes was addicted to the word. “Chuzzle Chuzzle Chuzzle Chuzzle.” In his mouth, it came out, ‘Chuzzow.’

    “This is a terrible user experie– [...]]]> The Guy was grousing about the Amazon app store. “It’s not downloading,” he grumbled.

    “Chuzzle,” Hobbes said. This was the free game that the Guy was attempting to download to his tablet. Hobbes was addicted to the word. “Chuzzle Chuzzle Chuzzle Chuzzle.” In his mouth, it came out, ‘Chuzzow.’

    “This is a terrible user experie– Oh,” said the Guy. “It’s downloading from my email. Why do I need to do that? Why doesn’t it just download?”

    Hobbes looked at me gravely. He held up one finger, in baby pontification. “It’s downwoad fwom his emaiw,” he declared. He has problems with the letter ‘L.’

    The Guy and I looked at each other, and snickered. Vocabulary of a new generation. Remembering an entertaining experience with one of my young piano students 10 years back, I said, “Hobbes? Can you say, ‘W-W-W-dot-com?”

    “No,” Hobbes said. He sighed heavily. “It’s too weiwd.”

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    More monkey http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/17/more-monkey/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/17/more-monkey/#comments Tue, 17 May 2011 20:23:54 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1507 After a while, the Putomayo Kids CD starts turning into white noise. Anything does, when you’re forced to listen to it again. And again. And again. And again.

    We were halfway to the daycare when I realized that the disc had moved onto tracks that Hobbes doesn’t particularly favor. “Do you want more monkeys?” I asked him.

    “More monkeys!” he shouted.

    I skipped the CD back; after a few seconds of unnerving silence — the disc is close to wearing out from abuse and reuse — the 5 Little Monkeys song started again.

    Hobbes cheered. “Monkey love again!”

    I sniggered the rest of the way in.

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    A brief musical interlude http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/16/a-brief-musical-interlude/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/16/a-brief-musical-interlude/#comments Tue, 17 May 2011 05:51:46 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1501 disappeared one night from my radio's list of options -- not that it was much of a classical music station anyway, since it often played muzak with as much deliberation as it did Mozart -- his listening options in the car are mostly limited to Alice on 97.3 and such CDs as have made it to my car. He doesn't appear to mind. Songs involving animals are a hit. So are songs in major keys with brisk, driving tempos. Drums are popular. So are sopranos. He disapproves of stringed instruments (excepting the ukelele and banjo) but likes marimbas purely on principle.]]> Hobbes inherited his love of music from my mother, which is where I learned it. He voices loud approval from the backseat at my radio choices, calling out demands for this song or that song based on whatever mood he happens to be in. Since the classical music station in the Bay Area folded, or lost its frequency, or broke its transmitter, or generally speaking disappeared one night from my radio’s list of options — not that it was much of a classical music station anyway, since it often played muzak with as much deliberation as it did Mozart — his listening options in the car are mostly limited to Alice on 97.3 and such CDs as have made it to my car. He doesn’t appear to mind. Songs involving animals are a hit. So are songs in major keys with brisk, driving tempos. Drums are popular. So are sopranos. He disapproves of stringed instruments (excepting the ukelele and banjo) but likes marimbas purely on principle.

    He loves ABBA and Katy Perry. He really dislikes Maroon 5.

    “Monkeys!” he shouted at me this morning, on the way to the post office. “Monkeys! Monkeys! Monkeys! Monkeys!”

    I took this to mean that he wanted me to put on one of his Putomayo Kids CDs, which contains a song about monkeys jumping on a bed. I obligingly slipped it in at a red light, and forwarded to the right track. He bobbed his head through the spoken prologue, then demanded, “Sing, Mommy! Sing!”

    Obligingly, I started singing along to the music. After a few seconds, Hobbes started to flail. “No, Mommy!” he said desperately. “Stop singing! Stop singing!”

    Unfortunately, along with my mother’s love of music, he seems to have gotten her musician’s ear. And my Asian Tact Deficiency Disorder.

    “Mommy sings bad,” he said sadly, when I gave up. He had more social sense than I had at that age though, since he then added in a consoling manner, “It’s okay, Mommy. It’s okay.”

    Personally, I think it shows native good taste on his part. While I was at Eastman, professional opera singers used to ask me to stop singing, with much the same urgency. He did the same thing, except without the intervening years of dedicated schooling. What can I say. My son’s a musical prodigy.

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    Decompression http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/15/decompression/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/05/15/decompression/#comments Mon, 16 May 2011 06:14:19 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/?p=1488 I was lying in the dark the other night, wondering if Hobbes had finally gone to sleep, when I felt a little hand groping for my face.

    Then it patted my cheek. “You’re very clever,” he said.

    “Thank you,” I said.

    ***

    Last week was long, long, loooooooong in the way that temporal anomalies are long, or dental appointments where you haven’t flossed in a while are long, or self-prepared taxes on the night of April 13th because you forgot to do it earlier are long. Each day passed with incredible speed, but somehow each work week contained 10 or 11 days.

    It’s the third week in a line of weeks that have had that elastic feel. Not that the days that have bookended the month have been notable for their ease of use, say, but we’ve been diving into an especially noxious period just recently. The tipping point1 came partway through the last week, when a coworker and my new boss both offered me some very good advice. Coincidentally enough, someone reminded me of the definition of insanity — and here I am, on the other side of it, feeling remarkably refreshed for someone who’s just found half a dead moth in her hair.

    Hobbes crossed the halfway point a couple of months ago. He is closer to three than he is to two, which he informs me means that he is a “big boy,” though he says it without any obvious signs of comprehension. In the purely physical sense, he isn’t — at Fry’s yesterday, he spent an exciting half-hour running up and down an elevated deck display with a boy that I later learned was only 21 months old. He was taller than Hobbes was by a good inch.2

    “He’s so articulate,” the little boy’s grandmother marveled. Hobbes jabbered something about his toy car, and then went pinging off the deck’s rails, a free electron without portfolio.

    “It’s because he’s small,” I told her. “You’re thinking he’s advanced for his age, but his age is older than he looks. It’s not that he’s smart. It’s that he’s in miniature.”

    Which I suppose sounds a bit like I’m calling him an idiot, but he isn’t, really. Just average.

    And small.

    “You keep saying that,” the Guy said, “but he’s not really that average. I think he’s pretty smart.”

    “He seems pretty normal to me,” I said. “I mean, for a boy.” Realizing that sounded a bit more disparaging than I meant it to be, I added, “He seems about the same as his classmates. Maybe a little shorter.” I might be a bit obsessed about height.

    “But you have to remember where we are,” the Guy said. “And his teachers say he talks a lot. If he’s average here, he’s above average everywhere else.”

    “Mm,” I said, not exactly agreeing, but not really disagreeing either.

    I have a pathological fear of being too proud of Hobbes’s achievements. Weighed against the scope of greatness prodigies subscribe to, it seems unfair and vaguely ridiculous to over-enthuse about normal development milestones. And in the annals of his personal history, it might embarrass him to discover that his mother was so soft-minded as to gibber with excitement for a solid ten minutes, just because he announced, “No shoes in da house,” one day as he climbed up the stairs from the garage, and painstakingly removed his little velcro-fastened sneakers.

    Good morning, camera!

    Oh, and the fact that he has figured out how to take pictures of himself. With my iPhone.

    Which is passcode-locked.

    That’s totally normal for a 2-year old, right?


    1. I use the phrase advisedly. These days, I feel more like Sisyphus’s boulder than I do Sisyphus. I’ve never felt much sympathy for the Greek heroes and villains, mostly because even the good guys were jackasses, but I’ll admit I’ve always wondered about Sisyphus’s boulder. Do you suppose it’s more frustrating to be the person who’s pushing the boulder up the hill, or being the boulder who’s never left alone? I can imagine the inner monologue getting pretty damn tedious. “Almost there, almost there, al– most— FUCK.[Back]

    2. I blame those Asian genes. Damn Asian genes. [Back]

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    Quality time http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/04/16/quality-time/ http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/04/16/quality-time/#comments Sat, 16 Apr 2011 20:07:04 +0000 http://www.faultyvision.net/2011/04/16/quality-time/

    Reading Thomas the train is serious work.

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    20110416-010612.jpg

    Reading Thomas the train is serious work.

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