Pottermania

Well, it’s been awhile folks, and it’s liable to be awhile again. Among other things, my paying gig has raised its paying head. I have five classes at the moment, and I can barely breathe, let alone write. I’m also desperately trying to finish a short story that I was supposed to have sent in for critique by the end of this month, and I think, in all, that it will bemid-August before I get into a good sized post again. However, this one I did just have to share.

When I’ve got an obsession, the kids will usually come along for the ride. For instance,  Lego Star Wars, which used to scare the holy bejeezus out of Caroline, is now her
favorite Wii game.  And my new-car-fixation has totally carried over into everyone checking their pockets and lunchboxes for leaks before entering the vehicle.  Also,
I have lost control of my computer until I can set up a Beatles Cartoons list in my Youtube account and run it from Caroline’s machine for the kids.

So it should come as no surprise that Caroline and Sam have been Lumosing their nightlights at bedtime here lately or that Sam screeched “Alohomora it, MOM” at me when he found out that his graduating to a high backed booster has not yet absolved him of a door fastened with kidlock.   While I can thank the Wii for their knowing these terms, since I shout them at the machine while wielding my nunchuck like a hammer playing the Lego Harry Potter game, it’s the Deathly Hallows
Part 2
that has the phrases in such high use right now.  (Note – There’s a red spell that blows up silver objects in the Wii game. It isn’t technically alohomora. But that’s what
I yell when it isn’t doing what I want. I am surprised Sam didn’t shout “Alohomora
damn you, Mom”, since that would be a lot closer to what I actually bellow.)

Nor should anybody be shocked to know they are running around casting spells on things themselves. Of course, being that these are my kids, they have their own outfits and spells. And by “they”, I mean Sam. Caroline actually sticks to the Rowling script, as she understands it.  Of course, as she understands it, Hermione is somehow the star, with Fang the dog as her loyal companion, and Ron, Harry, Hagrid, and also Tom Riddle as useful sidekicks. She gets it that Tom Riddle is Voldemort, who is a bad guy.
But she wants those damned red leviosa bricks as badly as I do, and
she’s willing to hold hands with dark forces to get them. Also, her interest in Harry Potter extends almost exclusively to the Wii.

Sam’s enchantment with the series is much more sweeping. He understands almost none of it but the whole thing captivates his burgeoning and as-yet-unrefined D&D geek. Hogwarts be damned, he plays his own way with only passing references, like the one when he realized his door was still locked cop-car style, to the actual books. I presume he will have no trouble writing fan fiction in years to come.

For the present, he sticks to doing his own costumes and spells. His first couple of efforts seem paired with his pre-existing princess fascination and Caroline’s recasting of Hermione as the main character. For instance, we have this little number, in which he demonstrates that he has no problems playing a girl, as long as he gets the lead role. He would have done Shakespeare proud.

Now. What SHALL I turn you into?

However, his more recent creations include Star
Wars Crossover pieces like this one. The Broomstick is the Skywalker 2011,
owned by only the most enterprising young wizards. The wand is an 8 ½” long
premium plasticwood with an air core that comes in at around a penny if you
divide out the cost between it and the other 249 of them that came in the box.

Abla-ca-dooobie

Here, he has abandoned the broom, but added a carryall reminiscent of Hermione’s bottomless purse. He’s using it to hold his squishee, a positively medieval looking anger management tool that is really a gel ball that I’ve sewn into an old cloth diaper so he can carry it around his neck for handy mashing. Except when he pops it into my old Lexington Public Library coozie for a double layer of portability. I swear he came up with this on his own as it does not, to my knowledge, crop up in the books or years 1-4 of the Wii game, and I have never tried to explain the films to my kids at all. His wand was
originally an upgrade from the straw: 9 inch hardened dough and salt, with a softer dough core.

Whee! Let's cast some magic!

However, after an accident,

it became two wands which seem to function well  enough given that their owner has his own set of spells to use with them,

including the ones he mentions here, “abla-ca-dabla” and “abla-ca-doobie” (I swear he has no clue what a ‘doobie’ actually is).  In any case, I haven’t noticed any misfiring  of the wands since the accident, but I will be sure to let you know if he comes home from school some day vomiting giant garden slugs. And I will try to write, because it drives me nuts to lose track of it like this. But. I have not the funds to contemplate setting the paying job aside, and I’ll have to compromise until I somehow gain them.

Storms

I had never seen an electrical storm until I moved down South. Growing up in Ohio, we had thunder, rain, and even tornadoes.Nasty tornadoes. I had seen green skies and taken refuge in the bathtub. When I was very small, lightning shot into the window of our farmhouse past my metal high chair to strike the telephone and arc across the room and blast the refrigerator.  But none of those things hold a candle to the weather I’ve experienced down here.

Of course, it helps that I was extremely small when the lightning nearly hit me. I only remember the sound it made on contact with the phone. Mom is the one who remembers what it looked like shooting around the kitchen like while she tried to get to her baby.

Even Florida’s storms can’t have anything on Alabama. Down in Naples, dark clouds come in from the Gulf every afternoon. Sometimes, you can set your clocks not by the tides, but by the afternoon thunder bumpers. The sky blows purple and the rain cascades down. I used to look out the windows with my grandparents and talk fishing with Poppa while it blew over.

But since we’ve moved to Montgomery, I’ve seen lightning strike the ground over and over in a circular pattern in the middle of the day. I’ve watched the sky turn slate gray between the time I left for an appointment and the time I arrived at my destination. I’ve felt the hair on my arms stand up and smelled ozone.  I’ve sat at stoplights wishing there was some way to just get off the road.

Ironic that we’ve been in a season of drought down here.

Today, taking Caroline to therapy, one of those endless storms unleashed. It started with rain while I was loading her into the car. By the time we pulled out of the parking lot, the thunder was grumbling. And by the time we got to the therapy center, I was having that stoplight problem. Lightning struck earth again and again, blinding like an incessantly flashing camera, and every time I rolled to a stop under a power line, I held my breath and willed the light’s cycle to hurry up and go to green.

I dropped Caroline at the hospital’s covered entrance, telling her to hurry into the therapy center and tell them I’d be in once I parked. But by the time I parked, the rain was blowing sideways, rocking the new car with each gust.  I waited in the car for a few minutes, to see if things would settle down. But I couldn’t find my phone to call in and tell the folks indoors that I was in good shape. I knew Caroline would worry. So I finally grabbed my purse and headed in.

I didn’t have an umbrella, but it wouldn’t have mattered. The wind would have collapsed and shredded it. I was drenched before I’d closed the door, and I had to hold my purse in front of me and look at the ground so I could see. Water ran down my forehead and into my eyes, blowing in around my glasses like I didn’t have them on. I was using my spare arm to hold them on my face by the time I reached the door. It was a short walk, but it took me nearly two soaking minutes to get there.

I walked through the sliding glass doors, and four nurses stopped and stared. “Are you going to…?” one of them asked.

“She means, are you trying to visit…?” another continued.

“Therapy center.” I said. “I let my daughter in under the archway, but I had to park and come back.

“Oh, good,” said the first nurse. “I mean … not good…”

“She means they have towels in there,” the second nurse cut in. They would have made a great Abbot and Costello routine. She meant that I would terrify anybody unlucky enough to receive me as a guest or ride up the elevator by my side. But her friend covered nicely, and the promise of towels sounded like heaven.  In fact, the therapists took one look at me raining on their floor and offered me my choice of hospital gowns and scrubs while they dried my clothes. They were terribly concerned for my modesty, and I got to hang out in what I suppose would have been a patient cubicle, complete
with a hospital bed that they invited me to lie down in.

And after an hour alone in a hospital strength dryer, my clothes were still not totally dry. I was that wet. They offered to let me take the scrubs home with me, but I was happy
enough to be damp rather than swimming, and it wasn’t like I was going out to a
day filled with sunshine and bluebirds.
Because Alabama storms don’t typically just blow over the way Florida’s Gulf Coast ones do. In Alabama, the dark clouds stay overhead for hours afterwards, and the weather has to make its ponderous way elsewhere. In other parts of the city, the rain was not so bad. This was an isolated explosion, like so many are in this state. It’s not uncommon for half the city to be wet and the other half to be dry. Or for someone
standing outside to hear the rain approaching up the street and have time to
run and get the mail on the way indoors. Or for the rain-line on the road to mark clearly the point where the clouds began their water delivery.

But the lightning strikes Caroline and I saw while driving knocked out power to at least an entire block. The hospital lights flickered before backup power kicked in, and I can only hope the surgery rooms were better protected against such fluctuation.  Many of the stores in the nearby shopping plaza (I refuse to call Eastchase a mall, since it lacks a roof, which I consider essential to the definition of mall) remained without power when
Caroline and I tried to reward ourselves with a smoothie some thirty minutes after it had stopped actually raining.

I’m beginning to understand why they call this section of the country “tornado alley”, and I hope madly to never find out on a more personal level than this exactly how bad it can get here.

Hyundai

Well, Sam didn’t poop at all yesterday, in spite of some forty five minutes spent sitting obligingly on the pot. I couldn’t bring myself to molest him with that damned enema a fourth night in a row, and so he had to have two tonight before producing a nasty hard mass. I suppose it’s time to bypass the pediatrician  and go find a shit-ologist to see what is up with my baby’s ass.

However, there is one bright spot. In the midst of tonight’s ordeal, Caroline had to fend for herself for quite awhile. At one point, I was sitting on the bathroom floor discussing poop with Sam, and Caroline wandered around the corner holding an old book. I guess we must have family hour in by the commode pretty regularly these days, because she pulled up a stool by the sink and continued reading like it was nothing unusual.

“What’cha got?” I asked her. It was hardbound without pictures or a slipcover.

Rather than closing it, she peered all the way across the top and looked upside down at the spine, then intoned “The Pain and The Great One, by Judy Blume,” in her robot voice.

Seriously? I had to bend around so I could see for myself. She’s about halfway through it.

“That was one of my favorites when I was your age!” I said.

But she didn’t hear me. She was too deeply engrossed in her book.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

That’s just a status update. Here’s the real blog entry.

When my parents were married, Mom used to say “For better or worse, but the truck comes first.” This particular commentary on the state of their union meant that, while he might have been wedded to Mom, Dad’s love affair with his Ford F250 qualified it for mistress status.  I’m beginning to understand his position.

Pretty early on in the blog, I mentioned that we have been car shopping, with plans to buy new. Also, that I’m extremely uncomfortable being middle class enough to think about the long-term cost of a car, as opposed to the short term expense.  That was over two months ago.  Scott and I shop very slowly, even once we have made up our minds.  We had a pretty good idea back in May that we would be buying a Hyundai Sonata, as it offered a reasonable compromise between size and gas savings. And we figured out our color choice pretty fast.  We even knew we wanted a GLS without any added options packages.

Still, it took us until last Friday to actually go buy the thing.

Our car buying style has evolved over the course of the relationship, with nothing running true to type. This is one of the few things we have in common with my parents as a couple. Their car buying abilities were also so unique as to defy any dealer’s comprehension training. Back when they were buying cars together, the dealers tended to assume that the woman would be the soft sell, so they spent a lot of their time showing the man the car’s practical advantages while showing the woman the features.  But in our family, Mom was the hardliner. She knew how much she could afford, couldn’t have cared less about the dealer come-ons, and had no interest in features. So the dealers wasted a lot of time trying to win over a man who they had back at the word “car”. And they spent almost no effort at all on the person with whom they would actually be negotiating.

It never went well for the dealers.

Scott and I aren’t like that. I’ll freely admit that I’m the stereotypical female shopper in an era when dealers are getting trained to avoid sexist thinking. Hyundai had me at “Free XM radio trial”, but the dealer got distracted by my sudden nostalgia for the Mazda that he didn’t even know we would be trading in.  Therefore, he wasn’t quite sure what to do when I had no interest in test drives, didn’t really care a whole lot about fuel economy since it wasn’t a Prius, and wasn’t even much interested in color. Scott, in contrast, did several test drives of the Sonata, of the Honda Civic, and I think of one other. He studied Consumer Reports and Kelly Blue Book, and he determined which car would get us the most for our money.  I rode along for two of the test drives and contributed almost nothing but anxiety to the process.

I was nervous about buying a Hyundai, just as I had been nervous about buying Mazda twelve years ago, and Honda back in 2008, because I’d never owned one before. I’ve  apparently got brand loyalty issues when it comes to cars. I consider myself a Toyota girl, since the two used Toyotas that got me from about age 18 and into grad school were reliable vehicles that only required the occasional timing belts or alternator replacements. (And, from time to time, tires. But even the new ones need those.) This, in spite of the fact that I haven’t owned a Toyota since 1999.  I accidentally convinced Scott I didn’t want the Hyundai for a few days by virtue of my incessant fretting.

But by the time we walked into the dealership last Friday, we had all of that ironed out. We knew everything about the car we were buying, and we knew how not to get ripped off. Kelly and CR confirmed that people were pretty much paying MSRP for these things and that there wasn’t any real discount wiggle room there. We knew we had a trade in, but that we needed to wait to disclose that fact until after the car price was sealed, and we knew its relative value as well. We walked into Capitol Hyundai, found the salesman with whom we had been working and said, “We need to buy an Indigo Blue Sonata GLS without any option packages. We don’t expect to drive it off the lot today, because you haven’t got any in inventory, and we’re ready to fill out the paperwork.”

“Uh, waitaminute.” He said. “Let me see if I can find you one.”

“According to your website, there aren’t any in stock,” Scott said.

“Well, we may have had some come in.”

So Scott and I sat down.

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, and this whole car buying thing hasn’t even been the half of it. To keep myself somewhat sane and under control, I brought my computer and sat there grading papers. Poor Scott didn’t even have a book.

Half an hour later, the salesman came back over. “We’re still looking for a car for you!” he said, then vanished.

When he surfaced once more, we tried to explain the situation again. “We just need to do the paperwork today,” I assured him. “We seriously don’t have a lot of time to do this, and I don’t want you looking all over the state for the car we want.”

“It’s not that simple,” he told me. “We have to find the car you’re buying so we know how much it costs.”

“Bullshit,” I told him.

He seemed taken aback. They always are when I start swearing.

Scott added, “There’s a Hyundai plant not ten miles from here. You’re telling me that they won’t roll an indigo GLS off the line in the next ten to fourteen days?”

“But we have to have a VIN number to put on the paperwork,” he explained.

“Bullshit,” I repeated.  I could feel my face getting red as anger and impatience bubbled to the surface.

Scott said, “We really don’t have a lot of time for this.”

He made placating noises, and we sat back down to wait some more. We had been in the dealership for an hour by this time. And I should take a moment to note that this portion of problem was not the salesman’s fault. He had some stupid asshat manager who could not understand people willing to walk in and commit to a car they had not personally fondled. Or something. Our guy was the quintessential middleman, running back and forth to us with his manager’s racket.

At one point, Scott got up and strode towards the manager’s office, just about giving the poor salesman apoplexy. He kept saying “But sir… but sir,” as Scott headed across the showroom floor.

“What? Is this TSA? I don’t see ‘no customer zone’ anywhere around here,” Scott said. “He doesn’t want to come talk to us? Well we’d like to talk to him.”

“I’ll get him for you,” the salesman promised, herding Scott back to the leather sofa where I was still grading essays.

He did not get the manager, but I’ve no doubt he tried. Instead, the manager thought we had reached the point of impatience at which we would be malleable, because he sent the salesman back out asking, “Would you be willing to buy one with an added option package…”

“No,” I cut him off. “And you can tell your manager that if he tries that again, we’re heading next door to Honda. If he doesn’t start some paperwork in the next few minutes, we’re gone.” I have walked away from cars I want due to inept sales staff. I was not bluffing.

“He’s got calls out. He’s just waiting for one of them to call him back,” the salesman countered.

“He’s losing a sale,” Scott explained.

Scott was much more rational than I was, but the salesman had no way of knowing that. Scott’s blank looks have an angry edge even when they are completely neutral.  And, having run through the magazines in that first thirty minute stretch, he was far from neutral. Add to that image the sight of me glancing up from my computer every once in awhile to issue a new dictate and froth at the mouth some more, and you can really start to feel for this guy.  The salesman went back to his manager, still unsure whether Scott and I were a couple of bluffing card players or just a pair of tough customers.

The manager finally decided to run a credit check to dick for time. He sent out paperwork, which we completed and before waiting some more.

The next time the salesman walked by, I started a countdown. “You have thirty minutes,” I said, “before we have to leave to go get our daughter.  Don’t make me late.”

Twenty minutes later, things finally started moving. “We found your car,” the salesman said, like he’d just walked out back and we hadn’t been cluttering up his showroom for the better part of two hours.

“You have ten minutes,” I told him.

He tried to counter with, “Well, we had to run the credit check…”

“You assumed we are applying for credit.”

And that just shut him right down. He had not asked if we were applying for credit or if we were letting him fill out that paperwork to amuse ourselves while he wasted our time. In the process of starting the credit check, he had made the mistake of calling me “Mrs. Merriman” and mispronouncing it to boot. Bonus time!  Here are the top three ways to infuriate me. One, refer to me with a first name of “Mrs.”. Two, assume I have the same last name as my spouse. And number three, fuck up the pronunciation of Scott’s last name when you’re doing it. This was the only thing I could hold against the salesman himself, rather than his stupid boss, but he had completed a perfect trifecta. Win, place, and show.  Up until then, he had been carefully nonsexist, guessing correctly that he was really negotiating with Scott only when my commentary devolved to insults and time-calls. But at the credit-point, the only thing he could have done worse was try to make my first name “Scott”.

I had said tersely “Look at the license” and then corrected his pronunciation of Scott’s name twice. But by the time he came back to tell us “we found your car”, we wouldn’t have gotten our financing through Hyundai if they’d had a zero interest loan option. OK, if they’d had that, we probably would have used them. But they didn’t. And, like I said, we were out of time.

For a good two minutes, things moved quickly. We established the price, and the salesman went from taken aback to offended when I pointed out that this was exactly the price we had known we were going to pay walking in. I think he was upset because I had essentially called his boss’s bluff about all the dicking around “finding” a car.

When we had finally signed the offer, which, for the record had no VIN number on it, Scott said, “Now, we’re going to talk about our trade in.”

I said, “You have eight minutes.”

The poor salesman just opened his mouth and stared. Then he and Scott went out to see the Mazda. The manager, thinking our hurry meant something else, tried to lowball the trade-in price. Once again, the salesman found himself up against my mottle-faced “Bullshit,” this time followed by “we’re down to three minutes.” And here’s where he really did something right. Without consulting the idiot in the back room, he promised us full “excellent used” value for the Mazda, when all we had been asking for was “good”.  I’m sure that was a serious risk, since he had, up until then, not been able to say our names (even incorrectly) without a consultation. He swore up and down that we would only have to come back once, to finish the paperwork and collect the car, and he was telling the truth.

I do want to emphasize that, as salespeople go, he was doing his best. Capitol Hyundai just had some real dumb fucks in their back room and some screwed up policies to go with them.

So we came back on Monday and signed a lot of documents and picked up our new car. Our salesman must have warned the paper-signing dude about us, because that was the fastest I have ever signed paperwork for something expensive. Typically, the paperwork is the longest part of the process.

After that, it was time to drive our baby home.

Baby

At first, I was too scared to drive it. I had explained repeatedly at the test drive phase that as long as Scott liked the handling, I was happy. And I had test driven the Sonata (a 2011, if that matters, since they came out with the ‘12s while we batted around our plans). But I was so afraid of dinging it that I only went a mile or so before giving it back to the salesman to park. So Scott got the honor of driving the new machine home and putting it in the garage. Even he was moderately paranoid, because he made me help him with positioning.

I didn’t drive it until this morning, and right up until then, I maintained my distance. It was a new car. Nice color, great radio, but it stank of new car spray to the point that I had to leap out into the grass as we got home from the dealership to avoid hurling on the new seats. I’m allergic to most scents, and they had doubtless perfumed the hell out of the thing before handing us the keys. I remained in terror of dinging it.

 After all, I put the first dent in the last new car we got, a scant few weeks after we purchased it. And I don’t want to do that again. But once I sat down in the driver’s seat, I had to forgive all. I had to forgive it for being an automatic, for smelling like upholstery spray, and for not being a Toyota. Because from the driver’s seat, it is incredibly like my 1987 Toyota Corolla SR5. No popup headlights, but the shade of blue is just about the same, the radio is better, and the handling is sublime.

I have never loved a car this much before, and I can say without (much) embarrassment that I’m already planning her first bath. Do you know when the last time was that I washed a car? Yes, that’s right. Never. But I’m washing this one. And I’m waxing the dash. Or whatever you do to ward off dust. And we’re buying seat covers and floor mats, and there’s no damned way the kids are eating in this thing ever.

Don't you dare call her nose big

The list goes on.  Scott has already snapped at Caroline for trying to carry a breakfast bar out there this morning, and I got on her case for smudging up her window this afternoon. Sam has been thoroughly lectured for touching the paint with what might have been a fingernail, and there is no question of allowing the poor hairy dog in there.

License plate JSTER

The kids are as in love with the radio as I am, and can, in fact, read the XM display from the backseat. God help you if you skip a song Caroline thinks she might like. Tonight, watching me skim past titles (from my steering wheel control), Caroline suddenly shrieked “Go BACK!  That’s Judas Priest! That’s “Night Crawler”. And I LOVE THAT SONG.”

“You’ve never heard that song,” I said.

“Yes, I have.”

To prove her wrong, I went back, whereupon I recognized the tune and realized that yes, in fact, she has heard that song. It has been at least four years, and it was on a yard sale purchase that came without a case, so it was one of those that I never was sure of the name of because I couldn’t quite understand the chorus. But yes, she has heard Night Crawler before. And yes, she can understand it better than I can, because she was singing along for most of the rest of the ride home.

For my part, I was torn between emotions. Delight that I finally don’t have to dig out a CD to hear Judas Priest warred with concerns that she’s old enough to get nightmares from that particular tune. And both of those thoughts were driven down by the realization that I just lost control of the radio I wanted for myself. The feature that sold me on the car has been usurped by the kids, and I’m reduced to being grateful that they have excellent musical taste even as I plan to never scroll past Radio Disney.

I love this new car, and I can’t wait to find out all its new treats.

Hide and Go Shit Redux

Hide and go shit got serious tonight, and I thought we were going to land in the hospital with this one. Hide and go shit is bad, but I think that “hide and don’t go shit” is worse. We’ve had to give Sam enemas for the last three nights in a row to get anything at all out, and tonight, he was pushing brown water around whatever was jammed up in his colon before he finally forced out the adult sized mass that was holding everything up.

Caroline had a playdate this weekend, and her friend’s Mom and I were talking about anal retentive kids. One of her children had to be hospitalized for five days with an impaction. Five days of an adult strength fluid dripping through the veins before that five year old’s body could finally clear things out. My friend described the X-Ray showing his colon as “code brown” because it was so badly distended, and said he had to have several months of special meals producing soft stools before it reduced to its proper size.

I do not want to repeat her experience, but I see us steadily sliding down that path. We sprinkle fiber on Sam’s meals. We give him so many fluids he might explode. Hell, we feed the kid laxatives on a regular basis.  And yet pooping is still a nightmare for him. He sits on the pot waiting for nothing to happen. Or the pain is so bad that he runs off and hides and craps his pants for the umpteenth time.

Or else, and this is by far the worst, he sits on the toilet screaming in pain, like his appendix is bursting. Listening to him wail makes my stomach hurt, makes my ass hurt, makes me want to cry with him. I understand constipation from my own experiences with it, but this is nothing like what I have familiarity with. Tonight, when the screaming started, I told him, “We are going to have to do the snorkel up your butt” our word for the enema “or else go to the hospital.”

He said, “I want to go to the hospital.”

Good lord. Wasn’t expecting that one.

I told him, “Well honey, you’d have to drink something yucky, and the first thing they’d try is the snorkel up your butt, so let’s do that at home, and if it doesn’t work, then we’ll go to the hospital.”

He was not impressed and remained noncompliant. Wouldn’t you?

His pediatrician, who has been fantastic with all of Caroline’s ASD ins and outs has been perfectly useless on this one. She wants me to pour prune juice down his throat and increase the fiber in his diet. Doc, if the kid eats any more fiber, I’m going to have to plant him next season and wait for him to come in for the harvest. If he drinks any more, he’s going to start floating. The issue here is one of control. This is a kid who cannot let go of anything, who is at an age where most kids feel their lives are out of their hands, and who has latched onto this one thing as something he can own. I have watched him lie on the ground rolling around fighting off the effects of five pediatric laxatives. I have seen him go five days without pooping at all then fill the toilet with enough excrement for several adults.

And yet this is the closest we have come to the hospital. He has only missed one day here recently, but the turds that have been, until tonight, getting past his defenses have been mediocre samples at best. Do you know, do you have any idea how maddening it is to engage in endless conversations with your spouse about the contents of the toilet bowl?

Tonight, since Scott was the one to see two nights ago’s deposit, he had the joy of trying to describe it to me. I asked, “Was it hard or soft?”

He said, “I didn’t touch it.”

“OK, but did it look like it was falling apart in the water, or did it seem to be still holding together?”

“Jessie, I don’t know. It looked like POOP.

Yes, but what kind of poop. Because when your kid is telling you he’d rather go to the hospital than have an enema, these things matter. When he’s begging, following the enema, to be allowed to poop on the floor, these things matter. I actually agreed to let him poop on the floor, but when he discovered that I wasn’t going away to let him do it in peace, he climbed up on the potty, choosing privacy over getting the perfect squat. Before he got up there, he had leaked quite a bit of brown water onto the bathroom tile, which was when I started to fear we really were headed for the ER tonight. If he was suffering from something so big he could only get ooze around it, the trouble was immediate.

As soon as he got up on the toilet, he started making airy sounds. Less fart and more deflating tire. I’ve never heard him make those sounds before. Usually, the enemas produce a lot of screaming followed by sudden defecation when he can’t fight his body any longer. He’s left us steaming shit piles in the carpet, in the backyard (and oh GOD I know the neighbors thought we were torturing him, then; I kept waiting for the cops to show up that night), in the tub, and on his bed. But when he started to hiss like we were letting the air out of him, ‘scared’ turned into ‘terrified’ for me.

But he’d stopped screaming.

And whatever he was doing on the toilet, it didn’t smell like roses, so there was some hope.

Scott went in to ask him how things were going, and he said, “Go away, Daddy. I’m still thinking about the poop.” A few minutes after that, he called “I’m done thinking. You can come in now.”

And he had deposited something the size and shape of a corn husk in there. Sorry for the image. I didn’t want it either.

Hopefully, that’s got things moving again for him, but really, we’ll only know when I sit him on the pot again tomorrow. And the night after. And the one after that.

I am not looking forward to this week. Because the best thing I can say about it is that I hope it’s going to be really shitty.

______________________________

Since this post, which was written last year, Sam has gotten a hold of his movements. We haven’t had to play H&GS for a long time (knock wood).  But until he started medication, every single developmental milestone happened like this. It’s not a part of motherhood that I relish. But it certainly made for one of my favorite and most descriptive posts about motherhood

Yoga

I’ve been working on the Crow pose in Yoga class. Crow is one of those Yoga positions like Full Lotus and Tree that, when mastered, seems to convey instant membership in a secret club. For the interested, Full Lotus is the one where you sit cross-legged with the feet stacked on top of the thighs. Tree is the one where you balance on one leg with the opposite foot jammed up in your crotch. And Crow is where you do a scrunched up handstand and try not to break your neck.

My Full Lotus is missing some petals, because the combination of short legs and fat thighs makes it impossible to do better than a three quarters position. And my version is probably banned by the Yoga Governor’s Society (or whoever the hell is in charge of such decisions), because whichever ankle is innermost gets seriously twisted. In fact, I think Full Lotus may be dangerous enough to the knees that the YMCA may actually have warned our teachers off of it, with visions of lawsuits dancing in their corporate heads. This is the only reason I can imagine we’ve never done it in class, even though it’s the one pose everyone imagines when the word “Yoga” is spoken.

Sort of Full Lotus. Ohm. Yeah. I know. The house is a wreck.

The Yoga instructors make a huge deal out of personal safety. They remind us throughout the class not to compete, to go at our own pace, and to stop if anything hurts. Yoga, they say, should feel good. And it does. And I like it. I’m willing to go through a little discomfort if I get my official Yogi card out of it. (Or whatever they’re awarding for membership these days.)  But I’m going to have to lose weight to get my own thighs to quit thwarting me before I can have my lotus and fill it, too.

Similarly, my Tree will be a long time bending in the breeze before it is a real Yoga certified creation. There are degrees of tree. In “Open Tree”, you stick your bent-kneed leg out to the side and let your foot point straight down. In a pose I shall dub “Sapling”, you put your foot on the calf or ankle. In Full Tree, the foot comes above the knee. Never on the knee, because you don’t want to blow out your knee. Now, when the YMCA gurus do it, their heels look stuffed so far up into their thighs that they have got to be getting into the pubic bone. When I do it, I have to stay at ankle or calf height at the gym. At home I can get my heel up high enough. Sort of. But it doesn’t feel right, and my toes are always wiggling around near the knee when I’m pretty sure that if my thighs weren’t quite so luscious, I would have inches between toenail and kneecap.

I am the tree. Get off my knee.

And even when I do get upright with my leg bent, balancing, it’s only so long before I fall over. The Yoga instructors tell us it’s fine to have “windy trees”. We should let ourselves blow in the breeze and just bend with it. Yeah, only, sooner or later, I become a crashing tree. Their point is that rigidity makes it harder to balance, where rooted flexibility is actually quite stable. Yeah. I’ll let you know when and if I get there.

This tree is on its way down.

But Crow is a pose I can see myself managing in the not-too-distant future. Like Tree, this is a balancing pose. But this one is lower to the ground, and it relies more on arm stability and abdominal strength, two areas where I have much more to offer than when my thighs get a vote in the activity.

Ribbit.In Crow, you hunker down with your knees as close as possible to the shoulders, then lean forward into the hands until you slowly pick your feet up slightly off the floor. Leean forward

And then fall flat on your face.

Or not.

Because that’s the thing about Crow. Full Lotus poses a threat to the knees and requires Gumby legs, but there’s never a point of no return. Tree is an invitation to falling over, but if you do, you can always just stick out the up leg and put it down. Crow, though, requires complete trust. To get it, you have to give yourself over to it. And I can do that. I love the slow shift of balance as I lean into my arms, with my shoulders acting as pivots. But as soon as I commit that much weight forward, the only ways down are to shift it back where it started, or to fall forward without any protection.Once more, from the side

So close. My feet did liftoff, but I couldn't stay up long enough for the shot to take.Pretty much as soon as I achieve the pose, I start to overbalance. My G-cups conspire with my thighs against the abs and arms, and I only stay up for a second or two before I flop forward into the inevitable faceplant.

Yes, waiter. I'll have the faceplant.

But, where Full Lotus just makes my inside ankle scream for mercy and Tree makes me feel like I’m standing out on the boulevard fighting the hurricane, I can tell that the problem with Crow has more to do with leaning forward too fast for my abs to counterbalance the legs, and that if I can get my liftoff under control, I’ll be able to manage a longer flight and a more graceful landing. So it’s here that I plan to devote what one instructor calls my “challenge” energy. And if I can get my fat arse up in the air high enough and long enough for Scott to snap a picture, I’ll post that sucker as evidence on the membership exam.

Zumba

I’ve really broadened my range of workout activities since I last blogged about my quest to achieve less-of-me. The Bitch likes this a lot. I still think she’s a bitch. Zumba is still among my favorites, and it’s my topic today. To recap the rest, I’ve dropped Dance Party altogether, and I’ve increased my Yoga and Pilates and added Step and Gravity. (Yes, there really is a class called Gravity. It’s strength training. I’ll get there another day.) My primary purpose here is to explain to a workout buddy why she needs to give Zumba more than a single chance, though, so let me get to the point.

My first Zumba class sucked. I went in because Linda was going and I was desperate to increase my activity and needed a buddy besides poor Scott. (Who always goes along with whatever I’m doing but really shouldn’t have to.) I hated it. For starters, I did not know the steps at all. Other friends had described it to me as being something like belly dance, with which I’m reasonably familiar. After two songs, it became clear that these people were deluded. The only thing Zumba has to do with belly dance is that you sometimes do a belly dance hip-bump as part of a travelling walk-like-an-Egyptian grapevine. There is no sexy rolling of the belly in Zumba, and absolutely nothing is leisurely. Let me repeat that. Nothing. Is. Leisurely. The music is fast, and the instructor doesn’t really break it down all that frequently or effectively. If you come to Zumba unfamiliar with the form, come prepared to do a lot of flailing. In fact, one of the reasons I had come was that I hoped to find, hell the Y circular advertised, a dance class.  I did not want some aerobics course.

When I was in my final year of college, I had to take one credit of PE to get my BA. I took aerobics because I hate exercise and that seemed the least odious option. I liked the instructor, a lively woman who was a dancer when she wasn’t teaching college phys ed. It was from taking that class that I realized much modern group dancing is merely glorified aerobics, and that I really really hate exercise. Not that I hadn’t already figured this second thing out on my own.  I don’t like getting out of breath, and I loathe muscle fatigue.

So it was really easy that first class for me to recognize that Zumba is nothing more than glorified aerobics, and that I hated it. I wanted to dance. I wanted someone to teach me the steps, so that I could keep up with the class, and I wanted to learn how to pull off awesome moves on the floor. Purely aside from this, I had on shoes those first few classes, so every time I felt like vomiting, I had to stop and sit on my ass. It wasn’t just that I was out of shape. It was that if my feet get hot, I get nauseous. And if I don’t cool them down fast, I puke.  Of course, being out of shape didn’t help in that regard, either, but mostly, it was the feet.

So we left the class with Linda’s friend Ethel while I cussed a blue streak and swore it was the worst thing I’d ever done. This wasn’t the bitching and moaning I have learned to engage in.  In that kind of normal workout whining, it’s perfectly OK for everyone in the room to groan simultaneously, and there’s generally some wit (like me) with something inane and demotivating to say. This was the fury of someone who felt deceived. I came back entirely because I’d promised to keep Linda company. I promised her I’d try it once a week for a month, but that was it.

The second class felt as awful as the first, but I didn’t have the deception problem, so I wasn’t so angry about that. By the third class, I’d remembered I have to do everything barefoot, and I wasn’t so unhappy. And by the fourth class, I realized I’d learned a lot more of the moves than I would have expected given my rather negative state of mind. Two weeks after that, I was totally hooked. I had realized I loved Zumba, and that, though it remains glossed-over aerobics, there are dance moves in there, and I am learning them. There’s a lot of fun shimmy-shimmy pop stuff that I enjoy, and yes, it does bear a distant resemblance to belly dance. (Very distant.)

I’m going to have to be careful which teachers I take it with, though. They’ve just added an irritating woman with the drill sergeant problem (none of the other Zumba teachers has felt the need to bellow us forward) who is going to be taking over my favorite class AND teaching the one they’re adding on Sundays.  Denisse, who taught it when I first started attending, has moved on. She’s a military spouse, subject to the whims of the U.S. Air Force.  She left behind her an awesome crew including my favorite, Jina, and that’s whose classes I’ll look to take when I have a choice.

And to tell you the truth, I like my Zumba well enough that I may be tolerant of the dictators in there, but we’ll see about that. I spent a good few minutes contemplating what I would do to the tightly permed hair of the new twit if I could just get her in a headlock. So I’ll maybe have to stick to my favorites for now.

Rainbow Flag

For a number of reasons that will be dealt with later, I’ve been under an unusual amount of stress lately. The raw effect of this for my family is that I’m more short tempered than normal, and much less tolerant of my kids’ perfectly normal (if perfectly obnoxious) behavior. My students can’t see me in person, so they don’t experience my deep sighs when they ask questions with answers I consider obvious. Unlike my kids and husband, they never receive responses like, “I don’t fucking know. Jesus Christ, do I look like the Dali Lama?” To keep these moments to a minimum, I’ve been letting the Jester Queen have a bit more free rein. She is, after all, my sense of humor, and if I can catch my emotional waves right, she can give me the oomph to ride one and not get dumped face first in the sand.

So.

That’s the background. Here’s the story.

Linda came over this morning to borrow our lawnmower. She arrived in her Dad’s truck, which she has borrowed because the house she and Robert are renting has a washer and dryer already, and her Mom wants Linda’s old ones. The truck is an immaculate Ford, and her Dad is a man who loves his truck. As soon as we had loaded up the mower, she flipped up the gate to reveal a panoply of right wing political stickers.

Those stickers just begged to be, for lack of a better word, refudiated

 

Want a little tea with that party, sir?Let’s look at some of those a bit more closely.Thanks for repeating that one. I might not have gotten the message otherwise.

“That needs something,” I said.

“What do you mean?” asked Linda, whose viewpoints couldn’t possibly be more different from those expressed on the stickers.

“I dunno,” I said. “Something … virulently liberal. Something that would run counter to everything those things support. But I can’t think what.”

“Rainbow flag,” said Scott, as he pulled out of the driveway heading for a staff meeting.

 

Oh, how I love that man.

 

Now, I’ll pause here to say that I know sexuality should not have to be a political issue. That groups like the Log Cabin Republicans clearly prove that you don’t have to be a liberal to support equality for all Americans. And I personally know numerous Republicans who support GLBT rights.

Linda and I are pretty sure her Dad isn’t one of them.

But finding a rainbow flag bumper sticker in the Heart of Dixie proved to be quite the challenge. I tried the mall, where a wonderful clerk at Hot Topic could only come up with a couple of stickers where the words were in the colors of the rainbow flag. They said “awesome” and “deal with it”. Not bad. But not what I wanted, really. At Spenser’s, the clerk looked at me like I should have known that all people over twenty (or twenty-five at the outside edge) were banned from that store, and said “No” to my query about rainbow flags.  After that, I got smart and used the phone. I called Star, who suggested a number of stores. But the Earthbound Trading Company, the Hippie Lady, and Books-A-Million were all busts. On Facebook, I got suggestions like Jo-Ann’s Fabrics, Michael’s Crafts, and the Hobby Lobby. Dead ends. (Though I found the horrified silence at the other end of the phone while the Hobby Lobby clerk contemplated my request extremely validating.) I found a great shop in Minneapolis that could have helped me, except that they were in the wrong state. Sigh. Another day, True Colors, another day, and you shall have my business. Star sounded mighty sure about Spenser’s. And hell, that had been where my hopes had been highest, too. So I called back.

Jackpot.

The person I spoke to (who sounded remarkably similar to the person who had told me “No” previously) said they had a whole wall that I must have walked past. When I arrived, it seemed the confusion had been caused by my asking for “stickers” in person where I had said “stickers or magnets” on the phone. Spenser’s had no rainbow flag stickers. All they had were magnets. Well.

The selection was admittedly meager, but I still got some gems: a rainbow peace sign, a rainbow ribbon magnet, another rainbow ribbon magnet that said “Support gay marriage: everyone deserves the choice to be miserable”, and a rectangular one that said “I’m so gay I can’t even drive straight”. Not bad for a town with a single store monopoly.

I told the sales guy at Spenser’s the scheme, and he summed it up well: “Until he notices and peels them off, that guy’s gonna have a whole lot of people thinking ‘that dude is confused’”.

By the time Linda came over later, it was dark, but we affixed the whole collection to see what looked best.

Full disclosure - I doctored the pics to remove the license number

I would have loved to have found something actually political, but nobody carried those “I’m a blue dot in a red state” bumper stickers, so I couldn’t implement Star’s brilliant suggestion to cut off the words and leave the picture of the red state with a blue dot. Because Linda’s Dad isn’t a stupid person, and to affix something he will leave alone is going to take some sly maneuvering. He might not have noticed that one. Without the words, he might have just seen the red state and not picked up on the significance of the blue dot.  The other thing I’d have liked to have found would have been that long rainbow flag that runs the length of the bumper and doesn’t say a word. It blends in with most vehicles and he might not have seen it for awhile.

In the end, we settled for the one we thought the most flagrant of the lot. It initially seemed like the worst candidate, because its message was so strong. But there was little possibility of convincing Linda’s Dad that the rainbow ribbon was some kind of military support thing. And the peace sign was pretty anti-NRA, even if he didn’t notice the color scheme. The reason we decided that “I’m so gay I can’t even drive straight” might just fly under the radar is twofold. First, when the truck is initially returned, Robert and Linda will be popping the gate down to haul out the washer and dryer. Second, there was already a sticker there: the bomb squad one. So Linda’s Dad is used to seeing something there. Admittedly, he’s used to seeing red and black, not, well, the whole rainbow, but it might be just enough to not draw his eye, especially because, according to Linda, the place he parks makes it unnecessary to walk around behind the truck getting into and out of it at home.

Beforeaaaand afterSo. We’ll see how it goes. Linda swears she’ll take pictures if she’s around when he catches on. And you can bet if she does, I’ll be posting them.

 

Henson

I’m not doing very well at taking the weekend off am I?

 

Jim Henson died when I was not quite fourteen years old, long before I’d worked up the nerve to write and tell him he was one of my heroes. It remains one of my life’s greatest tragedies. I loved the Muppet Show. “Obnox-i-ous”, pronounced with a long “ee” for the “i” like Miss Piggy said it, was one of my favorite words when I was little.  I had only figured out Henson was behind Sesame Street weeks prior to his death, and Mom and I had actually started watching. (Previously, the fact that it was educational television had tainted our opinion of it, but once we realized it was Jim Henson and the Muppets, nothing else mattered.) And then he died. He was admitted for strep throat and gone from pneumonia before the world had a chance to take notice of the illness.  My mother and I spent a week in shock, and I still mourn him.

I am innately suspicious of everything Muppet-related that’s happened since he died, even though I ultimately wind up loving most of it. OK, I hate The Henson Company’s Sid the Science Kid, and I’m not that keen on Dinosaur Train. But those are two exceptions. For the most part, Henson’s heirs and assignees have done right by his creations.  The Youtube videos featuring the grumpy movie critics Statler and Waldorf (and yes, I did know their names, but I had to double check online) seem completely true to what Henson would have done, as do the new Muppet movies. (I am eagerly awaiting the latest installment.) But every time I see something, I have to wonder “If it’s this good without him, how amazing would it have been if he were still alive?” I mean, he’d only be seventy five right now, and even if he had retired, he wouldn’t have stopped imagining.

So this visit to the Henson exhibit in Atlanta was a big deal for me. I did OK staring at the giant Big Bird that’s just past the ticketing atrium inside. Even though I like it now, Sesame Street was never really my thing. But then I heard Henson himself beside Big Bird and turned my head in time to see him talking away in the voice of the gruff old colonel, in a video beside a case containing the colonel himself, whose foam skin was now yellowing with age. I sat down in the floor to watch, and Sam sat with me rapt for the ten minute presentation. It even included the politically incorrect clip where the old colonel says, of the Southern Bread Company sponsoring him, “They even paid me in Confederate dollars”. Beside the colonel’s case was a black and white photograph of Henson lying down on the railroad tracks under the Muppet’s costume, where they had filmed the scene of him failing to stop a speeding train with his bare hands.

“I will not cry,” I told myself.

I went on to check out the Fraggles, Gorgs, and Doozers. The video had shown how each group of characters worked, how much effort went into each show, and how much of a technological pioneer Henson was. I had no idea that Fraggle Rock was HBO’s first series (a far cry from Tony Soprano, don’t you think)? I just knew that I used to watch it when I went over to my friend Jenny’s house, and that it didn’t come on our TV at home.

Henson was the man behind Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, two movies that shaped my life, solidifying my love for fantasy and my belief that you don’t have to cut story to make an amazing film. (And also turning me into a David Bowie fan, even though Mom disliked his music and Dad never seemed to play it.) Right now, the museum doesn’t have the Mystics, Skeksis, or Gelflings on display, but they have a couple of early sketches, and they will have those creations when the Henson wing opens in 2012, because the Henson family really did donate some 800 Muppets for the project. 

At the moment, Henson’s works are crowded into a two room section that doesn’t do them justice and doesn’t have room for nearly enough of them. Big Bird and the Fraggles take up most of the first area, though the picture of Kermit and Miss Piggy as Scarlett and Rhett does get some wall space. The second room is mostly Muppet show, with Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, and an incredible stained glass Bert and Ernie on display. There’s a video in there, too, that loops another ten minutes of footage from a variety of Henson projects including the little known Dog City.

I continued to swear, “I will not cry,” as I walked through the exhibit.

I kept my promise until, roughly five minutes into the second video, Kermit started in on “Rainbow Connection.” If I hadn’t had to fire the DJ, Scott and I were going to dance to “Rainbow Connection” at our wedding.  It’s our song. And it brought the tears. I never got to tell Jim Henson that I have been half asleep and heard voices, and that his has always been one of them.   

Between the two rooms, I spent about an hour, and given my druthers and no children, I’d have stayed longer. We didn’t stay for the Cinderella puppet show. We didn’t even visit the puppet museum’s other areas, though I imagine it has some spectacular exhibits. Caroline and Sam were getting restless, which is to say they were getting mean to each other, and we had seen what we came for. It was worth the $8.25 per head admission just for those two rooms, and we will return when the Henson wing opens. I think I’d like to get an apartment there, though they don’t rent them, and probably wouldn’t consider making me an exception. I’ve never associated Henson with Atlanta, though he was apparently pretty instrumental in this museum’s getting off the ground when it first opened.  But as long as we live in the South, it’s the closest I’ll come to touching one of my idols.

 

Hanson

I was going to take this weekend off from blogging. I have two courses going on, final grades to turn in for a third, and three more starting up on Monday. (Yes, on the 4th of July. It’s one of the drawbacks of working for a for-profit online institution. There are no scheduled holidays.) So I’ll have five classes by the time all is said and done.  I’ve taught one of the three startups recently, I last taught another six months ago, and the third I’ve never taught at all. So I’ve got tons of prepping and grading to do this weekend. You won’t be hearing much from me until Tuesday or so. But. Today something happened that I’ve got to share.

Scott and I sat down to dinner after the kids tonight. We’ve kind of given up on that whole family meal thing, since whether we eat with them or not, the two of us wind up popping up and down like jacks running for the kids’ requests. Eating after them means we can at least sometimes exchange an adult word without juvenile intervention. We ate the meal, agreed it was pretty awful (if you ever get the chance to try Sam’s Club’s chicken fried rice, just skip it), and I started clearing the table.

Scott said, “Oh, hey! I think I found something for us to do.” We’ve been working on a list of indoor summer things we can do with our kids, because it’s always too hot down here.

“Yeah?”

“Remember the Hanson Brothers?” he asked.

“The stupid teeny-boppy pre-Jonas brothers?” Later, when I related this conversation to Linda, she reminded me of the song  “Mmm-bop”.  At the time, I took the butter to the fridge with what I hoped was sufficient hauteur to end the conversation.

“It looks like one of them made a puppet.”

“Oh-kay.” As usual, he had not picked up on my tone of voice. Or word choice. I was thinking, He doesn’t seriously think I liked Hanson, does he? Surely I’ve given him a better sense of my taste in music than that.

“Well, not just one,” he continued. “But like, a lot of them, all kind of based around the first one.”

Does he want me to go see this? Because I do not want my children to ever know about Hanson. “Um. What are they like? Is there something really cool about them?”  Is there anything redeeming at all about anything made by a Hanson brother?

“The first one is something … Miss Moo-ie, maybe?”

I said, “That sounds pretty stupid.”

“And she has this green friend. His name starts with a K…”

“Christ,” I told him. “That sounds like a rip off of Kermit and Miss Piggy.”

“Yeah! That’s it. Kermit. Kermit and Miss Piggy!”

“That sounds like a total Muppet rip …. Wait a minute.  HENSON. Not HANSON. HENSON.”

And it wasn’t until I was shrieking Jim Henson’s name at him that I stopped ferrying dishes long enough to look at his face. It was total deadpan. The only thing that gave it away was the open mouth that he was using to keep himself from smiling. So then, I shouted, “You did that on PURPOSE.” And we just looked at each other for a few more seconds before I dissolved into laughter.  It turns out 800 of the original Muppets have been donated to this puppet museum in Atlanta, and we’re going to go see them tomorrow.  I’m so psyched I’m going to have to drug myself to sleep tonight. And I can’t even imagine how long Scott spent thinking up that presentation.

He does that to me from time to time, comes at me out of nowhere with something spontaneous and hilarious. He once literally scared the hiccups out of me by sneaking up behind me and jabbing me in the ribs. I was so shocked that, after I screamed, I whipped around to order him never to do that again. Only while I was in the middle of telling him off, I realized it had worked, and I burst out laughing. Now, if I had a power like that, the ability to nettle somebody completely and then make them laugh about it, you know I would abuse it. But because this is Scott, it only happens once in a blue moon, and I never know when it’s coming.

When Scott and I first started dating, I remember asking my friend Tina, who had been married for several years, what she did when her husband, Jason, stopped surprising her. She looked at me, sort of perplexed, and said, “He really hasn’t ever stopped. It’s just not as often.”

At the time, her answer made no sense to me. I could not imagine a time when romance wasn’t just something new and wonderful every day, but I knew that kind of thing didn’t keep up forever. I was trying to understand how couples stayed in love once the initial sparks cooled off, and I couldn’t figure out her response.

 Scott and I celebrate our tenth anniversary this October, and it does finally make sense.  I’ve realized that with him, there’s always going to be something marvelous and unexpected around the corner, and that it’s useless to anticipate or wonder about it.  And one of my favorite things about being married to him is that I’ll get to find out what it is when it happens.

I love you, honey.

Sam’s Song

Last night, I told you about Caroline’s fondness for Neil Diamond’s song with her name in it. Sam has a song, too, but we only found it recently. There just isn’t much out there with the name “Sam” in it, or even “Scott”, since that’s really his name. But, with a little research, Dad found us Barbara Streisand’s cover of “Sam, You Made The Pants Too Long” for me yesterday. Here’s a YouTube link in case you haven’t ever heard it before. Like us. Go on and listen. I’ll wait.

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In case the embedding doesn’t work, here’s a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrmIEl9S8VQ

There now.  Isn’t it cute?  My mom, whose musical knowledge runs deep, recognized the tune as soon as I mentioned it, and she gets bonus points for knowing that it predated Barbara off the top of her head.  But it’s the Streisand version we found on YouTube, and Sam loves it.

It has the same power over him that “Sweet Caroline” has over Caroline and “Jessie’s Girl” still has over me. There’s just something magical about hearing your own name in a song. As soon as I put it on, even before he knew the title, Sam said, “This is a beautiful song.” And when Streisand sang, “But Sam”, my Sam gave a little gasp. Thereafter, he climbed up in my lap and listened, rapt. It only took three hearings for him to make up a story to explain why the song was specifically about him. He said, “I was over at their house one time and I made them pants and they were too long.” It is not clear who “they” are in this statement, but Barbara Streisand is surely one of “them”.

If it had been written today, it would surely have been composed by The Wiggles, or Sandra Boynton, or, God help me, Yo Gabba Gabba.  But since it was, according to the extremely authoritative information on Wikipedia, written in 1940 by Milton Berle as a parody, it got recorded by Streisand some twenty-six years later and put on the market for adults.

It makes me nostalgic for funny songs for grown ups. I absolutely love Weird Al. But he is one of only a very few mainstream musicians writing humor these days. Pop stars don’t seem willing to step out and write something silly, then put it on an album with more serious works. It’s as if goofy songs might contaminate the recording studio. Some of them will perform on Sandra Boynton pieces, but Boynton is genuinely writing kids songs. Or they’ll do guest appearances on kids’ shows. But few of them come out and write their own funny music. I miss songs like “Yellow Submarine” and “I am the Walrus” that celebrate absurdity. I doubt Streisand would record a song like “Sam” in the 21st century, and I consider it a wonder that she was willing to do it as late as the 1960’s.

Half the stuff I sing is absurd. I got Caroline through her first two years of life by having a song for everything, and it’s impossible to sing about parking lots, baths, and toilets without being funny about it. Many of the rock songs we love best have funny twists, like The Kinks’ “Lola” , Styx’s “Plexiglass Toilet”, and the two aforementioned Beatles tunes. There are a few modern singers who will pull off humor now and then. Outkast has “Roses” (which has the bonus of naming a “Caroline”, though it’s pretty insulting), Barenaked Ladies has some goofy stuff, too, but there isn’t nearly enough funny going around these days.

Basically, humor music has become a genre, like rock and country, except that instead of being identified by musical qualities, humor is defined by content. Often, humorous songs are parodies , but there are some that just stand alone. Quite frankly, the humor artist I like best is always going to be Weird Al. (Who else could write a track about snot and make it catchy?) But I’m glad Ms. Streisand recorded “Sam”, because it’s the perfect blend of innocent humor and repetition of my son’s name to keep us all singing along just like we do for “Sweet Caroline”.