Oral Hygiene Queen

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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

To Rock, Perchance to Dream

In August, my Old Man and I took O. to his first-ever rock show, his favorite band Wilco at Lollapalooza. Last night was his second concert-going experience, Wilco's front man Jeff Tweedy stopping through town on his acoustic solo tour. O. and I went without my Old Man, who had a previous commitment at school to chaperone the film club's showing of "Killer Clowns from Outer Space." (For real.)

Despite his enthusiasm for various other bands, Wilco has remained the pinnacle of O's musical passion. He listens to a CD as he falls asleep each night, and four out of five nights it's Wilco (top request: "the live Wilco with 'Misunderstood'"). Needless to say he was excited about the show. Not yet familiar with the concept of the "opening band," he piped up repeatedly during the Autumn Defense's pleasant and mellow opening set with a loud "When is Jeff Tweedy gonna be on?" The first and second time he asked, the folks seated around us turned and smiled. So cute. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh times, we got fewer and fewer smiles and an increasing number of dirty looks. I finally packed up and moved to an unpopulated corner of the balcony, where we enjoyed the rest of the opening set.

Intermission. Lots of waves and awwws from college girls who rarely see small children and think O. is "the cutest little boy!" The buying of various band merchandise in an effort to make the Old Man feel less left out. A pee for both me and O. in the convenient one-person rest room that all the women standing in line at the big bathroom seem to have overlooked. A bizarre conversation between O. and an undergrad couple dressed in one-piece fleecy dinosaur jammies with feet. (It is the Saturday before Halloween, after all. Later I notice these two groping each other and am deeply disturbed. Something about the jammies... I can't go into it.) They tell O. he can get a similar pair at Target. I don't mention that he hates footie jammies and refuses to wear them.

And then it's time for Tweedy's set. It is unbelievably fun being at this show with O. We are both excited. He's sitting on the edge of his seat (if he leans back, it folds up and swallows him) and he's got his little hands folded in his lap and a look of anticipation on his face that can only be described as ... childlike. God, it's adorable.

Tweedy comes onstage, picks up a guitar, and begins to tune up. O. yells out the name of his favorite song. "Misunderstood!" ...I am amazed and amused. What, is it just in the DNA, the yelling-out-a-request thing? (Later my Old Man will reveal to me that he explained the custom of the yelled request to O. earlier that day, but I prefer to focus on that moment at the show when I heard O. call out the song, and my reaction: clearly my son was born to rock.)

O. claps ecstatically after each song. When the first few bars of "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" emerge, the third song or so, O. loudly exclaims "It's the first song off Hotel Foxtrot!" thereby regaining the favor of anyone in our section who'd gotten annoyed with us earlier. Tweedy tells us the whole story of being accosted onstage by a fan several nights earlier in Missouri (complete with the appalling detail that the dude climbed on some woman's wheelchair to in order to get onto the stage), and O. turns to me and says "Mama! Jeff Tweedy's telling us a story!" Very true, my boy. O. asks to climb into my lap, and we continue to enjoy the show, both of us twitching our legs in time to the music.

After awhile, though, O. stops shaking his foot. Then suddenly he feels heavier. I lean in to look at his face and, yes, he's asleep. My first thought is "No way! I paid twenty-three bucks for your ticket! You'll miss like ten dollars worth of the show!" But then I realize: It's 9:40 PM, at least a half hour past O's bedtime. We are in a darkened room. He's nestled cozily on my lap. And we are listening to the very music that he falls asleep to every night. Of course he's asleep. Duh.

I resolve to wake him if Tweedy plays "Misunderstood," but Tweedy does not. Maybe next time.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sick, Sick, Sick

The Old Man, Little O, and I just returned from a whirlwind trip to attend my Brooklyn sister-in-law's wedding in scenic Basking Ridge, New Jersey. (Faithful readers may recall my good-natured attempts to derail the traditional trappings of this sister-in-law's bridal shower back in July.) We arrived on Friday and learned that the bride was sick, with a bad cold that had morphed into a sinus infection. What a nightmare. She held up like a trooper during the wedding rehearsal and the three-hour-long rehearsal dinner. Still, we were all a bit worried.

Saturday morning, the day of the big wedding, O. woke up coughing. He was listless and warm to the touch, and more alarmingly he refused all food, including the sugary yogurt and baked-goods-amounting-to-cake on offer at the hotel's continental breakfast. Now O. was sick, a problem in itself, but much more because he was the ring bearer and, as the only kid in the wedding, solely responsible for the cute factor in the day's events.

Luckily, after sacking out for two hours immediately following breakfast, O. affected one of those miraculous transformations that only children seem capable of. He woke up alert, hungry, and ready to romp. The Old Man and I went with him and his grandparents to the quaint restaurant adjoining the rustic inn where we were staying (an establishment that actually sported a sign proclaiming "George Washington slept here.") We all slurped down a bowl of their pumpkin bisque, and O. offered a running commentary on the excellence of the soup and the soup-eating progress of every member of our party. After making the extremely cute and confusing comment that "you can put pumpkin soup in your mouth in surprising ways!" O. slurped another spoonful and exclaimed "It came in my mouth!" After that he'd periodically shout, as one or the other of us downed a spoonful, "It came in your mouth!" He's three, and I knew he meant something along the lines of "Huzzah! You have successfully transported a mouthful of this delightful soup into your mouth!" but I still found it unbearably funny each time he announced the soup's arrival. I managed not to laugh, even though O. repeated this exclamation at least eight times. But it was not easy.

Later, when my Old Man and I were alone, I asked him, "Were you having trouble not laughing when O. kept saying that the soup was 'coming in our mouth'?" My Old Man looked at me with a mix of skepticism and tolerant sympathy. "No, E. He's three. I knew what he meant. It did occur to me that there was a double meaning, but..." This from a man who is a connoisseur of lewd humor and scatological jokes. So I knew then that this little lunch incident was evidence that I'm sick, sicker than average.

The wedding went off without a hitch. Through some combination of rest, endorphins, and pharmaceuticals, the bride was feeling fine. O. garnered much admiration in his little tux, ably bearing the rings and tearing up the dance floor at the reception. My Old Man and I got to do some dancing cheek-to-cheek and pelvis-to-pelvis. O. stayed up past his bedtime, but still we saw little evidence of his earlier ill health.

I, on the other hand, woke up this morning with a sore throat and a headache. Sick.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pumpkin Patch Sandwich

Remember when Charlie Brown waited in vain in the pumpkin patch for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin? Today O. and I went on an excursion to a little pick-your-own pumpkin farm in an attempt to procure, if not the Great Pumpkin, at least a great pumpkin. It was pure Midwestern joy. And pure Midwestern agony. And a dash of Midwestern surrealism thrown in there for good measure.

Surreal moment number one: As we caravanned to the pumpkin patch with two carloads of pumpkin-hungry friends (including Ma and Pa Feral and their cute girlies M. and C.), O. noted each new farmhouse and tried to identify the crop growing in the adjacent fields. It was pretty easy: corn, corn, corn. As we neared one farmhouse, however, we were met with a different crop, green and low to the ground. “What kind of farm is that, Mama?” O. asked, and I was just about to start pulling guesses out of my ass when I saw a sign. Excellent. Hard information conveyed via the written word. The sign read “Prairie State Semen, Inc.” and featured a silhouette of a hog. “Um, I guess it’s a sperm farm, honey.” And whatever the crop was, I guess it’s what they feed sperm-donating hogs.

Moment of joy one: the hay bale maze. Hay bale mazes rock. Running around getting lost and found with happy, shrieking toddlers and smiling adults. Plus, it’s shady in there, very important on an eighty-five degree October afternoon when the sun is beating down mercilessly.

Moment of joy two: gourd art. Art made of gourds. A wall of gourds of wildly various shapes and colors, a mountain of gourds heaping above my head. Praise the gourd.

Moment of agony: the actual trip out to the actual pumpkin patch. Maybe I was just getting too hot and sun-dazed. Maybe I’m just an ag wimp. But I did not enjoy dragging my kid in a wagon out beyond all the friendly displays and small stands of trees out into the actual field of pumpkins to look for a pumpkin. First of all, have I mentioned that it was in the mid-eighties and sunny as hell? And as any farmer can tell you, there’s not a spot of shade in a field of pumpkins. (Charlie brown had the right idea hanging out in the pumpkin patch in the middle of the night.) Plus, it wasn’t really picking pumpkins off the vine so much as choosing pumpkins someone else had cut off the vine and spread around the sun-baked field. (This may actually have been a plus, since I have no idea how to remove a pumpkin from its tough, fibrous vine.) Plus, every pumpkin that looked good turned out, after the briefest of inspections, to be squishily rotting in places or to have mold growing on the underside of it. After being fooled by approximately a dozen decent-looking pumpkins that turned out to be a mess, I gave up. There’s a weekly farmer’s market three blocks from my house. What’s wrong with letting the professionals pick a number of viable pumpkins and bring them to a convenient location that does not necessitate my standing around in a field sweating my ass off? Still, I was a little downcast that I would be heading home with a few cool gourds, but no big orange jack-o-lantern material, no Great Pumpkin. Defeat.

Moment of joy three: Luckily, I saw a nice, tall, shapely pumpkin on the side of the path on our way out of the pumpkin patch and decided to try one last time. I found no mold, nor any squishy spots. As I placed the Great-Enough Pumpkin in the wagon with O, I saw M. and C. pulling empty wagons as Feral Mom and Mr. Feral trailed behind, gamely carrying a twenty-pound pumpkin each in their arms.

Moment of joy four: Or should I say “moment of sublime pleasure”? I have three words for you: pumpkin ice cream. Pumpkin ice cream is good, y’all. Imagine a slice of pumpkin pie making sweet, honeyed love to a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Find some. Try some. You’ll be glad you did.

Surreal moment number last: On the drive home, O. and I needed to make a pit stop for some water and a pee. We stood outside the occupied single bathroom, sampling our brand-name water. O. noted the flowers decorating his bottle and repeatedly exclaimed “Mama, I can taste the flowers in this water! This water is good!” (Note to the Fiji marketing department: you’ve apparently scored with the water-festooned bottles, at least among the three-year-old demographic.) We waited. And waited. I’d begun to get cranky and to inwardly resent whoever was taking such a fucking long time in the bathroom, when a kindly-looking old lady emerged, decked out in Sunday blouse and slacks. Needless to say, my resentment melted away. The kindly-looking old lady smiled, leaned in to O, literally pinching his cheek, and said in a loud voice “You are so cute! I heard you talking, and you kept me entertained while I was in there!” Then she turned to me and said, in an equally loud voice, “Sorry it took me so long. When you have to have a bowel movement, you have to have a bowel movement!”

And I cannot argue with that logic.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Reasons I am a Bad American

#1: I hate to shop.

Toward the end of the summer, after our travels to the east coast, the west coast, and points between, we realized that O. had only two pairs of socks left. (“Two pairs” is putting it generously, since one of those “pairs” consisted of one grey sock and one tan sock.) But it was summer, sandal season, so it really wasn’t a crisis. I put “buy socks for O.” on my list of things to do eventually.

O. started preschool at the beginning of September, and the weather started cooling down. We also lost the tan half of his second pair of socks. He was down to one pair, white socks that grew dingy around the ankles as the week wore on, then came clean in the weekend load of whites. Good thing O. is a sweet young thing and his feet don’t stink (yet). Still, I knew he needed socks, and I planned to get him some new ones. Eventually.

Now it’s October, and I still have not bought my little son his socks. What kind of a mother am I? A mother who hates, really fucking hates to shop. I walk into a mall, and my mouth gets dry, my eyes itch, and my head begins to throb. I am immediately irritated, an irritation that grows every minute I am in the mall. Normally an easygoing and fairly social creature, I feel annoyance and resentment toward the throngs of people milling around me. I feel overwhelmed by the morass of colors and sounds assaulting me. Waves of nausea come over me as half-dressed, well-muscled aryans in the window posters of the Abercrombie and Fitch store eye me smugly.

It’s not that I’m pure, free of all materialistic desire. I like to have shopped. I love my two-tone grey suede and black leather Sketchers sneakers, which I bought in the spring of ’03 and still wear all the time. But I had to suffer to procure them, spending a disorienting and distressing hour in the deepest circle of my personal hell.

I can’t fully account for why I hate the mall so much. I can come up with good, logical reasons. The mall is aesthetically appalling, true, too bright and too loud. I think American consumer culture is excessive, and nowhere is that excess more on display than the mall. But it’s more than that, something ineffable that revolts me in a completely irrational way.

Thift stores are another matter entirely. I feel at ease in a thrift store, where shopping is less like drowning in a sea of colors and styles and more like a scavenger hunt. Maybe part of what bugs me about the mall is the rack upon rack of identical items in a range of colors and sizes. It’s overwhelming. At a thrift store, each item is unique. I can rule out 90% of a store's stock with a quick once-over. I know immediately if I have an affinity with a particular item, and then it’s just a matter of a quick try-on to make sure it fits. Plus, it’s low risk. Even fairly nice thrift stores usually don’t ask too much of you, price-wise, and if you end up sending a particular item on to the Goodwill, you need not feel too guilty – after all, it only set you back eight bucks.

That’s why 70% of my personal wardrobe is “pre-owned,” originating either at a thrift store or in an eBay auction. (Ah, eBay, where you can get anything, even if the gods of fashion have deemed it outré this season.) The rest mostly comes from catalogues or from those rare, painful trips to the mall.

And among the things I must get at the mall are underwear and socks. And that brings me back to O. and his one pair of increasingly off-white socks. I actually went to our local kids’ thrift store yesterday to get O. some cool weather clothes, dropping a whopping sixty bucks for more than a dozen very cute items. I had intended to brave the mall on my way home in order to procure for my boy – at long last – some socks. But as I was leaving the thrift store with my sack o’ boys’ clothes, feeling less and less up to the dreadful journey ahead of me, I had a thought. “Um, you don’t happen to sell… socks?” I ventured to the clerk. “Well, not usually, but when we do, they’re in that basket down there.” In among whimsical headbands and mittens I found two pairs of little teeny socks, in the 0-6 months range. Oh, well, it was worth a try.

You may be judging me. You may be asking “would you buy used socks for yourself?” Well, I don’t know. I’ve never had the opportunity to consider that question. But it doesn’t really matter, because they didn’t have any damn used socks anyway. In my defense, I would never buy my kid used underwear, so let the record state that I do draw the line somewhere. And soon, very soon, I promise, I will go to the mall and buy the poor kid some brand new socks.

Unless I can find some on eBay.