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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Thursday, May 24, 2007

May I unload for just a moment?

Lisa of Lucky, Lucky Star fame was kind enough to give me some nice, juicy questions to answer a couple weeks back, and I have been chomping at the bit to get to them. In fact, the first one is so rich with possibility (at least for me, personally) that I thought it might make sense to devote a whole post to it.

Ironically, my insane busyness here at the end of the school year has been keeping me from getting to her question: "What is your favorite part of teaching English?"

Maybe it's a bad time for me to be answering that question, since my beloved job is wringing every spare minute of time and every spare calorie of energy (is that how you'd measure energy?) from me, and making me feel very, very stressed. The end of the year is always overwhelming, for every teacher (I think I can safely generalize here), but for various reasons it's especially packed for me, and never more so than this year. There are the usual teacherly activities of wrapping up the intellectual threads of the school year, chasing down students who owe me overdue work and may not pass my class (and in some cases not graduate), doing required end-of-year paperwork, and overseeing the various feats, potlucks, and/or teas that inevitably come up in each of my classes. And my independent study Gender Studies class, which so far this semester has been just a little extra work, has suddenly become a lot more work now that my eleven students have turned in their final papers. Then there's my job as head of my department, usually a fairly relaxed and even cushy affair. At the end of the year, this little post rears its fearsome head and demands its due. I have course evaluations to be sure all teachers compose and administer, summer reading lists to put together, and various other onerous projects and paperwork to see to. Then there's the once-yearly student publication I sponsor, where most of the work is done by the students themselves, but in the final push when details go awry, it's my turn to step in and make sure the publication actually comes out and gets distributed. And this year, there is the daunting task of finding suitable subs to take my place during my maternity leave next fall. As head of the department, I have the unenviable task of being the pregnant person and the maternity leave arranger all at once. And since I'm especially invested in who takes over my precious classes, I am intent on finding teachers who are qualified and have some actual background in the specific subjects I'm slated to teach. And finding qualified teachers with the appropriate background who just happen to be free to fill a temporary position is not easy, let me tell you.

And yet, it is a good time to be answering that question, here at the end of the year, as I watch a class of seniors I am especially fond of get ready to graduate, as I think back on a teaching year that has been particularly fulfilling, and as I look forward to my maternity leave, which of course I'm mostly very happy to have and excited to enjoy with my bambino when the time comes, but which I'm also a little wistful about because it means giving up a very cool new English class I was truly excited to teach (and also an old Creative Writing class that I've been teaching forever, but love).

So, I'll be answering that question soon. But now I'm too busy to write this post and too exhausted to remain upright.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gratuitous Product Endorsement

I don't believe that products make your life better, at least not in a general sense. But there are some products - and I'm guessing this is true for everyone - that do. If Tom's of Maine stopped making their Woodspice scented deodorant, for example, I'm not sure what I would do. I don't care that it wears off after a few hours and I have to keep a stick in my desk drawer and one in my purse. It's the only kind of deodorant whose smell and texture I can tolerate, and it doesn't leave white streaks on my clothes. Still, I'm not the kind of person who's always on the lookout for a new product to solve my problems and make my dreams come true.

Recently, however, a new product - and specifically a new oral hygiene product - has come into my life, and I love it. I am grateful for it. I celebrate it daily. Let me tell you all about it.

It started a few months ago. My four-year-old son, O, who had heretofore been cooperative about letting me floss his teeth, started balking when we'd get to the back molars. The back molars, probably the most important teeth to floss between. He began by merely whining, but putting up with the flossing of these particular teeth. Then after awhile, the whining turned to crying, and soon he was clamping his mouth shut, opening for neither me nor my Old Man 'til we'd promised not to go near the back teeth. I was getting more and more distraught at the thought of those back molars going unflossed for days on end, envisioning the cavity creeps that had set up camp and were partying in the nooks and crannies of my son's back mouth recesses.

We were using the standard whimsical kiddie flossers that every floss-conscious parent I know uses. You know the ones: cute, multicolored creatures with obligingly open jaws threaded with a small piece of floss. Like so:

Roll 108 - 15

But the friendly floss creatures weren't working for us anymore. So finally I tried flossing O's teeth with conventional floss, the kind I use. Plain old Oral B Waxed Floss. And it worked, sort of. But not really. It was tremendous pain in both of our asses, metaphorically speaking, and in my hands and in his mouth, literally speaking. There's a reason the little floss creatures are so popular: little kids' mouths are little, and grown-up hands are big. There's just not enough room in there to maneuver two sets of fingers strung with a piece of floss.

Then came a recent visit to O's dentist, Dr. Pearl (not his real name, but his real name is almost as unbelievably nice and pleasant). I was complaining to Dr. Pearl's hygienist about our flossing trials, and the good doctor appeared magically at my elbow. "Try this!" he said, in a chipper voice, and handed me a Reach Access Flosser.

This little puppy has changed our lives. It is a joy to use. It slides between my sons teeth like butter, like miraculous, cavity-preventing butter. My Old Man loves it. I love it. Even O. has voiced his appreciation for it, in no uncertain terms: "Mama, the new flosser is, like, the best thing we've ever gotten!" Ours is one happy little queendom. If you've ever had flossing difficulties, let me recommend this product.

A week or two after the new and amazing flosser came into our lives, my Old Man and I ran out of floss. I went to the back-up floss in the second bathroom, but it was gone. The toiletries bag didn't seem to have any floss in it. It was weird. I almost resorted to fetching my purse floss, but this seemed like a move that was destined merely to leave me flossless out in the world at some later date. I looked at O's Reach flosser and was tempted. But O. was getting over a cold, and I didn't want to chance catching it by sharing his flosser, however wonderful it might be. Then it occurred to me that we still had a whole pack of whimsical floss creatures in our medicine cabinet! I would just use one of them. It would be sort of funny, even, to floss with a dolphin or a praying mantis.

Let me tell you something: those little things suck. Never have I had a more unpleasant and trying flossing experience. They're not made for a mouth my size, granted. But that wasn't the problem. The floss just sucked. It was thick and fibrous, getting stuck between my most floss-friendly teeth and leaving behind copious amounts of stringy refuse.

So, if you love your child, leave behind the whimsical floss creatures, or just use them as playthings, maybe to floss a teddy bear's pretend teeth. They are worthy of nothing more. Instead, get your kid the Reach Access Flosser.

(And I have no stock in the Reach Corporation, scout's honor.)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Barack Obama's iPod

The Old Man and I had a party last weekend, a party for adults only - though as Feral Mom pointed out, it wasn't that kind of party. Still, I had imagined something relatively raucous - drunkenness, loud conversation inappropriate for young children, and possibly even some dancing with the rugs rolled back. As it turns out, though, I was a little too pregnant to really lead the way in drunken raucousness and spontaneous dancing. I had my half a glass of wine and enjoyed a series of great conversations, but things stayed pretty mellow. (We did go just past the 1 AM point, thanks to Mr. Feral and a few other stalwarts, and I'm proud of that fact.)

Earlier in the evening, as my Old Man dropped O. off at our friends' house for an evening of kid fun and babysitter-sharing, their seven-year-old, JW, expressed his disgruntlement at the adults wanting to have a party all by ourselves. "Why?" he wanted to know. His dad assured him that he wouldn't be missing anything, that it would just be a bunch of grown-ups sitting around talking about grown-up stuff. "Like unions?" our precocious young friend asked. Yeah, probably. "And Barack Obama?" Ah, JW, you are perceptive beyond your years.

In fact, I half-expected Barack Obama not only to come up at our party but to show up at our party. A couple nights before I'd had a dream that he crashed this very party. It was one of those impossibly vivid pregnant dreams, and it made it seem altogether possible that the lanky Illinois senator and presidential hopeful might walk through the door any minute.

I hoped not, because if my dream was any indication, despite his progressive political values and public charisma, Obama is a terrible party guest. In my dream version of our party, he arrived wearing his iPod and immediately reclined on the living room floor. When I encouraged him to take his iPod off, noting that there was music playing in the room, he brusquely said "No. I want to listen to my music." I was put off by this sentiment, but it didn't dampen my strong urge to make this uninvited guest happy and comfortable at my party.

My dreams all tend to have a primary emotional tone or mood, and that emotion both colors my perception of everything that happens in a given dream and dictates my dream actions, and my dream anxieties if those actions should happen to be thwarted. The primary emotional impulse of this dream was eagerness-to-please. It’s a state of mind I'm familiar with in real life, one that comes out most strongly in situations where I'm offering hospitality. (Thanks to my family's culture of extreme-hospitality-whether-you-want-it-or-not, I can't relax unless a guest in my home has a drink in their hand. "Please! I sometimes feel the impulse to cry out, "Won't you just take a glass of water, for Christ's sake?")

So, however rude and annoying Obama got in his repeated insistence that he would not dislodge the earbuds from his senatorial ears, I felt the strong urge to make him comfortable, happy, and part of the party. "Tell me what kind of music you like." I said, "Maybe we have a CD you'd prefer to the one that's playing." Obama obliged, listing six or eight band names I'd never heard of. If only I could recall some of them, but all I can say is that 1. they sounded like indie rock bands and 2. they were totally unknown to me. I felt foiled.

Then I got another idea. "Let me listen to a couple of songs on your iPod, and I'll see if I have some music that I think you would like, based on what you're listening to." Reluctantly, Obama obliged, handing his earbuds over to me. At this point a surreal, only-in-your-dreams moment occurred and I realized that Obama's iPod was somehow connected to a heavy cable that trailed off into the other room, which made it awkward to manipulate. I managed to get the earbuds in and, to my great astonishment, I recognized the song that was playing. Quite improbably, it was "Race for the Prize," the first track off the Flaming Lips' CD The Soft Bulletin. I got inordinately excited, all of the frustration and anxiety that had built up over Obama's musical intransigence and my inability to please him melting away in a wash of excitement. "The Flaming Lips! We listen to that band! We have this CD!" As I disentangled myself from Obama's iPod and rushed off to put The Soft Bulletin on the CD player, my dream melted into some other scene...