Oral Hygiene Queen

My Photo
Location: Midwest, United States

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

RSS Feed

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What We Dream About When We Dream About Obama

I had my second Obama dream last night.

My first happened back when Barack Obama was a mere presidential hopeful. He didn't even have the nomination yet. He came to my party wearing his iPod, behaved somewhat badly, and ended up being a Flaming Lips fan.

Last night's dream featured President Obama. I was having dinner with him, Michelle Obama, and a few other folks. Although everyone was quite dressed up, it was a casual dinner - a very regular room, with a modest table cloth, and the food just out there on the table, family style. I sat at one end of the table and President Obama sat on the corner, next to me, with his long legs stretched out and his feet propped on the edge of my chair. Somehow this made me feel rather special, like I was just one of the Obama gang.

It was a nice dinner. Everyone was witty and the food was good. The mood was jovial. I have no recollection of the particulars of conversation or cuisine, but I do vividly recall sitting at the table looking from Michelle to Barack to the aide in the sequined white dress thinking "I am so going to write a blog post about this!"

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Directions in Family Rock, Part I

It's been awhile since I've posted about the rock that takes place in the Oral Hygiene household. As old-school readers may know, my Old Man and I both play guitar and are veterans of six or seven bands between us, and though neither of us is currently involved in any vehicle for public rock, we do have amps, a couple of electric guitars, and a bass set up in our humble basement for the purposes of private rocking. The basement rock space also boasts a drum kit, one that began as a kiddie set (bought for O. for his third birthday) and which, as the result of a series of broken cymbals and drum heads and a general desire to have more and better-sounding stuff to bang on, has grown to a full-fledged adult-sized eight piece kit.

So what's been going on in the past year and a bit with the family rock? When I got pregnant with Roo, my Old Man and I worried that having a baby would cramp our rock style in much the same way that babies inevitably seem to temporarily thwart a couple's sex life. (Or are we the only ones that happens to?) O. was more optimistic, offering an enthusiastic prediction that the baby would simply join the band, on keyboards. Eventually, perhaps. But we weren't sure how the three-piece family rock outfit that had begun to take shape would fare while Roo was an infant.

Another circumstance entirely was fated to throw a temporary wrench into the family rock. Three months after Roo was born, we bought O. the new tom drum he'd been requesting for his birthday. And, for reasons that are still mysterious to us, O. promptly went on an extended rock strike. At first it just seemed to be an odd lack of enthusiasm on O's part to try out the new drum he'd been begging us to get him for his birthday. We'd say "O.! Go try out your new drum," and he'd demur. Finally he went down and banged it a few times, seemingly merely to satisfy us. It quickly became clear that he'd developed a weird reluctance to play his drums.

For awhile, it bugged the shit out of us. For one thing, we'd spent hundreds of dollars on this drum kit that was going unplayed. For another, we (or at least I) had been cherishing this fantasy of our son as a drummer, of the family band with O. behind the skins. I began bugging him to play, bribing him to play. Needless to say, none of it worked. You can't force a kid to play drums, and it feels more than a little uncomfortable to try. I was acting like the worst nightmare of Suzuki-obsessed music-pushing parent. Finally, I just gave up. He's young, I thought, He'll pick up the sticks again on his own. Or take up another instrument. Or he won't, and that won't be the end of the world.

But the rock didn't stop altogether. With the drum kit sitting lonely, my Old Man started picking up the sticks sometimes when he was downstairs putting in a load of laundry. He looked a little funny, perched behind a full-sized kit whose only kiddie remnant was the miniature drum stool that made sitting rather precarious. But he sounded great (and impressed the hell out of me, who's never been able even play a basic 4-4 beat). After awhile, he was playing so often and getting so good that I bought him a full-sized drum stool for his birthday. Eventually O. began joining him downstairs and picking out some notes or strumming a noisy open chord on one of the electric guitars. The Old Man would encourage O. to get on the drums, of course, and occasionally he'd agree, but that always seemed to end in frustration, with O. fooling around rather than really playing, or giving up after a minute or two. He was much more into the guitar, and after a friend's older brother got a kid-sized electric guitar, O. began asking for one of his own.

So when O's early-January birthday rolled around, we decided a little Fender Squier Mini was in order, along with a little practice amp. O. was thrilled with his present, and he began playing his guitar on a regular basis. I was happy. OK, maybe he's not going to be a drummer, but at least he's not, like, uninterested in rocking.


The strangest thing about all this is that, just a few days after receiving his electric guitar, O. voluntarily got back on the drum kit and started playing for real. His beats hadn't suffered from his drum strike, which ended almost exactly a year after it began. Now he and the Old Man are rocking regularly, trading off on guitar and drums. And I've even begun heading back down to the basement to plug in every so often. And baby Roo is getting in on the rock action, in her own way. A keyboard prodigy? Well, no. At least not yet. But that's a story for another day...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Absentee Mom at the Dentist

Yesterday I took my teenage cousin JD to the dentist. Ever since his mom, my aunt Kay, died twelve years ago, this has been one way I help out my other aunts in the impossible task of trying to fill the gaping hole in JD's life left by Kay's death. Taking JD to the dentist is always a trial for me, because his oral hygiene is terrible, and no matter how many times I lecture him, no matter how many times Dr. Diamond upbraids him, he just doesn't brush his teeth regularly or well. Or floss. Ever. And in addition to inheriting my whole family's cavity-prone gene, he has cerebral palsy, which makes his teeth even more vulnerable to decay and his gums more vulnerable to periodontal disease. So his mouth is a mess and every visit to Dr. Diamond is an exercise in frustration and dismay. I gnash my fastidiously flossed teeth and try to remember to take deep breaths.

Yesterday, however, my usual consternated focus on the usual bad report from the hygienist and the dentist was distracted by an instance of the worst parenting I've ever seen. Or, more accurately, the most egregious example of absentee parenting I personally have witnessed.

When JD and I were checking in at the front desk, a woman who'd just checked her young daughter in was negotiating with the child over whether she could handle being on her own for her appointment with Dr. Diamond. The girl was ten, at the oldest. She did not want to be left alone. The girl's brother was there, a boy of twelve or so. The mom said "Buck will stay with you, okay?" No, the girl insisted, she wanted her mom to stay. "Buck you stay with your sister. Be nice, okay?" And with that, she left, as one of the hygienists brought the long-faced girl and her somewhat sullen-looking brother back to the examination room.

This whole thing didn't strike me as all that terrible at first. I mean, I wouldn't leave my kid alone at the dentist with her not-much-older sibling when she was explicitly asking me not to, but I also try not to judge other people's parenting decisions, especially when I don't know them or their situation, and especially not using the "how I'd do it" model.

But then, as JD was getting his fluoride treatment, I saw Dr. Diamond and his assistant setting up to treat this girl, who was a couple of chairs down from JD, and I realized that they were getting ready to pull a tooth. They had numbed her up, and now they were fitting one of her molars with a stainless steel gripping tool. She was whimpering. Brother Buck was sitting on the nearby bench playing his Game Boy. As Dr. Diamond proceeded to wiggle her tooth out from the root, the girl cried and screamed. It only took about ninety seconds, but it was hard to watch. Harder to watch was the girl sitting and crying afterward as she bit down on a bloody wad of cotton, with no one to give her a hug or stroke her hair. Buck was useless as a comforter, completely ignoring her (no big shock, given that his role model of nurturance was this mom who took off, leaving her kid to get a tooth yanked solo). I had a strong urge to go up and put my arm around her myself, but wasn't sure comfort from an utter stranger would be helpful to the child, and I worried it might freak her out instead. Maybe I should have tried it anyway.

After we collected JD's new toothbrush and yet another flosser that will go unused, we gathered our coats to leave. Buck and his tear-stained sister were sitting in the waiting room as we left, and I wondered how long it would be 'til their mom reappeared.

Where was she during all of this? The family looked well-off. It didn't seem likely that it was a situation where keeping or losing a job was at stake. The woman didn't say where she was going, didn't make any speeches like "You know I can't leave Grandma alone at home, and she was too raving with dementia to get in the minivan, so this is how it has to be!" or "If your father wasn't in the intensive care unit, I would stay, honey!" I don't know. She must have had her reasons. I hope they were good. In any case, I feel for the kid.

I should have given her a hug.