Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We Could Be a PSA!

Movie Madness is the movie store by our house and it is chock full of props and memorabilia that the owner collects. Last night, as we were trying to find a movie all three of us wanted to watch, Vaughn cried out, "Look! A real gun! I sure would like to have one of those laying around the house!"

He also asked the lady behind the counter how old you had to be to work there because his latest idea is that he really needs a job. In fact, he plans to write President Obama to complain about Child Labor Laws.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lessons in Herpetology

Our gentle bearded dragon, Bob has not been well lately. The poor guy barely eats and mopes around his cage. I suspect that this is due in part at least to the fact that his environment has not been at optimal conditions as these guys are not the easiest to care for. There is a whole array of UVB lighting and heating needs (with specific recommended temperature ranges depending on the area of the tank), vitamin powders (some of which should be given daily, others only once a week), crickets that should make up only a specific percentage of the diet (and must be given a disgusting gelatinous food called “Gut Load” prior to being fed to the dragon to ensure they don’t become calcium deficient) and specific fresh vegetables that must be chopped up to a size “no bigger than the space between the dragon’s eyes” to avoid “binding.” It’s really a miracle we’ve kept him alive this long but now he is languishing and I’m feeling terribly guilty as each day becomes more of a dragon death watch.

Last night, as I went back to the pet store to load up on another $100 of various foods, lights and heaters, my thoughts turned to another delicate and high maintenance pet that had been a fixture at a previous place of employment.

Marley was a giant white cockatoo that belonged to our front desk receptionist, Jarine. How and why he ever ended up in the office is a bit of mystery to me but as someone who is in favor of more animals everywhere, I was thrilled with his arrival and lobbied for him to have a permanent place in our office, going so far as to put up a “Let Marley Stay” sign in my cubicle. Earlier that year I had tried to institute “Take Your Cat to Work Day” and had only ended up seriously pissing off my otherwise docile cat and probably guaranteeing my spot as the odd one in the office.

Pretty soon there were little warning signs that life with Marley in the office might not be totally smooth. For one thing, according to Jarine, the slightest change in his general condition might mean death within hours and so the office temperature became tightly controlled, often in contrast to what the human residents might have preferred. The prospect of death within hours also meant that if Jarine sensed a change in Marley, he was immediately rushed off to the vet, leaving us without a front desk receptionist.

Then Marley hit sexual maturity and all hell broke loose. He took to shrieking at an incredible volume when he was left alone, which meant that client and board meetings were often punctuated with the sounds of someone being tortured in the adjacent room. To mitigate the lonely screaming, he was sometimes stashed in the office I shared with my co-worker. This was fine until the jingling and clanging of a large bird humping his cage started. “Oh god, he’s doing it AGAIN!” my office mate would say in horror as Marley temporarily satisfied his quest for a mate by violently thrashing in his cage.

The final straw however, was that Jarine would let Marley exercise by roaming around our kitchen area where the employees ate. Sexual maturity with no companion birds had made him aggressive and he would wander around and peck at ankles. Cockatoos are in the parrot family and even gentle pecking can result in blood loss. We all took to eating with our legs tucked under us.

Strangely enough, no one ever thought to confront Jarine and tell her it was time to take the bird home. I guess we all felt like it was the Director’s job to do it and she seemed preoccupied with more pressing matters. For my part, I quietly took down my “Let Marley Stay” sign and slipped it into the recycling bin.

**Update: I'm happy to report that while not 100 percent - Bob has perked up a bit on account of the recent changes.

**Side Note: Coming up with titles for these things isn't easy. I had to resist the temptation to use the obvious "Bob/Marley" AND "Marley and Me."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sleep, Glorious Sleep.

In the last two weeks Vaughn has been struck by some pretty serious sleep anxiety coupled with insomnia. Some nights he cannot fall asleep for hours and some nights we are able to get him to sleep within a reasonable amount of time. Regardless of the amount of sleep he is getting, the anxiety he feels is huge and even when he is on a good run with falling asleep he seems to be very stressed out about bedtime and not getting enough sleep. That is exactly what it is - no fear of the dark, monsters or wanting to stay up late, just a very real fear of not getting enough sleep.
And the crazy thing is that he reports he is not ever tired during the day.

Jacob and I have pulled out all the stops, including:
  • A brand new queen-sized bed
  • A special cd from a fancy schmancy sleep institute (that he selected after an evening of previewing them on-line)
  • Multiple kinds of tea
  • Melatonin and some homeopathic remedy recommended by a guy working at Whole Foods (which, in our sleep-deprived state, set off Argument #4 between Jacob and I on what we were going to try)
  • Regular warm baths in the evening
  • A heated up rice bag
  • An earlier bedtime and extended reading periods
  • Lots of back scratching, deep breathing and even some guided meditations
  • And yes, I'm kind of embarrassed to say we even played around with a little Benadryl in the hopes that if he could just "get over the hump" and show him that he COULD fall asleep it would break this psychological lock on him (my guilt here was only compounded by the fact that the box specifically says "Do Not Use to Induce Drowsiness In Your Child").
Vaughn has never been a good sleeper but this goes above and beyond even for him. As I've been telling people, "If this is an act, he hasn't broken character in two weeks." He cuts off all activities at precisely 8:00 after an evening countdown of obsessive clock watching. He used to love staying up late and drawing in bed and now that idea seems so counter-interactive to him that no amount of reassuring can convince him this would possibly be a good idea- even on the weekends.

Today we took him to the doctor to rule out any physical issues but to also score a counseling referral. It is a very bizarre thing to be talking to someone at Mental Health Services about your eight year old. The woman doing the referral had to spend some time looking to find someone who saw patients that young. Hopefully, we can get to the bottom of this anxiety and what is driving it. If he can't get anywhere with a counselor, we do have a psychiatric appointment in late December but for now we're just going to continue to take it one night at a time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ancient History

When I was in about third grade I got a fossil. Technically I was loaned a fossil by my dad's friend George who had found it while out hiking but I loved it so much that I kept forgetting to give it back and eventually George let me keep it. The fossil was a trilobite which is a marine bug from the Cambrian period. Being a bug they are actually fairly common but to me it was as rare and valuable as a Pterodactyl wing. It had two distinct parts: the bottom which had a bumpy head attached to ribs of some sort and a top covering that came off like a puzzle piece and formed the mirror image of the ribs. I kept it in a cardboard earring box, packed in cotton with the word "fosel" written on the cover. For a while the fossil stayed at school, neatly tucked into the back corner of my desk where it was safe and protected but readily available for impressing friends.

One day, in the middle of class, a man appeared in the classroom doorway. He exchanged a few words with my teacher and then scurried over and hunched down next to my desk. He was kind of sweaty and breathing hard and I assumed that since he was allowed to interrupt the class like that he must work for the school, perhaps in a custodial capacity. In a frantic whisper he asked me if I knew what I had in the box. In a hushed voice he told me that what I had was a genuine fossil and very valuable. He was clearly just as impressed with my fossil as I was and I began to think I was in possession of something more along the lines of the Lost Ark of the Covenant rather than an ancient crawdad. Maybe I could sell it! I also remember thinking, even at that tender age, why are you going through my desk?

Anyway, I've grown up now and the fossil has stayed in its little box and each year I try and get Vaughn to take it to school for Show and Tell. Despite knowing better, I still can't shake the feeling that I am giving the class a very special gift, access to touch and hold something they wouldn't otherwise have access to. When those forms get passed around where you have to list a unique talent or skill you as a parent might be able to bring to the class it is all I can do to not write: I have a real fossil.

Vaughn has never really appreciated the fossil so each year when I say, "Why don't you bring the fossil to school?" (And honestly I really can't believe that I'm still having to hear "What fossil?") I get flimsy excuses like, "It's not show and tell day." This year I took matters into my own hands and safely bundled up the fossil and tucked it into a plastic baggy with a note to the teacher explaining what it was and that I thought the class would enjoy seeing it. I gave it to Vaughn with instructions to deliver it to his teacher which he confirmed had happened.

It's been a few days now and while I sort of hoped to get an email thanking me for giving the class a chance to really experience history (or anything along those lines- I'm just throwing ideas out there), I've let that go. What concerns me though is - why hasn't the fossil come home? Is it being saved for some special unit or something? I mean, if she's thinking she can just forget to return it for long enough and I'll let her keep it she's wrong.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Where You Headed?

I had a boss once who, upon observing my ladder climbing tendencies, observed: Be careful what you are climbing to. You'll wake up one day and be just like me. I don't think she was wholly unhappy with her life but undoubtedly she had found herself in a situation where work consumed more of its share of space in how time got divvied up. I really thought I had fallen out of that mind set when just two days ago, I went into a small flurry over a rumor that someone with less experience (a lot less experience) might be promoted. Not even necessarily over me but clearly ahead of me. What track was I on?

Thankfully Jacob quickly talked me down from the ledge. We have enough, he said. Why would you want to work more for not much more pay? Besides he said, we would miss you.

What are we trying to buy in this world if not more quality time? I read Your Money or Your Life recently and it really illustrated this point. If you think of your time as your life energy, what are you spending it on? What would you rather be spending it on?

I think that is part of what Jacob and I are trying to accomplish with this trip. Not just a sabbatical from the on-going grind of work life but a time out from ALL life to clear our minds and maybe take enough of a step back to afford ourselves some breathing room to reassess how far we've come and where we want to go. I realize to put such a lofty goal on a six month trip might seem optimistic at best but if nothing else, we're putting our money where our mouths are: we want more quality time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hannah - The Golden Years

In recent months the cat has taken a very sharp turn to favoring Jacob over me. She was always a real equal-opportunity pet with no real allegiance toward anyone but the person petting her at the time so this is a surprise. She regularly demonstrates her preference for Jacob by wedging her fat body onto the three inches of mattress between Jacob and the edge of the bed rather than spreading out in the expansive space between us in the middle. Last night, after Vaughn crawled into bed with us, she delicately stood on the edge of Jacob's pillow, hovering over his face and patiently waiting for a spot appropriately close to him to open up until he woke up and said, "What are you doing, Hannah?"

Now it's true that in the past I may have unceremoniously tossed her to the floor for cleaning her toenails in bed. And just maybe on occassion I've nudged her out of the way a bit forcefully when she has woken me up at 4 am with incessant meowing to be fed (and then CONTINUES to meow while I'm trying to feed her). But gentle reader you must understand that this is just setting appropriate cat boundaries. Anyway, Hannah is now over 16 years old and honestly, I think I have a short amount of time to turn this around or I'm out of the will.

Monday, September 6, 2010

When You Can't Have The Real Thing

Last night we took Vaughn down to the Oregon State Fairgrounds to go see Raul Rojas, the Michael Jackson impersonator for the Michael Jackson Laser Dance Spectacular show. The cost was $15 a person plus fair admission and I briefly debated not going in order to save some cash but given that this would be the pinnacle to date of Vaughn's MJ obsession, I really felt like I had to see it. Plus, I love the Fair and try and make it every year.

That morning I got up to check the website to confirm when and where to get our tickets and was horrified to see the price on the tickets had DOUBLED! There was no indication they were going to double the price the day of the show. Plus, I saw that the fair box office closed at 5pm. We hadn't planned on getting there so early since the show didn't start until 9pm but I figured this would just give us extra fair time.

On the drive down we hit massive traffic and it became clear there was no way we were going to make it in time for the 5:00 box office closing. I checked my phone to figure out what our other options were and, upon closer reading, realized that the box office at the Fair was only open Monday through Friday. We'd have to go somewhere else regardless.

We pulled into the parking lot of the Red Lion Hotel referenced as a box office on the Fair website and Vaughn and I sat in the car while Jacob went in to get our tickets. He came out ticketless about ten minutes later. Ticketless because the guy working at the Red Lion desk had forgotten his computer password. Technology only gets you so far.

We drove on to a Safeway that had been identified by our password amnesia stricken clerk as the next best option. Here Jacob was able to get our tickets but not before being told by the clerk, "You know, I have to tell you, these tickets are $33 a piece with the service charge. Yesterday they were $15. The show is an hour. You still want 'em?" Yes. Yes we did.

I found Jacob over at the deli counter buying putrid egg roles and a package of Nutter Butters for dinner. He suggested that we smuggle in wine. This was the best idea I had heard so far this evening. As we poured the bottle of wine into two empty juice containers in the parking lot we explained to Vaughn that mommy and daddy were being thrifty.

The Fair is still one of my most favorite activities. I love being able to pet not one but fifty pigs and I absolutely think it is great that a place still exists for folks to show off their canning and quilting skills. There was a replica of the Taj Majal built out of match sticks by a man in his nineties. Were it not for the Fair, who would see it save those lucky few nursing home residents?

After several hours of wandering through glass blowing demonstrations, old cars, pan flute Peruvian bands, and "exotic" black and white photos of really ancient Taipei elders smoking pipes, it was time to find the show.

I was disheartened to see that the show was going to be outside - it was already pretty cold. But I figured that we could huddle together and, if all else failed, I still had a solid half a bottle of wine (I have to mention that while Jacob had suggested we buy the wine, he failed to drink ANY of it; making if feel less like a devious little scheme we had hatched together and more like another night of Mommy Sad Sack).

We got really great seats up front. I figured that, unlike a real Michael Jackson show, at least there was a decent chance this one would start on time. Looking around I noticed two things: first, it was clear we were the only people here who probably spent over $100 on these tickets (which, by the way, we found out later that we could buy at any time at the Fair) and second, there were a whole lot of adults in Michael Jackson tee shirts. There was one woman in a sparkly glove holding a sign that said, "We Miss You Michael!!!! RIP". She was accompanied by a man wearing a nice, but clearly homemade knockoff of one Micheal's gold military style jackets. Who were these people that came to Salem, Oregon to publicly mourn and celebrate Michael Jackson?

The show was a mix of entertaining and cheesey. The performances by Rojas and his four backup dancers were pretty good and Rojas himself made an impressive MJ. Let's face it, considering the multi-million dollar productions that Michael Jackson concerts were anything is going to fall a little flat and having four backup dancers in track jackets pretend to be snapping pictures with low end digital cameras while a Latino MJ lip-syncs "Leave Me Alone" is going to require more than a little imagination to get to pseudo-Jackson status. Still, the crowd was willing to suspend belief and so were we. What was disappointing, however, was the filler. The whole first act was us sitting there listening to "Ben" being piped in over the loudspeakers. Then there was a lengthy video of old concert footage from the tour in China accompanied by a dramatic voiceover which I honestly can't remember any of the gist of. The middle of the concert had a terrible laser light show that included a large neon woman walking, a credit card being taken out of a wallet and dollar signs. Laser light show technology is so old and painful I almost expected to see a laser Pac Man being chased by a laser ghost. The Fair had provided us 3-D glasses for no apparent reason since there was nothing in 3-D and all the glasses really did was create a head crushing display of rainbows. We left during the finale which was just the backup dancers and about 20 random people ranging from age six to maybe 19 dancing in line. There was one featured kid of about 12 dancing in the front of the stage who was clearly selected for his ability to dance like Michael Jackson and while he was talented, I couldn't shake the thought that I was paying about $10 to see him dance when I've got a pretty good Moonwalker at home.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hair Today

These days it seems we pack in so much activity it makes my head spin. We haven't even hit the period of shuffling Vaughn back and forth to various things so I'm not sure how we'll figure out how to squeeze that in when the time comes. All I know is when we have too much going on- life and work seem to blend together into one big Outlook Calendar and everything is broken down into how much time we have before we have to be to the next thing and it drives me nuts.

This past week was particularly bad with Jacob and I having something planned all seven days in a row. On Monday, Jacob had band practice and Vaughn and I were going to just hang out. I went upstairs to the bathroom to trim my bangs when Vaughn came up, noticed what I was doing and said he might like his hair trimmed too. Vaughn had been growing his hair out for probably two years and it would have been just gorgeous had it not been for the unfortunate decision to shave the sides and underneath the back in an attempt to make it less full and puffy (some of us would kill for this problem). At the time I didn't consider that this hair style would stick around and I never imagined we'd be dealing with a painfully grown out mullet. I was never allowed to even it out and any mention of trimming it was rebuffed with the reminder that it was his hair and he'd do what he wanted. Perhaps he harbored certain memories.

Anyway- let's just say once again we had a certain communication breakdown. I really thought I had been given permission to cut it up to even it out with his sides but alas, I was sadly mistaken. Halfway through the haircut (which, truth be told wasn't going that well because his hair is tricky) he got up to look and then exploded into a rage I didn't think eight year olds who haven't been severely abused ever experience. After being yelled at to "Get OUT" of his room I paced and frantically deliberated my next move while he alternated between yelling "I can't believe this is happening!" to just engaging in some primal screaming.

Because I always do my best work under pressure it suddenly hit me that maybe a professional haircut could make things better since I was no longer allowed near his person. It turned out that was a brilliant suggestion and he put on a hat and prepared to go. Now? We had to go NOW? We had no car. If we were more bike or public transportation savvy this might not have been a big deal but I might has well have been stranded on a desert island without a boat. Yes, we had to go now. Not a single person could see him until his hair was fixed.

A frantic call to Annalee got us a ride to Bishops where the hair cutting hipsters got us where we needed to be. Vaughn got an uber-trendy faux-hawk that he loves and I love never having to see him chew on his hair again.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Vaughn has been obsessed with Michael Jackson for some time. He surrounds himself with MJ books and videos and has even assembled a small wardrobe for performances. The dance performances are an almost daily occurrence and he has really gotten quite good. We did have to tell him there would be no crotch grabbing so we have to just wince when he substitutes dramatic pelvic thrusting. My favorite part is how he has even taken to mimicking Michael Jackson’s facial expression – a permanent furrowed brow and locked lower jaw. The only part of the MJ obsession is the way he has become a yard stick by which everyone and everything is measured. Any reference to a person, musician or not, is followed up with the question, “Is he famous?” and then the inevitable, “More famous than Michael Jackson?” It’s really hard to compete with that kind of fame- even when you’re Gandhi.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Are You On Facebook?

We recently decided to let Vaughn become a Facebook member. He was getting increasingly frustrated with the amount of time Jacob and I spend on the site so rather than change our behavior we decided to let him drink the Kool-aid. Facebook does have a minimum age of 13 for membership so we did have to lie about his age but, as Vaughn astutely pointed out, “Why would a company know what is better for you more than your own parents?” I was proud that he was able to combine an anti-authoritarian attitude toward corporate rules while still demonstrating his blind loyalty to us. Hopefully we’ll still be seeing that attitude when he actually turns 13 but somehow I doubt it.

At any rate, Vaughn took to Facebook immediately and we had to gently coach him in some social etiquette around not overwhelming his new friends with a barrage of comments on every single thing they post (some of our adult users could use the same coaching). In the two days he has been on the site he has demonstrated the same level of obsession that all new Facebook users experience, forcing us to say silly things like, “now let’s not spend TOO much time on Facebook” in a pot-calling-the –kettle-black kinda way.

The real power of Facebook opened up to us a couple nights ago when, after a nuclear sized melt-down, Vaughn found himself with a loss of Facebook privileges for two days. He went around the house wailing and imploring for us to please take anything away but don’t take away Facebook! I went around the house quietly singing, “Facebook’s just another word for something you can lose…” But not too loud because I didn’t want to mock his trauma. Jacob said he was tempted to take it away permanently but I told him he was crazy – we’d just discovered the newest and biggest tool in our arsenal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Times They Are a Changin'

Jacob was disappointed that I returned to blogging without filling in the last four months. He appreciates the blog as a diary of our lives- our own little 'Little House' if you will. He said, "Why didn't you write about the chaos of the move?" and I said, "Well what would you like me to write about it?" and he said that he envisioned me writing all about how the house was sold, we successfully downsized and found a good rental and now we were saving money for our travels and shifting our consumerist patterns. So here it is in a nutshell.

The first step in putting the house on the market was to get it presentable and that meant finding a new home for the bunnies and Suki. After we found a home for the rabbits, I set about finding a new home for Suki. Despite all her faults, Suki is a pretty good looking dog and small dogs are pretty desirable. I was really candid in the ad on Craigslist about her “challenges” in the hopes that someone would go into the adoption process with eyes wide open. After a few flakey callers (including one woman who already had a three year old pug who wasn’t housebroken and , inexplicably, felt her life needed more pee to clean up) we found a new owner for Suki. In the weeks after giving her away we were treated with mini updates as to how her “dog daughter” was doing (she was always being a “perfect angel”) and the occasional picture of Suki in a new outfit. Suki’s new owner works for Banfield, the national pet hospital chain and Suki gets to go to work with her every day and has allegedly even starred in an educational video on pest control. I went so far as to sign up for an online Banfield account (even though they are not our veterinarian) in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the video that rocketed her to stardom. The inevitable SPAM I’m going to get for signing up for the account was for naught since there are several video choices in the flea-and-tick genre and I gave up after three minutes of watching just one.
I can’t say we really miss Suki. Like at all. Jacob may have summed it up when he said, “I’m so happy that damn dog is gone” - an hour after she left. At least we can say she is in a better place.
With the pets gone (except Hannah and Goldie) we could move on to the task of cleaning, organizing and repairing. For a solid two months our weekends were filled with projects ‘round the clock. We discovered that some of these things, like cleaning behind the stove for example, should be done on a more frequent basis than once every six years. Throughout it all I nursed a vision of us paring our lives down to a simplicity that included just one bowl for each of us. Ultimately we would end up hauling over to the new house dozens of boxes with unhelpful labels like “Junk Drawer #2” on them.
The house went on the market the night before Easter Sunday and we got the call that morning at 10 am that a couple named Jason and Cam would like to come by and see it. They had been looking to buy in the area for a while and by the next morning we had a full price offer – minus some closing costs they wanted us to chip in.
Their real estate agent was from Windermere and turned out to be the new partner of the agent we had sold and bought with on our last move. Jeannie was friendly and helpful but since we were representing ourselves we had to constantly be on guard for all the real estate agent mind tricks. She greeted our generic real estate template forms with a mixture of pity and amusement as if we’d written them on diner napkins. After the inspection came back she reacted with indignation that was on par with someone expecting to meet a petite 25 year old blind date only to come face to face with the obese senior citizen reality. We kept saying to each other, they do realize this is a 100 year old house, right? We were told that Jason and Cam were “fair people” but that they were facing some “significant and expensive repairs.” The implication was that perhaps we should consider condemning the house rather than selling it. While we realized that topping the “repairs” list were things like redoing the hardwood floors and vaulting the ceilings, we also didn’t want to jeopardize the sale so we gritted our teeth as we weighed just how much we could live with. We ended up having to replace the sewer lines because, in what must be the most amazing display of government efficiency on record, we received a letter in the mail the day after our inspection that they were aware our sewer line did not link up with the main street line and that we had exactly 30 days to figure out how to make this happen.
The next month was a whirlwind as we finished packing, cleaning, repairing while desperately scouring Craigslist for a decent rental that would actually allow us to save the money needed to finance our travels. One evening in the midst of all this our neighbor from across the street walked over to hand us an oversized, glossy postcard featuring a beaming Jeannie proudly announcing her sale of our house. I had to walk into the paint store and let Jacob handle sitting in the car to call up Jeannie on Saturday morning to tell her exactly what we thought of the postcards.
We’ve hit a stage in life where the amount of bribing it takes to get any of our friends to give up their weekend and jeopardize already aging backs is about on par with just replacing everything and starting from scratch. Jacob headed down to Portland’s day labor site to hire a couple guys for a few hours to get the major furniture out of the house. They were happy to have the work and we were happy to have the help. Being cheap, we took them back to the center a few hours later and decided to move the rest of it ourselves. Three U-Haul trips later we were out and moving on to a new house and a new stage and I can honestly say that all three of us were ecstatic.

Bob the Bearded Dragon

Vaughn and Sten pooled their money and are now "co-parenting" a two-year old bearded dragon we got off Craigslist. I use the term "co-parenting" loosely because, while I don't know how things go down at Sten's house, 'round these parts I still do all cleaning, feeding and paying for all of the expenses that came after the initial $50 purchase.I'm used to this role and I don't mind except for the crickets. That's right- Bob's diet is half crickets. Crickets that have to be rolled in two kinds of vitamin powder prior to feeding. Because he is an adult, Bob gets big crickets that crunch when he eats them. I'll admit that I do find it strangely satisfying to watch him dart around in his tank and dispatch them with exoskeleton grinding efficiency.

What I really don't like is the frequent trips to the pet store to get the crickets and the fact that half of them form a sad, dead layer of deceased cricket carpet on the bottom of their holding cell.

Yesterday Michael brought Bob over to our house to begin his two week stay that is part of the joint custody agreement and I greeted him with a cricket wrangling task. I had dumped all the crickets from the morning's purchase into a very large cardboard box because they were steaming up the plastic transfer bag and I wanted them to be comfortable (or at least not die immediately). The box was out on the porch and taped securely because when I had just closed the top and put a book on it I looked over to see escape crickets making for all four corners of my living room. Now I had to get all 48 crickets from the giant box into the small plastic cricket container.

We cut a small hole in the corner of the box and I held the container while Michael shook the crickets down to the bottom. They rolled out and into the container like a slot machine payout in a reptilian version of Vegas. When the jackpot slowed we decided to open the box to see how we'd done. Just a few remaining crickets clung to the side until Michael lifted up the bottom flap to reveal a good 15 of the big suckers milling around. It is amazing how one cricket is manageable (I've even gotten to the point I am willing to handle them with my hands) but several crickets is skin crawling and we both dropped the box and backed up with little shrieks.

Overall I'd say he's a good pet though and I'm really enjoying him. Jacob doesn't understand why I find things like him laying flat on his rock cute but I do.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Joy of Cheese

Yesterday Michael, Annalee and I went to the cheese making class that we had signed up for a month ago after reading about it in an issue of Sunset magazine. As we pulled into the parking lot at Kookoolan Farms for “Basic Soft Cheeses” and neatly parked our Subaru next to a row of other Subarus it hit me how clich├ęd we’d become.

The instructor was a very nice man with a slicked back ponytail and a batiked shirt who kinda reminded me of Steven Segal’s hippie brother. His name was Scott but he went by Dominic (his middle name) as his “cheese making name.” I’d never thought of cheese making as something you needed to adopt a separate persona for but apparently you do.

We took the remaining three seats in the back row and poured ourselves a glass of complementary Kombucha tea. While Dominic started explaining about the types of cheeses we’d be making that day, a series of cheese-related slides rolled through on the wall to the right of the front of the room. Most of these were pictures of cheese or facts about the history of cheese but there were some gems, including a slide with a song to be sung on April 3rd which is “Cheese Weasel Day” (country of origin unknown). The most notable slide, however, featured a grinning pseudo-hippie in a garish black wig flashing a peace sign with the caption, “You have any soy cheese heroin?” This slide was never explained and I decided not to ask about it so I could just imagine all the different things it was supposed to represent.

At the end of the class we decided that a lack of a cooler and free time on Sunday was enough of a deterrent to keep us from diving into purchasing raw milk and supplies. The owner, a petite redheaded woman, was sitting at her computer in the backroom and I walked back to inquire if I might be permitted to go look at the cows. Not only could I look at them, she directed me to the pasture where they were nestled down in the shade and told me I could walk down if I wanted to give them a pat. Michael and Annalee declined my offer to let them tag along with me so I let myself through the first gate and set off down a long, steep cow-patty strewn hill.

I came to the gate at the bottom of the hill which was just held shut by a thin chain attaching the gate to the fence. The one bit of instruction I’d been given was to make sure they didn’t get out since “everyone’s pasture is always greener.” I trudged over across another half of a pasture with even more cow manure and it hit me how my Little House fantasies aren't filled with this much shit. In the corner of the pasture, under the shade of a tree were five of the most beautiful, otherworldly looking cows I’d ever seen. Their eyes were huge black orbs. But also diverting from my fantasy was the fact that these cows’ faces were covered in flies.

I gingerly walked over and tentatively tried to pat one on the nose while whispering upbeat and calmly reassuring “Hi guys!” to the group. They weren’t impressed and started to squirm as if to say, “Listen lady, it’s hot and we’re covered and flies and our own fecal matter but if you’re really going to make us get up and walk over to the other side then that’s what we’ll do.” I decided to not harass them further and began to walk away.

I’d only gotten a few steps away when I heard one of the cows get up and start walking toward me. I turned and gave a reassuring, “Oh hi! Hi buddy!” Another one got up and began walking toward me. I was elated, clearly these cows trusted me. Then I turned to and saw to my horror that the gate to the main pasture had swung wide open. This was bad. I started to run toward the gate at exactly the same moment one of the cows broke into a trot. I could hear the other three rising to their feet behind me. Clad in one flip-flop and a post-surgery Velcro shoe from getting the screw out of my foot two days before, I ran toward the gate, arms flailing as I shouted “No! No!” I pulled ahead just in time to swing the gate shut. My heart was still racing by the time I trudged back up the hill.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bunny Punch Card

Jacob and I decided to sell the house. The plan to get out from under the oppressive mortgage and scheming for travel are a blog unto themselves (a blog that already has a name in my mind's eye - but we'll get to that later). At any rate - with the downsizing plan comes the necessary reduction in the menagerie. The first to go will be the bunnies.

I've been wanting to get rid of the bunnies for some time. They smell, aren't super fun and require twice a week litter box and newspaper changes. This is to say nothing of the grotesque task of keeping thing "hygienic" with animals that have long fur. However, despite bargaining, offers to trade and the occasional threat that he needs to help with the upkeep, Vaughn has been pretty resistant to the thought of getting rid of them even as he goes for long stretches of ignoring them. He understands now that they must go and there is no more bargaining to be had.

Still, it is very sad to have him clinging to them in a melodramatic way as if to suggest they were his only friends in this cold, cruel world. To make the transition easier, I came up with the idea of the Bunny Punch Card. I told Vaughn that the BPC would have 6 "coupons" for things he could cash in for. I suggested roller skating, a trip to the movies, $10 to spend at a store, a trip to the arcade, or extra nights in our bed (outside of the every-third-night he gets now). He thought that was a grand idea but then sat there quietly and couldn't come up with anything to actually put down on his card - which only made me sadder. Sten tried to helpfully suggest "more screen time" as a newly imposed limit on his screen time at his home had apparently made life more oppressive.

As I write this, Vaughn has cashed in two punches - both for an extra night in our bed - suggesting that we'll get through this transition with extra snuggling. As for the bunnies- they are still with us. Rabbits are a dime a dozen and my search for the right home (and not letting them loose on Sauvie Island for a half hour of freedom before the raptors get them as Michael tried to helpfully suggest) hasn't made it any easier. We had one potential home that fell through at the last minute. Vaughn joyfully reported that the bunnies weren't going to a new home just yet to Sten who astutely observed, "Well we'll just have to enjoy them while we have them."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Natural Consequences

Jacob and I haven't been very good about getting Vaughn to do his homework, which is to say we haven't been good at all. Every week the blue photocopied packets come home and collect around the house until they are eventually scooped up and recycled. There were a couple encouraging times when we were actually able to get him to sit down and hammer out a page or two or spend some time reading out loud without agonizing protest.

Unfortunately, it became really easy to justify this cycle of inactivity after a parent/teacher conference a year ago when, after confessing to his teacher that we were "really bad" about homework (as if she hadn't picked up on this) she assured us that as long as we were reading to him each day she thought we were fine. Great! We were achieving the bare minimum - we were okay with that. Sure, we routinely said that we needed to start a routine but that was about the only thing being done with any consistency.

This all changed yesterday when Vaughn sheepishly announced yesterday after dinner that he had seen the homework turn-in sheet and noticed he was the ONLY one not turning in his homework. It didn't take the teacher pointing it out or anyone saying anything - he just saw the sheet with checks next to everybody's name but his. We felt bad. We were bad parents. But something kinda cool came out of this - in a shining example of natural consequences Vaughn announced with resolve and determination that he would do his entire homework packed that night and every Monday night thereafter ("so we don't have to worry about it for the rest of the week"). Not only did he crank out the entire packet that night, he didn't even balk when it took him exactly up to bedtime with no time left to do anything else. He even got up the next morning to do all his Valentines so that he no longer needed the packet with the names and could turn in the packet.

I'd like to think that this was all some stellar parenting maneuver and not just the opposite but for now I think I'll just relax and enjoy this new found development.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What's That You Say?

Today Vaughn and Sten came racing upstairs to tell us that on their Nintendo DS a Pokemon Trainer had told them that you could have sex with a Pokemon. We asked him to repeat what he had heard. He was adamant - the game had told him that you could marry and have sex with a Pokemon. My first thought - logically we were dealing with a pedophile- a real internet predator. After Jacob convinced me his game wasn't linked this way I went to the next logical conclusion - a company prankster tapering with the programming - like one of those instances where someone makes a character in a Disney movie say a bad word. I have to say I even briefly imagined us on Good Morning America ("We pride ourselves on buying age appropriate products and the fact that someone could do this - well it just blew our mind!"). Jacob had Vaughn go back through the game to find the "trainer" in question so we could get to the bottom of this. Finally he shouted that he had found the trainer and - oh wait - it says you can have SIX Pokemon. Six. I guess that makes more sense than the scenarios I imagined.