Monday, March 31, 2008

Another wasted comeback

Not wasted entirely because Julie was around to hear it.
Coco was up too late and wound up cranky and feisty and whiny. After tooth brushing he insisted on getting a dollar for the good (non)job he did.
I said no.
He said that he doesn't love me anymore.
I said it's too bad his love can be bought for a dollar.
Julie laughed and I had to, too.

I gave Julie a dollar.*

*(This part is made up, but sounds good, no?)

Madge Monday

We took the cat to the vet today for his annual booster shots. Madge had me reschedule the appointment so she (and Coco) could come along.
For moral support, they both stuck their heads under my coat as soon as the syringe came out and then were both surprised that it was over without any hissing or meowing or scratches or blood. Then they both almost smothered the poor traumatized kitty on the way home.
The best part:
When the vet and his assistant were done handling the cat, Baci had shed a lot. Madge, in her playful way, started blowing the hairs all over the stainless steel office. She thought it was funny, the cat and the boy didn't care, I thought it was rather cute.
The doctor said, "Please don't do that. I'm allergic to cat hair."
Of course I burst out laughing for what could it be other than a joke.
Turns out it wasn't. The guy had made an unfortunate career choice. (The allergy didn't crop up until a few years into his practice.)
After he told me and I stopped chuckling I stared at him incredulously, not knowing how to ask why he's still a vet.
It's like the story I heard on "Wait, Wait..." about the firefighter who was going through EMT training and kept fainting at the sight of a needle.
Then the doctor said, "At least I'm not allergic to dogs."
Half full, I guess.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Frickin' Nuts (Frick the third)

I came into a hallway and saw this guy. His face - if not the face, then at least the expression - looked familiar and the background green was compelling, so I typed in the number and started to listen. His name is Ludovico Capponi, but it sounded like Capone when the guide said it, so I wanted to know if they might be distantly related. Not really. At least not more so than any two countrymen hundreds of years apart with a similar last name. (Goethe - Goedi; who am I kidding.)
Anyway. I was merrily listening along when I gag. Out loud. Gack! See, the thing I noticed late was just about eye-, if not mouth- , level. So I frantically listenedlistenedlistened and found out it's a CODPIECE (everyone back in their seats, nothing to see here). And that nineteenth-century prudes had painted over it.


Back in high school, I wrote a paper on Thomas Paine. I believe the reason I chose him was that his first name is the same as my middle one. As good a reason as any at that point in my life.
I wrote a paper on him, but never read a word of his writing. Thanks to HBO's miniseries on John Adams (guess the title), I went ahead and got some of his (Paine's) stuff from the library. Great stuff.
Common Sense opens like this (this is the second sentence):
Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.

In other words: We have society because we don't do well on our own, and we have government because we don't do good in groups.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Coco Tuesday

I’m glad I didn’t write this up yesterday because, like Madge, it takes me a while to get over a grudge. Coco is more like Julie: the storms unleash forcefully and quickly, but subside shortly thereafter. If we could only combine the long fuse with the quick calm, but no dice.
Yesterday’s tempest arose from a gift certificate we had received (thanks, Yiayia and GrandJohn). We let the kids choose their treats. Madge opted for a surprise Barbie Nintendo DS cartridge. Coco sweated over eliminating some of the Ben Ten figures he had chosen. He sweated over it so much he couldn’t do it. And the rest of the day he and I fought about my order.
Here are some aspects of our “learning experience”:
If an item is no longer manufactured or available from some distributors, those who still have a copy show no shame in charging $79 (plus $8 shipping) for a $4.99 toy. (“You can have my allowance, Daddy.” Aww. But no.)
It takes some time for the people to read the computer screen, find the objects on the shelves, pack them, put them on a truck which goes to another distribution center and another truck – maybe even with a flight in between – and finally to our house. (All Coco heard was, “Blahblahblahblahblah our house.”)
And staying home from school will not speed up this process.
Which is why I had a tearful Coco necklace for twenty minutes at drop-off time. Which, out of a two-hour-and-twenty-minute school day is – but wait, my blood pressure is rising again, I’d better stop.
We’re all better now. He went to school like a trooper today and yesterday at pickup he even explained to me how Grey Matter was too expensive.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Frickin' Ironic (Frick the second)

The Frick has an audio guide that's like a phone/iPod. You type in the number by the piece you wish to have explained and the phone doodad starts talking to you about it.

About this Degas, it said something about Degas painting dancers blah blah. Then it said that the old violinist was the most real-looking thing in the painting, while the dancers looked doll-like and manipulated. Then it said something about this being one of the very few painting that Frick leant out, in this case to a fundraiser for the Women's Suffrage movement.

I have a feeling he had a twisted sense of humor.

To sum up:

old white man - real and creative and in control

women - puppets and mechanical and in the background

picture loaned to woman's suffrage fundraiser


Monday, March 24, 2008

Madge Monday

Good Friday. The kids were off from school. We happened to be walking by a church on the way to the grocery store and Madge asked – are you ready? – “Does perfect exist?”
The answer I was aiming for way, “Only if Existence is a condition of Perfection.” But I realized that might be aiming a little high, even for our eight-and-a-half-year-old.
So I stammered for a while and said that the idea of perfection exists, since the word exists. And then I said something about being able to imagine a perfect circle and that we as imperfect beings are probably unable to be judges of perfection and that this is where the idea of divinity comes in.
Madge, sweet thing, didn’t even try to change the subject while I was rambling.
And Coco was busy balancing on some raised bricks.

Frick (the first)

I didn't teach yesterday because of the holiday. But Madge enjoys a day without me and encoureaged me to leave the house anyway. Done and done.
Where to?
I mosied over to Manhattan to see if I could play chess in Washington Square Park after a couple of Papaya King hot dogs. No beans, the place is under construction (the park, not the hot dog place). And I didn't feel like sneaking into the Marshall Chess Club.
So I figured, "What else can you do without kids?" Answer: Museum.
I hopped on another Subway and encountered huge crowds around Central Park. Duh. Easter Parade had finished. No problem. I wanderd up Fifth Ave - a lovely day, by the way - and saw this neoclassical building and figured, "Whoa, I wonder what ambassador lives there." So I crossed the Avenue and looked at the sign.
Frick Collection. Hours blah blah. Children Under 10 Not Admitted.
And boom! I went in. What a selling point.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

transcriptive powers

One of the reasons I picked up guitar - other than to play music again in a way that doesn't bother the neighbors, only my family - was to play bossa nova. So I recently discover bootleg YouTube music videos. I figured I could use it to stare at the player's fingers and go from there, but the *&%$^!! cameraperson keeps cutting away at crucial moments. There are two chords in particular of which I've figured out the flavor (more or less) but not the inversion.
But by now I am really good at gently shaking my head and wrinkling my forehead in particularly expressive sections. Give it a listen. It's Joao Gilberto doing "Estate" - an Italian song from a movie I haven't seen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

revisionist history

I had a guitar lesson today, squeezed in the few hours Coco is in school. Because of the timing I brought the guitar to the dropoff and was promptly asked by the teachers if I'd play for class. Lamplight hog that I am, I said, "Sure." Maybe I'll play the kid favorite, the B Major scale. They'll love it. Or, "This is a little ditty I call 'tuning the guitar.'"
But I figured maybe I'll learn "Puff, the Magic Dragon," since the Willie Nelson songs I know are probably over their heads. I might just do Moe Bandy's "It was always so easy to find an unhappy woman (till I started looking for mine)." It'll make them drown their sorrows in their juice boxes. Or, since I'm just kind of musing along as I type, take some Country songs about drinking and just put in "box" for "glass." I might be on to something there.
Anyway, the post's title refers to my memory. I have fond, happy memories of the song, "Puff." I also did of the movie "Roman Holiday." For some reason I think I just forgot the endings of both. I'll refresh yours for "Puff."

A dragon lives forever,
but not so, little boys.
Painted wings and giant strings
make way for other toys.

One gray night it happened:
Jackie Paper came no more,
and Puff, that mighty dragon,
he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow,
green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play
upon the cherry lane.

Without his lifelong friend
Puff could not be brave
so Puff that mighty dragon
sadly slipped into his cave.

[Everybody (sniff, sniff): Puff, the magic dragon, lived...]

I'm not sure I can do it without choking up. Really.

Back to "Sad Song and Waltzes (Aren't Selling This Year)."

more reads

Somehow I forgot to post last night, in the middle of limericity.
Oh, well. Here's a poem I ran across recently - in the collection I found on the street:

Shake and shake
The catsup bottle.
None'll come -
And then a lot'll.

It's by Richard Armour. Remind me to look him up later*.
The title is great, too. It's "Going to Extremes."


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I'm trying to avoid a punny title like "Twain is meet" so I'm sticking it here.

With Julie out of town I read more and am making some good progress on my pilgrimage with the innocents, abroad.

In a very circuitous way, I was reminded to look at a short story of his, where I found this line:

No real gentleman will tell the naked truth in the presence of ladies.

Hee, hee. All over the place, you find hee, hee in his writing.
So I was surprised to find him use a "lightning bug" word in The Innocents Abroad. If I weren't teaching the SAT course, I would bother posting about it, but I might bring it in to class.

About eighteen or nineteen hundred years ago, Saul, a native of Tarsus, was particularly bitter against he new sect called Christians, and he left Jerusalem and started across the country on a furious crusade against them.

See, it's the word "crusade." Unless you're a Christian of some ilk or stripe or wood or whatever you can't really be on a crusade, can you?
Oh, well. It's still a great read.

Coco Tuesday

Part two of the dentistry adventure is over and now it's up to Coco whether we'll have a part four or whether part three will just be an extended adventure. This time, he told me, he didn't want to cry and therefore he didn't.
Having seen two procedures up close now, I'm fairly confident I can just do this at home with a Dremel tool kit. Father's Day has to happen sometime, right? So why not get crafty.
Coco gets to watch a movie of his choice when he's there, which is really a joke because his eyes are closed most of the time and between the constant chatter of the dentist and the occasional grunt from Coco and giggle from the assistant at a wisecrack from Daddy, there's not much to get.
I suggested that the dentist carry Marathon Man, but nobody got the reference. Oh, well.
Coco is a convert to daily brushing and flossing, though, so that's one benefit.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Madge Monday

I dare you to read this wihout scratching your scalp.

The third grade has an instance of lice.

See, your scalp is tingling already, isn't it?

Madge came home with instructions on how to find and treat/combat head lice. Fun stuff. Honestly, though, poor kid who has it. Another half a year with the therapist.

fun read

Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad.
In my strange Wiki-knowledge I think I remember that it is his first big seller, the book that established him as a public figure. Since it sounds plausible, I'll go with that.
Essentially its a story of what is now called "ugly Americans," but it is funny enough that one might forgive them. Here is an example:

We are camped near Temnin-el-Foka -- a name which the boys have simplified a good deal, for the sake of convenience in spelling. They call it Jacksonville. It sounds a little strangely, here in the Valley of Lebanon, but it has the merit of being easier to remember than the Arabic name.

When I read it yesterday, I snorted a little, out loud, on the train. Admittedly, I was tired and my defenses were down, but I still contend that the book as a whole is very amusing. And even, at times, informative.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

parent-teacher talks

We had our summit conferences today. Turns out we're all more or less on the same page. The teachers seem to think the kids are great. So we've got them fooled so far.
See, the system of segregating "home words" from "school words" works.
At least something does.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Finally it's not me

On the way to school I overheard an irate kid and exasperated mom.
She obviously told him something he couldn't grasp and she didn't have the time to explain just before drop-off.
Here's what I heard.
Mom: No, honey it has a "d." It's a card. It's hard to explain.
Kid: No it's not. You said race car. YOU SAID RACE CAR!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Coco Tuesday

Oh, man.

We went to the dentist last week for a cleaning and a checkup. The dentist found a cavity in one of Coco's teeth and Coco and I went back today for an x-ray and a filling.

Well. The x-ray revealed not one, but eight cavities.


We really need to have health insurance cover bribery as well, this is going to cost me a fortune in toys. Not to mention the jealousy toys for the big sister, who is starting to think that a few cavities might not be so bad, considering the payoff (buyout?).

Monday, March 10, 2008

Madge Monday

In parenting it can sometimes help to have broken a leg twice, broken a thumb, torn a ligament and gone through various other physical mishaps. For example, when Madge said, "How do you know my foot's not broken?" I could calmly and knowledgeably respond, "Because you can stand on it without yelping."

And yet

I let her stay home today as long as she kept her foot up.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Not Nice

And yet I can't help but chuckle when I think about it.

One of Coco's friends recently got a scooter. He was riding it at the playground, down the sloping path. It was getting late and the mom was caught in the danger zone of a tired, obsessed kid. Any mention of home would make him crankier and crankier and yet everyone except the kid knows that tiredness+crankiness=lessened coordination. The inevitable happened: he lost balance and slowly tilted more and more and finally fell. No real damage. He was going slow and wearing a helmet. Still, tears and howling were called for, everyone agreed. The mom and I were trying not to chuckle to audibly because we had witnessed the slow-motion horror in the kid's expression.
Harmless enough.
But then. As the kid was howling and running to his mom, it happened. Apparently he was so distraught that he had to run with head tilted back and eyes squinted shut. And, about two steps from his mother's arms, he veered too far and caromed off the park bench.
And now the tears were justified.
As, I venture to say, is my glee.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

more kid things

Madge and the other kids in her grade survived their first big math test, one that is needed to promote to the fourth grade. Apparently it was scary enough for some kids to be in tears, others, to lose sleep. Madge was nervous enough to want to sleep in our bed.
She's big now, so I slept on the couch.
Coco is being extra emotional. Tonight, as a reward for the test, we watched the Polanski version of Oliver Twist. At the end, when Fagin is in jail, Coco cried. Turns out he thought Fagin was a better dad to Oliver than the adoptive gentlemen.
Subtle observation.
I'm sure, if you were to research Dickensia (or whatever the academic branch is called) you'd find more than one paper on father figures, and a few discussions on Fagin as idealized father.
It wasn't Coco's first tearful outburst of the day. I think he's getting his first period.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Coco Tuesday

When I picked up Coco he came running out of the class, crying. In between sobs I made out that his best friend's big brother is going to kill him, according to the best friend.
This best friend loves to bring toys to school and then loans them to Coco at the tail end of a playdate. One of these toys was still at our house and, well, the threat or sinister statement or whatever you want to call it was made.
Poor Coco, that he actually believed it. Really. Sobbing. "I don't want to be killed!"
It's cleared up, but I'm not sure he doesn't think the older brother incapable of the act.
(Are there enough negatives in the last sentence?)

Madge extension

Yesterday, though titled Madge Monday, was really Coco-heavy, so here's something to make up for it, as told by Julie:

So how is a parent supposed to respond to a conversation starter like “My shoe fell in the toilet today”?
This was said very matter-of-factly, I might add.
My brilliant response? “Do you need new shoes?”
I didn’t even think to ask how it happened. I’m more concerned with the fact that my daughter seems willing to wear a shoe that fell in a toilet. That her best friend had just peed in.
See, apparently, Madge was kicking at her best friend under the bathroom stall at school today and her shoe just happened to fly off and land in the toilet after her friend was finished. Luckily, her friend is a good sport and fished said shoe out of the toilet. When asked if she had told her teacher what happened, Madge scornfully replied “NO!” as if that were the dumbest question ever. Instead, she simply rinsed the shoe off, dried it with a paper towel and went back to class.
So I guess I should be happy that she’s not a princess and is the smart, resourceful, practical girl she is – but part of me (the part that loves Nordstrom and the shoe department at Saks – well, who wouldn’t love a shoe department so big that it has its own zip code?) keeps thinking, isn’t this a GREAT excuse for a new pair of shoes? Hmmm… I wonder if I can try this at work tomorrow.

The thing that Julie still doesn't understand is: why isn't this girl trying to get at least one new pair of shoes out of this event? If not two in order to have a spare in case it ever happened again.

And, for those interested, here's how it happened. Apparently Madge was doing some karate kicks under the stall door at her friend. Madge's shoe flew off, the friend ducked and... splash. And here's the kicker (so to speak): the FRIEND fished the shoe out of the pee. The friend is obviously a keeper.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Madge Monday

We got to go to the dentist today.
Both kids got a cleaning and a checkup. I got the bill. Something for everyone.
While we were waiting, a kid came in, drinking a can of soda. Gutsy.
Madge enjoys the dentist because the filling she had done was with laughing gas. This dentist does novocaine, so Coco won't be as lucky. There's a soft spot in one of his teeth. Surprise, surprise.
After the dentist visit we went shopping. And, I'm not kidding, this is what the kids put in the basket:
chocolate chip cookies
sweet pickles
cinnamon bun mix

I managed to talk Coco out of soda. He chose fizzy water instead. We also put back the gummies. But I get the feeling I'm fighting a losing battle.