Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving Blackmail

Thanksgiving morning, I woke up, stumbled out of the bedroom, and found Mark muttering to himself over a collection of baby diapers, baby food, baby toys, baby blankets, and three baby bags.

"There's too much food," he said. Arthur's recently started eating pureed winter squash. "I can't fit it all into the food bag," he said.

"Put all the food in the diaper bag, and put the diapers and clothes in the toy bag," I said.

"What about the toys?" he asked.

"We don't need that many. Put them in the food bag."

I don't know where this early morning wisdom came from. Normally I'm a stumbling wreck for about ninety minutes, my morning shower, or a Pepsi (whichever comes first). I must have been channeling some domestic goddess. (Reading this over my shoulder, Mark remembers a different version of the morning.)

Then we went off to Thanksgiving at my folks' house. I made up for my earlier lucidity by forgetting to bring the snack crackers for horderves.

I wasn't sure what to expect this Thanksgiving. I thought it might be extra weird or overly Anne Geddess. But it wasn't. No one was late, the turky didn't need an emergency thawing, no one read symptoms of food poisoning from a book, the oven didn't blow a fuse, we didn't have to cook the meal on a camp stove outside on the deck, the potatoes didn't burn, no one got slimed by a garbage disposal imitating a gyser, and we didn't get snowed in. All of these things have happened in the past, so I'm a little disappointed things weren't a little more exciting. In fact, the only thing that we've discovered is that a certain unnamed relative needs to clean up their language in front of the baby.

I was thinking that if this certain unnamed relative (you know who you are) were to pay me not to reveal their name on this blog, then I could turn around and ask my readership to make a counteroffer. I suppose that I have to wait until after the holiday season.

Besides, Mark and I have discovered that there's a lot of artistic material we have to lock up in the grown-up trunk. That and we like humor that's just plain wrong. So; good-bye Avenue Q, Company, Camelot, A Chorus Line, Once Upon a Matress, Hairspray, if not all of our original broadway musical soundtracks and a bunch of our Madonna CD's. I don't have a problem saying, "Arthur, it's OK to sing 'you can be as loud as the hell you want when you're making love' within a context of an artistic performance at home, but not everyone likes the same art you do." But Mark just doesn't want phone calls from a school principal.

I guess we'll have to get a replica of Michelangelo's David for our family room.

Saturday Mark went into work, so Arthur and I went to the local Holiday Market. It was fun. I like the Market, all though every year there's the same old same old. Arthur, however, went just about bonkers looking at all the lights, the sparkly crystals, the cat paintings, the dicrylic jewelry, the stain glass, the wooden toys, and everyone.

I walked around the place for about two hours while he looked at everything, squealed, and jumped around in the baby bjorn sling. He also started babbling more; he did the same thing after a September wedding. Mark thinks that our voices talking to him have become a kind of background noise, and other people talking to each other is new somehow.

The weird thing was that we made a lot of new best friends. Arthur was happy, so instead of talking about what they had to sell, the merchants launched into the Oh What a Beautiful Baby aria. I should be grateful that they don't scowl and throw things, but I still think it's odd when people try to touch his head. At least Arthur was too high up for children under ten to reach him. Arthur babbled all the way home, and then passed out for about three hours.

He had so much fun, I convinced Mark to come with us the next day. This time Mark wore Arthur as we went from stall to stall. After the first merchant performance of "Oh What A Beautiful Baby," Mark leaned into me and whispered, "You're right, people are strange around babies."

We didn't buy anything. Well. OK. One tie-dye sock for Arthur to hang from the mantle with care. And something secret that Mark says I'm not allowed to write about until after the holidays.

We've poisoned the cat, and now she's toxic. I hadn't realized how much she rubs herself all over everything and tries to make us pet her. OK. To dispel the image of a zombie cat lumbering all over the house muttering, "Pet me... brains..." we didn't exactly poison her; we put Advantage Flea Death on her to kill some fleas. Although, it is kind of horrible to have her trying to suck the oxygen out of the room all the time.

Muriel seems to know that she's toxic, and now waits until my hands are full feeding Arthur to jump up on the couch and try to sit on us both.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Pre-Thanksgiving Report

We just got back from a week in the Redmond, Oregon area.

We got to see lots of stars and watch the moon. It was great to be above the inversion that covered the Willamette Valley in rain and smog. The place we stayed had a wonderful eastern view, so in the morning we had the sunlight streaming through the windows at 7:30, and each dusk we watched as the moon progressed through fullness, moving thirteen degrees each night away from a ruby Mars. The eastern windows were a refreshing change because our house in Eugene has a nice southern exposure, and we tend to see the noon and midnight sky ( and trees block our views to the east and west).

Mark, Arthur and I hiked around the Descutes river, and also the Metolius.

Mark didn't stay the entire week, but when he was gone my folks came up and also some writer friends. The writers got a lot of writing done. My folks watched Arthur for large swaths of time, and my friends made sure he didn't roll into the fire or play with razor blades.

While away, I made some discoveries.

  • The next house we live in has to have a dishwasher. Anyone who doesn't like dishwashers obviously doesn't value their time.
  • I tend to discover my story plots intuitively; a strong visual image or interesting idea grabs me and I try to work it into a story. This way of writing works if I have large blocks of time. I need to develop plot outlines to maximize the creative process.
  • The Discovery Channel will teach you that 1) a large rock from outer space could strike Earth and extinguish all life on the planet any time now; 2) a fault running off of the Pacific Northwest could trigger earthquakes and giant killer tsunamis that could destroy cities from Seattle to San Fransisco any time now; 3) weather patterns that govern the earth's climate could cascade into a new ice age that make your heating bills really large any time now; 4) electromagnetic energy from cell phone towers can amplify the psychic energy of a home so that untrained sensitives can create their own, very scary poltergeists out of their repressed, negative emotions.
  • Although dating shows now feature (very young) gay men competing for a chance to date each other and earn cash prizes, it hasn't changed the fact that people on dating shows are really really mean.

Mark and I have come up with some new infants' books.

Shapes with Spot: "See Spot's triangle? Spot's triangle is pink. Spot's pool is oval. Spot's pool boy is a mesomorph."

Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You Hear?: "Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What do you hear? / Well, I hear that Mrs. Jones two houses over is having an affair with the postman. / Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Jones, What Do You Hear?"

Arthur discoveries.

Arthur has no teeth. This doesn't prevent me from asking him (too many times, according to Mark), "Are your teeth bothering you?" whenever I can't figure out why he's crying. Or drooling.

Arthur has object permanence and he knows what a fork and a french fry are. Arthur was fussing during dinner, so I put him on my lap as we ate. The look of betrayal as the french fry sailed over his head and into my mouth was so funny my dad nearly died laughing.

Arthur has discovered his toes. They are almost as fun as the teething ring.

Arthur can now bring both of his hands together to grab things.

Arthur's hair looks like it might be red. Then the sunlight will change and his hair looks blonde. His eyes are still blue.

Arthur prefers shaking a ring of plastic measuring spoons over shaking a knit hat; probably because the spoons make more noise. (Yes, he shook the spoons first, then the hat, then went back to the spoons.)

Arthur is beginning to grab things. This afternoon Mark was speaking with Lime Green Larry and Arthur took the phone from him. I don't know how a five and a half month infant can wrest a cell phone from a forty-something gay man because I was washing dishes in the next room. See; if we had a dishwasher, I wouldn't have missed this precious moment in Arthur's development.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

New Tricks

Arthur has some new tricks.

The first trick is that he'll wake up about 10:30 PM and be very awake. Then he'll start babbling. He'll babble a lot. He's obviously telling us something, but we don't know what. We try to encourage him to fall asleep by laying him between us with the ceiling fan on. Mark breathes deeply and relaxes. The fan blades turn, and behind them the shadows of the blades turn on the white ceiling. But Arthur just looks at them and talks to himself while we try to fall asleep. It's like bedtime stories, only in reverse; the baby is telling the story and keeping us awake.

Arthur has been on semisolid food for about two weeks. We didn't have to teach him how to eat. By the third time Mark held up the spoon laden with rice formula, Arthur was imitating a baby bird.

Arthur's other tricks involve rolling around. So far he can only roll onto his stomach. He also scoots around in a way that I haven't figured out yet; I'm pretty sure that it's not teleportation, but I'm not sure.

Arthur really likes the cat. A lot. He wants to pet her. He's only grabbed her once. We're trying to teach him sign language for 'cat.' Muriel is pretty good natured about it all.

His final trick is bonking himself with his plastic, multicolored rattles. He'll grab the rattle and start waving it up and down, repeatedly bashing his forehead. Sometimes if he doesn't have a rattle, he'll use his hands. So far he has not bonked the cat.

Today I went to Sweet Life. I'm always trying to explain things to Arthur, and anyway, I was wearing him in the Baby Bjorn, so as long as I have to pass my wallet in front of his face as I grope around for the money inside, I figured I'd make it a learning experience.

"This is money," I said. "It's legal tender. It doesn't have any real value, but we all agree that it's worth the time daddy put in at work or for material goods. If we were in a barter system I'd have to give them you, but I'd get a lot more truffles."

The cashier wasn't sure if it was OK for her to be amused or not.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

It Just Got Worse

OK. It's happened again. I might have to change the route I take to the library.

I was pushing Arthur in the pram along 10th street on my way to the library. I stopped on the corner of 10th and Charnelton, and there was this guy. He was sort of tall, he wore a brown corduroy suit, and his beard, which started about halfway down his neck, was bushy and gray. I stopped so as not to block Charnelton and waited for the pedestrian light to change.

He stopped short of me. Looked at me. His body language was like a deer about to bolt. I sort of smiled and adjusted the piles of blankets on Arthur.

The light changed.

As I started to cross the street, the man spoke.

"You hungry?" he asked.

"Uh," I said. "No. Oh, no." I continued walking. "Um, thanks for asking."

I looked at my reflection in the plate glass of the library as I walked to its entrance. Tall, salt-and-pepper beard, grey-green cloak, clean hair in a ponytail, clean shoes, clean pants; I look like a homeless person? I thought.

Later, in a cafe, I was having a friendly conversation with two guys. "Arthur's your son, right; not your grand..." I must have given him The Scowl "...son."

I hate this town.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Viorst Syndrome Sets In

The other day when Mark came home, he found a bunch of bibs, stuffed toys and baby bottles on the couch. "It looked like the remains of an infant drinking party," he said.

There are things hanging from our ceiling. Granted, we tied them to the rafters, but as I look around I realize how many of them are primary colors. There's the mobile of platonic and archimedian solids, of course; but there are also yellow and orange fish, blue birds, a sweater closet organizer filled with baby clothes, and a yellow sun thing with jangly bugs hanging from it. The soft-sculpture changing table mirror is sitting on a chair with a large Amazon Forest frog on top of it (I don't want to look too closely at what the frog is doing).

But I think the final straw was this morning. As Arthur dangled from the sling across my hips, I nearly dumped the cordless phone receiver into the filling washing machine. I don't know how the receive got into the baby's dirty clothes hamper.

Clearly, our house is suffering from Viorst Syndrome. So I think we need A), to have more adult company threaten to visit us so the house stays cleaner; B) Thom Falicia to help us find snappy little storage bins that double as benches; and C), a cleaning service.