Monday, September 24, 2007

Neologisms Abounding

Tyke: Mom, what's a malevictorian? (valedictorian)

Yay! I really love this one. He has outdone himself. It's so evocative, making images rush into my mind. Immediately I think of Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Jack the Ripper, Frankenstein, the grave-robbers of Edinburgh, Rasputin--the list could go on and on.

BTW, that's the incomparable John Barrymore as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in the 1920 film of the same name. Swell!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yet Another Tykeism

Again, Happy B-Day, Tyke.

Tyke came home with his graded "Nature of Science Survey." He got a check plus. I think, in a way, his teacher was giving him a lot of credit which he might not have deserved. The survey was designed so kids could agree or disagree with the statements, and state reasons for their opinions. All of his other answers were clearly sound, but this one was fishy:

Statement #3: Imagination and creativity play an important role in the work of a scientist.

Tyke's answer: Yes, because if Thomas Edison didn't have the creativity to make a light bulb, it would be dark today.

Uhhhm, no, Tyke, but sort of.

Also, for background of why this is funny to us, you should know that we used to live in Corning, NY, home of the fabulous Corning Museum of Glass. The first Edison light bulbs were mass produced in the Corning glassworks. My kids could tell you anything about the history of glass. They used to want to go to the museum every single weekend (which we could do for free just by crossing the main street, being employees of said company), and we used to get private tours by the wonderful curator on slow weeks. His name was: Mr. Starr! And they loved that, at the end of the tour, he would give out little smooth glass blobs from his seemingly infinitely deep clownlike pocket. And once he gave them a big blue glass star, which they still have.

Thank goodness it isn't dark today. Thanks for the creativity of scientists like my DH! And thanks to Thomas Edison, and to Corning, too.

Happy Birthday

Today is Tyke's birthday. With each year I feel his strong tug AWAY from my apron strings, and I feel sad. He's my little sweetie and I don't know how I'll manage when he turns into a teenager, which is somewhat close to around the corner. He's already talking teen-speak and the purty girls flock around him and call him on the phone all the time. Sigh.

In his honor and in honor of his specific request, I baked a chocolate cake with frosting. But I am the world's least skilled baker, being the oddball in our family who does not care about either sweets or chocolate. In order to cook something really well, I need to imagine an appetite for it.

Later (when I get time) I will post a picture of the ill-formed cake. My poor kid. He watched me make it and has already laughed heartily over it. He was bribed to cease; I let him have the shaved-off, unlevel cake top as well as the left-over frosting.

I am notorious for failed cakes. Sometimes I have to stay up all through the night to bake a cake over and over again until I get it right. And I rarely even bake a cake from scratch. I can't even get a MIX right! Not so this year; but, still, it's humiliating. I once made a huge sheet cake for my grad school class in honor of the birthday of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was an albatross, indeed. It was from the first attempt at this cake that I learned my apartment oven was not level. Then, on the second try (after figuring out the leveling problem), I dropped the cake. The third was a charm, however, and the ship and albatross were real works of art. But lord was I tired after that all-nighter.

When I was in high school, I decided to make a special birthday cake for my dad. I planned it well ahead. But Dad's birthday was in July, and at the time I lived in California with no air conditioning, and it was hot. I baked the cake but did not know how long I should let it cool. I kept checking, but the darned thing just wouldn't cool down. Dad would be home soon and I was on a deadline, so I frosted the thing earlier than I should have. I left the kitchen, and when I came back just before Dad got home, I found an Earthquake Cake. First, the top layer had slid halfway off the bottom layer and part of the way onto the counter. Not only that, but it had opened up in three directions on the top, like a volcano or something. In any case, it was a true freak of nature.

Anyway, long live my little Tyke. We have put the cake in the refrigerator to avoid further weepage and sinkage and slippage and who knows what other atrocities of pastryhood.

That reminds me: in grad school my DH had a French housemate who frequently phoned his grandmother in France. She was from a different part of the country than he, and thus spoke a slightly different dialect with different inflections. One time I remember him calling her and he said to put the gateau in the refrigerator, and she went ape, thinking he was telling her to put the cat in the refrigerator. Long live the cat! Long live the gateau! Long live the Tyke!

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Thus begins a very long preamble to a story that perhaps will not be as long as the preamble.

Sometimes stupid things happen to me that are just so unlikely and ridiculous and inexplicable I want to jump off a cliff, hide under a rock, or ask the powers-that-be for a big do-over. Like the time my suspicious next-door neighbor's overly ebullient golden retriever escaped the yard (because the NEIGHBOR had turned off the electric fence), and very heavy but stupid young dog came over and nearly bounced me to death, including biting my butt and making a hole in my pants, and in order to ensure the dog's safety and to keep him out of the street, I chased the dog, caught him by the collar, and took him back to his own front door. And looking all torn up and disheveled, I said out of breath to the neighbor, "Here's Bowser. Because he thought I was playing, he was a very haphazard runner and hard to catch. And by the way, he bit my butt, and wrecked my trousers, and knocked me down, and I'm hurt!" And the neighbor looked at me as if I had nefariously kidnapped his stupid dog and had been planning to hold him for exorbitant ransom and I deserved every minute of attack, chase and pain. With menace in his eyes, he stood back from the threshold and said, "WHAT are YOU doing with MY dog?" Returning him like a good neighbor would, you asshole. Because YOU turned off your invisible fence.

Apparently in his world there was no such thing as his making such a mistake, so in his mind there could be no other explanation for this event than my having done something clearly evil. It couldn't be him, so it must be me.

And his wife operated in the real world with a very similar illogical mind. There was the time when she--a genteel, perfect Southern lady who always had a new haircut and manicure and was like a militant Martha Stewart craft mom on steroids--called me up nearly weeping because she had heard (how?) that I was having a dinner party and had not invited her and hubby. "First name, do you HATE ME? Because I heard you were having a party and didn't invite us, and I can't imagine what I could have done to you to deserve treatment like that. Sniff." I remember how hard it was not to cackle and snort. To her perfectly polite Southern mind, no sane woman on earth would dream of not inviting the neighbors to a planned party. She had always invited us, and quite frankly we usually didn't go. BECAUSE THESE PEOPLE WERE NOT OUR FRIENDS.

So I had to explain to her something I'm not sure she was able to wrap her blessed little mind around: Our dinner party did not include her or any other neighbors or any friends because my DH was a new manager of a new team at work and the event was exclusively for his team and they would be talking about highly proprietary work information. I am quite sure the neighbor thought I was lying. Well, go weep into your big puffy homemade tissue paper flowers.

Anyway, these are situations that I could never have seen coming. They don't make sense at the time or later and all you want to do is yell, "This isn't what it LOOKS like!" They're permanently daffy, and there's nothing anyone or history can do about it.

Thus were a couple of my vacation circumstances. I don't get it. But apparently I had a bizarre sleeping accident.

We were renting a very nice cottage at the Cape

and we slept in an enormous skylighted room with a queen bed. Because DH has life-long back problems due to athletic injuries, we have not slept in a conventional bed in 18 years, but this one (at first) seemed quite comfortable. For most of the week we were rested and didn't get sore backs. What I did notice, however, was that if only one of us was in the bed, it was very comfortable, but if both of us were in the bed, a mysterious sink-hole would develop toward my side. A couple of days before we left, DH got up to go to the bathroom. I was sleeping on my left side clinging to the left side of the mattress (as you would sleep in it, not as you would look at a bed from its end). I had learned to cling so as to avoid the intermittent sink-hole. When DH came back, the chasm opened up and I was jerked right into it and forced to roll over hard onto my right side. And I heard and felt a snap-crack and shouted in pain.

And, Reader, I believe I fractured a rib.

That's right. My rib is broken, or something between ribs is badly sprained, from a sleeping accident.

I'm not even going to bother talking to my doctor. If I explained what happened, I would see her face wiggle in little bunny attempts not to burst out laughing, and then she'd probably suspect I was lying and we'd get embroiled in some ridiculously wrong-headed, trumped-up and absolutely false abuse write-up. It's so pathetic, and so not plausible, but believe me, I was there and that's exactly what happened, and I'm still in the substantial pain to prove it. I was considering the possibility of raging osteoporosis but I'm not that old and have had frequent density tests and, hah-hah, I'm still sufficiently dense to rule that out.

For the past nine days, I have not been able to cough, sneeze, or laugh. Do you know how hard that is when you are a flaming asthmatic with allergies and a funny family? Torture. It's also really bad because asthmatics need to cough to keep their lungs clear. Coincidentally, I have to go to a pulmonologist tomorrow, so I have no idea how I'll weasel my way out of the spirometry and cough tests.

In a fairly unrelated, but equally stupid incident, just after we got home and started unpacking I was standing in a wifty pose (read: "thoughtful") in the kitchen with my arm bent and my hand near my collarbone when #1 Son charged in to give me one of his signature awkward surprise displays of affection (ASDAs). Said son is fairly huge at this point; he's quite a bit taller than I and he outweighs me by more than 50 pounds. He's a big barrel of a boy and will be a whopping solid bear of a man. So he came up behind me and grabbed me hard in a shock hug (around the ribs, ow!), and in reflex I jerked my hand up, and in his brute strength he jammed my arm against me, and he made me slug myself just under the collarbone. This was not fun at the time but didn't really seem to hurt the whole night it happened--certainly not as much as the squeeze around the ribs, which set back the healing to square one.

The next morning I almost couldn't get out of bed. It felt as though I had slugged myself with a spear clear through the chest and shoulder and out the other side. In subsequent days, I couldn't sleep on one side (ribs) and couldn't sleep on the other side (shoulder/collarbone).

In my closed little mind there is no such thing as a bizarre sleeping accident, nor is there involuntarily slugging myself so it feels like I've been in a car wreck. Who knew? Apparently these things do happen. I'm sure emergency-room doctors have collected reams of better, more scintillating examples. (Note to self: Look for book.) Mysteriously escaped neighbors' dogs can bite you on the butt in play and their owners will treat you as though you should be put away in jail, and you can break a rib and pierce a shoulder doing absolutely nothing. You just never know what might be lurking around the next mattress. No--wait a minute--that doesn't sound right. That locution itself was an accident.