Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Human Genome

At the breakfast table, John comes across the following headline:

"Washoe, chimp who signed words, dies at 42.
Female knew 250 words, taught others."

The monkey got four columns.

"A bigger obituary than I'll get," sighs John. "Trumped by a monkey."

Hey, you and one billion others.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The High End Offspring I'm Producing

Isn't there always a last minute change to children's Halloween costumes? The one item to top off the perfect look or the last minute switch? Once Stryker (as pirate) couldn't move on without a hook; Scarlett switched from Caddie Woodlawn to jockey just last night.

This year it's Merrick's turn to require that last minute addition. What does my little ghost need to supplement?

"Find me a shot gun and a beer bottle!"

Who knew?

Home Schooling

Nifty educational tools for conversations on two of those delicate topics, sex and drugs. Click on the links to the right!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Scarlett's New Trick

She can't be alone. Not ever. Not for an inhalation. Not for sneeze nor sniffle. Yes, she would love for someone to watch her pee, brush, chew, sleep, scratch. She wouldn't get out of bed this morning. You heard me. My 9 year old refused to get out of bed.

She didn't go to school.

I spent the day alternately flabbergasted and ambushed. One minute I'm mired in introspection and despair, the next I'm commandeered. "Mom!!! I see that I'm alone! Where are you!!?"

Then I remembered the poop. When Scarlett was three, she decided to stop pooping (she'd been out of diapers well over a year). "Mama, I'm never going to poop again."

After about two weeks, we started dribbling caster oil and prune juice over her food. She stopped eating. At three weeks, she noticed her water tasted strange (that's called a laxative, honey!). She stopped drinking.

I brought our starving, dehydrated, constipated, tummy-distended child to the Emergency Room where she got an IV for fluids and an enema. Don't even try to imagine this.

When we got home, she said, "Mama, I'm never going to poop again."

This time, after 14 days I called someone smarter than God, our Early Childhood and Family Education teacher, Saint Atonement, even though it was summer and this woman was on her well-deserved vacation. I told her the story-- how Scarlett wouldn't poop and how we were trying to intervene. Actually, normal life had ground to a halt long ago. We lived on the potty.

Without hesitation, Saint Atonement said, "Three is a big time for individuation. This could just be her attempt. Ask her who is in charge of poop - Mom or Scarlett."

I asked. I stood in the hallway, out of view, while Scarlett was in the bathroom killing time. Hey, kiddo, who is in charge of your poop! Casual, like 'how's the weather in there?'

"You are, Mama. You are in charge of my poop."

I am now on the floor, tallying future psychiatric bills and ready to rip out my own bowels. But instead, I do what I always do under parenting duress. I behave exactly the opposite of my own self -- I channel Saint Atonement. My voice is a melody of calm, simultaneously caring yet professionally disengaged.

"Scarlett. You are in charge of your own body. You are in charge of what goes in, and what comes out. Nobody can force you to fall asleep, poop, pee, or eat. You are in charge. I have my own body and I'm 100% separate."

Pause. "Oh," she says. And she poops. Flushes. Comes out and asks for crayons. And never, ever does that again.

Later, I recount the entire exchange to Saint, hoping to get a grip on Scarlett's psychological fate.

She contemplates, then whistles. "To control a bodily function like that. What will. You have to kind of marvel at that kind of will. It will be interesting to see how things develop."

Why aren't I writing about the other two?

Hey, I'm Talking!

Remember the Rodney King verdict? How riots and mayhem and civil discord instantaneously erupted after the LA police got the big 'not guilty' pat on the back--54 people died. Racial fault lines were exposed--fault lines that still tremble. Big national deal. History.

I was sitting in the recording studio at Minnesota Public Radio, being interviewed by then Mid-morning host Paula Schroeder. An essay I had written was in an anthology and the LA-based editors were on hand to promote the book, as well.

We were in the midst of the interview when the Rodney King verdict broke. Schroeder started doing quadruple duty, holding together our interview thread while listening to one million other sources and breaking for live news every five minutes. The book editors were panicked. This was before the standard cell phone; they used a valuable MPR line to check in on friends and family back home.

Finally, Schroeder succumbed. "This is too big," she apologized, and ended the interview.

The editors stayed, rooted, listening to the news in horror. Reporters ran at a fevered pitch. And I stewed. Just when I was really the center of attention. Just my luck.

The horrifying thing? I still feel that way.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Anyone know some clean and tidy Republicans? We live one hiccup away from the site of next year's Republican National Convention (you know, where the losing candidate will be nominated).

We'd like to rent out our house to some of those out-of-towners. Seriously! We've put one of our well-connected Republican friends in pursuit of the appropriate people. We'd prefer sedate and settled. No Young Republicans or College Republicans. More like clean and tidy --- even bent and shuffling -- people not prone to party.

St Paul home owners are getting 10, 20, and even 30 grand for renting their houses for a week. That kind of windfall would finally send us on that trip to Brazil we've been threatening to take for years.

I know we should be housing the protesters instead but that group couldn't even get us to Duluth.

Call me pragmatic --or more accurately, visionary, except with an eye toward three kids in college rather than some noble cause. I signed up for Google Ad sense today, too.