Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Vomithounds: You Better Be Good, or You'll Be Gone"

(methinks this gel has a vomit habit)*

Earlier this week, Girl was suffering from an undiagnosed Fever 'N Ague. We knew she had a high temperature. We could see her glassy eyes and flushed cheeks from our vantage point across the room, safely out of germ-jumping range. Plus, we tossed her a thermometer when it looked really serious. And we could sense something respiratory this way coming. She was hacking frequently and the point that Monday morning she hacked up the contents of her stomach right onto our bed at 7:30 a.m. Then she paused, coughed some more, and did it again.

On the best of days, I am not a morning person. I should not be asked to operate kitchen appliances, find clean underwear, brush my teeth, or become at all vertical before, say, 11 a.m. Most of all, I should not be asked to deal with vomit on my down duvet before, um, ever o'clock.

But life is out there, as are sick kids, and so, after popping in some toast, diving into some Hanes, scrubbing my gums, and, yes, lurching upright in the process, I patted Girl's back and told her once she felt better, she could bike that soiled duvet down to the drycleaners.

Oh, all right, so actually I hollered for Groom, and we spent a few hasty minutes wiping up ravioli-shaped chunks of Spewed Kid Tummy before I rammed the duvet into a plastic bag and toted it out to the Camry, where it sat steaming (despite subzero temperatures outside) for 9 hours while I was at work, until I deposited it--holding the bag with a tongs--at the drycleaners.

At any rate, Girl's epizudy was later diagnosed as yet another round of strep, compounded by a chest rattle known medically as Crazae Lungum Germinus. Five days later, she's now finished her course of antibiotics and has re-entered the swirl of humanity (in a statement of social justice, I took her to a McDonald's Playplace when she was barely non-contagious and let her touch *everything*. I even had her lick the slide).

So we're all good.

And then tonight, twenty minutes after we ditched him into a bed of stuffed animals, Wee Niblet showed up in the tv room, interrupting our nightly date of BIG LOVE (Season 1 finale, no less) and huge bowls of posole. With a tear-streaked face, he attempted a guilt trip: "I cawed and cawed for you, but you didn't come. I phrewed up in my bed." As he spoke, a waterfall of vomit slid off his footed-pajamas, onto the floor.

"Honey, Mommy's going to need a minute to finish her beer first."

One big chug of Viking Pale Ale, and the Vomit Action Team was back in swing, with Groom handling the laundry while I stripped and re-footed Niblet, before feeding him ten grapes ("I phrewed up because I was coughing so much. Now I'm a weetle bit hungwy. For somefing soft. And do you wike the monsters I made today? Out of cardboard?").

In short, we're not sure how to dress during the Season of Vomit. Maybe chic Glad bags would be most practical, and if we wear them belted and with leggings, they could pass Red Carpet muster, I'm sure.

Somehow, though, I'm in a "Go ahead, World, and Hurl All Your Vomit My Way" type of mood right now. And it's most assuredly not because I'm watching a rerun of Ludacris hosting SNL, either. It's because I have a new musical love, and he has made me vewy, vewy happy.

If you have a couple of minutes, watch this fun exercise in acoustics.

I would clean up vomit with Fionn Regan any morning.

Even at 6 a.m.

If he did all the work.

*(photo from loafdude at

Monday, January 22, 2007

"I'm Only a Paper Loon"

Most days, I don't think enough. I just kind of put the car in drive and let it take me places. Or if I'm in the kitchen, and I see a Cheerio on the floor, I instinctively bend to pick it up. Sometimes I eat it. Sometimes I put it in the freezer, without knowing why I have opened the freezer. Three days later, I will open the freezer and wonder who put a Cheerio in there. Further, if I am attempting to dress myself, I don't reference a Garanimals-like chart or follow some sort of law of coordination. Generally, I open the closet door and spy something. Apelike, I mutter "Blue." After laboriously searching for the armholes, I put it on. If it turns out to be wool sweater, and it's 80 degrees outside, I then wonder throughout the day why I'm hot. Finally, I think we all know that if I have a sense that a three-headed parasite may have taken up shop in my innards, my response is to wonder why Chuck Wolery's gameshow hosting career took such a dive after Love Connection left the air.
Indeed, there's an elfin autopilot in my yawning blue sky of a brain who does a fair amount of random navigation for me.

Yet other times, I clearly think too much. I can spend long minutes trying to ferret out where my six-year-old learned to read the word "prehensile," when she has just learned to decipher the word "Wendy's" on a billboard. Hours have been devoted to trying to figure out both where Waldo is and where in the world that phantom Carmen Santiago has gone to now. I have been known to take two hours of my time to berate authoress Jody Picoult in my head for being such a terrible writer yet having convinced a large reading public that she's profound. And I have been known to agonize for thousands of seconds over just the correct, um, how you say it?--oh, yes, "word" in a blog post.

But today I experienced a moment where my tendency to unthink and to overthink came together in a harmonic convergence. The little autopilot in my head strapped himself in and forced the plane down one of my brain's intellectual runways, and before I knew it, I had spewed out some kneejerk verbiage that was unadulteratedly dumb. Like, DUM.

So I was at work, standing in line, waiting for my turn at the Xerox machine. As I loitered, I made painful smalltalk with the person who was using the machine. I began to ask him, "Is there any colored paper in here?" when my tongue stopped, frozen by the possibility that my word choice could be construed as racist, at which point my lips veered another direction and queried, "Is there any paper of color in here?"

Sure, this moment is no big deal, either way. But I found myself backing away, suddenly free of the need to make 50 copies of "How to Use Evidence When Creating An Argument," worried more that I'd find myself asking Groom for "that afghan of color" before the week is out.

I mean, Sweet Lindsay Lohan in a Vodka Bottle, why did I feel the need to be PC about *paper*? Even when the Origami Laws of the 1930's were in effect, the fuschia sheets were still allowed to ride in the front of the bus.


You may be stacked in separate reams, Goldenrod and Peach, but you've always been equal in my paper-loving heart.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"Bite Me"
This much is a given: I need to lower my body into a large vat of rubbing alchohol and remain suspended there for some minutes.
What has not yet been decided are the logistics of the lowering. Obviously, I need some sort of harness, right? And while I suppose a bathtub could suffice as the vat, I'm afraid I may need a submersion tank with greater depth (I need a Ted Koppel-type tank, not just the Matt Lauer easy-dip bathtub). Do you think David Blaine has any equipment he's not currently using to enter a state of hibernation and non-defecation for three weeks while promoting the Target brand?

See, here's the thing: since getting back from Guatemala (did I, um, mention we went to Guatemala?), my right hand and now arm have been developing some suspicious bite/wart/mini-third-nipple type thingies. First two little bites popped up on my thumb. They didn't phase me; I named them Madison and Cody and painted little matching outfits on them. Then, approximately 40 hours later, two inches down on my hand, up popped Auntie Clementine, looking suspiciously like the twins. But denial exists for a reason, and so I soldiered through another 41 hours until Uncle Festus came out to set up a lemonade stand on my wrist.
I'm giving it just another 40 hours. Or 80. Or at the most 120. But then, most certainly, I'm going to face this marauding horde and take them to the vat of rubbing alchohol (trust me, I've already tried the ingestible stuff, and neither Pumpkin Ale nor Riesling is anti-biotic enough), whereupon we're going to play end-of-the-school-year carnival dunk-tank, like in the finale of GREASE, during which John Travolta in his new letterman jacket dunks the teacher who is responsible for his imminent summer school make-up session.
Sure, others among us--let's call them Wusschester United--would go to the doc. Trust me, the fact that I inadvertently put my toothbrush under the tap water two times in Guatemala and drank pop containing non-pure water ice cubes leads me to think I may actually have some sort of doc-suitable parasite (we've all seen TREMORS, ja? I imagine such wormy beasts under my skin, laying their eggs, snaking around my veins).
Then again, I may just have a workaday case of pest infestation. However, if you've read this blog back far enough to remember when a bat moved into my house, you'll know that I don't suffer any infestation lightly. I often take to the bathroom for hours upon end, where I enjoy unfettered weeping and agitatedly rearrange the tampons into small village communities.
This particular infestation, though, doesn't make me feel weepy. It just makes me feel scratchy, as in "I got this huge paper cut on my toe, slathered it in honey, and then jammed it into an ant colony on the savannah for twelve days" itchy.
As I peruse the Walgreens to see how many bottles of rubbing alcohol it will take to fill the vat, and as I scratch the whole family of bites to infernal bloodiness, I harken back two years to when I was pretty sure I had fleas.
We hadn't been on any cross-contintental dashes, and we didn't have a pet. Of course, I might've picked the fleabies up from a shrew, vole, rat, or leashless dog (all the creatures with whom I have daily involuntary contact). With the fleas, the itches got to the point where I couldn't even sit and type, much less grab the remote control at night to tune into THE APPRENTICE and scream at what a weenie Donald Trump is.
All I could do was scratch and scratch; my skin was covered with bites--around the ankles, up to my knees, around my waistband. I was in a constant state of being about to scream, like cresting the highest peak of a roller-coaster called the Entangled Entrails.
During Flea Infestation 2004, I tried really hard to be rational and relevant in daily life, but I just couldn't stop scratching.
Maybe it wasn't fleas. Maybe it was hives. Or maybe I had scabies. Or chiggers. All I knew for sure is that all attempts at heightened personal hygiene (I even washed the sheets, and it wasn't even February) resulted in more scratching.
Most definitely, I was glad my husband was already committed to our gig as a lifetime dealie, or I'd have been certain that I was about to be alone forever, just me, my fleas, my big crocheted rainbow-colored poncho, my John Travolta tote bag, and a lot of bus rides up and down Superior Street to the city bus transfer station, where I would spend my hours, scratching and whimpering, alone in the middle of a crowd.
So today, as I sit scratching, instead of looking up the doc's phone number, I find myself searching for enough change to hop on the bus, where I will be among My People.
Public scratchers of the world, gather 'round. And then strap on a harness. The vatting won't be gentle, but won't it feel good when those top layers of skin peel off for once and all?
Host no more!

Friday, January 12, 2007

"Ah, Sweet Relief"

About six years ago, my dad was staying with us for a week. After a few days, I saw a post-it note stuck to the front of a book he was reading. Naturally, because I am governed by a set of conveniently-flexible boundaries, I went right over and plucked it off the cover.

In my father's handwriting, it said:

"What this house needs:

TV trays

This note is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, it reveals a lot about my dad and his needs/values. Even four years after his death, I imagine him sitting in his big loung chair, an afghan draped over his skinny shoulders as a shawl, a tv tray next to him, supporting a box of Kleenex and the remote control. When it was time for Jeopardy, I was free to join him, but I wasn't free to interrupt or to lurch towards that remote on its stick-legged, blonde-wood island. His entire existence was predicated on the items in that post-it note list.

Secondly, the list reveals what was *not* important to me at age 33. My nose didn't run much; I didn't need small tables that could escort me around my house; and I was generally lit from within by a warm spiritual afghan.

Six years later, I find myself here, tonight, with a tv tray next to my bed (gotta prop the latest Ayun Halliday book on something), blowing my nose repetitively as I hack the last of Guatemala City's pollution out of my respiratory system, huddling under three fleece afghan-like blankets (our tv room thermostat currently reads 58 degrees. We are damn cheap, even when it's torturously cold outside).

At any rate, it would seem that my dad's post-it note was rather Nostradamuseun in its forecast of what I would need. As an homage to my dad, I give you now my post-it note for the country of Guatemala.

"What Guatemala Needs:

A few roads that aren't built entirely on a curve. The occasional straight bit of asphalt, allowing for speeds exceeding 45 miles per hour, might keep first graders from vomiting and turning pale at the very notion of getting into a vehicle that could, even by accident, start to move down one of those roller-coaster highways.

On a related note, some emissions standards wouldn't hurt. All those diesel fumes pouring into following cars are enough to make anyone take out an empty popcorn bag and hold it in front of him/herself for a three-hour drive, just in case of a fume-inspired yackattack.

Fewer firecrackers. I can tolerate the exhuberance for fireworks in general--heck, viewers never know what explosion of color will blossom forth next, and what is life without mystery?-- but firecrackers give no visual bang and simply serve to keep awake unwitting visitors to the country for hours and hours and hours. And then another hour.

Again on a related note, the country could use more rooster casseroles, liberally sprinkled with potato chips. Roosters, as a rule, should die. I realize most of them are pretty tough and sinewy, so the casseroles might involve some complex slow-cooking of the bird (flavored with a bay leaf) in a crockpot first, but such labors are worth the end result, which would be no more roosters crowing at 4 a.m., even though the sun won't arise for two more For-the-Love-of-the-Sandman hours.

Natives who do not worship all things American, and by this, I mean Folgers coffee and chain restaurants. Indeed, Guatemalans themselves do not think to purchase or drink Guatemalan coffee; Folgers strikes them as the prime choice. And we learned, when we treated a native preschool teacher who had showered us with kindness to a birthday dinner, that her reaction to our urgings of "No, really, you can choose any restaurant in the city. Whatever you like. Don't worry about expense or convenience" was to run through the posh-est possibilities ("Em, TGIF is good. So is Chiles") before landing on the best she could imagine, "Oh, yes, Pizza Hut for sure."

Drunk people who pass out instead of managing to hang onto consciousness all night long. Those who stay awake while inebriated feel compelled to crank terrible, bass-heavy music starting at 2:45 a.m. and ending half an hour before the alarm to get a travelling family off to the airport begins its beeping. Conscious Guatemalan drunks are unerringly able to choose music that is only heightened rather than diminished when an intrepid visitor goes so far as to turn on a fan and put earplugs in. Conscious drunks manage to sing wildly and off-key for a minimum of four hours, deaf to the sounds of the quiet weeping of the neighbors, audible through the thin walls. And without a doubt, as is the case in every reported story of conscious drunks in said country, such wired drunks have guns and love to fire them protesting, banging on the wall, or slipping a note under the door is unadvisable. Indeed, dear Guatemala, my heartiest wish for you is that your drunks stop carrying guns and start passing out after three sips of your terrible 3.2% Gallo beer."

Photo: A Guatemalan Kleenex, which could be draped over an unconscious drunk


So would it really be so much to ask, O Hospitable Guatemala, that you straighten your roads, lessen your pollution, drown your firecrackers, kill your poultry, promote your tamales, and hobble your drunks?

On the other hand, if you did, you'd be a whole lot less fun. Uninterrupted sleep and functional lungs are the province of the passport-free.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Stop Trying to Chop Off Your Sister's Head with Your New Toy Axe While She's Vomiting onto the Floor of the Shuttle"

So we did it. Guatemala hosted us well and remains intact, despite our tear across its kidneys. All in all, I'd say we had a near-perfect two weeks there, particularly considering our respective ages, the ever-present noise of cars, birds, firecrackers, and drunken revellers, and the kids' certainty that they would never, ever eat a corn tortilla. Oh yea, and considering that Girl got car sick for the first time in her life during a four-hour shuttle ride (and, yes, her berserker Viking brother did try to Anne Boleyn her during the regurgitation).

More shall follow in upcoming posts, but for tonight, as it's late and I'm revving up another semester starting tomorrow, I'll just smack y'all with this unabashed photo-log--a visual greatest hits, as it were. Here and there, the photos are in chronological order; the randomness and lack of strict order are my homage to the Guatemalan custom and character.

I bought everything you see here. Plus a lemonade.

This volcano photo, taken from a moving shuttle, is blurry due to the speed of the van. And the vodka in the lemonade.

We visited Xocomil, a waterpark. I know. I know. We went to Guatemala and visited a waterpark. But in our defense, I'll say that it was perhaps the most "native" thing we did there, as we were just about the only gringos there, and this park was built by the Guatemalan Workers' Association. Little-known fact: Guatemalan workers really dig ginormous turtles.

Up 'til now, I haven't used photos showing faces much, but I guess I'd like to make the point that we were actually there, and I didn't just get a passle more photos off of, as in my previous post. Plus, I like to document each day that I wear a black bra. So here I am with Girl and Wee Niblet, who discovered that his legs didn't work (he must've contracted polio from the pools at the waterpark) on this, the trip where we walked everywhere, all day long. Here is my solution. First, I tied him to my back. Then, when he really made me crazy with his refusal to pedal his own 45-pounds of pudge, I tied him to a chair in the hotel room.

I can't even tell you how beautiful the textiles are. I probably don't need to. But I can tell you that they are even more dramatic and bright back here, in Minnesota's dreary January. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder should just drape Guatemalan fabrics over their heads for three months of the year.

Here are two guacamaya. Translated: indigenous birds that like avacado sauces.

With so few green spaces in Guatemala City, they close down a main boulevard for a few hours every Sunday, during which time every blasted person puts on rollerblades and/or brings out his/her four-year-old on a bike with training wheels. Or, in our case, puts the three- and six-year-0ld in a goat cart.
They DO eat green eggs and ham, by the way, dear Sam I Am. They eat them in a boat and with a goat. And in a cart.

We bought this table runner for our in-laws. I'm pretty sure my husband is their favorite son now.

Check out this shop featuring wooden masks and, um, big rat pelts.

We visited my sister's "American Style" school one day. Here, you see Groom asking some students if they'd like to supersize their education.

Look! Cloth! And it's hanging!

My sister reads way supermuch, bigmany good books to her kiddles. I want her to be my kindergarten teacher. She is my own Miss Bindergarten--although she's not freakily anthropomorphized, as is that particular kiddie lit heroine.

These busy workers are drying, turning, and stepping directly upon the coffee that will be featured at your local Starbucks in two weeks.

I so much like this devil dude, who holds court in the Mayan Cultural Center outside of Antigua.

I'm pretty sure this photo of bananas is upside down. This is what upside-down bananas look like.

Here's a typical street in Antigua. Check out them cobblestones. Now picture all the women in the city wearing three-inch mules around town while simultaneously carrying their groceries on their heads. I am possessed of a luggishness that makes me unable to imagine such feats of coordination.

This is the hallway outside our hotel room in Antigua. It did not suck.

Back to the coffee. You know how you seek out and covet "shade-grown, organic Guatemalan beans"? Here they are, being grown. Add to the packaging: "composted with only the best trash."

Pwitty, pwitty fabric.

This tight little vehicle saved me from throttling Wee Niblet many-a-time. It's called a Tuk-Tuk, and we took-took them all over. We're considering opening up a Tuk-Tuk business in our own town now. Who doesn't need a three-wheeled motorcycle with a comfortable cab area?

After a long day of hitting the market stalls in Panahachel, we needed to cool down our tootsies in Lake Atitlan.

Yea, cotamundis (Wee Niblet calls them "locamotis") freak me out, too. After admiring it in the nature reserve outside of Pana, I sold the pelt of this one to a wooden mask store.

Trash + coffee beans = a $4.50 latte.

Spider monkey, spider monkey. What I wouldn't give to have had evolution let us keep those crazy tails.

Look at this business. It's water. Falling.

Here's our hotel in Santiago Atitlan. It was idyllic. Then, a hundred yards down the road, there was a huge field of trash coffee plants.

I've got to practice standing up in our canoe this summer. A few good capsizes will only help the kids master the breaststroke. And they can look for the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald while they're down there.

I should have taken more photos of food. I love food. I loved this food. It was eggs in tortillas, and I have that food all the time here in the States. But it's much more glamorous when you take a photo of it. And the fruit was killer good, except the papaya, which tastes like poo.

I was uncommonly taken with this field of cabbages. Cabbage is too-oft neglected. The leaves would make great Dr. Scholl's footpads, for instance.

The Kiddles would follow my sister anywhere, even down a dusty rural path, next to a cabbage patch (she had just explained to them how the stork is a big myth and showed them where they really came from).

Wee Niblet croaked at me seventy times that he wasn't tired and then did this. I like him so much when he sleeps. Plus, it's easier to tie him to the chair when he's limp and unconscious.

Upon our return home, we found that our neighbors, who had kindly not ransacked our house or made off with the silver in our absence, had assured themselves lifelong good karma by leaving a rosemary chicken dish in the fridge, a loaf of bread on the counter, and a bottle of wine chilling. I will be more than happy to shell out thousands of dollars on plane tickets from this moment forward, now that I know it means someone will have scampered into my house and left Chardonnay, thereby saving me the long drive down the road to the bottle shop.