Thursday, December 27, 2007

“The Meathead”

Although it’s not January 6th yet, I’ve had an epiphany.

You see, I got to enjoy a revelation this past Christmas week.

It was not a star, a star, shining in the night that drew my focus.

There was no Baby Haysoos in a pile of hay what got my attention.

It was not the fact that the best sales stampedes commence at 6 a.m. on December 26th that made me lurch out of my prone position.

Rather, my eye-opener, my spine-tingler, sprang from a spontaneous moment of generosity out of one of my neighbors. The giver? Generally, he’s an asshat of a wankiedoodle.

In the three years that we’ve lived next door to The Wank, he’s never held a conversation with me about anything but himself. I know his high school hockey team’s winning record (25 years ago); I know where he buys his cars and why they are superior to all other vehicles; I know that he treated himself to a Rush concert for his birthday this year. About me, in return, he knows two things: my name is Jocelyn (in his brain, “Jawsslin”) and—more importantly—I live next door to him.

I would expect such constant self-absorption from someone who’s younger. But he’s 42. I would expect an inability to give and take from a confirmed bachelor, from someone who’s lived alone for three decades, someone who eats his tv dinners with his best friends, the cast of HEROES. But he’s married with two young kids.

However, despite being surrounded by people who need him, he’s engineered his life so that he remains the Star of His Own Stage and Screen. He doesn’t so much talk to his wife or, you know, really look at her. He’s never helped bathe the kids or put them to bed. How could he fit those activities in when there’s guitar playing to be done out on the back deck and when there’s woodworking to be done in the garage?

Wank has mad avoidance skillz.

Annoyed with his character as I am, I generally do the gradual backwards-easing-foxtrot-of-‘I-think-I-hear-one-of-my-children-losing-a-finger-and-thus-must-dash-now’ when he tries to engage in random Wank dialogue about the color he’s going to paint the trim on his house or how he’s been using a new hair-growth-stimulant to fight off the balding.

But he got me the other day. And I was revelated. Epiphanized.

No, he didn’t suddenly prove to be a man of depth and intuition. He’s no Charlie Rose. He’s no Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s no John Stewart.

Not that I have an obsessive crush on any of these uniquely-gifted and strangely-attractive warlocks of lust. Their names randomly—completely without forethought--popped into my noggin. It has nothing to do with the precise intelligence and raw, animal magnetism that rage through their pulsing beings that make a girl weak from elbow to knee. So stop asking, ya big Nosey Nellie.

I was talking about Wank, you’ll remember, and he’s just a lummoxy dolt, not the leader of a talk show or a country or my heart.

Yet this douchebag swayed me in the palm of his hand, gently, for just a minute the other day. And I have to admit, his charm was completely raw and animal.

See, I was over at Wank’s house, chatting with his long-martyred wife, when he entered the living room. Somewhat apologetically, he asked, “Hey, so do you guys eat meat?”

Pretty sure this opener was his way of launching into a story about a bratwurst he had eaten one day during Open Lunch in middle school, I nodded warily. Hell, I eat meat like Amy Winehouse snurffles white powder and wanders around the streets in her bra in the middle of the night. Neither of us wants to be rehabbed for our little problem. Just give me a tender steak and a firm foundation garment, and take your mewling concern elsewhere. We’ll be fine, Amy and me. Just fine.

But Jerk Neighbor actually had a point:

“So I’m really good at bartering. I mean, once I got a cap put on this tooth right here [insert finger into incisor] for $20 after I gave a guy an adjustment,” Chiropractor Wank continued, paying no attention to my tightening body language. “And I just made a killer barter today: one of my clients paid me in half a cow. It’s really good beef, too; it’s grass fed, so it’s all tender and stuff. So, even though I shouldn’t be trying to pawn off meat on you guys, would you want some?”

I waited a beat. Then another. Waiting. Toe tapping. Waiting. Waiting for the price point he was going to assign to the beef in his basement—“and only seven dollars for a ribeye, but I’ll make it two for twelve for you guys.”

It turns out I was waiting for a number that never came.

Instead, Wank clarified, “You’d actually be doing me a big favor if you took some ‘cause I can’t get the freezer closed. You like a roast? I’ll run down and get you one. Just hang on.”

Snap it if he didn’t come back two minutes later toting a plastic grocery bag weighed down by not only a roast but also two T-bone steaks and a pound of hamburger.

Twittering, futzing, shaking, I crumpled to the floor in a faint of delight. Then I laid there for awhile, sopping the tears off my cheeks with my collar. After that, I mentally rewrote my will, making Wank the beneficiary of one of my great-grandmother’s landscape paintings. Next, I lifted up the skirt of their couch and noted all the toy remnants living under there; they had set up a makeshift village and elected Buzz Lightyear mayor.

Finally, I heaved myself up and, with trembling fingers, clutched at the Bag of Beef. I tossed out a few “Hosannahs on the Highest,” kowtowed a little bit, and muttered my thanks in five languages as I stepped out their front door and turned, ebulliently, to cartwheel and fa-la-la my way home through the snowbanks (never once releasing my grip on the Dead Cow of Profound Joy).

While beef is definitely my bag, Christmas never really has been. I don’t respond well to the pressures of expectation and tradition and ritual. Plus, in junior high, I really wanted Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album, and even though I put it on my Christmas list and hung that list on the fridge, I didn’t get it. In fact, I never really got anything off my list; I just got a bunch of clearance junk, the cost of which roughly equaled the price of Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album. Common sense says I should have stopped making lists and deadened childish hope, but instead I decided to start dreading Christmas.


Then, this year, with clouds parting and a ray of sunlight spearing down towards earth, Wank gave me the Bag of Beef.

It was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten. It was unexpected. It was spontaneous. It suited me to a T (-bone). It was thoughtful. It was specific to who I am. It reminded me that people are always more than they seem.

His unanticipated, uncharacteristic gesture--completely bare of snowman wrapping paper and a big silver bow--managed to deck every single one of my complicated maze of halls.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Hollyday Wishes"

Wishing you and yours a dry sofa in 2008.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Shaking the Magic Google Ball"

I've been socked this week by a stack of research papers, student yowls, and end-of-semester freak-outs. So the writing time? Very small. You know what that means, right? Memetime, lads and lassies!

Thanks, Lone Grey Squirrel, for inspiring this meme: typing my answers to the following prompts into Google Image and then choosing a photo off the first page that pops up. Images are the perfect antidote to a week when I am tapped out and my words are--how you say it?--not having way.

Photos it is.

1. Age at My Next Birthday:-

I'll be the cost of sending you a piece of junk mail. Hell, I am junk mail.

It's not the size of the dream, my friends. It's the quality.

2. Place I'd Like to Travel:- Bulgaria. I heard they have soup there.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral stands near the center of Sofia. It is dedicated as a monument to the Russians who liberated Bulgaria from nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule in 1877-78.

3. Place I've Been:-

Akureyri, Iceland

The thing about Iceland is the towns have swimming pools in the schools which are open to anyone, including travelers; these pools are heated thermally, by local hot springs.

I should have gone to high school in Iceland. My pours would have been thermally tightened, and then all the fellas would have been clambering to take me to the Winter Formal.

4. My Favorite Food:-

I'm full of suprises.

5. Place where I was born:-

Billings, Montana. I drank a lot of beer on those cliffs (known as the Rimrocks or "Rims"). One time my cousin, Luke, was so drunk he fell a couple hundred feet off one of 'em. My dad got to put on his trench coat at 3 a.m. and go bail him out.

I miss my dad.

6. Place where I live:-

Duluth, Minnesota

We're all about bridges, ore boats, and splashing.

7. Name of Past Pet:-

This is Professor David Dandy of Colorado State University. I wish our poodle had been named Professor. Or David.

But if we'd shaved Dandy really close, he'd have looked like this guy--although maybe a tidge less manic.

8. Best Friend's Nickname:-

"Groom" wore no jacket, tie, or boutonniere when we got married. But he did wear a vest.

And that's all he wore.

9. My First Name:-

As if Blogger Jocelyn would ever strike "The Liberty" pose in a gym full of seething hormones. Instead, I keep my posing restricted to home base, where I've perfected the high-flying Hand on Remote Control stunt.

10. My First Job:-
When I was 10, Mrs. Baker across the street came flying over, breathlessly telling me she had to go pick-up her older child from an emergency situation, but her 10-week-old baby was sleeping in the house...and she needed me. She needed me for money. Thus, a twenty-year career in babysitting was launched.

And if you don't want to count babysitting as a "real" job, what with the non-taxed pay, then this was my first job: The summer when I was in 8th grade, the Pepsi Company of America ran a promotional contest, where drinkers of their beverage could, upon opening a can of fizzy sugar water, check the pulled-off tab (not like this new-fangled one in the photo) for a letter of the alphabet. Players of the game would then collect letters on tabs until they could spell out words ("S-O-D-A") or, for the ultimate prize, a phrase...something like "Pepsi Rocks the World." Woefully, the Pepsi Company Factory of America made a little error and printed, instead of a handful of tabs with the elusive "R" (the letter that would bring about a big-money win), about a thousand of them.

For you math majors out there: a thousand x Big Money = A Quathwajillion of dollars. The Pepsi Company of America did not want all those "R" letters hitting the public. So I and a couple of my pals were paid to sit in a warehouse and open pop cans, eight hours a day, for weeks, our eyes trained for "R"s.

I never did find an "R," or surely I would have pocketed it and would now be sitting in my mansion that cost exactly one quathwajillion of dollars.

Instead, I sit in my modest home, grading my 44th research paper on "the obesity trend in our fast-paced society."

Apparently, my students inform me, we Americans drink too much Pepsi.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Arc of Some Skivers"

In the fall of 1985, my mom dropped me off near the little town in Minnesota where I would be starting college.

Fortunately, my aunt and uncle lived at the spot where she stopped the car, so it wasn't like I was left trying to hitch a ride to campus or anything. Mom had a meeting back in Montana the week my college experience commenced; thus, she dumped me on my aunt and uncle a little early with instructions to "ditch the girl at the dorm next to the smelly ponds sometime next week. Oh, and here are her sheets, size Extra Long."

They heeded her words, and a week later, Sheets and I were deposited at an imposing cinderblock structure on an otherwise bucolic campus. After the goodbyes, I felt as many freshmen do: a little excited; a little bewildered; a whole lot lonely. I tried to act confident and cool as I blasted my cassettes of Howard Jones ("OOOOH, what's love got to do, got to do with it?") and bought new highlighters, accoutrements which would, I hoped, help me decipher my HISTORY OF EARLY MODERN EUROPE textbook. Who was this Balzac, I wondered, and would covering his life story with bright yellow marker make it more meaningful?

Essentially, I was bewildered and adrift.

Gradually, though, that business of hanging in there and faking it did pay off. I met some people, and we flirted with each other. Pretty much, they all lived in my dorm. On some levels, they affirmed my feelings of worry and inferiority, for they were Big Smart, well-traveled, and accomplished. In comparison, I felt Just Smart Enough, provincial, and a touch hayseed.

More importantly, however, they affirmed my worthiness. They thought I was funny; they invited me to sit under their tapestries and listen to The Replacements; they wanted to go in with me on a late-night Domino's double cheese pizza. Together we wrote (in highlighter) own new history. They transformed me.

Now, twenty-two years later, these pals from college still rock me like a hurricane. After graduation, everyone cast about for careers, spouses, homes. While we threw our voices into the greater world, this college crowd also continued its common thrum. I was with some of them the first time they got drunk. Later, I was with them when they got married. We've carried each other through divorces and the deaths of parents and the joys of babies being born. Damn it if these people haven't turned out to be found-siblings that only cost our families about $30,000 per year in tuition to discover.

Along the way, there have been times when our closeness has waxed. Then it's waned. For a few years, I thought some of the relationships were gone, that they'd shriveled beyond repair or care.

Now that I'm forty, though, I sit at the vantage point of a queer maturity: I can see the larger arcs of friendship. It came as a big life lesson to realize that even when a relationship has seemed dead for some time, it can still be revived. What I sometimes thought was belly up had simply gone dormant. With the slightest puff of air, we always resuscitate completely.

Hence, when many of us gathered a couple of months ago to celebrate the birthday of one of our luminaries, it was a true celebration--and not just because there were little hors d'oevres of butternut squash soup served in shot glasses and shrimp tacos and scallop empanadas and free wine and Red Velvet cupcakes and itty spanikopitas.

It was a celebration of longitudinal camaraderie.

And buttercream frosting.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

"Wax On; Wax Off"

In the past week, my mid-sized burg has received upwards of a foot and a half of snow. In other words, I've already had my Christmas.

Snow, to me, is a gift. I love that junk--slippery, light, heavy, cold, transmuting, crystalline; it satisfies my Myers-Briggsian ENFP need for change, as it takes the entire world around me, covers it with Abominable Snowman vomit, and makes everything seem different and new and worthy of attention.

Plus, snow means skiing. And, hypothetically, I love skiing.

Since we didn't leave the house so much during my youth in Montana (but, man, did we watch us some Family Feud!), I only took up cross-country skiing when I was 29. In my mind, then, that was last year, even though a closer look at the calendar might reveal it to have been 11 years ago.

When I started skiing, I lived in Southern Minnesota, where the strongest adjective that can be applied to a hill is "undulating." As well, I didn't know anyone else who skiied, so I pretty much winged it when it came to buying equipment and technique. Suffice it to say, I went "novice" with both. I learned to slide a little on short, wide, waxless skis. Shuffling along, I zip-a-dee-doo-dahed and looked at deer and squirrels at the local nature center. They looked back at me. It was all very "Disney on Ice," except no one came along and took a rifle and blew Bambi's mom's head off while I shooshed by.

A decade later, my equipment and ability were still stuck at novice. I had met and married Ye Olde Groom, a Norwegiany type who had been on skis from age 4 (admittedly difficult during the summer months, but, amazingly, he still managed to swim, eat corn on the cob, attend the State Fair, and learn to cross-pollinate corn, all with a pair of Rossignols strapped on). He'd even competed as an individual in cross-country skiing at the State tournament during high school. Having held a life-long anti-jock policy (killer premiums), I had to take a great leap of confidence to allow such an experienced athlete into my life, much less to allow him to lay eyes on me attempting to ski. The first time he watched me barrel down an icy hill, he was typically kind, applauding the fact that I had stayed on my feet, smiling joyfully, the whole way down.

I confessed that my face, pulled back by the G-force of the wind during my uncontrolled plunge, had been frozen into kind of a death grimace.

Nevertheless, I benefitted from the tips he gave me. But then, a few months later, we started running the Kid Gig, and that meant tag-team parenting, which, in turn, meant I was back to skiing alone, my technique petrified. Two winters ago, when we finally took the financial plunge to buy me some new, waxable skis, it was my will that became petrified. While my hope had been that better equipment could help me take that leap into becoming a better skiier, the actual result was that better skis highlighted completely my inability to ski. Those old, waxless skis? They'd obligingly hidden my lack of know-how. However, genuinely slick skis caused me to cry, panic, and then crumble out there on the trails. They went really fast, and I didn't want to go really fast. I had rather cottoned-to skiing like an 80-year-old priest, it turned out.

So now I'm all about rationalizing my way into situations where I need to use my old, comfort skis. The newer, excellent skis sit largely unused there, in the corner; they've taken up crocheting. I may get a lovely scarf out of my neglect. Instead, I either make a case for the temperatures being too cold or, um, too warm for me to deal with waxing my hot-shot skis. Barring that, I have decided to cultivate an enthusiasm for back-country and river skiing, pursuits that require wider, hack-em-up skis and virtually no understanding of how to use the poles or hit a rhythm. I don't even mind the spots with frozen waterfalls, where I have to take off my skis and huck them to the top and then scramble up after them. I'm never a better skiier than when I'm holding my skis and tossing them away from my body.

Oh yes, I'm a rhapsodic river skiier. Today, I twittered out for my first river ski of the season. Sure, it's been cold, but the season is still in its infancy, and the subzero temperatures have just settled in, so as I departed, I tossed a quick, mostly-facetious, "Hope I don't break through" to Groom.

Forty minutes later, after zig-zagging past and over myriad patches of open water and burbling holes, I had, indeed, broken through at least five times. The first time a five-foot slate of ice crumpled below me, causing my being to drop a foot, I squealed like Angelina Jolie spotting an Asian orphan. I didn't get wet, though, and since I know the creek I was on isn't particularly deep, I kept going. And breaking through.

After a bit, one of my skis was caked in two inches of ice and would no longer glide. I was snowshoeing on skis on a semi-frozen creek. But, hark!, there was a birdie. Tweet, tweet, little birdie. Look at Jocelyn here, being a skiier!

Crash. Down I went again. On about the sixth whomp through into the still-running creek, my one ski had become a leaden popsicle, weighing me down. I did a weird little wet-in-a-frozen-creek version of the hokey pokey and finally managed to extract that iced-up paw from the waters below.

Since the whole point of my venture had been exercise and relaxation, and since I was feeling decidedly weighed down and anxious, I did the logical thing: I took off my skis and climbed up the side of the little canyon to the road.

It was an agreeable toddle back down the road to my car. During my walk, I considered the ambivalence that marks my relationship with skiing. I have a bit of a complex about it, what with living in an intensely-accomplished outdoorsy community. I would like to be good. I would like to hang with the big guns. I would like to be able to stop screaming in my head when I have the sticks strapped to my feet.

Odds are, that isn't going to happen. What does satisfy me is knowing that I'm doing it and that there is a certain grace in trying. I don't come from a tradition of "getting out there." Yet I'm getting out there. In the larger context of my life, the fact that I even own skis is a marvel. The fact that I willingly take them onto thin-ice-over-running-water somewhat cavalierly is nothing short of miraculous.

As is the feeling that my kids will grow up free of my athletic demons. Although I will fail them in other ways, and they will grow up to discover they lack other skills they wish they had, I can at least snarl at them in the middle of a future argument, "Listen. You know how to ski. I gave you that. So hesh up, Little Miss 'Why Can't I Play the Bassoon When All the Other Kids Can'!" (that's generally how I talk to the kids, incidentally)

For right now, when they are young, and my feelings toward them are uncluttered with too much annoyance, I can simply call it a miracle: thanks to a community program called KidSki, my kids will always find skiing natural.

Tomorrow is the first meeting of Kidski for this year. It will be Girl's third year and Niblet's first. Already, they've been in the yard this week, tootling around merrily on their skis. Niblet spends most of the time on his back, skis to the sky, eating snow. Girl, however, whips around the house in gleeful loops.

This is Girl, two years ago, when she was five.

Here is her Kidski class, the same year.

Groom built a "digger sled," which can be pulled while he skis. We took Girl out on the river with it one day, a couple seasons ago. She refused to set even one boot in it--because she insisted on skiing instead. Of course, she got all frustrated and had an enormous meltdown out there, and we had to threaten to leave her there in the snowy woodlands to grow up a feral child, raised by wolves, speaking like Jodie Foster in Nell, before she stopped her fit and allowed us to take the skis off her feet. But, hell, she wanted to ski that badly. I would have been in the sled in a trice, were I her. I was in the sled, in fact, as we waited for her to wind down, the crazy little snitter.

Girl skis across a plain of caved-in creek ice. It's always good to send out a child as a "test balloon" first, when the strength of ice is in question.

I could have used her today, as I broke through repeatedly. In her absence, though, I plowed on, gave up, and hoofed it back to the car, mentalling marveling at her easy confidence, her free-wheeling joy, on skis.

I don't get it. But I sure do admire it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"From the Mouth of Dinko"

A few days ago, my new blog pal August, smitten with my irrepressible boy, challenged him to answer the Vanity Fair questionnaire that's been making the rounds.

Wee Niblet, aka "Dinko," has subscribed to Vanity Fair for years now--two of them, to be exact (the subscription came about during potty training, as he put in long hours of work on the little plastic seat; The New Yorker, with its endless pages of theater productions and show times, tires the preschooler set, so Vanity Fair it was). Thus, he was flattered and happy to rise to August's proposition. Plus, Dinko has just added "C-A-T" to his literacy repertoire thanks to the PBS show Super Why! , so he was thrilled to have a public forum in which to display his new knowledge.

And now I must wipe a tear from my eye as I, Proud Mama, present Baby's First Meme:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Watching Donald Duck have a snow fight with Huey, Dewey, and Louie; I almost wet my Tyrannosaurus Rex pajamas, I was laughing so hard at those cheek-wheezers.

What is your greatest fear?
Our basement. I can only go down there with someone else, and I have to say loudly, "There is no monster down here, for hear me? NO MONSTER" as we head down the stairs.

Which living person do you most admire?
Porky Pig. S-s-s-s-s-eriously, folks, it was like I saw myself there on the screen when I first spotted him. I lead with pink pudge, too. He's coming to lunch next week, if I can get the peanut butter open for some sandwiches.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Poop. The fact that I can't open the jar of peanut butter by myself. But you should see me cut up Playdough with a pastry blender. Now that's plorable.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
When they refuse to try on my new paper-mache beanie; they are scaredy C-A-Ts.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Sleeping through the night.

On what occasion do you lie?
When I pretend I didn't hear my sister say "I'm sorry," just so I can tell on her. My mom would love for me to be bi-lingual, but that would mean I'd have to learn to say "butthead" in Spanish to describe myself.

That sounds like a lot of work. So I'll continue to be an occasional butthead in English only.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
That annoying fourth eye sometimes causes me to walk into lamp posts.

What is your greatest regret?
I didn't ride my tricycle more during the summer of '06.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My mom. And her soft tummy of Love and Comfort. No one can compete.

So stop trying, Dad. You can go make dinner. We'll be here on the couch.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Being a professional lasso thrower.

What is your current state of mind?
Humming. My mind and mouth hum all day long.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I'd have wings and a retractable whip growing out of my hand and X-ray vision and a real live baby dragon.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Making it through seventeen minutes of the Bee Movie.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Buneary, a cutie Pokemon.
Or maybe a snow plow driver.

What is your most treasured possession?
My beautiful and glamorous fake-real yellow crystal diamond from a booth at the Home Show. All people want this because it is very, very expensive, like $2, and it is a diamond, and everyone wants my rare and exotic crystal diamond.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Seeing the scarecrow's head rot.

Where would you like to live?
In the bed with my mom.

In the future, it could be on a therapist's couch.

What is your most marked characteristic?
When I'm hungry, you need to feed me. It gets really ugly, really fast otherwise.

Who are your favourite writers?
Mo Willems; Tedd Arnold; Ruth Stiles Gannett

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
I listen to Junie B. Jones in the car when we drive around, and she makes me laugh all the time, like Wowie Wow Wow. When she thought her new baby brother was a real, live monkey, I about dropped my juice box.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Did you know my sister can ride a two-wheeler and is really good at spelling?

What is it that you most dislike?
Dressing myself. I kind of refuse to do it. So far, it's been a pretty effective strategy.

What is your motto?
"I have a really great idea..."

Favourite journey?
The one that ends at Target. They have a whole section of Pokemon cards and Ben 10 toys there. I can push buttons for an hour before I need to go to the restaurant area for a bag of popcorn.

What do you value most in friends?
Proximity. If they are here, I will play. If they like to wear toe socks, too, like me, that's a bonus.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"You know what?" and "When will Mommy be home?"

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Louis XVI. I hide my shyness in pageantry, too.

What is your greatest extravagance?
The occasional second bowl of applesauce.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
We'd have a cutie baby. Mom says it ain't gonna happen.

What is your favourite occupation?
Hiding a screwdriver in a heap of Ooblek and then watching it emerge as the slime melts away.

What is the quality you like most in a woman?
Red hair and glasses and an accommodating lap.

What is the quality you like most in a man?
A unicycle.

How would you like to die?
I'm only four. I'm not ever going to die.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

"If You Wheel It, He Will Roll"

Groom just turned thirty-seven.

We gave him a unicycle.

He should never have said, offhandedly, as he bit into a piece of watermelon this summer, "By the time I'm forty, I want to be able to ride a unicycle."

'Cause then we gave him one.

And now he has to master the sucker.

Thus, Groom's birthday saw him down in our dungeon, learning how to mount the thing (and, yes, we keep the house cold enough that indoor hat-wearing is called for; stop being such a wussy guest and hat-up already). Balance will come later. Even one day in to his training, he already maintains it will give him a core workout to rival the pilates class taught by the Ab Nazi at our gym.

Since I can't have them myself, due to the chocolate-worshipping tenet of my religion, I do so appreciate rock-hard abs in others. When the census-taking ab-checkers come to our door next year, Groom's unicycle-hardened belly will earn their respect. Just to get them to put X's in all the right boxes, I'm willing to intensify the display and eat a smidgeon of lentil soup out of his belly button. Just 'cause I can. Those ab-census-takers will get an afternoon of entertainment beyond all dreams when they hit Unicycle House.

The unicycle is, indeed, a gift that will keep on giving.

supportive applause

The Wee Niblet can't wait until Pappy can juggle flaming torches on the unicycle. Girl can't wait to play tag with him and be chased by Unicycle It. I can't wait to see him make stir-fry on the roll.

Face it: we are circus folk.

P.S. Stop coveting our orange shag carpet. Your desire is unattractive.