Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Deep Tissue, Deeply Discounted"

I could have taken my experiences at cosmetology school and washed that cheapitude right out of my hair.

Hell no. One of my greatest hallmarks is the refusal to take a lesson, even when it's slapped onto my head and speared with swords. In the case of my follicular thriftiness, I could have learned that I get what I pay for, and if I pay nine bucks for a haircut, I generally get three bucks worth of smarts wielding the scissors and six bucks of spray spray clouding my brain.

Luckily for my battered wallet and the well-worn dollar bills that have constructed a permanent home within, I don't learn nuthin' nohow, Gomer.

That's why I also patronize a training program for massage, which is sort of like letting a four-year-old hang my wallpaper--if by "four-year-old" I mean a nineteen-year-old named Brittany and by "hanging wallpaper" I mean stroking my body with oils.

That's the euphemism you use for it, right? Remember when you were twelve, up in your room for three years, "hanging wallpaper"? Goodness, but your mom thought you were an industrious soul! She never could understand why the wallpaper you later hung in your first home as an adult was so crooked and droopy. With all that practice you'd had, she'd been certain you were a professional! And you were!! Just not at that!!! Tap me, wanker!!!!! But wash your hands first!!!!!!

Jinkies. I was channeling Brittany there for a minute. And let me tell you, having never seen her written work, but simply felt her hands on my back, I had to intuit her predilection for exclamation marks. My first hint was when she wrote one on my clavicle in ylang-ylang oil. It was all well and good when she drew the straight line of the exclamation point, but then she started searching for a place to put the dot at the bottom of it, and suddenly I found myself yelling out, "No nip! No. Nippledom. Step away from the nip, Brit-Brit!"

Oh, all right. So I'm just making up shizz. Like that's news, Cronkite.

Refocusing now:

Fact one: I love the feeling of getting a deal. Fact two: the college where I teach has a massage therapy program. Fact three: the massage therapy program offers "clinics" each semester, during which students gain valuable on-the-job experience. Fact four: the clinics cost $15 for an hour massage. Fact five: Fact Four makes me throw out some serious jazz hands.

At such a minimal cost, these clinics book up fast. Every semester, I call on the first day the schedule comes out, attempting to get appointments for both Groom and me, yet often we are too late. But last month, when the schedule was released, the Gods of Muscle Relief beamed my direction: I flexed my dialing finger and went buzzsaw on the phone, managing to book a total of three massages for the household.

Yea, two were for me, and one was for Groom. Who wants to know?

A couple of weeks ago, I went for my first appointment, the Relaxation Massage. After forking over my 1,500 pennies, I was greeted by, yes, Brittany. This Brittany was so imbued with the essence of her Brittanyishness that she made Ms. Spears look like a Velma in comparison. This Brittany, from her bleached hair to her glossy lips to her tight shorts to her faux-tanned legs, set a new standard for manufactured beauty put on public display.

However, she was there, studentizing with some seriousness; clearly, the homeopathic art of massage therapy spoke to something deeper within this girl, something existing in her naturally-beautiful heart (beating an inch beneath her pink push-up bra). Indeed, despite her off-putting facade, Brittany proved to be a total BFF honeypie!!!!!!!!!!

Having hooked up, Brittany and I headed to the room of massageual arts. But here's the rub (you know you totally read this blog for the puns):

The massage is cheap because it's part of a clinic--meaning there were nine other patrons getting their massages at the same time as I, and in the same room. About the size of my bedroom at home, the massage room has ten curtained-off cubicles, one for each patron/masseuse pairing. After ushering me to our little Island of Connection within the larger room, Brittany instructed me to disrobe and hop onto the heated massage table. Backing out, she took three clothespins and snapped me into some questionable privacy.

At this moment in the clinic, things got a little surreal. There we were, the ten of us, all getting nudie together in a darkened room, a scenario that felt, somehow, as though it should cost much, much more.

Personally, I'm not overly discomfited about dropping my bundies in a relatively public place; I've given birth, after all, which constitutes the ultimate modesty decimation. But it was strange to be stripping down in my place of work, one floor below my office, down the hall from my classroom. At this most-recent massage, I was three feet away from a colleague who teaches psychology ("Yo, Betsy! How's your sabbatical going?"), two feet away from a mustachioed lawyer, and generally able to hear the intimate shuffles, scratches, and coughs of my cheek-exposed peers.

Once everyone was naked and warmly tucked in, the masseuses returned and unclipped the curtains, pulling them back so that the cubicles disappeared, leaving the twenty of us sharing a unified space. At that point, the clinic got even more surreal, for the students practiced the "massage script"--all ten, simultaneously, dipping their heads down to their respective clients, loudly whispering in unison: "I'm going to start the massage now, (insert name of client), and if at any point you'd like me to use more or less pressure, please let me know. I'm going to begin by working on your scalp."

Because some spoke more quickly than others, those sentences tapered off awkwardly at the end, with the last student masseuse left self-conscious as his uttering of "scalp" rang out, a cappella, throughout the room.

For the next hour, the scripted lines were presented periodically--always simultaneously, as the various parts of the body received attention. Every now and then, I fought off the urge to counsel Brittany, "You can speak for yourself, Brittany! I will understand your own particular way of relaying the information; I can perceive that you are an individual, despite the script and the fake tan that are currently defining you!! Brittany!!!!! Hear me, Brittany!!!!!!!!!!!!! Brittany?? Brit-Brit?"

Ouch. Perhaps perceiving my internal monologue, Brittany dug one of her French tips just a tidge too hard into my calf. Of course, my heavily-muscled calf is made of steel, and her tip snapped off, where it remains embedded in my leg to this day.

Eventually, at the same pre-scripted minute, the massage was over, the curtains were redrawn and clipped, and the students retreated. We citizens re-dressed and made our way, cheeks flushed, out into the daylight, trying to preserve the sense of relaxation as we began recalling the grocery list, the kids to pick up, the meeting at 3 o'clock.


Overall, the upshot of my reliance on student trainees is this: I am willing to pay people to put their hands on me, but I'm not willing to pay them much,

and this is--in no way


at all indicative of any

deep and longstanding

self-esteem issues

I might have.

It's not at all kind of sad.

So stop thinking that.

You're just a big, dumb boozer anyhow, so what do I--WHAT?

Am not, either,

you kettle of blackness daring to call me Potsy.

You're the dumb drinker who passes unfounded judgments.

No, you're the dumb drinker.

No, you are.

A judgey drunk.

Maybe you need to go get your hair cut and your body massaged, and then you'd feel nicer.

I can hook you up. Bring five dollars.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Deep Conditioning, Deeply Discounted"

Early on in my career as a person with hair, I stumbled across the option of the beauty college. Generally titled something like Darlene's School of Cosmetology, such places are, theoretically, win-win for both the cosmetological students and the shallow-pocketed patrons. For nine bucks, customers can get a hair cut from a country girl named Tawny, she who is honing not only her scissor, but also her interpersonal, skills:

Her: "So, snip, do you, like, do stuff?"

Chairbound Client: "Yes, I'm a lawyer. I specialize in family mediation and have recently started to do some pro bono work..."

Her: "My mom totally loves Bono, too! He's kind of a geezer and all, but so's she, so there's a match made in heaven. I totally have to say I only know how to count to seven in French cuz of him. Gawd, my mom played that 'uno, dos, tres, catorce' song, like, twelve times a day when I was in middle school."

At this point, Tawny turns to her fellow fledgling professional cosmetologist, Heidi, who is repeatedly testing the heat of a curling iron by pressing it against her index finger--and, yes, it does seem to be hot, each and every time she recoils--and asks,

"Remember that old 'uno tres' song from, like, five years ago? My mom would crank it, and I'd be out back of the trailer practicing round-off flip-flops, and I'd be all, 'Welcome to the 19th Century, Mom. Ever heard of My Chemical Romance? Like, get with the times, lady!'"

In response, Heidi puts down the curling iron and starts back-combing her own hair, eyeing her image in the mirror as she replies, "My mom's even dorkier than that. She likes this singer guy called Eric Clapton, and I'm so, 'Uh, yea, Mom, you go ahead and clap on and clap off your little Clapton there.'" With that zinger, Heidi picks up a bottle and begins spraying her volumized and baloonified follicles into an unmoving shell.

During this exchange, Chairbound Client has watched, first, with fascination, tutting inwardly, "My, my doesn't life present a rich pageant?" After a moment, however, CC's gaze shifts downward to the REDBOOK magazine that was plopped into her lap upon arrival, during the intial "So, what did you want today?" consultation. Finding an article about how to make a five-bean salad that can win over even the toughest mother-in-law, CC realizes that feigning interest in the recipe is easier than pretending to be part of Tawny's conversation posse.

Just as CC gets to the part of the article where the forbidding mother-in-law compliments the long-suffering daughter-in-law for her beany efforts, Tawny refocuses and pipes up again, her professionalism re-emerging,

"So that's cool you like Bono. Is there other stuff you, eh, you know, do in a, like, day?"

For the Chairbound Client, the best strategy at this point is not to engage, not to reveal. Rather, keeping the flow of words focused on Tawny will lubricate the proceedings.

"Oh, sure. But mostly I wonder about how you decided on this career for yourself. Tell me about it."

A snip and a snap and a brush and a "I just always liked to play with hair" later, the thing is done. CC is released from cape and chair, able at last to pay the nine dollars and head home to wash out the masses of "product" applied to her head, stuff that, instead of adding control and shine, have just made the whole business seem lank and greasy.

But, hell, it was only nine dollars.

For me, this was the typical I'm Caught in a Hell of My Own Cheapness beauty college experience. But then, when I lived in Minneapolis for a bit, I discovered the Aveda Instititute. Yes, it was still a beauty college; however, it aspired to a kind of grandeur, to turning out more than hair cutters, to graduating salon therapists, to teaching the art of image crafting.

So what if it cost fourteen dollars? My image could get crafted, Dieter!

And this kind of implied I might have an image. Or that there was the possibility of one.

So I went there sometimes, and they gave good hair, and it was all tea and rosemary mint scents each time...until the day I went in, hoping for something special. Some friends and I had a big party weekend ahead of us, and we wanted fun hair...retro hair...beehive-ish hair.

Upon our request, the Institute fell silent. Had bobby pins still been in fashion, we could have heard one drop. Instead, we just heard multiple arm bangles clanking against each other.

"Like, a beehive? You mean, in your hair? Just a minute..." fretted Salon Therapist Carina.

Frantically, she called over her Therapeutic Colleagues, Hansi and Iris. I heard whispers of "They want 'up-dos,' and not Prom-type ones. How do we do an 'up-do' without baby's breath?"

Moments later, these words emerged out of their hushed exchange: "We need Lorraine. Run--get Lorraine."

During our wait for the legendary Lorraine, Salon Therapists and Chairbound Clients all chuckled nervously and stared at each other in the mirror, unsure of how to acknowledge that we'd come to The Best Thrifty Place of Hair, but no one in the joint could create a well-known, decades-old hairstyle. The whole thing was akin to when I read a document written by a fellow teacher and discover he/she has no idea how to use an apostrophe. In such moments, I find myself, quite snappishly, declaiming things like "Stop embarrassing the profession. You either need to know the fundamentals of the most fundamental things, or else you should get yourself to a Target and cozy up to one of their 'We're Hiring' kiosks, where you can fill out your application and pursue a line of work that suits you better, Nutwad. Just don't answer any questions that might require an apostrophe."

(for more rants along this line, you can visit my other blog: O Mighty Irrational Stickler)

Fortunately, Lorraine wasn't long in coming. At the very sight of her, the 1970's Virginia Slims slogan "You've Come A Long Way, Baby" ran through my mind. Lorraine was Old School. Not only was she preceeded by a whiff of polyester, she also had a rat-tailed comb tucked into her nest of hair. A complete anomoly in the Aveda world, Lorraine was the only woman for this job.

"Up-dos, huh?" she asked. "Okay, so the hair of the 1960's needed a good foundation, girls. Gather 'round. For this lady here, we'll do some finger rolls, and for this one, let's do a bubble 'do, and for the other one there, let's give her some shape on the forehead as well."

A crowd of Salon Therapists followed Lorraine's every move. She threw up some scaffolding on each of our heads and then, gradually, got the trainees involved. Every time one of them would draw back and give Lorraine a questioning glance of "Is this right? Am I done?" she'd reply with "More spray. With a good old-fashioned updo, you always need more spray."

After much rolling and sculpting and tutting and repeated sprayings, we were done, ready to emerge into the daylight. We paid our fourteen dollars, plus tip (instead of leaving money, I wrote a little note that said, "You'd do well to follow Lorraine through life; if, for some reason, you can't, I understand Target is hiring") and giggled our way out onto the street, discovering that our 'dos had turned us into showstoppers. The feeling continued for three more days, as we rode out the Power of the Spray and slept with our heads propped up on wooden blocks, geisha style.

An added bonus was that even cheap people like me always have a stash of little plastic cocktail accessories in a drawer somewhere.

The moral of all this hoo-ha, clearly, is this: if you're drunk enough, it is possible to sleep with swords stuck into your head.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"The Wreck of the Edmund FitzJocelyn"

I live next to the largest body of fresh water in the world in terms of surface area. Because I have a long bendy straw, and I am very good at leaning out my window, I am never thirsty.

And because I am always careful to suck up my requisite sixty-four ounces per day, the water levels would take quite a hit, were it not for the forty-two creeks in town that continuously feed the lake.

Not incidentally, forty-two creeks and a big lake perk up some sweaty arse in the heat of August. For those few days when the temperature hovers near 90 degrees, we just pack up our beds and pillows and drop them into the frigid waters of the lake, where we recline in perfect comfort.

Yea, Lakey is frigid. Interestingly, when something is so enormous, it is slow to warm and slow to cool, rather like 1970's tv detective Frank Cannon closing in on his suspect during the episode "Girl in the Electric Coffin."

He didn't rile easily, that Cannon, but once he had a scent, there was no stopping his drive for justice. Cannon and the Big Lake both exist in a state of intriguing contradiction: cold when it's warm and warm when it's cold.

Of course, Cannon actor William Conrad died in 1994 of congestive heart failure and has been persistently cold since.

Lake Superior, however, swishes on and, as it does, warmed a bit this past August--two months ago now. For several glorious weeks, we were actually able to inch our toes into the relatively-balmy 53 degree water, eventually shoving in the whole foot, and when that went numb, wading to the ankle. At some point, the impulse to plunge would overtake the screaming messages from our nerves, and we'd shimmy in up to the groin or go Full-On Fool and submerge every last follicle.

For eleven beautiful minutes, the heat of the day would drop away, and we'd swim and pull up hunks of eroded concrete from the lake bottom,

and then, suddenly sideswiped, we'd be struck with the paralysis of shit-damn-holy-hell-that's-cold-water-and-I-don't-care-if-it's-88-degrees-outside-because-my-innards-are-now-a-box-of-Bird's-Eye-frozen-peas. And really, if I have only one rule of parenting, it's this: when the five-year-old utters anything starting with "shit-damn-holy-hell," it's time to towel off and go get cocoa and a scone.

On one particularly-spirited day this past August, with out-of-town visitors in tow, we launched ourselves on a progressive tour of the city's swimming holes, creeks, and polar plunges. In one afternoon, we hit four different spots, and at the end of it all, fell into an exhaustion entitled The Day of All Summer Days.

That day in August seems far removed now; but it resonates with what I feel this mid-October. When I hop into the lake in August, it's a way of embracing the peak of a particular season--it's me in my twenties, quitting my job as a nanny to drive to Graceland in Tennessee and Hot Springs, Arkansas, and White Sands, New Mexico, and Austin, Texas, and Boulder, Colorado, in a big swoop of "cuz I can" roadtripping abandon. The crest of summer, like that period of my youth, is golden and evanescent and fugitive.

And now. I'm forty-one, and I'm the embodiment of October 20th; I'm a breathing mid-autumn day. After we eased through June, July, August, fall set in with jarring swiftness. The overhead light of summer angled sideways and became slanting, mellow, softer. Everything in the world blazed briefly--orange and red and saffron--and then, in the midst of my gasp about its beauty, began the decline into rust, amber, chestnut. Fall and I are fading into an abatement of our peaks, and starkness looms.

Curiously, being just past the pinnacle, a tidge beyond the brightest blaze, a week past the sell-by date, well, it leads me into a feeling of harmony with bigger, deeper life junk. Although leaves have fallen from the trees and crunch underfoot (on my body, the leaves are called "breasts"; unbound, they too crunch underfoot), and although the lake is too cold to touch (on me, no such thing exists), and although ripening has morphed into waning,

I like it.

Fall, and my forties, are a season of ebbing. We are less fertile; we are less flexible; we are less free.

Yet we are full of texture; we perceive the rhythm of the full cycle; we appreciate that lessening can result in abundance.

We suspect, in our declination, that winter may be the richest of all seasons.

After all, there will be cocoa.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"There's a Kind of Hush All Over the World Tonight"

They're out.

Praise the long-armed reach of absentee landlords (take that, Ireland!): the bohunk renters across the alley have been evicted.

After my earlier post about these five college lads' disruptive partying tendencies, things got worse.

They hit a new high the night that Phat Boy Renter and his Li'l Blondie girl sat outside the house in her car, blaring country music at 17 on the volume dial, drinking beers (the trunk of empties clanked resoundingly each time they finished swigging, got out of the car, tossed the bottle into the bottomless well of its peers, and grabbed another. During this process, a song entitled "Marianne" thumped again and again, hammering out a psychosis-inducing tattoo. On its third go-round, I was certain that, no matter what Marianne had done to earn the gullible singer's admiration, Bitch Stole My Chips).

Every fifteen minutes or so, to spice up the potential monotony of "drink a beer/toss the empty/ grab a new one," Phat Boy Renter would lurch out of the car, half-filled bottle in hand, and stagger off to pee in the yard. At one point, another of the renters, this one named Dimwit, pulled up with his girl, and they, too, remained parked outside the house. Dimwit and His Girl were in the middle of a fight, apparently. At one point, Dimwit slammed out of the car and ran down the alley, causing Phat Boy and Blondie to jump out of their car, with Phat Boy chasing Dimwit and Blondie hopping into the second car next to Dimwit's Girl. Much drama played out before Dimwit eventually meandered back home, twenty minutes later, and retrieved a sleeping bag out of the trunk of his car. His Girl had already taken her sleeping bag from the trunk and gone into the house, but Dimwit took his bag and went and slept on the lawn. (pssst, fellas...a little tip here: you're paying money to have access to that house; you should take your drinks and sleeps inside the damn place)

All the while, Phat Boy Renter and Blondie counseled and consoled and hit the trunk for fresh beers and kept the tunes a'throbbin', teaching the entire coulda-been-sleeping neighborhood comprised of young children, pregnant women, and solidly-employed types that--get this!--life is a highway, and those crazy college kids were going to ride it all. night. long.

I witnessed every subtlety of the drama, watching it from my back porch that night, where I lay on the couch, wrapped in a fleece blanket, shivering, yawning, muttering my own private commentary about their ongoing monkeyshine.

From my seat in the loge, all the world was The Renters' stage from roughly 1:30 a.m. until 3 a.m., when I finally passed out into sleep. The cops, whom I'd called at 1:30 a.m., had still not arrived, denying me the much-hoped-for pleasure of seeing each blockhead receive a "drinking as a minor" citation. As I waited and waited, I wanted to huff around about how the police certainly weren't doing their jobs that night, but the fact that my city swells by approximately 25,000 college students each August kept me sympathetic. It just might have been, at bar-closing time on a Saturday night in September, that the cops had bigger Alpha Tau Omegas to fry. Eventually, perhaps as the sun rose, Phat Boy and Li'l Blondie and Marianne, hissing, shielded themselves from the light and relinquished themselves to hangover-inducing sleep.

As they do, even when one is fatigued or hungover, the days and weeks passed. The renters, already in possession of one dog, brought back on board the ceaseless barker (of my previous post on this issue). The freshmen dunderknots drank nightly, smoked and called each other "faggot" twenty feet from my children at play during the daylight, and generally brought the vibe of Age 18 Hollister to our gentle neighborhood of Middle-Aged Coldwater Creek. Their antics made it increasingly hard to remain stuffily removed.

But then.
The landlord called.
From Arizona.
Just to check in with us.
To see if everything was going okay.
Ever since he'd given the striplings a cell phone lashing after their inaugural party some weeks before.

Sometimes I have a lot of words. So I used them.

He did okay with the part about "Marianne" and my calling the cops. Clearly, he had never heard "Marianne," or his outrage would have been more immediate and palpable.

However, when I mentioned the dogs, old Tuscon Tom snapped. DOGS? DOOOOOOGS? DAAAAAAAAWWWGGGGSSSSS?

Seems there was a little clause in the lease that mentioned the words "castration," "hobbling" and ultimately "eviction," should any animal ever enter the premises.

Clutching protectively at their 'nads and ankles, the lads got their notice. They had two weeks to get out.

Two weeks and three days later, they started packing. The whole moving process was like a Three Stooges movie starring Robert Downey, Jr., Kiefer Sutherland, and Judd Apatow, featuring a guest appearance by Mickey Rourke (Fifth Renter was noticably absent from the proceedings, no doubt drowned in a fifth of a different sort near a bus stop somewhere)...

what with Phat Boy's only contribution being, inexplicably, to deposit a pair of shoes onto the side lawn--perhaps to mark the spots where he'd drunkenly peed;

Dimwit dragging out various pieces of his possessions to the car--all of them jammed inside a sleeping bag;

Kyle clambering into the trash can in an attempt to stuff in just seven more pizza boxes;

and Joshua fumbling through the long-empty packs of smokes that littered the driveway, seeking out one last puff as he sat on the cooler and considered the asphalt, for quite a very long while, before slowly standing up.

Eventually, after they'd all worked really, really hard, in the fashion of Paris Hilton making her own way in the world, they hopped into their cars and drove away, crashing into whatever unsuspecting neighborhood will be saddled with them next. Call Mommy! Call Daddy! America's Best had not only lived on their own for the first time; they had also moved out of a place, all on their own, for the first time!

But what they had failed to do, for the first (and certainly not the last) time, was reclaim their security deposit. For three days after their departure, a cleaning lady scoured the place, a handy man came in to repair the holes punched into the walls, and a carpet dude came to pull out the rugs and put in new ones. And that was just the inside work. Here's a little math problem for you, College Boys:



That crying Native American there? It's probably for the best that, at the close of this commercial, he stepped out into speeding traffic and was taken down by a mail truck. Had he survived, he'd have needed a full-on box of Kleenex Aloe Vera and a whole new treaty struck with the White Man's King after looking down into the ravine next door to the now-empty rental--

a ravine, curiously, where the creek was newly dammed

with a couch

and a bookshelf...

furniture that had spent the previous three days perched outside, on the porch of the rental, mysteriously "disappearing" (with great ruckus at midnight) just as the knucklebutts left for good.

Suffice it to say, there were more phone calls: to the landlord, to the delinquents (who swore they dinn't know nuffin' 'bout birthin' no babies, Mizz Scarlett!), nearly to the cops. They were given two days to get the furniture out of the ravine. It was out the next day.

And left there, next to the ravine, on the sidewalk.

At this point, while I was still gunning for police work and enormous fines, the beleaguered landlord discovered his inner Native American and decided that instead of continuing to fight past exhaustion and nearly to extinction, he would, in the interests of self-preservation,

step back, let the feckless bastards move on, give them ample time, and feel secure in the knowledge that

the idiots will eventually hang themselves in a web of their own weaving.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"If These Photos Represent a Mere Ten Seconds of My Day, How Could I Possibly Find More Hours For Blogging?

I don't mean to post all the time about mein Wee Niblet, but, hand to heaven, he continually provides a mind-boggling amount of fodder.

For example, we have a deal in the household, when the kids are due for haircuts, that they can go sit in a stylist's chair somewhere and be enveloped by a plastic cape and false gushing about how cute they are--both of which are matter-of-factly laid on by a hair artiste who wishes she hadn't gotten pregnant at 19--or they can stay home and let me pay them a dollar to cut their hair. The kids spend about thirty seconds teetering on the steely edge of that decision, weighing the bright lights and free lollipop of Cost Cutters against their desire to save up one more dollar towards The American Girl "Feel-Better" Kit, ultimately tumbling towards personal greed over glamorous gratification every time...and saving us about $28 bucks in the process.

Indeed, I'm happy to shell out $2 for my kids to have the nicely-trimmed hair that tells the world somebody loves them.

Of course,

I'm not exactly a professional. I, em, wield good intentions more adeptly than I do a scissors.

In my defense, it's not exactly a disaster. I mean, who cares if an 8-year-old girl's hair slants dramatically downward and to the right, when she is viewed from behind? She hardly ever holds still or has all her hair in one place, anyhow. No matter the slant, it still looks all wild and happy when she's dangling upside down from the monkey bars. Plus, we always have the slick back-up option termed, in spy circles at least, braids.

And who cares if a 5-year-old boy's eleventy-nineteen cowlicks all conspire to make him appear a Young Einstein, even after the snipping?

Hmmm. Wait a minute. I guess I do. Niblet's Chia Pet hair is as unruly as the crew of kids on the morning bus ride to school, hair that often leaves him looking tragically untended (incidentally, damn you, third grader Caitlin, for forcing your way into his backpack each day during the drive and pretending to steal his applesauce cup, a little scenario that stresses out my kindergartener to the point that SuperMommy may be riding the bus one day soon wearing the coolest part of her hero's get-up: the patent-pending Stealth Pincher Hands).

So when I recently cut Niblet's hair, I decided to use the electric buzzer clipper doohicky wahoonie thingie all over his whole head and not just on the back section. Trying to get his hair to behave, I buzzed the kid's entire noggin.

Leaving him looking like a sociopath out on a day pass.

Oh, and let's check the clock at this juncture, shall we? We were a week out from School Picture Day (and 47 subsequent years of mockery, based on that picture).

The hair clearly waddn't going to grow back in before Picture Guy squeezed the birdie for 500 elementary school kids. (poor Picture Guy: imagine the chafeage after all that "birdie squeezing," not to mention the prison time)

All of this brings me back to my original point--and I did have one: Niblet offers up endless fodder. Case in point...while I didn't directly mention to him that he looked kind of scary after Mommy buzzed his skull, I did suggest that Picture Day is traditionally a great time to express personal creativity, and wouldn't a hat or a wig be a nice touch?

His unique solution, of course, was to choose to wear a hoodie that has monkey ears on it. Naturally, he NEEDED to wear the hood up, ears a perkin', along with a special necklace made out of three rocks glued together.

So the other day, in front of the camera and for all posterity, Punky proudly sported the monkey ears and covered up his Death Row 'do.

Other times? He puts on his bathing mask and takes a plunge.

My point, thus, is that when it comes to the Resident Bathtub Diver, I don't make the news. I just report it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

"Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want: This Key"

I wasn't kidding. This story is a continuation of the previous one. I know you're all, "Well, even though I didn't read her last post, I'm not about to go back now and waste my precious time on it. No, I'm NOT. I'm just going to read this one here and piece it all together. I'm smart. I can do that."

Yes, honey. Yes. You're smart. And you're pretty and sweet, and the other kids just don't understand you.

But go back and read the previous post anyhow.

I'm waiting. (*taps foot and begins humming "Ina-Gadda-Davita"*)

What, you again?

You haven't even scrolled down to it yet, ya Big Faker. It was called "Like Searching for a Grain of Broken Rice in a Bowl of Particularly-Soggy Shredded Wheat," and it involved my talented girl parts and a 95 minute run, so you really don't want to miss it.

Schlep off now.

I'll wait. (*starts filing nails and practicing some "Mr. Bojangles" soft shoe, further proving her ability to multi-task when fingernails and vaudeville converge*)


Oh, HI. I'm glad you're back, you upstanding and honest reader who'd never skip a preliminary post in an effort to cadge four extra life minutes during which you dreamily picture what Sarah Palin looks like with her glasses off, hair down, her "energy plan" a'roarin'. Now that you're up to speed:

So yup. There we were the next day, the Assembled Family Jocelyn, ready to fan out the family's collective vision and scan every stick, leaf, and dead raccoon on a very particular stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail, in search of my shiny silver Camry car key.

(if you have no idea what I'm referring to and are just kind of nodding and smiling blankly after that last paragraph, that's because you are one seriously lazy cuss and didn't EVEN go back and read that previous post, Mrs. Pants On Fire...like it's so onerous to take a few measly minutes out of your life to catch up with the rest of us. You're just a living, breathing, personified "War of the Worlds" broadcast, fooling the entire audience into thinking one thing's happening when, in truth, you're just sitting in your lazy chair drinking Diet Mt. Dew and pretending to be "an avid blog reader and defender against alien attack")

Before the family gathered around, I had done some kitchen-table triangulation and narrowed down the most likely area for the key loss--to a spot called "Pee Alley." Knowing this, we could park on a nearby road and hike in a few hundred yards, looking all the while for browning ferns and a mish-mash of footprints that indicated a Woman/Ipod scuffle.

But first, we had to get the kids out and on the trail, the motivational script of which read,

Me: "Okay, now that you're both home from school, we're going to drive up to the spot where Mommy was running yesterday when she lost her key."

Kids: "Mommy, why do you talk about yourself in the third person? It creeps us out."

(okay, they didn't say that, as they're still learning--and will be for at least another decade--that anything beyond first person exists in the world)

Me: "So, listen, we're going for a lovely hike on this sunny fall day. Our mission: to find a silver key."

Kids: "Don't wanna and are not."

Me: "This actually wasn't a request. We. are. going. out. to. the. woods. And. we. will. make. this. an. adventure. And. FUN. You. poopshoots."

Kids: "Not going. Don't like hiking."

Me: "In what universe do children of mine not like hiking? This is unimaginable--preposterous--like women over thirty wearing leggings under a tunic blouse! Clearly, you are not the true people I grunted out from my body; anyone fostered under my care is destined to have a life-long fixation with sumacs and granite and singing The Smiths amongst them. Pod-people, you are clearly not my children. Either you hike with Pappy and me, or I love you not."

Kids: "Hey, Mom? You're kind of a dinkus."

Me: "I know what you are, but what am I? Now get in the car."

Kids: "Not going. No hikey. Can't make us."

Me: "The key is very shiny, you know, which means it's glamorous. Only the cleverest of people could ever find the treasure that is a lost key in the woods. Let me tell you a tale about the kind of person who only wishes he could find a key in the woods: there was a guy once who seemed, on the surface, to be clever, a guy named Johnny Keyfinder. One day, he plunged into the woods, in search of a key. After many hours, he emerged, keyless, having fooled himself that he'd found something better: a hand full of appleseeds. Listen to this: old Johnny 'Keylacker' Appleseed then wandered the country for years after, holding his seeds in one hand and shaking hands with the other. Now how clever does he sound to you? Not very, eh? Not bloody clever at all. Kind of dumb hickish, if you want to use real words about it. Seriously--how did he think he'd wipe himself or cut a steak, what with both hands already so busy? This man was NO keyfinder. He was just a busy-pawed gladhander. Eventually he keeled over, appleseeds in hand, with his last words being, 'I never did find me a key, so what's it all been about?' His legend pales in comparison to the one you two are going to create today, when you hit those woods and find Mommy's key!!!!"

Kids: "Gracious! He was hebetudinous. We must differentiate ourselves from that dolt. Hie now--to the horseless carriage. Oh, and thanks for the thesaurus last Christmas, O Maternal Matriarch."

Me: "Huzzah! The afternoon is ours to seize."

So then we, like, drove there and stuff.

The second we stopped the car, as predicted in a secret wink-wink-eye-rolling exchange between Groom and me, the kids did shape up and forget their hatred of Woods. They ran to the trail and began bushwacking, peering, and

herky-jerking on the balance beam known as "uprooted and suspended birch."

Two minutes in, the true beauty of the afternoon became apparent, particularly to the Star Warsian Wee Niblet:

We were in Ewok country.

Vexingly, Ewok Country is rife with stands of browning ferns, each looking more like a possible pit stop for a full-bladdered runner than the last.

But the Jedi Youngling was not daunted.

Picking up speed,

Niblet gathered light saber sticks, thrashed the bushes in search of battle droids, and continued his Jedi training, which has advanced considerably in the last few months. Specifically, his ability to harness The Force has gained finesse.

Concentrating, the lad raised his hand and channeled all his fledgling powers into using The Force to find that key.

Fortunately, Jedi Master Groom was in the lead. Stopping suddenly and staring intently at the ground, Groom called to his Padawan, "This looks like a spot in need of your attention, Boy. Focus your powers here, and let The Force do its work."

Skipping along, humming a new song learned in kindergarten ("Hell-ooow/How are you?/I'm so glad/To see you"), holding his Force-channeling hand in the air, Niblet abruptly pulled up short.

He stared hard for a minute, soaking in the quiet of the immense trees surrounding him, and then carefully bent down.

When he straightened to his full height--equal to that of the brown ferns cloaking him--he peeled open his hand, on which balanced--

by the Original Light!--

a silver key.