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Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Yeah, yeah, I'm still here

I think it's best that I not promise regularity in my postings. I learned about a delightful little creature while hiking in Colorado last month -- Giardia. The trademark of this parasite is that it induces alternating bouts of constipation and . . . the opposite of constipation. My first thought, upon hearing my good friend describe an intimate encounter with this beast, was, "thanks for warning me after I decided to go wading in this mountain lake." My second thought was, "hey, sounds like a model for my blogging."

So after a long period of absence, the bug you can't shake is back. No, not back back, just right now for this post. Not to say that I won't be back again . . . oh, never mind. Now I'll share some random things that, at least when I made notes on them, seemed interesting enough.

First, the youngsters. A couple of days ago, as we prepared to make a trip somewhere, I came into the hallway to find Eli sitting with his legs sprawled, looking on with great interest as his older brother struggled to squeeze his little leather sandals over his fat feet.

"Unh. Unnnhhhh. It can't fit. Be still, Eli."

"Toes? Toes? Toes?" A moment later, with much satisfaction: "Toes."

I finally had to intervene when Caleb lost the spirit of the exercise, the goal of which is to get the child's shoes on, yes, but to do so without twisting his foot more than 180 degrees in either direction. Still, his heart was in the right place.

Eli's heart is in the right place too, most of the time. For example, a few weeks ago some denial or chastisement brought Caleb to tears as we drove down the road. After a few seconds of watching his brother cry, Eli began to wail. This encroachment on his Dramatic Moment caused Caleb to stop his own crying and fuss, "No, no, Eli, I'm crying." My son, the Prince of Drama.

He's also the Prince of Style. When he wakes up in the morning he likes to busy himself in his room. The other morning I came in to find him stripped down to his tighty-whiteys, with a pair of flip-flops slapping against his heels as he motored about the room, doing whatever toy arrangement makes sense to a three year-old. I thought that might make a good look for me as well, but the wife disagrees. Oh, the ravages of age.

It used to be the case that while Caleb brought out toys to play with in the morning, his brother would sit with his face stuck into the space between the crib bars, watching enviously, waiting for a parent to come liberate him from the prison masquerading as a bed. One morning the wife fussed at Caleb for not giving Eli a toy to play with. The next morning, she came in to find the crib piled with toys up to Eli's armpits. The poor child was just sitting there, immobilized, no doubt wondering how long he could breathe once the pile of stuffed animals and building blocks covered his face. It's good to have an obedient child, but be careful how you instruct them.

There are times lately that I worry about taking Caleb out in public dressed in shorts, because I'm worried some child welfare busybody will see all the scrapes and bruises and think I'm beating him. The boy collects bruises like Larry King collects wives. Saturday he sat beside me, reading a book, and I reached out to touch a bad-looking scrape.

"Owie, bud. That must have hurt."

"Yeah, don't touch it."

"Okay. You sure do have a lot of bruises."

"Yeah, but my ouches are melting."

It took me a moment to understand that he meant they were healing. "That's good."

"But don't touch them -- they're still ouchy."

Isn't it wonderful how we can turn any word into an adjective with the addition of a "y"? Try it. I'll get you started: the Democrats have been positively dolty over the war on terror. More and more college and professional athletes (insofar as there remains a difference) are thuggy in their behavior. You get the idea. Wow your friends and family with it.

Eli is getting into books now. Well, he pays attention for about thirty seconds, and then he usually breaks into some sort of Daddy-climbing maneuver which involves elbowing me in the throat and stepping on my crotch. He does sit still for "Goodnight Moon," however. He calls it "Nie moo moo," which may not seem so endearing when you read about it here, but is disarmingly cute in practice.

Occasionally, the little fartlings sleep. That is the blessed time of peace, when the wife and I read, or watch the latest offering from Netflix. Unfortunately, there are some classics that aren't on DVD, and that's where a friend with Tivo can round out the entertainment portfolio nicely. Some months ago my Tivo dealer sent me a copy of "Valley Girl," the Nicholas Cage/Deborah Foreman classic. I eagerly ushered the little ones off to dreamland a few minutes early, and settled down with the wife to enjoy that 80's masterpiece. I was a little bummed, however, because there was, totally, like, some editing.

I pointed out the missing sections to my wife. After a few minutes of this she chimed in. "And wasn't there a scene where he dressed up like a preppy to win her back, but she dressed up like someone cool?"

"Uh, no."

"Yes, there was."

"No, there wasn't."

"I'm pretty sure there was."

"Who's the movie master? Tony. Who hasn't even seen all of "The Godfather?" You."

"I know there was that scene. They cut it."



"Oh yeah, during the high school graduation fair. And then Danny and Sandy sang a song together, and then Stockard Channing told everyone that she really wasn't pregnant after all. Then the two of them got in a car that carried them off into the clouds while the gang sang 'We'll Always Be Together.'"

"You're not funny."

The story ends happily, rest assured, because the Movieland powers have just released "Valley Girl" complete and unedited on DVD, which you can purchase here, though if you want to buy one for yourself, you'll have to go here. I feel blessed to live in a country so technologically advanced. But tell me, with all our mechanical prowess, why are we still unable to disperse the two pickles on a McDonald's cheeseburger? Alas.

I'm happy to report that the basement is all but done. As a friend told me recently, the almost dones will almost kill you. But we're close. I had some labor difficulties, and had to fire the person helping me hang doors, who also happens to be the mother of my children. She insists that she wasn't fired, but a transcript of our conversation would show something like the following:

"Okay, push the top forward."

"Which side?"

"What do you mean which side? Your side."

"No, I mean the hinge side or the . . . other one."

"Hinge side. Now push through a shim. Hold it, hold it. Not so far."

"Level your side out."

"No, first I've got to put the shim in."

"You need to level . . ."

"Stop pushing against the door . . ."

". . . you've got to get the other side flush . . ."

". . . running this operation . . ."

". . . quit pushing . . ."

"Okay," I said, yanking open the door that was now quite possibly wedged forever, "you're fired."

"You can't fire me," she said with her little chin thrust out, "because I quit."

"No, you're fired."

"Too late," she said as she stepped past me. "I already quit."

Anyway, times are tough in the post-Clinton, chickens-have-come-home-to-roost economy, and I didn't want an unemployed person on my conscience, so I gave her another try, with the very clear ground rules that I was in charge. This time things worked out great, just as the Old Testament would predict. It also helped that I got some additional instruction on door-hanging, but having a more compliant workforce was clearly a key to success. Take that, you union bosses and women's libbers.

I'm still riding the train. As I sit here and type and try to ignore the fellow across from me, I'm led to wonder whether a lip-picking, potbellied Department of Education employee really needs a Blackberry. Do any of us believe that the obstacle to quality education reform in the U.S. is inadequate communication between tenured education bureaucrats? Just a thought.

We tried yet another church. This one is Reformed Baptist. What that means, for those of you who haven't had to bone up on inter-denominational differences, is that they've gotten the nature and destiny of man right, but they've held on to the Wednesday night services, the legalism over drinking, and the hymns that you probably last heard during a re-run of "Coal Miner's Daughter."

But they are very kind people, and we'll probably go back, at least for a while. I don't think we'll be able to make this church our home, however, because they restrict communion to believers who have been baptized by immersion. To some of you this may be an example of the petty differences that divide people of faith. In one sense, you are correct. But it also provides an opportunity to see that the details of one's theology really matter a great deal, if one is serious about what one believes. And if one isn't, why bother at all?

But that's another post. I don't want to approximate that Giardia thing too closely.

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