Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Neighbor

Excuse me a minute while I start crying. I just lost my wallet. In a parking lot. I know it was lost there because a manager of the local pet store said he had seen it on his way back from lunch but hadn’t stopped to pick it up. Because bright pink wallets look natural in asphalt parking lots, I guess. And, 15 minutes later when I checked, it was no longer there. Which means that one well meaning person could have saved me the aggravation of a trip to the DMV, the joy of 3 credit card companies reissuing my cards, and I could still have my gift cards. Goodbye, Gap. Goodbye, Bed Bath and Beyond.
Maybe someone will mail it back to me. Maybe it will be one of those lovely stories where I find it in the mail, in perfect condition, with a note attached saying that the finder wishes me well, no reward expected. Am I too jaded that I doubt that story will happen? After all, the manager couldn’t even bother to stoop and pick it up.
I’m trying to picture a scenario wherein I understand the actions of the manager. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
He works in a dingy pet food shop being mowed under by the big-box stores like PetSmart. He’s frantically trying to salvage his profits, which he has great need of at this time. His wife has just left him for one of his sales clerks, a 20-something in tight t-shirts and skinny leg jeans. She’s taken the kids, sued him for cruelty and bad breath, and the judge awarded her a fortune in child support. Because of that, he’s had to move to a tiny cockroach infested apartment previously rented by a drug dealer. The drug dealer left behind several “presents” for the new tenant of the apartment: a mysterious odor coming from the closet; a few bags of small white pills hidden in various patched-over holes in the wall which the Manager will eventually discover when he, himself, is arrested (but that happens later and so it doesn’t figure into our story). He also left behind a string of addicts who knock on the apartment door, incessantly, at all hours of the night. The lack of sleep has resulted in hallucinations, and as the manager walks back from his lunch break, he sees millions and millions of bright pink wallets lying on the ground of the parking lot. At first, he tries to pick them up. After all, only a cold-blooded fool would leave them out in public. But after trying to pick up several, he realizes that this is, yet again, a hallucination, and he stops trying.
That being the case, I can sympathize with the manager. Poor guy—he has enough on his plate right now. In fact, if I miraculously have my wallet returned to me, I’ll give him a couple of bucks. He can buy some ear plugs with it to get him through the night.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Art Smart

You should go to my art museum. I planned to spend an hour there with the two oldest girls, forcing culture on them. I find it also improves the sheltered lives of the frumpy dumpies who often hang out in such places waiting for their digestive tracks to function. Last time I took the middle child to a very different, more traditional art museum, she spent the whole time pointing out the penises on the statues and in the paintings. We got some very sour looks, mostly from women who might not know what a penis is. For my part, I had to do some quick calculating: how much is culture worth? That’s why it’s been over a year since we’ve gone. “Not that much,” I concluded.
Anyway, the museum we went to today had the anticipated sections: impressionism, african, native american, modernism. I thought we’d pick a section and I could spend the time trying to cajole wise and insightful statements from my daughters while they whined about sore feet and hunger. Imagine my surprise when I found out that scattered throughout each exhibit were activities for kids. And I don’t mean the kind where you look at something then go to a separate room to do a project. I mean that while looking at the African instruments, the kids crawl into a little tunnel where they watch an interactive video about Africa, complete with music. For those of us who like to sit while being cultured, there’s a row of Ipods set up with a thousand different African songs, from traditional to modern to Sweet Bessie singin’ da blues.
Each exhibit has some such thing. And if that isn’t enough, you can check out, for free, backpacks; one for each section. Inside the backpack are games and projects and “experiences”. From the African backpack, we pulled supplies to make traditional headdresses. In the Native American backpack, we felt things like goat wool and copper sheeting. We read a totem story and made the totem pole. We then made our own bento boxes with stencils like a bear, eagle wings and squatting human figure. All this, while sitting in the room with the art, looking at it and feeling inspired. I enjoyed the experience a million times more, partly because I didn’t have to fight my kids, partly because I could browse the art on my own, and mostly because I got to do the projects.
Forget passes to the children’s museum next year: we’re joining the art museum.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Getting A Lot Out of Church

We’re sitting in church, being quieter than we have been in years. That’s because the 9-year-old is out of town and the 5-year-old has taken the baby to the bathroom. Suddenly, we hear screaming. Hal and I sink lower in the pew and look at each other. The screeching continues, a full-on, total-meltdown tantrum. It gets louder. And louder. Reluctantly, we turn around. Running toward us, her arms outstretched, is the 2-year-old, yelling so loud the speaker actually stops midstream. My husband, closest to the aisle, stands up, snatches the baby and carries her out, all in one swift motion (he should have been a football player). The five-year-old saunters in, calmly sits down next to me, and informs me that the baby had entered someone’s office, taken a sucker from the desk and popped it in her mouth. Whether she was concerned about theft or the lack of fairness because she didn’t get a sucker I’ll never know. What I do know is that the five-year-old tried to take the sucker out of the baby’s mouth. What idiot came up with the saying, “Like taking candy from a baby”? He must have been blind, deaf and really, really dumb, because once my baby has candy in her mouth, ain’t no one taking it away. She gets that from her mother.
This is only the most recent incident in our church-going experience that suggests we ought to receive parenting classes, or at least an intervention.

A few weeks ago, while we stood up to sing, the baby escaped. Before I could catch her, she’d left the main room and run toward the outside door and freedom. It took an entire congregation pointing the way for me to find her. I saw her, at last, in the arms of a friend, walking back from the potty. Turns out the baby hadn’t been making a break for it; she’d only be taking care of business. Or so she claimed, once I caught her.

Last time we had “open mic” during a meeting, my 9-year-old decided to get up there. With the baby. Without passing the idea by me. So, I look up from my reverie (or my nodding-off) to find my youngest child standing at the mic in front of the whole congregation. And does she tell everyone how much she loves God? Does she say that her parents are wonderful? Does she say anything remotely intelligent? Of course not. She snorts and then laughs at herself. One of the leaders sitting behind the mic picked her up before she could start on her farting impressions.
All this, and we still haven’t been kicked out. Which is good, cause we sure could use the help.