Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Childless Woman Sticks Her Oar In

This post is to all the new mommies* out there (the horror! we're too young, people!) who may find themselves grocery shopping with wee kiddlets. It's also a potential chance for me to snark by reverse-implication. (I think. I get lost in that last sentence.) It's not intended as any kind of criticism on your mothering* skills (if you don't follow these tips, for example), just a guide to make grocery shopping easier. Easier for you, easier for the offspring, easier for those around you, and did I mention easier for you?

1. For those with small humans (out of the carseat, still in the cartseat), invest in one of those ridiculous cloth cartseat-liners. Turns out they're useful: protects the fragile kiddie from other germs, protects future cart-handle-biters from your precious one's germs and makes the seat much more comfortable. I've never in 3 years seen a kid in one of these try to climb up and out of the seat. Squirming is kept to a minimum.

2. If shopping cannot be avoided during or around lunchtime, do let the poor child eat something. If you don't like the idea of bribing your impressionable ones, then consider it a toll of sorts. Besides which, it's a blood sugar issue -- people with low blood sugar cannot be reasoned with. My old roommates should know. Clif, Odwalla and Lara bars are all excellent, relatively healthy emergency snacks. Just keep the wrapper for the clerk to scan, and all will be well.

3. If the child is now mobile and out of the cart, try to keep him/her engaged. If they can talk, they have opinions. I once saw a dad shopping with his 3-year-old daughter. She had a kiddie cart and was following him. He stopped at the eggs and said to himself, "Do we need eggs?"
"No," she replied as she drove past the eggs. "But we're out of grapes." I'm not kidding -- if you give them a job, they'll stay with you.

4. Stafety plea: for the love of all that is holy, please do not let kids hang on the carts. This includes letting kids (usually toddlers) stand up inside the basket. Turns out those illustrations on the carts for what not to do are there for a reason. I've seen kids tip over carts with a baby sibling still inside. I've seen cart-surfing kids take a header into a wooden display unit. Just please, please, please keep them safe. Some spills take more than a fruit leather and a kiss to make better.

Finally, this is not a tip but an observation, or a potential tip if I could figure out what to do with it. Kids with or without little carts have a tendency to run into people or get in the way. They get better with age, but a lot of parents get frustrated with the especially short ones. But from the knee-and-butt viewpoint of the kid, what's "in the way"? They just can't necessarily tell where they're supposed to go unless it's spelled out for them. As in, "hold on to my belt loop" or similar.

On a related note, it's gotta smell funny when you're that low to the ground. No wonder kids are obsessed with farts.

*Or daddies/fathering, respectively.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Seven Days

Just finished watching "The Ring" with Husband. I could swear that the video (in the film) was ripped off of one of Greg Schrek's students. I should know -- putting music to one of those videos was my final project for my Technomusic class. (I lucked out, however, because my assigned student seemed to understand coherence on a level not appreciated by her fellow classmates.)

But anyhow watching that movie brought up a very important point:
What would happen if Gore Verbinski did a project with the Coen brothers?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mistaken Identity

Let me first state that I am a WASP. My mother's family comes from Germany and Denmark; my dad's from a mishmash of Great Britain, Switzerland and maybe Germany. I refer to this mix as "Northern European Mutt."

When my family first moved to New Mexico, my classmates gave me a mixed reception. I found out why when one classmate leaned toward my desk and whispered, "Hey, chica, are you Hispanic or what?" I thought he was kidding.

Fast foward a few years to the summer before senior year in college. I'm a waitress at a doomed Thai restaurant, and I meet the dishwashers for the first time. One of them asks, "Como te llamas?" [Note: does anyone know what the foreign language shortcuts are for MS Word?] I tell them that my name is pronounced "Alee-sha." They ask how it's spelled. When they find out (ALYSIA), they start laughing, "Hey! That's a Spanish name! You said you were from Mexico, right?" No, New Mexico, but apparently that's a sign of denial.

For the rest of the summer, the dishwashers spoke to me in Spanish. I could figure out enough to answer their questions so as to not seem rude, but that just goes to prove their point (that I am a closet Latina).

After a few weeks of this, one of the Thai cooks gets in on the action. Except that he believes me, that I'm not from Mexico. But, he says, I do look like I'm from this one country ... over there by Egypt?

Turns out he thought I was Lebanese.

And so it goes. It doesn't help that my name tag at work says "Meesh" (I didn't want people mispronouncing my name, plus there's another Alicia at work already). I get a lot of questions about my name and/or my family's ethnicity. (By the way, "meesh" means "mouse" in Hungarian.) The closest anyone's come to guessing was when a customer stopped me just to ask me if I was Irish. (We don't know exactly ... accounts differ. My money's on Welsh.)

Three days ago, one of our truck drivers automatically started speaking to me in Spanish.

Anyone else have a bizarre ongoing theme in their lives?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

New Hobbies

I'm pleased to say that I've started something new. Watch out, DuPage County Animal Shelter -- I'm your newest volunteer!

I figured it was time to get some more fur in my life. Usually I spend a couple hours brushing the cats. Soon it'll be High Kitten Season, and there'll be tons to do.

Aside from a bunch of very, very cuddly cats, not much to report yet. But I did walk my first Pit Bull today ... or she walked me, it's hard to say. Just when I thought I'd gotten her good and tuckered out finally, she saw a Pit Bull puppy and yanked me over to say hello. I'm not a very yankable person, but holy mother of aardvarks, was that dog strong!

Conclusion about Pit Bulls: potentially nice (this one was), just like any other dog. I think the thing that can make them so scary is their sheer potential for power. This one liked to fetch more than anything.


Like most cats, Scratchy looked down on dogs. Some he accepted (i.e. our family dog, Mandy), others he tolerated (i.e. the farm dog, Lucky, and Kyle's dog of the same name). But never, under any circumstances, should you ever treat him like a dog. He would not come (unless food was involved), he would not go where you wanted him to on a leash, he didn't do tricks.

It was strange, then, that he did do a few dog things. As mentioned before, he liked to play fetch with his rabbit's foot ... but I guess he allowed the exception since he would only fetch with that one toy. Cats have standards, after all.

Weirder still, though, was the first time he trotted up to me, meowed, and started trotting away from me. I stood there, watching him. He stopped, looked over his shoulder at me, and meowed again. After a few repetitions of this, I got it: "Follow me, you idiot!"

I think my best friend Susan scored one for the humans when she first saw him do this little act. "Lassie, what is it, boy? Did Grandpa fall in the well again?" It made me feel a little less like Scratchy's servant (or as I like to think of myself, Opposable Thumbs with Legs).

Oh - what did the furball want? Usually he'd lead us to a sink, where we were to carefully open the tap to the smallest stream of water possible so that he could get some fresh water. If he was feeling particularly ambitius, however, he'd take us to the fridge, where he'd tell us that what we really wanted to do right now was eat yogurt. And we also wanted to share it with him. I'm thankful that, thanks to my cat, I was one of the few teenage girls not threatened by calcium deficiency.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Because my mind just works this way

Imaginary future comment to husband about as-yet-unconceived future children:

"I know it's weird to dress up the kids as Grendel and Beowulf for Halloween, but what does it mean when that's what they chose to be?"

An ongoing thread

For my own sake, I'm going to continue to post "Scratchy memories" as they come back to me. I hope it's not too macawbre ... I just want to get everything down in one place. My own personal Pensieve, in a way.

Scratchy's favorite toy of all time was rabbit's feet. He had a few minor dalliances with the more commercial cat toys, but the simple good luck charm won out over the years. Every time he got his teeth on one, he carried it around with him until he'd eaten every last bit out of the metal cap.

Yes, he ate them. Artificially colored fur and all. Purring the whole time as he munched. He never got sick from them, either. When we tried to throw the "empty" away, it would somehow find its way back into the house, and we'd hear loud protests if we were caught carrying it away. We learned to throw the beaten-up metal caps away directly in the big trash bin in the garage.

What would he do with this empty cap with probably not the slightest bit of rabbit left anywhere near it? He'd carry it around, lick it, chew on it, and if he could catch a likely mark, he'd play fetch with it. We'd throw it as far as we liked, and he'd tear off, sometimes hurtling over people (like my grandma, who was crocheting at the time) to get to it. We started messing with him -- pretending to throw it and laughing when he'd come back with a confused "maow?" He caught on to us; eventually he learned to watch the direction of our throw, then look up at our hands. If we showed him empty hands, he'd dash off. If not, we'd get a Very Dirty Look.

At one point, I guess he'd been out of Rabbit Foot for too long in his opinion. He ate the tail off my uncle Mark's childhood authentic coonskin cap, which I had just inherited from my grandma. The entire tail. As in, we never found a single trace of it, not even in the litter box. When I showed the remaining coonskin pillbox hat to the ScratchMan, he didn't even bother to pretend not to recognize it. He tried to get a nibble. I threw out the rest of the hat in the big trash bin, but I waited until trash day, just to make sure it got out safely.

If you ever read this, Uncle Mark, sorry about that. I never knew those things held their original scent that long.

Friday, April 07, 2006


I lost my little boy today.

Scratchy Norman Williams was born sometime in June of 1989 in Decorah, Iowa. He was one of a litter of 3 kittens, all of them pure white. I picked him, because I knew that my great-uncle Roger shot all tom kittens before they grew up, in order to protect his Alpha Cat, Tom. He was named after the main character of a children's book I had been reading about the time I adopted him.

Scratchy was a true farm cat. He had plenty of old John Deeres to climb on. He wasn't scared by much of anything; he paid no mind to most of the livestock, except cows. He was terrified of cows. The first time I lost him was in a cow pasture. He took one look at their swishing tails and clawed his way out of my arms. It took the better part of an hour to find him again.

First and foremost, Scratchy was determined. When he decided something, it happened. The one exception I can think of, is when we took him to get his rabies shot at a pet shop. We were waiting in line between two very big German Shepherds. Scratchy decided that he wasn't going to be anywhere near those dogs. We caught him in the parking lot right before he started crossing Cerrillos Road. I had to hold him like a football, upside-down, my hands holding his paws (two paws per hand) with his head clamped firmly in my armpit. He did get his shots that day, much to the amusement of the other customers, who had noticed that my armpit was making very, very angry growls and yowls.

In fact, the only other thing that could inspire such operatic cat protests was my horn playing. Every week during my lessons, he would pace the upper landing, yowling to wake the dead.

When we first adopted Scratchy, it was against my dad's protests. Dad gave in to his little girl's pleas, but didn't want to have much to do with what was basically an asthma attack on four legs. Like most cats, Scratchy was always drawn to those who wished him away. After several nights of pushing him off the bed, my dad threatened to throw the kitten against the wall if he tried to sleep with my parents again. In the wee small hours of the next morning, I heard a distinct thump from the wall of the room above mine. Sure enough, Scratchy had attempted another assault. He lost that battle. As for the war, well, let me just say that until today, Scratchy slept with my dad every night.

And Scratchy's nighttime rules were strict. He sleept in the middle of the bed. Preferably between your knees, where his skinny body could get some heat. Rolling over was prohibited, and was punishable by cat sighs. If you had to get up in the middle of the night, a corner of the comforter laid over him was all he needed to know that you were coming back. If you left him bare, he'd leave.

As a kitten, he didn't much like being pet. When it was time for attention he'd let you know. He'd also let you know where to administer affection, and with what hand. By about 8 years old, he had mellowed into a regular cuddlepuss, however, and no lap was safe from him. He especially liked long football games, where he'd be guaranteed my dad's lap (always his favorite) for several hours at a time.

In fact, he won over my dad so much, that after I graduated from college and hinted that I might like my cats back when I found a suitable apartment, I found that I couldn't take him. The look on my dad's face made me realize that the kindest thing to do would be to leave the two pals together. I don't regret that decision; Scratchy lived out his retirement the way he wanted, with a running cat fountain, a lap that belonged to a telecommuting human, and a humanside warming plate (AKA "laptop computer") for those times when the human needed more space.

There's so much to say about this wonderful cat that I'll never quite be finished. He was the fulfillment of years of girlish dreams and yearnings. He kept me company when I tried to cry myself to sleep during difficult teenage years. He started a Sunday nap ritual when I didn't get enough sleep during the week. He endured at least a dozen moves, including two cross-country. He rolled in red desert dirt and stood startled in two-foot-deep snowdrifts. He survived an interloping pet dog who tried to drag him about by the head, and another dog who mothered him as a kitten and bathed him within an inch of his life.

And now he, too, is gone. I'm grateful that his end was relatively quick; his last illness (pretty much his only illness, for that matter) lasted only a few days. He was in the care of humans who took care of him, and knew when to let him go. It doesn't come close to say that he was loved. He gave me the basis of much of my understanding of what "love" meant. It's also insufficient to say that he'll be missed. My first sweetheart, my little boy.

Thank you for listening.

Different perspectives on high school

I just finished Smashed by Koren Zailckas. In a nutshell, it's a memior of teenage drinking. Very well written, a clear and cautionary tale for any prospective mothers of teenage girls out there. But man, she had a different high school experience! In my version to "go all the way" meant "become a professional musician."

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Yeah, I just posted, but ...

Mid-composing, I got a sales call. From TruGreen. A lawn company.

"Did you know this is an apartment?"

"Ahhhh ..."

"On the third floor?"

"Errr ...."

They can call anytime. Makes me feel superior.

They're getting uppity

The birds around here have got it good. A couple years ago I was late to work because I got stuck behind a Canada goose. A goose that wasn't crossing the road -- no, it was sauntering along, in my lane, right in front of me. I flashed lights, I honked (it honked back), I got within inches -- nothing doing.

A goose I can almost understand. The geese around here are no longer migratory. They seem to prefer waddling around to actual flying.

Today I had to stop and wait for a robin to cross the road.

That's it -- I'm getting a gun license.

Please pardon the cuteness





Monday, April 03, 2006

A Not-So-Great Idea

Seen today: camouflage clothing on toddler boys.

"Where did he go? He was just here!"