Monday, September 29, 2008

Dear Tech Services Guy

I'm very sorry to report that my computer is malfunctioning, and I think it may be because I spilled about 8 oz. of coffee on the keyboard. However, before you charge me for a replacement, please allow me to explain how the coffee-spilling incident wasn't my fault.

It wasn't my fault because it was Nickelodeon's fault.

See, Nickelodeon accepts advertising for thousands...and thousands...of children's products, cereals, vacation spots, and toys. From these thousands of ads, they choose, oh, three a week to play over and over and over, effectively brainwashing children into believing there is no better toy in the whole wide universe.

Take, for example, the Rocket Powered Fishing Rod. Last year, my children, who had never before expressed one iota of interest in water sports, swore that there lives would be empty and meaningless until they owned this fishing rod, which casts--"at the simple push of a button"--FIFTY FEET into the water (which is, of course, really not that far, but FIFTY is an enormous number to anyone under 8 years old).

A few months ago, the coveted toy d'jour was the Phlatball, a "ball" that one can squish into a disk and then throw to someone who, expecting to catch a Frisbee, will be totally wowed to see it pop open to become a ball in midair. I say, if you want to play Frisbee, throw a Frisbee. If you want to play ball, throw a ball. No one needs a Fris-ball. But whatever.

One afternoon, my children spotted the Phlatball in Target, and because they had seen it on TV, they nearly peed their pants with excitement to see it live and up close in the store. It was on sale for $10, and Mitch had some birthday money. I tried to persuade them it that it was a useless toy; I tried to steer them toward other, more entertaining toys. I even suggested saving the money (the horror!) to buy something bigger and better. But no. It would be the Phlatball and nothing else.

The Phlatball now lives in the bottom of the toy box, abandoned by the boys because, yes, it is pointless after all.

However. One rainy day I undertook a cleaning project wherein I gathered all of our toys to weed out the pointless, forgotten ones. Once in the "toss" pile, the Phlatball was discovered by Paige, who both loved and was scared to death by its "popping back into a ball" feature. She became a bit attached to it in that kind of sick "I love what appalls me" way and refused to leave it in the giveaway pile. So it's back in circulation now.

On Saturday morning, I was checking my email and drinking coffee very carefully, ever mindful of my responsibility to care for the property of the good college that employs me and shares with me its electronic bounty. While I worked, Paige played with the Phlatball at my feet. After growing frustrated with her attempts for flatten the ball on her own, she decided that perhaps she could use my chest as leverage. So she stood up and pushed the Phlatball against my left boob, successfully, if only momentarily, flattening it.

I shifted a bit to avoid her pushing, and when I did, the Phlatball popped back into a sphere. Unfortunately, as the ball opened, its flexible sides snapped back into shape, and in doing so, clamped down on my left nipple.

Dear tech guy, it hurt. It really, really hurt. And so I jumped, thereby sloshing half of my coffee on my laptop, which let out this long, rather screechy and primal beeeeeeep. And then all went black.

I dried the keyboard with a hairdryer; I let it sit overnight; I even prayed a little because I haven't backed up any of my data in awhile. And much to my delight, the computer started up the next day. But now things are strange, as if the coffee perhaps caused a few of the computer's synapses to misfire. Now there are all these quirks, and strange error messages, and difficulties.

So I think I might need a new one, and I know you don't, as a rule, replace computers that have been damaged by the neglect of the employee, but wasn't my fault.

It was Nickelodeon's fault. And my sister's fault for sending Mitch birthday money. And Target's fault for putting the Phlatball on sale.

So can I have a new computer? Please check yes or no.



Saturday, September 20, 2008

Having fun with no money

August and September are tight in our household, since I get paid on a 10 month schedule. Things get much better by the end of September, but until then, we have to make our own fun. No movies, restaurants, or trips to the zoo for us.

The upside is that, in our quest to find inexpensive entertainment, we often wind up having more fun than we'd have on a costly outing. We're more creative, and free activities usually center around simple togetherness.

Today we got a late start to our Saturday and didn't really feel like packing everyone up to go out, even though it was a gorgeous, cool day. So we had a picnic lunch in our yard. The result was lovely, one of those moments when nothing particularly special happens, but everyone feels completely content, congenial, and close.

We ate ham and cantaloupe:

We swiped each other's cantaloupe when supplies ran low:

We waved to the mailman:

We talked with our mouths full:

We even had a guest:

Who fell asleep after gorging on cantaloupe:

All in all a perfect afternoon, nothing that a movie or a shopping spree at Target could beat. Tonight: DVD, air mattress, popcorn, and late bedtimes. Good times.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I can't remember where I read or heard that the terrible two's are a product of a child's dismay at discovering that she is not (as she'd previously assumed) queen of the world.

Until a child is about two years old, we're more willing to cater to every whim, to respond to every request. Then we raise our expectations. And the child's requests become more... complicated, to put it nicely. To put it not nicely, the child's requests become freakin' ridiculous.

At two, a child suddenly wants to participate in activities like

  • Tearing up rolls of toilet paper and trying to flush all of the pieces
  • Sitting on the back of the couch instead of on the seat of the couch
  • Calling the (poor, unsuspecting) first person on your cell phone's speed dial over and over and over
  • Watching the same Backyardigans sixty-eleven times in a row
  • Eating money
  • Climbing into your lap when you have a full cup of coffee
  • Painting the kitchen floor with ketchup (or soggy cereal...or syrup)
  • Drinking sixty-eleven juice boxes
  • Pounding on the computer keyboard (when she needs a break from turning the computer off and on)
  • Opening the fridge, then figuring out how to work the fridge lock and opening the fridge again. And again, and again.
  • Wearing nothing but a diaper and an old cheerleading costume that's 10 sizes too big
  • Eating hair clips
  • Climbing dressers and bookshelves
  • Protesting the car seat with back arching and flailing
  • Tattooing herself with magic marker
  • Taking off her own diaper at, let us say, "inopportune moments"
  • Turning the TV volume all the way up
  • Riding the cat
You see, it's impossible to say "yes" to such activities. And the toddler starts to learn that "no" will often be the response to her requests. The world is no longer simply eating, pooping, and sleeping. There is so much to be done, and so many people standing in the way of her doing it.

It's hard to accept, so the child melts down.

Paige will be two in October. Let the dethroning begin.