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Shock Therapy

Et tu, Waste King? I thought you were the one appliance in the house I could count on not to betray me. You are, after all, the only one that was purchased after the Eisenhower era.

But there I was tonight, washing dishes. I reached out to flick on the garbage disposal, then screamed dramatically–how else can you scream?–when I realized I was being shocked. Quickly whipping my hand back, I shook it hard to lessen the numbing buzz that was traveling up my arm.

“What happened?” asked Mike from the dining room table. He was surrounded by a laptop, papers and files. He’s the treasurer of MJ’s preschool now. My little Bartelby the Scrivener. Minus the tall hat.

“I think I just got shocked by the garbage disposal!”

He didn’t look up from his Quickbooks. “Ouch.”

Ouch? That’s it?”

Now he looked up. And stared at me blankly.

“Aren’t you surprised?”

“Not particularly,” he said calmly.

“Why?”

“I don’t know,” he said, leaning back. Placing his palms on the table: “Were your hands wet?”

I looked down at them. “Yes.”

“Was the switch?”

Oh. Yes. “So that’s, like, normal?” I asked, rubbing my arm gingerly.

“I’m not sure it’s normal. But you probably completed the circuit with all that water.”

Great. I’m an eighth-grade science experiment. “Am I going to have nerve damage?

He smiled as he turned back to his screen. “Not likely. An AC current is surprisingly weak. I once got shocked by a fallen wire while standing in a rain puddle. My friend had to knock me out of there with a stick. But I was fine.”

I stared at him, agape. “A stick? Why?”

“I was immobilized.”

My eyes widened further. “That’s–a terrible story.”

“It was no big deal.”

“You’re crazy.”

He shrugged.

Finishing the last few dishes, I dried my hands thoroughly and walked out of the kitchen. My last words to Mike before I went?

“I will never touch that thing again.”

Scraping the dishes is no big deal. Being a human Tesla coil? I’ll leave it to my more sanguine husband. And remember to keep a stick handy.

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Still Life With Cast-off Easter Eggs, Heath Platter, and Jellybeans

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Let Me Eat Crow

Sometimes the anxious is the enemy of the nice.

It’s not pithy, but it’s true.

When I wrote the other day that the birds Mike made for me as prototypes for my AE class were “not Pinterest-worthy” I was being unkind. And ungrateful, considering the hours he’d spent making them. Or, OK, minutes. I don’t know–I wasn’t there. I was at book club, discussing a book I hadn’t read.

I guess I’m a bit of a jerk across the board.

Anyway, I have a feeling I’ll be hearing the phrase “not Pinterest-worthy” for the next forty years. And deservedly so. Sorry, Mike. Your birds were definitely Pinterest worthy. And AE-worthy.

Overall, you’re just a super worthy guy.

Grim Cheepers

Today Myra-Jean was a lammergeier.

What the hell is that, you ask? I have no idea. Or hadn’t, until today. Turns out it’s a bird. Otherwise known as a bearded vulture. My daughter’s ornithological knowledge has officially passed from the cute to the bizarre. It’s one thing when your four-year-old pretends to be a sparrow, heron, or even a blue tit. (Although the latter did raise a few eyebrows in the over-ten set.) It’s quite another when she claims to be a bird that no one has ever heard of and that you, her parent, can barely pronounce. Speaking of which, where the hell did she learn to do a french accent? The whole thing is just creepy.

“I eat mostly bones, Mama. I drop them onto rocks to break them open.”

“Really.”

“Then I eat the marrow inside.”

“Can we finish brushing your teeth now, please?”

“You mean my beak?

Right now she’s super into a book called “Guide to Birds.” It’s excellent–detailed, packed with interesting information, well written. It’s also for older kids, so it’s a wee bit on the graphic side.

“It takes practice to become a proficient killer,” one section, called “Blood Lust,” starts.

“So most birds of prey specialize in a particular strategy. For members of the eagle and hawk family, the principal weapons are the talons, which kill by puncturing the prey’s body and inflicting mortal wounds. In contrast, falcons hold small prey in their talons and use the bill to snap the spine and cripple them.”

“Goodnight Moon” it’s not.

I feel slightly mortified introducing such imagery to her, but MJ seems drawn to it. She asks for the same pages–the bloody ones–over and over again. True, she was initially perturbed by the book’s high body count. But she quickly grew able to compartmentalize. Take secretary birds, for example. These odd creatures, looking like “eagles on stilts,” are the only birds of prey that both stomp their victims to death and swallow them whole. MJ “loves” them. Loves! Most girls her age love cookies. And puppies. And “Frozen.” My kid loves the avian equivalent of the Terminator. Either she’s compartmentalizing or she’s crazy.

Mike says books like “Guide to Birds” are probably as good a way as any to introduce MJ to the vagaries of life. I suppose this is true. God knows it’s easier to talk about birds dying than people. Still, when I’m sitting with her in the rocking chair, cuddled up under a blanket, trying to define the word “impale” without traumatizing her  completely, it all feels like a bit of a parenting “don’t.”

On the other hand, if it toughens her up a little bit? Makes her roll with the punches–like scraping her knee, getting her hair combed, or being handed the wrong-colored bowl at breakfast–a tiny bit more easily? Maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all. Better than a claw through the skull, right?

Now there’s some good parenting for you.

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Of Foam and Feathers

Another day, another crafting anxiety spiral.

In an hour I have to go teach Afternoon Enrichment class at MJ’s school. Remember AE? My anxiety attack over the spiders? My misery as I tried to come up with novel ways to make perfume? It rolls around, once a month, as inevitable as the tides. And as relentless. Work got me out of it for a while, but now I’m here again. The theme today? Birds, of course. How could it be anything but? When your child is waking up in the morning and screeching “Don’t call me MJ! I’m a blue tit!” you don’t have a lot of alternatives.

For days I’ve been googling “bird crafts for preschoolers.” There are plenty of ideas, believe me. But none seems quite right. Or easy enough. Or doable in a sixty-minute time period with eight antsy five-year-olds.

I’ve been losing a lot of sleep over it.

So yesterday I did what I always do. I went to Michael’s and wandered the aisles aimlessly, hoping for inspiration. Last night, when Mike came home from work, I told him the outcome.

“I got some styrofoam balls.”

“Ah.”

“And some feathers!”

“OK…”

“And, um, some lollipop sticks.”

“Some–what?”

“And now I’ve got to go to book club! Can you figure something out for me?”

Look–he should be helping out. He’s far more creative than me. Plus, he knows the stress of this gig. He’s had to do the last three. I think it’s the main reason he worked so hard to find another job. That, and his unemployment running out.

I came home from book club to find a variety of foam ball birds on the counter. Pinterest-worthy they may not be, but they’ll have to do. I hope the kids can emulate them. I hope they get us through an hour of crafting time. I hope no one turns on me and screams “This is lame!”

I hope Mike is unemployed again next time AE rolls around.

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Dish Network

It’s not only toddlers who need a security blanket sometimes.

I was at a 5-year-old’s birthday party last weekend, and found myself feeling a bit socially awkward. Looking for something to do, I spotted a cabinet filled with retro games; I decided to play one with MJ until my shyness abated. This is the kind of thing we non-drinkers have to resort to. I know, it’s very unwieldy. But cheaper than a fifth of scotch.

Anyway. The game we played was pick up sticks–something I haven’t done, probably, since I was five. I eventually relaxed and went on to mingle with kids my own age. But I’d had so much fun playing that I decided to re-create the experience at home. For Mike. Using silverware and dishes.

I think I succeeded beautifully.

He is such a sore loser.

Cheese grater, anyone?

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(L.A.) River Bed

“Mama?”

“Yes, sweetheart.”

“Can we play something?”

A long pause. “It’s 6:30 in the morning.”

Impatiently: “I know.”

I have been awake all of fifteen seconds. “What do you want to play?”

“L.A. River, of course.”

I sigh, and pull my robe tighter around me. “I need a cup of tea first.”

This is all the assent she needs. Myra-Jean leaps from her bed and flies into activity. “I’ll get it set up.”

Ever since our trip there last week MJ has wanted nothing more than to play this new game of her own invention. It’s a simple one, really. She spreads a bunch of blankets on her bedroom floor, gets out her bird dolls, drags me (or Mike) down next to her, and spends the next hour squawking. And making us squawk. That’s it. Basically.

Oh, except for the random and assorted objects–a handful of hair clips, a rubber prickly toy, a wooden spoon, a green shopping bag, a plastic vial of bubbles–that have come, inexplicably, to be essential to the game. The ball is hidden and found. The clips go on birds beaks. The rest? I’m not sure. MJ has reasons for each of them. I cannot begin to comprehend them. It matters not at all. I am there merely as an accessory–another player to talk to, a placeholder, an outline to be filled in. I am a tricolored heron, an eared grebe, a pintail. I am a character of MJ’s making; I contribute nothing to the “plot.” True, generally I suggest taking a nap–this is a tactic of mine in every game–but otherwise I have no more agency than the clips, the blankets, or the birds themselves.

Except that this prop requires caffeine. Once I get this I am happy to play. Until breakfast, at least.

One additional plot point I insist upon: the blankets get cleaned up in the end. I don’t want the dog lying on them.The L.A. River may be dirty, but have you seen Mina? We’re talking a major pollutant.

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