Prissy Duck Update

September 30, 2008

I finally remembered to ask the Friendly Neighbors at Mrs. Friendly Neighbor’s Surprise birthday party about the ducks who refused to go into their pool after a chicken fell into it.

“Yes, they finally started going back into the pool. It took a week, though.”

So now you can add to your never-ending collection of useful information you learn from reading my blog. If a chicken falls into your duck pond, it will take the ducks a week to recover from this traumatic experience.

Also, at the party, the Friendly Neighbors introduced us to some newcomers to our island. “They’re gardeners, also,” Mr. Friendly Neighbor told us.

We had a nice chat. They told us they had just moved here from Santa Barbara. As we moved from Los Angeles to Washington State in about 1968, and lived in the Pacific Northwest (back and forth between Portland and Puget Sound) since then, and lived on the island for three years, we now consider ourselves natives, so we welcomed the newcomers with friendly condescension.

Before we went to the surprise party, my wife asked me, “Do you want me to throw a surprise party for your 65th birthday?”

“Not if you want to live,” I answered in a friendly way.

#1. I am dyslexic. You can recognize this by the frequent errers that appear in my posts and comments.

I arrived a few minutes late at the little house in the medium sized city, but not catastrophically late.It only took my little introvert granddaughter about one minute to decide she knows her grandfather and greet me. She asked me if I wanted to see her babies. I said, “Yes.” She took me into the library and introduced me to her babies. She laid her dollies in a row on the floor and covered each one with a blanket. She then handed me a page from the New York Times and invited me to read it.

What was going on? I wondered.

Mommy (birth mother and my daughter’s partner) was cooking some clam shell noodles. She put out a dish of peas and some cheese sauce. She told RG and me that she and Mama (Random Daughter) were heading for the library book sale and that as soon as the timer went off we should drain the noodles, add the peas and cheese sauce, and have dinner. She pointed to a bag of small gingersnap cookies that RG could have for dessert.

With a little help from me, RG finished preparing dinner. She added the peas. I added the cheese sauce, spilling some, but I wiped what I spilled up, escaping RG’s disapproval. I mixed the slop vigorously with a wooden spoon.

I dished it into two bowls. I asked her how many gingersnap cookies she wanted. She took eight. That was a lot, but they were small cookies and I decided they were within the allowable limits, especially when RG is being babysat by Grandpa.

We sat down at the table. RG put the cookies aside and said, “First I am going to eat dinner.” Then she ate all of the noodles like a normal person, with no whining, meltdowns, or other drama queen theatrics. She then ate all of her cookies except two. She put one cookie at Mommy’s place and one cookie at Mama’s place.

What was going on? I wondered.

After dinner, I asked her what she wanted to do. RG said, “I want to go outside. I am going to ride my bicycle.”

She put on her clogs and went outside. “Where is my bicycle?” she asked. “Oh, it’s under the cover,” she answered herself. The little house is being remodeled (new windows, new door, and some repairs) and repainted. The usual conglomeration of stuff in the fenced yard was under a tarp to protect it from paint. With my help she got her bicycle with training wheels out from under the tarp and rode it up and down the concrete path where she is allowed to ride without a helmet. As she rode she crooned softly to herself, a mixture of singing, talking, and humming. Nothing seemed to be required of me but just being around, so I watched her quietly. Then she got down from the bicycle; I put it back under the tarp, and she said, “OK, I am ready to go to bed.”

What was going on? I wondered.

Here are the best answers I have (though not very good).

The babies and the newspaper. Later, Mommy explained to me that at RG’s new pre-school, which is smaller, and run by a mom (who is a licensed Montessori teacher) out of her house, at naptime the children lie down on mats on the floor to take a nap while the teacher reads the newspaper. RG now lays all her babies down on the floor and reads a newspaper while they take a nap.

I said to Mommy, “RG is now reading a little. The New York Times is still a little heavy reading material for her. It would be better if you produced a little newspaper for her each day at  her reading level.”

For example, Sylvie went outside. Sylvie stayed in the yard.

[Sylvie, the mommies’ very sweet little black and white cat gets to go out in the yard for a little while. She is pretty good about staying inside, but everyone has to keep an eye on her, as she will sneak out if you are not watching. It is a big news day when she doesn’t try to sneak out.]

Mommy, replied, “Yes, that would be a good idea if I had lots of time.”

Eating dinner without a meltdown. Damned if I know. Is she just happier and better adjusted with her new, more personal day care/preschool? Is she just growing up?

The nighttime bicycle ride. As far as I can figure out, this is how little introvert Random Granddaughter processes the day’s events before she goes to bed. Note to RG’s future spouse: when she goes for a five-mile bicycle ride before bedtime, just let her go with it. She will be a much better bed companion if you let her get her ya yas out with a bit of exercise before she retires.

 

As everyone (well, everyone who is anybody) knows, I have been working (though not very well), on sponsoring a bake sale/yard sale/jumble sale (as they call it in UK) to raise money to fly trucie to Portland (or maybe fly Portland to trucie, my geography is shaky) so David and trucie can ruin whatever is not already ruined of their love lives.

However, an even greater emergency is at hand than thwarted and ruined love lives.

We (meaning you, me, and everyone else in the no longer so great United States of America) are bankrupt, and the rent is past due. We will be served an eviction notice any day now and tossed out on the street. I don’t know about you, but my street is the Pacific Ocean. I don’t know who for sure will be doing the evicting, but if they are wearing headbands and carrying tomahawks and bows I will not be surprised.

Our representatives, who are, to put it mildly, clowns, are planning to borrow themselves out of debt.

This does not work.

We need a rent party. A combination bake sale, yard sale, jumble sale and brioche sale, for all Americans, to pay the rent.

I think the British and the French should help out. We helped them out once or twice. Something about Germany. Now that I think of it, the Germans can help out, also. Perhaps a wiener schnitzel sale would be in order while we’re at it.

OK, we’ve got about a week to raise 700 Billion Dollars. I was trying to figure out how much that comes to per electoral vote, but I got dizzy. Somebody who is good at math help me out here.

I don’t know where David’s post is that describes an experience on his road to crippling stage fright. I believe it took place while he was in high school or shortly thereafter.

I am sad to say that Random Granddaughter at the age of 4 also had a traumatic experience with stage fright. I don’t know if this will cripple her for life or not. I will be seeing her and taking care of her this afternoon and early evening, allowing her mommies to go to a large library book sale. This will provide me a chance to see how she is doing.

I will relate how this lamentable experience took place, and my role (over which I now feel quite guilty) in precipitating it.

A few weeks ago, when Mrs. Random and I were day sitting RG for a week, we took her to the library. I’ve described how she often picks out books that strike her adults as inappropriate in terms of age or subject matter, and how when she gets home she seems to have no idea why she picked out a particular book. I decided we should address this situation and introduce her to the phenomenon of literary criticism and book reviews.

We were in the children’s section of the library. I said to RG, “Sometimes you pick out books and then you don’t want them after we bring them home. How are you going to choose books you will actually want to read after you bring them home?”

RG replied, “I look at the pictures.” She then picked up a book and flipped through the pages to demonstrate to me.

I was not entirely reassured. I decided to supplement her choices with some choices of my own. As she began to gather books, I also began to gather books. I picked up several, but one book in particular struck me favorably: Brave Irene by William Steig.

After many years as a successful cartoonist for adults, Steig started a second career in his 60s as an author and artist working in children’s books. Among his many great successes was the book, Shrek, which formed the basis of a series of animated films.

When I read Brave Irene to RG, it was an immediate hit. Irene’s mother, a seamstress, sews a gorgeous gown for a Duchess to wear to a ball. Mom is sick, however, and unable to deliver the gown in time for the ball. Irene tucks her mother into bed, brings her some tea, and tells her she will deliver the gown through the snow storm which has just started.

The book tells how Irene struggles through the storm even though the wind rips the box containing the dress out of her hands and she falls into the snow. Bravely continuing even though she has sprained her ankle, Irene sees the lighted mansion, slides down the hill, finds the gown wrapped around a tree, and delivers the dress. The grateful duchess feeds Irene a splendid dinner. Irene then dances with impressive noblemen, who hold her as they swing her around to spare her sprained ankle.

The next morning a doctor accompanies Irene in a sleigh as she is delivered home to her worried mother with a note applauding what a wonderful girl she is which the mother thinks she knows better than anyone.

It’s a charming book combining inspiration about courage and determination with witty humor in subtle comments about class stratification in society.

RG was immediately charmed and asked me to read it to her twice. I then suggested she and I turn it into a dramatic performance for her mommies.

RG has considerable experience with drama. For example, in the incident of the improperly scalloped potatoes, as RG rushed to the bathroom to spit them out of her mouth, Mommy (RG’s birth mother) said as an aside to the other adults, “She’s such a drama queen.” A drama queen is better than a drama duchess, I will have you know.

RG and I rehearsed the play several times. In the rehearsal, she showed particular flair at performing the scene where Irene struggles against the wicked wind, loses the dress, and falls into the deep snow, spraining her ankle.

When the mommies returned from a walk, we began the matinee grand opening performance with the mommies and Grandma sitting on the couch as an audience. After the first scene, where RG tells her mother that she will deliver the gown to the duchess (Grandpa playing the mother not very convincingly), RG went into the hall to prepare for her journey into the storm.

Suddenly Random Granddaughter froze. A look of great distress appeared on her face. She said to me, “I don’t want to.” Words of encouragement from Mommy, Mama (Random Daughter), and Grandma were of no avail. At the age of four, RG had discovered stage fright.

I don’t know if like David she will be unable to participate in public performances ever again. I will see her this afternoon. I am bringing Brave Irene with me again. I don’t know if RG will want to get on the horse that threw her again. I won’t push the point; I will just have the book and let her decide what she wants to do with it, if anything. Growing up is hard work. I don’t know if adults appreciate what a difficult job it is.

Curses! Foiled Again

September 14, 2008

On one of the days when Mrs. Random and I were taking care of Random Granddaughter, I took a break to use the computer while my wife played with RG. Grandma was helping RG with some jigsaw puzzles.

I concentrated on my computer screen for a few minutes, and then looked up to see RG with a very shocked look on her face, staring at Grandma. After a minute, she broke into hysterical laughter which lasted for several minutes.

Later, I asked my wife what had sent RG into peals of laughter.

“After we finished a puzzle, I was putting the pieces away into the puzzle box. The box slipped from my hand, and spilled most of the pieces to the floor. Frustrated, I exclaimed, ‘Oh, poop! I dropped the puzzle pieces again.’

“RG apparently thought that I was the kind of Grandma who would never say something as awful as ‘Poop.’ She’s still coming to terms with having a grandma who talks that way.”

As you know, I’ve been considering opening a line of comedy clubs for pre-schoolers. However, I think we will have to have a rating system, and space the different shows out at appropriate times.

Before nap time, the three-year olds would attend the “PG-rated shows.” We could probably get away with using a joke about “Going Potty,” without the censors cracking down on us. While the three-year-olds were taking their naps, the four-year-olds would go the P-rated shows. In the evening, the five-year-olds would learn what words not to use when they go to kindergarten.

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One day, while Random Granddaughter was taking her nap, I raised the topic of “appropriate language” to use around RG. I should add that Mama (Random Daughter) and Mommy (her partner and RG’s birth mother)–even though they might be called (gasp!) lesbians by some people–are both rather prissy, goody-goody lesbians, and seem a little reluctant to call themselves “lesbians” though they will in a pinch, or a cuddle, or something like that.

At one time, after RD and her partner had graduated from Oberlin, but before they had a baby, the four of us rented a house together near Hawthorne Blvd in Portland, Oregon. Across Hawthorne was a “sex shop.” Not the slimy guy in a raincoat pawing through girly magazines and sordid DVDs type of sex shop, but a wholesome, clean, lesbian-oriented sex shop. The kind of sex shop where people of all sexes who just want to have good clean, respectful sex can be found hanging out and looking at good clean respectful dirty books and videos.

I just checked on the web to see if it was still there. No, it’s moved. But not that far. Here’s what I found (in case David and truce need to check it out some time after we raise enough money to get her to Portland).

On the busy corner of N.E. Sandy Blvd. & 64th Street, behind the white picket fence and charming garden, lies the new home of It’s My Pleasure. After 6½ years on Hawthorne Blvd. the store relocated to its permanent home which is a large, old white house in the north side of Sandy, behind the bus stop at 64th St. This new resource center in the new space is a beautiful gift store which sells a wide array of items including music, cards, candles, jewelry, incense, gay pride merchandise, safer sex items, erotic toys and books.

It’s My Pleasure originated as a safe and inviting place for women to buy erotic and sexuality items; clientele includes all ages, genders and sexual orientations. Approaching sexuality from a holistic perspective, It’s My Pleasure carries items for both pleasure and education. Upstairs from the store are three professional offices where massage, therapy and naturopathic medicine practitioners have their practices.

Anyway, one day, RD and partner, as junior lesbians, visited this wholesome shop. After they returned, we could tell they were a bit shocked and embarrassed by all the “hardcore” (well, maybe softcore would be a more apt word to use) literature and devices they encountered. They didn’t really want to talk about it. So we maintained a respectful silence on the topic. Those of my readers who are parents of adult children, do you talk with your children about their sex lives? You do? How come you get to have all the fun?

Anyway, anyway, back to the present, when I raised the “gfd” issue, as I called it, with the mommies, they explained they didn’t really want Grandma and Grandpa to talk that way with RG. RG will learn such language soon enough from her little friends, they thought, and there is no reason to rush the process. Except for the little incident I will relate in the next episode (which the mommies took in good humor), as obedient grandparents, we have behaved ourselves and watched our mouths around RG.

For a child with two mommies and two daddies, and–I have to count on my fingers and toes here, but they’re clean fingers and toes—Grandpa and Grandma Random, make two, and Mommy’s Mom B1 and step dad and dad A, and step mom, that makes six, and [dad1]’s mom B2-there’s a dad somewhere but he got kicked to the curb and left town so we won’t count him, now we’re up to seven and then [dad2} has a mom and dad, so now we’re up to nine—five grandmas and four grandpas-though as far as I know only the Randoms are likely to use bad words and they’re on pretty good behavior—-and she’s still a pretty innocent little girl.

I’ve taught Excel classes for perhaps twenty years. When I teach a class, I do a quick evaluation of the classes’ tolerance for edgy humor and decide whether or not to include this little note about technical vocabulary.

When I first started teaching Excel, I noticed I used two words quite a bit. Each of these words made me nervous. Right from the start I made it a point to pronounce these words very carefully.

One word is SHIFT, as in “Press the Shift key.”

The other word is SHEET, as in, “Excel is called a Spreadsheet program. Each Excel file contains one or more sheets for entering data.”

I tell them that I always make a point of enunciating these two words very carefully, so there is no possibility of anyone mistaking what I am saying.

Part 3: Cursing in my Classes

September 11, 2008

Before I bring Random family cursing up to the the modern day, describing an incident involving Random Granddaughter being shocked by Grandma’s raw language, I will describe a couple of incidents of dreadful language that have taken place in my work as a computer instructor.

Years ago, at my previous teaching job, an airline pilot working for one of the major airlines was a student in a WordPerfect class (back in the days when WordPerfect for DOS still ruled the word processing world).

He was friendly,  personable, and charming, and spoke in that West Virginia drawl so well described by Tom Wolfe in <i>The Right Stuff</i>.

Everybody immediately liked him. About half an hour into the class, some eccentric action on the part of his computer disconcerted him and he exclaimed, “Oh, shit!” A couple of respectable matrons winced, but everybody (including me) pretended not to hear. The classes I taught at the time covered 12 hours over a two-day span. He must have repeated his little ejaculations half a dozen times in that two-day period.

I am not a “frequent-flyer” but I have taken fairly long flights about a dozen times or two. More than once as the plane starts bouncing and down, the pilot has offered the reassuring drawl, “We’ll be experiencing a little turbulence for a few minutes, folks, but we should be through it in a little while.” Once I hear that, I relax and return to my book, though I do clutch the  spine firmly.

I can’t help but wonder if passengers on this pilot’s flights heard something to the effect of, “Holy shit, that was a big one!” or “Mother of God, did you see how close that other plane came to us? Where in God’s name did he get his pilot’s license?!”

I’m afraid if I had been on one of his flights, it would have scared the shit out of me.

 

At about the age of four, Random Daughter, a very bright and attentive child, began to listen closely to her parents’ use of bad words. My wife took a year off from work to be with her young child, taking RD out of her pre-school at the time, so exposing innocent fellow pre-school fellow students was not a concern on our mind.My daughter put four and four together and concluded: When Mommy and Daddy get upset, these are some of the words they use. Children imitate adults, so one day as she was frustrated with some childish activity, perhaps trying to get a recalcitrant dress on a recalcitrant dolly—I don’t remember the exact irritation—-in any case, out of our daughter’s mouth, clear as a bell, issued the famous phrase: God fucking damn it!

 

What did RD’s very bad Mommy and very bad Daddy do, you very well might ask?

 

We cracked up. RD decided she had cracked one of the basic codes of adult communication. Of course, only one of the words was exactly four letters, but she was only four years old and still learning her arithmetic.
However, as the age of five was reached and entry into kindergarten approached, RD’s depraved parents remembered their parental responsibilities.
We had a serious talk with RD. We explained to her:
There are certain words that upset some people. Obviously, we don’t mind if you use them at home [even at four she had a sharp eye for hypocrisy and would not have tolerated our saying these words and forbidding her to do so] but if you use them outside the home, some people will get upset. So please don’t say words like fuck and shit at kindergarten or around grandmother.

Five-year-old RD, a quasi-genius among her cohort, told us she understood and would comply. Her teacher, Mr. Morasch, (it seemed wonderfully avant garde to us that her public school had a male kindergarten teacher) only had one mild criticism of Random Daughter. Her language was fine, but she was a little bossy with the other children he reported at the parent-teacher conference. But that was probably only to be expected for a child who was already reading when she entered kindergarten and knew how to behave herself and follow rules, even when they were rather silly. And no, she wasn’t reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Tropic of Cancer at the age of five.

To this day, if anyone in our family is frustrated, they merely need to say, “GFD” and everyone else chuckles.