Follow-up to exurban savagery.

Probably the main reason I have not used a .22 rifle is that I have been following the lead and guidance of The Friendly Neighbors, who use an air rifle.

Also, apparently rifle hunting is not legal on our island. I am not sure how this can be, and why the NRA has not thrown everybody not in support of unrestricted gun use off the island into the ocean.

In addition, at one time my daughter worked in a medical research lab and had to off rabbits as part of the research. As a conscientious person, she carried out this task as directed, but as a gentle, kindly person she was distressed by the responsibility. Now, as a mom of a three year old girl, she has apparently had a resurgence of her gentle, kindly, “fuzzy bunny” self and is not entirely enthusiastic about her dad’s emergence as a blood-thirsty rabbit killer, or so her mom tells me. I suspect she would not be all that much of a fan of dad increasing his firepower.

I have been a bit concerned that a rabbit I shot be really dead, as mentioned in several messages. I move them around a bit to make sure they seem clearly lifeless, but I have been drawing the line at trying to take a pulse or detect breath on a mirror.

Although the Friendly Neighbor is big on using a scope, I have mixed feelings about it. At times a rabbit is wandering around where I can focus on it with the scope and aim at it, but often the rabbits are bounding out from under my feet, and the only chance I would have to get one of them would be to fire off a quick shot.

As I think Pete indicated, a rifle with just a sight might be more useful for quick aiming and firing. For that matter, a pistol would probably be better for quick shots at a bunny that’s visible for a few seconds. Unfortunately, air pistols don’t pack enough punch to really damage the bunny. Mrs. Friendly Neighbor indicated that her air pistol mostly irritates the rabbits. Now while it’s obvious that irritating a bear by shooting it with a pistol is probably not a good idea, I am not sure how dangerous it is to irritate a bunny with a pistol, but why take a chance?

Besides the two rabbits I clearly shot, and I think were clearly dead, I had a pretty good shot at one rabbit the same day. It bounded into the thick underbrush of the woods, but a couple days later, my wife detected a bad smell coming from that part of the woods, which we thought a fairly clear indication of dead bunny.

So at the moment, the score stands at two clearly dead rabbits, one probably dead rabbit, and several frightened rabbits. We have not seen any rabbits for a few days.

Mrs. Friendly Neighbor said to us, “After you get a few rabbits, they seem to get the idea you don’t want them around, and stay away for a while. But they always come back eventually, and you have to start shooting them again.

However, in the meantime, the zucchini are clearly avoiding any sudden moves and watching me very carefully. However, their strategy is to double in size overnight, while staying in one place.

My strategy is to take the zucchini to work on the mainland and leave them in the staff room with written instructions to co-workers to take take them home quickly and eat them at once while we still have a chance to survive their onslaught. Seems to work so far, as all the zuchinni I left have disappeared, though they may only be lurking in the corridor waiting for a chance to jump me and bring me down as a pack.

Next November, my wife and I will celebrate 42 years of marriage. We were really babies when we married. We both came from rather dysfunctional families; though to be fair to our poor parents, they did pass on some useful values and skills. Even so, it is a miracle that our marriage lasted this long. Even now, we are capable of screwing it up and we have to work every day at keeping the old heap (our marriage) running.

When we married, we knew that each of us was not a religious believer. (I think it’s a bad idea for people of different faiths or lacks of faith to marry.)

My wife’s mother wanted us to be married in a church. I suggested to my wife getting married in a Unitarian Church as the least church-like type of church I knew. Her mother didn’t know enough about Unitarians to get upset.

The minister was a charming, jovial, grandfather-like gentleman; the wedding was rather PC and aside from scaring me to death (as is the case, I suspect with most bridegrooms), did not agitate my irreligious prejudices very much. The moms were satisfied.

As a poor young couple, we cobbled together enough money to get from Los Angeles to Carmel, for a honeymoon, where without meaning to do anything more than mess around as a legal couple, we conceived a baby.

If we had not had our “accident,” we probably never would have chosen to have a child.

People whose marriage is not going well sometimes have a child in the hope of saving the marriage. Having a baby to save a marriage usually probably ruins the marriage and messes up the baby. It’s usually not a good reason at all to have a child.

In our case, the accidental baby saved me from going to Vietnam by deferment, where I would quite likely been killed as the worst soldier the history of the United States military. It also may have saved our stumbling marriage. Neither of us likes children very much; neither of us is very patient with children. But confronted with a child, we said to ourselves: We better take this responsibility seriously. We better figure out how to operate this “raise a child” kit that landed on our doorstep. It gave us something to take our minds off reasons to end our marriage that might have occurred to us.

At the time, we thought we were figuring it out pretty well. Looking back on it, it was evident at a very early age that our little girl was very bright. I don’t know where she stands in IQ numbers, but her IQ must be twice that of each of her parents. I never knew that genetics worked that way, but somehow our IQs must have added together when they produced our child.

I think she was so bright that at an early age she figured out: My parents don’t like children very much and they are not very patient people. If I am not a very good child, my chances of surviving to the age of 18 are not very good. So I suspect she gets much of the credit for turning out as well as she has.

By the time she was in kindergarten she also figured out: If I am polite to adults and do my work, they will let me do what I want most of the time, so why bother wasting everybody’s time with rebelling?


It was a bit of a shock to us when our daughter told us from a safe distance (she was studying in London at the time), “I am engaged to be married.” The shock was that she was engaged to her college roommate, who was another young lady.

It took us a while to get used to the idea. About a week.

As a young couple, they lived with us for a while. They took their relationship very seriously. They went through some sort of pre-marital counseling and checklists, and discussed whether they were compatible or not and what the ground rules of their relationship would be.

After they felt they were ready, they had a wedding ceremony. One of their schoolmates was in divinity school studying to be an Episcopalian minister. At the time, my daughter was managing a small medical research lab for a doctor; he and his wife offered their house and yard in the West Hills of Portland for the ceremony.

This month marked 15 years that my daughter and her partner have been out of law “married.” My wife and I have a marriage license, but I don’t know that we are “really married.” Or to put it another way, we consider our daughter and her partner just as much “really married” as we are.

I don’t know if they are “lesbians.” I think they are two women who fell in love with each other.

A woman who works with my daughter’s partner told her about a community on our island where “a lot of lesbians live.” The implication (meant in a friendly fashion) was that my daughter and her partner might like to live there so they would be with “their own kind.”

OP said to us (not the well-meaning friend), “I don’t want to live with a bunch of “lesbians.” We live in a nice house in a neighborhood of people of various ages and ethnic groups and other that suits us fine. We like the variety.”

“Gay marriage,” is a contentious and divisive issue in our society. At worldmagblog, the discussion area of World (an evangelical Christian magazine) I regularly find flame wars about “gay marriage.” I am sure it will astonish everyone here to know that I frequently post sarcastic messages there.

Until recently, I never had a conversation with my daughter and her partner about whether or not they wanted the right to be “legally” married. Although I know homosexual couples who have gone to Canada or to Massachusetts to “get married,” RD and OP have never done so or indicated an interest in doing so.

My daughter, a very practical person, has legally adopted her partner’s child and has legally changed her last name to her partner’s name. Secretly, I felt a slight pang about the name change, though I never told my daughter. As when she announced her engagement, it took me about a week to get over it. (As a general rule for my readers, if you post a message that perturbs me; allow a week for me to get over it. That’s my standard “get over it” time period.)

They have taken other legal steps to protect their relationship and their child as much as they can. [Dad], although involved with his child’s life, has legally given up his rights as a father.

Last weekend, I asked them about whether they were going to form a union under our state’s new law. They discussed it a bit in a lackadaisical manner. My daughter said, “After we spent so much money and time protecting our relationship already, we were not very excited about this new option which pretty much does the same thing we did already.”

That’s my girl! I thought about my realistic, practical daughter.




2T Who’s Your Daddy?

August 20, 2007

Quite a few years ago when I taught high school in Oregon, a young lady showed up in one of my classes in the middle of a term. She was a bit mouthy and saucy, but not big trouble. There was a story behind her sudden appearance, which I only gradually learned. Her parents had divorced when she was young. She had grown up with her birth mom and a step dad in Arizona and had not had contact with birth dad who lived in Oregon with a new family.

As a teenager, she had fallen into some conflict with mom and stepdad. Not catastrophic conflict, but a common level of parent-adolescent arguments and commotion. One day, she caught a Greyhound bus to Oregon, found her way to birth dad’s house (dad had also remarried and had a new family) knocked on the door, and said, “Hi, I’m your daughter. I’ve come to live with you.”

After some less than calm long distance calls, she was eventually merged into the other family. I don’t know all the details, but my understanding was that the re-arranged family life was working. Not smoothly, not trouble-free, but not catastrophically.

I’ve known other daughters who were separated from or deprived of their father and became obsessed with discovering or tracking a dad. In some cases, all they knew was that dad had been a test tube. Not knowing her dad can leave a young lady with an uneasy feeling that she is missing something she needs.

So I’ve expressed some concern to Random Daughter [RD] and Out of Law partner [OP] (Random Granddaughter’s birth mother) about figuring out what RG’s relationship will be with her sperm donor, whom for blog purposes I refer to as [dad].

RD and OP and [dad] all went to college together. He lives in the Midwest. He has a steady partner (five years, I believe) and a good job. He is bright and talented.

He visits the barely extended family from time to time. RG knows and likes him, and calls him by his first name. He’s like an uncle to her. They get along well.

While I was working yesterday, my daughter told my wife that a few months ago, RG asked, her mommies, “Is [dad] my father?”

I was rather expecting this to happen.

No one quite knows how RG figured it out, but she is a very bright little three year old girl. There were various clues for her to work on. She often picks up on things adults say when they don’t notice that she is listening. She knows [dad]’s mom as a grandmother. Although my daughter and her partner have male friends and are not hostile to men, [dad] is the main unmarried man in their lives who fits into the appropriate age bracket to be her father.

When my daughter was little, we did the “Santa Claus” thing. When she was in kindergarten, a pretty bad little boy her age who lived next door, told her that Santa Claus was a made up character.

“What do you think?” we replied when our daughter asked us. “I don’t think Santa Claus is real,” she said.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Would you rather we had?” we asked back. She seemed to accept that it was OK that we let her figure it out for herself.

I’m not sure if this story applies to my granddaughter’s experience with learning about her very unconventional style of dad. I am glad that she has a dad and knows who he is instead of wondering about him and spending years looking for him.

She is a young lad with very strong opinions about everything she encounters and no hesitation in sharing them with her family. At the moment, things seem to be copasetic. However, as time goes by, I’m sure she will have a few things to say about and to [dad].




3M Close Calls

August 5, 2007

Random Granddaughter, at three years of age, has learned to make sure her mommies help her put on her helmet when she rides her tricycle or her scooter.

When I was 11, I rode my unreliable bicycle in heavy traffic from home to Brea Junior High School and along the five miles of busy Orange County, California highway from Brea to Fullerton and back without a helmet protecting my empty head.

My best friends, Frankie and Scottie, were not much more athletic than I, but they were less timid. Near where we lived and rode our bicycles, one residential street descended a steep hill ending in a sharp curve at the bottom. When my friends released their bicycle brakes to race down the hill as fast as their bicycles would go and bank around the turn leaning close to the ground, I would keep my brakes on and descend more carefully. When I caught up with them, my friends would laugh at me for being chicken, though not too cruelly, as we were best friends after all.

One day, riding by myself, I decided to try “dead man’s curve” to see if I could take it like they did. Just as I sent into the turn, the chain guard came off my always unreliable bicycle, tangled itself in the spokes, and the *!#$ bike dragged me along the asphalt. I don’t know how much protection a helmet would have provided against the bumps and scrapes I received, but when I picked myself up from the ground and brought my hand to my to my very sore face, I found blood. I don’t remember if I broke my glasses.

Blubbering a bit more than I should have as an 11-year-old boy, I walked myself and my mangled bicycle home. When I staggered through the door with my blood-covered face, I half scared my mother to death.

After she mopped the blood off my face, she discovered the actual physical damage was not that bad. However, that incident convinced me to be a “chicken” for the rest of my days. Whether it is coincidence or not, I don’t know, but I have never suffered a broken bone in my 63-years of life.

For a while when we were in our twenties, my wife and I rode bicycles for recreation and exercise. Our three-year-old daughter rode in a little child’s seat on the back of my bicycle. Mostly we rode at parks, though sometimes in traffic to get to the park. I can’t remember if we provided our daughter with a helmet; I sure hope we did.

When she goes for a ride with her mommies in their station wagon, RG climbs into a child’s safety seat that is so sturdy and approved it might survive a moon landing.

When I was 9, around 1953, I rode with my uncle Don and his brother Dick in a car traveling from Los Angeles to the Nichols family ranch near Hemet. Don was driving, Dick was sitting in the middle of the front seat, and I was sitting next to the passenger’s-side door. In those primitive days, that car, like most American cars of the time, was not equipped with seat belts.

Somewhere along the way, the passenger’s side door fell off. Completely off, clattering onto the highway with a loud crash. Dick, with the fast reflexes of a cowboy, grabbed me, so I didn’t bounce along the side of the highway like the car door was doing.

Later, Uncle Donald became entranced with Citroens, an eccentric French car. (Aren’t the words French and eccentric redundant?) One of their features of the standard model of the time (called a DS) was an air-suspension system that could raise and lower the car. Imitating Uncle Donald, my father bought a Citroen station wagon as well.


Later, as a poor married couple, my wife and I bought a Citroen 2CV. This was the cheap model. It not only didn’t have an air suspension; we were lucky it had any kind of suspension at all. 2CVs were wildly popular in Europe, but never really caught on in the United States.

It ran on two-cylinders. It had a top-speed of 50 miles per hour, which made it very practical for driving on Los Angeles freeways. It got about 100 miles per gallon. The seats could be unbuckled from the floor and removed from the car. When we went to a hootenanny in a field, we provided our own seats instead of sitting on the ground. We had some sort of primitive baby car seat for our little daughter.

Riding in this car was about as safe as riding in a egg shell with wheels.

How I survived to grow up, and my daughter survived to grow up, I don’t know.





To get to work, I ride a ferry for part of the journey. I buy ferry tickets online. When the Barely Extended Family is going to visit us, I send them electronic tickets as attachments to an email.

When I recently sent my daughter tickets, I wrote:

“These tickets are so you can get to us. Bring Child for admission.”

Below is a summary of the email discussion that ensued.

My daughter’s questions are shown in italic. My replies are shown in bold.

hmm. any child?

Preferably a child named “Random Granddaughter.” Children named “Gertrude,” or “Whilhelmina,” or “Insipia,” or “Ernistine,” are less likely to get you in.

does child have to be in good mood?

One melt-down per day is allowed. If child engages in more than one, it will have to take its nap in the nettle bushes.


If covered with dirt on arrival, child may find itself being hosed off before entry into house.

willing to eat vegetables?

Child should eat one vegetable. For example, one green bean.

say “please” and “thank you” without prompting?

Child may prompt Grandma and Grandpa to say, “Please.”

please advise on child specifications.

Child should be special.

3C Under the Fence

July 10, 2007

Humans (most of us) have an instinctive affection and protectiveness for little children. If you could see little Random Granddaughter gravely mothering her favorite dolly, whom she calls, Special Baby, right now, you would say, “Isn’t she darling?”

Her other favorite dolly is a floppy stuffed rabbit she calls, Bunny. Oddly enough, when she plays with Bunny, and puts words in his mouth, they are often aggressive and pushy words addressed to the other toys. Bunny has an aggressive streak to him. If RG wasn’t a sweet, innocent three-year-old child, I would be tempted to say that she has already learned to project feelings onto other creatures that she suspects may not be acceptable to her Mommies..

Nevertheless, Mama (Random Daughter) and Mommy (Random Daughter’s Out of Law partner and birth mother of RG) strive to maintain the little darling’s innocence. For example, when older preschoolers began to frighten RG with tales of monsters, Mommy turned played cute “monster” games with RG that defused the word from its frightening connotations.

That works pretty well. For a little while.

My wife tells me that when she was a little girl growing up in Southern California, she lived in a Disneyland World. Although she sometimes watched the news on television, it didn’t seem very real to her. When she became 18 and threw herself out of the house after a fight with her mother and got a job as a file clerk and her own tiny little apartment, she began to pay attention to the news. My wife is not a person to get “depressed,” but she was very down for a while at that age as she realized she wasn’t living in a Disneyland World any more.

Although we didn’t try to “shelter” our daughter to an extreme degree, she did go through a bit of a similar experience as she went to college.

In a weird sort of way, Mrs. Random and I are going through a similar sort of experience in our 60s. We moved from the city (which has plenty of monsters, thank you) to the country, where we are creating our little “Garden of Eden” on our five acres. However, it’s not really possible to get back to a Garden of Eden because the cute little animals fell with the humans, and they have to eat.

So we have a fence around our garden. Although the garden has a tall fence, the deer (who are really Olympic high jumpers in deer costumes) could probably leap in if they were starving, but they are lazy, and just graze in our five acre forest.

The squirrels and chipmunks seem content to nibble plants on our porch and try to sneak into the house to see what’s in our cupboard.

The cute, little fuzzy rabbits. Ah the cute little fuzzy rabbits. Mrs. Random saw a big Mama rabbit with six little baby rabbits all lined up outside the garden. It would be hard for Mama Rabbit to crawl under the fence.

Mrs. Rabbit said, “Last week, Mr. Random beat one of your brothers or sisters (or maybe it was a cousin) to death with a rock and then he stepped on it. A few days later, Mrs. Random was in the garden by herself, so even though she is smaller than Mr. Random, and all by herself, she killed the other rabbit that was living in the garden.”

Mama Rabbit continued, “Doesn’t that sound like fun, little children? Why don’t you see if you can crawl under the fence and play with the Randoms?”

Next: The Great White Hunter Goes on Safari

It’s morning. You are not at your best. You’re having a bad hair day. The dishes haven’t been put in the dishwasher. The baby is whimpering, and the cat is getting ready to scratch the furniture.

The doorbell rings. You open the door. A famous face looks at you. Her “posse” stands respectfully behind her. Her famous voice addresses you:

“Good morning. I’m sorry to disturb you—” (she smiles, a smile that doesn’t quite reach those famous frosty blue eyes) “but we had engine problems in my private jet, and we had to make an emergency landing in the field over there, and we have a television show we have to film this morning, so I will need to borrow your kitchen to use for filming. You will be recompensed—James, my checkbook, please—and we’ll have to clean up a little bit—Miriam, please load the dishwasher. Of course, you will need to do something with the cat [who is hissing] and the child [who is starting to scream in terror], perhaps they can go visit the neighbor. Oh, and my hairdresser will try to do something with your hair…”

Well, Martha Stewart would not use your kitchen, even if it were in tiptop shape, because she just likes to use her own stuff—who can blame her? (besides everyone who is not Martha Stewart) and even though Mrs. Random is much nicer and more charming than Martha Stewart, when Random Granddaughter was asked what she wanted to do with Grandma on Wednesday, and said, “I want her to help me make chocolate cupcakes,” Mrs. Random got a distressed expression on her face, though perhaps I was the only one to notice it.

Even though Random Daughter’s kitchen (which is also Out of Law Partner’s kitchen as well, of course) is a perfectly nice kitchen, and all the dishes were clean, and everything is arranged very neatly and efficiently, it is not Mrs. Random’s kitchen, and the oven’s temperature is off in a different way than Mrs. Random’s oven (which she is used to, and it pays attention to her when she snarls at it, and the cupcake pan has slightly different size cupcake cups—something that you might not notice—but might throw the cupcakes off—nevertheless, Mrs. Random smiled (a genuine smile) at RG and said, “Of course, I would love to help you make cupcakes.”

So while I took the car to the car doctor because it had become a traveling condominium, Mrs. Random and RG made chocolate cupcakes. RG followed instructions very well. At one point, she asked her grandma, “Did your grandma teach you how to make cupcakes?”

“No,” her grandma said. “My Mommy taught me how to make cupcakes. Then I taught my daughter, who is your Mama, how to make cupcakes.”

RG, who is 3 years old, got a little confused about all the generations. Mrs. Random was explaining about grandma’s grandma, and the like, but family trees are perhaps a four year old thing. For that matter, grandpa can hardly wait until RG is in first grade, and perhaps brings some cupcakes she made to “Show and Tell” and then starts telling the class about her family tree while she’s at it, “Well, there’s Mama (Random Daughter) and Mommy (who kept me in her tummy until I was born, and then [dad] who is called a sperm donor though he visits me and buys me treats, and Grandma Random who showed me how to make cupcakes, and Grandpa Random, who is crazy, and Grandma B2, who is my sperm donor’s mother, and Grandma B1 who is now married to Grandpa K who is my step-grandfather, and Grandpa A who is my birth Grandpa, but he’s married to Grandma J, who is my step-grandma, because Grandma B1 and Grandpa A were divorced—how many of you have parents who were divorced?—raise your hands,”and at that point, the first grade teacher will say, “Thank you very much, RG, that was very nice, but we should give someone else a chance to show and tell as well.” RG would then be followed by the little boy who shows how to roll a joint and tells about how his daddies grow marijuana plants in their basement under plant lights.

Anyway, the cupcakes were prepared, and put in the oven, and even though Mrs. Random doesn’t trust the temperature control on her daughter’s oven, the cupcakes looked fine when they took them out of the oven. Then Mrs. Random said, “We need to let the cupcakes cool before we can put the frosting on, so you should take your nap while we let the cupcakes cool.”

Mrs. Random didn’t say it, but she was very nervous whether RG could get herself calm enough to take a nap while she was thinking about putting frosting on the cupcakes, but RG surprised her. She insisted on rushing upstairs to take her nap, and while rushing and going to sleep are not two phrases one normally puts in the same sentence, especially one involving three year old girls, RG did just that. She rushed upstairs, popped herself into her bed, and in no time at all was fast asleep.

When RG woke up from her nap and she really did take a nap—she didn’t just pretend to take one—she came downstairs to frost the cupcakes. However, an alert Grandma noticed that RG was getting weary of household tasks after frosting one cupcake, and that her attention span for domestic chores had perhaps been exceeded, so after RG had frosted one cupcake, wise grandma thought maybe it was time for a little girl to eat one cupcake, which she did with great enjoyment of a well-earned reward.

At that point, Grandma thought that maybe RG was a little restless and bored. Later that evening, as they were going home on the ferry, Mrs. Random told me, “OP (Out of Law Partner) is a teacher, and she knows all these songs and games and activities to amuse a child, and I just don’t know that kind of stuff.”

I told Mrs. Random, “RG was very happy and pleased to show her cupcakes to her Mommies that evening when they got home. You are a wonderful Grandma, and you should stop beating up on yourself for not being the Martha Stewart of Grandmas. In fact, you are probably a much better Grandma than Martha Stewart. If RG had to spend a day with Martha Stewart, they would probably both be having a meltdown by the end of the day.”

Actually Sylvie probably does not consider any of the events described in the following tale as tribulations. Sylvie is my daughter’s small cat. Sylvie is a fierce guard cat. If an intruder entered the little house in the middle sized city while all the regular humans were away, Sylvie would immediately leap into the intruder’s lap and start purring, thereby scaring him away.Sylvie’s life has improved considerably over the last few months. It may hard to imagine how this could be, as Sylvie is loved and pampered many times a day.

However, Sylvie used to have to run away from my daughter’s other cat, Sebastian. Sebastian resented sharing a house and two Mommies with Sylvie. However, Sebastian is now late.

Sylvie, who used to be very svelte, is now rather plump. Probably this change is the result of Sylvie no longer having to quickly leap on to sideboards and tables to escape Sebastian’s angry lunges.

Second, Random Granddaughter now recognizes that Sylvie is another person, not a stuffed animal. Several times a day, she approaches Sylvie, says, “I love you, Sylvie,” and demonstrates her love by petting Sylvie’s fur, gently.

Sometimes she pets Sylvie’s fur the wrong way, but Sylvie takes this attention fairly philosophically. For example, when RG was two years old, she would show her love by pulling Sylvie’s tail or by picking her up in a bear hug.

Sylvie is a smart cat. She recognizes that having her fur petted in the wrong direction is a big improvement over having her tail pulled and being chased by Sebastian. Not many cats would be smart enough to evaluate cost-value benefits in such a sophisticated way, but Sylvie is a very smart cat.

It used to distress Sylvie a great deal when the family went outside. She would look through the screen door and meow piteously. All the other people were having fun outside and she was being excluded. Isn’t she a person, too?

Soon Sylvie was trying to sneak out whenever the door was open for a second. Soon Sylvie was outside once in a while. Everyone was very worried whenever she got outside, so they would rush out and grab her and bring her back in and say, “Bad cat! Don’t go outside! You might get lost.”

Random Granddaughter, not having a little sister or brother to boss around, would say to Sylvie, “Bad cat! Don’t go outside.”

Sylvie would look at RG soulfully and purr.

After a while, my daughter noticed that Sylvie didn’t run away when she did get outside. After a while, my daughter would let Sylvie go outside with the family once in a while. Sylvie would stay inside the white picket fence with the family. She would wander around the yard, eat a bit of grass every so often, and sniff everything that seemed interesting (which was pretty much everything she found outside).

As soon as everyone came inside, they would bring Sylvie inside.

On Tuesday, the first day my wife and I took care of RG, we took her to the playground. When we got back to the house, I watched RG while she played in the yard. Grandma fixed some lunch. Sylvie sat by the white picket fence looking out at the street.

I took RG inside. My wife went to bring Sylvie in. She said, “Where’s Sylvie?”

I said, “She was right by the fence, looking outsi–.”

There was no little black (with a little white) cat by the fence looking out.

My wife started looking around the outside of the house. After a while, she came back in, carrying Sylvie.

“Where was she?” I asked.

“She was over by the truck.” My wife had parked her pickup truck in the driveway by the garage, behind the house. The truck was outside the fence. In the moment we had looked away to attend to our granddaughter, Sylvie had slipped out of the yard, like a little black shadow (with a little white).

On Wednesday, morning, Random Granddaughter said, “Goodbye, Mama.” Random Daughter left for work. A little later, RG said, “Goodbye, Mommy.” Random Daughter’s Out of Law Partner left for work. RG was left alone with Grandma and Grandpa, but she seemed to be dealing with the situation fine.

Until a few minutes later, RG started howling. She ran to Grandma. “Sylvie scratched me!” she sobbed.

“What did you do to Sylvie?” asked Grandma. Sylvie is a very good cat (as cats go). She never scratches RG, despite many provocations.

“Nothing!” RG said indignantly. Unfortunately, RG has started the “I didn’t do it” syndrome, even when she isn’t being accused of doing anything. The day before, Grandma helped RG put together her Curious George puzzle. When they finished, two pieces were missing. Grandma said (with no tone of accusation, just wondering), “I wonder what happened to the two puzzle pieces?”

“I didn’t lose them!” RG said.

In the case of Sylvie, RG may have stepped on her tail or touched a sensitive spot.

Mrs. Random and I have been talking about this developing trait. RG needs to learn that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, sometimes an accident is just an accident, and sometimes a mistake is just a mistake. Maybe there’s a preschool story book on this theme. I haven’t found it so far. Maybe I need to write it.

The scratch wasn’t very bad. Grandma attended to it, and after a while, RG stopped crying. She said, “I’m not going to play with Sylvie any more.”

My car needed some attention. I was going to take it to the car doctor. [I will explain in another episode.]

RG would be alone with Grandma on Wednesday.

The day before, the Mommies asked RG what she wanted to do on her day with Grandma. “I want Grandma to help me make chocolate cupcakes,” said RG.

Grandma looked dubious, but finally agreed. (I’ll explain in another episode.)

I drove off to visit the car doctor, leaving RG alone with Grandma and Sylvie.

[To be continued.]

2I The Routine

June 23, 2007

My wife said, “Most of the time she seems so sophisticated, so aware of what is going on, I forget that she’s still just a very little girl.” She was talking about Random Granddaughter’s semi-meltdown about the cleaning lady.

My daughter and her partner are both very busy people, with many demanding responsibilities. My daughter has a pressured job. Every night she studies calculus, so she can get back into graduate school (so she can add more pressure to her life).

Her partner teaches little first and second grade geniuses. It’s hard to stay one step ahead of them.

Then there’s raising and caring for Random Granddaughter, probably the equivalent of three full time jobs, all by herself. Not to mention, dealing with all of her grandparents. Two of them, at least, are a handful.

Not to mention dealing with their many other friends and relatives.

So RD and Out of Law Partner (OP) have a cleaning lady who comes in once a week.

Random Granddaughter has met the cleaning lady once or twice, but most of the time she is blissfully unaware of her, because RG is at pre-school. We knew that the cleaning lady was going to come yesterday. However, we were so busy getting RG ready to go to the playground with us that we forgot to mention this to our granddaughter.

There was a knock on the door. It was Sarah, the cleaning lady, with all her cleaning tools (vacuum cleaner, etc.) She is a very amiable lady of perhaps 50 years of age. She greeted us (Mrs. and Mr. Random, strangers to her, and Random Granddaughter, whom she had met before but quite a long time ago) in a friendly, pleasant manner.

I went off in search of my shoes (the Mommies’ house is a “take your shoes off inside house” abode) while Grandma resumed the task of getting barrettes into RG’s long blond hair.

When I came back a few minutes later, RG had a look on her face of considerable distress. It was obvious she was about to start crying. Mrs. Random whispered urgently in my ear, “Hurry up and get ready, so we can get out of here and head for the playground. RG is very upset.”

Once we were out of the house, she explained that RG was very upset about the arrival of the cleaning lady. There was nothing bad or threatening about the cleaning lady. She wasn’t going to do anything to disrupt RG’s life. RG was just not expecting her, and she had shown up unexpectedly.

I think this episode illustrates a reaction that is often true for most of us. We like to know in advance what is going to happen to us, to give us the illusion of being in control of our world and our lives. We often complain that things are too routine and stuck in a rut, but as soon as something out of the ordinary appears, instead of greeting it with enthusiasm and delight, as a break from the routine, we feel threatened and insecure, even if the new arrival is perfectly innocent and unthreatening.

As many young children realize, Random Granddaughter came to the conclusion, I am in the hands of insane people who are much larger than I am and who operate by an incomprehensible secret code.

Much of this insane behavior revolves around food. Any sensible person can see that one can live for long periods of time on wholesome foods such as berries, watermelon, and chocolate chip cookies, despite the nonsense parents and grandparents spout about vitamins and balanced diets.

As a two-year-old, RG tried to crack the code. “But I really want to,” she said plaintively when an adult refused a perfectly reasonable request.

It didn’t work. She realized that she would have to dig deeper into the mysterious theory and practice of controlling adults. I am paying attention to this because Mrs. Random and I are babysitting RG for two days this week at the little house in the middle-sized city.

Random Daughter was giving us some tips on what to expect. Grandma B (her partner’s mother) recently babysat RG.

“When Grandma B asked RG what she wanted for lunch, RG replied, ‘You decide.’”

I listened in astonishment. This did not sound like RG at all.

My daughter went on, “She has realized that when she asks for something, she is often told it is not ‘good for her,’ or not ‘part of a balanced diet.’ Now she says, ‘You decide,’ and hopes it will be something she likes. For example, Grandma B said, ‘How about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? As RG likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, she figured she might be on to something in her quest to control adult behavior.”

However, as a scientist, she realizes that she must collect many data points, I thought. Sadly, she will frequently be disappointed as she keeps trying this method.

“The other thing she tries,” my daughter continued, “Is to mumble when she tells you what she wants to eat. She hopes that you will misunderstand her, but in a way that works out for her benefit.”

I can see that her development and maturation is proceeding rapidly. Many adults are known to mumble when asking a boss for a raise or a significant other for an unusual erotic variation.

However, RG will soon realize that any oppressed group seldom achieves progress without group action. By the time RG is four, I expect she will join forces with her best friend Mia (who shows a burgeoning talent for ordering people around) and organize a SWAT team of preschoolers to descend on her house to demand from Mommies they grant RG the right to eat the diet she considers appropriate.