Sunday, November 30, 2008

List from a List

My wife and I make the kids' lunch each night for the next day. Typically, we start by making a list that outlines the meals. The list is divided by "Morning", "Lunch", and "Afternoon." From there, the menu unfolds.

Tonight, after my wife made most of the lunch without me, I was handed a smaller list on a separate paper that read:
Pancakes with Jam
Macaroni and Cheese

I was now working with a list from a list. Apparently, I need simplification so as to minimize the number of questions. So, before she left the room I asked:

"Hummus for each of them? Separate containers? How much? The new stuff with the chopped garlic on top or the smooth kind?"

"How much jam? Strawberry or Rasberry? How many pancakes? As mini sandwiches or free agents? In baggies or tupperware?"

"Kraft or Annie's? Macaroni, Pokemon, or Bunnies?"

Swing Out Sister

There are probably many writers that are dedicated to chronicling bad driving behavior, so I don't intentionally intend to join them. However, living and working near Boston provides an endless supply of bad driving stories. I have done a little searching online to determine if anyone has created a Who's Who by characterizing the various breeds of drivers. A Google search on this topic yielded results that included a lot of psychology-related journal articles and theses, accident liability law documents, and golf club analysis commentaries.

Therefore, I conclude that a book describing the people that evoke the road rage in each of us is in my future. In the meantime, I will describe one driving phenotype demonstrated by someone I drive with often: my wife.

While driving home from the mall yesterday, I noticed a car in front of us swing their car to the right just before turning left. At the top of the bad driver classification hierarchy, one of the first divisions is between "intentional" and "oblivious." The "Swing Out Sister" behavior is in the latter category. This maddens me, because it makes absolutely no sense why you would need to do this. I actually have a theory (perhaps detailed in one of the aforementioned journal articles) that sometimes drivers just mimic other drivers. Unless the turn is an acute angle (read: "hard right" or "hard left") or you are attempting to pass the lead car in Indianapolis, you don't need to steer your car in one direction to cut hard in another. This act is dangerous, especially for those of us that typically try to pass you on the swing side.

While complaining about this in the car, my wife confessed that she is one of those drivers. For once, a wish had come true. I could barely contain myself when I realized that I had a rare opportunity to talk to one of "them" and to finally get an explanation. When prompted, she claimed that she didn't know why she did it. Mimicking behavior, I thought.

After more questioning, she admitted that she swings out left to turn right because she doesn't want to cross the yellow line. Don't want to cross the yellow line? While turning left? From the right side of the road? In a 2-ton vehicle for which you are legally permitted to drive? On the road? I can't even make sense of this.

I'm at a loss for words in the moment. But my book, to be published soon, will have all names removed.

More is Better....

....which is why I will be writing more soon. There is so much humor in my life, but my time limitations are definitely not funny.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Toddler Coordinator

This morning, my family and I had an appointment to tour a local daycare facility. We are actively searching for an alternative childcare center for my daughter. As an alternative to the home-based family daycare where she currently attends, we decided to examine a larger center with the full support of "Corporate" and a wide range of germs to choose from on a daily basis.

I was quite impressed by the ample parking. This is certainly only one of many benefits to being located at an industrial park in a building that was most likely a lead paint plant at one time. The other advantage is that teachers could take them for a stroll through the BJ's parking lot or past the plastic recycling center. Look kids! That's where your bottles will go if you misbehave.

We went inside and were greeted by "the administration." We were greeted by several administrative assistants before the most experienced, 24 year old Jenny, introduced herself as the "Toddler Coordinator." She toured us through a few toddler rooms where the teachers were disheveled and the kids looked miserable. As we asked how the teachers handled sick children, we watched as toddler after toddler had their noses wiped. There was one room where the kids noses were running like fountains, but only because the teacher was cleaning up the leaky faucet on her own face.

Our guide discussed how they use a variety of methods to creatively develop the children's interpersonal and language skills. She explained how they use stuffed animals to represent different emotions so that the children would have another way to articulate how they are feeling. As she started to explain how Sid the Snake represented Sad, she got frustrated when she couldn't find the fluffy critter to demonstrate her point. When I suggested that perhaps Sid was Sad because he was Stolen, she got more frustrated. Sensing her anxiety and hoping to evoke a smile instead, I suggested that she look for Fred the Frustrated Fox. She didn't laugh but instead ushered us out of the room.

The rooms and hallways were a mess. The classrooms and offices were cluttered. One room served dual purposes as a staff office and a children's reading room. The most organized part of that particular room was the inside of the vending machine stocked with snacks for staff members. But the desks around it were full of unorganized papers and office supplies. As long as the Skittles and Cheetos are lined up for perfect viewing and selection, who needs to find this week's preschool curriculum? Where's that list of kids that are allergic to peanuts? It's here somewhere....Oh never mind. Do you have a quarter I can borrow for that Snickers bar in Row H3?

When we looked at the ghost town that was the outdoor playground, I noticed a variety of toys half buried in wood chips and soon to be forgotten for the winter. In several months, children will look outside to see what Spring has sprung and be disappointed to find Fisher Price toys emerging from the melting snow. Parents all over town will be explaining why their yards don't grow toys. Perhaps this is where many of those same parents will invoke their right to also explain that money doesn't grow on trees.

We left quite disappointed and wondered if we will ever be satisfied with the childcare options. At the particular center that we chose to visit today, we were able to confirm that "Corporate" doesn't (we hope) really know what's going on at Germ Fest 2008. We will need to keep looking. In the meantime, I have updated my resume to reflect my part-time responsibilities as "Toddler Coordinator" and "Fred the Frustrated Fox" which are apparently synonyms.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Purple Cat Stickers

During my lunch break today, I walked across the street to the MIT bookstore. Any place with MIT students and the books they read should approximate the center of the intellectual universe. Today's experience casted doubt on this assumption.

With a specific item in mind, I wandered the aisles on the ground floor before my search led me to the basement level. When I couldn't find it there either, I approached the cashier, a disheveled college-aged male staring at his hands until he noticed me.

"Do you sell stickers? For kids?" I asked.

The young man laughed and promptly produced a sheet of stickers from behind the counter. The sheet had purple cats on it. "They're free. It's a promotion."

I wasn't sure how to respond appropriately. "Are you advertising that you have a large surplus of purple cats for sale?"

"Nope. Just a large surplus of purple cat stickers. We're trying to get rid of them."

"So, you are promoting them by giving them away?"

"Yep. Pretty creative marketing strategy, huh?"

I was losing patience.

"I'm looking for letter stickers."

"Do you mean stamps?"

"No, not that kind of letter. The alphabet. They're a reward for potty training."

He stared at me blankly without saying anything.

"For my son," I explained, attempting to refocus him. "He's potty training and it's an incentive that works for him."

Illustrating size with exaggerated hand gestures, he asked "Do you want small letter stickers? Or large ones?"

"I want purple cat sized ones."

"I'm sorry, but we don't sell letter stickers."

"Then why did you ask me what size?"

"I dunno. Just curious."

I rode the elevator back up to the ground floor. As I neared the exit, I discovered a gift section that I didn't notice earlier. I quickly found refrigerator magnets with the alphabet. They stick. They have letters on them. Sold.

I paid for the magnets at the nearest register. I was happy to have an interaction with a different customer service representative. By choice, we barely spoke and I was on my way in a few moments.

When I got home this evening, my wife asked me about the sticker hunt.

"No luck with the alphabet stickers. Only magnets," I declared as I tossed the bag onto the kitchen island.

She peeked inside and smiled.

"You bought purple cat stickers?"

Realizing that the cashier must have tossed them into the bag with the receipt, I could do nothing but tell the truth.

"It was a promotion."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Leaf Catching

I have been spending a lot of time lately removing leaves from my yard. One can't help but fantasize about improved methods for leaf removal. I use an old fashioned technique called raking. My neighbors don't realize how far behind my technology is, because they can barely see me through the enormous cloud of leaves they create with their leaf blowers. Nor can they hear the crinkling and crunching sounds of dead leaves between the fingers of my rake over their powerful tornado-makers.

When I'm not thinking about hand blisters or how much I underestimated the number of bags needed, I consider better ways to clean up the yard. The mind-numbing sound of gas-powered leaf blowers typically drives my thoughts towards the opposite end of the spectrum of eco-friendliness.

A couple years ago, I received a quote for $500 to receive a "Fall Yard Cleanup" from a local landscaping company. It occurred to me that, at 50 cents per biodegradable leaf bag, I could buy 1000 of them for the same price. With a 1000 leaf bags in hand, I would simply open them all up and stand them next to each other in the yard. I would have enough to cover every inch of the would-be leaf-covered areas of they yard. The leaves would simply fall into the bags. Once all of the leaves have fallen, I would close up the bags and take them to the city dump. Which reminds me; do you have a truck large enough to hold 1000 leaf bags that I can borrow? For your troubles, I'll give you an equal number of empty leaf bags.