Saturday, July 28, 2007

24 Hours Later: Harry, Who?

Finally, finally!, I have something to look forward to.

Fade to Exit

I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at 11:51 p.m. last night. Now, quit your squinting, I'm not going to toss out any spoilers here--even though you've had ample time to finish the book. It's only 800-and-some pages.

This particular post is not so much about what I read, but how I read it. Sneaking it in a breakfast. Staying up an hour more after a particularly late night of writing. And then, last night, slamming down some 200 pages to wrap it up.

And all that done between phone calls (Where tomorrow night, sorella?) and text messages (519, safe to talk?) with my sister.

Each night for the past week, we'd meet for our long-distance book club over the phone, whine about Harry's whining, hatch our theories, and make our reading plans. Last night, we ended up calling each other every hour from about 7 p.m. to 12 midnight, to discuss unfolding plots.

I'll miss the characters, living and/or dead, but more than that I'll miss the urgency, passion, and sisterly small talk that Harry Potter brought to my week.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Preschool! The Musical!

Child and mother walk out of house into bright new day. They head for their fuel efficient car and preschool! The sun shines and the birds sing, providing much needed tuneful accompaniment to what will be the opening song, a ploy the mother hopes will get the reluctant toddler out the door and, she's hoping, into the car.


Look, they already took our trash.
I'm glad I put it out there fast.
And the recycling is all gone--
Finn, can you hurry along?

So we can go to preschool
Where you can break all the rules

With Emma, Nate, Ashley, and Ty
Two girls and three cool guys

Your little toddler troop
(And someone else gets to clean up poop)

It all happens at preschool
Oh, mama, it's very cool

And we play all day long
Sometimes we sing silly songs

Well, then let's just move it along
So we don't miss a single one


I love my preschool
The fours are ubercool

We own those shiny halls

Finn, I know you're trying to stall

Now, please, get in the door


But what's this I see on the floor?
A book, perchance a toy
That I shall use as a decoy

To stall our drive to preschool
Because even though it is so cool

I am after all a boy
Who has an affinity to annoy
And to thwart all mama's plans
By bending them to my own ends

The 3 a.m. Show

This is when I wish I had a "real" job.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Not What I'd Call an Example, Shining or Otherwise, of Parental Self-Sacrifice

I remember liking Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I remember liking the songs. So I queued up the children's classic on Netflix and Finn and I popped it into the DVD player this afternoon.

To refresh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) recounts the story of an accident-prone inventor, his two children, and a confectionery heiress, named--I kid you not, consult your memory and if that fails, Scrumptious.

(It was written by Ian Fleming and produced by Albert Broccoli--someone in that clan had a dubious or brilliant or brilliantly dubious gift for women's names.)

The movie opens with various clips from various grand prix, in France, Germany, etc. We then see that the once prize-winning car is relegated to obscurity, unless Mr. Potts, the inventor, can scrounge up 30 schillings to buy it. He tries to hock his candy whistles (toot sweets) to the local confectioner (Mr. Scrumptious), he tries to give automated haircuts at the carnival. Those end, in turn, with a dog stampede and a rather unfortunate bowl cut/reverse mohawk. Potts ends up crashing one of the carnival's bamboo musical numbers, taking center stage, and earning the money to buy the car. He spends hours, weeks, years?, refurbishing the car until he finally comes out of the lab/barn doors with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. To celebrate, he takes the kids (Jemima and Jeremy? Ouch) and Ms. Scrumptious (who he ran off the road) on a picnic at the seaside. (They sing the titular song twice before they get there. Apparently, it's a long drive.) They eat, they swim, the kids vow their love to Truly, she truly reciprocates, and all that's left is for the two grown ups to get it together and get it on.

But they're interrupted when the kids spot a ship, that turns into a pirate ship, commanded by a baron. They want the car. A chase ensues. The car turns into a hovercraft; the chase continues; the car and kids and Potts and Scrumptious get away after they croon through at least three conspicuously saccharine tunes; and two utterly conspicuous goons dressed as Hitlers disguised as Sherlock Holmeses go in search of the car to steal it for the aforementioned Napoleonic, and yet German, baron.

(Inhale. Exhale.) And that takes us through the first hour of the film. The first hour of a two and a half hour children's classic. That, my reader, takes us less than half way.

Needless to say, when "entr'acte" appeared on screen and Finn told me the movie was over . . . well, I didn't correct him.

Finn's Panegyric

Finn: "Mama, you're not an artist."

Me: "No, Finn. I'm not."

Finn: "You're a visitor."

Nearly Averted Spoiler: No. 1

I bought my copy of Deathly Hallows yesterday at Costco.

(Have you heard of this book? Very obscure author has written seven much underpublicized books about young wizards, the power of love, and its struggle against imminent evil?)

I bought it at 2:30 p.m. I know, that makes me so much less of fan than I purported to be, but I have a young child, who [whisper] doesn't get Harry Potter [/whisper]. So my begging and pleading and whining and tantrums lost out to his dire and unquenchable and, really, much louder expression of need to visit the hippos at the zoo. (Yes, page taken. I will not be so easily thwarted next time . . .)

So after the hippos, we headed to Costco for the grocery classics: high-fiber bread, Omega-3 eggs, organic milk, and Harry Potter.

I was worried they would sell out. Really, I'm serious. I panicked the whole way past the leopards, the gorillas, the alligators, the rhino, and the hippos--who I'm not sure we actually saw because I was in full neurosis by then. But when I saw the heaping table of Potters, with nary a swarm, I felt much relieved. And quite excited. And, maybe, just a little, ashamed.

I sauntered up to another woman who seemed to be gingerly selecting her copy. She picked up a book, flipped for a page count, then, incomprehensibly, Put the Book Down.


"Not that much into Harry Potter?" I asked as I wheeled Finn and the cart closer to Potter mountain. When I get giddy (or drunk, sometimes it's hard to tell), I get social.

She looked up and smiled. "I just read the last page. Everyone's wondering about whether Harry lives or dies. I figured that would be on the last page."

Just the last page?

I felt bad for her--that she didn't have a connection to these characters that so many other folks do. That she would carelessly jump to the final resolution without any emotional investment.

I plan to read Potter as slowly as I can. I mean, this is the last book. This could be the last moments I get to spend with these people. You know, I have a longer relationship with them than I do many other real people who have too easily come and gone from my life.

(And, of course, I also remember how distraught I was when I put down Return of the King only to find out the Tolkien had died. Like 10 years before I picked it up.)

I'm really not all that eager to give them up and push them out the door.

How could she start and stop at the last page? Did she even read the ot. . .

And then I got scared. It hit me. She has information. She knows. And then the panic that I thought I had left with the hippos came screaming after me.

I grabbed my Hallows, and I mean this literally, put my hands over my ears and started chanting, "I don't want to hear it. I don't want to hear it" as I rolled Finn as fast and far away as I could.

Mental, to be sure. But I couldn't take the chance that she might suck the very soul out of the Potterverse and just throw it out there like some kind of talking Patronus. She could ruin it, all seven books, the lives that I have welcomed into my home and heart, the dreams that I have for Harry, Hermoine, and Ron, and their dreams, too, as yet unrealized by all the throngs who have not yet turned that page, and with no more thought than she gives to her choice of blueberry or strawberry yogurt sample.

So I ran. Earmuffed and howling.

It's not like I had a choice. I mean, people can't, like, disapparate, you know. C'mon, people, ever heard of fiction? It is just a book.

Friday, July 20, 2007

It started as a compliment . . . and then it just got scary

Finn: "Mama, you're shrinking. You're not going to have another birthday."

Fort Worth Top 10

Grab some waders and read about it in the Marsh.

Did KC just get trumped?


This may not go over well with the KC locals, but I'm afeared that some of my readers my have misconstrued my KC post.

So I make this noncommittal (re: wussy) disclaimer, because I feel I must stand at some level of proximity to honesty, if not squat indelicately and forcefully atop of it: just because I can find 10 things I like about KC doesn't necessarily mean I love living here.

My Kid Can Hear!

Earlier this afternoon, I was on the phone with Aunt KiKi, speaking to her in hushed tones about things people get hushy about and, again in hushed tones, telling her about Finn's generally naughty morning. Finn and I had already discussed it extensively, so I thought I'd let him off the hook and just relay it to KiKi whisper-like, because he doesn't need to feel any worse about what he did and because KiKi will find it amusing.

Yes, she finds his bad behavior funny. She lives far away.

"So," I whisper to her question about what Finn did today that was adorable, "here's what's not: Finn whacked his friend on the head with paperback book."

I'm in the kitchen. Finn's playing in the living room, and yet despite several pieces of evidence to the contrary--like his general and absolute nonresponsiveness when I ask him, repeatedly and at high-decibel tones, to set the table, clean his room, feed his fish, get ready for bath, clean up his transformers, put on his shoes, take off his shoes, flush the toilet, wipe his face, wash his hands, shampoo the carpet--Finn responds quickly to my hushed recap:

"I didn't hit her on the head."

My first thought, my child is insisting on being accurate, if not remorseful, about his misdemeanors. What am I raising? ("Damian?" No response from the living room. Good.)

And then, I'm like, wait, he heard that?

And it really sinks in.

My son can hear.


I'm in trouble.


If Finn heard that, then what else has he heard? My trash talk about my mother? (Sorry, mom.) And our very close friends that sometimes we misunderstand and get a little pissy about? About Bear?

That could bite me in the ass. I may have to pay dearly to keep that information underwraps. I'm thinking of how I can pay him to keep his mouth shut. I'm thinking of how much chocolate I have in the house. I'm seriously thinking about getting him a dog. Would a dachshund work?


Then, I'm thinking, wait a minute, I've been played. He can hear. All those times--requests, demands, begging, pleading--he's heard me. He's mocked me. That little, well, mother-player. I'll get him. And his little dog, too. (If we ever get him one.)

And then I'm thinking, wait, he can hear.

And I realize, in one full and much too easy swoop, Finn's admitted to his crime and revealed his superhearing--a superpower that's only supergood as long as it's supersecret.

And now that secret is out.

And now I shall use my knowledge of that power to make this house a better place.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Kansas City, Here You Are

So let's say, hypo, that you're coming a visitin'. What shall I reveal to you about my Midwest digs? What will I show you? What will I feed you?

Here's my meme. My KC tops. Spread the word, and then share the word.

In no particular order, except for the fact that I, well, ordered them:

1. Nelson Atkin's Bloch building. We have a new addition in town to our city museum. And if it's not fab--that's under discussion--it is unique and the hands-down hottest thing we have going. It's been covered in NY Times, New Yorker, and other sundry estab'ed pubs.

2. Boulevard Brewery. Actually, we haven't been there, but we've sampled its wares quite often. In fact, right now! (Ah, the gratuitous exclamation point. How I abhor thee. And yet, how useful you are!) We do have a rockin' brew. And that's not just because I'm drunk.

3. Record Bar. Which must have the best logo (recordbar) and slogan (eat. hear.). Their menus are posted on vintage 70s albums, like those real gatefold things. Great indie bands, great trivia nite. We like The Nuge sandwich. You post the cash for the 'sitter. We'll buy your sammie.

4. Murray's Ice Cream and Cookies. OMG, my peeps. It's the Amy's of the Midwest. Not as good, granted. But we're at least 10 hours away. My favorite flaves: Truffalufagus, Citrus Avenue, Malt Licker, Smitty's French Lemon (creamy, baby), Fred & Ginger. And the Snickerdoole is a half-inch high.

5. 18th and Vine. Our own little Hollywood and Vine, Haight-Ashbury, Beale Street, etc. It's Peach Tree Restaurant (re: sweet potato muffins), it's the Jazz Museum, the 24-hour jazz jam that we've never been to but we'd like to be invited to (members only), Negro League Baseball Museum. Charlie Parker, among others, started here. See Altman's Kansas City. We should split this out, but we've only got 10, so I feel the need to conflate.

6. 18th and Wyandotte. As weird as KC gets. And we, as former Austinites, like us some weird. Birdie Panties, Spool, and YJs. Lingerie, baby goods, and caffeine. Back to back. It's the nexus.

7. City Market. Here we go. First, we'll do breakfast at Succotash and see Sean Ward's painting of Jamie Warren eating tomato soup. Then we'll buy heirloom tomatoes from the Amish. We'll buy a bedley of spices at the Middle Eastern shop, eat risotto gelato, grinders from the vendor stands, spring rolls from the Vietnamese restaurant, and whittle away whatever cash we have left on the scarified juggler of knives. Oh, yes, Baby Cakes, the yummified morsels of glory are here.

8. 39th Street. Vintage shopping at Revue, Boomerang, Prospero's Books.

9. Christopher Elbow's Chocolates. Objet d' art chocolate. Seriously, they're almost too purty to eat. But somehow I get past that. We're actually looking toward a second mortage on our house to finance my obsession. Fleur de Sel turtles. Chocolate and salt. Nuff said.

10. And the cliche of Kansas City. BBQ. We'd take you to Gates. "Hi, may we help you!" Being the Texas expats we are, we'd never say the BBQ here is better than Texas (e.g., Coopers, Rudy's, Salt Lick, Green Mesquite, Lufkin BBQ Company). But KC comes close. Closer than say, Nashville. (Game on!)

Okay, it's your turn. I meme you Austin, Fort Worth, Portland, Bloomington, Houston, Omaha, and my lone China reader. Crank out your tour. I'll even post the worthy right here.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Toward a Curriculum of Obsession and Ambivalence

When I go to a restaurant (which I haven't done since 6:30 p.m. on July 3, longest extrahouse dining hiatus, like, ever), I tend to gravitate toward one menu item, and then systematically take all the romance out of the dining adventure by ordering that particular dish every single time we go to that restaurant. At Las Manitas (Austin), it was always enchiladas michoacan (unless it was too early, and then it was always huevos and chorizo). At Uptown (Bloomington), it was always the Popeye omelette. (Yes, I'm a pretentious speller.) At Cascone's (KC), it's the chicken spedini.

Obsessive dining choices. It's who I am. I've learned to accept.

And now, I have to further accept that I have passed on my OCD-lite to my child, forever chaining him to a literary palate that must be obsessively and repeatedly satiated. For the fourth night running, Finn has insisted that Chris Van Allsburg's Widow's Broom be included in the repertoire, with a side of Noah's Ark, the pop-up experience, and Kelly Asbury's Frankensquare. (Halloween doth not die at our house.)

It's an odd brew, stirred with a candied swizzle stick of contradictions and maybe even moral ambiguity. (Spoiler alert!) Some nasty neighbors attempt to burn a perfectly respectable and industrious broom (who, granted, had earlier catapulted a nippy dog into a distant spruce tree) at the stake. A vengeful God floods ("mama, did he kill them?") an almost entire, albeit wicked, population. The notorious, mismatched Frankenstein deals out the fair and the squares to all of his Halloween guests.

Certainly, the choices may get tired (and I've hid the books for tonight so we can get a little variety, I'll let you know how that goes) but let me tell you, the post-book conversing, comparing, and conundruming don't.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Blog Roll

Reading someone's blog is weird, ain't it? I read only a few--those are listed over there, now down a little bit, underneath that. There. But I do get addicted to these lives, and not because they're dramatic or tragic or hold some Grand Truth, but because they're people slightly like me who are trying to say something honest, who are trying to figure things out, who are celebrating those very small moments in life that seem to get so easily and often squashed, chewed up, and/or spit out by so many headlines and soundbites and spewing sink pipes or, well, noses.

My reason for my blog: number 3 (not the spit out, the celebration. I do tend to overlist). It's just a record, people. For me, it's about sharing and connecting with the people I love and putting something down just in case . . . well, just in case.

But this blog I found recently has a different flavor--a little lighter on the introspective navel gazing. I came across it when I almost wrote a review of her show a few months back. And then I couldn't stop. Maybe you should check it out.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Thinking, Choreographed

Finn lost his Heat Blast, a Ben 10 character that apparently is really hot, in that literal way that things are metaphorically hot. You know, flame-wise.

I don't know anything about him. Or Ben 10. Or the cartoon they rode in on. I just know when my kid throws a fit at Toys By Us (as he calls hit) over some figure that morphs into a flashlight that I have to shell out the $4.99 to shut him up. Finn yells very loudly. And sometimes he will kick. Or bust a vein. And these days, we're all about keeping veins and arteries and such in their proper place.

So Heat Blast was AWOL. We looked, half-ass diligently yet very messily, all over the house. And couldn't find nary a trail. Apparently, his heat leaves no evidence or wake of its discharged energy, contrary to the second law of thermodynamics. Heat Blast is uncharted, off the map, leaves a very small carbon footprint.

Which got us--me and Finn--to thinking about where he could possible have gotten himself to. And got us to talking about our preferred methods and accompanying gestures of thinking.

For me, I prefer to sit still, perhaps with an alcoholic beverage, and stroke thumb and index finger across the point of my chin. Or I might place my index and middle finger underneath my lower lip. As long as that doesn't interfere with my beer.

Finn, though, chastised me. That's not the way it's done, he said. True thinking is done by tapping the index finger against the temple, sans beverage, while saying, "Now, where did I see Heat Blast last?" Over and over and over again. The kid is all about the mantra. As stated, aforementioned kid is persistent.

And that may very well be true thinking. Maybe, but not productive or necessarily accurate thinking. Because I found Heat Blast. Right where I tossed him about a month ago. In our trunk. I rescued him and was gleefully proclaimed heroic in my finding efforts.

But, Finn was careful to mention, I still "think" wrong.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

One Week One Day

I haven't counted anything down since, well, I was going to say since I was a teacher and I "helped" my students countdown to winter holiday, or labor day, or Friday, or seventh period, or 2:05, but really it was just a few weeks ago when we thought we were taking that trip to Mexico that we had planned for four months. Then, just as when I was a teacher or a student (of varying degrees and maturity), I pulled out my calendar and slashed, hash marked, and tallied my way to that dreamy destination, that ultimate, if brief freedom, that coveted prize.

And, except for my moment of beachy weakness, I really didn't expect I'd be jumping into the countdown so soon. Or late. You know, in life. Because whittling away the minutes, hours, or days just seems like it's heading in the wrong direction. I'm getting of the ripeness where I should be holding on to those fleeting moments, not casting them away so carelessly.

Add to that confusion and backasswardness that I'm actually admitting to this on my blog. Well, this entry is just so wrong.

But counting I am. And inverting my predicates as I go. One week and one day. And by now, you're chomping at the bit, you're tapping your fingers, you're grabbing your monitor in your hands and shaking it like you would an iBook that's gone on the fritz, screaming, begging me to tell you what it is that I'm so damn adolescent about.

That is, unless you're doing it, too.

One week and one day, folks. Until . . . Harry Potter. Which really is just a cruel crumb of a two-week-and-four-day cupcake away from the big tasty, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Now, try to tell me--and try to be convincing--that you don't have a secret stash of tally marks that's counting the days until Harry and his crew resurface. (Spoiler alert! Will they really abandon Hogwarts?) Just try. And I still won't believe you.

I haven't had this much pent up anticipation since Duran Duran came to town when I was an eighth grade. Or since, ahem, the days of premarital sex. This is an event. A butterflies-aflurry, will-the-day-ever-arrive, and can-I-possibly-survive-the-wait ardor.

We just don't get many events like this in life. And at the ripe age of 29-very-plus, those moments of delayed requiting seem fewer and fewer. We just don't have to wait for things as long anymore and those things that are dangled in front of us for months or years on end (re: Phantom Menace, Matrix Revolutions, adulthood) often aren't worth their measure of marketing.

But Harry, I have high hopes for you, lad. I have questions that need to be answered. I have people I want to see resurrected. I have acting I'd like to see redeemed. And so, on you, Harry, I pin my hopes of the world. Be my light, Harry. Be my salvation.

And of course, if you don't put out for me, Harry, it's only six months until season 4 of Battlestar Galactica.

I Actually Said This to My Four Year Old

"Kid, the amount you dawdle is inversely proportional to the number of books you'll be getting."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Aliens. Aliens are coming to dinner.

We've been running from the aliens for weeks now. Maybe even months. They especially like to track us when we're headed into the gym. For some reason, they hover near elliptical trainers and treadmills. But they would never follow us inside. They would never, you know, like kickbox with us.

Tonight, Finn mistook Venus--you know, the planet--for an alien spacecraft. And yet again, those persistent little extraterrestrial stalkers were following us. We can't seem to catch a break.

But these aliens, Finn let me know, were nice aliens. We didn't have to outrun them. We didn't have to hide. We could let them catch up. And that would be okay. We could even invite them in for a plate of warm cookies, and should they want dinner, we could make them pancakes.