Monthly Archives: April 2008

I’m an XBOX widow

It’s that time of year again. The flowers start to bloom. The bees start buzzing in the air. The air is crisp and smells of pansies and petunias. The sun is staying out later and so are the neighborhood children. Their shouts of joy can be heard even inside our living room as they zoom by on their bicycles.

Shouts can be heard inside my living room as well. However, they aren’t usually shouts of joy. Generally they are strings of curse words hurled at the TV as my husband gets sniped, no doubt by a thirteen year old kid in his parent’s basement, playing Call of Duty IV.

While most people see the return of spring as a time to get out, take walks, plant things, have cook-outs and read lazily in hammocks, my husband maniacally creeps up behind virtual soldiers and stabs them in the back. Granted, this behavior is not limited to the season of rebirth. He’s all about the virtual carnage every season, but his blood lust has risen drastically since he just got an XBox. And Call of Duty 4. Oh, and Grand Theft Auto 4. Even though he has had the game for less than three hours, he has already pulled out the map and pointed out the sheer expansiveness of the game. He also popped it in the second he got home and as soon as I walked in the door, he tried to show me the “amazing graphics.”

Now it’s not that I don’t appreciate good computer graphics. I love the detail the Sims 2 brings. I think it is incredibly cool that if I zoom in close enough the tiny turkey dinner they are eating actually looks fairly similar to the feast my mother-in-law and I prepared this year. The fact that the babies can smile and I can see their little baby legs squirm as they are tickled impresses me. I especially like the fact that I can make my Sims paint pictures from my personal photo album, so that I can paper my virtual walls with portraits of my son, just like my actual house. I can appreciate the hours, days, weeks, months, etc. that goes into planning these games. What I find a bit harder is appreciating the hours, days, weeks, months, etc. that my husband feels he needs to devote to the games in order to thank the designers.

It’s not that I have a problem with the games themselves. Sure, they are horribly violent and I don’t have a desire to play any game that allows you to have sex with a hooker, beat her up moments later and then take your money back. Although I see the humor in selling drugs from a converted ice cream truck, I don’t want to do it. And while I can enjoy my Sims for a few hours once every week or so (much less during heavy grading times), I simply cannot understand how my husband can devote five to six hours straight sitting in front of the TV driving a virtual car around a city, sometimes not even reaking any havoc, but instead just marveling at how cool it all is.

When my husband focusses on something, the house could actually fall down around him, and he wouldn’t notice. The baby can scream, and he doesn’t even break eye contact. It’s not that he doesn’t love our son. He adores him. It’s just that all his brain can think is, “must chase down rival gang member and beat him to death with bat, then slice his corpse open.”

What baffles me even more is the fact that after six years of being together, at least three of which have involved this game, he still thinks I care. I will be in the family room grading or on the computer and I will hear a shout from the living room, “quick, honey, come here.” Thinking that something is wrong, I run to the room, only to find him reving up a motorcycle to get an insane stunt bonus by jumping it off some ramp. Or flying a helicopter over a mountain and seeing clouds, or driving a car wildly through the streets while some hapless digi-man is clinging to the hood. I don’t know why I fall for it. It’s probably the insistance in both his voice and the way in which he keeps calling me until I peak into the other room.

With the new release, awesome graphics and sheer size of the map he showed me, I know I have several months of this game to look forward to. I’m sort of hoping he develops his usual addiction so he can get most of it out of his system before summer comes. While I have grading I don’t mind him careening through the streets doing drive bys, but once I’m on vacation, I want some control over the TV (or to go out, or read).

Fortunately he’s been invited to a video game gathering tonight. The baby is in bed and instead of watching him hijack an ambulance and mow people down in it, I’ll get to watch the episode of Bones I didn’t get to watch last night because he was getting his ass kicked by teeny boppers online.

Plus I get french fries and egg rolls for dinner. Maybe there is an upside to the game….naw.

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A soul shattering cry

There is not much worse, at least in my mind, than listening to a small child cry. Especially when there seems to be no reason for the child to be crying and the crying is so loud, and sounds so very, very distraught. It’s particularly bad when the cry is not so much a cry as a deep wailing that lets you know whatever is upsetting the child has been done by you and has somehow not just damaged him physically, but destroyed his fragile emotional well-being. It’s a cry that seems to say, “this moment right here is where you can trace the years of therapy I will one day need back to, you negligent monster.”

This is the sound echoing through my house this evening. It’s not merely a cry, it’s a soul shattering.

I don’t really know why my son is so distraught. It’s bedtime, sure, but he’s not a baby who melts down at bedtime. In fact, he usually loves his bath, squirms like crazy, laughing the entire time we try to put his pjs on, and sips his milk from his cup as we read Goodnight Moon while lullabies play in the background. When I put him in his crib, all I have to do is hand over his stuffed cow, which he greets with a smile before hugging it, rolling over and heading off to slumber land.

Tonight was no exception until I had the audacity to close the door behind me as I walked out of his room. That’s when the damn broke and the flood began. Actually, I’m not even sure what just happened had tears. It was far deeper than that. Tears are for making sure people cover you with kisses when you bump your head or fall down while chasing the cat. This sort of melancholy and hysteria is reserved for those moments when someone has wronged you beyond repair.

I went back in to make sure he was fine. I had horrible visions of him getting stuck in the railing of the crib (it is new and up to safety codes) or having pulled himself up enough and being stuck partially in and partially out of the crib. Neither was the case. He was sitting up leaning against the bars and wailing. I leaned down, picked him up and although his howling did not immediately cease, he did put his tiny head on my shoulder. I rocked him back and forth, rubbing his back and assuring him that I loved him. We swayed silently, his cried subsiding, turning to small sighs. His went limp in my arms. Silent. Sweet. Soothed.

Then I tried to put him back down. He gripped the rail ferociously. I gently pulled his hand away and before his head could hit the mattress, he was wailing again. I quickly backed out, knowing my only choice was to sit in the rocking chair until he fell asleep, which could be a really long time and get him into bad habits, or let him cry and kill a small piece of my soul in the process.

So here I sit, three rooms away, as silent as possible, hoping that he will settle down and fall into much needed repose.

Being a parent is hard.

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Forget it!

Although I am still relatively young, my mind is already going.

On the way to work I was all fired up. As soon as I got out of my car, I knew what I wanted this blog to be about. As I pulled into my driveway, precious free time on my hands since I had a doctor’s appointment and my husband was picking up the baby, I realized I had no idea what I’d been so impassioned about this morning.

Last night I was sitting down to do some grading when I remembered I didn’t have the baby monitor just in case my son started crying. I got up, walked to the kitchen, which cannot possibly be more than 20 feet away, and stood there, staring. I had absolutely no idea what I’d left the living room for. I knew I needed something. I knew it was in the kitchen. I just didn’t know what it was. So I walked back to the living room., settled in to grade and once again remembered the monitor.

This is a fairly new phenomenon for me. I’ve never been what you might call forgetful. In fact, despite the clutter of papers that often gathers on my desk (both home and work) and my kitchen counter, I am pretty damn organized. I keep a day planner. I don’t look at it every day, but I glance often enough to never forget appointments and meetings. I write myself check lists for things to complete during my prep period and follow through with them. Kids ocassionally try to claim I lost their work, but in 10 years of teaching, it’s never been me. Why? Because I have a system. Homework is turned directly into the homework bin (divided into class periods) then immediately pulled out of the bin, paper clipped together and put into the appropriately labelled manilla folder. Amazingly enough every paper makes it in and back except for the one slacker’s, so they soon realize (and admit) that they did it, but must have forgotten to turn it in.

This loss in memory is fairly recent and appears to coincide with the birth of my son. A student told me she’d heard every child a person has lowers their IQ by a few points. While I know this is false, since mine started to fail me, I think I might be the freak genetic link some institute is looking for. I suppose one could just as easily point to my “getting older” as the cause, but I’m skeptical. My son seems to not only be draining my energy, my social life and my patience (although not very often as he’s a fairly well-behaved baby), but also my short term memory. This was not in any of the baby books I read…and I read a lot of them!

I had a point with this whole post today, but as I’ve been writing for over 10 minutes and I’m nearing the end, I’ve forgotten what it is.

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Missing

I had what I think can only be described as a mild panic attack. Considering how crappy the rest of my week has been, today was going pretty well. I squandered my entire prep talking to a student about Jude the Obscure and then talking to a potential newspaper advertiser who just happened to grow up right around the corner from where I currently live. Although it means I have tons to do tomorrow during my prep, it didn’t really bother me. I left work as soon as I could in order to meet my best friend for coffee-like drinks at our favorite cafe. Everything was going great until I got to my sitter’s house.

All week I’ve been running a bit later than usual. One small hassle after another. Since I had plans, I was early-ish to pick my son up. When I arrived, I saw a familiar van in the driveway. My sitter’s best friend is also a stay at home mom, so every couple of weeks she brings her kids (and their tiny, adorable dog) over to play. It’s great because she has two boys, so my son gets used to playing with lots of kids. He also loves their dog. The day was beautiful and I was not at all surprised to see the front door open. I was, however, very surprised when I walked in and found the house empty.

As the day was so lovely, I strolled around to the back yard expecting to find them playing. Granted, every time I’ve ever come to pick up my son they’ve always been in the house, but he also was far too little to play outside in the fall. Spring days seem to logically suggest romping in the backyard.

I didn’t find them in the yard though. I did find their dog, who promptly barked at me, indicating that I should get the hell out of their yard. I went back inside. Calling out for anyone. I crept up the stairs to see if maybe, just maybe, everyone was napping. I had no idea why they’d be napping with company, but the empty house made no sense to me. No one. I headed downstairs to see if maybe somehow they were in the basement and just didn’t hear me. It’s a tri-level and I was talking quite loudly, and since there were at least six of them I didn’t know how that was possible, but I was perplexed. Once again, no one.

I looked up and down the road. Empty. Five minutes passed. I tried to call her husband at school, but he must have headed for home. I started silently cursing the fact that she has no cell phone. I also started pacing. I went back inside the house. I called out. I’m not really sure why as I knew there was no way anyone was there.

Looking around I noticed my son’s cup partly full of milk sitting on the table. Pizza with tiny teeth marks was also left out. The kitchen sink was dribbling water. A backpack was open on the couch. A DVD player was on and sitting on the couch. It was eerie. As if they’d all just disappeared.

Ten minutes passed and I was starting to freak out. My heart started beating fast. All kinds of horrific thoughts flashed through my head. I was pacing. Ringing my hands. I found tears welling up in my eyes. I kept saying to myself, “Where’s my baby? I want my baby.” It was a terrifying feeling not knowing where he was or if he was ok. Even though I’d only been there for ten minutes, I’d dropped him off almost nine hours ago. Anything could have happened in the interim.

I noticed the stroller wasn’t sitting out in front of the garage the way it had been that morning. Her house is the second on the block. I looked down the street at what appeared to be a dead end, only to see a man on a bike with two small children following him. They came out of nowhere. I started walking.

It turns out what I thought was a tiny circle has a twist just over a small hill and actually opens up into a large neighborhood of homes. I kept walking, hoping that I would find them. It had been fifteen minutes and I was determined to comb every inch of the neighborhood until I found them. In the distance, probably ten houses away, I saw a group of people in a front yard. There seemed to be several small children playing. I picked up my pace. I couldn’t make out anyone specifically. Suddenly, from behind a truck in a driveway, I saw a woman pushing a baby stroller. It was my sitter, and more importantly, my son.

I practically ran to them. I was very calm, but the second she was within reach, I snatched him up and gave him a kiss. She told me how they’d been playing and that he’d had so much fun with the other kids. I just clung tightly to him. They were heading back to the house, but I didn’t even consider putting him back in the stroller. I carried him, all 24.5 pounds, back to my car. I didn’t even notice his weight. Instead I hugged him tight, gave him lots of little kisses and told him how much I loved him.

This may seem like major over-reacting, and in hindsight, I won’t deny that I let my imagination get the best of me, which caused me to panic. The only thing I can say in my defense, is that unless you have a child, especially a pretty darn helpless baby, my reaction seems ludicrous. Heck, two years ago I would have laughed at my behavior. Sitting here now I find the situation a little funny. I know I blew it a bit out of proportion. My sitter adores my son and would never let anything happen to him.

Still, those 15 minutes of not knowing were some of the scariest in recent years. I think I’ve learned not to jump so quickly to conclusions. I think I also have a slight understanding of the agony parents of missing children go through. It’s amazing how someone so tiny has changed me. I can’t guarentee that I’ll never freak out like this again. All I know for sure is I never want that feeling again and I dread the days when he has a car of his own and I’ll spend my evenings wondering where he is and if he’s ok.

Do they microchip babies?

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The ides of April

I am in a foul mood today. While I have not been betrayed by one of my closest friends, I have,  yet again, been screwed over by a family member.

I should have known it was going to be a bad day when my son woke up at 5 am for no apparent reason, cried just long enough to wake me up and keep me from doing anything more than slight drifting, then went back to sleep only to be grumpy when I had to wake him up for the sitter’s.

It was all downhill from there. During first period, a mouthy freshmen complained about how I don’t give enough directions for the writing assignments. What it really boils down to is she’s annoyed she doesn’t have an A. Writing is something she’s generally good at, even though she can’t wrap her brain around the fact that journalistic writing is different than essay writing. Her stories always exceed the word limit. She’s vague and often doesn’t follow the guidelines of the assignment. I give them lots of room so they can be creative with their topics. After a week of studying a specific type of writing though, I don’t feel I should have to tell exactly how many facts their stories need. Or how long their quotes need to be. She just wanted to argue and it rubbed me the wrong way.

Second block things got worse. I took my class to the library. While they were well-behaved and actually complimented by the librarian (she had horrid children first block), they couldn’t find good research materials because despite telling me they weren’t letting kids check books out, some of my colleagues, who are actually using my lesson plans, let their kids go hog wild and check out everything in the library. No limits. No making them take notes first, just straight up to the counter to check out every freakin’ book on pollution the library had. One is even letting multiple kids choose the same topic, which not only ensures all the books will be gone but also that her kids will no doubt share info and find ways to cheat. I don’t care so much that they’ll have to deal with cheating and the extreme boredom of reading three papers on global warming, but when my kids can’t do their research, my ire is up.

The real cherry on the crap sundae though was when I called the bank to check on the hold they’d placed on a check I deposited a week ago. It seems my great aunt has powers far beyond the reach of the grave and has managed to make our lives just a bit more difficult. Her estate (the executor is my second cousin) was late paying with the payment for our court settlement. This would not be a problem as we got the check a week ago. Apparently though, despite having gobs of money in multiple accounts, my cousin decided to write our check knowing the account she wrote from had insufficient funds. That’s right, my settlement check, the one I used to pay my final car payment, is going to bounce. 

When the check came in, my  husband and I each treated ourselves to a neat little gift we’d been wanting for months. Since the check hadn’t cleared yet, we put it on our credit card. As much as I hate having any sort of balance on the card, it’s lucky we didn’t just pay for the new toys out of the joint account. We wouldn’t have been eating this month if we had. I think my son would have had a real objection to that.

Now instead of paying off bills and putting money away for college, we are going to be fighting a family memeber to get the money we are owed. I don’t know what kind of sneaky ploy this was. I do know that I signed legal documents saying the settlement was, well, settled, and I’m hoping they can be reversed or changed in some way. I know little about the law and I have a feeling that despite the 60 day stipulation of the original papers this is going to drag out for a long time.

I don’t say this often, but man, I need a drink.

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A step into the 21st century

It took a long time, but I am finally cool. Yes, that’s right. Just like nearly all of my friends and apparently every single high school student, I have an iPod.

I’ll admit I took a long time to warm to the craze. It’s not that I have anything against music. I happen to love it. It’s just that I couldn’t see spending $100 + dollars on a device to play my music when I already have CDs, a discman and an MP3 player. Granted my MP3 player only holds like 10 songs (it’s from like 1999 or so), but I really like those 10 songs, so for the longest time I was content to listen to them over and over and over again. They are the perfect length for a workout and even though it wasn’t planned that way, they are even paced perfectly for a warm up, long walk/jog and then a cool down. I figured it was fate.

Suddenly though, I find myself with a little money to spare. Everything in Florida has finally worked itself out, so in anticipation of my inheritance check, my husband and I went on a mini-shopping spree. I got my 80 GB iPod, a cute “stereo” to hook it up to and a car adapter thingy so I can play it in the car. My husband actually got the better end of the deal as he got an XBOX, two controllers, some super long cable, Call of Duty 4 and a pre-order of GTA 4.

I haven’t quite figured everything with my iPod out yet, but it’s silver, skinny and so far I’ve filled like 2GB of the 80 available. I’m waiting to devour my dear friend Eee’s computer so I don’t have to upload all of my CD’s. We have some similar tastes afterall and since she’s already done the work it seems silly for the work to get done twice. Plus she offered to let me cannabalize anything her boyfriend has. He ows more music than anyone else I know. Not that I like 90% of it. Free music is free music!

I’m about to get kicked off so my darling  husband can geek out with XBOX online. No worries though, I have songs to upload and music to tune him out with.

I love this modern world!

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Where has all the good TV gone?

So Veronica Mars was cancelled. This probably does not come as a surprise to a fan of the show. To those who never watched it, it may be new information, but if you didn’t watch it, I’m guessing you probably don’t much care. Until my recent spring break, I fell in the later category. Sure, I knew of the show’s existance. I’d even tried to watch an episode during the second season, but I just didn’t care about it. I figured it was yet another lame teeny bopper show filled with over priviledged pretty people who don’t exist outside of television and movie scripts. Turns out, I was very, very wrong.

I borrowed the first three seasons on DVD on the suggestion of my dear friend Eee.* If a nearly 15 year friendship hasn’t taught me that we have the exact same taste in almost all of our media viewing habits, Netflix has confirmed it. We have something like a 96% compatibility in our ratings. Knowing what a die hard fan I am of Buffy, Angel and Firefly, she figured I’d find Veronica an equally beloved show.

I found myself glued to my TV. I suffered through the first season with my husband. It took us forever to watch it since he cannot do marathons unless they involve Tie Fighters and Wookies. One night he sat through three episodes with me and I thought his head would explode. He assured me it wasn’t that he didn’t like the show; he just didn’t like it enough. After taking over a week to finish season 1, I decided there was no way I could wait even an extra day to find out who Veronica was so happy to see on her doorstep during the season finale. In less than a week, I blew through 42 episodes, mostly while my son was taking his three hour morning power nap.

I finished episode 20 of the third season. Tingling with anticipation, I popped in the final DVD, only to find I’d just seen the series finale. All that was left was to see was the 20 minute pitch “episode” for season 4. A season, which sadly, they never had a chance to make. Even though I was disappointed the creators decided to skip through Veronica’s college and fledgling P.I. years, what grieved me even more was that although I’m not usually a fan of cop/FBI shows (aside from the early years of the X-Files and Bones), I would have definitely watched season 4. Even though it looked like the only character I liked that would be left on the show would be Veronica, I would have given up an hour every week to tune in. Considering how little TV I watch, that’s really saying something.

Veronica Mars was a great show. The dialogue was actually intelligent. The acting, while not exactly Oscar quality (and yes, I know TV shows don’t get Oscars), was decent. Granted Logan was a bit overwrought and mushy at times, but overall it was good. The plot was an excellent web of intrigue. Much like the shows of Joss Whedon, there was a fantastic over arching story. While individual episodes may have explored different topics, something always led back to the big picture. Solid characters were introduced and there were plot twists that kept me guessing until the final episode as to who had really done it. Heck, both Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon did guest appearances on the show, which in and of itself lends major cool points to it.

Sure, the show had over priviledged rich kids who often won (just like real life), but it also had poor kids. It did a great job of showing the actual class struggle that exists not only among real high school kids, but in our society as a whole. Veronica, unlike Buffy, didn’t always have the upright righteous moral compass. In fact, just like a real high school kid, she often sought revenge both for herself and for those she loved, without really thinking of the consequences. She was flawed, and in the most perfect way: She was human.

In a world where we have yet another season of Dancing with the Once Had Their 15 Minutes of Fame, I’ll Admit I Cheated on My Spouse on National TV To Win Money and CSI, It Doesn’t Matter What City Because it’s All the Same Damn Show, Veronica Mars was something different. It was witty. It was sassy. It was fun. And just like nearly everything else on TV I’ve ever loved, some nimrod executive killed it.

BRING BACK VERONICA!**

*I have since purchased it from Amazon because I know I’ll want to watch it again AND I want to show those damn execs just how wrong they are.

**Kristen Bell, aka Veronica Mars, is currently on Heroes, but let’s face it, season 2 of that show was so lame that even as much as I love her, I don’t think there is a snowball’s chance in hell I will watch a third season of it. TV executives need to wise up and get her back, even if it is on the FBI show.

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