Thursday, February 26, 2004

A squirrelly past.

Ski trip's a bust, boy's still sick, and all Dad has to show for his birthday is a DVD of the Simpson's third season. (Thank goodness for since I can't ever get to the stores these days!)

I was washing out the syringe that I used to give Bo-Bo his medicine cocktail this morning and noticed two squirrels, nose to nose, flicking tails on the tree in my neighbor's front yard. It zapped back memories from childhood long ago, when I tried to domesticate a squirrel, and created a monster instead.

I was eleven or twelve. I named the squirrel Roberta because I had a crush on Robert Redford at the time. Actually, I named her Robert, until she stood up on her hind legs on the side porch rail and Mom noticed a neat row of mammary glands. With our limited knowledge of squirrel sexual differentiation, we assumed Sir Robert was now Miss Roberta. (Turns out we were wrong; you have to look at their naughty bits to determine the sex.)

Anyway, Roberta had been hanging out at the side porch rail off of our kitchen for several weeks, flicking her tail and looking gosh darned cute. I asked Mom if we could leave a few unsalted peanuts on the porch rail for Roberta and before I knew it, she had gotten to the point that she would actually tap on the door for her peanutty treat. I decided that Roberta was the opportune candidate to be my pet squirrel. After all, my dad regaled in stories of his pet raccoon that he had as a boy on the farm-- why couldn't I conquer the wild kingdom and have stories of my own to tell?

So, I set off to "tame" said squirrel. Every time Roberta would appear on the porch railing, I would run to the sliding glass doors in the den and slip out to the back yard. I would slowly creep around to the kitchen side porch and coax her to the backyard with a trail of peanuts. This process continued through the weeks to the point that Roberta would hop in my lap and feast on peanuts in the back yard until she was stuffed. Turns out, it wasn't the "Bambi and me" moment I had envisioned. Squirrels are absolutely SCARY when you look at them up close. They have huge freaky pupils that make them look like they're on crack, their fur is rough and wiry, and they have talon-like black claws that could scratch your skin to ribbons in a heartbeat. So, I always wore thick jeans and garden gloves when I fed Roberta, and controlled my terror enough to bond with my squirrel, my very own pet squirrel.

Yes, it was an idyllic time for a while, the parents snapping pictures of their little St. Frances and the animal, me bragging to my friends about my conquest of nature. But then Roberta began to change. One day, as I was sitting in the sunken back yard patio after a feeding session, I heard the strangest noise; it was a shrill shriek, much like a Blue Jay makes if you get too close to it's nest. I looked up to see Roberta on a tree branch above my head, one paw pointed at her chest, her jaws rolling back and forth as she screeched indignantly for more peanuts. Hmm, thought I, maybe I should back off on the feedings a little. I didn't want her to become dependant on me for her sole source of food, and I sure didn't like having a sharp toothed, razor clawed animal giving me a piece of her mind.

So, feedings became less frequent as the irritated squirrel drive-bys increased. Roberta would fling herself at our side porch door, cussing at us in that creepy screechy rabid hamster voice, royally P.O'd that she wasn't getting peanuts on a regular basis. "No more feeding that animal", came the mandate from my parents, who feared peanut-withdrawl attacks by Roberta the squirrel junkie. And then the real war on mankind began. Roberta took to eating through anything plastic in our yard, trying to find one last peanut, one last fix. She rampaged into the garage and chewed through an industrial strength garbage can lid to eat dry dogfood that was stored within. My parents became irritated with having to keep the garage doors down at all times, and I had to pay for a new garbage can.

Then came the frantic call from our neighbor--the neighborhood matriarch who happened to share a back yard with ours. "Oh my God! " I could hear Mrs. H. scream through the telephone handset which my mother held far away from her ears. "It's headed your way! Lock your doors! It's headed your way!" My mother walked out of the room with the calm, collected attitude she maintains in time of family emergency. I heard strains of "Why no, we haven't seen any strange squirrels around our yard", and "I'm sure it was just an accident; you probably scared him more than he scared you..." After my mother returned to the room and hung up the phone, she proceeded with the grim details; Roberta had flung herself into Mrs. H's den when the door was opened to let the dogs out. The nut crazed animal screeched and shat around the room as squirrel obsessed dachsunds yipped and jumped at their manna from heaven. Mrs. H's heart-weak husband managed to open the door and flick Roberta out with a broom before collapsing in the poop-crusted recliner to catch his ragged breath.

From that moment on, my claim to fame as a child squirrel-tamer was erased from the annals of history. I was not to speak of my exploits, for fear that we would be ridden out of town on a rail for encouraging the neighborhood squirrels to riot. Every now and then I would see Roberta, sitting in crook of the Y-Shaped tree in the front yard. She would daintily curl her paw to her chest as if to say, "What about me?"... "I thought we had a deal?!"

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Poop on skiing.

Man oh man, the poor little guy just can't seem to get over this stomach bug. He's sore and diaper-rashed, I'm exhausted from daylong diapering marathons, clothes washings, and cleaning up the barf session every now and then. Sorry for the graphic beginning to this post, but parenting is not for the feint of heart.

Apparently there's a nasty Rotovirus going around; some kids are churning the mud for almost ten days! One little girl from the doctor's office was hospitalized. This is not good. For little Bo-Bo, for mommy, and especially for daddy. I'm not too worried about Bo, since the doc says he's well hydrated and the fact that Bo's still obsessed with waffles and chicken nuggets (actually patties) is a good sign.

I am worried about Daddy; his birthday is coming up, and he has a ski trip planned for it. But if the little guy is sick, we won't be able to leave him with the appointed caretakers, and that means Daddy might have to stay home. Why would I be so cruel as to make him miss a ski trip on his birthday? Because *I haven't been on this annual ski trip with our work buddies for over two years now! Because someone had to stay home with the kids due to sickness or lack of sitters in the past, and that person has been me. Sometimes daddy's even gotten to go skiing twice in one year, whereas I'm lucky to go once every three years. So, this year we agreed that I would go no matter what, and that if he wanted to go, he had to arrange for all childcare.

Now the metaphorical monkeywrench threatens our plans to make sure this vacation isn't going to be easy, or without guilt. It's daddy's birthday, but my turn to go skiing, dagnabbit. Little Bo is certainly the main focus of my concern, but the doctor is encouraged by his weight and hydration. The fact remains that he may still be sick by the time ski trip time comes around later this week. So, the secondary focus of my day is what to do: let the man go skiing on his birthday, or miss out on the annual ski trip for the third or fourth year in a row? I sure don't want to be away from him on his birthday, but the trip is already paid for. At best, we could try to get someone to go in our place and reclaim our losses. At worst, one will go and one will stay. Not cool, either way. For Bo's sake, for mommy's sake, and especially for daddy's sake, I hope Montezuma takes his Revenge elsewhere. Really soon.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Got Spam?

I'm working from home today, which is frequently the case in winter when disease is rampant throughout daycare and Sunday school. Thusly, little Bo-Bo is home with a raging case of Montezuma's revenge, and I, the non-manager of the family, will stay home with him today.

While the little guy was catching some well earned ZZZ's, I crept to the kitchen pantry to see what sort of grim fare was available for lunch. By not being a stay-at-home mom, my larder is shallow and haunting compared to the lovingly overstocked kitchen I recall from my childhood. (Yes, I enjoyed the luxury of staying at home with my stay-at-home mom; more about that some other time.)

Scanning the shelves crammed with carbohydrate packed boxes, I focused in on the plastic lazy susans filled with three tiers of canned food goodness. Surely a can of Ravioli lurked in there somewhere? Alas, my husband has been on a "Spaghettios with Meat Sauce" junket lately, though no one has deemed themselves starving enough to down the foul swill. I then took notice of a stack of square cans on the far right side of the shelf; SPAM galore! And "non fat" canned chicken, Dinty Moore Beef Stew....It's the Apocalypse survival stash!

Or, more accurately, our /Y2k/ice storm/hurricane/bad camping trip/ food stash. It all started in December of 1999 (strains of "Prince" are allowed to play in your head here), when shop talk at work turned to those who were stocking up for the potential end of the world due to Y2k computer disasters. Some had done nothing, some had gone as far as bottling water and buying barrels of textured vegetable protein. (Which they are trying to sell on e-bay to this day.) I realized that my cool, "nothing's going to happen" demeanor regarding the Y2k threat was diminishing as the new millennium drew nearer. Out I dashed, to buy large box shaped containers of water, cases of baked beans, golden canned bricks of Spam, and a humongous box of powdered milk. The stash stayed sequestered in the baby's nursery closet, out of the way of my father's critical eyes, yet there if somehow the worst happened.

And there it stayed. Until the water boxes starting leaking on the floor of the closet, and it got inconvenient to go into the baby's room every time we wanted baked beans with our hot dogs. Eventually the Y2k cache was re-orged into the kitchen pantry closet; the leaking or weird items were quietly thrown away. What remained, however, was a spirit of survival. The little Scarlet O'Hara within me was awakened. I would never go hungry again. (Actually, my girthy frame will attest to the fact that I have never gone hungry.) But now, when the harsh winds of November howl with sleet, or the raging rains and winds of tempestuous August blow, I remain confident in the face of potential power-outtage. The gleaming cans of Spam will always be there.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

The Preschool Marketing conspiracy theory.

The other night I drew the short stick, so it was my turn to give our four year old daughter a bath. (Not that it's a painful process, it just takes FOREVER to get a four year old out of the bathtub as opposed to her nonverbal one-year old little brother.) I prepared myself for the imminent requests for playing "mommy-sister", "baby-mommy" and the typical relationship playacting the wee lass tends to engage, when she floored me with the following:

"Hi, and welcome to Pepsi House!"

Hmm? Hrmm? Thinks I as I jerk my head in her direction..."What's that, honey?", I inquired, hoping I had misheard or she had misspoken.

"Welcome to Pepsi House. Would you like to try some of our delicious Pepsi? It's REALLY home-made". Says my daughter with a cocked head, smarmy grin on her face, eyelids in an almost alluring droop.

What the? How in the heck does this kid even know what Pepsi is? We are in the Southern neck of Pepsi's birth, admittedly, but this house is a Diet Coke house, dagnabbit! That kid has never seen me drink a Pepsi, or Diet Pepsi, I guarantee.

"What flavor Pepsi would you like, ma'am", she croons, in an all too realistic waitress voice (that of the waitress who wants a great tip?)

Egads! Who has gotten to her, and how? The only t.v. she watches in our house is before school and after dinner, strictly PBS kids shows recycled on digital cable one after the other. Minimal commercials, mostly for fiber-rich cereals. Nope, she's not getting the Pepsi indoctrination at home, that's for sure.

But then, there's always her Montessori pre-school, yeah, that institution of higher learning that will mold her inner child into a genius by age five...Surely capitalist advertising isn't allowed within the bastion of learning that is "Children's House?" The only time I can recall seeing the classroom t.v. on is at the end of the day, when the kids are waiting to be picked up by their parents. And they've always been watching the de rigeur "Bob the Builder" or "Magic Schoolbus" videos.

Perhaps there's more sinister goings-on during the day, however? Is it possible that the teachers have fallen into the sleazy trap of Pepsi marketers, lured by hints of free soda to enhance their lowly pedagogical salaries? Did the "Pepsi Mobile" stop by one day, the slick suited driver strutting in to announce, "This is now the Children's House of PEPSI! Yessiree!"

Do the teachers take each child aside slyly, out of earshot of the others, and whisper things like: "I want to tell you a super duper secret--only to you, because you are my favorite--Drink Pepsi!" Or, "Did you know that Pepsi is the greatest, and tastes homemade?" ... "Make sure your Mommy and Daddy buy lots of Pepsi..."
Hmm, maybe they even get a commission if they can prove they've switched a family "over from the other team"?!

I dunno, maybe too much Diet Coke is going to my head? Lots of sodium, you know. But then, there was that little bathtime incident. It went on for almost an hour; her pouring different "flavors" of Pepsi bath-suds into a little pink pitcher for me to pretend to ingest, over and over. Oh, the horror! What awaits for me the next time I draw bath duty, I wonder?

Friday, February 20, 2004

Zookeeper for a while, Cynic for life.

It's funny; I feel like I'm perpetrating a sham when I say I once was a "zookeeper". The problem is, I didn't work at a zoo, and my title wasn't "zookeeper", it was "Primate Technician".

Straight out of college, I landed a job at a local University that happened to have a most unique biological and anthropological facility; a "Primate Center". The Center existed as a harbor for endangered primates called lemurs, providing a one-of-a-kind opportunity for fostering and observing these rare and fascinating creatures. For some reason that only HR can unveil, those of us responsible for the care of those prosimian primates were called “Primate Technicians”. It almost makes you wonder if some disgruntled employees came up with the title to see if anyone would notice. Were they sitting at their desk debating? “...Monkey Keeper...” “Nah, how about, “Lemur Husbandry Specialist...” “giggle- Hey, I got it! Primate Technician!!” I assume major Yucks ensued as the official title was bestowed on those who fed, cleaned up poop after, and cared as best we could for these magnificent creatures.

The majority of us had at least four-year degrees in biology, anthropology, or zoology; several were pursuing graduate degrees as well. Many of us came with an interest in animal behavior, an appreciation of observational research, or simply a love of animals. It’s ironic, however, that after investing physical and emotional time in what seems to be a noble cause, it’s possible to get to a point where you can’t stand to see a wild animal in captivity, whether it’s endangered or not. My loathing of zoos, circuses, “dolphin encounters” and petting zoos didn’t evolve from any personal or overheard scenarios of animal neglect. I simply came to a place where the cleanest, biggest cage full of natural trees and “enrichment puzzles” was not good enough. The animals were still behind wire, glass, or Plexiglas, and that became intolerable to me. Granted, at the Center, a large proportion of the animals roamed freely in huge wooded enclosures—perhaps that’s what spoiled it for me. Maybe I came to expect all wild animals in captivity to live as such.

I know my breaking point was the afternoon some of us went to a nearby zoo to check out a new chimpanzee exhibit; the amount of hooting, armpit scratching, and screeching nauseated me. Of the human visitors, that is, who were banging on the glass observation panels and making general horses’ asses of themselves. I looked at the chimps, lolling in the grass of the “natural” cement enclosure that had one synthetic disease-proof fiberglass tree, and thought to myself, this is not worth whatever educational value someone thinks they are imparting at the expense of these animals’ dignity. No animal needs to be subjected to the forced observation of sweating, overweight and sun burnt tourists, no matter how endangered their natural habitat. They’d probably be better off given a suite at the Sheraton or Hilton; at least there they could shut their doors and put up a “do not disturb” sign when they weren’t in the mood to watch the natural habitat of humankind.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Hi, and welcome to "(Not) Words out of my mouth."

Christened as such since these cathartic posts will likely never see the light of day as the spoken word--Just thoughts that need to get out, go somewhere. And now, with the wonderful world of Blogs, anyone with anything to say has their outlet--Hallelujah!

As an introduction, I'm a thirty-something nearing fourty-something year old web/usability designer at a large software company, said company to remain nameless. In my previous life I was a zookeeper, nay, a "primate technician" (no, we never got out the wrenches on the monkeys), so I've encountered about every level of s**t there is in the working world, from cage level to corporate level.

Feel free to ride along, lurk, drive by (no violence, please), or just relax a while reading the mind spew of someone who doesn't give a dang if you're reading or not. Heck, I care, I just don't want to know if you *don't like my Blog. There's plenty of outlets for that on Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Here goes.