Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Lately Henry is discovering potty talk, particularly the multiple uses for the word "poop" and variations thereof (poo-poo, poopy diaper, poo-poo boy, and poo-poo girl, to name a few). For special occasions, he wheels out his absolute dirtiest word: BOTTOM. He relishes the word. He says it slowly, in a voice deeper than the way he usually speaks, drawing out the first vowel (Baaaaah-tum).

Which brings me to the nuances of policing potty talk. Technically, bottom is not a bad word. In fact, considering the range of possible terms describing that physical region, bottom is maybe worse than "buttocks" and more polite than "rear end," but it is clearly on the cleaner end of the spectrum than "ass."

So I have to consider several factors, such as location, intent, and audience. When he tells Amelia that the squirrel in the yard is a poo-poo head, and she laughs, I let it slide. When he tells me dinner tastes like bottom, I object.

Henry has noted that there are exceptions, and he has become sort of a potty talk negotiator. The other night at dinner, when I invoked the no-poop-talk-while-eating rule after he referred to Amelia as a poopy diaper, he immediately apologized. Thirty seconds later he sighed and flipped his wrist and said, "Oh, poo."

"Henry," I warned.

"I'm not saying 'poo' like what comes out of your bottom," he argued. "I'm just saying, 'Oh, poo.'" He flipped his wrist again in demonstration.

And then I laughed, thereby ensuring that potty talk at the table will continue indefinitely.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ghosts and lies

On Tuesday, I asked Henry who threw the pillows off the living room couch and he lied to me.

"It was a ghost," he said.

I went into a whole spiel about how I wasn't mad about the pillows, but it was very, very, VERY important to tell the truth, and I would be mad if he did not tell the truth right this very second.

"Mommy," he said, looking me square in the eyes. "The ghost came into the room over here, and then he disappeared. Then he was by the table, like this [scary face with waving hands over his head]. Then he flew past the couch and knocked all of the pillows on the floor. Then he left."

It was a good story. It was a great story, actually, because I spent at least a minute considering the possibility that the pillows on the floor were, in fact, the work of a ghost. Remember the kitchen chairs scene in Poltergeist? I had this eerie vision of me returning to the room to find the couch cushions stacked like Stonehenge.

"Henry," I said, "you should be a writer when you grow up."

Henry grunted and rolled his eyes. "I already told you, when I grow up I'm going to be a princess."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Never sign up for anything

I signed up to canvass for Measure E, the Alameda parcel tax to keep their fine, high-scoring public schools alive.

Do you know anything about canvassing? It is a slice of actual hell right here on earth. Here's what it looks like:

Ding dong. Barking dog. Irritated noises from inside. Slow shuffling. The door cracks. "Hello?" someone says, warily.

"Hi!" I say, trying to suppress my desire to run or vomit or run while vomiting. "I'm Meghan, your neighbor from down the street, and this is my son, Henry [I bring Henry on the mistaken assumption that it may keep people from cursing at me]. I'm volunteering for Measure E, and I'm just trying to find out whether you've heard about Measure E, and if so, if you're planning on supporting it." I smile, hopefully.

There are three possible scenarios that follow:

1. Person is not the homeowner, is possibly a son or nephew or friend of a resident teen, appears to have just woken up at 3 pm, and would likely test positive for more than one illicit substance. He (almost invariably a he) is not a voter, does not care, and takes a flyer which no one will ever see again.

2. Person is a supporter of Measure E! He or she shares stories of canvassing for parcel taxes over the years, wishes me luck.

3. Person is opposed to Measure E, to illegal immigrants, and/or to the Obama administration, and would like to take this opportunity to vent 50 years of fury over being last picked at wall ball on me and my 4-year-old, as I say "thank you" and back slowly down the stairs.

There are 62 individual households on my list. I have contacted 10. That was more than a week ago. Since then I have avoided all contact with neighbors. My faith in humanity is diminished.

I hate Alameda.

***On bringing Henry: He was quiet for the first three houses. Then he would stand a few feet away from me on the porch and loudly ask questions like, "Does a skeleton live here?" "Why is this porch so dark?" and "What smells?"***

I also signed up for a writing class. It's called "Finding Your Writer's Voice," from the Writing Salon in Berkeley. On the plus side, the teacher is very nice and employs the Amherst Method, which involves the radical notion that creativity and talent are more productively fostered when people are told the strengths of their writing instead of what sucks about it. On the minus side, everyone in the class is so much better than I am that I again expend a great deal of energy fighting the run-vomit urge.

Also, there's one guy whose "supportive" comments are always something like this: "I liked how that sentence about dead grandmothers was completely incomprehensible." Asswipe.