Monthly Archives: July 2009


In most parts of the English speaking world, pleonexia refers to “excessive or insatiable covetousness.” In this part of the world, however, it is just one of the stages of childhood. For children in this country, simply being between the ages of six and sixteen (sixty, for some) means that the drive to acquire new stuff is as strong as the drive to eat, sleep and reproduce is for the rest of us. For them, “want” and “need” are not merely siblings, they are Siamese twins: one cannot go anywhere without the other.

Think about it: children never want anything; they need it.

“Can we got to Kohl’s this weekend? I need some shirts.”

“What’s wrong with all of your other shirts?”

“I can’t find them.”

(This is a particular subset of pleonexia–excessive or insatiable covetousness for the things you already own but cannot find because they are buried underneath all of your other stuff. I call it re-pleonexia: the excessive urge to acquire the same thing twice.)

For my kids, re-pleonexia is especially prevalent in the summer, when sleep overs become so common that I begin to forget exactly which children–and therefore which posessions–are mine. (The answer is usually the same for both: the bad ones.). I don’t understand it: there are always the same number of kids in my house (I think this is part of the Fire Department’s two in, two out rule), but the names and faces keep changing. Sometimes, in fact, I can only tell which children are not mine by asking them a simple yes/no question. (The ones who respond with a “please” or a “thank you” are definitely visitors.)

The other way to tell if a child belongs to me is by asking them if they are currently in possession of a toothbrush, a pillow, or a swimsuit. Again, only visiting children will answer in the affirmative. My children, on the other hand, will just shrug their shoulders and say, “I dunno. I guess I need a new one.”

I’ve heard that some Appalachian Trail through hikers shave down the handles of their toothbrushes to save a few ounces of weight on the 2000 mile trail. To them I say: ha! That’s nothing: my kids shave their toothbrushes down to non-existence for a trip around the corner. Of course, my kids also shave down their pillows and swimsuits to nothingness, as well.

Which is why they need new ones.

In the winter I’ve often been tempted to purchase gloves by the truckload and airdrop them across the entire city, thereby assuring myself that at least one pair will find its way onto the hands of one of my children.

Curiously, I have never been tempted to do the same thing with the possessions that go missing in the summer. Maybe this is because I know that, with most of the missing items, this method would be disastrous. Take swimsuits, for example. With gloves you’re only trying to cover your hands. With swimsuits–well, you see the problem. (Or you would.) And then, of course, there’s people’s reactions to finding bikini bottoms dangling off of their balconies and car antennae. Id’ hate to be the sole cause of the divorce rate doubling overnight.

And as far as a toothbrush drop–I can’t even get my kids to use a toothbrush once it has fallen on the floor, let alone the ground. (Of course, have you seen my floor lately? Yeah, me neither).

That just leaves a pillow drop. Which actually sounds like a good idea. And kind of fun. Meaning, of course, that it is probably neither.

Kind of like pleonexia itself.

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Entertain Me

If my kids ruled the world, every summer morning would begin with me dancing into their rooms in top hat and tails, doing high “chorus line” style kicks and singing “Let Me Entertain You” in an Ethel Merman vibrato. And then I would turn into a big pile of money.

With car keys.

Although my kids now know better than to say “we’re bored” when I’m around, they aren’t above standing by my side while I’m doing a mountain of laundry and saying things like, “We should go to the movies. We should go out to eat. We should go to the mall.” Or, for the more worldly one, “We should go to the beach. We should go to the Green Day concert. We should go to London.”

“Shoo,” I’ll say. “Go find something to do. And, for the last time, pick up all of your crap.” (The latter statement, unfortunately, being the end result of having made the former statement the day before, since, for some reason, my kids hear “go find something to do” as “go drag out every book, toy, and game you own, open them up, and leave them in a long, snaky pile that stretches from the middle of the living room to somewhere just north of Ecuador.”) Some days the trail of half-played games of “Sorry,” half-read books, and half-finished bowls of cereal stretches out like the juvenile version of the Boulevard of Broken (or at least Abandoned) Dreams.

“They should just go play in the woods. That’s what I did when I was their age.” This is what my husband says when he gets home from work and they descend upon him like a plague of bored locusts (or rather, an invasion of Ennui).

“Yes,” I remind him, and that’s why all of your childhood stories either end with ‘and then the ER doctor said,’ ‘and then the cop said,’ or, worst of all, ‘and then the ER doctor said to the cop.’ No thanks.”

But by the end of the first week of summer I’m ready to send them out into the woods myself; after all, everybody gets stitches eventually, don’t they? And lots of people get arrested, too. (Or maybe that’s just my family.)

The thing about the whole “boredom” issue, though, is this: it’s not that they’re bored that bothers me–it’s not even the fact that I, myself, haven’t been fortunate enough to experience boredom since 1996. It’s that they expect me to do something about it. What I want to know is: who died and made me Julie McCoy, Cruise Director? I mean, if I have to be somebody from The Love Boat, then I want to be Isaac the Bartender. Heck, if pushed I’d even agree to be Gopher, the yeoman purser (boy, talk about things that sound dirty that aren’t)–anybody except Julie.

Just look at how she turned out–all coked out and washed up before she was thirty. (Or is that coked up and washed out?) Anyway, while you might think that it was living the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle that did it to her, you’d be wrong. No: partying every night with the likes of Shelley Winters, Don Knotts, and Charo didn’t do it to her, it was the stress of being Julie McCoy, Entertainment Maven, that did.

Just think, for a minute, about what that means. If simply playing an “Entertainment Director” on TV is enough to drive someone to drugs, then imagine what it must do to people who have to do it in real life. Actually, I don’t have to imagine it; I’m living it.

Which reminds me: just where is that Isaac, and what did he do with my Mai Tai?

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Devil Doll

The other day when I came home from work The Devil was in my kitchen. She had her head stuck halfway in the fridge (maybe she came straight from Hell), and was tapping one of her hooves impatiently on the floor. With a burst of sulphur and a hiss of steam she slammed the door shut and turned on me.

“Why isn’t there ever any food in this house?”

“Wh-wh-what do you mean, Your Evilness?” I stammered. “There’s some tortillas, and-and-and, some b-b-eans . . .” (Suddenly I remembered the sulphur smell, and back-tracked) “. . . I mean, and some cheese. You like cheese crisps. . .”

“WE’RE OUT OF CHEESE! I HATE this house! There’s NEVER anything to eat! Or to DO! Why can’t we live somewhere ELSE?!” And then, tossing out exclamation points like pitchforks, she was gone, to spread her sunshine elsewhere.

“Whew,” I said. Just then I noticed my husband leaning against the kitchen counter–I must have missed him while I was dodging thunderbolts.

“Welcome home,” he said. “How was work?”

“In retrospect, much too short,” I replied. “What’s up with Beelzebub?”

“The usual. Got up on the wrong side of the Lake of Fire.”

We both glanced into the living room, where we could hear the screams of a tormented soul (A.K.A., The Devil’s little brother, Clyde) echoing off the walls.

“Run, Clyde!” we shouted. He didn’t have to be told twice; in a heartbeat he was out the door and headed for the park. Of course, this meant that we once again became the subject of the Devil’s scrutiny. Slowly the Eye of Sauron rotated and fixed its fiery gaze on us.

“So,” the Devil said, “Are we doing anything today?”

I glanced at the calendar, and saw with relief that The Devil had a Young Jammers workshop from one to three. (The Devil, appropriately enough, plays bass.) It was only noon, but I figured that if I drove really slow, maybe I could make the mile and a half drive last . . .ten minutes. I sighed, and resigned myself to joining the ranks of the Eternal Damned–or at least the Temporarily Damned–for the next thirty minutes.

Finally it was time to go; gathering up all of the little pieces of excoriated skin that had been flayed off of me by The Devil’s sharp tongue, I dropped The Devil at the Center for the Arts and proceeded to enjoy my two hours of bliss. (Sir Thomas More says that to qualify as true bliss, something must be more then the mere cessation of pain, but I disagree. And if he had to live with The Devil, he would, too.)

Driving back to pick her up I felt just like one of the minor characters in a horror movie–the ones you always scream at when they go back into the blood-soaked cabin. But what choice did I have? The Devil hates to wait.

As I put The Devil’s bass in the car her teacher came up to me and said, “I just want to tell you how much I enjoy your daughter; she’s wonderful.” And no: she wasn’t being sarcastic (I can tell–it’s one of the perks of writing a humor column).

I looked over at The Devil then, and I saw that it was true–she had pulled her horns in and tucked her pointy tail up under her hoodie. In fact, I could almost see the faint glow of a halo hovering somewhere above her head.

It lasted until we were back on the road, and then, with a whiff of brimstone, The Devil was back.

“So. Are we doing anything ELSE today?”

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Milk I

I once had a friend named Tom who wouldn’t eat any food that he had touched. When he ate a sandwich, the part that he had been holding got left on the plate. When he ate french fries, a quarter inch of each fry was rejected. And his toast was always nibbled right up to the crust, and then discarded.

Of course, in his defense, he was crazy.

I was thinking about Tom the other day when I was cleaning up my kitchen and noticed that every single glass we owned was missing. A quick search revealed that not only were all of them tucked into various nooks and crannies scattered throughout the house, but that each one had approximately one inch of milk left in them. Every single one. Remember that scene in Signs, where the father is picking up all of the used water glasses? It was like that, but with milk. (And without any chance of those glasses appearing in a pivotal scene involving Joaquin Phoenix, which is too bad, because I think I could put up with the milk if it led to an appearance by Joaquin Phoenix. Without the beard, of course.)

But I digress. (Mmm, Joaquin Phoenix.) The point is, though, that for some reason, my kids are incapable of finishing a glass of milk. Now, bear in mind that in no way am I forcing them to drink milk; it’s not like I’m pouring these big, tall glasses of milk and then standing guard over them, threatening them with future osteoporosis if they don’t drink up. No, they pour the milk. They decide how much they want. And how much they want always turns out to be one inch less then they realized.

“Pour less,” I’ll plead. “Pour half a glass, and then go back for more. But quit leaving an inch of milk in the bottom of all the glasses. It’s waste of money for me, and a waste of time for the cow. How do you think Bossy would feel if she knew that she could have knocked off work one squirt earlier the other day?”

Alas, the threat of a disgruntled bovine doesn’t carry as much weight as it did when I was a kid. Maybe that’s because I grew up with cows, and know all too well the agony that can ensue when a person comes into contact with an unhappy cow–especially when one of you is wearing flip flops and the other is wearing hooves. My kids, however, are ignorant of that particular pain, and so the lactose abuse continues.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they did it with water. I could just pour that out on the nearest plant (although doing that to the pothos in my kitchen recently caused it to send up the white–or rather yellow–flag of surrender). I also wouldn’t mind if it was liquor. I mean, it’s not like either one of my kids smoke (much), and so the chances of my gulping down a hidden cigarette as I clean up after their cocktail parties are practically nil. No, I wouldn’t complain one bit about having to take care of all of their leftover scotch problems. “Oh, look: the poor little dears couldn’t finish their Glenmorangie again. Well, waste not . . .”

But milk; bleh. I’m not even that big of a milk fan when it’s fresh; when it’s been sitting in a glass for a few hours (or days), slouching its way towards cheesehood, I’m even less of one.

I’m sure that all of the vegans out there are snickering as they read this, but let me assure you: it’s no great treat to find an ancient glass of soymilk behind a dresser, either.

In fact, pound per pound, I’d say that fuzzy soymilk is right up there with Joaquin Phoenix for pure creepiness–with the beard, of course.

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There is a certain advantage to living in a house filled with cynical children. Take Easter, for example: my children understand that, in all likelihood, the Easter Bunny isn’t going to bring them squat. However, they also understand that three days after Easter, when all of the leftover chocolate is on sale, they’ll make out like kings. (My only religious belief is “Blessed are the Very, Very Cheap, for they shall inherit all of the 75% off candy.”)

True, this type of Easter celebration does lose some of the charm (because, really, who doesn’t like the idea of a rabbit running around your house leaving behind little chocolate versions of himself?), but it also cuts down on the hypocrite factor, since, as atheists, we can’t even claim to be resurrecting a lovely old Druidic ceremony like celebrating the vernal equinox when we celebrate Easter. No, the truth is, in our house we celebrate Easter for the same reasons we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, or Cinco de Mayo; the only difference is that, with Easter, the motivation is chocolate, while with St. Patty’s and Cinco, it’s Guinness and Tecate.

Still, there are certain disadvantages to living in a house filled with cynics as well. Take the tooth fairy. Owing to their cynicism–and the fact that, being freaks of nature, neither one of them lost their first tooth until they were well past the age of seven–my kids have never for a moment believed in the tooth fairy. And yet, they still expect the cash. (I can’t say that I blame them; after all, it is fairly distressing when parts of your body start leaving you–who wouldn’t want a little cold, hard cash to ease the pain? As I get older, I know that I would certainly appreciate even a symbolic monetary gift from the bifocal fairy, or maybe the orthopedic shoe insert gnome. Something, you know, for the effort.)

And speaking of “something for the effort:” it would be nice if, at least as far as the Tooth Fairy was concerned, my kids tried to fake it. But alas: they see no point in pretending to believe in something just to collect their cash. And I must admit, I can’t really blame them. After all, they’ll be in the workforce soon enough, where they’ll have to pretend they agree with nonsense every day just to collect their paychecks–why rush it now? And yet, I still can’t but help but feel a little melancholy about the way it’s all turned out.

Here’s how it usually goes down. The tooth falls out (usually at school, the result of showing the kid sitting next to them the old “swinging gate” trick one too many times), the nurse (or her stand-in–remember the budget cuts) puts it in a ziploc (the generic version; again–budget cuts), and the tooth is then brought home to me, where it is unceremoniously exchanged for a crisp new dollar bill (actually, a handful of change–there are budget cuts at home, too).

There is no reaching under of pillows, no stumbling in the dark–nothing. It has all the charm of a drug deal. And not even an illegal drug deal, which at least has a certain illicit thrill. No, this is more like buying medical marijuana. From a Republican.

Of course, at least this way I don’t have to hide the teeth. (Yes, I keep them. I paid for them, didn’t I?). And my kids don’t have to wonder, when they find the bag of teeth in my underwear drawer, if their mother is a secret serial killer.

Well, not much, anyway.
And besides, someday when they are both Goth teens getting chased out of Heritage Square they’ll be able to impress their fellow loiterers with their groovy tooth necklaces.

That is, if all that 75% off Easter candy hasn’t rotted them all away by then.

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