Saturday, December 31, 2005

Why I will never disown my son

Mr. Tangerine: (Eying Ben's shirtless torso) Look how skinny he is.
Me: Ooh.
Ben: Skinny like Mommy.
Me: (Kissing Ben) Hah!
Ben: And skinny like good ol' Dad.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas and bloody heads on sticks

Goodness, has it really been so long since I wrote anything here?

Christmas was good. Ben ceased impugning Santa Claus's methods and just enjoyed his new toys (though it appears that he wishes Santa had stolen a Lego police station on his behalf). He spent a couple days running amok with his cousins—as a bossy only child, Ben can't get enough of his three-year-old cousin's worship. It was nice not to have to prepare any food for a couple days, although we could have done without the bout of mild food poisoning. (Wanna guess how long it took for Tuesday's lunch to exit?)

The holiday season continues unabated, as I have yet to exchange gifts with my friends or my family of origin (and I have yet to wrap those gifts—what am I waiting for, you may ask? Apparently I am waiting for them to magically wrap themselves. What? It could happen.). There are some holiday get-togethers with friends on the schedule, my family's coming over on New Year's Day, and the annual Christmas Day brunch with my mom's relatives is on January 8. Twelve days of Christmas is for wimps: we're doing a solid fortnight of Christmas.

I read Kathleen Parker's column in the Trib today. I find I disagree with the majority of what she says, no matter what the subject may be. And today, she takes on bloggers. I don't read any of the types of blogs Parker harps on—the ones that exist solely pounce on mainstream journalists' failings, apparently—but her rhetoric was so entertaining I wanted to share a few excerpts with you.

Bloggers persist no matter their contributions or quality, though most would have little to occupy their time were the mainstream media to disappear tomorrow. Some bloggers do their own reporting, but most rely on mainstream reporters to do the heavy lifting. She's so right! The mommyblogging world, for example, would collapse without the framework of the news media. Not to mention knitting blogs. And diaristic blogs. And humor blogs. And blogs written as a creative outlet.

...[M]ost babble, buzz and blurt like caffeinated adolescents competing for the Ritalin generation's inevitable senior superlative: Most Obsessive-Compulsive. Even so, they hold the same megaphone as the adults and enjoy perceived credibility owing to membership in the larger world of blog grown-ups. ...Each time I wander into blogdom, I'm reminded of the savage children stranded on an island in William Golding's "Lord of the Flies." Without adult supervision, they organize themselves into rival tribes, learn to hunt and kill, and eventually become murderous barbarians in the absence of a civilizing structure. ...When a mainstream journalist stumbles, they pile on like so many savages, hoisting his or her head on a bloody stick as Golding's children did the fly-covered head of a butchered sow. ...When someone trips, whether Dan Rather or Eason Jordan or Judith Miller, bloggers are the bloodthirsty masses slavering for a public flogging.

All right, fess up, bloggers: Which one of y'all stole Piggy's glasses? And who should we vote off the island first?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

That larcenous Saint Nick

Ben's rocketing toward a fever pitch of excitement over the impending arrival of Santa Claus. Mr. Tangerine and I apparently haven't been hyping the Santa mythology, though, because this morning, Ben asked his dad: Does Santa break into a store to get the stuff he needs and then go to your house? Does he do that? We took advantage of the teaching opportunity to mention the North Pole, Santa's workshop, and the elves. You know, if the boy would just take an interest in the classic Christmas cartoons from my childhood, he'd know all this already...

Dreaming of an Orange Christmas

You, too, can have an Orange Christmas. Here's how:

Procrastinate on all phases of holiday preparation. Put off shopping for gifts and sending out cards, but accomplish these duties just in the knick of time. Get that Christmas tree up and decorated no sooner than December 18, dress the kid in Santa jammies, and take a picture of him to enclose in the cards. (Procrastination is the Orange way, but so is pulling things off just ahead of the final deadline.)

Grow tired of your handful of Christmas CDs and order a new one that arrives on December 23. I recommend the jazzy remastered Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas. Sure, I already own the previous version (with fewer songs), but I appear to have misplaced it and totally forgot I owned it. Just found out this minute when grabbing that Amazon link. (I just looked on the shelf again and lo and behold, there's the old Ella CD. Hey, instant gift!) Anyway, who's better than Ella Fitzgerald? Nobody, that's who. And I can listen to it while wrapping presents...just as soon as I get around to starting on that.

Order yourself some loot and tell your significant other to wrap it up and give it to you on Christmas. I have good reason to believe Mr. Tangerine is giving me two fleece V-necks and a warm pair of Merrell clogs (they felt great in the shoe store!) this year. Somehow, he is perturbed by the convenience of this system. He feels guilty that I have gone shopping to buy things for him...and yet, this guilt has not motivated him to hit the stores and select his own gifts for me. Pfft!

Slather yourself in cheap self-tanner and see if you can't make your skin turn orange. Now, this is not the Orange way, but let us not unnecessarily constrain the Orange Christmas concept.

Clementines or tangerines in the Christmas stocking are a great idea—Santa always had a tangerine or two for young Orange back in the day. And no, that does not constitute cannibalism.

Whether the ground is blanketed with snow or not, you can still spray-paint it orange. Really. Try it.

Last, I wrote about "Christmas in September" a few months ago. The gist of it was to donate money in September to aid those displaced by Hurricane Katrina, in lieu of giving holiday presents in December. As it turns out, my extended family wasn't at all interested in this plan. However, we here at Casa Tangerine are incredibly lucky; we have a place to live, we have a degree of financial security, and our friends and family are all safe. So we're exchanging gifts as well as donating (again) to the American Red Cross Katrina fund; I listed a few other good places to donate in the "Christmas in September" link. If you can afford to do so, I encourage you to make a donation to aid those who are less fortunate than you—your local food bank, the Red Cross (Katrina, the South Asian earthquake, etc.), a shelter for abused women or the homeless, or any other organization that helps people.

Have a very merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a festive Festivus, a warm Kwanzaa, a sunny post-solstice, or [insert your preferred celebration here]!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This one's for the mothers

Psycho Kitty had the brilliant idea to write some abecedarian doggerel, namely "The Mommy's Little Helper Alphabet." She invited me to collaborate on it, and the writing process was most educational. (I learned that we sure do talk about pharmaceuticals and sex a lot. And food.) Without further ado, we present:

The Mommy's Little Helper Alphabet

A is for amphetamines, that keep your mommy perky
B is for the Benadryl, that stops her getting jerky
C is for the chocolate, worth its weight in gold
D is for mama’s Demerol, when baby’s one day old
E is for eggnog, spiked with some rum
F is for...oh, don’t even pretend you don't know what F is for, people!
G is for Godiva (see C above)
H is for headache, when Mommy don’t want no love
I is for ice cream that fills the tummy
J is for a jacuzzi to make Mama feel yummy
K is for kisses—the kids’, so gentle; the lover’s, deep
L is for late night, when kids are asleep
M is for Midol, in case you must ask
N is for Nubain, to help labor pass
O is for orgasms—need I say more?
P is for pizza, delivered to the door
Q is for quiet, one minute’s enough
R is for rest (hey, remember that stuff!)
S is for sitters, who cut us some slack
T is for TV getting kids off our back
U is for underwire ‘cause Mama’s boobs are flappy
V is for vibrators that make Mama so happy
W is for whiskey, sipped out of a cup
X is for Xanax, when Mama’s worked up
Y is for “yes, Mama”--better than “no!”
Z is for Zzzzzz, off to bed we all go!

©2005, Psycho Kitty and Orange

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Shiksa alert!

Remember the Seinfeld episode called "The Bris," in which Elaine has to hire a mohel to circumcise a friend's baby? This is the same episode in which Kramer sees a pigman in the hospital, and a suicidal jumper lands on George's beautifully parked car, and Jerry the godfather flinches during the circumcision and gets his finger sliced. You can read the entire script here (you'll have to do the voices yourself).

I just read it because I've been invited to a bris for the first time, and I had to do my research. Kramer tries to sway the baby's parents: Imagine, this will be his first memory. Of someone yanking the hat off his little man. I know you love your baby, but what kind of perverts would stand idly by while a stranger rips the cover off his 9-iron and then serve a catered lunch? As I understand it, this week's bris will be a little more breakfasty. I've been promised a morning of bagels and wine, which I can get on board with. I mean, who's got time for a full luncheon two days before Christmas? Presumably a whole lotta Jewish people, yes, but I'm not sure I'll be done buying and wrapping Christmas presents by this Friday.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Strange and lovely bedfellows

Top five reasons to share your bed with someone:

5. They warm up the bed on a cold night.
4. There's someone there to turn on the light and kill the imaginary spiders.
3. Spooning/cuddling.
2. Sex.
1. When you stretch while half asleep and get a charleyhorse, they will fix it for you while you holler "Ow ow ow ow ow!"

Top five reasons to sleep alone:

5. Some people steal the covers.
4. Snoring.*
3. Morning breath.
2. Sneak attacks.**
1. Dutch oven and related gaseous events.

*Unless you yourself are the snorer, in which case it's a charming affectation.

**Once, Mr. Tangerine bit me on the shoulder in his sleep. The moral? Don't let a man go to bed hungry.


What's on your lists?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Linkapalooza

The "Blogs I Read All Day, Every Day" blogroll is freshly updated. Let me tell you a little about the newcomers to the list. Every single one of them makes me laugh and makes me think. And if we had functioning teleportation devices, I would totally make out with all of these people. (At the same time.)

QWMaine.com is a funny man. He gets a little ranty at times (see today's post about the so-called war on Christmas), but it's all good.

Michael Bérubé Online is written by a literature and cultural studies professor, implausibly named Michael Bérubé. I confess my eyes do glaze over on Theory Thursdays, but I groove on the smart, funny, liberal, literate vibe. There's always a party in the comments thread.

You know who's right up my alley? DoctorMama. She's an internist with a toddler and a smart mouth. I mean, a smart brain. Or both, really.

The Assimilated Negro is often hilarious, but sometimes tugs at your heartstrings. (Nobody tell him.) He's the anti-gangsta's hip-hop connection.

In Screed, ding serves up regular doses of the political and the personal, and also occasionally dissects particularly egregious NYT articles. She's excellent company for margaritas and shopping, too. Mabuhay, ding!

Churp, Churp is hosted by Cricket, who is the finest insect of my acquaintance, bar none. (You hear that, Grasshopper?)

There's another liberal professor (it must be a plot!) at Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk. Rob's a philosopher, a dad, and a feminist.

After School Snack is a group blog written mainly by Elise (who guest-hosted at Bitch Ph.D. last summer), Matt, and Christopher. Plenty of politics, rants, links to good reads, and opportunities to list five things that please you.

If you appreciate nature writing, you'll dig Chris Clarke's Creek Running North. He seems to save his funniest lines for comments at Bérubé's blog, but you'll have to visit Chris's blog for the environmental/poetic/personal. Chris is the one who started up Blog Against Racism Day; like me, his spouse is Asian.

Figleaf's Real Adult Sex isn't exactly what it sounds like. Figleaf's a regular married man who writes thoughtfully about sex. (He took a cheesy URL out of its fishnets and and dressed it in respectable clothes.) He's also an avid participant in that Half-Nekkid Thursday business and takes some evocative photos.

Becky The Absent Minded Housewife is, as it turns out, Really Quite Funny.

Thought Concoction is where Mignon (a regular commenter around these parts) hangs out. She's one of those snarky moms I enjoy reading so much. Also, I just learned from her Blogger profile that she works as a pirate. In Montana! Boy, that must be some commute.

Grandma

My 93-year-old grandmother is at a rehab center. No, not the Colin Farrell/Robert Downey Jr. type of place, but rather a nursing home where she can get physical therapy to aid the transition from hospital to home. Anyway, she'd been laid up in the hospital for 10 days. Last night, at about 1 a.m. as Grandma tells it, a night-shift male nurse came in and offered her a shower. After going so long without bathing, it sure sounded tempting. But Grandma's a traditional old white lady with traditional old attitudes towards people of color, and the nurse/aide was a big, burly black man. So first she declined the offer. Then she thought to herself (and I quote what she told me), "You big dummy. They wouldn't have him here if he wasn't all right," so she got nekkid with a big, burly man. He washed her bits, he washed her body, he shampooed her hair. And she feels great! Of course you feel great, Gram—you just got naked in the shower with a man for the first time in your life! (I'm guessing. I suppose it's possible her past is more checkered than she lets on.) And he washed your bits for you!

What makes this story great, to me, is that Grandma chastised herself with the old "Sanford and Son" catchphrase, "You big dummy."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The memory party

Lisa and Cricket both asked their readers to concoct fictional memories. It's great fun to indulge in a paragraph or three of creative writing.

So make up a memory of something you and I experienced, write it up in the comments zone, and delight me (and yourself) with your imagination...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Holy war: the Pope vs. the Christian Right

According to this AP article, not all Christians believe that the best way to honor the spirit of Christmas is via Target circulars and store greeters.

Why, no less a personage than Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that Christmas festivities have been tainted by consumerism: "In today's consumer society, this time (of the year) is unfortunately subjected to a sort of commercial 'pollution' that is in danger of altering its true spirit, which is characterized by meditation, sobriety and by a joy that is not exterior but intimate," said Benedict. "Assembling the Nativity scene in the home can turn out to be a simple but effective way of presenting the faith to pass it on to one's children. The Nativity scene helps us contemplate the mystery of the love of God, which is revealed to us in the poverty and simplicity of the grotto in Bethlehem."

But what about the poverty and simplicity of ads for Target?

(Poor Target. The reproductive rights crowd is mad at them for allowing some pharmacists to refuse to dispence emergency contraception, and the Christian Right crowd is boycotting them. Who is left to shop at Target? Only the middle-of-the-road folks who skip the news.)

Are there no douchebags in Canada?

A couple months ago, I wrote about the word douchebag and my grandmother's unironic use thereof. Since then, do you know that at least 73 people have visited Orange Tangerine because they did a search for douchebag? Most of them are Canadian. What drives the Canadians to search the internets for douchebag information? Has douchebag-the-item never existed there? Or is douchebag-the-insult only beginning to catch on? If you are Canadian and can shed some light on this, please do.

The one time someone used the search terms "orange douchebag," it led to this linguistics-related post.

Update! Someone at Pixar just Googled douchebag and visited this site. I loved "Monsters Inc.," "Finding Nemo," and "The Incredibles," not to mention the "Toy Story" movies. I can't wait to see what Pixar does with douchebags! Fun for the whole family.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Required reading on bras

Bitch PhD explains it all in a DDD-sized post on bras. How to measure your proper bra size (the odds are excellent that you should really be wearing a smaller band size and a larger cup size). Where to shop. What brands to seek out. How to check for proper fit. Maternity/nursing bras. In the comments section, there are many more reader tips for situations Dr. B doesn't address, like bras for small-breasted women. Go read it, ladies, and send the link along to the women you know.

My only quibble is that Dr. B says to use the tightest set of hooks on a bra, whereas Oprah's bra experts said to use the loosest (leaving leeway to tighten the fit as the bra stretches out over time). I vote for Oprah's method, as it lets me fit comfortably into a smaller band size than I'd been wearing.

Additional info: Click this link for more on determining your correct bra size, courtesy of a bra-fitting expert who contacted Dr. B.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kindergartner blogging

Clearly, Ben needs to drink more water. First he called his nuggets "party poo." This morning? He announced that his poop came out "single file." (Plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop.) Which, I suppose, is better than coming out in buddy pairs, holding hands. Or in a stampeding mob.

What's your favorite potty metaphor?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hooray for Westin Hotels!

Hotel rooms have enough mysterious stains and smells without adding cigarettes to the mix. According to this AP article today, the Westin chain is the first to go 100% smoke-free. Starting January 1, they'll have a no-smoking policy in the guest rooms, hallways, restaurants, and lobbies, as well as by the pool; anyone who stinks up a room by smoking will be charged a $200 cleaning fee.

Now, if Chicago would just pass a smoking ban for its restaurants and bars, I'd be all set. The City Council is contemplating a restaurant smoking ban, but I think they plan to exempt bars—why must the universe conspire to make it harder for me to go out drinking? Why?

Update: Hooray! The Chicago City Council just approved an ordinance today (Dec. 7) that bans smoking in virtually all public places in the city. Restaurant bars and taverns are granted 2½ years to come into compliance.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Yo, anyone going to Sundance?

There's a hot new documentary called Wordplay that will premiere next month at the Sundance Film Festival. You know it's hot when my beloved Language Log takes notice, right? And any doc that makes the cut at Sundance must be pretty damned good—more than 700 films were submitted but a mere 16 were selected for the festival.

"What is this Wordplay?" you ask. "I am intrigued." It's filmmaker Patrick Creadon's look into the world of crosswords, particularly the New York Times puzzle and its editor, Will Shortz, as well as the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and its übergeek competitors. Patrick was a ubiquitous presence at the tournament last March, but there was some sort of malfunction with his camera—it was largely incapable of being aimed at yours truly until nigh unto the end of the tournament. So I may or may not appear in this film, but at the very least, I know several people who are featured prominently in it and will be going to Sundance for the premiere.

I'm hoping that (1) I am not on the cutting room floor, (2) the camera did not add umpteen pounds, and (3) the movie gets picked up by a distributor and plays for months at theatres nationwide, because I have got to see it (and the movie could help explain some of my nuttiness to my friends who maybe don't quite get it). And think of all the Hollywood swells who might see the movie at Sundance! Do you think Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., or George Clooney might go? I bet they all love crosswords.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Fruit blogging!

Two things.

Thing the first: I am eating an orange at this very moment. It sounds autocannibalistic, or racy, but it's actually quite tasty.

Thing the second: You know how sometimes you try to peel a banana, and the stem end just won't crack open the way it should? And you may pull out a knife in your impotent rage to cut the peel, or keep wrestling with the banana until the top end is all mushy? Guess what: You are allowed to peel the banana from the other end. It works. In fact, it is culturally imperialistic to insist on opening a banana only from the stem end, because people in other countries are quite willing to peel from the other end.

Blog Against Racism

Let me give you my life story through the lens of race.

My parents grew up in white ethnic families living in white ethnic communities. After they married in 1964, they moved into an apartment in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood—the site of some sort of demonstration against Martin Luther King, Jr.—not far from where my dad was raised.

After I was born two years later, they moved the family to a planned community known for its diversity. The suburb’s population, then and now, was mostly white and black, with a smattering of Asians and Latinos. When I was growing up, the black population accounted for about 20% of the town; it’s higher now. The school district included a predominantly black section of a neighboring town, and most of the children there were bused to our town. So my classes always included at least two racial/ethnic groups, sometimes four or five.

During my grade-school years, our neighborhood was diverse. There were mixed-race couples with kids; one such family had adopted sons who were Korean/African-American. A black family lived next door to us. A Japanese woman and her white husband lived across the street. There were white families and black families, and occasional singles and couples.

Then I went to small-town Minnesota for college. The school strove to attract a diverse student body, but they had a tough time attracting (and retaining) African-American and Latino students to such a white (and wintery) place. I remember a friend who grew up in Mankato arguing that there was no racism on campus, because after all, he wasn’t seeing it. My senior year, some students started up a White Students Against Racism discussion group, which I joined. One woman recalled the stress of being a retail employee instructed by her boss to watch the black customers to make sure they weren’t stealing.

After graduating, I returned to the Chicago area and got a job in publishing. There wasn’t much overt racism on display there, but I had a white colleague who took issue with her (Asian-American) editorial assistant’s use of a nickname on her business correspondence, saying it seemed “too ethnic.”

Then my Asian-American fiancé (the Mr. Tangerine we all know and love) graduated, and we got an apartment on the North Side. The Lakeview neighborhood is mostly white, but the area is still fairly diverse; not many poor people, no, but people of all colors and backgrounds, and a sizeable GLBT population. We got married (my relatives didn’t seem to have any reservations about his race—but then, many white people seem to have an easier time accepting Asians, being the “model minority” and all) and moved a few blocks north, closer to the partly poor Uptown neighborhood, but still in an area with largely the same demographics as Lakeview.

My husband grew up in a predominantly white suburb in Wisconsin, and reported sometimes feeling “different” as a result of his race. I didn’t want our child to ever feel that way, and we’re both so incredibly comfortable and at home in our neighborhood, we saw no reason to move to the ‘burbs after Ben was born. (Hell, I feel like a fish out water when I find myself in an almost-all-white environment; it feels like…something’s missing.)

“What about the terrible Chicago Public Schools?” the relatives quailed. As it turns out, Ben’s attending a good CPS magnet school just around the corner, and the student body reflects the city’s population: No ethnic group makes up a majority. Kids come from all over the city—some from 12 to 15 miles away! in city traffic! Some kids’ families are immigrants, hailing from something like 50 different countries. Different races, different religions, different languages, different cultures, different traditions. But they’re all learning the same curriculum and playing together; they all made paper turkeys before Thanksgiving (wait! unfair to vegetarians!).

I’m sure some of the kids attending Ben’s school will be exposed to racist attitudes at home and in society, but at school? I’m incredibly hopeful that the children who spend nine years in this multicultural environment will emerge from the cocoon as teenagers who can accept and look past differences, who feel completely comfortable being in the minority at times, who understand that every individual has something to contribute regardless of their color or background.

It’s unfortunate that most American children don’t have access to an educational experience like this. If they did, I believe the frayed edges and gaping holes in the nation’s fabric would be mended within a few generations.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hey, December 1 is "Blog Against Racism" day

And I haven't written a post yet. Stay tuned...

A good morning

My husband nudged me awake. My eyes sought out the clock, which informed me that it was 7:28 a.m. Yoicks! Kindergarten starts at 8:00. I got dressed and rousted Ben out of bed, battling his sleepy reluctance to do anything but cuddle. I wrestled him into his clothes, attempted (unsuccessfully) to smooth out his tousled bedhead, and had the daily morning toothbrushing standoff (invariably it involves Ben asking, “What if I throw up?”).

Out to the living room, 7:45. Shoes on; coat on; hat, scarf, and gloves on. Backpack on. Dreading the cold air and feeling whiny about a sore throat, I opened the front door.

What’s this? Snow? Huh? Hey, it’s snowing! In an instant, a morning beset by minor woes became a perfect morning. There was just enough snow to give everything a clean white blanket, and to crunch underfoot in staccato bursts of sound like popcorn popping. Ben swiped a fingertip across a car window to peek in through the snow cover, finding it magical. He stopped walking and stuck out his tongue to capture snowflakes; I did the same.

We hit a windy pocket at the end of the block. The wind’s sting made us grateful when we rounded the corner and our faces warmed again. We heard two crows having a harsh conversation. We saw footprints in the snow from schoolchildren and adults, from large dogs and small, and talked about following one set of tracks to see where it led.

Ben entered the school building and I turned around to walk home, crunching snow in staccato bursts. The wind stang, but calmer air imparted a sense of peace, perfection. Birds clustered in a tree, fluffing their feathers against the cold, perhaps eating the tree’s tiny apples, so weighed down by the snow that many had tumbled to the sidewalk to be crushed underfoot.

Happy December, everyone.