Friday, April 24, 2009

The saving gene

So, Ben's ninth birthday is imminent and he's been receiving checks and cash in the mail with his birthday cards. You know what he wants to do with this money? Save it. Put it in his wallet or his savings account and never take it out.

Sure, he'd like to reserve the right to buy any desired loot he doesn't receive as gifts—but he'd like to buy those items with someone else's money. Birthday money that has been given to him immediately ceases to be other people's spendable money and is transformed into Ben's Must-Be-Hoarded Money.

While I applaud the child's inclination to save (aw, he takes after his ma and da), he was completely missing the point of birthday money. I think he understands now that I've laid it out straight and will not ask his parents to buy crap for him right on the heels of receiving more crap than he needs. (And by "crap," I mean "thoughtful gifts," of course.) There will be no post-birthday bailouts for greedy children!

Are you more a saver or a spender?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Life is good

Winter is over, so the seasonal summer beers have returned to the store shelves. I just popped open a Buffalo Bill's Brewery Orange Blossom Cream Ale. Yes, it is an orange-flavored beer. Refreshing, and it totally matches my blog.

I found out I passed the online Jeopardy! test in January (I had 40 or 41 out of 50 answers right), and I get to audition in Chicago on May 28. W00t! I have several weeks to concoct five killer anecdotes/topics. I am open to suggestions here. One blogger friend, Julie, was on the teen tournament back in the day and could only think of four good ones, so she threw in a fondness for disco as her fifth topic—and wouldn't you know it? That's the one Alex Trebek asked her about on national TV. So damn, I need five solids here.

Tomorrow, I'm helping out at a local crossword mini-tournament. I've been asked to give a brief presentation on crossword tips (which you may see in my Twitter feed to the right before they scroll off) and to sign copies of my book if folks are buying them. What should I write? This is my first official book-signing opportunity. The others, mainly of the standing-in-the-hall variety, usually say "Happy solving!" That's lame. Should I switch to "Rock on with your bad self"? Again, I'm open to suggestions but I need them by Saturday morning! Please hurry!

Oh! While I'm on the topic of Me Me Me (obnoxious, ain't I? and just think, I was such a shy and unassuming child), check out the May 2009 issue of Wired magazine. I hear subscribers already have their copies, but I'm still waiting to receive one. The "Mr. Know-It-All" modern-day etiquette column quotes me.

Audience participation time: Tell me something that you're proud of or a reason you're glad springtime is here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Five things

1. It took three tries to get my almost-9-year-old into a shirt he could abide this morning. First shirt: Tag itches. (The tag is sewn flat, and he has the same shirt in three colors. Wore them all fall and winter without complaint.) Second shirt: The inside of the buttons on the button placket itches. Third shirt: Neckhole tight, hard to pull over head, but he can make do. His primary remnant of sensory integration dysfunction is not liking bumpy sock seams under his toes, but every once in a while, an Itchy Shirt or Lumpy Pants Pockets situation arises.

2. United Airlines is in the news for its new policy concerning obese passengers and seat width, but I don't want to talk about that. I wish to declare this: They should forbid passengers from reclining their seatbacks unless it's a redeye, an overseas flight, or another flight in which many passengers are likely to sleep. No more! Sit up straight and quit invading my personal space, People in Front of Me!

3. New Orleans turns out to be a terrific place for a family vacation. Steer clear of Bourbon Street unless you strive to teach your children about strip clubs and want them to see female nudity, Larry Flynt style, from the sidewalk. But everything else! We filled much of our spring break with the Audubon Experience package—$32.95 for adults, $19.95 for kids. That gets you admission to (1) The Audubon Zoo—a good zoo with a cool Louisiana swamp area (don't miss alligator feeding time), hands-on experiences for kids, and some animals I haven't seen in the Chicago zoos. (2) The Audubon Aquarium. Cool seahorse exhibit, big shark tank (funded by the Gulf of Mexico oil companies—hey, they're good for something), a Mississippi River exhibit, jellyfish, and more. (3) The Insectarium! There are only a few bug museums in the U.S. and this is one of 'em. Creepy live critters, artistic displays of dead ones (picture a swirling rainbow of iridescent beetles and butterflies in lieu of pinned bugs in evenly spaced rows), the opportunity to engage in entomophagy. (4) And an Imax movie, with three movies to choose from. New Orleans also has the streetcars, which mean you don't need a car or cabs to get around. And there's a free ferry across the Mississippi to Algiers Point. If you're wondering about the post-Katrina New Orleans crime wave you've heard about, well, it was not in evidence where we were. We felt safe the whole time.

4. Wow, if you don't eat shellfish or red meat, creole food gets old fast. My menu for the week consisted largely of alternating between fried chicken po'boys and fried catfish po'boys. Mr. Tangerine enjoyed his meals, though—oysters chargrilled and fried, shrimp, gumbo, po'boy with three meats and gravy, crawfish, the works.

5. Dodged a bullet this morning. While we walked to school, Ben was just starting to tell me who the nine Jedis are from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and who reports to whom—and quizzing me! holy crap, I'm supposed to remember them each time he tells me?—but then he spotted his best friend and took off running. If I were a superior mom, I'd spend the day studying up and memorizing the Clone Wars characters...but I am merely a good mom.