Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Why Do Cars Have Wheels?

CINCINNATI, Ohio, and ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Well, I'm back from Cincinnati, trying to put my life back together. Traveling always screws everything up, although since I'm moving to California, it's hard to tell the difference.

I'd planned to leave for Cincy on Thursday and return on Sunday, but my 105-item to-do list delayed our departure until Friday. The usually 5-hour drive took 7 hours due to construction near the Michigan-Ohio border and a bad accident on I-75 in Cincinnati. Mara and her husband Kurt must have wondered what they were getting when I finally arrived, wild-eyed from two solid hours of Benny's "Philadelphia Chickens" CD. Not that I'm complaining, since the CD and songbook spared me two hours of "Why do cars have wheels? Why are trucks big? Why do cars need gas?" and so on.

Mara and I promptly launched a steady round of late nights and excessive beer-drinking, always a sign of a successful weekend. Mara talked me into staying an extra day, prompting a flurry of phone calls where I canceled a babysitter, asked my brother to check the cat and fretted over missing a birthday party for one of Benny's friends. Mara is very persuasive; she should work for the U.N. She dragged me out to a bar after my 7-hour drive, leaving the children with Kurt. The next day we went to the park, the zoo and another birthday party. On Sunday we went to brunch and a Greek Festival. By then I'd had it, but she cajoled me into a pool party. I hate pool parties and was relieved that we arrived too late to see anyone.

Benny and I zoomed home on Monday to the music of "Rhinoceros Tap," arriving at Benny's daycare at 2:30 p.m. There I was regaled with a vivid account of the missed birthday party, which had some sort of dump truck theme. I was told the birthday boy and his mother constantly asked for Benny and that a personalized hard hat was waiting for him, lonely and neglected. Guilt-ridden, I drove home and left a groveling message on the birthday family's answering machine.

But I'm finished traveling for now, thank goodness, until I head to Indianapolis on July 6. The cat is at the vet's having some sort of dental operation, Benny is at daycare, and the temperature in Ann Arbor is topping 90 degrees. Good to be home.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

ANN ARBOR, MICH. -- Seventeen days of single motherhood, and I'm ready for a padded cell. It took the combined efforts of my husband, my mother and a McDonald's hot fudge sundae to get me down from my tree today. Here's my day today:

7 AM: Benny wakes me up at my sainted father-in-law's house in Stevensville, Mich. He's hungry. Root through refrigerator for leftover pancake from Saturday's dinner. After 10-minute search, remember that I left the pancake box at restaurant.
8 AM: Apologize profusely to SFIL for not bringing his Father's Day card from Benny. Explain in boring detail how said card was in a tray, which was hidden away while preparing the house for showing, and then forgotten.
9 AM: Fall asleep on couch while SFIL takes Benny for a short walk. Snooze half the morning as SFIL parks Benny in front of the Disney channel and feeds him Oreos.
2 PM: Take Benny to Aunt Orla's and brag about his potty training progress.
2:20 PM: Clean up Benny Mess No. 1. Throw away his shoes.
2:40 PM: Clean up Benny Mess No. 2.
2:50 PM: Clean up Benny Mess No. 3. Listen to potty training advice.
2:52: Put Benny in pullups and growl. One of my cousins says, "Gee, last year you were so energetic and happy. This time you're so anxious and stressed." Glare at cousin over strawberry shortcake.
4PM: Ron calls. Compare my new ring tone to porn-flick music. From my cousins' shocked looks, think that perhaps that comment was not appropriate to a family gathering. Sip Pepsi. Wish for beer.
4:30 PM: Promise the cousin who's studying to be a priest to visit his seminary in Columbus. Try to imagine a scenario where a woman soon to be living in California with family in Michigan and Indiana would end up in Ohio.
5 PM: Leave for Ann Arbor. Call my mother for moral support the second I'm out of the driveway.
6 PM: Pull into McDonald's, per my mother's advice. "It will give you both a break and calm you down," she says. Park car, turn off engine and reach over to unlock passenger door. Step out, circle car and lock passenger door with key. Unlock door. Ask myself why I do that ALL THE TIME. Can I not hold a thought in the 3 seconds it takes to circle the car? Apparently not.
6:10 PM: Carry Benny into McDonald's because he no longer has shoes. Juggle Benny, wallet, purse, food and drink. Spill contents of purse on the counter. In the purse is my father-in-law's Father's Day card.
6:20 PM: Pick a table, then listen to Benny scream because he can't sit on the chair like a frog. Feel very uncalm.
7PM: Parked in I-94 construction traffic.
8PM: Call Ron for additional moral support. He speaks soothing words, but I'm not listening because I'm watching a white pickup and a white SUV in the lanes ahead flash hand signals at each other. Pray that neither party has a gun, like that lady who shot at a guy's car on I-94 in a fit of road rage.
8:30 PM: Parked in more I-94 construction traffic.
9PM: Arrive home. House is balmy 78 degrees inside. Give Benny a bath and convince him not to wear his flannel Christmas pajamas.
10:40 PM: Benny is asleep. Sip a beer and say a little prayer for all the great fathers out there.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Not a Very Useful Engine

ANN ARBOR, MICH. -- What fresh hell is this? A bunch of wooden Thomas the Tank Engine trains are being recalled . Benny has a largeish collection of the trains, including acres of tracks and a special table for them. These trains and accessories were made in China, and the red and yellow paint used is full of lead. I went through Benny's toys and could only find the red stop sign. But there might be poisoned James engine and coal car lurking somewhere in the house.

I'm spitting mad. Is this not totally irresponsible? RC2 Corp., the company that makes the wooden toys, says it will replace the toys and pay shipping costs. Are they f--ing kidding? I'll never buy a toy from this collection again. I was debating whether to bring the table and trains to California and this has decided it. I'm giving all this stuff away (minus the stop sign, which, if I were a good citizen, I would put in a biohazard container and take to Ann Arbor's toxic waste center). There probably won't be room in a San Francisco apartment for a Thomas table anyway.

This is the second recall of a household item we commonly use since Ron left Business Review and, of course, the health insurance. We had hoped to avoid doctor visits until our San Francisco insurance kicked in July 1. But that's tough when the recall of an AMO saline solution (which we used exclusively since the ReNu recall last year) sends Ron and me to the eye doctor, and now the Thomas recall will send Benny to his pediatrician for a blood test for lead.

We managed to dodge the poisoned pet food and the poisonous spinach and Taco Bell food, but am I the only one considering a fat donation to the CPSC?