Thursday, August 13, 2009

Intelligent Design. Anyone? Anyone?

You know how there are people who get grumpy when they haven't eaten recently? Ok, yes, basically if you know ANY people, you know people like this. I married one of these people. And since I am one of these people too, you can go right ahead and assume that Son also has this trait. The condition of hunger seems to affect our ability to think, act or speak with any semblance of reason or logic. Depending on how long we've been afflicted by starvation, our response can range anywhere from mildly cranky to throwing ourselves on the floor and screaming simply because someone else dares to EXIST in the same house.

The other night, I had taken Son to the Big City and happened to end our errands around the same time Hubs was leaving work. Son was already displaying symptoms. After all, it had been nearly an hour since he'd eaten last. So I called Hubs and asked if he'd like to meet us for dinner. After walking out of one restaurant because the server had the audacity to linger at another table asking inane questions about beverages, Hubs decided the appropriate response was to go elsewhere. I could almost see the "Low Fuel" light blinking on his forehead so off we went.

We ended up at IHOP, partly because it was close, but mostly because Hubs has a thing about eating breakfast foods for dinner which is cool because so do I. And Son...he's 14. He'll eat anything.

Once Hubs had chocolate milk and maple syrup on board and his blood sugar was stabilizing, we began to reminisce about a prior visit to IHOP which took place years ago.

It was the good old days when Dad was able to eat in front of Mom without getting in trouble. Most of us had our Low Fuel lights flashing and that's how Dad, Mom, Hubs, Son and I ended up at IHOP. Again, because it was very close by and when it's time to eat we just don't want to waste time.

We had started eating and were beginning the journey back to the land of the rational thinkers, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, when I noticed something had caught Hubs' attention. I assumed he'd been distracted by something shiny, and since I like shiny things too, I turned to see what he was looking at.

Turns out it was more of a "whom" than a "what." I looked at Hubs. Hubs looked at me. We both looked back at the man who portrayed one of my most beloved movie characters.

"Is that...?" I whispered out of the side of my mouth. Very nonchalant. Hubs nodded back, feigning fascination with his toast.

"Yeah, it's gotta be. Look at his shoes." It was about that point when Mom, who was sitting across from me caught a glimpse as he was seated behind and slightly to the side of her. She stared at his reflection in the glass. (Staring at a reflection is obviously much less intrusive than staring at the actual person, am I right?)"Oh it's got to be him!" Mom announced with glee. "Who else would wear tennis shoes with a suit?"

Son, who was about 9 at the time and had clearly not received the memo on how to fool a celebrity into thinking one is very sophisticated and is not star struck at all, immediately leaned across the table and in a whisper loud enough to carry across county lines asked, "Dry eyes?" I tried to shush him, but he had already moved on to "Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?" Then he started scrambling for a pen and asking us if he could go get Ben Stein's autograph. Meanwhile, Mike and Mom were discussing the fact that there was a limo outside and a driver-type person had just been seated with Stein.

"It'll just take a second, Mom, c'mon, please?" I'm not sure why I didn't give permission. It just seemed like celebrities would probably really appreciate being able to eat in peace without being gawked at, whispered about and being pestered for autographs. And after all, we were already doing the gawking and whispering thing, but I like to pretend that we were somehow cool enough that Stein wouldn't realize what we were up to, despite being seated about 10 feet away.

"No," I informed Son. "Let him finish his dinner without interruption. If we're still here when he leaves, you may ask then." Son then started eating with such extreme slowness I'm not entirely sure he even had anything on his fork every time he raised it oh-so-slowly to his lips. It was at about that time that Stein got up and headed toward the restroom.

"Now, Mom? He's not eating now, can I ask now?"

" know, I think this is probably not a good time to interrupt either."

While Stein was out of earshot (I hope) we sat and dissected his life and career. We quoted his film work, his commercials, the fact that he'd been a speech writer for Presidents Nixon and Ford. And how weird it seemed that he would have been a speech-writer for these Presidents and how much more entertaining it would have been to hear Stein deliver those speeches himself. Then he returned to his table and we returned to our covert glances from the corners of our eyes. Or in Mom's case, the reflection in the window. I know. We are just so cool.

Within a few minutes, Stein finished his meal and approached our table. Seriously.

"Hiiii," he said. That voice. No question it was really Ben Stein, but he kindly introduced himself anyway, "My name is Ben Stein." We all pretended to have just barely noticed his presence and greeted him. Actually I started with "hello" but half-way through decided to go with something else, but couldn't think of what exactly, so basically I just greeted him with "Hell."

"I'm participating in a debate tonight at the college across the street..." We all looked out the window as if just noticing for the first time ever that there is a college there. I told you. We're very cool.

"We're debating Intelligent Design and we need people to come sit in the audience. We will pay you each twenty dollars (it's very important that you imagine him saying all of this in that voice.) if you'll come and just sit in the audience for two hours." Really? Go listen to one of my favorite actor/writers and get PAID for it? But before I could even get "Absolutely!" out...Mom and Hubs mentioned that although it sounded very interesting, it was getting late, it was a school night, Hubs had to work the next morning...or something like that.

Stein was gracious. He thanked us for our time and approached another table with his pitch. I wondered briefly if he enjoyed being a celebrity who interrupts the mere mortals while at dinner. I know I appreciated the irony.

As he was leaving, Dad, who was also a bit disappointed at missing out on twenty dollars for doing nothing more than he planned to do the rest of the night...sitting...watched Stein as he finally returned to his table, collected his things and prepared to leave.

Apparently Dad's blood sugar levels had returned to normal around then. Dad, who doesn't exactly speak quietly, stared after Stein and mused, "You know...that guy kind of looks like that guy from the "Dry Eyes" commercial.

All in all, it was probably a good thing we didn't go to the debate. It would have been unfair. With us there, the theory of Intelligent Design wouldn't stand a chance.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blessed More Than We Know

Last week, Hubs and I got to take Son to a neurologist. There were a number of reasons for this. One, Hubs got to take the morning off work and hey, who doesn't want to spend a rare morning of family time sitting in a doctor's office? But the delightful prospect of spending hours catching up on our "Highlights for Kids Magazine" reading aside, we went primarily to see why Son is having seizures.

Given the timing of the most recent one, we determined the cause is probably not just a desire to be liberated from school. I mean we haven't ruled it out entirely, of course, but we think there may be other factors involved. This time, rather than sitting in English class, he was getting ready to ride his bike when he announced to Grandpa, "I think I'm going to faint. Help me, Grandpa." Thank heaven for Grandpa.

I was in Orem when my phone rang. (For those who, for reasons I cannot imagine, have not acquainted themselves with Utah geography, Orem is about 40 miles away from Nephi, which is where Hubs' parents live.) I don't remember much about the drive home, other than noting that my car goes a LOT faster than I ever realized it could.

Grandpa handled the situation perfectly, and I am beyond grateful that he was there. He had the dubious job of letting me know my son, my only child, had just been taken to the hospital. In an ambulance. He told me I needed to get there ASAP and he managed to tell me all of this without completely freaking me out. (I didn't completely freak out until I was actually AT the hospital. I was just "mostly" freaking out on the way home, as I repeated over and over "He's at the hospital, he's in good hands.")

Hubs was in Texas at the time and he got to spend the whole night freaking out all by himself, until he was able to switch to an earlier flight home. I spent the night holding Son's hand. I held his hand all night for two reasons. One, he wouldn't let go of mine, and two, I didn't want to let go of his. So there you go.

I'm not going to go into any more detail here, even though Son has given the go-ahead to write about this. I'm just going to go with: He seized for 45 minutes. It was bad. It is not something we'd like to do again. And we recognize we were extremely blessed in many ways. It could have been so much worse.

And so it came to pass that last week we were all hanging out with the neurologist. And we learned some interesting things. Among them was a directive by which Son was particularly dismayed; no caffeine. Apparently, caffeine can trigger seizures. Who knew?

Now, you'd think a kid who has already been told by his parents "Don't drink caffeine" would not particularly have a problem with this. But this is a kid who has been told "Don't drink caffeine" and has done it anyway. Apparently quite frequently. I know. A teenager who defies his parents. Shocker.

The reasoning behind this rule, aside from wanting to avoid potentially addictive substances, is Son on caffeine is kind of like Taz on crack; it may be entertaining to watch from a distance, but if you're on the clean-up crew or responsible in any way for him...not so much.

Anyone who knows me well knows I am, myself, hypersensitive to caffeine. A can of Coke can keep me awake for hours. Hours that I spend talking REALLY FAST. We first discovered Son has similar tendencies when he was about 4 years old. Mom and I had gone to lunch leaving Son, in theory, in the care of my father. I returned to find Son bouncing off walls, speaking so rapidly I could have sworn he was speaking in tongues, and it would not have surprised me in the least to have seen his head rotate a full 360 degrees. "Dad," I inquired, "why is my child possessed by Satan? What did you feed him?"

"Why? What did he tell you?" (This was also the day we realized that leaving Son and my dad together unsupervised is something akin to handing Bonnie and Clyde some ammo and a few Google maps to the nearest banks.) Dad admitted that they "might have had some ice cream. And a few Oreos. And a couple of York Peppermint Patties. And maybe some Smarties..." Nutrition has not always been a big priority for Dad.

"Uh huh." I glanced around and noticed 4 or 5 Pepsi cans sitting on the counter. Empty Pepsi cans. "Dad...did you let him drink Pepsi??"



"What did he tell you?"

"Dad, I'm asking YOU. Did he or did he not drink Pepsi?"

Dad struggled for a minute, sputtering and stammering and resembling, in many ways, a deer in the headlights only somehow worse. Finally he responded with, "Well it was DIET Pepsi!"

Oh. Oh good. Because everyone knows that should cancel out the truckload of sugar they had consumed.

So, yes. We've known for awhile that caffeine and Son should not be spending a lot of time together. But to add insult to injury, he was also instructed to avoid soda in general. This is quite a blow. One of Son's favorite activities is going with his grandpeople to refill their mugs with fountain drinks (and really, at what point does it stop being mug and start being a bucket? 55 ounces is still just a mug? Seriously?) and go for a drive. We're looking at Gatorade now. Crystal Lite. Propel. That sort of thing. Which somehow just doesn't seem as appealing in Son's world. "How come all the good stuff turns out to be bad stuff? It's just not fair," he observed as he bemoaned his caffeine-free, non-carbonated fate.

I totally get it. I'm still not completely over my shock and sadness about the whole "Alfredo sauce isn't health food" thing. Still. He's been deeply disturbed about not being able to recall any of the events during or the day after the seizure. "This must be what it's like to wake up after a night of drinking and not knowing what you did the night before, and hoping you didn't kill anyone while you were out," he observed as he was being released from the hospital the next day.

"That's probably true," I responded. "So what are you going to with that?"

"One thing for sure, I'm never to going drink or do drugs because I HATE NOT KNOWING WHAT I DID!"

Doctor ordered abstinence from caffeine AND a decreased desire to experiment with drugs and alcohol? Yes, we may have been even more blessed than we realize.

Monday, August 03, 2009

I Really Did NOT See This Coming.

I've been informed that I'm once again guilty of blog neglect. Consequences have been threatened. Bad consequences. And so, for those wondering, and those whose wonder has turned to alarm, yes, we're still alive.

June was the month of THE MOVE: Phase One. (Do I really need to explain why THE MOVE is always written in all caps? No, I didn't think so.)I had supposed, naively it seems, that THE MOVE would be accomplished within one phase.

It appears I was mistaken.

Between various glitches and Hubs' need to evaluate, re-evaluate, reconsider, and then again evaluate every house on the market in Utah County (which conflicted, sometimes LOUDLY, with my own need to JUST PICK ONE ALREADY) June was a tad stressful for us. Much the same way the French Revolution was a bit inconvenient for some.

And thus it came to pass that we realized by the end of June, if the new residents of our home had any kind of objection to our remaining there with them, we were about to become homeless. Gypsies. Bedouins. Nomads.

And then one night Hubs came home and announced that he'd found a solution. Until we get the house deal worked out, we would be able to live with...his parents.

Don't get me wrong, his parents are good people. To my knowledge neither of them has ever committed heinous wrongs like cannibalism, mass murder or participated in tractor pulls. And during our time here, they have done everything possible to make us feel comfortable. They have been incredibly generous and gracious and I can fault them for nothing. In fact, I'm a little worried that when we're on our own again, Hubs will return from work to a disaster of a house and an empty table and I will simply look around in bewilderment wondering why the house is no longer magically taking care of us.

In the beginning, though, I was worried. I was very worried. And what worried me was...well, they have a dog. Or perhaps more accurately, a dog has them. Sophie is a shih tzu; a breed that Son takes great delight in pronouncing incorrectly. Although, as I understand it, most Americans who pronounce it "sheet-sue" are equally incorrect. (It's actually sure-ds. Or something. Still, you've got to admit the pronunciation "sheet-sue" does sound better than Son's alternative, which I probably don't need to describe here in detail.

At any rate, here's the dilemma. Sophie, despite her own apparent beliefs, is in fact a dog. I'm not a dog person. Not anymore. There was a time,yes, that I, too, belonged to a little dog. But I kind of thought I was maybe a one-dog person. My dog, as dogs tend to do, got old and sick and one day Dad had her murdered. (Murdered, euthanized, whatever.) And that was it. I figure the same will probably happen with Hubs. I mean, I probably won't want to find another man once he's gone. I don't expect my parents to murder him. At least I don't think so.

The point being, I'm not the sort that has an easy time with putting my heart on the line again once it's broken. I'm more the sort who, with very few exceptions, throws away every reminder, moves if necessary, and never allows the heart to be vulnerable that way ever again.

So upon our arrival, I assumed my heart was locked up nice and tightly. Inaccessible. Invulnerable. Ice cold. I planned to tolerate the dog, as after all, it's her house. (I'm pretty sure her name doesn't appear on the deed to the house, but make no mistake. It's her house and she graciously allows her people to live in it with her.) Son and Hubs, of course had no such reservations. It did not help matters to see Hubs home from work and immediately run eagerly to greet...the dog. One of our first nights here, Hubs and I went for a walk. And his new girlfriend was of course invited. "Honey, what do you think about getting a dog?" he asked.

"Honey, what do you think about getting a divorce?" I replied.

I mean, I can see his point to a degree. She's got this little face. And it's a cute little face. Very cute. Ok, it's the most heart-melting adorable little dog face ever. And she's well-behaved. She can do tricks and she spends a lot of time snuggling with her people and playing with her squeaky toys. So, yeah, she's...ok. If you're into that sort of thing. And I most decidedly WAS. NOT.

Son once told me dogs are the only creatures capable of complete forgiveness and unconditional love. (Lately I've been working on the concept of unconditional love, but I do seem to have a stumbling block when it comes to creatures who steal my heart and then just up and die. Death does seem to be a deal breaker when it comes to animals. Not with people though. Although I'm not, at the moment sure if that's a good thing or not.) I wasn't sure if Son was correct in his assessment of the unconditional love of a dog or if dogs are just really clueless. Because no matter how clear I have tried to make it to Sophie that I'm not interested in a relationship with she is. Being cute and adorable and seemingly oblivious to my utter lack of interest.

My father-in-law was also a bit chagrined to realize one evening, when he went to tuck Sophie in for the night and she ran to Hubs for protection. I believe it was about that time Father-in-law announced, "Tomorrow you guys need to find another place to live." At least I'm not alone in my feelings of abandonment.

My first morning here, my mother called to make sure THE MOVE: Phase One was on track. She asked how I getting along with the dog. "Well...I have dog saliva on my ankles, but they also have Wireless know. I'm good. It evens out." Mom said, "I don't know how you can't just fall in love with that little face."
"Mom," I explained for what seems to be the thousandth time, "it takes more than a pretty face to get my attention. Not. Gonna. Happen."

(Side note, my parents are also owned by a dog. A big dog. A big dog that seems to have issues with her self-image as she is under the impression that she's actually a lapdog. And she most decidedly is NOT. She's a Shetland Sheep dog and no one, NO ONE is allowed to stand in that house unless they want to be "herded" back to their seat. Mom is the disciplinarian, Dad's the treat-giver who breaks all the rules behind Mom's back. It's pretty much the same way they raised us. It offends them deeply that I'm not in love with their creature. I can't help wondering if they think if I learn to accept Sophie I will somehow develop a feeling of fondness for their dog. Just a guess. But I digress. As usual.)

So anyway. I'm chagrined to report that the other day we were riding in the car and Sophie climbed between Hubs and me and snuggled up next to me. (Told you she disregards my obvious lack of affection for her.) But then...she put her head on my knee. And I don't know what happened. Without thinking, I reached out and scratched behind her ears. Next thing I know she's got her head in my lap and I'm stroking her back. Naturally when I came to my senses I retracted my hand and liberally applied the anti-bacterial to BOTH hands, as if my display of affection could somehow be eradicated with enough alcohol-based solvents.

Today, when I arrived back after running errands, a memory was pulled kicking and screaming from the back of my mind; from that little box where it's been so securely locked for the past 14 years. I was reminded what it's like to be greeted with such enthusiasm and affection it was as if I'd been away at war and she'd assumed I was missing in action and I was never coming back.

The wall is cracking. Or cracked. The carefully locked box in which I keep my heart is being slowly but surely unlocked. I'm falling in love with this little beast that I had every intention of merely tolerating.

Nobody tell Hubs though. I can love him, but if he finds out I not only love him but his little dog too...I'm toast.