Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Genetic Legacy

So this morning I was watching Eva eat breakfast, giant Cars bandage affixed to her chin, and was thinking I could make my entire blog all about what a mess she seems to be. She always has something on her shirt, bruises all over her legs, two scars from accidents and at least two new sores on her face from where her hand rubs while she sucks her thumb at night. She has big scabs on her hands where she burned herself on the lightbulb from her lamp, as well as an inexplicable one on her chin that showed up on Saturday. She won’t leave any of these scabs alone, so they are taking a long time to heal. Finally, her hair is falling out in big patches from where she twirls it around her finger and gets it tangled. A good portion of the hair she does have left is broken off near her part line where she's tugged on her bows or pigtails.

As I considered this I also had this morning's Developmental Psychology lecture prepping in the back of my head. Today we talked about genetics, and about psychological phenomena we know have some genetic component (and how we study that, etc.). I was thinking about the heritability of personality, and how research suggests that one personality characteristic that seems to be very tied to genetics is neuroticism.

I then started thinking about the ways I am kind of a mess myself; all the little foibles and mini-crises I have created recently:
-While cleaning out the sorority's storage unit a couple weeks ago I managed to puncture a vein in my hand with a wire, causing a surprising amount of bleeding and swelling, and necessitating a tenanus shot.
-While using black spray paint for a project, I managed to color the undersides of my fingernails and all my cuticles black, resulting in a nice auto-mechanic look. I also accidentally spray-painted my wedding ring.
-While doing dishes the night before last my large dangly earring fell out and landed right in the garbage disposal.
-I realized at the end of one day last week that I had eyeliner on only one eye.
-I sent an email instructing a group of people how to look up something online, but directed them to the wrong internet address. I also gave someone directions to my house that didn't include my house number.
-I have had a number of Zumba wardrobe malfunctions, including wedgies, ill-fitting shorts whose pockets stick out every time I squat, and a pair of shorts I wore to class backwards (but luckily noticed before anyone else did). Let's not even discuss that one move I can do for the first 8 counts but then get totally off/lost on for the remaining 24 counts or so.
-Yesterday my boss sent out an email asking us to reply with what classes we'd like to teach next semester and when. I must have hit something on our laptop's mouse with my wrist, and accidentally sent "I'd like to continue teaching psych" before I was able to finish the sentence. I got this annoyed message back saying, "Which psych? How many sections? Day and time?"
-I cannot leave a voicemail message that doesn't include several awkward pauses and numerous "um... yeah"s.

Really, the list goes on and on. Feel free to comment if I've done something weird in your presence and haven't noticed yet.

When I think about it this way, it's no wonder my child cannot remain injury-free long enough for her last wound to heal. If my genetic material is what she stands to inherit, we can probably assume she's doomed to a life free of social graces. Or maybe we both need a little more sleep (or a padded house, or whatever). Either way, maybe I'll go a little easier on poor little Eva.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Failure to Communicate

I've recently become aware of a number of things that seem to have gotten lost in translation between us and our daughter Eva. I'm not sure if this is something related to her age, or just something she's especially talented at...

I noticed the first one a few weeks ago, when we were reading one of our favorite children's books. It's called No No Yes Yes, and is basically a cartoon baby that, on the left side of the page, does something that is a "no no" thing. On each corresponding right side of the page, the baby is doing the more appropriate "yes, yes" version of whatever behavior is being addressed. So, for instance, on the "no no" page the baby might be dumping his food on his head, while on the "yes yes" page the baby is happily eating his food with a spoon.

This book was very effective with Daniel; so much so that we would only have to say "What does No No Yes Yes say about picking your nose?" and he'd be off to get a tissue. Leslie Patricelli, you are a brilliant author and you deserve every penny you make off this book that contains only two words. I wish I'd have thought of it first.

The thing is, Eva does not seem as taken with the book, and it doesn't seem to have the same kind of sway with her behaviors. The other night, we were reading it, and I was, as usual, pointing to a picture and saying, "What is the baby doing here? Oh no, no! He's eating the dog's food!..." A few pages in, I noticed that Eva was saying things like "No No putting toys in potty. Here, No No going pee on potty. No no running from Daddy. Here, No No holding Daddy's hand." So it seems that Eva is under the impression that the baby's name is No No, and that he just does all kinds of random behaviors. No wonder this book is not effective as a to do/not to do guide to childhood.

Tonight, now, we were reading her Jesus Loves Me book, wherein some well-intentioned sadist crafted 10 or so extra verses of the song with some corresponding cartoon children depicting the lyrics. I have nothing against the song Jesus Loves Me per se, but after sing-songing the tune a dozen times in a row it really starts to lose its charm. About verse 6 or so, the children are outside playing ("Jesus loves me as I play, Outside inside every day...") and one kid has fallen and lost a shoe in the process. Both of our kids have always pointed this out during every reading, but tonight Eva informed me that "Look, Mommy! Jesus lost shoe!" As we went on, she commented that "Jesus has blue pajamas!" and "Jesus has big-boy bed!"

And so, it seems that Eva has identified the illustration character with the slingshot in his pocket as Jesus, and sees this very long song as a kind of "day in the life" portrait. You know, he's just hanging out, doing the usual Jesus stuff like going to preschool, playing legos, raking leaves in the yard, taking a bubble bath...

It kind of makes me wonder what her interpretation is of the rest of the things we tell her in a day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kyle, Me, and the WSOP

"Let's shuffle up and deal!!"

Despite the advent of the school year, I always look forward to August because it means one of my favorite television indulgences: poker (the World Series of Poker Main Event, to be exact). I don't know why I love it so; I just do. I am a terrible poker player myself, because I value my own money too much to really take a gamble, and because I tend to get bored with it pretty quickly and start doing sloppy playing. So it makes no sense, then, that I would find watching OTHER people playing poker so fascinating.

Very early in our marriage, Kyle and I stumbled upon this televised poker tournament, and for one reason or another we decided to give it a shot. For those who are not familiar with the WSOP, it really is the mother of all poker events; weeks and weeks of smaller tournaments (which are really too many to watch) culminating in the Main Event, a No-Limit Texas Hold-Em tournament with a $10,000 cash buy-in and (in some years) over 8,000 players. Oh yeah, and the prize for the winner is usually several million dollars, depending on the number of entrants that year. The actual World Series is held from the end of May until mid-July, but the Main Event is televised on ESPN at the rate of two hours per week (one hour usually equaling one-half to one day of play) from August until November. And we are a captive audience; you would think we'd have better things to do.

But there's just something comforting about seeing our favorite players year after year, following their ups and downs, celebrating or bemoaning the unlikely hands that sometimes come up. It's like a little poker soap opera for us- there are players we love, and players we love to hate. We would love to see a professional win, even though the number of amateurs is always a better bet, statistically speaking.

So here's who we're rooting for this year (every year, really) in the WSOP Main Event:
Generally speaking
-Almost any pro who is a quiet, tight player (someone who doesn't bluff super-often)
-Almost any female player, except those who try to flirt their way to wins
-A humble amateur with a low-paying job and a family to support who won their entry fee in some other tournament
-Kyle is always rooting for Phil Ivey.
-I am always rooting for Howard Lederer (the first episode we ever saw followed him through some very good tournament play, and I cannot betray my first poker idol). I will also accept Annie Duke, Howard's sister (I even read her poker book).
-We both like Daniel Negreanu, who is almost creepy in his ability to call what his opponent has and who always knows the odds of his particular hand winning.

Here's who we are NOT rooting for:
Generally speaking
-People who are really loud and disruptive
-Celebrities (except Jason Alexander, who is fun to watch, a good sport, and consistently a good player)
-People who are whiny babies when they lose a hand or who make fun of or bully their opponents
-Guys who just turned 21, and who got all their practice playing online instead of going to class at their (soon to be former) respective colleges
-Phil Helmuth and Jamie Gold

So here's to August, and to the WSOP. Maybe one day we'll outgrow it, but this year you'll still find us, two mild-mannered, financially cautious Midwestern homebodies watching everybody in Vegas play for the bracelet and the really big money. What are the odds?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Our Vegetable Adventure

So here it is, folks:
One example of the only kind of meal we're likely to make from our garden this year, considering all we've managed to grow is tomatoes and lettuce. There are still a few living pepper and zucchini plants out there, but they all seem to be really good at producing flowers that fall off before any real vegetable forms, so I'm not holding my breath. I think the kids had fun with the experience of planting, and Eva surprised us all by practically eating her weight in lettuce tonight, so I think we're at least minimally satisfied with the outcome. Still, I'm really hoping this will be a learning year in preparation for some more success next summer.

I had a small row garden here before the kids were born, and got a few good vegetables from it each year, but I never seem to be able to consistently raise anything well. This is probably because I have NO idea what I'm doing, and even less experience, and have tried to teach myself with books. We revived the garden again this year with the square foot gardening method. Despite thinking it was going to be the answer to all my problems, the reality was that many of them were still there: the bunnies gnawing away anything leafy and green, those strange black polka dots that take over the leaves of my tomato plants in July, and my general inability to decipher when and how is best to plant and pick things.

You'd think that with all the resources available on the internet I'd look some things up and figure out solutions to these problems. But for some reason this is just the kind of task I tend to avoid. Maybe it's that I get overwhelmed with all I don't know, or am afraid to look like I don't know what I'm doing. These people who know about gardening, where did they learn? Did they have parents who gardened? Did they have several years of mediocrity before becoming good at it? It's funny that I tackle with gusto things like sorting through health insurance run-arounds or choosing and buying a new car, but totally drag my feet to figure out how to prevent all the roots of my plants from becoming exposed. I do seem to eventually make small amounts of progress here and there, and this year was no exception. For next year I at least have the boxes and soil already prepared, and a big roll of garden cloth ready to block the bunnies' access next spring (thanks to my neighbor's suggestion). We may try planting a few fall crops, but will have to commit to that project fairly soon, so we'll see if I get there in time.

Our backup plan for fresh, locally grown produce, though, is only just beginning. Tomorrow we get our first installment of the vegetable subscription we purchased a month or so ago (basically a CSA where we pay a more successful gardener/farmer a fee up-front and then collect part of his harvest each week). The guy we've purchased from seems to be a nice, kinda chatty older man who refers to his program as “the Vegetable Adventure Plan.” Since he chooses each week what will go into our box, and the box is actually quite large, we will surely have plenty of chances to try some new foods. Our friends Madeline and John have been “adventuring” for the full summer, and thus became very acquainted with the many varieties of lettuce earlier this season. I can only assume from talking to them that it is a good thing I learned some basic canning skills last month, as I understand an event called something like “tomato extravaganza” has been foreshadowed in the weekly flyer that comes with the boxes.

Now, I am a particularly planful cook who hashes out a meal list well in advance, so rolling with whatever is in our box each week will really be a challenge for me. In addition to being more relaxed with the planning, I will probably have to look up some vegetables (like what is purslane, anyway?), and push myself to learn how to chop and cook and serve things I've never seen before. In the end, then, the produce subscription will be much like the garden in that it will make me learn to solve food problems I know very little about in a time-sensitive manner. Because the only thing I hate worse than having to teach myself a new skill is wasting good food...