Zoo Station

This is such a nice town. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

Everywhere we turn, there is someone new that stops by wanting to say hi and welcome to the neighborhood.

It started with the birds. Singing and chirping to us as we unpacked boxes. Then the racoon colony in the back 40 wilderness came - mom and three or four racoonlets. And without even asking if they could, they cut through our yard, through to the front where they then cut over to buddy's house, climbed up his steep, front cement steps and then squeezed into a hole the size of a peanut to God knows where. Rumor has it they love his koi pond and have been known to steal a fish or two dozen a time or two.

And then there were the lovely beagles behind us, of course. They were pretty yappy for the longest time, but ever since a certain anonymous noise complaint showed up in their owner's mailbox, I've noticed they don't swap recipes and come to sniff the fence and shoot the schmidt as much anymore. Funny that, eh?

And so then it was Mr. Mole, who has been digging holes in the backyard like he's found an express route to China. Holy Son was bored the other day so I told him to go get a shovel and play whack a mole. Way cheaper than the arcade version and slightly more interactive. We have yet to do anything about this sly slippery worm eater, but suffice to say, his days are numbered.

And then if that wasn't enough of a welcoming committee, we were then treated to the daily rounds of giant house spiders. I finally broke down and after seeing one right above my head in the basement around midnight last weekend, decided to google it. Here's a tip: don't google "giant house spiders Seattle" if you are the least bit arachnophobic and prone to midnight heebies. Because what will tend to happen is you will discover that the spider(s) you have found in your home look suspiciously identical to hobo, brown recluse and other nasty, man-eating arachnids. I'm just saying, is all.

These things are massive and gross and they go like snot when you're trying to crush them. I still have the leg remnants of one gynormous spider stuck in the popcorn ceiling of my office when I bonked it with a large wrapping paper roll, which happened to be the closest weapon I had on hand. And so now when I use the downstairs computer, I have this shoulder tic action going on now. Every three seconds I tilt my head to the left, eyeball the ceiling to the southwest, on the very real chance that same crippled spider has come back to life and is now coming to suck my blood.

Yesterday morning I almost stepped on one just outside my bedroom door. He got it with the main bath toilet brush. I flushed him down the toilet, crumpled but still very much alive. He's coming to get me too - I just know it. I'll have to pee in some kind of Nadia Comaneci straddle position now. Or perhaps assume a grand pliƩ just above that particular potty now. I'm not sure why it is we (I) imagine that spiders swim upstream through sewer water and then up into our (my) lovely porcelain bathroom bowls, but we (I) do. There are far easier ways to get into the house. And clearly these spiders have found some. I know they're just being friendly and all, but like, hello, goodbye, already. See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya.

Supposedly 'tis the season for these creepy crawlies. And 'tis the locale. Seattle is apparently one of the spider capitals of the world. On my top five list of things I miss about Canada must go "lack of creepy crawlies." Lord tundering dying Jesus, I miss them thar northern tundra where the sun shines aplenty but the bugs don't dare live.

The fruit flies have also moved in and seem to prefer to camp out in our kitchen near and dear to the bananas. I need to get on the bowl of vinegar thing toota sweeta.

But it gets better. Yesterday, not long after the spider flushing incident, I heard a loud jackhammering on my roof. (Pronounced rooooo-ff not rough).

I went out to the patio to look and there's Woody, out there pecking his way through the cedar shakes sheer clear to my kitchen. There's a spot on the side of our garage out front that has been pecked down to nothing. They also like to peck the metal chimney tops around here - it's apparently a mating call. Lovely. So I said hi back to randy Woody and went about my day.

But two minutes later, that day changed somewhat with the arrival of some keener welcoming committee types.

My daughter has been complaining of an itchy scalp. Uh huh. You're catching on. Too bad we didn't. We were thinking: (a) dry skin - perhaps the humidity levels in the house are low (like that's even possible in Seattle); or (b) she's developed an allergy to Spudnik, our new guinea pig, who's beginning to shed; or (c) maybe she's allergic to her shampoo or the laundry soap (pillowcase) is too abrasive; or d) perhaps Spud has passed on some kind of disease or such to her, like ringworm. We never considered (e) none of the above.

So I googled ringworm. Google totally has my searches on their radar, I'm sure, because my searches are wild and wacky. And so I thought, OK, I better check her scalp for a round, red circle. And so I begin my primate picking and all of a sudden, I saw two dark bugs crawling through her hair near the top of her head. Talk about things that make you go ewww-hh. Suffice to say, we were no longer heading out the door to school at that moment because joy of all joys, the Schmidt haus had just become the louse house.

OK, OK! I shouted. Lay off the welcome mat and wagon already. We're feeling the love. Now can we not just make like bears for awhile and hibernate by ourselves?

To be honest, I feel as though I've now come of age in parenting. We've had to endure a couple of trials and tribs over the years ~ my son nearly drowning in the kiddy pool at the American Club in Islamabad as an infant has become perma-etched on my maternal psyche; same son showing off his scarlet fever groin-area scabs on the kindergarten school bus remains a defining character moment in his life; and my daughter having to endure regular enemas during her anal retentive potty training years is still a vivid picture in mein cortex (she would scream on command whenever we so much as whispered enema) ~ but knock on any remaining wood Woody hasn't gotten his beak tip on, we've been pretty, darn tooting lucky, medically speaking.

Last year, in the months preceding our carpenter ant infestation at the rental house, I had done a bit of googling on it. On account of me being a weird googler and my hair being covered with white flakes - which later turned out to be my el cheapo hairspray.

And I remember praying, please, please, please, please, don't let us have a lice problem in this house. I'll do anything you say.

But our time has come. She had a good number of lice - both big and small - marching around her scalp yesterday. So we got the shampoo, Holy Hub scrubbed her scalp with it, and then I began the tedious task of combing out the nits, strand by strand, while he set about washing sheets, clothes, etc. on the triple boil setting of the washer.

If there is any blessing in this most primordial of gorilla behaviors, nitpicking ~ it is that I got to brush, blow dry and comb my daughter's hair for hours last night. Normally I'm not even permitted to touch her hair anymore, except to put it up in a ponytail for dance or soccer.

So if one is able to find a gift amongst the lice/louse, this was it. And the fact that very little had been unpacked in her bedroom yet, so we didn't have to deal with quarantining too many beloved stuffies.

This morning, I sent her off to school again, lice and nit free. I advised the school yesterday because it's pretty obvious that whoever she got it from did not publicly disclose the same. We are hopeful but not entirely confident that we have seen the last of the lousy, little bastards.

And of course, now that I have my head back, I have an itchy scalp to boot. I've been scratching my head at two minute intervals these past 24 hours. I bet you'll find yourself doing the same today. I fairly defy you not to. The brain works in mysterious ways.

So those are the creature features of the week. I feel like I've been going off the rails of a crazy train bound for Destination: Infestation, and it somehow got stuck at Zoo Station.

Oh well, there are worse places, I suppose.


Wacky Wednesday

Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark
OK, so I know I'm a little late, but raise your hand if you got up at 2:50am on August 28th to view the total lunar eclipse. We did. It was uber cool. We were camping at Mt. Rainier National Park and it was a luminous night. Twas the night before the day after, the stars were blazing like rebel diamonds cut out of the sun, and not a creature was stirring, except us and the nice, unassuming man yon over who wore his kippah even in the wee hours of the morn when bladders tend to feel their most irreligious.

We stayed up from about 2:30 to 3am and watched das moon go from a three quarter moon to a full-on, red moon at night, campers delight. When the moon hits your eye, like a big red pizza pie, that's amore.
The next day we hiked to Snow Lake for a picnic lunch and I tried to stop time immemorially, but succeeded only in screwing up my watch.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Raise your hand if you are a better person for having learned all this. Yeah, I thought not.

Echoes from the Wells of Silence
Silence. That's all mine ears can heareth. Well, dull silence anyways. I can hear a traffic helicopter overhead, and the paving truck on the block behind, and the guinnea pig sucking his water tube, and my fingers on the keyboard. But all this pales in comparison to what I don't hear, which is whining, screaming, bickering, endless questions and, "Mom, Mom! Listen to this. On Animal Planet, there was this dog and yadda yadda yadda...."

My kids are chatter boxes. I have no idea where they get this trait from, she says with deadpan insincerity, an ever so slightly puzzled frown, and a quizzically-framed eyebrow, before returning to the serreptitious sipping of her coffee.

I cherish time alone. Always have. It's why I was home office-based for more than a decade. I'm not antisocial per se but more and more, I'm discovering a certain contentment and at-one-ment in being a-lone. In restless dreams I walked alone.

Minding my p's & q's - peace and quiet. The juxtaposition between my driving life and home life does not escape even me of the oblivious ilk. I prefer not to listen to a radio or TV when I'm by myself at home. In the vehicle though, I have my tunes cranked to the outer limits of decibel measurement. My kids have to mime and lip sync and bounce up and down in hopes a high bounce gets framed for posterity in the rear view mirror, in order to get my attention. This works for me ~ rarely for them.

Confessions of a Cab Driver
So it's back to school time and my Bridgestone four-seasons are in permatread mode. Our mornings now consist of two shifts - the 6:50am departure to get Prodigal Son to his metro transit stop a few blocks down the hill, where he now catches a quasi-express bus to his middle/high school.

And then round two at 7:30am with Darling Daughter, which involves driving past the neighborhood elementary mere blocks away, big fat sigh, and then the next one, before joining the morning commuters in our parts as we make our way to the old neighborhood and school she was most reluctant to part ways with. Yes, day two and this drive is already beginning to feel very old school.

But it's my karmic lot. I'm trying to embody a kind of Buddhist sense and sensibility about it all. Staying mindful and stoic despite feeling like I should be wearing a black patent, checkered-brim cap, and sporting a taxi meter on the dash. The title of this chapter of motherhood might well be called My Life in Circles, as I shift from school pick-up/drop-off to after-school mode with soccer, dance, scouts. And that's fine.

The one nice thing about minivan parenting is how sweet captivity is when it comes to moral pontificating. I save all important conversations, lectures and the like for the vehicle now - sex, drugs, bullying, homework, and even the obligatory, whatdayamean your new 41 year old Humanities teacher who professes to loves Bono more than anyone is cooler than your 41 year old Humanities grad mother, who truly wears the army boots when it comes to Bono adoration. Un.accept.able, do you hear me?

That's what happens when you let your kids loose into the world. They start riding metro buses with gypsies, tramps, thieves, meth dealers, bag ladies, high school mucus snorters/projectile saliva spitting champs, and other assorted pillars of society. And they start learning that the solar system is not parentalcentric after all, except insofar as said solar system relates to transportation.

When it comes to getting to and from Points Eh to Zed, I'm still the space ship superstar with the sinister grin and the Elton John shades ~ a kind of neo-new age Burnt Offerings' chaffeur driver, except my soundtrack is less macabre. Burnt Offerings? Does that not elicit a visceral reaction or what? Scariest all time moment in the history of film bar none, sayeth I- when Anthony James, the hearse driver, pulls up to the spooky shack and grins that horsetoothy, chilling grin of his, it's absasmurfly, positively, eerily Dickensonian.

They say to embrace that which you most fear. So here I am. I am the chauffeur, it becomes me. I rise from the slumbering dead each morn, beckoning to my children from the door of the van with my bony index finger to come hither, get yer assets into the van. It's time to go. Now. Vamos.

It's a thankless job. Thank God I have Bono. And my dancing, dashboard Jesus. And fresh-brewed Starbucks coffee. And all my teeth. And my reclaimed albeit bobbling head.

Not necessarily in that order.

Truth, Lies & YouTube Tape
When I'm not busy being entirely too preoccupied with how stupid people can be, I like to spend my spare time musing about the very human plight of ordinary Joes and Josephines. It's very Jerry Springerish, minus the popcorn-munching voyeurism. Small wonder that the original Rear Window is my second fave flick then. I'm continually amazed by the dramas and between-the-lines subtext that shape daily lives.

Hubby has come home with some doozies from work lately. One lovely co-worker is a slum landlady to not just one, but two deadbeat tenants in Chicago who, collectively, haven't paid rent in about a year, yet are audacious enough to work the court system and file grievances of faulty heating. They'll likely win and earn themselves heaps more time to squat.

On top of that long-distance nightmare, she is dealing with her own landlord-like issues in the form of a condo levvy to the tune of some $113,000. Picture spinning the game of Life dial and drawing the Life card, "Condo Board votes to spend $1.5 million in exterior capital improvements on building in order to compete with new luxury development project next door, prevent owners from being able to sell their condo anytime soon except at a loss, and nearly bankrupt owners in the process - pay Board $113,000." Can you imagine having to fork out several thousand dollars per month over the next year just to keep up with the Jonezes? Can you say class action suit? I like the way you say that. As usual, the only people who profit on all fronts are the lawyers.

And speaking of lawyers, another co-worker of hubs ~ a contractor who hails from Ohio ~ is embroiled in an unwanted menage-a-trois involving a prominent prosecuting attorney turned judge and the guy's geo-estranged girliepal who still lives out east, and has apparently been show & telling more than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, if you catch my drift. Somehow the truth did come out though and now His not-so-Honorable So & So is trying to sweet talk dudely into coming back to talk things over rationally. Man to Man. Dudely is fearful for his life, on account of knowing a tad too much about the lawyer, his shady past dealings and his clients (many whom could easily ride the metro bus with the motley crew on my son's bus and fit in nicely).

But that's not all, that's not all, two babies drinking alcohol. While said lawyer (pronounced liar or lay-her, your pick) is busy singing soprano in the church choir with his doting wife and kids in the first pew, two-timing girlfriend is busy cleaning long distance, boyfriend dude out of house, home and bank. So not only does he have an achey, breaky heart to deal with, he's now got collection agencies at his door and maybe even Guido and the boys outside his rear window. On account of their connections to Dirty Harry the Judiciary, who can't help but dis his robe, despite a certain codependence with the voting public. Buddy in cubicle S (for scorned) has reputedly not slept a wink in over a week. Paranoia, self-destroyer, five dead in Ohio, and other kinky stories. News at 11.

Hubby confided this latest co-worker plight to me among the bed-clothes and through the hills in the land of counterpane last night. He attracts all manner of confessionals at work, it would seem. Must be his fatherly persona. Or the fact that they work in a cubicle world and the environment lends itself to hushed voices and confessional diatribes near the water cooler.

I also think he attracts such confessions if only because he is a bit, as in the tiniest, smidgeonyist, un petit peu of an analyzing worrywart, such that even though he thinks he's packed up his troubles in his ole kitbag and he's wearing his happy face, he's still carrying some excess baggage. Those pesky, minor worries are actually sitting there on the edge of his psyche, begging for a oneupmanship.

Whatever real and imagined financial & marital troubles he perceives for himself/us/the world dissipate like dust in the wind compared to the lives of these certain others. The old adage that a wife is both cheaper and easier certainly holds true here. If I act quick, I may even be able to get away with a Nordstrom spree this week without the usual hide it in the closet and pretend as though I've owned said expensive frock for years. This old thing?! - Gawd, it's sooo out of fashion, it's practically in again!

Everything is in again. It's as wacky as Wednesday. Those plastic jelly shoes I used to wear as accoutrement to my black robe, when I led upstanding, honourable judges into the court room back in the day? In like flint. And burgundy goucho pants. My daughter now struts her stuff in them. Some are even trimmed with tartan cuffs like Derek's so handsomely did, once upon a bygone time. Derek who? Why Derek the drummer from the Bay City Rollers, of course. I've moved beyond Wednesday, keep up with me - I'm now on S-a-t-u-r-d-a-y night. Ssss-ssss-ssss-Saturday night.

Ah yes, the good ole rock 'n roll, road show that is time, fashion and the random synapses of this blog. Now just to give you a small glimpse of my coronary evolution, (because lurking minds wanna know), I loved Derek in the years before Bono was up in arms about blimey Sundays. Derek and others (like Leif Garrett), were to us in the era of the mid-70s, what Troy of High School Musical fame has become to my daughter's bunch these days ~ the stuff of notebook covers, Tigerbeat sales and merchandiser dreams.

And where are they now? According to Wikipedia, the Smoking Gun, TSG and other altogether, reliable media sources, these 70s superstars are either downloading child porn and/or doing heroin. Lovely. That means they can ride the metro bus with my son, too.

Great big sigh. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world...