Monday, June 15, 2009

Sunday Afternoons Are Supposed To Be Relaxing...

I just want everyone to know: I was leaving as fast as I could. I want especially the people who were at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on the west side of Madison, Wisconsin, Sunday afternoon about 4:45 p.m., to know that: I was leaving as fast as I could.

I also want, in particular, the girl who was sitting in a chair with a laptop and papers spread out, to know this: I don't get you. Who goes to a bookstore to do homework? I understand that the libraries are, for some reason, closed on Sunday afternoons (that time of the day, and week, when they might be most beneficial to people who want to take out a book, or study) but is there a shortage of other places to go and study and look over your notes and otherwise prepare for exams? No. No, there is not a shortage of other such places -- especially near where you were, where there are more coffee shops and restaurants and parks and such than you could shake a stick at.

I don't remember when bookstores started including chairs and encouraging people to just sit and read, but I do remember that the moment I saw it, I thought Weird, and then I thought who would do that? Is there any other retail store that encourages you to just come and hang out and not buy anything, and to use their products for a while and then leave? Imagine if clothing stores adopted the bookstore mentality of adding other products to draw you in, products like food and drink and music and movies and tiny book lights that always make me think "I wonder if that would be as neat to use as it looks," and also make me think "If I used that, then Sweetie wouldn't have any reason to complain if I'm reading at night while she's trying to sleep," but then I think, too, "I'd probably end up falling asleep and the light would hit me on the face the way books used to when I'd read paperbacks in bed and hold them up over my face and then as I dozed off they'd fall forward and clonk me on the bridge of my nose."

If clothing stores did do that, did think like bookstores and put in more than just clothes, put in music and DVDs and television sets and a coffee shop where you can get the kind of giant, 2- and a 1/2- pound brownies that are, for some reason, only available in coffee shops, that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? Ridiculous, indeed -- but it would also make it possible to wear a new outfit on a date and never pay for it; women could tell men to meet them at the clothing store, where the woman would be "trying on" the outfit the entire time that the two sat and had coffee and listened to music and tried to pretend that neither of them was really going to eat that whole brownie even though they did... and then could simply put the outfit back on the rack and get on with their lives.

So what I'm trying to say is, I think I'm on to something with this idea and I invite clothing stores to try out the idea and also to pay me royalties.

What I'm also trying to say is, Girl With Computer, I'm sorry that I and Mr F and Mr Bunches annoyed you and/or interrupted your studying yesterday for a brief moment, but, really, (a) you were in a store, not a library or study hall, so you kind of had to expect some interruptions, and (b) it really doesn't matter where you were, we probably would have inflicted ourselves on you yesterday.

The trip to the bookstore was my idea, only it hadn't begun as a trip to the bookstore and, as it ended up, my idea wasn't put into effect hardly at all, but I'll still take credit/blame for the whole trip.

The trip began when I had to get the Babies! up from their nap yesterday at 4, and I knew that they were going to be crabby because they hadn't hardly slept at all.

They hadn't hardly slept at all because I'd gotten them good and wound up before putting them down for their nap. I'd gone into work a little on Sunday morning, and then come back home at 11, and promptly decided on the spur of the moment, to take the Babies! out into the yard to play, something only I am really willing to do in our household.

Sweetie would take the Babies! out in the yard to play, except that Sweetie has trouble doing that alone because out in the yard, Mr F's main activity is "trying to escape," something he's amazingly good at, especially considering how hard it is to get out of our backyard. Our backyard is surrounded on two-and-a-half sides by a large and ill-kept row of lilac bushes. On the third side, there is the Sorta Great Wall and also the Dead Zone, where there is a large pile of brush and branches and trees that has accumulated over time.

The Dead Zone began when I needed a place to put leaves I raked up in the backyard. Leaves cannot be bagged and thrown in the trash in our community. I don't know why they can't, since it seems to me that leaves are exactly the kind of thing that should go in a landfill, but they can't. They have to be put in a pile next to the curb so that a truck can come by every couple of weeks and vacuum them up. I've never seen the truck, but in my mind, I picture it as kind of looking like Sylvester McMonkey McBean's Star On/Star Off Machine, only instead of scooping up Sneetches it takes in leaves and puts them someplace that is not a landfill.

Our yard, though, is kind of near a lake, which means that we pay a lot in property taxes and also that it's one of those long, narrow yards that developers carved out near lakes to maximize their profit, which means, in turn, that to get something from the backyard to the front yard, you have to haul it along a narrow path past the side of the house, a path that is somewhat more precarious since I installed part of it. And, since you can't bag the leaves, you have to haul them in something else, and we don't have a "something else" at our house. We don't have a wheelbarrow or wagon or anything, really, that's good for hauling, so getting the leaves from the backyard to the front yard is more difficult than it's worth, and I instead began hauling the leaves to a small, remote corner of the backyard that was behind other trees, and dumping them there, with vague thoughts of someday hauling them out of there, or maybe burning them if Sweetie were to ever go away for a weekend.

That worked out fine; the pile was small and was decomposing or composting or whatever it is that leaves do that they can't be allowed to do in a landfill, and I didn't mind it much. Then The Boy stepped in with a plan on his own, a plan I didn't find out about until I went, one day, to the backyard and noticed that the Dead Zone was no longer a small pile of soggy leaves but instead a massive pile of branches and trees and whatnot, a pile that was nearly six feet tall and probably twenty feet wide.

"What's this?" I asked The Boy, who had reluctantly come out to join me for some yard work.

"That's their stuff," he said, pointing to our neighbors' yard. Our next door neighbors have a boy that's in The Boy's grade and he and The Boy are best friends.

"Why is it here?" I asked The Boy.

"Their dad was cutting down trees in his yard and I told him you wouldn't mind if he put the waste here."

I stared at the pile and wondered when I had given The Boy some sort of indication that our yard was suitable for dumping, and wondered, too, what I should do about this. Maybe go next door and tell my neighbor, "I'm sorry, but you'll have to take your garbage back. We've got all we need." Maybe tell The Boy he'd have to haul it to the curb in time for Sylvester McMonkey's next drive-by?

In the end, I did what I do about 99% of the things in my life, which is "decide to deal with it later." I put it on the To Do list that's on our kitchen cabinet, where it sits and waits, behind "Transfer photos and videos to DVD" and ahead of "Get new toy chest for Babies!", waiting for that day that I do one of the chores on that list. It's not likely to get done: That list has existed for about 14 months, since the day I optimistically announced to Sweetie that Sunday afternoons were going to be the day that I'd get some chores done, and had sat down and made a list of chores that needed to be done, a list I'd posted on the cabinet to remind me to do those chores.

I did that on a Sunday afternoon -- it was my first chore, and having made the list, I then decided, fourteen months ago, that I could wait until the next Sunday to begin the list. Since that time, only one thing on the list has been crossed off: Move Bird Feeder, a task that involved me taking the bird feeder that hung in our front window and moving it to the back window. I crossed that one off even though it isn't actually done yet. I did take the bird feeder off the front window, and brought it to the back window, but then I had to stop, because the bird feeder hangs on the window via suction cup, and the day (a month ago) that I moved it, I had no way to wet down the suction cup and stick it to the window: I wasn't about to lick the suction cups to wet them down and get them to stick; that feeder had been outside, in nature, and nature is dirty and probably poisonous, so I don't lick things that have been in nature too long.

Ordinarily, I'd have licked my hand and then wet the suction cup, but on that day, my hands were dirty and encased in even dirtier gloves, and my hands and the gloves had also been in nature that day -- specifically, the part of nature that was a giant mushroom that had grown on the old stump in our yard, and which was gross and had to be torn out and thrown near the curb for Sylvester to vacuum-- and I wasn't about to lick them, either. So I set the bird feeder on the patio table and there it sits, waiting to be licked and hung.

Yesterday being Sunday afternoon, you'd think that I could have finished that task, at least, off the To Do list, and I thought about doing just that, too. I thought about it when I took the Babies! outside to play in the yard, but before I could actually act on the thought, I got engaged in playing with the Babies! and the garden hose, spraying them and spraying myself and filling up their wading pool and trying, via the use of the hose, to keep the bugs off Mr Bunches (something I wasn't entirely successful at, since one bit him near the eye and his eye swelled up and looked as though he'd taken a punch) and before I knew it, it was time to go inside because we were all soaking wet and it was the Babies! naptime.

I was alone in the backyard with the Babies!, because, as I said, nobody else can really, or will really, take them into the backyard. The older kids weren't home, having gone off to their jobs that day already, but even if they were home, they wouldn't have ventured into the backyard. I may not be crazy about nature, with its dirt and bugs and mushrooms and poisons, but I am practically Grizzly Adams compared to the kids, who will not willingly venture outside because it takes them away from television, the Internet, and air conditioning and puts them into contact with grass and sunlight and exercise.

So when it came time to go inside, I had to first stop Mr F from slipping through the tiny gaps in the hedges or trying to get over the Sorta Great Wall into the neighbors' yard, something that got him only more excited because now we weren't just wet, we were wet and running, and that got Mr Bunches vicariously excited: he stood knee deep in his supercold-wading pool and laughed as I chased Mr F, and kept laughing until I grabbed Mr F and put a towel around him, then grabbed Mr Bunches and put a towel around him, at which point they realized that they were going inside and both began howling in the exact pitch necessary to cause an aneurysm, and also have Child Protective Services called.

I carried two struggling, wet, towel-wrapped screaming toddlers inside and got them up to their room, where, while they continued to cry and scream, I got them undressed, dried, and pajamaed and put them in their cribs, popping in a DVD of "Finding Nemo" to quiet them down, and I left them in their room to pretend to nap while I went downstairs to eat lunch and relax.

Sweetie opted to go for a walk and that left me alone in the house with just the baby monitor's soothing sounds of Babies! fidgeting and not sleeping, and I looked at the To Do list and opted to go sit out on the patio and read for a while. The time wasn't a total loss, because I did, for a few minutes, look at the bird feeder sitting on the patio table and think about how I could hang it today, and also think about which window to hang it on.

Then I went to make brownies for Sweetie, in time for her to come home and hang out on the patio with me for a few minutes before we retired up to our room to watch TV and read and doze in the afternoon quiet, a quiet that was broken only by the continued sounds of the Babies! not sleeping.

I knew then, when I got them "up" at 4 p.m. that it would be bad: they'd only fallen asleep at about 3, or maybe a little after, but if we let them sleep longer than that, they'd just be up all night jumping in their beds and talking and crying, so I had to bite the bullet and get them out of bed, which I did via parenting -- "parenting" in this case being "deciding to go buy them stuff."

"Do you guys want to go for a ride?" I asked them. Despite not talking much -- or, at least, not talking our language much -- the Babies! know "go for a ride" and that usually gets them excited enough to stop crying about being woken up and to start crying, instead, about how we haven't left for our ride yet.

The Babies!, both Mr F and Mr Bunches, are amazingly direct people. They will tolerate no deviations from a planned course of action. If I say We're going for a ride, then the only thing I'm allowed to do is pick them up and carry them down to the car and put them in and open the garage door and back the car out and drive. If I do anything to interrupt that process -- anything, including "Using the bathroom before I leave" they will freak out; they will cry and collapse on the floor in a pile of goo and grab my hand to drag me the proper way, or open the door, or all of those things at once.

It's terrible, really, because they are really direct. When we took a walk on Saturday to go to McDonald's and the park, we got to the part of the walk where McDonald's is in sight, just across the intersection, the really busy intersection, and all we had to do was go through the intersection and we'd be there.

We were 2/3 of the way through the intersection, and had reached the point where the crosswalk actually bends a little away from McDonald's, due to the way the intersection is set up. Holding both of their hands, I, too, bent a little away from McDonald's, at which point Mr F realized that we were no longer heading directly at McDonald's and began to cry and complain, thinking apparently that we were not going to McDonald's, and then he collapsed on the ground like he'd been shot, lying there in the crosswalk as we held up traffic from three directions. I had to scoop him up and carry him the rest of the way across.

Yesterday, then, I made the mistake of telling the Babies! we were going for a ride before I had them unpajamaed, which meant that I had to then try to get them dressed while they, in turn, tried to get me to actually get up and go for a ride, resulting in there being lots of me trying to talk reasonably to them and them using their "words" on me and also pushing me towards the door.

I finally got them ready and Sweetie reappeared. "I'm going to take them for a ride," I said. "I thought I'd go to Blockbuster and maybe get them a used DVD or two so they have a new movie." I then invited her to come and said we could swing by the bookstore and get her a new book since she'd finished her last one. "I figure we can spend ten bucks and get them out of the house and get a new movie or two," I told Sweetie.

She agreed and we went to the bookstore first, where we ran into more trouble: Mr Bunches didn't want to ride in the stroller, which meant that he had to have shoes put on, but the only shoes we had were his sandals, which he'd just gotten that morning and which, so far, he hated with a passion I'd rarely seen. When I tried to put them on him before we'd left, he'd flipped around and convulsed and kicked them off. But I couldn't let him walk around the bookstore barefoot -- I have some standards -- so I made him wear his sandals, and then had to carry him anyway because he refused to walk in them.

Sweetie headed off to get her book and I decided to wander past all the people reading and doing homework and go see if they had the Spongebob movie for sale, so we made our way to the higher level of the store and looked around in DVDs. Once there, Mr Bunches decided that maybe he did like his sandals after all, because I set him down for a second and he stamped his foot in anger, learning as he did so that his sandals, when stamped, made a loud slapping sound and also lit up.

He then walked around the DVD section stamp-slapping his feet to make them light and louden up, while Sweetie and I tried to find the Spongebob movie to buy. We found that, and at the same time Mr F, in the stroller, managed to find a Little Einsteins DVD and grow remarkably attached to it instantaneously.

We decided to get two DVDs, because they were having a special on them: Buy 2, get the 3rd free, which meant we could get three DVDs. We finally settled on Monster House as the third, and Sweetie said she would go pay for everything.

Bad idea: when she walked away, Mr F got upset and began crying. That, in turn, got Mr Bunches upset because he thought something was wrong, and they both started being extra loud and extra-cry-ey.

"I'll take them outside," I said, putting into action the plan we'd always said we would do, which was when babies start crying, leave the store. So I picked up Mr Bunches and began pushing the sobbing Mr F in the stroller, heading the circuitous route back down through the store past all the people who were reading and studying and otherwise not shopping for books in the bookstore.

We were on the ramp down to the main level when Mr Bunches got too wriggly and I had to stop and put him down for fear he'd squirm out. "You can walk," I said. "But you have to be good and keep up." I'm not sure what he heard over Mr F wailing, but I trusted him to keep up and began walking down.

At the bottom of the ramp, I looked down and saw Mr Bunches decide to run back up the ramp, all the way (about fifty feet or so), forcing me to turn the stroller around and head back up, too, calling his name out. When I called his name the third time, he heard me and went into his defensive maneuver, which is to drop to his hands and knees and stay like that, motionless, in the hopes that I will not be able to see him.

It didn't work, and I got up to him and picked him up. He began squirming and crying, too, aware that he was busted and that we were leaving the store. I started to head back down and realized that the ramp we were on was too narrow to turn the stroller around. Instead, I had to cautiously back down the ramp, carrying one screaming baby while the other screaming baby sat in the stroller.

(That's when Girl With Computer gave me the look.)

We made it down and I turned the stroller around and headed for the front door, not even pausing to look at the books we were heading by (although I did slow a bit as we went by one particularly interesting rack). We were met by Sweetie at the front door, and she helped me get them outside, where both boys stopped crying instantly as we hit the parking lot.

We got them into the car and I asked Sweetie how much the DVDs had come to.

"Forty dollars," she said. I realized I'd gone a little over budget.

"Did you use your discount card?" I asked -- the membership I'd gotten her at the store.

"Yes," she said.

"So, actually," I did some math in my head "They were only thirty-eight dollars."

We got into the car, where Mr Bunches had already kicked his sandals off and Mr F was sniffling and looking forlornly at the bookstore, and headed back home. I hadn't gotten any chores done, and I'd spent four times what I'd planned, but at least, I figured, the Babies! had some new movies to watch and the main goal of the trip had been to decrabbify them, which it appeared I'd done, judging by their demeanor. And I learned something. Some things, actually. Those things are:

You can't possibly leave a store fast enough under those circumstances, and

You can't possibly kind of browse for books under those circumstances, and

The next time I want to shake the Babies! out of their crabby mood, I'm just going to take them back outside and spray them with the hose again. It's cheaper.

1 comment:

lisapepin said...

I can't believe you got a withering look from Girl With Computer rather than sympathy or, dare I say it, some HELP. Sheesh.