Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Aspirations and Payback

So Friday night, The Wife and I went to a snooty formal ball. We both dressed up, acted like sophisticated adults, carried on small talk with various muckety-mucks, and came home terribly pleased with ourselves.

At 2 a.m., The Girl work up, puking aggressively in her bed.

The Boy woke up a few hours later, one eye almost sealed shut with pinkeye.

And...we're back.

This weekend we had the first really lovely weather of the Spring. The Girl didn't see much of it, and The Boy's activities were severely curtailed. We skipped soccer practice and the Earth Day cleanup, and spent most of Saturday just trying not to snap at each other from sheer exhaustion (and TG's crabbiness from sleep deprivation, hunger, fever, and nausea).

Now we're waiting for the inevitable next shoe to drop. Historically, if one kid brings home either a stomach bug or pinkeye, everybody gets a turn, usually in short order. TB's years in daycare were especially exciting, since we were doing the two-job thing and you can't send a sick kid to daycare. We got very good at splitting days, calculating sick days to the minute, shifting hours, and doing all the things harried parents do when kids refuse to consult our work calendars before getting sick. (How inconsiderate!) It was especially fun when TB was a little Typhoid Mary – we'd beg, borrow, and steal coverage for one of us to stay home with him, then we'd get sick.

I remember one glorious spell a few winters ago when TB got a nasty (you don't want to know) stomach bug, which he gave to The Wife, which she gave to me. That was a fun week.

With TG, the bouts of sickness have been fewer and farther between, since she hasn't been lolling around in the petri dish of daycare. I suspect that she'll pay it back with interest when she gets to preschool this Fall. Little ones are adorable, sweet, and contagious. I suspect that preschool and kindergarten teachers have the strongest immune systems out there, just by dint of exposure.

So we've spent plenty of time indoors together, all the better to share germs.

I did manage to get out and try to mow the lawn, only to find that the mower had no intention of working. After a few attempts at fixing it (including changing a spark plug, of which I was inordinately proud), I finally took it to my local Prehistoric Mechanic, who believes that the fall of America as a world power can be traced to the introduction of fuel injection. Since the mower has a carburetor, he's happy. Apparently, the carburetor got grass in it. How that's possible, I don't know. I suspect demonic possession. He suspects letting the grass grow too high. History will decide.

And we had plenty of time to look at the caterpillars TW ordered for TB as a science project. (The idea was to watch them form cocoons, at which point they'd get transferred to a much larger mesh cage, so the resultant butterflies would be suitable for show-and-tell.) We got five, in a little cup with a cap on it and some unidentifiable material on the bottom for food. We discovered that caterpillars are cannibals, which I, for one, didn't know. One especially nasty one made a meal of the runt. It was unspeakably disgusting.

(As we explained to TB, “that's why they're called animals.”)

Some people think nature is cute and fuzzy. I don't. I have a strong “separate spheres” theory about Nature. Nature belongs over there, and I belong over here. A little crossover now and then is all well and good, but there are limits. There's no quicker way to ruin nature, says I, than to try to live in it. The marginal impact on nature of a city dweller is less than that of a suburbanite, which, in turn, is less than that of some poseur in a cabin with an SUV. (The cost of infrastructure alone – rural roads, plus electric lines, plus water – seals the deal.) If you're serious about the environment, says I, you don't go mucking around in it. You move to Manhattan and take the freakin' subway. Let nature be nature.

This is my high-minded excuse for disliking camping. I've been poor. I don't see 'playing poor' for a couple of days as recreational; I see it as masochism. (I consider those categories distinct. Not everybody does, I know.) If you really want to rough it, try living in a slum for three years on a grad student stipend. (My apartment bordered a church and some crackheads. The crackheads kept to themselves, but the $*%&#)% church insisted on ringing its bell endlessly and randomly.) And tromping around the woods with butane and tents and suchlike just doesn't strike me as earth-friendly. Gore-Tex and Fleece don't occur in nature.

And that's not even mentioning the distinct lack of indoor plumbing out there. Or, as Stephen Colbert would surely note, the presence of bears.

So we're building up our immune systems, getting carburetors fixed, and watching expensive insects eat each other. But at least we're doing it in a relatively earth-friendly way. And any aspirations to muckety-muck status are on hold, at least until another kind of aspirations end.

Sometimes that doctorate comes in really handy...