Saturday, December 26, 2009


Somehow during our rambling discussions after story time on Christmas night, the girls and I got on the topic of births.  I started telling them how some of our friends have chosen to have their babies at home using a midwife.  My six-year-old (she turns seven tomorrow!) said, "Oh, one of my friends' moms did that.  She had a homer."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Baby Jesus Emergency

Tonight the kids got out the Christmas Little People.  They don't really play with Little People anymore except on rare, special occasions.  But that is why tonight I could hear them playing increasingly raucous games which eventually led 6-year-old A to burst into the kitchen and shout, "Z KIDNAPPED THE BABY JESUS!"

What followed was a chaos of sudden kidnappings of beloved Christmas characters.  It started with the baby Jesus, but it wasn't long until Magi, elves and jolly St. Nick found themselves incarcerated in a plot more diabolical than anything the Grinch ever came up with.  Daring rescues were staged (with the most dramatic and successful one freeing two wise men) until I finally stepped in an put an end to it all, finding that my holiday cheer was being sapped out like Jack Bauer on Christmas Eve discovering that he has 24 hours to stop a plot involving a fat man with nuclear waste that he intends to drop down chimneys.  But in the end, I thought it was the price you pay when you buy your children toys of Bible characters.  You have to expect that the story will be tampered with at some point (Z, for instance, when A pointed out that kidnapping the baby Jesus was Pure Wrong Badness said, "That's not the baby Jesus, that's baby Jessica!").  But that's how the end of the game came to be, and now all the children are in bed and we are enjoying the Christmas tree and feeling guilty about the Christmas cards sitting on our coffee table, unsent. 

And, in a last, unrelated note, you'll see that the Fisher Price baby Jesus has blond hair.  Who knew? 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mr. President, this one is for you

Z: I wish school started at 11 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m.

Me: You would have to go to school really long every day, or not have summer break.

Z: Maybe the next president of the United States will take care of that.

Note to those with political aspirations: Z will vote for you for President if you can get her an extra two and a half hours of no-school.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Traditional Airport Post: PARROTS CAN FLY!

Wake up service.  I had a 6:30 am flight yesterday, so I was planning to leave the house around 5 and had set my alarm accordingly, never suspecting that I had set the alarm to go off in the p.m.  Fortunately, my dad was giving me a ride and he called the house when he arrived and saw that there were no lights on.  Close one!

Parrots can fly.  The woman ahead of me at the airport had an animal carrier that kept making jungle calls of alarm, which turned out to be a great big parrot who was concerned that he was being transported in a cage.  Security gathered to stare into the cage and decided that the bird needed to come out of the carrier so they could scan it.  Unfortunately, being a bird, the parrot was able to fly, which meant taking the bird to a private screening room.  The lady taking him on the plane said that he liked to fly in style and was upset to be in the carrier.  This makes perfect sense to me, as I also would dislike being in a cage while flying.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

CONTROVERSY! And Educational Folly...

My kids wanted to talk all about why Pluto is no longer a planet tonight.  I am not sure why this came up, though there was some vague indication that perhaps this was addressed in this morning's Saturday morning cartoons.  Or the new and improved Electric Company.  Z tells me that the name of the show was Zula Patrol.  "It talks about science."

As we talked about this for a while (seriously, it must have been ten minutes) I suddenly realized that the only reason I knew the order of the planets was because of a mnemonic device from my childhood in which a phrase had words the first letter of which corresponded in order to the first letters of the planets: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizza Pies.

Several strange things:

1) By the time you memorize that saying, you might as well just memorize the order of the planets.  It's ridiculously long and saying "Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto" is pretty much the same length. 

2) Since the phrase was taught to us by way of a song on a video, it would have been fiendishly simple to take the same catchy tune and simply sing the names of the planets.

3) It bothered me, even as a child, that the outermost planets change order sometimes and yet we are taught this very specific order without so much as a throwaway "Sometimes Pluto is closer to the Sun than Neptune."  I mean we say that the letter Y is sometimes a vowel, why not admit that sometimes our very educated mother just served us pie nicely?

4) It's weird that the mnemonic device I was taught has two "P" words on the end.  Why not just nine pizzas?  Why nine pizza pies?  And who even said "pizza pie" in California in the eighties?  No one.  It's just strange.  Is there a tenth planet named Parnassus? 

5) Why not order the planets some other way?  Why not by size or density?  Why is proximity to the sun the most important thing?  If we did it by density we could have other cool sayings, like, "Every Man's Velvet Moth Privately Needs Juniper Umbrellas, Sadly."

6) I know that Pluto got demoted because someone found Eris, which is bigger than Pluto and the "tenth planet" and that scientists were concerned that if children had to add Eris, Ceres, Haumea and Makemake to the list of planets they had to memorize that their tiny little brains would probably explode.  But I think, man, just make the song a little longer.  "My very educated Mother just served us nine pizza eyes, cyclops has'm MMMMMM!"  Of course that might be the wrong order but we simply didn't have so many trans-Neptunian objects when I was a child.

7) Did you know that there are entire documents laying out the proper naming procedures for planets?  It's true!  Not just planets, but pretty much any astronomical object.  People get paid to make rules for how we name these things.  And that's why you can find awesome paragraphs like these on the IAU website:

The Jovian satellites have previously been named for Zeus/Jupiter's lovers and favorites but now Zeus' descendants are also included as an allowable source of names.  The satellites of Saturn have so far been named for the Greco-Roman Titans, descendants of the Titans, Giants and the Roman god of the beginning.  In order to internationalize the names, we now also allow names of giants and monsters in other mythologies (so far Gallic, Inuit and Norse).
Depending on the type of rock you discover in space there might be a lot of rules for you to follow.   You might have to choose from heroes of the Trojan war, or the most popular names for centaurs.  You might be forced to use Roman numerals.  You might have to choose a character name from Stephen King's "The Stand."

8) My kids think it is really wonderful that adults can't figure out whether Pluto should be a planet or not.  They were really giddy at the thought that so much time and effort has been put into the definition of planets.  This is because it is their first glimpse into the fact that adults are weak, and that perhaps their generation has a chance to overpower and devour our own.  My next post should be about how the names for generations of people are chosen.  As a member of Generation X (or is it Y?), I find the practice of being named by a previous generation unsettling to say the least.  And so I am planning to rename my generation... GENERATION AWESOME!

And that is all for tonight.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Smart as a Whip

I told my almost-seven-year old that she is "smart as a whip."

She said: "Whips aren't very smart, Dad.  Are you trying to say that I am not very smart?"

I assured her that was not the case.  She then told me that I could have at least said that she was "smart as a dolphin" which, although not as smart as human beings, are at least well known for their intelligence (unlike whips). 

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I Ski, You Ski, We All Ski for Ice Ski

The day after Thanksgiving was officially pronounced to be family ski day.

So I went through the ritual.

I got up early in the morning.  I checked the ski conditions.  I loaded up our car with too much winter gear.  We went up to the mountain.  I bought us lift tickets and rented skis.  I told them that I thought the skis that they had given me did not match my black winter parka with the bright white skull pattern, nor the helmet and boots with the silver and gold flames.  I showed them my gloves which look like bones.  They gave me better skis.  I zipped out to the lift for the bunny slope.  I took the lift to the top.  I dismounted the lift chair and fell.  I could not get up.  I managed to move out of the way of the many novice skiers coming off the lift.  I tried to get up.  But I couldn't.  I used my poles.  I moved around.  I put my skis perpendicular to the hill.  I shouted, "I'VE FALLEN AND I CAN'T GET UP!"  I clapped my hands and wished for fairies to come help me get up.  I waved off the rescue crew.  I let the St. Bernard give me some whiskey from the little barrel around his neck.  I took off my skis.  I stood up and put the skis back on.  I listened to my children tell me all day how they are better skiers than me.

And a good time was had by all.