Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Locking the Oven Door: No Can Do

I mentioned in my previous entry that we’d have to start locking the oven while using it, so Baby Bear wouldn’t open it and bring on certain disaster.

I turned on the oven to Bake, then locked the door. The range began beeping, and the digital display screen commanded me to “Unlock Door.” I stood my ground, but so did the range. The oven automatically switched off.

I studied the owner’s manual, and found only two references to the door latch, one under the instructions for self-cleaning, the other under troubleshooting tips. The latter is where I discovered, to my dismay, that if the oven didn’t work, then a possible cause might be a locked oven door. The solution? “If necessary, allow oven to cool; then unlock door.”

In other words, I cannot lock the oven while baking. Why in blazes not? The owner’s manual devotes a whole page to the wonderful “anti-tip device” for the convenience of people who like to use open oven doors as stepping stools. Another page warns against using the oven for things I can’t believe anyone with half a brain would even consider doing. Do not use the oven to dry wet newspapers or you could start a fire? For that matter, who sits on an open oven door—and why? I mean, besides a child like Baby Bear? If the problem is so common that it must be preached against in the owner’s manual, then wouldn’t it make sense if you could lock the oven door anytime—even when it’s not in use?

Alas, it can only be locked during self-clean mode. Or, when it gets super-hot; but as Julie pointed out in her comment to my last blog entry, the latter can lead to a lot of trouble—and on a holiday, a lot of hungry people, which leads to even more trouble chez Lingefelt.

Ours is a glass-top radiant range, which has spoiled me for any other type of range. It’s a breeze to clean—no scrubbing, soaking, chiseling, or whining to the husband, “It’s too much work to clean this thing—can’t we just buy a new one?” Just squirt the ceramic cooktop cleaner over it, rub it in with the cleaning pad, then polish with a rag. In moments, it gleams and sparkles with such brilliance, I feel as if I should be wearing my best pearls, high heels, and ruffled apron. Thanks to this marvel of modern convenience, I now have plenty of extra time to club myself over the head for not nagging Mr. Lucky to buy me this model sooner.

At the in-laws’ house one day, I sang its praises to my father-in-law as he disassembled their old gas range to clean it. My mother-in-law wanted a glass-top range, and I’m so crazy about mine that I put in a good word for her.

My father-in-law wasn’t buying it, literally or figuratively. “Let her next husband buy her one,” he grumbled.

The solution to our problem is obvious: Just watch the kid. We do it anyway.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

When the Moon is Full

Things Baby Bear has done just in the past few days:

Found the humor in butting heads. I just hope I never have to find the humor in making an emergency visit to the dentist.

Used the dog as a pillow. Yet he won't use his own.

Pulled down a metal curtain rod and bent it. I managed to “de-bend” it and hang it back up, though it now bows a bit in the middle.

Stole Mr. Lucky’s cell phone, punched a lot of buttons, and got a recording of current skiing conditions in Lillehammer, Norway.

Pulled out his computer keyboard so he could play Frogger from the comfort of his bed. Because the cord didn’t reach, the computer itself tipped over to the floor. Fortunately, no damage done. The computer merely needed rebooting.

Figured out how to free himself from his seatbelt and harness without unhooking anything, and with an agility that would’ve made Houdini weep. I sat in the front seat while we were parked and watched him. It probably took him less than three minutes. He knew just when to bend this way and duck his head that way without getting himself into a worse tangle. Once free, he slithered into the very back of the minivan and started taking off his clothes.

Opened the oven door while his pizza was cooking. I think—in fact, I hope—the heat kept him from venturing any further and burning himself. We’ll have to start locking the oven every time we use it. The owner’s manual says very little about the lock, except for its use in self-clean mode, but devotes a whole paragraph to how different types of margarine can affect the outcome of whatever you’re baking.

Most alarming of all, he went into the bathroom and turned on the water in the sink. He left the door open and I could see him from the kitchen, where I was loading the dishwasher. He pressed his hand beneath the faucet to make the water spray everywhere. Moments later, I heard a suspicious whirring noise from the bathroom, and came running, wondering if something was awry with the pipes. Instead, the noise was coming from an electrical outlet next to the sink—and a ribbon of smoke was curling out of it. I removed the boy and yelled for his father. By the time Mr. Lucky stepped in, the weird whirring and smoke had subsided, but he said the outlet was kaput from the water. The bells still hang from the bathroom door, but now we’re going to take a few, albeit less dangerous chances, and keep it locked.

I worry all the time. But sometimes I’m just flat out scared.

Number of times I got up while making this post: 5

I don’t think his guardian angel ever gets to sit down.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Baby Bear's School Portrait

Last Friday when Baby Bear came home from school, I found a wonderful surprise in his backpack: An envelope full of photos—an 8 x 10, a couple of 5 x 7’s, and assorted wallet sizes. It was his “spring portrait” package, just in time for Mother’s Day.

It’s a great photo, as photos of Baby Bear go. Because of his hyper nature, school portraits tend to be very hit-or-miss. We're lucky to get half his face in the shot.

I only wish I’d been told in advance what day the school was taking photos, so he wouldn’t be photographed wearing the same striped shirt he wore for last year’s portrait.

Already I could hear the comments from relatives.

FATHER: “What, you can’t afford to buy him a new shirt? Doesn’t your husband make enough money these days? Maybe you need to sell more books.”

MOTHER: “He should have had his hair cut before his picture was taken.” According to my late mother, anyone whose hair touched the eyebrows, covered the earlobe, and/or fell below the atlas of the spine, needed to be hauled into court so they could have their name legally changed to “Cousin Itt.”

MOTHER-IN-LAW (never to me, but always to Mr. Lucky): “Why is he wearing the same shirt as last year? Does Karen send him to school in the same shirt every day? Doesn’t she ever do laundry? Is she still writing?”

BROTHER (doesn’t matter whose or which): “Now which one of your kids is this again?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve been surprised by photos from Baby Bear’s school. I have one from a couple of years ago in which he’s beautifully posed against a lush, misty forest background. Yet he’s wearing a very casual dark blue-and-gray T-shirt. ARGH! Had I known in advance when they were going to shoot that photo, I would have dressed him in something infinitely more presentable that day.

I check his backpack every day for messages and notices. The school is simply not getting the word out, and Karen is annoyed.

These photos are sent to parents on a sort of honor system. “Select your photos – send in your payment – share with family and friends – then sit back and enjoy their snarky comments about your little darling's ill-chosen outfit!” (Well, okay, that last isn’t on there, but at least for my son’s school, it should be.) You pick the photos you want out of the selection offered, write a check to the company, then return it to the school along with whatever photos you don’t select. I’ve often wondered just how profitable this is for the company doing the photos.

Indeed, this year there was a letter enclosed with the photos, on school district letterhead and signed by the principal, stating, “Any picture debt will be placed on the debt list for the following 08/09 school year and student will be unable to attend the end of the year activities (6th, 7th, 8th grade special events).”

That tells me they’ve had a bit of trouble with their honor system in the past. Mr. Lucky is of the opinion that some of the middle school students, horrified by the braces and acne and overall gawkiness of puberty reflected in the photos, do not take the packages home to their unsuspecting parents, but trash them instead. I know I can’t bear to look at any photo of myself taken at that age.

Baby Bear is not a middle school student, but is enrolled in the “Exceptional Student Center” annexed to the middle school, which is comprised of special needs students of all ages.

On Monday I wrote a check for the photos, and sent it back to school in the envelope provided.

Today is Wednesday, and it’s still in his backpack.

And Karen is still very annoyed.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I'm Still Fiona's Mom

Dear Fiona,

This morning we went to visit you, and hung a set of pink butterfly wind chimes with your flowers. Mother's Day is a day I like to celebrate the fact that I'm still your mom, and will always be your mom.

That means I still worry about you, even though you’ve been gone for almost eight years. People say you’re in a much better place now, where there's no sickness or pain, a glorious place where everything and everyone is beautiful and perfect, and you’re happier than you could ever be here.

I took the idea of that place for granted until you went there, at which point my faith was sorely tested. Suddenly I viewed Heaven the way I might a preschool or summer camp. How could I be certain it was all right to leave my child in a place like this? Had it been thoroughly inspected and licensed by the state?

Only a mom would fuss over that, and I'm still your mom.

In the hours immediately following your departure, I agonized over what might be happening to your soul, your spirit. I worried that you were confused and frightened about where you were and what was happening to you.

I asked the craziest questions that no one could answer to my satisfaction: Did they get Cartoon Network in Heaven, so you could watch Powerpuff Girls and Sailor Moon? Would you have enough paper and crayons to indulge your love of drawing pictures? Did St. Peter know that Wednesday was always pizza night? Could I count on him to remember to always hold the pepperoni on yours?

Nutty as it seems, these were the things that drove me—well, nuts. I never fretted this way when my brother, grandparents, or mother died. Only with you, Fiona. Because I'm still your mom, while you're always and forever my girl.

Over time, among the pieces of my broken heart I've found a tiny fragment that assures me you're safe in a wonderful place that runs Powerpuff Girls and Sailor Moon marathons 24/7; a marvelous place where every night is pizza night, and crayons come in the most amazing spectrum of colors that no one on earth can imagine. A place that's Heaven to Fiona.

I'm the one who was confused and frightened. Yet I'll never stop worrying, because I'm still your mom.

At least I know if St. Peter forgets to hold that pepperoni, you’ll give him holy hell for it.

That's my girl!

We love you, Bunny Buttons!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Salesman Cometh--And Refuseth to Go Away

When our three beagles started barking and clawing at the open blinds on the living room window Saturday morning, I assumed they were barking at someone out on the street, because I hadn’t heard the doorbell. I yelled at them to get down from the window before they destroyed the blinds, but to no avail. As I pulled one dog out of the bent and battered slats, I glimpsed a man at the front door.

He wasn’t one of the neighbors, nor was he wearing any kind of uniform. He was well dressed and sported the telltale padfolio.

If he didn’t see me, then he certainly heard me, no thanks to my hoydenish voice that can be heard in three counties even when I’m not yelling (Mr. Lucky says anytime he's on the phone with me, he has to hold it away from his ear because I talk so loud). But the salesman knew someone was home.

“He already knows anyway,” Mr. Lucky hollered over the cacophony, “because there are two cars in the driveway.”

“That doesn’t mean anything,” I shouted. “For all he knows, we have a third vehicle we took to go out for donuts. Or we flew somewhere on vacation and left both vehicles here to make people think someone was home.”

“Well, that’s why he’s out there,” Mr. Lucky bellowed. “Because he thinks someone’s home.”

Certainly the racket was a major tip-off. And it got worse in a deafening, nerve-shredding chain reaction.

Baby Bear charged in, shirtless and screaming, and threw himself on the sofa. The frenzied dogs continued attacking the blinds as if they were made of USDA prime beef. Then, since I had yet to lose my mind, the phone rang. The answering machine kicked in, and on came a chirpy voice congratulating me for winning a thirty day free trial membership at a ladies’ fitness club.

Mr. Lucky decided this would be an excellent opportunity to conduct an impromptu obedience class for the dogs. He started commanding them to get down and sit. Perhaps the salesman would get tired of waiting and leave.

I joined Baby Bear on the sofa, and tried to soothe him. I nearly lost my teeth and six vertabrae for my trouble.

Meanwhile, the perky voice on the answering machine promised me a fabulous bod just in time for the summer. Wouldn’t I love to go to the beach and attract so many hot looking guys I’d have to beat them off with my surfboard?

A howling Baby Bear had me in a headlock and was ready to flip me over the coffee table, but I managed to steal a peek under his armpit, and saw through the window that the salesman wasn’t going anywhere. He really wanted to make that sale, convert us to that religion, or secure that vote. Why didn’t he give up and try our more hospitable neighbor? Was he nuts, or just desperate? I know if I didn’t live here, I would’ve run for my life by now.

I somehow got the upper hand on Baby Bear, and wrestled him into his room. My husband, who has a lot more patience than I do, finally calmed the dogs and got them to sit. He cracked the door open and slipped out to talk to the man, who wished to impart some “good news.” He wasn’t about to give up and let us suffer all that pandemonium for nothing. Oh, no! We, more than anyone else in the neighborhood, had earned the ultimate payoff for all our troubles: The promise of going on forever, in exchange for some money, our souls, and what little remained of our rational thinking.

I thought we were already doing that. I think Mr. Lucky told him as much—or at least, “No thanks.”

As I stood there panting for breath, sweat trickling down my brow, the gushing lady on the answering machine finally wrapped it up. “So why are you just sitting there, girlfriend? Get off that sofa, get out of your rut, and call now—and discover how you can enjoy a more active, exciting life today!”