The Legend of La Cucaracha

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

To set the stage, we recently moved to Little Rock. I'm sure we'll say more about that later (I'm actually not sure at all. YOU WILL GET WHAT WE GIVE YOU AND LIKE IT), but just know that we've rented a nice little house.

We had been here for two days. The first day was "Moving Day," in the which I, with the help of two guys from church, moved all of our earthly possessions into our house. The second was "Soreness Day," in which I was sore in pretty much every muscle I have. It was also the first day of unpacking, a long and arduous process that is only doable because you know that eventually you will run out of boxes to unpack. Hell will be an eternal house full of eternal boxes that you must unpack, clean, organize, arrange, and make homey. Then you move on to the next room...FOREVER.

We were retiring for the night. Meagan went to get a pre-slumber drink. Suddenly I hear her call me to look at something. I join her in the dark kitchen, wondering what I'm supposed to be seeing. She tries to point something out, but I don't see anything. Then something moves. Quickly. She turns the light on, but it's already escaped to the dark underworld from whence it came.

"That," she said, "was a gigantic cockroach."

"...Neat!" said I, uncertain as to what else we should do at that point.

The answer? Wait for another visitation.

The next night I went out to the kitchen, in which I had fortuitously left a light on. And there he sat, perched atop our kitchen sink in all his glory.

His shiny-carapaced six-legged, holy-crap-that-is-a-big-cockroach glory.

You might be shouting "SMASH HIM!" at your computer right now. It's probably what I should have done. But something in me needed to preserve this moment. A mason jar was fetched. I comically tried to shoo the roach into it. Cartoon hilarity ensued.

Finally, I managed to trap the roach under my jar. He ran about its circumference for a moment, but then realized that he had no options left. He paused and looked at me.

At least I think he did. I didn't see his tiny little eyes or anything. Let's say he looked at me. It makes the moment more profound.

For some reason, I wanted him to live. Maybe it was the fact that I felt bad about chopping off one of his majestic antennae in the trapping process. The reason I told myself was that I needed to demonstrate the problem to my landlord, and that this would be an indisputable method of illustration.

Whatever the reason, I decided to turn the jar over and put a top on it. But it had to be something that would let him breathe. Roaches breathe, right? Probably!

I grabbed a piece of paper and secured it over the top of the jar. I watched as the roach tried to skitter up the sides, failing each time. He would right himself, scratch at the side, and then fall again. Surely, I thought, there's no way out. I punched a few air holes in the paper and went to bed.

The next morning, Meagan and I woke up. We went about our morning routine in a usual way, until I asked, "Say, did you see the jar on the counter?"

"Yeah," she replied, "I was meaning to ask you what was up with that."

"Is that not a gigantic roach?!" I enthused.

"...There....was no roach in that jar."

My blood ran chill.

"Oh no." I muttered. "He ESCAPED! AND HE'S MAD!"

I went to the kitchen to find that somehow, the cockroach had managed to not only reach the top of the jar, but to chew a hole through the paper I had affixed.

A big, cockroach-wide hole.

Truly these creatures will outlive us all.

Now for the odd part: Ever since the Day of the Empty Jar, we haven't seen this cockroach. My wife wanted to name him James, but I find the name a bit banal for such a survivor. Whatever he's done, he has managed to avoid my wrath. I like to think that he chewed through the paper and before escaping looked in the direction of my bedroom and said something to the effect of, "Nice try," but then, realizing that I would not be so kind next time, retreated, figuring that there were other kitchens out there, a whole frontier that was utterly unaware of his presence. These greener pastures, he thought, would be his home.

In reality, he probably found his way into my bag of flour and I'll someday find him and all his relatives. Who knows? The cockroach is a wily beast, full of surprise and mystery.

Tales from the Intermission: Chapter the Fourth

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In which the narrator catches you up on everything so this blog is in the present and can stop being broken into numbered chapters

The funny thing is that several of you are probably thinking that Meagan has been working all these past months at Lowe's. Well, here's the awful part: Shortly after I posted that blog about her interview series and everything (AND, may I add, after she had been given an established starting day), Lowe's decided not to hire Meagan. Everything involving them was a colossal waste of her time. We were a fair bit hacked off. But rather than fuss about it, we looked at our family needs and decided that this could be a blessing in disguise. Sure, we wouldn't make quite as much money, but there were other things Meagan could earn during the summer. Meagan laid out a rather intense curriculum for her few remaining independent study classes and decided to finish her degree before we move. We're proud to say that she will be taking her last three finals next week, finishing all classes she needed for her BA in political science. I'm incredibly proud of her for managing to finish up all of her classes (not to mention doing pretty well in them) while also taking care of Lydia at home. She's done amazing things.

As for me…well, I've been in the Wal-Mart temp program with a great group, but they weren't especially skilled at putting me to use. That is to say, I got a pretty good paycheck for surfing the internet. I was happy to work when it came around, but that wasn't as often as you would think. A few weeks into the position I actually scheduled a meeting with my manager to discuss the matter, and the best way my position was described was "like a service industry employee," who just stands around waiting, getting paid, until there is something for them to do. OK, then! It's given me plenty of time to work on some writing and some administration projects I needed to work on. I got paid to pursue hobbies! Unfortunately, you can only do that stuff for so long in a day, and so my time at my desk got pretty darned boring. I've been grateful for the job, but I'm not going to be very sad to move on.

Speaking of moving on, I don't think we ever actually talked about where we're going for med school. Short story: University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), College of Medicine, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Long story: By the time medical school interviews wound up, I had been accepted to UAMS and Case Western Reserve in Cleveland and I had been wait-listed at Vanderbilt and Wake Forest (I had also been wait-listed at Saint Louis University, but a bad interview experience made us want to avoid that so long as there were other options). We started to examine CWR vs. UAMS (I was personally holding out some hope for Vanderbilt, but alas! They never called me up off the waiting list), and found that both would offer me a pretty great medical school experience and that most of the quality of my education would come down to not where I went, but what I did when I got there. My education is in my hands. As such, we decided to go to UAMS, which offered several distinct advantages, including:

1. It's not in Cleveland!
2. It's significantly closer to both Meagan's family and my own
3. Little Rock has safer housing closer to the school
4. UAMS costs about 1/3 as much as CWR
5. UAMS gave me scholarships; CWR did not

So basically, we found very little reason to pick the stingy, expensive, Cleveland-based school when we had UAMS as an option.

Since deciding to go to UAMS, I have been awarded a 1/4 tuition scholarship for my first year. That's nice. But the most exciting thing at this point is the new house. In our marriage, Meagan and I have lived in three different apartments and one parents' basement. We've never rented a house before, but with child number 2 on the way and a third being likely to show up at some point during school, we thought that getting a three-bedroom house would be our best option. We found one that we were OK with and started putting the paperwork through…until we found a BETTER one. We quickly pulled out of the first deal and signed a contract with the second.
This place is about what you'd expect for people in our position. It's not awesomely nice, but it's well-kept and homey. Three beds, 1.5 baths, a large backyard (in which yardwork is taken care of for us!), and, perhaps my favorite part, it's only two blocks away from campus. I can come home and see my kids during my lunch break! We don't have to use the car! That's pretty great news! That is why I am using so many exclamation points!

Oh, and the monthly rent is under the budget we set, so that is also good times.

But we haven't spent our whole time in Bentonville working and looking forward to leaving. We figured that while we were here, we may as well do some stuff.

Meagan has spent the last few months as a church Activity Days leader for the eight- and nine-year-old girls in the ward, and I was called as the assistant Venture Scout leader (ages 16-17). We have both had great experiences working with the youth of our ward. Along the way, I got to substitute teach the 16-year-old Sunday School and teach a lesson or two to the priests, which was a great part of the calling.

Meagan has been working on building our new baby, and she's entered the uncomfortable stage of the third trimester. We've been blessed to have an incident-free pregnancy. Dang, have we even mentioned that the new baby is a girl? She is. We are pretty sure of this, as the ultrasound tech said that our baby was the easiest gender identification she'd made all week. Apparently we produce exhibitionist fetuses.

Lydia has very much enjoyed the attentions paid by her aunts and grandparents. We think it's going to be a rough transition to suddenly having just Mom and Dad…and THEN having them taken away by the new baby. I sense psychological scarring in the near future!

We have one week left here, and then we're on our way to Little Rock. We're excited, of course, but we have a slight case of the very common pre-moving jitters. A new chapter in our lives! Who knows what it will hold? The best we can do, I suppose, is realize we're in it together, join hands, and boldly move forward. Bentonville, it's been great. We have enjoyed you. But we're out of here.

Tales from the Intermission: Chapter the Third

In which a doting father shares anecdotes and tales of Lydia since we moved to Arkansas

So, today I am feeling a strange mix of boredom at work and pride in my progeny, so I think today is a good day to write up a post about much better my kid is than every other kid.


Lydia has tended to take her time with achieving certain milestones. She didn't crawl or walk quite on schedule, but when she started doing them she picked them up quickly. The same has been the case for talking. Lydia's started to pick up words all over the place. She understands a LOT of things we say, and knows how to go upstairs, downstairs, outside, to the car as well as how to identify her toys, including balls, hammers (don't ask), and a plethora of stuffed animals.

What she's not so good at, though? Enunciation. You have to sort of become a master of her language to understand, for example, whether she is referring to her bear ("boh"), a bird ("bih"), bed ("bee"), or a ball ("bah"). "Nana" can mean she wants a banana, that she wants to play the piano, or that she wants to hang out with Grandma. It's all about context clues, really, but if Grandma is eating a banana on the piano bench...well, the meaning would be nigh impossible to decode. Thankfully, Grandma has a strict no-peelable-fruit-near-the-keys policy, saving us all a world of confusion.

Other favorite words: "piz" (please), "pmpa" (Grandpa), "dazdie" (Daddy?), "dada" (The Cat in the Hat, for reasons we remain absolutely baffled about), "flowfuh" (flower), "bikka bikka" (book...?) and the all-powerful "up!" She also knows several animal sounds, including a Scandinavian dog, ("voof voof!"), an inquisitive French duck ("Qua qua qua!"), and an adorably gentle bear (she roars "Raaaah!" but does it in a very quiet, happily excited voice).

Of course, she still cuts loose with some good babblin' now and then. She should really be using real words by now, but I have to admit that it makes me laugh to hear her just wandering the halls and finding some syllable she likes and repeating it in different tones and volumes.

Books (Bikka bikka)

Of course, some of her best rambling comes when she sits down and reads to herself. Lydia has always been fond of books, and has generally proven herself to be quite capable of not ripping pages. As such, we're OK with her playing with her books. She'll just plop herself down, prop the book up in her lap, and start "reading" in a very authoritative tone. She is not just reading; she is sharing wisdom. She can do this, occasionally turning pages, for quite a while--sometimes up to an hour. The funny thing is that she actually DOES realize a few things. Even in books without pictures, she will always hold the book right-side-up. Even if you give it to her upside-down, she'll reverse it before she begins reading. Neat!


Lydia has sort of a love/hate relationship with beds. When we came to Arkansas, Meagan and I decided that rather than giving Lydia a crib, we would give her a "bed." The reason that's in quotes, you ask? Well, her bed technically consists of her crib mattress on the ground in our walk-in closet. That's right. Our baby sleeps in our closet. She has a story for the future!

The bed, however, hardly matters. Lydia has slept on her bed maybe once or twice since we came here. Most of the times we check on her at night, we find this:

The bed, I suppose, is just there for the feng shui.

So, I guess that's not HATE, per se, but it sure isn't love. The love element of beds, though, is a very special one for Lydia. She has made the magical discovery that Mom and Dad's bed (as well as Grandma and Grandpa's) is simultaneously bouncy, soft, and large. These attributes combined make a perfect playground. Lyddie can spend a long time just knocking herself over on the bed, flopping all over the place and trusting that all will be well. I am certain it's just a matter of time until she misjudges it and flies straight off the side. On the other hand, she just has so much fun doing it that it seems churlish to not allow it. She grins like a maniac the whole time. AND--this is important--it has gotten her to do an accidental somersault. If you have never seen one done on accident, you're missing out. The look of shock on the child's face at suddenly being on her back is just pricelessly hilarious.

Lydia likes attention generally, but when she's on the bed, she REQUIRES active involvement. She will stand in her proudest gymnastic pose and say, "Ah ha!" This, we've discovered, is her call to attention. If she "ah ha!"s and you aren't paying attention, she will walk over to you, and "ah ha!" in your face until you look up at her and repeat, "Ah ha!" She is then free to go about her business, NOW THAT SHE HAS YOUR ATTENTION, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Random Anecdotes

The other night Lydia was in a particularly whiny mood as we led her on her death march to her bedroom. Grandpa was heading the same direction and walked right behind the Whiny One as she was letting loose a mighty "enhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh." Grandpa thought it would be funny to do a (pretty much spot-on) imitation of the whine. Lydia, suddenly incensed, turns around and just shoves his shin with force equal to her indignity. Then, as though she realized that what she had just done was certainly not a good idea, she ran and took shelter behind her mother's legs. We're not sure if she was afraid of being punished or what, but Grandpa cracked up not just at the insolent spunk she showed, but also at the rapid transition to cowardice.

I am man enough to admit that I had a less-than-flattering nickname as a child. It was related bathtime activities. My father dubbed one-year-old me "The Mad Crapper." Apparently warm water worked its wiles on my bowels, and I was powerless against its persuasion. Now that you can no longer look me in the eye, I'll tell you about Lydia. Meagan and I have felt grateful that Lydia seems to have avoided the nickname her father was once saddled with. Her bathtimes generally go unsoiled. In fact, it only happened one time in her first year: on Mother's Day when I was getting her ready for church. That lovely May morning became a horrific nightmare as Lydia cut loose in the tub. And, of course, it fell to Daddy to clean it up. JOY. As Mother's Day approached this past May, I grew fearful. Lydia's record had been clean after the Mother's Day Movement...but what if she decided to strike again? Meagan assured me it was just my persecution complex kicking in. Mother's Day came. I bathed Lydia. Lydia crapped the tub. OK, that was hilarious. But the REALLY funny part is that she was TERRIFIED of what had happened. She just FREAKED OUT in the funniest possible way. She cowered at the far end of the tub, as far away from the floaters as she could manage. I cannot help but think that this will leave scars. Oh, and the best part? It happened AGAIN the next day. She has hated baths ever since.

Lydia turned 18 months old in February, and in the LDS Church, that meant she was now eligible to attend Nursery! Meagan and I were pretty excited about the prospect of a few baby-free months of Sunday School. Lydia, as it turned out, was not. She HATED Nursery. She flipped out and would often had to be returned to Meagan. Sometimes she would settle enough to stay, but it was a nervous fist-sucky kind of settled that lasted only until one of us picked her up, at which point she got really clingy and, presumably fearing further abandonment, would not unlatch from Meagan's shoulder. During stake conference, she flipped out when we stood up to sing the intermediate hymn because she figured it was now time to go to nursery. She did it AGAIN during the closing hymn of the same conference, just SURE that Nursery was only moments away. As time went on, though, she grew to accept Nursery and has since embraced it. She now leads Meagan by the hand down to the Nursery room after sacrament meetings, and plays happily (mostly by stealing other kids' toys, the little bully (OK, parenthetical anecdote: One time the Nursery leader gave each of the kids a toy egg. Lydia went around and stole everyone else's egg until she had a collection sufficient for her wants.)) until we come and get her.

Lydia tends to be more of a snacker than a meal-eater. Dinner is the worst. We practically have to force food down her throat in the evening. So after a while of just sitting at her high chair watching us eat, she gets bored and Mom lets her down. At this point, she delightedly runs to Grandma, who has mastered the art of eating dinner with a child in her lap and welcomes a bit of company. Lydia will then sit in her lap for the remainder of the meal and--this is the weird part--plays salad dressing games. We are honestly not sure what's going on in her head, but Lydia will get all of the salad dressings on the table in front of her, and she will then move them around, examine them, arrange them in different ways, and generally just be a total weirdo for the rest of the meal. If you need to use one of the salad dressings, she'll let you, but she'll whine at you while you have it. I have yet to see her voluntarily get down from this activity, so I can only presume that, if we allowed it, she would do it until she fell asleep at the table.

In short, Lydia is well on her way to being one sassy broad. We adore her.