The IRS was kind to us

Yes, that was my letter from the IRS.

I misfiled our tax extension. My husband, who is hilarious, wrote a letter to the IRS asking for clemency due to new-baby-induced Jello Brain. The IRS, who are apparently also hilarious, quoted him in their response.

I scanned the letter and he put it on Facebook. It went viral.

That afternoon during a lull in the daily baby-management, I hopped on Reddit to post the letter and discovered that someone had put it up hours earlier. Our funny IRS letter was now at the top of Reddit’s front page.

Over 1,800 people left comments and opinions. Everyone was pretty nice and we enjoyed the discussion. Some IRS employees even chimed in, talking about their jobs and lives.

This is the nature of the Internet. Something strikes a chord in our collective subconscious, and we share it with ourselves at the speed of thought.

I think we are all a little afraid of the IRS.

They seem to speak a slightly different language. They use phrases like: “A nonbusiness bad debt must be treated as a short-term capital loss” and look at us expectantly.

Every year they make us do math. They know our financial secrets, and they remind us that our money will be spent by people we probably didn’t elect, on things we might not like.

They could put us in jail. They took down Al Capone.

As a result, people yearn for a bit of humor from the IRS. I think any reminder that the government is made of people who are themselves parents and taxpayers is welcome news.

Anything to break the tension.

Tube Food

My young daughter is eating solid food. She has two lower teeth, which she uses to great effect, scraping away like a reverse-squirrel. This is an exciting time for my husband and I, since we get to share some of our favorite foods with her. We also get to see these favorite foods converted into sneeze-splatter and spread across the front of our work shirts. Know this: Bibs are not just for infants.

After a few weeks of experimenting with toddler-cuisine, I’ve changed the way I shop for groceries. Instead of perusing the shelves of my local organic butcher, thinking “hmm would this hanger steak would be good pan-seared with truffle salt?”, I now think things like: “I wonder what other tube-shaped food this Safeway carries?” and, “Oh wow, you could really get a grip on those cheese sticks.”

As a freshly-minted Bay Area foodie, Elizabeth is more pencil sharpener than connoisseur.

As a freshly-minted Bay Area foodie, Elizabeth is more pencil sharpener than connoisseur. We hand her a Morningstar Farms veggie sausage when she wakes up, and listen for the high pitched buzzing sound as she fragments it into a light rain of sausage-shavings which patter to the floor. We then lift our soy-sawdust covered child out of the highchair, shake her up and down, and deposit her back in the living room where she carries out her daily experiments.

Bagels are her favorite. Despite its mammoth size, a cinnamon-raisin bagel is easy to grip in both hands and wave around. After a few minutes eating the proportional equivalent of a telephone pole, she holds the bagel over her head and shrieks in delight, praising her sky-gods for the gift of carbohydrates.

she holds the bagel over her head and shrieks in delight, praising her sky-gods

At the end of a long day’s eating, it has been my distinct pleasure to discover bagel parts at the bottom of my bra, where they have been covertly deposited by Elizabeth during one of her periods of arm-waving and violent twisting. I believe she has come to view my cleavage as some sort of pantry for the deposit and withdrawal of delicious food items. Rather than admitting defeat and covering my lingerie with contact paper, I’ve decided to try and interest her in vegetables, which I hope will be gentler and more refreshing in the knockers-region.

Things that now qualify as “me time”

My commute to work
Taking a shower
The three block walk to return my library books
Leaning on my similarly exhausted husband and staring vacantly at something on a screen


**UPDATE** I just finished Tina Fey’s new book Bossypants and was put to shame by her fantastic list of “Me Time” activities. I totally forgot to mention “Say you’re going to look for the diaper crème, then go into your child’s room and just stand there until your spouse comes in and curtly says, ‘What are you doing?’”

Go buy her book.

Parenthood by Percentages

image courtesy of Thorne Enterprises

In case anyone is interested in the relative effects of a New Baby, I ran a few numbers this morning.

-65% Cussing
-50% Cups of Coffee Consumed
-98% Cups of Coffee Consumed While Still Warm
-98% Alcohol Consumed Before Childbirth
+98% Alcohol Consumed After Childbirth
+50% Loads of Laundry/Week
+100% Loads of Laundry Involving Poo
+350% Smiles from Strangers
+60% Visitors
+300% Visits to Library
+10% Upper Body Strength (12 pound weight)
+75% Breast Size
+30% Body Size
-5% Brain Size
-50% Sleep
-100% Uninterrupted Sleep
+200% Jokes About Sleep
+200% Jokes About Poo
+50% Actual Poo
+10% Unsolicited Advice
-10% Need For Unsolicited Advice per Weekly Age of Infant
+3000% Life/Injury Insurance
+25% Ominous Feeling That Adulthood Has Arrived
+100% Heart-stopping Baby Smiles

How to stop using paper towels

Chuck works on motorcycles, and I’m a kitchen clean freak. We used to go through a shameful amount of paper towels. Like, buy in bulk, hate-the-earth, bulldoze-Costa-Rica amounts.

librarian canvas bagThen my friend Skud gave me a great idea. I cut up a cheap jersey sheet I had kicking around (those things pill up in about 5 washes, FYI) and I sliced up a couple conference t-shirts. We now have a canvas bag full of washcloth-sized fabric squares hanging in the kitchen.

This provides an endless amount of cleaning rags for just about any job.
They are washable, bleachable, and nearly indestructible. You can run them through the wash and re-use them, or if they are gross, just toss them into the compost.

It’s a great way to re-use otherwise disposable fabrics, and they are cheaper and more sturdy than paper towels.

Take that, Brawny!

Happy Fathers Day

This is my dad, the best joker in the world.

Who else would dance to “Re: Your Brains” (Jonathan Coulton’s Zombie song) at his daughter’s wedding?

My dad, the legally blind man who taught me to drive a stick shift.

This is the guy who plopped me in front of a VIC-20 when I was 5 years old and taught me LOGO.

He kept Adobe font catalogs and WIRED magazine around the house, inspiring a lifelong love of design and geekery.

I owe him most of my bad jokes, and all of my pedanticism.

It’s a good life. Thanks Dad!

Stay right there.

My parents visited this weekend, bringing birthday presents with them. As usual, these gifts were thoughtful, appropriate, kind, and Extremely Heavy.

It all started in a few years ago. I had recently moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan for graduate school, and had increased my distance from “home” by about 30 minutes. Ever-supportive, my parents would pile in the car on weekends and we would all have lunch at Zingermans. However, the holidays revealed an unusual pattern. Instead of the usual paperbacks and gift certificates, I started receiving Very Heavy Things. A leaded glass picture frame weighing about 15 pounds. Hardbacked reference books. Anvils.

My latest move to Ithaca has upped the ante. The trip is now eight hours long, and for my birthday this year I received a pair of six ton jack stands and an iron tea kettle. I suspect this will be followed by an armoire and a set of shotputs.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my parents are slowly building an anchor. Soon I will be forced to remain, tethered to my home by a series of carefully-placed items too heavy to fit in the moving van.

Visiting Michigan

This weekend I was in Michigan taking care of family. On my way out of town I visited my friend Chuck, who has recently purchased a Very Fast Motorcycle. Detroit cops seem to have better things to do than pull over speeding motor city kids, so we were able to get some riding in.

Right now, I find the following things equally therapeutic:

Petting Clay and Mike’s rabbit*

Doing 100 mph on a dark road with the visor up

Getting in a really good Tango with a strong lead who brushes his teeth**

* The dog rabbit. He hops up to you and demands to be petted. The more you squish his face and pull his ears the happier he gets. I’m serious. This is a really good bunny.

** This hasn’t happened in ages. Volunteers accepted.