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January 23, 2011

We Ascend Mount Olympus

It all started when Grandma Molly gave Aimee one of those -ology books. Perhaps you've seen the series: Wizardology, Dragonology, Monsterology... Molly gave Aimee Mythology, which forms a beautiful scrapbook exploration of the Greek Myths around the story of Lord Byron's travels in Greece. (We've recently supplemented with the wonderful D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths from the library.)

Aimee's had the book from Molly for more than a year, and Adelaide has dipped in and out of it occasionally, but a few months ago, the stories started to stick, and our imagination games have been entirely devoted to enacting stories of the Greek gods, goddesses, monsters and heroes. Typically, Adelaide takes on the role of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, the forest, and baby animals, while I play Hermes, god of messengers, thieves, and doctors.

It varies as to Adelaide's mood, of course. If she was always the same goddess, then she wouldn't have an excuse to put on different costumes. In addition to all the gowns, dresses, crowns, jewelry and props she pulls from her own closet, Adelaide has discovered the joy of stealing Mama's shoes. Of late, when she stumbles into the room in her burgundy gown-white vest combo, carrying a black plastic billy club and sporting a pair of Aimee's high heels, I can expect the first words out of her mouth to be "Papa, which goddess do I look like?"

And of course, it's all getting a little jumbled up in her not-quite-five-year-old-head. Gods, goddesses, Santa Claus, and figures from folk tales all roil around together. If it snows, she chatters about Jack Frost, but if it's just cloudy, she presumes that Zeus is riding the clouds around. The other day she pointed at our Paul and Babe salt and pepper shakers and asked, "Is Hercules stronger than Paul Bunyan?" Without being told, she somehow knows that Jesus, Mary and Joseph are on a different level, but when her Sunday School lesson was about Noah building the ark, she happily exclaimed, "And then Poseidon rose up the waves and drowned the world!"

Last weekend, we finally had decent snow-man snow, so I erected two majestic figures, which Adelaide decorated as Zeus and Hera (You'll recognize Zeus on the left by his crown and beard, while Hera weeps gold and blue tears "because she's such a great queen").

January 14, 2011

Memorable Weekend, Already

It's Friday night.

And although we'd not planned an official date, Joel and I were looking forward to a nice, healthy co-parenting winter weekend here in Iowa City, wherein neither of us had to work, wherein we take the kids to the pool and the library, wherein we'd do a little housekeeping and extravagant grocery shopping.

Well, the best laid plans and all that, we're having a bit of a different weekend.

After a solo trip to the Emergency Room, I have a broken coccyx incurred after slipping on a iced, downhill sidewalk while walking Ophelia and Adelaide in the picturesque Friday night snowfall.

We'll be icing, Ibuprofening, and generally walking around moaning and groaning this weekend ...

What a bone to break for one's very first broken bone. It hurts like hell, but we're still giggling. Please send cookies.

January 6, 2011

Twelfth Night

It's Twelfth Night here at Chez Miron.

Let the record clearly state that this Christmastide is the one in which Adelaide first loved the "Twelve Days of Christmas" carol. Ah, the repetition of it all, the lengthy-ness of it all, and mostly, the Muppets of it all ...

Hence, we've been discussing and chatting and singing and naming all of the Days of Christmas as they've passed, and now that we've arrived at "Twelve Drummers Drumming," well, we anglophiles just couldn't let Twelfth Night go without at least a little bit of hubbub.

To celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings at the cradle of the Baby Jesus, Adelaide and I whipped up a King Cake before naptime today.

I wrinkle my nose a bit at puff pastry and marzipan, so we've (cleverly) combined the traditions of the 12th night of Christmas and one our favorite January cakes: Pineapple-Upside Down Cake (from the Best Recipe cookbook, which - if you don't have - you're the Fool of the Misrule)

Crowned with golden slices of sweet pineapple and ruby-colored cherries, our King Cake holds a secret better than the cake's crumb. Snuggled inside the cake is a "gold piece" or a Washington Dollar Coin, and it has been decreed that whosoever shall pull the gold piece from his or her slice of cake shall be rightwise King of the Misrule. Until bedtime.

Tonight, after two pieces of cake, Adelaide was the King of the Misrule. How fitting.

January 1, 2011

Fantasy football and F. Scott

In his self-confessional essay "The Crack-Up", F. Scott Fitzgerald began with the following:

Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation - the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.

I love me some F. Scott, but I would suggest that his test sets too low of a threshold. I have strong evidence that fairly average intelligences hold two opposed ideas simultaneously. These people are all around us, they are the salt of the earth, they play fantasy football and I am one of them.

I have played fantasy football since it became a basic function of the internet about 15 years ago. (I actually played one season, perhaps 1992, during the dark days when commissioners compiled stats and scores pulled from the pages of newspapers' sports sections.) Aimee took it up as a hobby early in our marriage, and since then it has annually helped to connect us to family and friends. A certain spicy subtext is added to conversations of the feeding and diapering of children and grandchildren by the knowledge that the Fierce Pajamas just lost to Grumpy D's MVPs by a near margin.

I usually manage two teams, which is about 0.25 more teams than I can effectively handle, depending on how busy I am. While walking the dog and commuting I enjoy two sports podcasts (Slate's and Bill Simmons'), neither of which are devoted to fantasy or professional football. I mostly manage my team during moments snatched at work. I am probably, at best, an average football fantasist. This year, in my two leagues, I have one team in last place and am vying for the championship with the other.

These two opposite results are emblematic of how fantasy football frustrates and entertains me. One has the illusion of control in choosing players, analyzing match-ups and forming a team, but football games are much more variable than other sports. A superstar running back can in certain situations be the least valuable player on your team while a player on your bench can outscore most of your starters. It also seems like the randomness has only increased in the past few years as teams adopt more complex offenses with interchangeable parts. Increasingly, fantasy football is a crapshoot.

I tell myself this as I survey my last place team. "Bad luck all around," I mutter. My roster is littered with sure-fire players that wound up injured or on underperforming teams. Weeks when my guys came together and put up some points, my opponent often had multiple players with superstar performances. And so it went.

Then I click over to my other team, playing for the championship this week, matched up head to head against my brother-in-law Charles (who doesn't follow football and picks his players based on what the experts at ESPN project for them and whether he likes their names), and I smile with satisfaction. "Well done, Joel. You really managed this team like a pro. Definitely found the right matchups and picked up some great players." If I vanquish Charles today, if Tim Tebow (a backup that I picked up out of sheer desperation to replace a sure-fire veteran quarterback who was benched for incompetence) continues to catch fire and racks up 20 points, if this patchwork assemblage of misfits and cast offs (to get technical for the other fantasists out there, no player on my starting roster was drafted in the first round, 60% were acquired from the waiver wire) triumphs over Charles' semi-random squad, I will be confirmed in my opinion that the best manager won.

And I'm not alone. A lot of things in life are more reliant on luck than we're willing to admit. Perhaps if we acknowledged the randomness of our success or failure it would damage us. Or we'd have to seek solace from religion. On Thursday I had lunch with Dr. Fatima, a faculty candidate who was a devout Muslim. When I asked her about the process of getting a job, she repeatedly emphasized that she was leaving It All in God's hands while also striving and working hard for the best outcome.

I have never felt the need for divine intervention for fantasy football, but I guess I'm in a similar dual mind-set as Dr. Fatima. To mangle Scott, we fantasists see that our draft picks are hopeless and yet are determined to make our teams champions.

Update: Thanks to a great performance by Tim Tebow (who in real football terms actually had a pretty bad game), the Botched Autopsies overcame The Zeppo in a close match. Exactly as I planned it, man I'm good!