Thursday, December 27, 2007

She of a Hundred Fathers

We are having an odd little problem with the kid. One thing we have learned about two-year-olds is that they often misinterpret or misunderstand stuff. I mean, she is learning about the world around her at lightning pace so you have to cut her a little slack, right? We can live with the fact that she calls potatoes "botatoes" and volcanoes "bolcanoes." (Don't ask me why she has the constant need to talk about bolcanoes, but she does.) But what we are having a harder time handling is the fact that she calls strangers "Mommy" and "Daddy." Somewhere along the way she seems to have decided that all adults can be called by these general titles. Women "of a certain age" get called Grandma.

She just seems to have weird ideas in her head. If you are wearing a dress or skirt, you are a princess. If you have something on your head, it's your birthday. If you are an adult male, you are Daddy. Convincing A otherwise is proving to be quite a challenge. Now, she knows that all these strangers are not her parents. She calls us Mama and Dada. But the strangers don't know that. The other day at Toys R Us we were exchanging a DVD. She handed the new DVD to the store manager who was handling our exchange. "Here you go, Daddy!" she said cheerfully. This type of exchange (which is becoming painfully common in our daily lives) is typically followed by some nervous smiles/laughter/confusion. Sometimes I try to explain and other times I just pretend I didn't hear her.

Explaining familial relationships is another challenge. When we visited my parents last month, I tried to explain to A that her Granddaddy is my Dad. She got mad and insisted that no, he's HER father. Obviously she is far too young to understand how creepy and disturbing that particular scenario would be.

For now I guess she will continue to call strangers by awkwardly intimate titles and her actual parents will just pray that this phase is mercifully short. Of course, there are days when her toddler behavior is such that for just a moment, I am tempted to hand her over to the next person she dubs Daddy and offer to send child support.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Chaos

It's all over but the shouting. This was A's third Christmas and she definitely got into it this year, even if she didn't exactly understand everything that went on (she kept asking Santa for goofy stuff like candy canes, not realizing she could ask for something more elaborate and have a good chance at getting it). As usual my mom went way overboard and sent a gazillion gifts (including a princess flashlight, which was a huge hit). The kid was on overload all day on Christmas. As usual she refused to nap and by late afternoon she was so tired that she was delirious (I think she may have been hallucinating and speaking in tongues at that point).

We had four days of family togetherness (including one snowstorm that prevented us from leaving the house altogether). At some point A started singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" which is great except that she always misses a line. After "and they shouted out with glee" she goes back to "then one foggy Christmas Eve . . ." This essentially means that she was caught in an infinite loop. The song went on for several days.

The kid also participated in her first stage production on Sunday - a Christmas play at church. She played an elf (an elf who wanders around aimlessly, apparently). I don't think she full understood that she was IN the play, as she kept wandering off the stage and shouting "Hi, Mama!" periodically. Nonetheless, I have to say that she was an excessively cute elf.

We are still struggling to find room in A's bedroom for all of her new stuff. Santa, who doesn't have a lot of foresight sometimes, bought her a Go, Diego, Go rescue center. (P set aside some of his tips from his bartending job and went shopping all by himself like a big boy!) Anything with a lot of pieces and/or Play-Doh went straight to the top of her closet. (Yes, I will let her play with them, but only under close supervision.)

I have another four-day weekend coming up for New Year's, which means more togetherness (and more attempts at housebreaking our child). I need to de-Christmasify the house, too. I just have no tolerance for Christmas stuff once the day itself has passed. I also need to move out all the sweets and stuff. I need to weigh in at Weight Watchers on Saturday and I have a feeling that it ain't gonna be pretty.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Housebreaking, Day 1

We gave up on telling her that Mrs. Potato Head's glasses are only for Mrs. Potato Head.

I can't say that Day 1 was exactly a rousing success. I did manage to drag myself to a Weight Watchers meeting yesterday morning, so that's one noteworthy accomplishment for the day. There were only about 10 people there. I predict that after New Year's the joint will be standing room only.

After Weight Watchers I took A to a local book store for story time. She lasted through about two or three stories and then wandered off to poop her pants (this always happens - I don't know if it's that her body is well regulated or if there is something about the bookstore that gets her bowels moving). I decided to buy her a potty book. I chose one that shows human kids (as opposed to ducks and other animals that were sitting on the potty in some of the books) in case that might somehow inspire her.

On the way home she was "reading" the book in the backseat. I stopped at a light and out of the corner of my eye I saw the book hit the floor. I had the distinct impression that she had pitched it. I said, "Pie, did you just throw that book or did you accidentally drop it?" She looked at me very solemnly and replied, "I accidentally threw it." I didn't really have a response for that one.

After dinner we took off her diaper and followed her around the house with her toilet. We asked her about 4,789 times if she needed to go potty. She held her output until 8 p.m., at which time we needed to go ahead and get her in her pajamas and put her to bed. The only thing we really accomplished is that this little exercise taught us that the kid is technically capable of controlling her bodily functions.

We'll keep plugging away at it, but I think we have a rough road ahead of us. At the end of the day I'm usually left with this vague feeling that I've lost the battle AND the war.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Le Chuck de La Cheese

Yesterday I did another one of those "things I said I'd never do." I took the kid to Chuck E. Cheese. A's daycare closed early yesterday so I took a 1/2 day off. First we hit the food court at the mall for lunch. She made me sit at one of those miniature tables meant for kids (because, well, she is one). She sat in one chair, Teddy Bear sat in another chair, and I was instructed to sit in the remaining chair. We had a nice little lunch. I had it in the back of my head that I would take her to Chuck E. Cheese if she exhibited good behavior, but decided not to tell her about it until I had witnessed a sufficient amount of said behavior.

Near the food court some kids from a local school were collecting for the Salvation Army. The school specializes in educating kids who have developmental disabilities (I apologize if that is not the correct terminology). I gave A a couple dollars to give them and one of the girls gave her a sucker and wished her a Merry Christmas. You know what I think is so cool about little kids? They don't yet notice that other people are different. I don't know when that sort of thing expires, but it definitely does. I wish it didn't.

We then stopped at Gymboree and picked up a Christmas dress off the clearance rack (she already has a Christmas dress at home, but then I realized that she has more holiday events coming up than one dress can possibly accommodate). Finally we made a quick stop at Yankee Candle, where the flamboyant male manager praised me on my choice of the "red apple wreath" scent and then tried to sell me everything from a car freshener to kindling. The thing is, if I wanted any of those things, I would have brought them to the counter. That's kinda how it works.

When we got to the car, I asked the kid, "Guess where we're going?" She said, "The store." So I said, "No . . . CHUCK E. CHEESE!" Well, she screamed as joyfully as if I'd just said we were boarding a flight to Disney World right that second.

As it turns out, 2:00 p.m. on a weekday is probably the best time to hit the joint. There was no one there. In fact, when we got there the manager was playing a game and it took several minutes to get his attention (we couldn't just wander in - we had to get our hands stamped in case someone would try to abduct me and separate me from my daughter while we were there).

So, $10.00 and 127 hard-earned tickets later I had a happy kid who in turn had: a sugar buzz, a monstrous pink plastic ring, four Tootsie Rolls, and a "fun dip" candy.

All in all, it was a good afternoon. Our "mother-daughter-togetherness" glow started to dissipate shortly after our return home, however. Her refusal to take a nap + too many sweets + too much stimulation = complete and utter breakdown. I told her I needed to change her diaper, so she ran from me and fell, slamming her head into the metal aquarium stand. The rest of the evening proceeded in the same vein, until she demanded her 457th viewing of Shrek 2. I would rather gnaw off my own arm than watch Shrek 2 again, what are you gonna do?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Being a kid - it's all good

Yesterday I took the kid to a local museum to see a Christmas exhibit currently on display. Apparently a local department store (which closed long before we moved here) was known for having amazing window displays during the holiday season. The museum has custody of all the old stuff and trots it out every year. There are all sorts of animatronic dolls and animals. I figured the kid would dig it, so we stopped by.

When we got there the no-nonsense lady at the front desk told me that it would be $4.00 for me and that the short one is a "free child." I said, "Oh yeah, she's a free child alright," and the lady just looked at me like I was a jackass.

So anyway, we climbed the stairs to the second floor where the Christmas displays live. I hadn't told A that Santa Claus would be there. I thought he was supposed to be there from 12-3 but I hadn't talked it up just in case I'd gotten the time wrong or something. A saw the window displays right away and was pointing at stuff and demanding that I follow her.

And then she saw him. It was one of those priceless moments of childhood that you wish you had on video. She stopped in her tracks, wide-eyed, and jumped up and down, practically vibrating with excitement. "SAAAAANTAAAAAA!" As luck would have it, this was a pretty good Santa (real beard and all). She sat in his lap for a few moments and then he gave her a candy cane pencil (which I eventually confiscated - I don't really want her putting her eye out this close to Christmas).

Santa asked her what she wanted and she couldn't come up with anything. Does this mean my kid is spoiled? What kind of kid can't come up with a single toy she wants? Preferably one that comes with 150 pieces and decals, is made in China, has a moderate amount of lead, and takes a month of Sundays for her parents to put together?

Oh, I almost forgot Bruce the Spruce. This was another featured exhibit at the museum. Bruce the Spruce is a large artificial tree that talks. Don't tell anyone, but I figured out the secret. There is a person inside the tree. I immediately noticed that the person voicing Bruce yesterday has, in all likelihood, a vagina. It was kinda creepy to hear a chick's voice coming out of a Spruce named Bruce. So we didn't linger too long there. The kid didn't really get the whole concept anyway.

Friday, December 14, 2007

No, I'm pretty sure I smell it . . .

An add-on to yesterday's blog entry . . .

I'd like to describe last evening for you. P was working, so it was just me and the kid (plus the dogs and everyone else who lives here). I have a food day at work today, so we made brownies together. At some point A decided that she'd like to have a go at the potty. She stripped down and sat on the potty for a little while, shredding toilet paper and just generally making a mockery of the whole process. Because I am a lunatic, I decided to put some Dora "big girl" panties on her in lieu of a diaper. I repeatedly reminded her that her bodily waste goes in her potty and not on Dora.

Then she decided that she'd like to play with some Play-Doh. This particular activity keeps her occupied longer than just about anything else, so I decided that it wasn't the worst idea I'd ever heard. I'd do some cleaning, and she'd grind Play-doh into the carpeting in her room. A win-win!

I recently learned, however, that my Boxer, Gideon, eats Play-Doh. Not wanting to separate A from her potty, I put it in her room and put a baby gate across the door to keep Giddy out. For a short while, it appeared that my plan was working like a charm. She has a CD player in her room so I even popped in a Christmas CD for her.

After a few minutes I checked on her. She was sculpting pizza with her Play-Doh. Then I noticed that she had drawn her legs up under her body and was sitting on her feet, which I found a bit odd. Something was wrong, oh so . . . wrong.

"Did you pee in your Dora underwear?"

And then I smelled it. Oh, no. Oh, yes. I lifted her up and saw half a dozen little turdlets on her blue plastic chair. The rest were still in her panties.

I mean, technically, she was correct. She had indeed NOT peed. But somehow this seemed so much worse.

I put her in a diaper and proceeded to clean up the mess. I scrubbed out her underwear as Harry Connick crooned "When My Heart Finds Christmas." I mean, holiday moments don't get any more special than that.

Right at that moment, Karl started carrying on at the back door. Karl is my big, black, fluffy dog. He loves wintertime and often stays outside for a little while. I opened the sliding glass door to find that he was tangled in some garden fencing and had dragged the entire fence to the door with him.

So yeah, that was my evening. I hope you can contain your envy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"You do not smell poop"

Last night I was buzzing around the house, putting away laundry and whatnot. We were getting ready to take the kid to the mall to see Santa. I was laying out A's Christmas dress as she was playing with some of her Dora toys. All of a sudden she looked at me and randomly said, in a very authoritative voice, "Mama, you do NOT smell poop."

Technically, she was correct. I had not yet picked up the aroma. But what's with the Jedi mind trick? Apparently I was supposed to reply (in a robotic monotone, of course), "I do not smell poop," and go on my merry way. Nope, nobody here has crapped their pants. No sireeeee!

Little does she know, I am planning to work on potty-training her over Christmas and New Year's (I have two four-day weekends in a row so I'm hoping to have some spare time for once). I bought a potty-training book, which I am reading at a feverish pace. I bought her a book about poop (Everyone Poops), which she studies nightly. We have the potty itself. We have reward stickers. We have everything we need except for a truthful kid. ("Did you poop?" "No.") Wish me luck.

By the way, the Santa visit went off without a hitch! A wore her pretty Christmas dress. She hopped in Santa's lap, gave him a high-five, chatted with him, and accepted two large candy canes from the guy in red. We paid $40 for a couple of photos, the kid guarded the candy canes with her life, and we were on our way within minutes. This event was in stark contrast to last year's Santa visit, where our screaming toddler (then only 1 1/2) screamed as though St. Nick had tried to saw off her legs with a rusty blade. Falalalalalala!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

It's Cute When It's Sleeping

Look at that face, will ya? All day long she drives us to the very edge of our sanity and then when she is sleeping we think, "Well, how cute is she?" Is this one of those "what prevents us from eating our young" deals? Yesterday she slammed doors, harassed the dogs, pitched 18 tantrums, made us watch Shrek 2 over and over, dumped out her toys everywhere and yet . . . we let her live another day.

Celebrating another day of wreaking havoc

On an unrelated note . . . last night I dreamt that I got trapped in a men's restroom. I was in a building somewhere and needed to use the facilities. Somehow I turned into the men's room instead of the ladies' room. It turned out that the men's room was this huge labyrinth of unending passageways. I kept asking for help and random men would point the way out, but it would only lead me to another row of stalls. At one point I turned a corner and found a group of men huddled together performing some sort of ritual. I guess my unconscious mind doesn't know what goes on in men's rooms, so it made stuff up. (Well, there was that one time I peed in a men's room in a gay bar in DC, but that's a story for another day.) In the dream I never did make it out of the men's room. What does it all mean????

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pocket Full of Posies . . . I Mean, Hard Liquor

Boy, sometimes the material just writes itself. My middle sister works in social services for the county in which she lives. Her exact job title is Human Service Worker II, which does leave itself open to interpretation. She either gives bee-jays or she helps people in need obtain government benefits - I always forget which. Anyway, for a staff meeting this week she was asked to report on a new product called Pocket Shots. She asked me if I had heard of them, and alas, I had not. I asked my fellow cubicle dwellers at work, and they were not familiar with them either. Our cluelessness could have something to do with the fact that we are all 30+, married, have young children, are boring, etc. Apparently the teenagers in my state know allllll about the Pocket Shots, however, hence the need for a report from the trenches. My sister and her fellow human service workers need to know what they're dealing with here.

If you check out the website for "Flask on the Fly" you'll notice some impressive marketing tactics there. My favorite quote is this one from the developer of this fine product: “We’re not just selling alcohol, we’re providing a fun and functional way to break out of the bottle that fits with an active and on-the-go lifestyle,” states Bachmann.

So, let's recap, shall we? What do busy people and sports enthusiasts need in their day? Hard liquor. Booze. Hooch. And they don't have time to stop for it either. They need convenient packaging and they need it now! Another page on the site gives you a list of activities during which you might need a Pocket Shot. My favorite entry is: swimming. I see that all the time at my local Y: people stop between laps, down a shot of rum, and keep on backstroking. The name of the product (Pocket Shots) seems to indicate that you keep said product in your, um, pocket. I started to think about where a swimmer might store a shot and my head nearly exploded.

I like to keep my liquor on the up-and-up, thankyouverymuch. None of this surreptitious crap for me. Hiding liquor makes you . . . an alcoholic, doesn't it? It's not even a step up from drinking cheap booze out of a paper bag. C'mon, have a little pride.

Monday, December 3, 2007

This Thing We Call Christmas

I'm feeling a little weird about Christmas this year. And yet, I'm excited because the season of giving and good cheer is upon us, and it's very cool to watch a two-year-old seeing it all anew (she doesn't remember last year, I'm sure).

To back up a bit . . . just over a year ago we left our old church. We attended a Congregational Church. The pastor was charismatic and the people there were nice. And yet . . .

There were three (or more) incidents along the way that caused me to flee.

1. One Sunday I was driving to church and noticed that the driver in front of me was trying to pass the car in front of him. This was a two-lane road and you're definitely not supposed to pass on it. I watched this guy fly through a stop sign and finally careen around the car in front of him (on a double-yellow line, no less). I kept thinking, "Wow, what a dick." And then I thought, "Oh geez, I'll bet he is headed to my church." Sure enough, he pulled into the parking lot just ahead of me (because terrorizing that other driver had earned him about five seconds extra). I didn't know this man but I did note that he was older and it occurred to me that he had probably been reading the Bible for many decades . . . and had learned a whole lot of nothing from it, apparently.

2. On another Sunday the sermon was given by a member of the choir (the pastor was out of town). He wasn't much of a speaker, but I did take note of one thing he said: "You can't pick and choose which parts of the Bible you believe." Ooops. Don't get me wrong - I think the Bible is an amazing document. The parables therein are full of important lessons. But, I rejected a literal interpretation of the Bible when I was a kid. Otherwise, I'd be taking up serpents and drinking poison. ("They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them." Mark 16:17-18). I love the story of Noah but at the same time it does require a willing suspension of disbelief, you know? (seriously, two of EVERY species fit on that boat????)

3. Finally, there was yet another Sunday when I found myself disturbed by the goings-on. Some of the kids from the congregation did a little skit about "sharing the good news of salvation." Towards the end, one of the girls dragged a non-believer off to Hell. The non-believer was yelling, "Why didn't you tell me? I could've been saved!" My beef with the skit was that if everyone who doesn't accept Jesus as their savior is going to Hell, what about the Buddhists, the Hindus, etc? I don't want my kid to think that those people are going to burn for all eternity. I'm not even sure I believe there is a Heaven and a Hell. I'm not even sure why I am capitalizing them!

Shortly after leaving that church, A and I started attending our local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Immediately I felt like I was in the right place. P does not go to church with us. I told him that he is welcome to attend a church of his choosing and that we can take turns bringing the kid. He doesn't seem interested. I don't bug him about coming to church with us - I want him to go because he wants to and not because I say, "Get up, we're going to church."

So, why am I feeling weird? One reason is that I can't look my daughter in the eye and say, "This I know is true." Because I don't know. All I can really do for her is take her to a place where she will have an opportunity to learn about many faith traditions (in her Sunday school class she gets to learn about everything from Judaism to Hinduism . . . but mostly she just colors and plays). If she grows up and wants to attend a strictly Christian church, I'm all for it. Why? Because I just want her to believe in something greater than herself (like God and working for social justice and banding together to help those who need help). The only thing I would have a problem with is if she turned out to be one of those nutjobs waving "God hates fags" posters at public events. I think I would probably disown her for something like that (cut her off from her massive inheritance, don't ya know). But, I am trying to raise her to be a free thinker and I can't really see her heading down such a narrow path.

The other reason is simply that I feel a bit hypocritical celebrating a holiday that doesn't have the same meaning for me anymore. I believe that Jesus was a great teacher and that following his example would make us all better human beings (and that his life is definitely worth celebrating). It's the savior part that I've left behind, and that's why I'm so confused about Christmas now. However, in talking with other UU members I started to realize that it's okay to celebrate in any way you choose. Many focus on a "winter solstice" type celebration. Others celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, AND Kwanzaa. The cool thing about being a UU is that you are welcome there no matter what your faith tradition is - some UU's identify themselves as Christian, some are agnostic, and many fall somewhere in between.

I'm kind of new to this stuff so I'm doing a lot of reading and feeling my way through. Before leaving my old church I always felt out of place. I felt like I was the only one who drinks a glass of wine (or two) on a Saturday night, or enjoys offbeat comedy, or who actually says bad words sometimes. I always think of comedian Jim Gaffigan's recent "Beyond the Pale" special. He describes being in church and attempting to immerse himself in prayer. He concentrates as hard as he can but all he can think of is: "Did I eat at Wendy's TWICE yesterday?"

I may take up this topic again in later blog posts because I feel like I have a lot of thinking to do. This is as far as I've gotten at the moment. :-)

Friday, November 30, 2007

"Do it one more time and I'm calling Santa. Seriously, I am not kidding."

I have roughly 24 days left in which I can use Santa Claus as leverage. I've called him several times today. In fact, Santa has probably taken out a restraining order against me.

A doesn't totally get the whole Christmas/Santa thing yet. But she does know what presents are. And she knows she wants some. If this guy wants to bring her some, she is not going to argue. So, she tries to behave from time to time. Tries.

I guess she keeps forgetting, though, since she continues to carry out her diabolical plots as usual. She ran away from me at the store (yes, again) and when I found her I had to suppress every instinct to send her to the moon. (All I could think of was Adam Walsh - seriously, keeping your kid safe these days is scary shit.) I am really trying my darndest to get through this thing (and by "this thing" I mean the whole 18 years) without spanking her, but sometimes I feel like I resort to the dumbest tactics (like telling her that random strangers are going to get really mad if she doesn't knock it off, for example).

My mom worked the Santa angle for YEARS. She always said she saw elves peeking in the windows. ("There he is! He saw you smack your sister and he is going to tell Santa!") My baby sister is 12 years my junior so I was still hearing about the elves until I was in my 20's. My kid doesn't know what elves are yet, so I just lead her to believe I have access to some sort of Santa hotline where I can report her behavior to the big guy at will.

My biggest fear is that I will pick up the phone and then A will demand to speak to him herself. She once told me that Gideon, our dog, crapped in her diaper, so it's hard even to guess what kind of line she will try to feed Santa.

After Christmas I figure I will start using her birthday as leverage. Bribery, trickery, candy . . . clearly I have no shame.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

You're a Princess

On the return plane trip, shortly before I started threatening her life.

We're back. We flew back on Monday night. The only problem was that I'd already reached Maximum A sometime over the weekend. So, I was not looking forward to the two flights back. She was a pill on the two flights out to DC, but my tolerance was higher then.

The thing about being on a plane is that you can't exact discipline your child effectively. And said child knows it. A knew she had me over a barrel and there was nothing I could do but to hiss various threats at her. She slammed the window shade up and down. She kicked her chair. She demanded candy. At one point I grabbed her arm and she pulled out the ol' time-tested "DON'T HURT ME!" trick.

On the second flight (which was delayed because of de-icing and whatever else it is they do to delay planes), there were some kids sitting nearby who are performing in a traveling production of Disney's High School Musical. I shouldn't call them kids because they were probably in their early 20's. Anywho, they were scattered about the plane, with one guy sitting next to me and one sitting behind us. Towards the end of the flight they were talking to my irritable kid and when they asked her what her name is she said, "I'm a princess!" Then she told the guy next to me that he's a princess. And then, "You're a princess, too!" to the guy behind me. The only reason this was amusing is that these two are princesses, iff'n you know what I mean (nudge nudge wink wink). They were very nice and didn't seem to mind that my kid and I had a knock-down-drag-out fight about her seatbelt every 2.8 seconds. (I finally asked the flight attendant to tell A that she had to keep it on, which seemed to help somewhat.)

When we finally landed back at our original airport, I pushed the stroller (with my darling child in it) towards her dad as soon as I saw him. "Congratulations, Mr. M!" I said. "It's a girl!"

All four grandkids together for the first time.

A and her cousin on a rickety (and insanely fun) old ride at Ocean City, MD

The three sisters (yes, the one on the left is lactating, in case you wondered)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Something Like a Vacation

It's Thanksgiving. The kid and I are at my sister's house. A's still sleeping, because she's been partying like a big dog every night. We spent the past few days at my parents' house. The kid has my parents right where she wants them. On the first day, she said, "I'm so happy to see you, Meemaw!" My mother went straight to the store and bought her a new toy. A loves my mom to pieces but she is my dad's number one fan. Every time she sees him she plows past my mom and yells, "Hi, Granddaddy!" They watched cartoons together for hours yesterday.

Oh, and get this. Apparently my parental authority . . . well, I have none as soon as my parents enter the picture. I took a cup of water away from my kid because she was sticking her hands in it and my spidey sense told me that something very unfortunate was about to happen with that water. Thirty seconds later, I heard A pleading her case to my dad. And then she emerged from the kitchen with . . . the big cup of water. The one I had just taken away from the little manipulator.

Another wrinkle I didn't predict: A is jealous of her five-month-old cousin. She takes toys away from him and throws them down the stairs. I know it's totally normal but it is a wee bit embarrassing. She's basically bullying someone who can't even sit upright unassisted. She is having a good time with her other two cousins, though (ages three and eight).

Last night I went to a Washington Capitals game with my dad. The Caps got slaughtered but it was a good time nonetheless. My dad, God love him, bought me a double wine - to the tune of $14.00.

So, we are having fun. I managed to get some Christmas shopping done. We have a lot of birthdays in my family this time of year, too. My niece wants High School Musical crap for her birthday so I complied. We've been visiting friends and relatives, too. I think I could've stayed home and just sent the curly-haired one. She is the one they really want to see.

Tomorrow we are headed to Ocean City, MD to hang out with my father (my other father - my poor kid is going to be so confused). We'll be staying at a nice condo with a pool, so that's a plus. My friend R lives in New Jersey and is planning to drive to the beach to see us and meet my daughter for the first time. We've been friends since the sixth grade, which makes me feel plenty old.

But first, we need to get through Thanksgiving. We'll have 11 people at dinner tonight. One just drinks booby milk. Of the other ten, exactly half are vegetarian. So needless to say there is not a huge emphasis on the turkey - mostly we just run our mouths and drink and bide out time until dessert.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Miss You Every Day

U-CD Lucy Annabel (CD, NA, NAJ, CGC, TT, TDI)


April 11, 1998 – November 16, 2006

For some time now I’ve been trying to muster up the courage to write about my Lucy Annabel. She has been gone for a year and I still miss her desperately. Sometimes I think I can still hear her tags jangling, or the unladylike grunt that she made just before falling asleep. She was my friend, my companion. Lucy saw me through four miscarriages and never left my side. She enjoyed hanging out, sleeping on the bed, eating, and kicking other dogs' asses (in her older years she was content with simply lifting her lip at dogs that offended her). She was smart. She was feisty. The Goose, as we called her, was a strong competitor in obedience and agility, although she really only did what she felt like doing (and didn't care how much money I blew on entry fees). She was an awesome therapy dog (despite her horrific breath) and enjoyed meeting new people. This is her story.

P and I got married in May of 1997, closed on our home in May of 1998, and bought a puppy a month later. We always knew that we would get a dog as soon as we got a house. In fact, we chose our house specifically because the yard was already fenced. Perfect!

Not knowing what we know now about backyard breeders and such, we found a classified ad in the paper and drove about two hours to meet the last two puppies of a litter. In the yard was a pretty fawn Boxer who was being harassed by her two eight-week-old brindle offspring, a boy and a girl. We could see that the dam was a nice dog so we asked about the sire. Apparently this dog was so wild (not wild as in aggressive, but wild as in bonkers) that the breeder just wanted us to wave at him through a door and not meet him in person (dogson?).

We chose the female, whose name was Delilah. I guess there was never any question that we were going to take one of these chubby little upstarts home. We put her in an open cardboard box and began the trek back home. We debated names along the way and settled on Lucy Annabel. Boxers have a “so ugly they’re cute” type of reputation so I wanted her to have a pretty, girly name. Annabel is after the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe. Check it out if you’ve never read it – it’s amazing.

Lucy, in her youth, drove us crazy. We knew right away that she was smart as a whip. She was solidly housebroken at 11 weeks. She did all the things that puppies do – kept us up at night, tore up the toilet paper, and chewed things that didn’t belong to her. We had a sapling in the back yard and she swung from its thin branches by her teeth. I took her to puppy class and learned that I knew nothing about training a dog. She made a fool of me every chance she got.

We made another rookie error in those early days – we allowed her to sleep on our bed. It wasn’t bad when she was just a little brindle sausage but eventually she grew into a ruthless bed hog. In her adult years she weighed 60 pounds by day and by night . . . she weighed more than our refrigerator. I sincerely believe she had the ability to re-arrange her mass and make her body heavier at night. It was not possible to shift her even an inch.

When Lucy was around 8 months old I realized that she needed more obedience classes. She ran out the door and into the road. We called her back and she acted like she had never seen us before and that she had no idea how we knew her name. I walked into obedience classes hoping to walk out with a trained dog. It would be more precise to say that I was dragged into class by my muscular, untrained dog. Lucy actually had permanent hair loss on her neck from pulling on the leash so hard. She would go on to compete in obedience but continued to pull like a sled dog until the day she died. We simply worked around it by using different training collars and harnesses.

I remember being mortified in those early classes. All the other dogs would heel nicely around the ring while my little goober would roll around wildly on her back, four white paws jabbing the air. But we kept going. And going. Eventually the instructor encouraged me to enter Lucy in an obedience trial. I’m struggling to remember the specifics but I think she actually qualified in her first trial, although it was the lowest score you could get and still pass. You have to qualify in three trials to get a title, and eventually she got her Novice titles in both AKC and UKC. I was so proud of my girl. She gave me a hard time, though. In classes and in the ring she always acted like she was just doing me a favor by showing up. During a trial I would bore holes into her head with my eyes, just begging her not to stand up during the down-stay. One year we competed at the American Boxer Club Nationals. She was disqualified for running out of the ring. Ah, that was money well spent.

We never moved up to the next level in obedience, although we did try. The next level involved doing a retrieve with a little dumbbell. The dog must hold the dumbbell in their mouth and bring it back. Old school trainers teach this by pinching the dog’s ear and forcing the dog to hold the dumbbell. I couldn’t do that to my Goose and she didn’t want to do it of her own free will, so we gave up.

At about the same time she did pass the Canine Good Citizen test, as well as the therapy dog (TDI) test. She also took a temperament test and passed that. Eventually we decided to have a go at agility. As it turned out, she was really good at it. Lucy was an extraordinary jumper. When we competed I sometimes heard the crowd gasp when Lucy went airborne. She earned many ribbons and a couple of titles along the way. I was so proud of my Boxer girl. A couple years after the first debacle at the ABC Nationals, she went back again and competed in agility. She took first place in her height class.

In addition to competing in Agility, Lucy also worked as a therapy dog. Initially we worked in the pediatric wing of a local hospital. Later we moved to a residential facility for developmentally disabled adults. I wasn’t comfortable around sick babies at the hospital but for some reason I’m a-okay around people whose brains don’t work right. We usually made our visits on Saturdays. Everyone loved Lucy. The residents would give her treats and she would do a few of her tricks for them. One time we were visiting a new resident, a boy who appeared to be only 15 or so. Because he didn't seem to have the coordination to give Lucy a treat with his hand, I put the treat on his knee and tapped it so Lucy could take it. This kid was fast, though. He was chewing it before we knew what hit us. I will never forget the look on Lucy's face as she watched that boy eat her treat. It was the milkbone-type treat, too, so it was incredibly dry. The kid chewed and chewed for what seemed like an eternity.

Lucy’s other job was training foster dogs. From the time she was around two years old, we fostered lots and lots of dogs for Boxer Rescue. One time I took Lucy to an animal communicator and she told the communicator that she and I ran the rescue together. If a foster dog got out of line, Lucy was on them like white on rice. If she thought a foster dog was getting too big for their fur, she would hump them. She was an equal opportunity humper – she would hump males and females alike. And no one was allowed on the bed except Lucy. At night she would stand on our bed and walk around the perimeter, just making sure that everyone knew she was the queen bee. She never gave her brother a break either. We adopted Karl from the local shelter when Lucy was around 10 months old. Karl and Lucy always got along great, as long as Karl remembered that he had no say in anything. Desperate to chase after a squirrel he had seen in the backyard, Karl would always run out the back door . . . only to be intercepted by Lucy, who would not allow him to leave the deck (at least not until she said so).

Another vivid memory I have of Lucy is the time she and her brother ate all the Halloween candy. P and I went to church and forgot to pick up the basket of candy. When we got home, everything was gone except the Smarties. Wrappers and all. Because chocolate is toxic to dogs I called the vet in a panic. We were instructed to use a turkey baster to squirt hydrogen peroxide down the dogs' throats. It was an unpleasant affair but we did as we were told and then stuck the dogs in the garage. And waited. Karl was the first to vomit. After a lot of theatrics, this is what came out: one Nestle Crunch bar, still in its wrapper. Here is what came out of Lucy: at least 30 or 40 candy bars of varying shapes and sizes. I laughed when I pictured the scene that must have unfolded while we were at church that morning. Lucy upended the Halloween basket and then guarded the candy with her life. I'm not sure how Karl even managed to get that solitary Crunch bar.

Those two were so funny together. One of their favorite things to do was to go up north to my friend's cabin and run around in the woods. Lucy told the animal communicator that she loved to "run at the place with the pine trees." I knew she meant the cabin, with its towering pines and lakeside beauty. I am so happy that she got to take one last trip there in the months before she died. I hope she is somewhere like that now.

When my daughter was born in May of 2005, I wasn't sure how Lucy would react. I told her a baby was coming and I believe she understood. We did make the decision to allow Lucy to continue sleeping on our bed, just as she always had. A lot of people looked at us funny when we said that we had decided not to let the baby sleep in our bed because the dog was already there.

She didn't seem to mind the new baby and in fact was very tolerant of her. We needn't have worried about how Lucy would adjust. She was gentle with the baby and was always careful not to step on her or jump on her. One of my daughter's first words was "Lucy."

In November of 2006 Lucy started to have trouble breathing. She kept looking at me as if to say, “Why is this happening?” I made an appointment to take her to the veterinarian. We had two days to wait before her appointment and during that time she started coughing up blood. P convinced himself that Lucy had pneumonia. I knew better. After almost seven years of fostering dogs, I had seen virtually every illness known to dogdom. I knew pneumonia, and this wasn’t it. Lucy had no fever, no loss of appetite. She simply couldn’t breath. “There’s a mass in there,” I told him. I was blinking back tears all the way to the vet clinic.

Dr. Barr’s face was grim as he re-entered the exam room, x-ray in hand. He showed me how Lucy’s lungs were chock full of tumors. The tumors were displacing her lung tissue and that’s why she couldn’t breathe. He showed me a large mass that was next to her heart and indicated that the blood was probably coming from that. There was nothing to be done. I arranged to bring her back the next day. Lucy had a mild heart murmur her whole life and somehow I always thought it would be her heart that would take her. And here she had cancer - and lots of it. Dr. Barr said that lung cancer is often a secondary cancer, meaning that it had probably spread from some other organ that was also riddled with the disease.

That night, P cooked some chicken and steak for Lucy. He has never cooked anything for me, but I was touched that he wanted to do something special for the Goose. We took pictures of Lucy and A together. We choked back our tears.

The next day, P and I made arrangements for a friend to stay with A while we took Lucy to the veterinary clinic. We felt that our daughter was too young (at 1 ½) to understand what was happening, and we didn’t want her to remember her doggie that way. Plus, it was her naptime.

Our hearts were heavy as we trudged into the clinic. Not wanting to bawl full-out, I kept looking upward, willing my eyes to stay clear just a little longer. The staff was ready for us and led us into a darkened exam room. The technician took Lucy into the back and inserted a catheter in her foreleg and then brought her back in. We spent a few more minutes with her until Dr. S entered the room. She gave me a hug and told me how sorry she was.

Within a few moments, the fatal fluid was in our girl. We held her in our laps. In a few short moments, her heart stopped and Dr. S confirmed that our beautiful dog was gone. We were alarmed when Lucy started bleeding out of her nose. Dr. S grabbed a towel and assured us that this is just something hat happens sometimes. I tried not to focus on it too much, because I didn't want to remember her quite that way. I wanted to remember the girl who sailed through the tire jump, who accompanied me on countless road trips, who looked at me with eyes that were almost human.

I have only seen my husband cry once or twice in the 15 years I have known him. He cried at his mother's funeral and he cried at Lucy's euthanasia. Who would have known that the naughty puppy who howled all night would grow up to be the coolest dog ever?

I miss you, Goose.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The short one and I are leaving in three days. (My other half is staying home, in case you are reading this and thinking of burgling us while we are gone.)

A brief excursion to Kohl's after work yesterday raised the spectre of just how challenging this Thanksgiving "vacation" is going to be. I just needed a few pairs of underwear, so it should have been a very brief and straightforward shopping trip. First off, we couldn't get a cart, which is a fate worse than death. We loitered in the lobby area and waited for one to turn up, while the kid greeted everyone who came in. "I got my milk and my pretznels!" she announced to one lady. She had some leftover snacks from daycare tucked under her arm because she had insisted on bringing them into the store.

Finally we got a cart. She sat in it for about .0000987 seconds and climbed out as soon as we hit the lingerie section. "I don't want to sit down!" I begged her to sit in it just long enough for me to pick out some drawers. Then I gave up and told her she had to stay nearby and keep her hand on the cart. She wandered away so I grabbed her arm. "DON'T HURT ME!" she yelled.

I was not leaving there without some underwear so I continued to negotiate with her as she wandered around poking padded bras and introducing herself (using her full name) to complete strangers. Then I pulled out the big guns:

"Santa is not bringing you any presents because you don't behave." This got her attention for a few seconds. "But I want presents!" She is only two so the whole Christmas/Santa thing isn't fully clear to her yet. It wasn't quite the bargaining chip I thought it would be. So then I switched gears and took a different approach: "If you behave you can have some fruit snacks when we get in the car." Ugh, bribery. The lowest parenting tactic there is. I'm so ashamed.

I finally got out of there with four pairs of drawers that may or may not be my size.

The whole scene frightened me because if we can't make it in and out of Kohl's without incident, how am I going to make it through three airports with: two carry-ons, a stroller, two winter coats, and a headstrong two-year-old who won't: carry a carry-on, sit in the stroller, or wear her coat? Woe is me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Put My Booger Back in My Nose

The other morning my adorable daughter woke up with a big booger hanging off her left nostril. Being the good mother that I am, I grabbed a Kleenex and liberated it. A has no tolerance for having things done to her or for her without her express written consent. When she asks for juice I open the refrigerator (which she calls our "fridgelator") and hand her a juice. She stomps her feet, shrieks "NO, I GET IT!" and puts it back on the shelf. And then retrieves it again. So, when I wiped her nose without her consent I heard this: "PUT MY BOOGER BACK IN MY NOSE." I can definitely add that to the list of "things I never thought I'd hear." I asked her if she seriously wanted me to dig it out of the Kleenex and give it to her and she nodded. I have to draw the line somewhere, and this seemed as good a place as any. "No, that's gross."

My sweet little buttercup angel flower blossom

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Daddy's Girl

Watching "Toy Story"

We did not know A's sex before she was born. For some reason we thought she would be a boy and we focused primarily on boys' names. (Her birthmother had had an early ultrasound but the baby was too active to get a clear view.) I have to admit I was secretly thrilled when I found out she was a girl. Don't get me wrong - I would have been over the moon if she had been a boy. It's just that I grew up with sisters (no brothers) and that's what I'm used to. I felt like I would know what to do with a girl. As my mom has often said, "We don't know how to clean poop off balls."

In the hospital, I held A in my arms and in a high-pitched voice I said to P, "Daddy, I'm going to have 13 bridesmaids in my wedding! Oh, and I need 18 pairs of shoes!" I think my other half figured out pretty quickly that having another girl in the house was not going to be cheap. However, none of that mattered because he was smitten as soon as he saw her. He likes her better than he likes me and he's known me for over 15 years. I knew almost from the start that I had a daddy's girl on my hands.

In my head I flash-forward 11 years to a day when our 13-year-old daughter will come out of her room wearing some God-awful ensemble the size of a kleenex and announce that she is headed to the bus stop for school. I can't wait to see his reaction, because I think it is going to be priceless. He doesn't know about 13-year-old girls - but I do. I'm also looking forward to the day when some slack-jawed boy shows up on our front porch, asking for our daughter. I suppose it will be quite the coincidence that her dad will just HAPPEN to be sharpening his combat knife from his Marine Corps days. Oh, and I suppose he might just HAPPEN to mention that he often had perfect scores on his sharpshooter weapons tests back then. Oh, and that he is trained to kill a man with his bare hands.

The other night I made a simple dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches and oven fries. I had to go to Weight Watchers the next morning, so I opted for a veggie burger and no fries. I had A's plate on the counter next to her dad's plate. He wasn't home yet and I took a fry off his plate and ate it. A few minutes later, he did not even have his big toe in the door before she started yelling, "Dada! Mama ate your fries!" And yesterday I smacked him in the arm after he made a stupid comment (he saw that I had purchased some super hero postage stamps and actually asked me where I bought them . . . "I dunno, Kohl's?") Anyway, the kid started yelling, "Don't hit my dada!"

A often says things like "Dada is a prince!" (and I reply, yes, I thought so too at first - ha!) I'm glad she loves her daddy so much. It's funny to me that people even say they look alike sometimes. I'm thrilled that they have such a great relationship. All I ask is that he not geekify her too much. They watch Star Trek together and one night while she was in the tub I heard her singing "friendly neighborhood spiderman!" It is only a matter of time until she makes him hide his AD&D books when her friends come over. But for now . . . it's all good.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Biter, Not a Lover

Our own personal Dracula

My kid bit another kid at daycare yesterday. This is her second biting incident. She is teething, but I can't really blame it on that. She has a short fuse, pure and simple. In general she is a happy kid, always smiling and laughing (and talking, God knows she talks). But apparently if you are a similar-sized kid and you cross her in some way, you'll have her incisors embedded in your flesh about two seconds later.

So now I need to apologize to a set of parents - again. And give my kid a lecture - again. And make her apologize to her friend - again. The first time it was a little girl that she bit, and that night all A heard from us was "you can't bite [friend's name]!" Now it occurs to me that maybe we forgot to say, "Don't bite anyone." This time she bit a little boy, a cute brown-eyed guy who even came to her birthday party this year. Normally she adores him and I had dreams of him becoming my son-in-law someday. But now I'm guessing he doesn't want a wife who gnaws on him.

I could tell that her daycare teacher felt badly about having to tell me that my adorable daughter is a biter. I'm really at a loss as to what I should do with her. If either of my readers has a suggestion, I'm all ears. I almost think that being the mom of a biter is worse than being the mom of a bitee. I hope this doesn't mean that I can expect to spend a lot of time perched on a chair in some principal's office in a few years, getting an earful about my little degenerate.

The other thing that happened at daycare yesterday is that A escaped from her pack-n-play during naptime. Apparently she landed squarely on her face. She now has a big scrape (accompanied by a bruise) that runs from her forehead to her right eye and across her nose. This morning I was checking her owie and she held up her hand and said, "DON'T SEE IT!" very dramatically. So, I will be buying her one of those ready beds this weekend. It's all sort of a moot point because she really does not nap much anymore. Naps are for non-biters, I guess.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Facing the Music, Going Blind, etc.

In a recent post I whined about having gone astray as far as my eating habits go. For the next few weeks after that I really did give it the old college try, but somehow my resolve would always vanish by the time Friday rolled around. Feeling ever more desperate, I finally emailed my Weight Watchers leader and asked for advice (because apparently I hadn't heard the whole "eat less, lose weight" rumor that's been going around). She told me to knock it off and get myself to a meeting. So this morning I dragged my considerable ass to a meeting (which includes, of course, a weigh-in). I really think this is my only hope for getting through the holidays. I need the accountability, I guess.

Going to the meeting was tough. First I spent 15 minutes searching my closet for lightweight clothing. For half a second I wondered if it would be okay just to wear strategically placed gauze to the meeting. I didn't even wear earrings because who knows - that extra .0000056 of an ounce might bump me up to the next pound or something. Believe me, I will pluck my eyebrows before a meeting if I think I can shave off a fraction of a fraction of a pound.

I headed to the meeting, hoping to misplace 8 or 10 pounds on the way there. But alas, they were still attached firmly to my thighs when I got on the scale. The good news: I've gained weight but I'm not so far out of range that I can't find my way back with a little hard work. Well, a lot of hard work. And, you know, it really does suck.

Other than that, the only other news to tell is that my kid's social life is getting out of control. She has TWO parties to attend tomorrow. We also attended a Halloween event last night. I always knew she'd end up being way cooler than me - I just didn't think she'd pull it off at the age of two.

Since this post is so random already I'll just share a couple of amusing things she said in the past couple of days.

1. We were playing games at and she started to get antsy while sitting in my lap at the computer. She kept leaning forward and putting her nose right on the monitor. Now, keep in mind that she is two and as such she is contractually required to offer a contrary response to EVERYthing I say. "Hey, don't put your face so close to the monitor. You'll go blind." I said helpfully. "I WANNA GO BLIND!" she shrieked back at me.

[The tantrum pictured at right occurred because her father and I had the audacity to insist that she ride in her carseat. Honestly, someone should call the child protective people.]

2. The other day she came up to me and matter-of-factly said, "I'm ready to dance." I should add that there was no music playing or anything like that.

3. "Dada's a boy. He's not a princess."

4. A has already attended several Halloween events and is starting to accumulate a fair amount of candy. Unlike normal people who know that the Kit Kats and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are the best candy, my kid thinks that the Dum Dum suckers are the best. She is always asking for suckers. Last night she was playing with her castle playset and was acting out a conversation between the king and queen.

King: Can I have a sucker?
Queen: (in a very high-pitched voice) Yes, you can!

Okay, I guess that one isn't that amusing but the enthusiasm of the queen was what got me. I think this is what A is hoping will happen when she asks us for candy, which is about 80 times a day. Actually, what she usually says is, "I need candy."

Beating her father in the head with a balloon

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In a Lather About Lots of Stuff

My recent attempts to reduce stress in my life are failing miserably. I think I am what people used to call a Type A personality. Believe me, I would give just about anything to be a different type, but I am bound to my DNA. (Mom, in case you are reading this . . . yes, I am saying it is your fault.)

What's stuck in my craw today (yes, I have a craw):

1. I cannot get a full night's sleep because I share my bedroom with four males. Three of them are dogs (two of my own and one foster) and one is the man I married. Three of the four lick their own penis . . . All. Night. Long. The fourth one snores intermittently, just loudly enough to keep me up (he also sleepwalks, but that's a tale for another day). Gideon usually kicks things off at around 2 a.m. Then Joker remembers that he has a penis, too, and gets started. Karl isn't usually as bad. He is getting old (almost 10) and I guess his wiener doesn't hold that much appeal for him anymore. I am implementing a new policy at my house: if you have a penis you are asked to pleasure yourself during daylight hours only, please.

2. People who think that rules don't apply to them. I volunteer for Boxer Rescue and we have a few policies that we enforce. If you want to adopt from us, you need to have a good track record at your veterinary clinic (among other requirements). It's all laid out on the website with wording like "PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU APPLY." People either a) don't read it or b) read it and think we could not possibly be talking to them. If you apply and you haven't taken your cat to the vet since the 1990's, your clinic is going to tell us that. Did ya think we wouldn't call? Or, because it is YOU, after all, we would overlook it? Also, we get lots of applications from people in very distant states, even though the website clearly states that we only place dogs locally. Sure, I will drive the dog to Dallas, but only because it's YOU asking. For anybody else, no.

3. This week I discovered a tool called CopyScape. This tool allows you to enter the URL for any given page on your website. It will then search ye olde internet and find other sites with matching text. As the webmaster for our Boxer Rescue site, I was curious to check for sites which might be using material from our site. I found three. These were pretty blatant - copying and pasting entire chunks of text. We were not listed as the source. Because I get pretty feisty about protecting my writing (even if it's just a page of policies and procedures, I still wrote it and because I am so clever and witty, even the policies and procedures reflect my own tone), I contacted the three sites. The first two sent very cordial replies indicating that they had not intentionally plagiarized our site and that they would remove the text. And they did remove it. The third one was less polite but I am still hopeful they will remove the copyrighted material from the site. The funny thing is, if someone asked me for some of our material, I probably would have been happy to help as long as they cited the source. I have been building the rescue site for seven years - it's what you might call a labor of love. This isn't the first time I've found my writing on other sites and I'm sure it won't be the last. But for anyone reading this, please know that all material you see on the internet is copyrighted. And using copyrighted material is illegal. If you see some material that you want to use, ask the webmaster and in most cases I bet they'll be happy to let you use it.

I'm done kvetching now (but reserve the right to update this post just in case I think of something else that is pissing me off). I'm reminded of a recent Lewis Black routine that I caught on TV. He said something like, "The good die young, but pricks live forever." He suggested running out of your house and cussing at little kids and telling them to get off your lawn as a good way to get started on a long life.

Personally, I like a little ire in my day. Keeps me from getting complacent. And writing about it keeps from from committing homicide.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Craps Their Pants

I took Friday off to spend the day with my kid. I was excited about it and promised her a fun day.

We started off the morning by heading to Michael's for a craft project with some kids from a local playgroup that we joined a few months ago. The project involved decorating a wee little totebag for Halloween (it was billed as a trick-or-treat bag but unless she plans to collect exactly one Hershey's miniature on Halloween, I don't think the bag is going to serve that purpose.) I steered A away from the permanent paints and handed her some stickers instead. She placed some pumpkins and skulls on her bag and then colored on it with a blue marker. She had a blast and seemed really proud of her creation.

After we left Michael's we headed to the mall. As we pulled out of the Michael's parking lot, A promptly ripped the stickers off her totebag and shoved them in various crevices inside the car so that I can find them next July.

I had a coupon for Build-Up-Our-Fortune-By-Buying-Our-Overpriced-Stuff . . . I mean, Build-a-Bear, so I thought we'd head there first. I told A she could choose any animal. She picked the monkey. After grabbing his empty carcass and tossing it over her arm, she actually thought we were all done and just needed to pay for the monkey. "We gotta pay for it." Instead, I guided her towards the nice lady at the stuffification machine. She filled the smiling simian with fluff and instructed A to pick out a little cloth heart for him. Then she instructed the kid to kiss the heart. A could not understand this concept for love nor money. She kissed the monkey. Then she held the heart up to the monkey's lips so that HE could kiss the heart. Finally the heart was safely lodged in the monkey's back and we moved on to the fluff wash. A had no interest in pressing the pedal which caused a blast of air to gush out of the "faucet." I had to agree it seemed pointless and was a waste of perfectly good air.

Next we headed to the computer so that we could establish a birth certificate for the monkey. I entered all the information that was requested of me by the computer. Then came time for a name. "What is his name?" I asked her. I think you'll be pretty impressed with the clever name she picked out. "Monkey," she replied. "Really, are you sure you don't want to pick a different name?' "No! Monkey!"

The world's friendliest cashier (Felix, God love him) was waiting for us at the register. "And WHAT did you NAME your monkey?" the ebullient Felix asked my kid. Then he turned and grabbed the birth certificate off the printer. "Oh, Monkey! How funny!" No doubt disappointed that we were making it out of there for under a hundred bucks, he started offering us random accessories and crap, like a bow for the monkey's ears, a crack pipe, etc.

Next stop: the food court. We got a couple of sandwiches from Subway and, because we are health nuts, some fries from A&W. It seemed easiest to sit at one of the tables made specifically for kids. I ate my sandwich with my knees in my chest while A and I embarked on some very intense negotiations regarding the fair (or, in her mind, unfair) disbursement of the fries.

Finally, we headed to the kids' play area at the end of the mall. I had promised that we'd go and so we went. The play area is sponsored by a hospital so they have weird things like a gigantic stethoscope on which the kids can climb.

I flipped through a People magazine (because I'm all about the intellectual stuff) while keeping one eye on my kid. She was having a blast, running around with the other kids and climbing on the over-sized band-aid. She was even waiting her turn!

Eventually she trotted by the bench where I was sitting. You know how cartoonists often illustrate a bad smell with those wavy lines? I could see those coming off my kid. All of the oxygen was sucked out of the air. I hooked my finger in the back of her pants and pulled the waistband outward. Oh my, it was bad. Squirt-up-the-back bad. "Pie, do you want me to change you in the car or in the bathroom?" She chose the bathroom. I put her in her stroller and wheeled her into one of those "family" bathrooms.

For the next ten minutes I used approximately 764 baby wipes in the clean-up effort. Fortunately I do still carry around a change of clothing for her. I stripped off the old outfit and momentarily thought that burning it might just be preferable to washing it. Finally she was vaguely clean. It seemed obvious that our outing was over, so I sat her back in the stroller and headed for the car. But wait, something was still very wrong. As I was strapping A in the carseat, a dollop of doo appeared out of nowhere. "What the?" Had she pooped again? What was going on? And then it dawned on me - the stroller was full of poop when I put my freshly re-dressed daughter back in it. F-ing rookie error, man! And I'm in my third season. Argh!

Back home I changed the kid into her third outfit du jour and then put her down for a nap (which she didn't take, for the record). I then spent part of my day off scrubbing poo off clothing, a carseat, and a stroller.

Some out-of-town friends arrived later that day to spend the weekend with us. A kept telling them that the monkey had crapped all the way up his back and that he needed a diaper. I figure that what comes out of her is my problem and what comes out of Monkey is her problem.

Moments before her intestines erupted

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Le Bug du Tumble

The crab walk
For the past six weeks A has been participating in a Tumble Bugs class at our local YMCA. She loves it. We already knew from a previous class that our kid is not the next Mary Lou Retton. She spent six months in a gymnastics class at the The Little Gym and still could not do a forward roll. Or any kind of roll. Or hang on the bar. Or stand on one leg. Mostly she would just run around and yell stuff at the other kids. I can already hear her future gym teacher saying, "This is not social hour, Miss M." Of course, who am I to talk? In gym class I always signed up for stuff like "Rec Games" and spent half the year playing bumper pool and ping pong. Bumper pool - I can't believe it's not in the Olympics. My friend J and I actually made a pact when we were freshman: we agreed to complete our entire high school career without playing a single organized sport. It was an easy pact to keep, for both of us.

But back to my kid. The first gymnastics class was fun, but not fruitful. So naturally when that class was done I signed her up for another one. I figured it would be a fun activity for the middle of the week, when nothing else is going on.
The Tumble Bugs class is taught by Miss Nicole, who is verrrrry pregnant. Her assistant is Mr. Keenan. I think Mr. Keenan is around 17, so I do enjoy having to call someone 20 years my junior "Mister." But on the other hand, I have to admit that I think it's nice for kids to learn to address people properly and politely. Anyway, my kid has a thing for Mr. Keenan. Last night in class she was supposed to be sitting on the black line, doing her stretches, while Miss Nicole and Mr. Keenan demonstrated the stretches and sat facing us a few yards away. A got up, walked across the room, plopped down about three millimeters from Mr. Keenan, and proceeded to demonstrate the stretches alongside him. Apparently she is the assistant's assistant.

Later during the class, Mr. Keenan was leading the kids in a side-step down the black line. A forced her way in between Mr. Keenan and another little girl, so that she could stand closest to him and hold his hand. This went on for the whole session. He would demonstrate an activity, she would throw herself at him. Is she not getting enough time with her dad or what?

During another activity, A went up to the front and announced, "I farted" in front of the class. Miss Nicole thought she said "I'm sorry." A has a habit of running off and not listening, so Miss Nicole must have thought she was making amends. "No," my precious baby girl repeated, "I FAR-TED!" The other moms and dads all looked at me with that "you must be so proud" expression that I already know all too well.

There are a few things that the kid keeps forgetting:
  • Sleep is a requirement of the human body

  • There is no occasion, ever, which requires syrup in one's hair

  • Bodily functions should not be announced
P and I are both fairly introverted, so it is definitely an adventure for us to have an extroverted child on our hands. She seems to have signed some sort of legal contract with the universe that requires her to announce all bodily functions. She has also assigned herself the position of Fart/Burp/Sneeze/Cough police. I have found that it's best just to confess right away because if she thinks you have burped and you deny it, she will not let it go until you own up to it. Resistance is futile.

After this class ends I think we'll take the winter off as far as activities go. I may sign her up for dance class when she turns three. It'll be funny if we have her try out every type of activity out there and then it turns out that bumper pool was her "thing" all along.

This may look like an impressive dismount in the making,
but it's really a "get me off here" manuever.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It's Too Much Very Hot

Sometimes the kid says stuff that is patently incorrect but is at the same time so cute that I can't bring myself to correct her. Earlier this morning she grilled up some plastic strawberries in a pink frying pan on her play stove. She then threw in a lemon for good measure. I was in the kitchen (the, um, real kitchen) as she came through, her face serious as she balanced the strawberries and lemon on a plastic yellow plate. "Don't touch it, Mama," she said solemnly. "It's too much very hot." She then delivered the piping hot fruit to her father.

Lately she also seems to end every sentence with "huh" or "okay." ("Gideon's a sassy boy, huuuuh?") One of her favorite activities is to grab a bottle of cologne from my bathroom and sniff it. This morning she took a bottle, pried the lid off, and said, "Don't take it away, OKAYYYYY?" P thinks she is trying to employ Jedi mind tricks on us. As if we are going to say, "Must not take it away, must allow toddler to play with expensive, breakable stuff."

We had a fairly uneventful weekend. On Friday evening P and I went to a local BrewFest event, which was a fundraiser for the humane society. A couldn't wait to get rid of us once the babysitter arrived. "Good BYE!" she kept saying. We had a good time, even though I'm not a beer drinker. There were half a dozen participating wineries, so I stood in line 489 times to get a single sip of wine each time.

On Saturday morning we headed to a little farm up north. The farm's website had given the impression that this was an elaborate set-up, chock full of fun, Halloweeny things to do. Instead we found four short rows of pumpkins and a small tent full of gourds. We were the first and only people there, and the proprietor was on us like white on rice. I don't know if we looked like rogue pumpkin thieves or what. We wanted to wander around a bit and take some photos, but she followed us around with a calculator and kept a careful tally of what we owed. Before long it seemed there was nothing left to do but pay the lady and leave. The pumpkins were nice ones, though - they don't even have that hideous deformed side that you usually have to avoid when you carve them.

After our pumpkin excursion I decided to take the kid to a storytime at a local children's bookstore. I didn't know if she would sit still or not, but I figured it was worth a shot. I have to say that the storyteller lady was very engaging, acting out each short tale with an impressive amount of enthusiasm. Eventually A wandered off and pooped her pants, so we didn't stay much longer after that. The bookstore had a shelf of adoption-related books, so I picked up a book that explains how families are made in lots of different ways. I tried to read it to her later that day, but apparently she doesn't care about diversity.

Our nap-related woes continue. She would not take a nap at all this weekend. Why, oh why, did I disassemble the crib so quickly???? Because I am a moron, of course. There is no threat on earth that can keep the kid in her bed. And she knows there is nothing I can do. So right now I've got an over-tired, over-stimulated two-year-old who is currently watching Pingu for the 18th time today. Her hair looks as though it was combed with a bolt of lightening (think, Bride of Frankenstein). The knee area of her tights has made it to her ankles. Her dress has collected some chocolate on one sleeve and some goobers from the dogs on the other. Every few seconds she climbs on top of her green stool and then jumps off, narrowly missing the dogs each time. P is working, so she's allllll mine tonight. How early is too early for bed? How early is too early for a nice glass of wine? It's early and yet . . . too late for my sanity. Ah, motherhood. It's okay, huh?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some Kind of Citizen

Gideon, CGC

My boy passed his Canine Good Citizen test on Monday night! The CGC is an American Kennel Club (AKC) certification. The dog must pass 10 tests in order to earn it. One of them involves completing a heeling pattern on a "loose leash." Asking Gideon to walk on a loose leash is tantamount to asking him to walk on the moon. So, as we were getting out of the car I asked him in plain English if he would consider, just this once, doing as I asked. And voila! Instead of pulling hard enough to win the Iditarod like usual, he actually heeled.

Later this month he starts his third round of obedience classes. Sometime after that I'm planning to have him tested for TDI (Therapy Dogs Inc) certification. Giddy has a great temperament and I think he'd make a wonderful therapy dog.

To appreciate Gideon's accomplishment, you have to know where he came from. In December of 2006 he was found near an animal shelter. He had been left in a crate by the road that runs past the shelter. The shelter people could see that he was quite a mess. He weighed around 38 pounds (an adult male Boxer normally weighs at least 55 pounds). Something was wrong with one of his legs. He had lesions on his head. His teeth were a mess. The shelter called one of our rescue volunteers, and Gideon (then named Reed) was soon whisked off to a foster home. I happened to be at her house the day Gideon arrived and there was something about this skinny dog that kept me thinking about him long after I'd gone home. My Lucy had passed away in November so it was odd to think of finding a new friend so soon. And yet . . .

Assured by my friend that Giddy had a great temperament (which I certainly sensed as well), I transferred Gideon to my home on a sort of "foster to adopt" plan. The next step was to sell P on the deal. I mean, who wouldn't want a skinny, limping dog with no teeth? Meanwhile, we had Gideon neutered and set about the task of putting weight on him. The leg was x-rayed and examined by two different veterinarians and unfortunately, Giddy was not a candidate for surgery. Both bones in his foreleg had been broken and had healed crookedly. If it had been a fresh break, we might have had a shot at it. The teeth, however, were a different story. They needed to be fixed as soon as possible. Dr. B theorized that Gideon had been hit by a car. The impact had snapped his leg and knocked out many of his upper teeth. The teeth had broken at the gum line, leaving exposed nerves and causing a lot of pain. The teeth were pulled in a long, involved surgery. The canine/fang teeth have tremendously long roots, so the surgeon had to drill halfway to my dog's brain to get them out.

Soon, Christmas rolled around and Gideon settled in our home. He was good with our other dog, Karl, and most importantly, he was unfailingly patient with my kid. And I loved him. Eventually P relented and we adopted Giddy on New Year's Day. He was the first dog adopted from the rescue this year.

In a gesture that moved me to tears, my friends from the rescue took up a collection and paid Giddy's adoption fee in memory of Lucy. It was probably the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me.

Over the past ten months Gideon has put on lots of weight, settling in the low 60s somewhere. Some tell me he is still too thin, but because of the bum leg I don't want him carrying too much weight. I had hoped to get involved in obedience competitions with him, but the AKC tells me that I can't compete with a "lame dog" (their terminology). The tricky thing with his limp is that it comes and goes. He gets glucosamine and aspirin daily. If he plays too hard, the limp is very pronounced. So for now we just continue taking classes and working towards his TDI certification. Giddy wakes up too early on weekends and he digs in my gardens, but other than that I have no complaints about my sweet Boxer Boy. When I think of all that he has endured, and how he must have had to hold up that broken leg for weeks while it healed . . . well, it just breaks my heart.

While I'm talking about dogs, here is a photo of my current foster boy, Joker. He doesn't have blue eyes - they just came out that way in the photo. I'm disappointed because I haven't had a single inquiry about him. People get kind of weird about white Boxers sometimes. Because a certain percentage of the whites are deaf, the uninformed assume that all whites are deaf or that they suffer from other health problems. Au contraire, Joker hears just fine and he is as healthy as they come. It is a shame that people are passing him by just because he is white. I hate baseless discrimination, I really do.

He's a Joker, he's a smoker, he's a midnight toker . . .

Sunday, October 7, 2007

"I DO IT!" (Or, the Call of the Toddler in Captivity)

Portrait of a Tantrum

"I DO IT!" I hear that about 874 times a day. It doesn't matter if letting her "do it" causes a small task to take six weeks. She is gonna do it come hell or high water. This brings back memories for my mom, who says that my middle sister was always yelling, "I DO IT BY MESELF!" Though they don't share any of the same DNA, my kid seems to have a lot in common with her headstrong auntie.

One of our big challenges lately is that she wants to wear a Pull-up instead of a diaper. Her Pull-ups have Disney (Motto: you may as well just send us a check because we are gonna get your money anyway) princesses on the front. There is also a smattering of colorful flowers in the crotch area, and the flowers go away when the kid pees in the Pull-up. The flowers are usually history within seconds, which tells you how well the potty-training is going.

Not only does she want to wear a Pull-up, she insists on donning it herself. This always always always leads to a tantrum. First she shoves both legs through the same hole. Then the sides of the Pull-up open (the sides have velcro closures, meant for "emergencies"). Now there is virtually no hope of her getting it on herself. What happens next is that she throws herself on the floor and flails around, screaming, "NO! I DO IT!" We always wonder which is worse: helping her (which would momentarily cause the tantrum to spike to a new height) or letting her continue to scream and wave the mangled Pull-up around. It's definitely a lose-lose proposition.

Eventually the overpriced Pull-up is essentially ruined and there is virtually no hope of getting it on her. But every so often, she does manage to get it on all by herself. And then the pretty flowers fade away, much like the sense of order that once prevailed in my life.

So, we do our best to let her do it, whatever "it" may be at any given time. We smile tightly when she asks for juice and then, upon receiving the requested refreshment, wails, "No! Milk!" She fights me tooth and nail when it comes time to brush her teeth, but then hugs me around the neck and says, "I love you, Mama." Her job description requires her to be capricious and irrational. And my job description requires me to ride the waves of toddlerdom (we've checked and the hospital where she was born does NOT have a lenient return policy, so persevere we must). And maybe there is some little part of me that fears that the day when my daughter can "do it" for herself is going to come much too soon. For now, just don't help her whatever you do. I do feel sorry for the well-intended young man will will try to pull out her chair for her at a restaurant someday . . .

EDIT: After posting this blog entry I had to participate in a board meeting via conference call. I'm on the board of directors for a national rescue association. P is working, so I tried my best to keep the kid quiet while I participated in the conference call. In response to my "please be quiet so Mama can listen on the phone" plea, she did the following: pulled out a maraca, pulled out a tambourine, pulled out some sort of bells-on-a-stick instrument (I can't believe we actually bought that for her), set up her train and turned it on so that it choo-chooed back and forth across the track, turned on a Pingu video, and flushed the toilet about 18 times.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Yes, but at least she's not Chewbacca

I suffered, so that she doesn't have to

"Claudia, you're in your 30's. Isn't it time you stopped telling that story?"

No Mom, it's never time to stop. I must warn others, like a Public Service Announcement, you know?

This is A's third Halloween. The first year she was a bee, last year she was a chicken, and this year she's a dragon. Each year I buy her a Halloween costume almost as soon as they hit the shelves. Why, you ask? Because I don't want her to have to be Chewbacca.

Let me take you back a bit. The year was 1978. I was in the third grade. Like most kids, I was pretty psyched about Halloween. Free candy from the neighbors - what's not to like? I asked my mom repeatedly about my costume (what, oh what, would she pick out for me? And when?). Alas, she waited until Halloween day to buy my costume and all the good ones were gone. So she bought what they had left: Chewbacca.

Keep in mind that Star Wars had come out and as you may recall, it was a big deal. So in that sense my mom may have had the idea that I might actually WANT to be Chewbacca. Well, no. All the other little girls were pretty princesses or pink ballerinas and that's what I wanted to be, too. Or maybe even Holly Hobbie - I already had her lunchbox! (Speaking of Holly Hobbie, have you noticed that she is back? Tragically, she no longer wears a patchwork pinafore over her floral dress - she's "hip" now.)

So, I trudged around the 'hood in my costume, irritated yet not so irritated as to refuse to collect the candy that was rightfully mine. In my mother's defense I should add that at the time she was a single mom who worked full time to make ends meet, but when you're eight years old all you're really thinking is: Where is my tutu? My tiara? My sparkly slippers?

So there you have it, my Halloween story. I generally avoid dressing up and attending costume parties these days. I can never think of a clever costume and live in fear of hearing the words: "So, um, what are you?" I tell my Mom that I'm so traumatized by the Chewbacca incident that I probably need therapy. I can hear the therapist now: "Yes, you are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and yes, it's definitely all your mother's fault."

Mom, when you get done reading this I just wanted to let you know that I am also looking forward to telling the story of the time you didn't believe I had Mono and you made me take out the garbage. And then later Dr. Takagi ran a blood test and confirmed that I was really, really, really sick. Remember?