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.