Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 5

Today was our fifth consecutive day of family togetherness. I did have to go to work on Friday, but P stayed home with the kid and even took her sledding. Other than that, it's been the three of us together . . . a lot. We haven't come to blows yet, mostly because we still have so many baked goods to pacify us.

On Friday evening, the three of us headed to the "Garden of Lights," where we enjoyed a horse-drawn wagon ride through the woods and gardens. The light display is pretty similar every year, but it was still well worth the trip. As the horses pulled our wagon through the quiet, snowy trees, no one aboard was saying a word. That is, until the kid sitting between me and my husband said this: "I smell something stinky in the forest." Everyone on the wagon (a dozen or so people) started to laugh. I'm sure our fellow passengers had noticed the manure smell, but since all the grown-ups knew where it came from, it didn't seem worth mentioning. When you're three, however, gross things are always worth mentioning. You should hear her exclaiming when she farts in the tub.

On Saturday morning, I mustered up the courage to go to my Weight Watchers meeting. Somehow my Christmas calories hadn't caught up with me, and I was still pretty close to my goal weight. The crowd was mighty sparse, though. I am fairly confident that it will be packed next week, when the New Year's resolution people show up. They come every year for a few weeks - you can set your watch (or at least your calendar) by it.

Later in the afternoon we headed to the movie theater to see "Bolt." Previously, P had stated that he would not take our daughter to see a movie again until her age was in the double digits. An ill-fated trip to see "Kung Fu Panda" had ruined him for movies. However, with both of us there, we could tag-team her and keep her in her seat. We also had a bit of luck running in our direction for once. The newspaper indicated that the movie started at 1:30. I happened to look it up online and found that the paper was wrong - the actual start time was 1:10. So, we showed up at the right time and no doubt lots of families showed up at the wrong time. In any case, there were only a few people in our particular theater. Also, the movie itself was really good. If you have kids and are feeling brave, check it out.

A and I wrapped up the weekend with a trip to the "Jumpity-Jump Place," while her dad stayed home and watched football. The "Jumpity-Jump Place" is one of those joints where you can fling yourself around on giant inflatables. Parents get to jump for free - rock on! She and I jumped and played for an hour, and I'm hoping someone will fall asleep early tonight. And by "someone," I mean me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

All Over but the Shoutin'

My first mistake on Christmas Day: waking her up. I was excited for the kid to get up and start creating meaningful videotaped memories, so I rousted her out of bed. Plus, we had to get the gift opening done before my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece arrived for lunch. Waking A up at 7 didn't seem to be such a bad idea until later in the day. By mid-afternoon, she had become delirious from the festivities, had two potty accidents ("Why didn't you use the potty?" "Because I'm sorry!" That's her response lately when she gets busted for something - she won't explain why she did it, but cuts right to the chase and just starts yelling, "Because I'm sorry!"), and started carrying out ideas that were just bad in general.

My second mistake: lunch. With two days to go before my weekly weigh-in at Weight Watchers, I found myself devouring stuffed shells, garlic mashed potatoes, and French bread. I just love a good piece of crunchy, chewy, buttery bread from time to time, and I don't care who knows it. My sister-in-law brought over some brownies that were not only frosted, but also contained caramel and cookie dough. I believe these are illegal in several states. I didn't want to be rude, of course, so I decided to partake of the chocolately goodness.

My third mistake: using a salt scrub that my mom sent me for my hands. You see, I had spent a good part of my day liberating plastic toys from their packages. As all parents know, toys are held in display boxes by pure titanium and super glue. Somewhere in the process of cutting twist ties and slashing through cardboard, I somehow managed to stab myself in the palm of my right hand. As it turns out, "salt in your wounds" is not just a saying. It hurts like I don't know what. My hands, though, are soft and smooth as can be.

Wearing her Christmas dress and her "tappa shoes," as she calls her black dress shoes (which are not tap shoes)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


We wanted to get this particular pronunciation on video before she wises up and starts saying it correctly.

Also, Little Miss Generosity agreed to leave exactly one cookie for Santa tonight. As if we aren't up to our armpits in baked goods around here . . .

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I was watching "Sunday Morning" on, well, Sunday morning, and caught an interview with actor/singer Kristin Chenoweth. I was vaguely aware of her, but apparently I don't watch the shows she is on. (Unless you show up on "Yo Gabba Gabba" or some other program on Noggin, I probably don't know who the heck you are.)

During the interview, the reporter mentioned that Chenoweth was adopted at birth. I thought to myself, "Oh no, here we go. There'll be some long diatribe about how devastated she is and how she feels lost and unfulfilled." That often seems to be the case when adoption is portrayed in the media, so I braced myself for it.

Instead, she mentioned only that she was curious simply to know which of her birthparents could sing. And that was about it. Regarding the parents who raised her, she said, "My parents should never be allowed to sing in public. Ever." It was pretty funny. The reporter replied that maybe her parents could sway along with the music and Chenoweth said, "Oh no, they shouldn't even sway."

This was particularly amusing to me because, as much as I love music, my singing is truly atrocious. No one in my family can carry a tune. Not even close. But, I have some hope for my daughter because her birthmother loves to sing and apparently has a lovely singing voice. I am hoping to get A involved in children's theater and I'm sure it would be a plus if she can sing.

It always does my heart good to learn about adoptees, like Kristin Chenoweth, who are confident and happy. For others, I know there is angst and pain, and I get that. I don't want to minimize or marginalize that at all. But as an adoptive mom, it soothes me (and my perpetually worried, frenetic sort of brain) to know that there are plenty of adoptees who are faring well.

In other news, the kid is apparently learning about the human body at school. Every few minutes she tells us, "Your heart is beating blood all over your body!"

Monday, December 22, 2008


Yesterday morning, I was trying to hustle the kid into the van so that we could get to church. It was -4 outside (I know I am prone to exaggeration but trust me, that was the actual temperature) and I just wanted to get her in and go. I've read that there have been actual studies which prove that tailgating a car only succeeds in making the driver go more slowly. Similarly, the more you try to hustle my daughter along, the slower she moves. First, she needs to settle Teddy into the seat next to hers. Sometimes she insists on buckling him in, which adds a couple more minutes. Then she has to screw around with the overhead push lights in the back of the van. And so on it goes.

Yesterday, I was getting profoundly exasperated with the whole routine. She was wandering around the back of the van while I was shivering in the garage. Finally, she clambered into her car seat. But then, she wanted to buckle herself in. Argh! I danced from foot to foot to keep warm until I was able to confirm that she was properly secured and ready to go.

And then I heard this:

"Mama, I am so happy to be with you." She looked up at me and smiled, her cheeks flushed from the frigid air.

Oh, man. She stopped me in my tracks with that one. I don't know if she just wanted a little insurance in case Santa was watching her or if she simply sensed my frustration. Or, maybe she just said it because she was, in fact, happy to be with me. It was one of those moments where you are virtually brought to your knees with the knowledge that a) you're kinda being an ass and b) a little kid loves you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bakin' cookies for Santa

We went through three, yes three, full bottles of sprinkles. If Santa doesn't already have a firm diagnosis of diabetes, he will have it by the time he leaves our house on Wednesday night.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I do, in fact, rock

I went to Weight Watchers this morning and for the first time in two years or so, I didn't have to pay the meeting fee. As a Lifetime member, I don't have to pay if I'm within two pounds of my goal weight. I wasn't at my goal weight, but I was within spitting distance of it. Of course, I immediately went out to breakfast and ate a double-chocolate muffin, so it's hard to say what next week will bring. I like to live dangerously, eating those carbs and all.

After breakfast, I did something crazy: I went to the mall. And I took my kid, which makes everything 79% harder. She wanted to pick out a gift for Father, so I told her we'd do it today. We got to the mall early enough that it wasn't horribly crowded, but parking was still an issue. You see, it snows every ten minutes here, and you can't see the lines in the parking lot. So everyone uses the "this seems close enough" method of finding a space.

We found a gift and then drove across the street to Barnes & Noble so that I could pick up a Hanukkah book. I'm teaching the Pre-K class at church tomorrow and since Hanukkah starts tomorrow night, I thought this would an appropriate lesson. The line to the cash registers wrapped around the building eight times, I think.

All the way home, I reminded A that Father's gift is a secret. Secrets are not, in fact, her specialty. We have an oft-told story in my family, which took place when my wee baby sister was around the same age my daughter is now. Our dad took me and my two sisters shopping to buy Christmas (or maybe it was birthday) gifts for our mom. We got her a bunch of Estee Lauder stuff, including bath products. All the way home, he cautioned my youngest sister not to spill the beans about the gifts. When we pulled up in the driveway, she hopped out of the car, ran up the front walk, and yelled, "MOMMY! WE GOT YOU POWDER!" before she even hit the front door.

Remembering the lesson learned from this (small children cannot be trusted), I purposely didn't tell A what we got for her teacher until two days ago. When P picked the kid up from school yesterday, he handed the gift bag to her so that she could give it to Miss Angela. "Oh," said Miss Angela, "Is this my red candle?" Damn those kids and their honesty anyway!

So far, the kid is keeping mum on the gifts for the most part, but I'm pretty sure she'll sing like a canary before sundown.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Climbing Out

I'd like to thank everyone who sent their condolences over Karl's death. It helped to know that others understood why I was such a blubbering, mascara-streaked heap. I thought I was faring a bit better today, but then I opened the mail and found a sympathy card from my veterinarian. The card contained my boy's paw print.

When I'm at home, I keep thinking I see him out of the corner of my eye. He was black, of course, and enjoyed napping in darkened doorways. We'd trip over him and then exclaim, "Geez, Karl!" I truly think he enjoyed it.

I found something today that succeeded in cheering me up a bit. The artist is Santogold. Check it out.

(Note: if you don't like it, you can't be my friend anymore. Ha!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I miss my boy.

P and I took Karl to the veterinary clinic together. We left A at school, deciding that she is far too young to watch her doggie cross over. Later, we let her know that Karl was sick and had died (I had given her some advance warning that morning also). I'm not sure how much she absorbs or understands at this point. I hope she will remember him.

Just as we were leaving the house, Karl put his head down, gagged, and left three small puddles of bile on the carpet. He had not eaten since last week, so that was all that was left in him, I suppose. He would still take a treat, but he would then deposit it on the rug within an hour. Often, there was blood in his vomit. At times we hoped we had his condition under control through dietary changes and medications, but it would always cycle back through with a vengeance.

For several months, I cleaned up the vomit and fretted. When the snow came, I realized just how bad it was, because I could see all of the vomit in the back yard that I hadn't been able to see before. Meanwhile, Karl grew thinner and less lively. All his life, we had a little routine where I would approach him when he was laying down and enthusiastically ask, "Who's my good boy? Who's my Karlie Snarly?" And he would fwap-fwap-fwap his feathered tail against the floor in response. In recent weeks, he stopped fwapping. His formerly glorious black coat became dull.

I knew that eventually I would need to make a decision, but I hesitated for weeks. Was I making the right choice for my boy, my friend of 10 years, or was I simply tired of cleaning up vomit three times a day? Granted, the vomit was no fun. Bile stains on impact. My steam cleaner was ready to pack its bags and header for greener (or at least cleaner) pastures. But, I truly felt he was suffering. When he stopped eating for good, I suspected that it was as clear a sign as I would get. It's possible that we could have opted for exploratory surgery to find out what was going wrong on the inside (bloodwork and x-rays had come back negative), but I felt he was probably too frail to withstand the anesthesia. Karl had weighed over 70 pounds in his prime and now clocked in at just over 50.

At the veterinary clinic, Karl was anxious and paced back and forth between my husband and me. We stroked him and reassured him. A veterinary technician took him out of the room to insert a catheter in his foreleg. She brought him back in a few minutes later. We spent a few last minutes with Karl before the veterinarian arrived.

Karl was placed on a low table that had a soft fleece blanket on top. The veterinary technician stood nearby as the veterinarian began the injection. P and I knelt next to the table and stroked Karl's head. I whispered to him, "Go and find the Goose. She'll be waiting for you. She runs in a field near our house. Look for her." Karl and his Boxer sister were together for nearly 8 years until her death in November of 2006, so I hoped they would reunite on the other side. I cried openly and put my head down, feeling my tears falling against the fleece blanket. "I love you, good boy," I said.

After he died, I leaned down and hugged Karl's still-warm body. I held his paw, which was an odd sensation for me as he had never allowed this when he was alive without freaking out like a mental patient. It was a running joke among family and friends: "Don't touch Karl's paws."

I took Karl's collar, but left his festive "Santa's Little Helper" bandana on. I hoped that everyone who handled my boy's skinny body after his death would see it and know that he was loved.

On the way to pick up the kid, we shared a few memories of Karl. "Remember how he loved to run in the woods up at the cabin? And how he would come back limping from chasing squirrels?" I asked. We were glad we took him up there in August, even though he was already getting sick by then.

Mostly, we remembered that he never caused us any trouble. We had no Marley-type stories of cookies eaten off the counter or massive property damage. He was easily housebroken after we adopted him from the shelter. He was easily trained. He was patient with our daughter. Karl, all along, was a gentleman. He was a good, good dog.

Monday, December 15, 2008

In Memory of Karl Lee

Oh Karl, Snarlie, Snooley, Snarlsberg, Karlington, Karlie Carleone . . . I miss you, good boy. Please look for The Goose - I know she will look after you. I hope your tummy is full and your coat is shiny and you are restored to health.

I love you.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What the kids are asking for these days

At a museum's exhibit of old department store decorations we visited yesterday.

This morning, the kids at church performed a Christmas program. We're UU's, so the play wasn't the standard Jesus/Mary/Joseph manger theme. Instead, they performed "The Last Straw" based on a book of the same name. My daughter is in the Pre-K class at church, and those kids are usually given simple walk-on parts since there's not much hope of getting three-year-olds to practice/memorize anything.

A's role was to add an item to the camel's pack. The camel (played by a talented teen girl) was traveling across the desert to bring gifts to the baby Jesus. About halfway through the performance, my kid was summoned to play her pivotal role. She shoved some sort of package in the camel's pack as guided by one of the teachers standing offstage. A then started to gallop back towards me. However, for some reason she then turned on her heel and skipped back across the stage. Perhaps realizing she was in the wrong place (though I sort of doubt it, as she firmly believes that she is already semi-famous), she ran back across the stage again . . . only this time she lifted her skirt up and down as she did so. I didn't bring a camera, so I can only hope that one of other moms captured that one for posterity.

Seated back in my lap, she watched two of the high school girls playing a hymn on their clarinets. "I wish I had an instrument, " my daughter said, wistfully.

"Maybe Santa will get you one for Christmas," I whispered. I happen to know that Santa did, in fact, pick up a purple plastic recorder for $7.00 at Pier 1 yesterday.

"HE'S BRINGING ME A TROMBONE?!" she replied loudly. I have no idea why she is so fixated on having a trombone, but she mentions it at least once a week. "I sure wish I had a trombone," she'll say as she pushes her beans around on her dinner plate. I have no doubt that somewhere out there, some company probably does manufacture trombones for three-year-olds, but I'm going to try not to think about it too much.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thanks, Santa

Hooray for Tooth-Rotting, Sticky, Nutrition-Free Candy Canes!

We took the kid to see the man in red yesterday (per the parental contract). There was a family in line in front of us, and their daughter had clearly reached the "no way, no how" stage in relation to Santa. She shook her head vigorously and scowled at the camera lady. A had the same reaction during her second Christmas. At seven months she was happy to sit on Santa's lap, but the following year: not on your life. I had to give this young couple credit, because they were NOT giving up. The dad perched next to Santa on the velvet throne, clutching his frowning daughter in his lap, while the mom and camera lady worked on the kid. There was a lot of waving of candy canes and peek-a-boo-I-see-you and other futile endeavors. No go.

By the way, have you seen this book? I understand it contains photos of screaming kids on Santa's lap through the decades. I think I need it.

When it was A's turn, she hopped on Santa's lap and chatted with him amiably. This was a very soft-spoken Santa, which was a problem for me because I had built him up to be a bit more fire and brimstone. He wasn't playing into my hands the way I'd hoped, so I thought I should give him a gentle reminder about his role. "I almost had to call you the other day," I told him. "She was being a bit naughty."

He turned to my daughter and softly said, "Oh, you have to be good for mom and dad." He didn't add, "OR YOU'LL GET NO PRESENTS!" in a menacing tone as I would have liked.

As the visit finished, Santa handed her a candy cane while I took out a small loan to pay for "Package B." (Only the Trumps can afford the elusive Package C, I imagine.)

On the way home, I reminded the kid that she still has two weeks to go before Santa comes to town. "But he's already in town," she said. Well, I guess she had me there.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hound for the Holidays

I picked up a new foster Boxer on Sunday. His name is Caesar. The kid, however, persists in calling him "Susie" no matter how many times I correct her. She grabbed my camera on Sunday evening and decided to take some photos of our new guest (she took the snapshot above which, frankly, is at least as good as any picture I've ever taken). I was on the computer and could hear her in the next room, chatting with her subject.

"Sit, Susie!" I heard her say.

"Goober, his name is Caesar!"

Five minutes later: "Susie, you're so cuuuuuute."

The new guy seems to be settling in pretty well, though he's still a bit nervous. He jumps up and follows us from room to room. He was surrendered by a family who said they were moving and couldn't have him in their new place. His birthday is 5/18/05, which makes him about two weeks younger than my daughter. Caesar came from a home with a two-year-old in it, so he's good with kids.

I was told that Caesar has occasional issues with other dogs, particularly if the other dog is dominant at all. I was hopeful that he would fit in with my crew and, fortunately, it seems to be working out fine. Seeing as how Giddy allowed Chloe (our last foster) to hump him every day for seven months, I think it's safe to say he is not dominant. And my old man, Karl, no longer has the energy to rough up newcomers. I fear he will be leaving us after the holidays, but I am blocking that thought for now.

So, Caesar/Susie will be with us through the holidays, as the rescue puts a hold on adoptions between Christmas and New Year's (dogs don't make good gifts, for alla ya'll that don't know). The tricky part is that we still have a lot of dogs coming in even though we aren't placing any. With the economy sucking ass like it is, a lot of times it seems like the family dog is the first thing to go.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


We bundled up and drove to a tree farm yesterday. It was very cold so our standards were accordingly low. Basically, we decided to select a tree based on its proximity to our parked car. P felled the tree while the kid made snow angels in every unmarred patch of white stuff she could find. The only problem was that she had a heck of a time trying to get back up again. She was like the snowsuited little brother from "A Christmas Story" who couldn't put his arms down and couldn't pull himself up once he was horizontal.

Before long we had a tree on the roof of the familymobile and were headed home. I am once again grateful to our ancient kissing gourami for (voluntarily) heading off to that great pond in the sky so that I could put a tree in the spot formerly occupied by our 35-gallon aquarium. We bought a smallish tree that fits in the corner and voila, no furniture re-arranging required.

We decorated the tree and allowed the kid to help. Half the ornaments are hung about 30 inches off the floor, often clanging together on the same branch. We wait until she's out of the room and then surreptitiously relocate them one by one. The good news is that she's not what you'd call observant.

This morning I tried to take A's photo in front of the tree, but apparently she has gone all blurry. On Tuesday, we are taking her to see Santa so that she can discuss her good/naughty list status with him. She said that she plans to ask him for "the pink thing with wheels on it that I like so I can turn them." Good luck with that one, Santa.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry.

I need to assure you that I am generally aware of the different parenting/discipline techniques out there. Many are similar to those used in dog training, believe it or not. Positive reinforcement. Time-out. Assertive discipline. The list goes on and on.

But here is what I find works best:

"Do it one more time and I'm calling Santa."

My daughter (and I'd venture to say that 9 out of 10 three-year-olds are inclined to agree with her) does not believe in being "good for goodness' sake." She believes in pushing boundaries until they are stretched beyond recognition.

The Santa Threat is really only effective for about four weeks out of the year. You have to be careful not to pull it out of your arsenal too quickly. I waited until our Thanksgiving vacation. My little buttercup ran away from me at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and headed for a moving sidewalk (which was moving in the opposite direction from where we needed to go). I asked her to turn around and stay by my side (you know, where she was less likely to get kidnapped?). She ignored me.

"Fine!" I called after her. "I'm calling Santa right now!" I reached for my cell phone. A stopped, dropped to her knees, threw back her head and yelled, "No! Don't. Call. SAAAAAANTA!" Dozens of travelers streamed past her as she knelt on the carpet in the middle of the concourse. Some looked perplexed and some just smiled at me and nodded (the latter group, no doubt, were parents).

I collected my child off the floor. After warning her again of the dangers of running off in a large, international airport, I generously agreed to give her a pass this time, but warned that next time she might not be so lucky.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Thanksgiving (Day 6 of Mother-Daughter Togetherness)

New bebe

The trip to Oklahoma was generally pretty subdued, but we did have a bit of drama towards the end.

On Friday afternoon A and I drove my dad to the airport in Oklahoma City. I then drove to my friend Susie's house. Susie has a May 05 kid also (we knew each other from a birth club board on Babycenter). Her son was so hospitable towards my daughter, who in turn was pretty much a pill. She played with his toys and pretended like he wasn't there, while he did everything he could think of to engage her. Susie and Mark also have an adorable one-year-old daughter.

As we sat around chatting, my mother called me on my cell. My reception was bad - I had about half a bar at best. She told me she had fallen and thought she might need an ambulance. She stumbled after waking up from a nap and smacked her arm and her head on the edge of the nightstand. My mother lives in a town about five blocks wide, surrounded by cows on all sides. There are no traffic lights and no stores - I felt reasonably certain that an emergency facility (or even a kindly family doctor) was out of the question. I suggested she call my sister, who was closer than I was at that point.

By the time I got back to my mom's house, she had contacted her neighbor, whose sister is a nurse. The nurse confirmed that my mom hadn't broken anything and didn't need stitches. She was a mess, though.

The next day was my wee baby sister's birthday. She turned 27. I picked up her and her boys and took them "into town." We went to lunch and did a little shopping. I tell you, wrestling three kids in and out of car seats reminds me of why I just have the one kid.

When we got back to my sister's house, her husband was walking outside just as we were pulling in. I rolled down the window and said, "Hey little boy, want some candy?" He looked at me and asked me to come inside. "Oooooh!" I said to my sister. "Maybe he has a surprise for your birthday! Or maybe he wants to have an affair!" My jocularity ended quickly when I saw what had happened. Their Bluetick Coonhound, Dan, had someone sliced his back open. The cut was around four inches long and nearly an inch deep. I guess Jason wanted me to take a look because he knows I volunteer for rescue and have seen my share of gross stuff.

I took a look at Dan's owie and knew there was no doubt that stitches were needed. The problem was that it was Saturday night on a holiday weekend in a very rural area and there was no veterinarian within reach. I gave my brother-in-law and my sister some tips for keeping Dan's wound clean and wrapped until the nearest clinic opened on Monday morning.

No one knows how Dan cut himself. He was probably hunting something on the property (while I was there he spent a full day baying at the woodpile because he's convinced something lives in there) and attempted to get into an area where he didn't actually fit.

The next day, A and I drove to Oklahoma City to catch our flight. We had three flights on Sunday, and I had been dreading it all week. The layovers were very short and I was worried that we'd miss a flight somewhere along the line. Also, I had reached Maximum Mother-Daughter Time a few days before that.

We did catch all three flights and landed in a snowstorm at home, so I guess I can't complain. The biggest challenge I faced was that my daughter literally cannot stop talking for thirty seconds. I was desperate for a few minutes of solitude so that I could read a magazine. Even with her DVD player running Peter Pan, the questions did not stop. "Mama, why is that man sitting next to us? Why is the plane shaking? Can I have a sucker? Is Father at our house?"

I challenged her to a game called: Keep your lips together for five minutes. She lost.

Anywho . . . that's the story of our vacation.

The good news? I didn't need this coupon I found in a local phone book:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Don't Forget to Wave

Now that our vacation has reached the halfway point, I've made a couple of observations about the great state of Oklahoma.

One, there is an unwritten law that requires you to wave to drivers headed in the opposite direction on the back roads. I keep forgetting until it's too late - the benevolent, waving driver has already passed me, his hand held palm outward in the unrequited gesture. I was driving with my dad the other day so I appointed him as our official waver, since apparently I cannot handle the responsibility.

My mother informed me that there are degrees to the wave that are permissible. You can extend your whole arm and rotate your hand rapidly at the wrist, in an enthusiastic version of the greeting. Or, if you are feeling a bit peckish, you can get away with raising your index finger (no, not THAT finger) above your steering wheel.

The good news is that I'm in a rental car (with out of state plates), so whenever I forget to wave, the locals just think I'm a jerk from Nevada. I don't think anything terrible happens to non-wavers, except that I am probably accumulating bad karma at an alarming rate.

The other observation I have made is that the big style (for the younger girls, anyway) seems to involve skinny jeans and puffy boots. It was odd only from the perspective that it was around 70 degrees today.

Oh, I have to add that I got "howdy'ed" when we went out to eat today. And somehow, it felt downright genuine. People are plenty nice here, though they are friendly in my neck of the woods, too. When I bought groceries the other day, the young cashier (whose arms were the approximate diameter of a McDonald's drinking straw) brought our stuff out to the car and loaded it up for us. Apparently it is a requirement of some sort. I was all confused - do I tip? Not tip? I only had a twenty, so I decided to risk being deemed a jerk from Nevada than a crazy high-tipper from Nevada.

That's all the news for now. I'm headed to my sister's house for the night. You know, on the street with no name in the town with no name. Please send a posse if I don't come back.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oklahoma's OK (or at least pretty damned decent)

The kid and I made it to Oklahoma on Saturday. Our flights were on time and we had no complaints (well, A had a few, but that's par for the course). God love the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport - we had a three-hour layover and they have a children's play area. We killed an hour there, until one member of our party loudly announced that she had to poop. I took her to a handicapped stall and stood facing the corner while my daughter yelled, "Don't look at my poop!"

My dad met our flight in Oklahoma City. My parents are in the process of moving to OK permanently, and my dad is still in DC, working. So, he arrived about an hour before we did, and we got a rental car and headed to the middle of nowhere. My mother lives in the middle of nowhere, and my sister lives somewhere west of nowhere. Seriously, she lives on a road that has no name. The British lady inside my GPS was completely baffled when I tried to drive over there for a visit.

As I was out and about yesterday, I turned on the radio in the rental car and hit the "seek" button. I watched it spin all the way around the dial and land on a hip-hop station. I can't figure out who is listening to it. The eight thousand cows I have seen are largely black but, um, that's about it. I don't mind a little hip-hop, but I'd reached my saturation point within an hour or so. Now I see why the rental car company was hawking satellite radio.

Other than the lack of a decent radio station, our trip is going pretty well. The kid is over the moon about spending quality time with my parents. My mom bought her toys and my dad is more than willing to watch Noggin with her. "Wonderpets" does creep him out a little, but I can hardly blame him on that one.

Anywho . . . it's a nice, quiet vacation. Not much going on out here. Seriously, though, if you need to dump a body at all, I'm pretty sure this is the place to do it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Off to Oklahoma (Where the Wind Comes Sweepin' Down the Plain)

The kid and I are headed to Oklahoma, Land of Meemaw, tomorrow morning. I've been packing since Tuesday. I'm trying to keep it pared down to the basics, but I also feel compelled to run through a few "what if" scenarios ("what if she rolls in a pile of opened magic markers?" - don't laugh, I actually have a very strong suspicion that she has done this) and plan accordingly. The kid, for her part, is being very helpful by filling our luggage with things like Mardi Gras beads and a small painted pumpkin.

We've run into one minor snag. Now, A has been housebroken for around eight months now and seldom has an accident. But yesterday, just as we were about to head out to see "Sesame Street Live," she peed through her underwear and onto the bathroom floor. I didn't think much of it, and got her changed and then cleaned up the bathroom. Later, after we got back from the gala performance, she was laying in my bed and peed again. Suddenly I started having nightmares about being ten states away with a child who has a roaring UTI.

I asked her a few questions like, "Does it hurt when you pee?" At first she nodded yes but then, realizing that such an admission would lead to a doctor visit, she recanted. We have had ongoing cooter-related issues since she was one or so. The pediatrician never finds anything, and the problem never really gets resolved.

So, I think I am going to try to get her an appointment today, just to be on the safe side.

I hope to be able to update my blog next week while I'm on vacation. My mom just bought a laptop and is working on getting an internet connection. She lives in a very small town and apparently her ISP options are pretty limited. Here is an example of how small the town is. When she called a local provider about getting an internet connection, the guy said this:

"Can you step outside and tell me if you have a clear view of the tower on the nursing home?"

My mom stepped outside and confirmed that she had an unobstructed view.

"Great," the technician told her. "We can get you hooked up."

I sure hope so, because is the only thing that enables me to have ten minutes to myself these days.

See you on the flip side.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hey, did we end up with an opened-box floor model or something?

Mmmm, cinnaminnamon toast

A had her six-month cleaning and check-up with our dentist yesterday. Her very first visit was in May and as I mentioned in a blog entry at that time, I learned then that she is defective: she's got an underbite.

At yesterday's visit, the dental hygienist was cleaning my daughter's teeth and mentioned the underbite. She gave me a knowing look and said, "You should start putting away money now for the orthodontia." She informed me that she used to work in an oral surgeon's office and that this sort of thing gets very expensive. Expensive, as in, you'll-be-living-off-Ramen-noodles-straight-into-your-golden-years expensive. "If it gets really bad, she won't even be able to bite into a sandwich," the hygienist said ominously. I had visions of my beautiful daughter developing some freakish Bulldog jaw. (In an ironic twist, I volunteer for Boxer rescue, and one of the tests to determine if a dog is a purebred Boxer is to confirm that the dog has an undershot jaw. This trait is desirable for the breed and in fact the AKC breed standard requires it. In humans, though, apparently this is not the case.)

Meanwhile, the kid was lying flat on her back with a flat-screen monitor hanging over her face. She even got to choose the flavor of toothpaste used to polish her misaligned choppers. Oh, and what does she get to watch while she gets her teeth cleaned? A Spongebob Squarepants cartoon. What do I get to watch on the monitor while I get my teeth cleaned? An x-ray of my own mouth. I've been robbed.

But, back to Little Miss Underbite. We are still paying on an adoption loan we took out when she was born. We will be making payments on it for years to come. So now it appears as though once we pay that off, we'll then start funneling our money straight into our daughter's mouth.

The dental hygienist had me believing that someday a surgeon is going to have to unhinge my daughter's child (you know, like a snake unhinges its jaw in order to swallow a cat or whatever?) and then re-align her bite and put her back together. When the dentist came in, however, he was a bit more conservative. He said we should wait until her adult teeth come in and then see where we are. It has been my experience that wrong things never fix themselves, but qui sait?

And people wonder why we have only one child.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"You don't hafta go home, but you can't stay here."

After partying like a big dog

Saturday was a long one. I attended a Weight Watchers meeting at 8 a.m. I lost a couple pounds but again, it's the same few I keep losing and gaining. Anti-climactic at best.

Then I drove my van across town to the dealership for an oil change. I was overdue by 1,000 miles, but I'm sure they've seen worse. I listened to my iPod while I waited for the plastic pager to buzz the news of my van's ready-to-go-ness. One of the mechanics (technicians?) came towards me, clipboard in hand. "Shit," I thought. It seems like every other time I'm in there, they show me some random part from my car and tell me how degraded it is. "This is your schnehoozadumper hose, Mrs. M. See how rusty it is?"

But, I got lucky this time. It turned out they had forgotten to write down my pager number and were unable to summon me. They were sending me off with just the oil change, as luck would have it.

Next, I drove to Target to buy a gift card for a birthday party that the kid would be attending in the afternoon. Then I drove home and picked up Chloe so that I could take her to her new digs. Chloe's new home is about two hours away, and the trip was pretty uneventful. She snoozed on the backseat while I chatted with my wee baby sister on the phone. When we arrived at our destination, Chloe ran in to her new abode and promptly peed on a blanket. I had assured her new family that she was absolutely, positively housebroken, so that was fun. Chloe's new doggie brothers were happy to see her again, and the genital sniffing ("Hey, she's still got a vagina, just like last week!") and head punching were in full swing in no time.

I think Chloe barely noticed when I left, but I'm sure she was crying on the inside.

Once I got home in the late afternoon (A and P were still at the birthday party), I had just enough time to change and head over to the fellowship to help set up for an auction/fundraiser/dance. A and "Father" met me there at 6. The kids watched "Madagascar" and ate pizza while the grown-ups spent their money bidding on things like gourmet dinners and massages. I'd never bid on a massage. The last time I had a massage, I spent the entire session fretting over how the massage therapist was no doubt wondering how it was possible for one body to house that much cellulite.

After the auction, the DJ cranked up the music and the kids started filtering back in. Would you like to guess who was the first person to hit the dance floor? If you guessed that it was a curly-haired girl sporting glitter shoes and cake frosting, you're right. Then we couldn't get her off the dance floor. As I recall, she closed down the party last year as well.

I did win a few things in the silent auction: a six-hour chunk of babysitting by a Red Cross-certified 14-year-old, a cloth teepee (which is currently hiding in the basement and should make quite an impression on Christmas morning), and some Disney Princess stuff (also hiding in the basement).

Giddy and Chloe, taking their last nap together

Thursday, November 13, 2008

[Insert Expletives - the More Foul the Better - Here] Airlines

The kid and I are flying to Oklahoma next Saturday for Thanksgiving. We're connecting through Minneapolis. This is the fourth year we have flown for Thanksgiving, and each year the airlines find new and unusual ways to make the entire experience as unpleasant as possible. I knew there were new baggage fees since the last time we flew, so I called Northwest Airlines this morning to ask if I'd be charged if I check a car seat. In the past, a car seat did not count towards one's luggage limit at all. After all, it's a safety item for a child, required by law when traveling in a car, and not a set of golf clubs.

Knowing that the airlines are now charging for everything from Diet Coke to oxygen, I thought I'd better just make sure they weren't planning to charge me for checking a car seat. I sent an email through the NWA website (the acronym NWA always makes me think of the gansta rap group first and the airline second, which probably means there is something very wrong with me) and got an auto-reply indicating that I'd get a response in umpteen business days.

I waited a few days and then tried to call the baggage department at my local airport. The recording told me that I have to report my lost luggage in person and then there was a beeeeeep that seemed to indicate I should leave a message. Yeah, I'm sure they return those calls toute de suite. Then I called an 800 number for NWA. I was eventually connected with a woman who sounded like she had lost the will to live. I asked her my car seat question and she put me on hold.

Now, I should add that I did wade through the website first in order to find an answer to my question. The website says only that I can gate-check the car seat or take it on the plane and attach my child to it. We learned the hard way on our trip to Texas that putting the kid in a car seat lifts her up and out so that she can successfully kick the seat in front of her. Not fun. Plus, I really don't want to haul a car seat through three airports. It's just the two of us so I will already be carrying two coats, two carry-ons, Teddy, and whatever else my little boss lady makes me carry for her. ("Tote that barge and lift that bale, get a little drunk an' you land in jail . . . ") In any case, the website did not answer my question, so that is why I had the privilege and honor of speaking with Mrs. Sunshine and Rainbows.

When she came back from leaving me on hold ("Shoot That Poison Arrow" by ABC was playing, in case you wondered), she advised me that if I check the car seat, I will be charged for a second bag. In other words, it counts towards my luggage allotment.

"Let me make sure I understand this," I told her. "You are going to charge me $50.00 ($25 each way) to check a car seat, when that is approximately how much the car seat is worth? That doesn't make any sense."

She put me on hold, probably to finish up her suicide note, and then came back on the line and told me the same thing again. I went a few rounds with her, hoping she'd at least acknowledge that the policy is way stupid.

When I check in at the airport next Saturday, I will take up the issue again with some hapless NWA agent at the counter, while my husband stands far enough away to make it clear that he is not in any way acquainted with the crazy lady ranting about luggage fees.

Is it just me, or is this the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard? Either I pay to check the car seat or I lug it through three airports. What the $%&*?! I need a sedative.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I, wanna take you to my cage
Lock you up and hide the key

I often sing to Chloe to the tune of "Jungle Love" by The Time. This means that I am: a) lame, b) mentally unstable c) old, d) all of the above. Oh, and she's stone deaf, so there's that.

Chloe, a purebred Boxer, has been a guest in our home for nearly seven months. A lot of people passed her by, despite the fact that she is young, healthy, smart, and housebroken. Well, I am iffy on the "smart" part. She is intelligent in that she learns new commands quickly and easily. But the other day I was emptying the vacuum canister when it sprang open prematurely, dumping a heap o'gunk on the carpet. Chloe ran straight over and started eating it. I thought she would stop when she realized she was eating dirt but, ah, no.

Anyway, because she is deaf, most people dismissed her out of hand when they saw her on the rescue's website. Finally, though, an applicant came to meet her last weekend. Chloe was thoroughly obnoxious, and jumped all over her guests. However, these folks already have a Boxer and probably would have been surprised had she NOT jumped on them. They brought their other dogs along for the visit, and the three pooches ran around my backyard, taking turns punching each other in the head and sniffing each other's nether region.

Chloe will be going to her new home on Saturday. I will miss my "sweet little cupcake baked by the devil." She spoons with me at night. She grabs alphabet letters off the refrigerator and chews them up. She eats baby wipes like they are some fine gourmet delicacy. She humps my Boxer, Giddy. Each time I head down to the basement to grab the laundry, she shoves her head through the cat door and waits for me to come back up, resting her chin on the top step until I do.

Good luck in your new home, sassy girl. I'll miss you. Here, take the letter B - one for the road.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stuff Not to Say to Moi

"Mama, you're sooooooooo . . . large."

That's what my precious daughter said to me on Saturday. Couldn't you just eat her up?

I did take her to Weight Watchers with me that morning. She doesn't know why I go or that it has anything to do with my apparent enormousness. She entertained herself during the meeting by drawing letters on a points tracker. At one point she whispered, "Mama, somebody farted at your meeting!" After Weight Watchers, we headed to a craft fair and then out to brunch with my friend Nancy.

Later in the afternoon, I drove out of town and stayed overnight at my friend Becky's house (in case you ever spend the night at Becky's, please note that she seriously turns the heat off overnight. I assured her that this would not keep me from freeloading in the future, but that it was darned good try.) I spent most of Sunday at a dog fair with the rescue. Let me just say this about that. If you ever attend a dog festival of some sort and you see me holding a leash with a homeless dog on the other end, do not say this: "He must smell my dog." Really, do you think so? It's okay, you didn't know that the 74 people who passed by before you also said it. That's why I'm telling you for next time. Write it down if you need to.

Anyway, you can say it if you want, but my foot will reflexively connect with your shin.

In other news, our kissing gourami finally expired over the weekend. I am feeling guilty because on Friday I said this: "I really wish we could put our Christmas tree right where the aquarium is." Fitting a tree in our smallish living room involves a massive restructuring each year. Plus, I had no idea that a) our kissing gouramis would live for 11 years (I know I am prone to hyperbole, but I assure you that 11 is accurate) and b) I would be the only one to clean the aquarium - ever. I never could tell the two fish apart when both were still alive, so I never named them or anything.

P did the honors of removing the fish. I am not sure what he did with the corpse. I know he was much too large to flush. A saw me emptying the aquarium and asked where the fish had gone. I explained that he had died because he was very old and his body didn't work anymore. Now, I should also add that I was out of town for a good chunk of the weekend and neither she nor her father noticed that the fish was pressed up against the glass on the front side of the tank, actively rotting.

As I was emptying the millionth pitcher of water into the sink, A came in and leaned against the pantry door. She sighed loudly. "I sure miss Goldie."


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Truly, truly maddening

I know I've complained about this before, but would someone please tell the media that raising a child makes you a parent - not just the act of giving birth?

I stumbled across this article about Nicole Kidman.

The quote that made my blood boil:

"Then, last July, Kidman gave birth to her first child, daughter Sunday Rose. Suddenly the long lenses were back, behind every bush and mailbox.

The new mother has reacted intensely with "whatever that primal thing is, the need and desire to keep her very protected," Kidman says."

This baby is not her first child and she is not a new mother! Her other children, Connor and Isabella, were adopted at birth and are now teenagers. The woman has been a mom for a long time now. But according to the media, I guess those were just practice kids and she's got her real one now.

I was in the delivery room when my daughter was born. The moment I saw her, I understood why people say that a mom can muster the adrenaline to lift a car off her child. I feel like I could lift a bus (fully-loaded) off my daughter if I had to. I know her by heart. My nostrils carry the scent of her hair and my fingertips are moist with her tears. Being her mom is my greatest joy, and anyone who thinks otherwise will be wearing the aforementioned bus.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And you thought you could rely on inanimate objects to be . . . well, inanimate. (Alternate title: this is where the tall tales begin.)

Yesterday morning, I sent my cherubic daughter off to school in a light blue Gymboree frock ("with a beauuuuutiful ice skater princess on it, Mama") and with a white plastic headband perched on her skull.

When I picked her up, no headband. I learned that an amazing feat of physics had occurred during the afternoon. Apparently, the headband flew off her head and spontaneously snapped in two. "It broked all by itself," my daughter assured me solemnly.

"Really?" I responded. "You weren't, you know, twisting it?"

A shook her head vigorously. She didn't break down under cross-examination when her dad asked her about it at dinner either. You gotta give her credit for sticking to her story, no matter how illogical.

Later, when I was talking to my mom, she suggested that maybe a malevolent spirit had attacked my child. A spirit that . . . really has it in for headbands. I believe it may be related to the same malevolent spirit that has been known to color on our couch with a marker.

The worst part about the headband incident was that I had to take her to the grocery store with matted curls hanging in her face. She also had various stains (picked up in the course of the day) on her ice skater princess dress. Basically, I had to complete my shopping with a homeless street urchin sitting in my cart. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Overwhelming Popularity

One of my two readers sent me a little award. Woot!

Thanks, Jennifer! By the way, at one point I examined my friends list in Facebook and determined that a full 10% are named Jennifer. Apparently there was a scarcity of baby girl names from around 1970 to 1980. I noticed that the Duggar family held out as long as they could but ultimately bestowed the name upon the seventeenth of their J-themed clan. It was inevitable, really.

I should add that the Jennifer who sent me the award is, of course, my favorite.

In any case, apparently I am supposed to include the answers to a slew of questions. The caveat: you only get one word for each.

1. Where is your cell phone? Purse
2. Where is your significant other? Bed
3. Your hair color? Brown
4. Your mother? Glamorous
5. Your father? Kind
6. Your favorite thing? Daughter (if the answer was supposed to be an inanimate object, I'll go with "brownies")
7. Your dream last night? Unknown
8. Your dream/goal? Publication
9. The room you're in? Office
10. Your hobby? Writing
11. Your fear? Cancer
12. Where do you want to be in six years? Comfortable
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. What you're not? Easygoing
15. One of your wish list items? Money
16. Where you grew up? Virginia
17. The last thing you did? Flossed
18. What are you wearing? Pervert!
19. Your T.V.? On
20. Your Pet? Dogs
21. Your computer? Love
22. Your mood? Iffy
23. Missing someone? Family
24. Your car? Practical
25. Something you're not wearing? Shoes
26. Favorite store? IKEA
27. Your Summer? Eventful
28. Love someone? Yes
29. Your favorite color? Green
30. When is the last time you laughed? Yesterday
31. When was the last time you cried? Weeks

Sunday, November 2, 2008

When You Can't Get a Babysitter . . .

You stay home with your three-year-old, hook up your iPod to a speaker, and take photos of each other dancing. Wait, that's not what you did last night?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Not That Kind of Father . . .

Trick-or-Treating was pretty uneventful. I dug out the kid's wagon and hauled her down the street. We have a nursing home about five blocks from our house. I don't think "nursing home" is the correct term and I know that "old folks' home" is not politically correct, but I assume you know the type of joint to which I am referring. It's the sort of place I've been threatening to put my parents for quite some time, even though they are only in their fifties.

Anyhow, the Harmony Home had a sign inviting trick-or-treaters, so we thought we'd check it out. There was a sign inside the door that read, "Follow the feet if you want a treat!" A followed the orange feet laid out on the carpet as they wound through several rooms. Kindly oldsters handed her a piece of candy as she passed by. The ladies, in particular, exclaimed over her princess gown.

"Her grandma made it," I'd say.
"What's that?"

Then they'd smile and nod.

We passed through a lounge area where the residents were gathered around three round tables. At one of the tables sat a Catholic nun in full habit (no, it wasn't a costume - we have a heavy infiltration of Catholics in these here parts). My daughter walked to a bowl on the table and pulled out an individually-wrapped cherry Twizzler. She waved it in the air. "THIS IS FOR FATHER!" she said loudly and tossed it in her bag, knowing that my husband does love the Twizzlers.

I glanced over at the nun and then said, to no one in particular, "She, um, calls her dad 'father,'" I said. "We have no idea why." I've stopped telling people that it's a phase, seeing as how it's been going on for the better part of a year now.

After that, we headed back down the street to score some more candy. Then P and I switched places. Would you believe that one of our neighbors DID hand out full-size candy bars? And it's no ordinary Hershey bar either. It's a mint chocolate bar from a local chocolatier. It's too good for a three-year-old, don't you think? Work with me here!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why do they call those little candy bars "fun size?" Wouldn't the big ones be more fun?

Halloween-related activities have kicked into high gear. We attended a community event last Saturday and another one this afternoon. Tomorrow, of course, brings the big denouement: trick-or-treating in the 'hood. One of us will stay home to dole out the goods while the other takes A down the street. Then we switch and hit up the neighbors in the other direction. Remember as kids we'd always hear that rumor that some house was giving out full-sized candy bars? I wonder if that rumor still gets around today. And, more importantly, where IS that house?

A's school is also having a "harvest party" on Friday. Some parents at the school don't want their children celebrating Halloween, so we all received a notice about the "harvest party." The party is being held ON October 31st and oh yeah, she is supposed to dress up as her favorite character. Dress up, as in, you know, a c-o-s-t-u-m-e. And we are invited to send treats along. But please note that this is not a Halloween party. Okay ::wink wink:: I get it.

I suppose I understand why many parents don't like the darker side of Halloween. Personally, I don't have an issue with this particular holiday. I don't know of a kid anywhere who sees Halloween as anything other than an opportunity to have fun, dress up, and most importantly - eat enough candy to rot his teeth right out of his skull.

As for me, I've been trying to keep my hands out of the candy stash on the kitchen counter. Fortunately, the Halloween events we've attended with our daughter have largely yielded crappy candy that I don't want. Nerds? A Dum-Dum? Um, no thanks. I'm waiting until the last minute to buy candy in order to avoid temptation. I usually try to buy stuff I don't like, such as Almond Joy and Mounds. Coconut is just so wrong - nothing should be crunchy and chewy at the same time like that. Am I right? Can I get an amen? No? Well, I never!

I do love me some chocolately goodness, though. Even better is dark chocolate. I'm hoping the kid will score some for me tomorrow night. More than hoping, I'm actually planning on it. I'll make her keep walking, clear into the next county if I have to, until I see a Hershey's Special Dark in her princess trick-or-treat bag. And none of this "Mama, let's share it" business either.

A local tribe, performing at a Halloween event. Can non-Native Americans score a dress with bells on it? I really, really feel the urge to have one.

The drum circle, keeping da beat (well, except for the one guy who's . . . not).

Monday, October 27, 2008

This, That, and the Other Thing

I've been sort of preoccupied with the whole "hey, you're adopted" thing, but last week had other highlights (well, some are more like lowlights).

Wanna hear it? Here it go:
  • My new nephew was born on Tuesday the 21st. He arrived a day early, via cesarean section. My sister laments that with two c-sections under her belt (literally), her career as a bikini model will likely never kick into gear now. I will be meeting the new pipsqueak next month when A and I visit Oklahoma (where the wind comes sweeping down the plain) for Thanksgiving. I have been assured that the new kid does have red hair and is thereby eligible for Christmas gifts from Auntie Claudia.

  • My friend's husband has a lump in/on his quadriceps muscle. They've just learned that the mass is malignant. It's in a very precarious spot, frightening close to the femoral artery, so surgery is going to be a bit dicey. I have to say that Kris and Paul are, generally speaking, as upbeat as two people have a right to be. They are only focusing on the positive. (I'd be Mrs. Worst Case Scenario under the same circumstances, which probably isn't all that helpful.)

  • Thursday was supposed to be A's last night in her swim class at the Y (she'll move up to the next level and start her next round of classes in January). She was excited because I was supposed to get in the pool with her. "I'll show you how to do it, Mama!" she exclaimed. You also get to go down the big twisty slide as a treat on the last night. Well, about twenty minutes before we had to leave, she came to me crying and clutching her right ear. The word "Amoxicillin" flashed through my head. I took her to the urgent care joint and sure enough, we had our prescription for the pink stuff ten minutes later. As a consolation prize for missing swim class, I got her some pink ice cream with sprinkles. I can't believe any kid of mine likes strawberry ice cream. She's lucky I let her stick around.

  • After six months in rescue, Chloe (my foster dog) finally got an inquiry last week. They are coming to meet her on Saturday. She's a sweet dog and I'm not in any particular hurry to get her into a new home, but she did chew up a plastic potato and a pink tiara yesterday. She also eats baby wipes. I caught her with one the other day and when she saw me coming for her, she quickly pulled it up through her lips like a child sucking up a spaghetti noodle. So, she's cute but not THAT cute.

  • And finally, I decided to get more diligent about tracking my Weight Watchers points each day. I normally just sort of keep them in my head and hope I'm close. The thing is, it's a well-established fact that I do not have a head for numbers. I didn't major in English for no reason. I'm happy to report that, although it is time-consuming to calculate and track everything I eat, I did lose a bit of weight this week. On Saturday, I had a busy day at a rescue event and actually had some points left over at the end of the day. So . . . I drank 'em.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. Buh-bye! (Back in the days before my stad stopped drinking, he would call my mom and then say "buh-bye" before he hung up. My mom would get mad as a hornet and say, "Who the hell is buh-bye? Is he related to Popeye?")

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Deed is Done

She cheats at Candyland, but we like her anyway.

The book I ordered from Shutterfly arrived yesterday. My stomach was in knots as soon as I saw the package. I showed it to P so that he would be aware of its contents before we sat down to read it to our daughter.

We took A to yet another Halloween event (Meemaw made the costume and by gum, we're gonna make sure the general public has ample opportunity to see it) and then came home to have dinner. After dinner, we sat her between us on the couch and read the book to her.

The story begins with how her dad and I met and fell in love. I wrote about how much I wanted a baby in my tummy, but that no baby came to live in my tummy. I teared up at this point because the pain of my four lost babies is still not that far beneath the surface. I have been richly rewarded with a beautiful firecracker of a child, so it's not a matter of any sort of regret. It's just that those were dark days and at times I really felt I might go under.

Next, I read the section where P and I went to an adoption agency and told the social worker how much we wanted to be a mommy and daddy. I explained how we met a young lady named J, who was pretty and smart and smiley. She had a baby in her tummy and she loved the baby very much. However, she was all alone and couldn't provide the things a new baby needs.

The last section of the book covers the trip to the hospital, the birth, and the homecoming. At the end, I wrote that we are so thrilled to be her mommy and daddy and that we were so proud and happy that J chose us. I tried to keep everything on a level that I felt a three-year-old could understand.

When we finished, I asked her if she had any questions. She seemed to enjoy the book, mostly because she does so enjoy looking at photographs of herself. We flipped back to the picture of J. I said, "You grew in J's tummy when you were a baby, but I get to be your mommy."

"She has a green shirt on," A said. A few minutes later she said, "Is she gonna be my mommy?" We went over the story a couple more times. I used the word "adopted" directly to her for the first time. Oh, and I should add that P didn't really say anything (he's helpful that way). I'm not sure he understood why the whole episode was emotionally challenging for me, but I called my mom and she knew - she articulated exactly what I was thinking.

Later, I was washing the dinner dishes (and still feeling a little raw), when A came in and hugged me around my legs. "You're my mama," she said, just as she had done a thousand other times.

I knelt down and hugged her tightly. "Yes," I said. "I'm your mama."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just Waitin' for My Macaroni Art

During my long, long struggle to become a mom, my own mother kept my spirits up by telling me, "It's only a matter of time until you'll have macaroni art on your refrigerator." You know you're a parent when the short person who lives in your house hands you a paper plate with uncooked macaroni glued to it (another variation is the macaroni necklace, strung on colorful yarn). Most schools have a long-standing tradition of using pasta as an art medium. When my youngest sister was in preschool, she brought home a macaroni frame with her smiling wallet-sized photo glued into the middle. The best part? The macaroni frame had been spray-painted gold. I sure hope it's still in a Christmas box somewhere at my parents' house.

Though I have not yet received any macaroni art, I think I am getting close. I received this:

Ain't she a beaut? There is at least half a pound of glue holding those goldfish crackers in place. My refrigerator (or fridgelator, as the artist herself calls it) is groaning under the weight of this installation. The magnetic clip is hanging on for dear life.

The kid continues to draw bodyless people and then demands "sticky tape" so that she can attach her artwork to random walls in our home. The four-eyed boy below has something on his head, but I didn't have the heart to ask what it is. I thought maybe the other thing was a worm coming out of an apple, but I got yelled at when I asked her about it.

In other news, A has announced that she plans to "marry Father" when she grows up. I know that every little girl comes to this conclusion at some point, so I just nodded and told her that she's welcome to him. I know it's totally normal, but I also had visions of Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn flashing in my brain. Oy.

On Sunday, the kid was "helping" me make some egg salad for P. She was stirring it and asked me, "Do we need to add anything else?"

"No," I repled. "This is how Father likes it. You may as well know for when you marry him."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Kid's Meemaw is Better Than Your Kid's Meemaw

The crown kept falling off her head so we gave up after a while.

Like 94.7% of all three-year-olds girls, A decided to be a princess for Halloween this year. It's the first time I let her choose, because it was really the first time she had a grasp of what was going on. Last year, when I took her trick-or-treating, she tried to enter every neighbor's house when they opened the door. The whole concept wasn't quite coming together in her mind yet. But now, she knows what's what.

I feared that if I asked my mom to make a costume, she might hem and haw a bit (Get it? Hem? Oooh, I kill myself). I knew that if I put her adorable granddaughter on the phone, however, a costume would be in the works as soon as Meemaw could beat a path to the fabric store.

"Meemaw, would you make me a purple princess costume so that I can get some candy at the YMCA?"

I have no idea why she mentioned the YMCA. She goes there for swim classes and, as far as I know, they are in the business of promoting fitness and not tooth decay. But anywho . . .

The ploy indeed worked, because we received the costume about two weeks later. These photos do not do it justice, but it is extremely detailed, with a layer of tulle over the skirt and lots of intricate embellishments on the sleeves. I picked up some silver glitter shoes at Target and we're all set. We attended our first Halloween-related event today at the zoo.

Oh, and if you wonder why I didn't dress up, clearly you have forgotten the Chewbacca story.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Sudden Fit of Modesty

Perhaps someone can explain this to me. My daughter is not at all shy. She chats with strangers and waves at passersby. Proud of her body and all that it can do, she announces every fart and every burp loudly and with great enthusiasm. At home, she can often be found in her birthday suit. The other night I came upon her standing in front of the open refrigerator, sucking apple juice out of her Little Mermaid cup, wearing nary a stitch. She also thinks it's hilarious to put her hands and feet flat on the floor, throw her hinder into the air and yell, "Butty-butt-butt-butt-butt-butt!"

Why is it then, that when I find her sitting buck naked on the potty (with the bathroom door wide open), she yells, "DON'T LOOK AT MY POOP!" and attempts to cover the open bowl with her hands? Does she really think there is anything left that I haven't seen? I've been tending to her bodily output since she was born. I've caught every cold she's ever had. I've scraped vomit out of her hair at 3 a.m. And don't even get me started on how much ear wax she produces.

It's just befuddling, I tell you!

It's been a long week and I'm glad it's almost over. I'm contemplating a trip to my allergist's office today, as my asthma has really been kicking in with this cold I've been fighting all week. Wanna know why I hate to go there? For starters, they weigh me and MEASURE MY HEIGHT every blessed time I go. Keep in mind, this is my asthma and allergy doctor. And also keep in mind that I have been the very same height (5' 6") since 1983. The other annoyance is that I have to complete the same questionnaire every single time. Do they not keep records?

"Do you still have a cat?"
"How about dogs? You still have the dogs?"
"No, I offed all of them after the last visit, since you were so disapproving and all."

I mean, really. It's the same thing over and over. I'm supposed to boil my bedding in hot water, never open a window, use a special pillowcase, rip up the carpeting and replace with hardwood floors (that one I'd actually do if I could afford it), and get rid of any fur-bearing residents.

Somehow it's always the height thing that pisses me off the most, though.

After work today I'm headed to my friend Kim's house to dogsit for her overnight while she goes to her sister's wedding. She has four Boxers of her own and two foster Boxers. She lured me with: wine, food, and a TV with an obscene number of channels (well, I don't know how many of them are obscene - I haven't had her TV all to myself before). Also, she dogsat for me over the summer so I owed her one. She emailed me two pages of typed instructions, though, which has me a little nervous. This dog can't be out at the same time as that one or they'll kick each other's ass. This one can't be fed near that one. This one needs a pill. That one is a pill. And so forth.

Should be an interesting evening!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


For months I've been been trying to figure out the best way to tell my daughter that she was adopted at birth. It's exactly as hard as you'd imagine it would be. We have children's books on the topic. Jamie Lee Curtis wrote a great book called Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born. We also have one called A Blessing from Above and another called My Family is Forever. We read them to her, but we haven't come out and said, "Oh, by the way . . . " She recently became aware of where babies come from (well, she knows that a baby grows in a woman's tummy - she doesn't know the mechanics of how such a thing happens). So, we have known for a while now that the day draws nigh (you like the way I went all Victorian on you there?).

In preparation, a while back I started telling her the story of how her dad and I met and how much we wanted a baby. I always say, "They wanted a baby girl and they wondered: 'where is our baby girl?'" And my daughter responds, "Here I am!" My intention was to keep building on that story and tell her how she came to be. But still, I was struggling. I know that it's important to be honest, but part of me feels like we are going to shatter her innocence.

I was visiting an adoption message board on Babycenter yesterday when a particular thread caught my eye. A birthmom had posted and offered to give advice to adoptive parents. The relationship between a birthparent and an adoptive parent can be fairly complicated. There is no blueprint for this sort of thing. So, it's always helpful to have advice from "the other side." Anyway, this birthmom spoke of a storybook that was created for her birthson, so that he would know and understand his own story. The book included pictures and a simple explanation of how he grew in one woman's tummy and how he has a family that loves him, etc.

I'm almost embarrassed that I didn't think of this idea on my own. It's perfect in its simplicity, really. Because I am not artsy-craftsy, I decided to hop over to and create the storybook there (I'll order a bound copy of the book when I'm done). I've created an initial draft and now I'm digging through photographs to find the ones that fit the story best. I wish I had more photos of A's birthmother. Obviously she factors pretty prominently into the book. I have one that she gave me around the time that A was born, so I scanned that. There is another one that I snapped when I took her out to lunch about a month after the birth. We didn't take any photos of her in the hospital because we didn't think she'd appreciate it - what with her being in labor and all. She is very pretty and always has a smile (even in hard times). Of course, I haven't seen her in over two years (by her choice). I hope she is doing well.

What I'm not including in the book: A's birthfather. I don't know him, he denied paternity, he's in prison, and I don't have a photo of him. My daughter doesn't understand (at this stage, anyway) that a boy factors into the whole baby-making thing, so I feel like I can safely leave that out for now. I know the day will come, but that day is not now. Also, her birthmother has a son and may have another child by now as well - she married about a year ago (not to the birthfather, needless to say) and I know they wanted to have a baby right away. One day I would love for my daughter to meet her biological half-brother (I got to spend some time with him and really adored him), but again, I am trying to keep things as straightforward as possible. The story will unfold in its own way over time.

Wouldn't it be funny if, after all of my angst over this situation, we sit her down and read the book with her and then she says, "Okay, can I have some raisins?" This morning she asked me, "Mama, where did you buy these Froot Loops? At the Froot Loops store?" Funny kid.

Back in the days when she was somewhat more compliant . . .

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Alrighty Then

A's school was closed for a teacher in-service day yesterday ("In order to serve you better . . . we're gonna close the joint down for a day so that you have no childcare . . . you know, the service for which you're paying us? Oh, and we'll still need you to pay us for the day. In fact, we require it.") so I took the day off.

I had a coupon for Build-a-Bear so I decided to indulge the kid. We headed over to the mall and she ran straight into the store. I showed her all of the different empty carcasses and let her choose one. She selected a pink bear with hearts on it. We were going to pass on adding a sound to the bear, but the nice lady had sold my kid a sound before I knew what hit me.

A got to step on the foot pedal and fill the bear up with fluff. She chatted with the lady as she did so, and I listened carefully to make sure she wasn't sold anything else we didn't need. We were not leaving there with a bear on rollerskates and that's all there is to it. Once the pink bear was stuffed and sewn, we proceeded to the washing station, where A "washed" the bear under an airjet.

Finally, we got to the last station: the computer where you get to enter all of your personal information and then choose a name for the bear.

I sat with my fingers poised above the keyboard.

"What's the bear's name?" I asked my daughter.
"Axsha," she said without hesitation.
"No, seriously. What's her name?"
"Mama, it's Axsha."

My brain immediately thought of a dozen ways to spell the name. Achtsha? Acksha? Actia? I finally settled on Axsha and typed it. We then headed to the register, where the birth certificate gets printed.

The cashier pulled the birth certificate off the printer. "Oh, Axsha?" She looked at me. I shrugged.

On our way out we stopped at ShopKo so that I could buy some lightbulbs. The cashier noticed the Build-a-Bear box and asked my daughter the name of the new friend inside. A told her the name. The lady looked at me in puzzlement. "Don't ask," I mouthed to her silently.

Honestly, I don't know if she made it up or heard it somewhere. Or, more likely, misheard something somewhere.

When we got home, she ran to her room to introduce Teddy to Axsha. I was in the office, checking my email.

"Mama, did you take your shoes off?" she shouted.
"Yes, I did!" I shouted back. "Did you have any more questions?"

She came into the room. "Yes, I have more questions."
"Okay, go."
She leaned against Gideon's crate and rested her elbow on the top. "When the moon comes up in the sky, it's bedtime," she stated.
"Right, but that's not a ques-"
"And when the sun comes up in the sky, it's morning time."
"Okay, thanks for letting me know. I need to go let the dogs in."
"But I have more questions!"

Monday, October 13, 2008

In Memory of Griffin

When you serve as a foster parent to homeless dogs, people often say things like, "Oh, I could never do that. I'd want to keep all of them." Well, once you do it for a while, you really don't think in those terms. You simply can't keep the dogs. For starters, your neighbors would be pretty pissed. Plus, for each dog in rescue, there is generally another one on a waiting list who also needs a foster spot (and a shot at a "forever" home). You need to place the current one so that you can help the next one. Rescue work is a perpetual exercise in "one step forward, two steps back." All we can really do is to try our damnedest to keep up with the flow.

In 8 1/2 years of fostering, I've lost count of how many dogs have passed through my door. I have to imagine that it is well over 50 dogs. Some have been adopted quickly, while others have lingered for months. Most have peed on my carpet at least once. Most have been thin. All have been beautiful.

In 2004, a skinny white Boxer arrived in my home. His name was Griffin. He was picked up as a stray. He was stone deaf and had one blue eye and one brown eye. Griffin was all white, save for a brown splotch on the top of his head. His toes were splayed - we believed he had spent a lot of time in a wire-bottomed crate of some sort. He had horrible black tear stains on his face.

Certainly, I'd seen dogs in worse shape than Griffin. In past fostering experiences I'd dealt with a broken femur, an embedded collar, and tumors the size of my fist. But, there was something about Griffin that made my heart flutter when I met him. I set about the task of putting Griffin through the rescue's veterinary protocol. I fattened him up and had him neutered (and he subsequently tore out the sutures, resulting in a scrotum swollen to the size of a softball - he was a tough little bugger). I worked on his tear stains and began teaching him a few hand signals.

His was a pure spirit - he drew me in and I adored him. I felt like Griffin was supposed to be my dog, but there was a major problem. My husband and I were knee-deep in the home study process so that we could adopt a child. A social worker inspected our home, asked us deeply personal questions, and handed us a pile of paperwork thicker than my thigh (and that, my friends, is some kind of thick). Knowing that a potential birthmother might be concerned about how a baby would fare in a home with so many dogs, we decided that we would not foster for a while after the child was born. We also decided that it would be best to stick with the two dogs we already had and not add another one. I was truly smitten with Griffin, so it was hard. Right dog, wrong time.

Right about then, a family applied with the rescue and indicated an interest in Griffin. They came to my home to meet him and seemed like a good match for my little guy. They were willing to commit to the additional requirements for adopting a deaf dog, like having a fenced yard and taking him to obedience classes. With a heavy but hopeful heart, I drove Griffin the considerable distance to their home. I had left him, I thought, in good hands. I called my friend Brenda on the drive home. "I just dropped off my boy," I told her between sobs. After fostering so many dogs, it was rare for me to get teary. Normally, my happiness in seeing a dog trot off to a "forever" home overrides my sadness in losing that dog from mine.

It didn't take long before Griffin's new family began to complain about him. He barked at the kids, he acted squirrely around visitors, he did this, he did that. "What the . . . ?" I thought. Are we talking about my sweet little guy with the magical blue eye? Realizing that they would never love Griffin, I began imploring them to return him to me. For months, they refused. Then finally, much to my relief, they did.

Griffin was returned to rescue in approximately the same condition in which he had arrived the first time. He was unreasonably skinny and his face was once again blackened by tear stains. I was simultaneously saddened by his condition and furious with myself for having chosen the wrong home for him.

However, Griffin's luck was about to turn again. The first time he was in rescue, I'd needed to go out of town one weekend. I asked an adoptive family, one that I trusted and with whom I was on very friendly terms, if they'd take Griffin for me. Mary and Sandy happily agreed and I dropped him off for an uneventful stay at their home. I picked him up that Sunday evening and soon he was adopted. I didn't give that weekend another thought.

When Griffin was returned to rescue, Mary and Sandy spotted him on the rescue's website almost immediately. "We want to adopt him - right away," they said. As it turned out, they had been kicking themselves all that time because they didn't adopt Griffin after he'd spent the weekend with them months before. They didn't want to waste any time on giving Griffin the care and attention he deserved. We expedited the adoption and soon Griffin was home. For good this time.

For the past three years, I have not had to worry about my sweet boy. I knew that he was living with someone who loved him just as much as I did. I joked that he was my dog, but who just happened to live with someone else. I was rewarded with frequent photographs and updates, and even a few visits. In September of this year, Mary and Sandy brought Griffin to the rescue's annual Boxer Bash fundraiser. I was busy, but couldn't wait to kiss his jowls. "Griffin is so upset that you haven't come to say hello," Mary teased me. I knelt down and gave him a smooch. He was as adorable as ever, with his brown splotch and his magical blue eye.

Last weekend, Griffin and his family were enjoying a weekend at their new cabin. At their regular home, they have a securely fenced yard. But at the cabin, Griffin was on a tie-out attached to a stake in the ground. Somehow, he was able to break away and was hit by a car in the briefest of moments. It was no one's fault and there was nothing that could have been done differently. It just was.

I take solace in knowing that Griffin was very much loved and that the last three years of his life were, without a doubt, the best three years of his life. Thank you, Mary and Sandy, for loving him so. I still cannot articulate what it is about that little Boxer that caused him to cut such a wide swath through my heart - which suddenly feels frail and . . . not altogether resilient.