Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's Not the Cows Who've Gone Mad . . .

I saw an article on CNN today about cows being abused at a slaughterhouse. Wow, abuse at a slaughterhouse! Go figure. Anyway, apparently slaughterhouse workers are unleashing horrific abuse on sick cows that are too weak to stand. There is one snippet of a quote about the animals themselves, but for the most part the point of the article is this: oh no! did those sick cows get into the food supply?

I really try my best not to be a soapbox sort of vegetarian (meat-free for 19 years and counting), but this story is one of many reasons why I am trying to teach my daughter that we should walk through this life as gently as we can. The horrors of factory farming are very real. I wish everyone had to slaughter their own dinner, even just once. Personally, I am not worth that kind of violence.

(In my next post I promise I will get back to poop-related toddler stories and stuff. Oh, and she is watching "Cinderella" right now, so yes, I succumbed to Disney's malevolent yet ingenious marketing tactics once again!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Of Grandparents and Princesses

My parents called yesterday, all in a lather. It seems they were at a Disney outlet store and happened upon a big sale. "They have Princess shoes!" exclaimed my dad. "What size does Pie wear?" He proceeded to describe them for me. They are bright green and glittery. "Picture the ruby slippers, but in green," Pop said.

It made me laugh to think of my dad, who is a big man, crouched over some bin in the Disney store, picking his way through little girls' glitter shoes until he found the right ones for his granddaughter. This is a man who is known (even now) to hop a flight at will to catch the Stones or Springsteen in concert. And now he is also a grandpa four times over - and darned good at it, too. His youngest granddaughter, in turn, is completely smitten with him (she would dig him even if he didn't buy her stuff all the time). One day last week she demanded to speak to him on the phone, but he wasn't home when we called. I put her on the phone with my mom instead. As much as A adores my mom, she really just wanted my dad. "But I wanna talk to Granddaddy!" she whined over and over. My mom promised to have him call her back later, and he did.

So now we are waiting for our haul from the Disney sale. My mom is arriving in two weeks and claims she will find room in her suitcase for the goods. My dad also bought my kid a Princess nightgown and a gold Princess jacket, which my mom attempted to describe. She assures me that the gold is very tasteful and "not hookerish at all."

During the same shopping excursion, my mom found a cache of princess stuff at a fabric store somewhere. My mom needs a 12-step program to keep her out of fabric stores. She sews like a fiend, but like many of her cronies who also hang out at the fabric store, she probably has enough fabric to put the AIDS quilt to shame. She'll grab another bolt of fabric and say, "I don't know what I'm going to make with this, but I don't see how I can pass it up." She's like those hoarders you see getting busted on Animal Planet, but with fabric. But anyway, I guess they do sell other stuff at the fabric store, because she happened upon some tiaras and magic wands. "Could she use another wand?" my mom asked. "Well, I don't see how it's possible to have too many magic wands," I assured her.

It's probably for the best that we don't have a Disney store within hundreds of miles of where we live. It does amaze me, as a parent, how Disney never ceases to find new ways to wring money out of all of us. I mean, think about it. The Cinderella character is how many decades old? And they found a way to package her along with Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) and Sleeping Beauty and call them "The Disney Princesses." Sometimes they throw in Ariel from The Little Mermaid, too. I just keep imagining a group of Disney marketing people in some Monday morning staff meeting somewhere, thinking of new ways to package old crap. I picture a whiteboard behind them, where they've scrawled the words, "There's money in them thar hills!" as they hatch yet another diabolical plot against unsuspecting parents. Case in point: they are putting the Cinderella DVD "back in the vault" this week. Who knows when you'll be able to purchase this "timeless classic" again, right? So, you either buy it now or you pray your kid doesn't ask for in six months, when it's no longer available. It's like Disney is saying, "Hand over your $22.99 now and nobody gets hurt."

But, my daughter is going to look adorable in her green glitter shoes, fanciful nightgown, and gold jacket. And my parents, even though the stuff was on sale, surely would have paid twice as much just to make their granddaughter happy. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No, it's my fault!

As two-year-olds are wont to do, A likes to claim everything on the planet as her own. The dogs are hers, the house, the television, etc. She can't stand the thought that someone else might have ownership of something, even a bad something. Apparently she overheard me saying "Oh, that's my fault" to my other half. Or at least I assume she heard it from me - God knows he's never been at fault for anything.

Now she screams "No, it's MY fault! It's mine!" at us.

It's tres adorable, ne c'est pas?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I know, it was too easy!

Yes, the lyric is from "Thunder Road." Thunder Road is not, in fact, my favorite Springsteen song, but you gotta admit it's a great line. Show a little faith, there's magic in the night . . .

My favorite Springsteen song is "Drive All Night," mostly because I just want to know what it's like to have someone dig you so much that they'd drive all night just to buy you some shoes. And to "taste your tender charms." I don't know if my charms are tender or not, but my other half won't even pour me a glass of wine without rolling his eyes. And according to him, I have plenty of shoes already.

So anyway, Miss Leslie - Margin Walker did recognize the song first, but I cannot give her a gold star. Why? Well, because she has owed me a buck since last summer and refuses to pay me. She recommended that I download a life-changing sort of song from iTunes, and not only did the song not change my life, I really didn't dig it at all. Technically the song was $0.99 (no tax), but I'm rounding up because I think I'm owed at least a penny for all the trouble she's caused me.

Therefore, I must give the gold star to The Southern Fried Vegan. It looks like I will need to trek to Texas to give it to her, but I'm down with that - the sub-zero temperatures here are getting pretty old.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Woot, look at me!

I have to thank my artsy-fartsy friend Dave for making me a new header for the top of my blog. I have two talents in life, and graphic design is not one of them. (I am a good speller and I can touch my tongue to my nose, in case you are wondering about my two talents.) Would you like to see the other version he made? Here it is. As you can probably guess, I am getting ready to replace all of my friends with new, non-smartassy friends. I will be accepting applications starting Monday.

Does anyone recognize the quoted song lyric in the header? You get a gold star if you know it without Googling it.

Speaking of song lyrics, I have a couple stuck in my head right now. One is "It's Racing Day" by the Backyardigans. The lyrics are pretty witty: "It's racing day, it's racing day, today's the day we race!" I think those lines are repeated about 389 times. After ten minutes of the Backyardigans, I am crying and rocking myself in the fetal position, but my kid eats it up. Sometimes literally, as she also loves Backyardigans fruit snacks. "I'm eating Tyrone! I'm eating Plablo!"

The other lyric stuck in my head is from an old song that I recently re-discovered and purchased. I found it on iTunes the other day. It's called "My Bag" by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. It goes like this:

Spin spin whiskey and gin
I suffer for my art, bartender
I got wild mushrooms growing in my yard

I sometimes feel like iTunes/Apple knows way too much about me. (They know everything about me except who stole my old iPod, I guess.) Occasionally I check out the section in the iTunes store where they select songs that they suspect I'd enjoy. And I'll think, "You're right, iTunes, I do love Aztec Camera!" I do need to reset my song counts, though, because it's downright embarrassing. iTunes knows that I've listened to Timbaland far more than I have listed to Andrea Bocelli.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thanks, Lady!

A few weeks ago I posted an entry regarding my daughter's habit of calling strangers "Mommy" and "Daddy." In an effort to curb this practice, I started making a concerted effort to introduce her to people by name whenever possible. I figure that if I head her off and give her their actual name, she won't go making one up. I don't understand why she can't just say "Hi!" like a normal kid and leave it at that.

In swim class at the Y on Monday, A and I were practicing a maneuver whereby she floats on her back and kicks her legs. I thought she was being totally half-assed about it, but nonetheless the instructor looked at her and exclaimed "Good job!" A replied, "Thanks, lady!" The other day at the grocery store she greeted the cashier with a "Hi, lady!" I cannot decide if this is better or worse than calling people "Mommy" and "Daddy." It's probably a slight improvement.

Yesterday she and I stopped at Steve & Barry's to buy some birthday gifts for her cousin. (Yes, he is 4 and would rather have toys, but his mother specifically told me to buy clothes because he needs them and besides, he has been naughty and most of his toys are being held hostage at this time anyway.) Anywho . . . I found some clothes for my nephew and headed to the register. The cashier said hi. A said, "Hi, my name is A_________." So he responded, "Hi, my name is John." Her: "Hi John! This is my friend, Mother." I sheepishly explained that she keeps calling me Mother and that I can't seem to make it stop. John asked me how old the kid is and I replied that she is 2 1/2. "Oh, my son is 2 1/2 and doesn't say much." I almost envied him but then I remembered some of the moms I know who are dealing with speech therapy for their children. I suppose I should be glad that she is so articulate.

John handed me the credit card slip for my signature. I signed it and handed it back. "Is it your name?" A asked, regarding the signature. "Does it say Mother?" I have to admit I thought it was hilarious that she thought I would sign the slip with "Mother." I don't think the people at the bank would be amused.

As we were leaving the store she started to monkey around and run off when I tried to put her coat on her. Lately we are enjoying single-digit temperatures, so the coat was non-negotiable. "I'm going to tell John that you are being naughty in his store," I said. She looked genuinely alarmed. "Don't tell John what I am doing in his store!"

A gives her full name to strangers all the time. She says it like this: First Middle Middle Last. We don't know why she includes her middle name twice, but she gets really mad if you tell her it only goes in there once. Her middle name is my sister's first name, so my sister says, "I don't see what the problem is." Anyway, everywhere we go my kid is introducing herself to complete strangers and uses her full name. If she knew her social security number, she would give that to them, too. We aren't planning to tell her our home address anytime soon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I wasn't sure that I would manage a single blog entry this week, mostly because I seem to be at death's door. How is it that when the kid gets a cold, her nose runs for a day or so and then she's fine, but when I catch it shortly thereafter (and God knows I always do). . . it nearly kills me? I have asthma so even the tiniest of colds heads straight to my lungs like a bullet. And then I hork and gasp and make out my last will and testament and self-medicate and complain loudly until it finally goes away.

But my malady is not the topic of this particular blog entry.

I have a little dilemma. Or perhaps quandary would be a better term. In other words, I've got a problem. As my three readers know, my daughter was adopted at birth. At the hospital, we signed a communication agreement with A's birthmother. At that time, she didn't know how much contact she would want. We agreed to personal visits and generally left it kind of open-ended. We truly wanted to try our best to accommodate whatever she needed. The agreement is not legally binding.

I should step back a bit and tell you how we got to that hospital room.

Our adoption journey began in July of 2004, when we met with a social worker to get the process rolling. For the next several months, we filled out paperwork. We'd return a completed packet to the agency and then they'd send us another one. We had physical exams (P's doctor listened to his heart and then signed the form, while my doctor violated me six ways to Sunday), we supplied vaccination records for our cats and dogs, we got reference letters from friends, we got background security checks to make sure we weren't felons, etc. Finally, in January of 2005 we were pulling into the home stretch. We had separate interviews with the social worker. Then, finally, the home visit. She walked through our home and we showed her our fire extinguisher and our 487 smoke detectors (we had been required to install one in each bedroom, even though there was already one outside each bedroom). Nervous as we were, we somehow passed inspection and were considered formally approved to adopt. Technically speaking, we were approved as a foster home, because that is the requirement if you are to bring the baby directly home from the hospital (this is considered an "at risk" placement, because the parental rights have not been terminated).

Although the normal wait for a baby (at least through our agency) is around 18 months, somehow the planets must have aligned just right because we were selected almost immediately. We provided a profile (a scrapbook full of photos as well as a "dear birthmother" letter) to the agency and it was then shown to a potential birthmother. I believe she was given several profiles and as luck would have it, she connected with us in some way. We met J about a week later. Talk about nervous! I thought I would hyperventilate, drool on myself, trip on my own feet, God knows what. But the meeting went well and we really, really liked her. She was 23, working in a daycare, and was no longer with the boyfriend who had gotten her pregnant. She had a little boy and simply could not support two children. She was fighting to get child support for her first child, but was not receiving it.

Five days after the meeting, a few days before my 35th birthday, the social worker called me at work to tell me that we had been formally chosen and that no other couples were being considered. I cried at my desk. After so many years of loss and pain, it seemed our luck had finally changed.

The baby was due in three months. J and I spoke on the phone several times, and I took her out to lunch once or twice. It was an awkward time, but I really wanted her to know me and feel comfortable with me. The baby was due on April 26th but that date came and went. An induction was scheduled for May 3, 2005.

I am not going to include the details of the birth here because I really want to devote a post entirely to A's arrival. One of these days I will get around to it! We were in the delivery room when the baby was born. We had not known we would be invited into the room, so we were beyond grateful when the invitation was extended to us. It was an incredible gift to be there for the birth. P cut the cord (and then got woozy and had to sit down).

Two days later, we left the hospital with our new daughter. During those two days after the birth, we spent equal time in the nursery and in J's hospital room. J seemed to be doing well but we knew that she would have some hard days of grieving ahead of her.

Indeed, there were a lot of heartbreaking phone calls in those early days after the birth. Her pain ran deep and at times we really didn't know how to help her (she has suffered from depression for several years, which made matters worse, I'm sure). Two weeks after A was born, J went to court and terminated her parental rights before a judge. The birthfather did not show up, so his rights were involuntarily terminated. We were not permitted in the courtroom but we went to the courthouse (sans baby) to provide support. When J came out of the courtroom, her shirt was soaked with tears. I have no doubt that it was the hardest thing she'd ever done.

Over the next year or so, we had several visits. At first we got together once a month (at her request) and then less frequently. I called her with updates from time to time. I will admit that in the beginning there was perhaps a bit more contact than we expected (after all, we needed time on our own to bond as a family), but we honestly did our best to accommodate her and give her what she needed. Eventually, she got a boyfriend (a friend with whom she had grown up - a very nice guy) and a better job. She seemed to be doing better in a lot of ways, and her grief was no longer quite so palpable.

Our last visit was in August of 2006. Sometime thereafter, she stopped answering the phone when I called, and didn't return messages. Eventually, I figured out that she no longer wanted personal contact. Since then, I've sent several letters. Each one has been accompanied by photos. In one letter, I asked her to contact the agency if she no longer wanted me to send the letters and photos. She did not contact them, so I made the assumption that she did want to receive them. In September of 2007 she got married (as far as I know, anyway - she had mentioned the date during our last lunch together the year before). I knew that she planned to move. In my last letter I asked her to let us know her address and her new last name. I don't want to lose track of her because when A is an adult, she may want to make contact.

She has not contacted me or the agency with her new address, name, etc. At this point I feel like the ball is in her court. All this time I have been guessing about what she wants (does she like the letters and photos? or does reading them make her emotional pain even worse? am I sending them too frequently? too infrequently?) It would make life a lot easier if I just KNEW.

So, should I continue sending periodic letters (I've been sending them every 2-3 months) to her old address with the assumption that they will get forwarded? Or should I wait to hear from her?

This relationship is surely the most complicated I have ever known. I will always love her and want nothing but good things for her. I mean, how do you thank someone for giving you the greatest gift of your life? It's an impossible task. I just wish I knew how to navigate these waters.

Edited to add: Someone who left a comment asked why I have kept in touch with A's birthmother. That is a good question. I think part of me just wants her to see how happy and healthy and active my daughter is. I want her to think, "I don't have to worry - she is fine." I want her to be at peace. I lurked on a message board for birthmothers and some of them would give their right arm for letters and photos, but many aren't getting them. Part of me does it for my daughter. It is my understanding that all adoptees go through a crisis of abandonment at some point in their lives, that it is almost unavoidable. When my daughter asks (and I think someday she will), "Does my birthmother know about me?" I can say, "Yes, I sent letters and she knows all about you." I almost wrote a whole post about how I dislike the term "give up for adoption." I never use it. I don't want my daughter ever to think anyone gave her up or gave up on her.

If I Google J's phone number, I do get a different address. But to me this feels sort of stalkerish. Like, "See, I found you!" I really want the information to come from her. She made an incredibly mature, selfless decision when she chose adoption, so it's sort of baffling to me why she can't just tell me how much or how little contact she wants.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's Not Your Birthday!

Today is P's birthday. Short Stuff agreed to take some time out from watching Max & Ruby to help me bake a cake. And by "help," I mean, of course, "cause the whole process to take ten times longer than it otherwise would." But, it keeps her out of trouble and besides, we're creating memories, right? Her main jobs were: stirring batter and licking spoons. I had to explain to her that she cannot stir with a spoon she has licked.

It took several days to convince A that her father is, in fact, permitted to have a birthday. When I mentioned it a few days ago she wailed, "Nooooooo! It's not his birthday!" She knows that when it's your birthday, you get stuff. And, being the generous sort that she is, she doesn't want anyone else getting stuff. She insists that we're all mistaken and that it's her birthday. I pulled out a calendar and showed her when her birthday is, but she was skeptical.

I told her we were going to bake her dada a cake together. "Okay," she said, "But it's not his birthday."

Kids do get more generous when they get older, right? I sure hope so. If you ask my daughter to share her snack with you, she will pull off a piece so microscopic it cannot be seen with the naked eye. "Here you go!" she always says cheerfully. So you hold out your hand and she deposits the crumb (and calling it a crumb would be generous). Such a giving spirit. She can't even share TV shows. If she is watching Dora and you say, "Hey, I'm going to watch Dora, too!" she starts screaming and says that only she can watch Dora. It really does not occur to her that she doesn't lose anything by having another set of eyes directed at our television. All she knows is that it is hers. In fact, everything is hers. She doesn't want me hugging my husband, and when I protest and say that he's my husband and I can hug him if I want to, she yells at me and says, "No! He's my husband!" She has claimed the house and everything in it (but not, for some reason, the mortgage payment).

The cake. I know, don't quit my day job, right?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Biology, Schmiology

The other night I was indulging in my favorite Friday night guilty pleasure (after the kid goes to bed, of course) - reading a People magazine whilst sipping a nice glass of Riesling. There was an article about Nicole Kidman, who is apparently pregnant. As they say in Australia, good on ya. You'd have to be some kind of jerk not to wish someone well on a pregnancy. What's stuck in my craw is not the fact that she is pregnant, but the way in which others referred to her pregnancy. There were quotes like, "She's going to be such a great mom!"

Um, Nicole Kidman already IS a mom. And she has been a mom for a long time - her son and daughter are teenagers. I sincerely hope her children do not read that article, as it is blatantly offensive. If you read between the lines, what's being said is, "Adoption is second best."

I guess I just fail to see why biology is so important. One of my very favorite people on the planet is my grandma, Elaine. She is my stad's mom, which means that she and I do not have an ounce of the same blood. We don't look even vaguely alike (she is a blue-eyed, blond-haired German woman and I'm . . . not). She has been my grandma since the day I met her, when I was 8. It never mattered to her that there were no genetics involved.

That is not to say that it's not kinda interesting to look at a relative and make note of the fact that you both have the same nose or something. And that maybe you both like corn on the cob and laugh at knock-knock jokes. But beyond that, what's the big deal? I inherited bad hips from my mom - she loves how I thank her for them all the time.

I know that a lot of people have a very strong drive to have biological children. I've seen people spend thousands and thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. I may not understand that drive personally, but would certainly wish those folks the best. I also would not want to downplay the need of adopted adults to find out where they came from. It must be painful not to know. That's why open adoption is now the norm, I think. My daughter will never know the agony of "not knowing." I hope I will be able to show her that the people closest to me aren't blood related and that I love them (and her) just as much as I love the ones with whom I do share bits of DNA.

I should also add that I'm not trying to pretend I didn't want to give birth. I did want that for a long time. I always thought I would have a brown-eyed boy who looked just like his dad. But that's not the way our lives worked out. We never saw adoption as second best. Families are created in lots of different ways and this is just one of those ways. And while A doesn't have our eyes, we find that we have lots of things in common with her. She likes chocolate as much as we do. She is clumsy like me. She thinks bodily functions are funny just like her dad does (I won't even tell you how many times he has watched Dumb & Dumber). Last night at swim class I was watching P carefully guiding our daughter along on her back, encouraging her to kick her legs. I could not imagine any dad loving his little girl more than P loves that curly-haired kid.

For those who are wondering about adoption terminology, there are lots of helpful glossaries out there. Here are a couple of them:

I try not to make a big deal about it if someone using the wrong terms. Now, if someone says to me, "Hey, do you keep in touch with A's mother?" I will correct them and explain that I am her mother but that she has a wonderful birthmother who loves her very much. I never want to minimize the fact that she has birthparents. Her birthmother is a smart, caring, amazing person who cannot be swept under any rug. But, the fact remains that P and I have been raising A since Day 1 and we are her parents. So, if you run into someone who has adopted a child, they'll be impressed if you remember the right terminology. And you know better than to say stupid stuff like, "Now that you've adopted you'll probably get pregnant," right? I heard that phrase several times after A was born. Even my dentist said it, and if there's one person with whom you want to discuss your reproductive concerns, it's your dentist.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Have a Holly Jolly Weekend

Lunch at a kid-friendly joint.
She had rainbow sherbet for dessert and thinks she can now randomly demand it.

We went out of town for the weekend. The rescue was holding its annual meeting, so we decided to make a weekend of it. We got a room on Priceline. You never know what you'll get with Priceline, and I must say that the Gods must have been smiling upon us (or maybe just Mr. Shatner), as we got a very nice room. It was actually a suite with two TVs and a handy little sitting room. There was an indoor pool and even a free breakfast (a decent one with Belgian waffles - not one of those deals where they throw a day-old muffin at you when you check out). If there was any drawback it's that the suite had two double beds. We put the kid on the fold-out couch in the other room. Now, P and I have been together 15 1/2 years. We don't spoon all night or anything like that (in fact, we have an unwritten agreement that he is to keep all body parts on his side of the bed). We sleep in a king-sized bed. Sleeping in a double bed, even for average-sized people, means fleshly contact toute de la nuit. "You don't, um, mind if I just sleep in that other bed, right?" He shook his head. The deal was struck.

We started out our trip with a visit to see some puppies. The kid wasn't as excited as I thought she'd be. I think puppies are cute but seldom have a desire to have one. Once you've raised a puppy and then fostered a few more, the novelty wears off in a big way. After the puppy visit we headed to lunch and then to the mall, where P got some jeans. We have the same conversation every time he needs jeans. At first he swears he is a 34. Then he says, "Well, maybe if you could find a 35, that would be better." And then he walks out with a pair of 36s in a bag, seeing as how that's his actual size and all.

We hung out in our hotel room for a while and then headed to the annual meeting at a nearby restaurant. A friend watched the kid while we were at the meeting. On our way to drop her off, she began to sing "Holly Jolly Christmas." Wanna hear it, here it go:

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

I told P that I was going to drive into oncoming traffic if she didn't stop soon. I tried to teach her the next few lines but she just screamed at me and said, "NO, MOTHER! I am singing 'Holly Jolly Christmas!'" We are "mother" and "father" lately. We have no idea why.

The meeting was more fun than it probably sounds - we drank and played games and then we actually discussed the rescue biz. The rescue is still insanely busy. We have a long waiting list of people wanting to surrender dogs, and we have nowhere to put all these poor pooches.

This morning we went swimming after breakfast. We put water wings on the kid because she has not yet learned to respect the water properly. She will walk off the side and just assume that one of her parental units will catch her. We made a funny discovery while we were in the pool - she doesn't know the difference between the words "die" and "dive." She kept telling her father to "Go die in the pool!"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Open Letter to a Friend

Dear You,

While only one friend has actually come out and told me this, I think there exists sufficient evidence that being my friend can be taxing. I am demanding of my friends. I get irritated when they cancel plans. I expect more interaction than some want to provide. I'm bossy, needy, and self-conscious. The list goes on and on. I also like to think I am loyal and true (not to mention downright witty! ha!) If a friend asks me for something, I'll do it. I never forget a birthday. I listen (well, as well as I can - this may not be my best skill now that I think about it).

I don't believe you read my blog, as you've never mentioned it. So this is really just an exercise in catharsis for me and not a piece that I expect anyone to read. I have lots of great friends whom I love dearly, but that doesn't mean that the loss of a single friendship doesn't pain me. It does.

You and I met in the summer of 2000, when you adopted a dog that I was fostering. We kept in touch and eventually we scheduled a double date. We all went out to dinner and had a great time. You and I exchanged frequent emails. We chatted on the phone.

I was excited to find a female friend who seemed like such a good match for me. I thought you were smart and funny, with a bigger heart and a bigger smile than I'll ever have. I also admired your interior design skills and your style in general. And I don't know if I ever told you, but I've always thought you were pretty. (Well, you still are - you know what I mean.)

We did a lot of fun stuff together during those first five years. You even came to Virginia with me one time. That was a road trip to remember (who can forget the drag show in downtown DC?). Over the years we also embarked on several road trips to Indiana, to pick up dogs that needed to come into rescue. We had shopping trips, dinners out, and even a couple of trips to your in-laws' cabin. Yes, you have a tendency to cancel plans but I've tried not to take it too personally (even though I'll admit I've been pretty upset by a few of them - like my daughter's first birthay.) But still, we were close. One time I was telling P that I was tempted to get a tattoo and he said, "Oh, you know you'd never do that without her."

When you were in labor with your first child, I came to the hospital to see you. I was so excited for you. Your mom was there, too. I was eagerly awaiting the birth of my own child, who was scheduled to come to me via adoption a few weeks after your son was born. I told your mom that my baby was on the way, too. Your mom knew nothing of my child's impending arrival. I was truly devastated. You talk to her daily so it just seemed like it would have come up in conversation. I fought back the tears and thought of leaving the hospital rather than to risk spoiling your special day. I sat in the bathroom and tried to regain my composure instead. I guess I've never forgotten it because I never understood why it happened.

You've been there for me lots of times when I've really needed you. When I had my gall bladder surgery, you took my daughter for a couple of days (since P had to work). When I broke my thumb, you drove up and wrapped all of my Christmas gifts. You took my daughter and my niece to the zoo when I couldn't get the day off work. But, you've never allowed me to return any favors. I could've helped when you moved out of the farmhouse. You never called. I've never known when you've needed help.

Our friendship started to decline after the kids came along, I suppose. I work full time and you are a stay-at-home mom. At first I worried that this would divide us and maybe in some way it did . . . eventually, anyway. I think we respected each other's choices, but maybe it just put us on two different wavelengths. A couple of times I mentioned I was disappointed that we didn't chat on the phone anymore. After your daughter was born last year you told me that you don't really like to talk on the phone and that you don't have time to email. Short of telepathy, I wasn't sure how else to keep in touch.

I think you tried to tell me nicely that you didn't care to be friends anymore, but I didn't catch on. I get it now (I've stopped calling and emailing you, lest I make a bigger fool of myself). I am just slow on the uptake sometimes. In the past I've noticed that you find it difficult to tell people how you really feel. I know there have been times when your mother-in-law has offended you, but you haven't been able to tell her. You don't want to be confrontational - I understand that. I assume that's why, when you cancel plans with me, you send me an email instead of calling me on the phone. In some ways you and my husband are alike. He feels strongly that all of his friends will remain his friends even though he never calls them (or returns their calls), emails them, or makes plans with them. I guess I require a little more than that. I believe that friendships, like marriages, need to be cultivated. I need a friend who calls me from time to time and says, "Hey, I was thinking of you and wondered how you are doing?"

Friendships just . . . go away sometimes, I guess. Maybe I was too needy. I don't know. I tried to be a good friend but when it comes right down to it . . . maybe I just truly suck at this sort of thing. You were the first non-relative that I called the day my daughter was born. I thought you were my closest friend. I feel embarrassed that I honestly couldn't see the signs.

I miss you. And despite all of my complaints and whining, I want you to know that I have been grateful for your friendship. I want nothing but good things for you and your family. I guess I just needed some closure, so here it is.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Re-Inventing the Bad Day

I don't know what I was whining about last week with all of that "bad, terrible day" business. Today was about ten times worse.

For starters, one of the world's best dogs is now gone. My good friend had to escort her boy Spot to the Rainbow Bridge. He had had a series of strokes and was no longer functioning. Neither his brain nor his body was working. I took off work early to head over to the vet clinic and say good-bye. Spot was no casual acquaintance. He had stayed at my house several times while my friend was out of town. He was a funny little dog. Shortly after A was born, Spot was visiting. He got up with me for the middle-of-the-night feedings. During these times one likes to maintain a quiet environment so that the newborn will eat and quickly go back to bed. Spot didn't know this. He would do this funny little growl-bark thing, as if he was getting ready to rev up to full-on barking. I called it his pre-bark. I still remember him staring at me in the dark, carrying on like he did. He was generally a laid-back dog, though. More than once I stopped at my friend's house to drop something off when she wasn't home. I could see Spot through the large living room window, laying on the couch, staring blithely at me. Most dogs would have charged the window like a maniac. We used to joke that if someone would break in, Spot would lead them straight to the valuables.

My friend is, of course, devastated over her loss. I mean, she has a sizable tattoo of Spot on her shoulder. I think she may have loved that dog as much as she loves her husband.

Spit-Spot, whaddya got. I'll miss you, you goofy, googly-eyed dog.

In other news, some jackass jacked my iPod. P and I took A to her swim class last night. I threw our stuff into a tote bag so that we could change in the locker room. You have to pass through the locker room to get to the pool. I asked P to meet us on the other side so I could give him our stuff. As discussed, he met us poolside. I pulled off my t-shirt and shoved it into the bag with the rest of our gear. "Sorry to stick you with all of our crap," I said. This was a pretty sizable tote bag. The kid and I waded into the pool and joined our class. Periodically we waved at P, who was sitting in a lounge area behind a glass wall.

When the class was over A and I headed back to the locker room and found that our bag was sitting there unattended. Nice, I thought. After we were dressed I said to P, "If I'd known you would leave our stuff there, I would have put it in a locker." He acted like he didn't know what I was talking about. I mean, why would I have asked him to meet us by the pool if not to give him our stuff? Like maybe I just wanted him to come over there and admire my cellulite or something? "Oh, sorry," he said.

Early this morning I noticed that my iPod was gone, along with my security card for work (which gets me into the building). I really just wanted to cry. I loved my iPod. Surprisingly, P actually apologized for leaving my bag unattended even after I had explicitly asked him to take the bag with him. Normally he seems to find some way to turn things around so that I am at fault. Like, if he forgets to take out the garbage . . . it is actually my fault because he says I generate too much garbage. And so on it goes. Anyway, I hope the thief is enjoying my iPod. I just keep imagining some slack-jawed, acne-covered kid listening to my NPR podcasts and thinking, "What the hell is NPR?" Another thing that keeps sticking in my head: YMCA stands for Young Men's Christian Association, does it not?

And because bad things come in threes, I should add that my kid and her friend got their hands on a bottle of nail polish at daycare today. A painted her entire foot. I have not yet figured out how to get it off. I'm hesitant to use the remover on her skin. Our daycare provider did apologize, because she felt she had stored the nail polish on a sufficiently high shelf. The other troublemaker is HER daughter. A and her friend are three months apart in age, so you can imagine the good ideas they come up with. One time they snuck into a closet and ate an entire bottle of decorative sprinkles. They sucked them right out of the jar.

I am feeling the need for some comfort food right about now.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hot Dates and Swim Lessons and Homeless Dogs

I had a relatively busy weekend. P and I did have our date night on Saturday. We started the evening with dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. While we were waiting for our table we had a drink at the bar, surrounded by real, live grown-ups! Dinner was really good. As much as we love and adore the short, curly-headed girl who lives with us, it was kind of nice to eat dinner without having to say, "We don't play with our food. Hold your 'big girl' cup with two hands. Put that down. Sit down. Seriously, I'm counting to three. Hey, stop licking the butter off your roll."

After dinner we went to see No Country for Old Men. I can tell you honestly that this was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. I thought about the movie for hours after we left, and several times the next day. I'd definitely recommend it. Javier Bardem, the actor who plays the murderous villain in the flick, was scary as all get-out. It was so tense that when I left I felt like I had done about a thousand sit-ups.

Finally, we had a couple drinks before heading home to relieve the babysitter. As we sat at the bar, we started to notice that . . . we are old. Or, if not certifiably old, just getting there faster than we thought. There were two chicks at the end of the bar (a fairly casual bar) who were wearing short black dresses, boots, heavily highlighted hair, cleavage, and mega tans. When we arrived we had a quick discussion as to whether we should pay for our drinks in cash or start a tab on our credit card. We decided that P should hang onto his cash in case he decided to purchase some services from the "ladies" in black. I mean, seriously, who goes out of the house like that? It's January and this is the upper Midwest. Vegas is that-a-way.

I also spent a good portion of the weekend working on rescue-related stuff. We are taking in dogs faster than we can get them logged in. Normally there are a couple of heavy dumping seasons when we can count on being busy. We get a lot of surrenders in the early summertime (why pay to board your dog while you're on vacation when you can just get rid of him altogether?) and then again right before the holidays. So this post-holiday dump is a little bit unexpected.

I am fostering a very sweet girl named Mandy. I don't care for the name so I usually call her Mandarin or Mandolin. I'm disappointed that I haven't had any inquiries about her. I think it is because she doesn't really have a dramatic, heart wrenching story. I've been thinking of making one up. She is so darned cute, though. Nothing makes her happier than if you just sit and hold her paw.

In other news, the kid starts a swim class at the Y tonight. The class does require parental involvement so P and I figure we'll switch off each week. I wonder if I can lose 10 pounds by tonight. I have a rule that you have to have known me for at least 5 years before you can see me in a swimsuit. I've had this rule in place since . . . well, since I became aware that I look like crud in a swimsuit. That was probably at least 20 years ago. It is really difficult to enforce the rule at the Y, though. I mean, technically even my own kid is breaking it.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Claudia and the Suck-Ass Day

When my youngest sister was a toddler she had a book called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I think of that book whenever I am having a particularly unfun day. Today was one such day.

I woke my kid up at around 6:15 a.m. She was still awake when I went to bed last night, so I knew this was going to be a bad scene. Santa brought her an alarm clock for Christmas, so I've tried setting it as an experiment. Like many experiments before it, it is a dismal failure. The clock barks like a dog when the alarm goes off. Allow me to add that the barking is loud. Irritatingly loud. The barking went off as scheduled this morning and allow me to add that my daughter did not move. Not one tiny muscle. She didn't even bother rolling over in disgust.

Fifteen minutes later she was still nearly comatose, but dressed and at the breakfast table. By this time she had already started crying at least three times. During breakfast, she began to cry again. Allow me to tell you why - I think you'll enjoy it. She was crying because our Boxer, Gideon, was sitting next to A's father in the living room. Why that offended her so, I have no earthly idea.

A short time later I was at the office and opened my email to find a complaint from a client asking why there is a typo on his website and how soon will it be fixed? I had to leave shortly after arriving in order to make an 8 a.m. meeting, which was about 30 miles away. A few minutes later, I found myself at a dead stop on the highway. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be late, and tried to find some decent music on the radio. Please note that "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" was playing on two different stations.

Eventually I learned what was causing the traffic problem. A livestock truck had inexplicably skidded off the dry pavement and slammed through a fence. It was now stuck halfway between the highway and an access road. I was scared to look at first, but noted with relief that there were no animals on the truck.

Amazingly, I was only about seven minutes late for the meeting. This was my first time meeting with this particular client. He was a very nice man but . . . he stutters and he speaks at full volume at all times, no matter how close to him you are sitting. You know the volume you reserve for telling your kid to put down the knife or get out of the road? It was that kind of volume.

On my way back to my office, I had the good fortune to be driving behind a truck that appeared to contain the world's supply of used cardboard, all bundled together into ridiculously large piles that appeared completely unattached to the truck itself. Hunks of cardboard were flying off the truck and hitting all the cars behind it. Good times.

Somehow I made it through the rest of the day at work, and wondered how I will ever be able to work FIVE WHOLE DAYS next week.

After work I picked up my now completely overtired child and brought her home, where she persisted in watching "Once Upon a Potty" a dozen times in a row. Eventually she took a break in order to pour water all over the kitchen floor. She had found a small scoop that goes with our ice bucket, so she ladled the water from the dogs' bowl onto the floor. At that point I escorted her to her bed.

The other sucky thing that happened today was that I had to leave a parenting/play group I joined last summer. It's a local group that plans lots of fun activities for kids and families. I met a lot of nice moms through the group. But, I was having a big problem, and it was stressing me out. I finally had to admit to myself that my role as a rescue volunteer was just incompatible with my membership in this playgroup. In my short time with the group several of the moms had gotten rid of their dogs for various reasons, and I just couldn't grin and bear it anymore. I know they felt they were doing the right thing, but you see, I am on the receiving end of moms who dump their dogs. Every time I would read the message board and see the same drama being played out over and over (couple gets dog --> couple loves dog --> couple reproduces --> untrained dog acts out --> dog has to go), I would just get more and more stressed out. I felt like I was turning into some judgemental harpy and that's really not who I want to be. And yet I couldn't seem to look the other way. I know what happens to dogs that get surrendered to shelters. One of my best friends is a shelter manager. And in eight years of rescue work, I guess I've just seen too much. Too, too much.

Tomorrow, at least, is Friday. P and I have a date planned for Saturday night. We won some babysitting time through an auction at church. A kid from the fellowship is coming over to work off the donation. He took a Red Cross babysitting course and is CPR certified, so that makes me feel pretty comfortable. My other half and I are so giddy over the prospect of getting out of the house that we haven't even figured out where we are going to go. I hope he knows I don't put out.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Everyone's a Princess . . . On the Inside

As our four-day weekend draws to a close (technically four and a half, as I had to pick up the kid early on Friday because of a snowstorm), I find myself with a whole new respect for stay-at-home moms. I know I need to head back to work tomorrow because . . . I'm out of booze. The party is truly over.

I did my best to plan activities for the kid but after a while all I could come up with was, "Can't you just go and play in your room?" (You know, the place filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars worth of toys and playthings?) We played Candyland. We put together the same puzzle twice. We played Don't Break the Ice. She colored. She played with Play Doh. But mostly, she marched around in her princess garb, putting spells on us.

This being the upper midwest and all, the average princess does need a turtleneck on under her frock.

If only I had some way to contact the Marines from his old barracks so that I could send this along to them. Please note that he is wearing the clip-on earrings - you just can't see them very well.

Karl doesn't particularly enjoy playing dress-up. He is just too old to bother running away.