Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Bit of a Bite Problem

He's a lover, not a biter

Last night I got a call from a gentleman wanting to surrender his dog. As a volunteer for a Boxer Rescue organization for the past 8 1/2 years, I've received a lot of calls like this one. Sometimes we can take the dog and sometimes we can't. In this case, we can't.

The dog has bitten the man's son three times, including once in the face. The man has two other children and the dog does not have a problem with the other two kids. But the middle child, the one that has been bitten three times, slammed the car door on the dog's foot (leading to the first bite incident) and the dog has not enjoyed the kid's company since that day. Now, it could be that the dog truly just does not trust this one particular kid and that he would be fine with all other kids. But still, we can't take a dog that has bitten. For starters, our attorney and our insurance agent would both go into convulsions if they found out that we'd taken in a dog with three bites on his record. And next, we believe in full disclosure and so . . . who would read this dog's description on our website and, knowing that the dog has already proven that he is willing to use his teeth, adopt him? It's just the unfortunate reality of the situation, not to mention the tremendous liability that comes part and parcel with such a dog.

When I told the man that we could not take the dog into rescue he said, "But I thought that's what rescues are for." Well, no. We take in dogs that need a home (usually because the owner is moving, has no time for the dog, is losing their home to foreclosure, is being shipped to Iraq, etc.). We don't take in dogs that are a danger to their current families, and place them in other families. And before you suggest the old "home in the country," I can tell you that we've learned from experience that there is no home in existence where a dog will never, ever see a child.

Doesn't it seem like dog bites are becoming more and more prevalent? I have no idea if the actual bite statistics support that premise or not. I visit at lunchtime and check the headlines. In recent weeks, quite a few of those headlines have pertained to dog bite incidents.

I do have a few theories . . .
  1. People are buying puppies that are far too young. I read a news story earlier this week about a baby that was killed by the family's puppy when the baby was left unattended in a swing. In some versions of the story, the puppy was stated to be six weeks old. A six-week-old puppy does not have bite inhibition. He has no idea what the force of his jaws can do. That's why puppies need to be with their littermates until at least eight weeks of age (many experts say that twelve weeks would be even better). Littermates chew on each other. They learn, "hey, that hurts." They learn important lessons from their mama that no human can teach them. We have seen a number of dogs in the rescue that were sold far too early, and those dogs invariably have issues. It's a mistake to think that you need to get a puppy early so that you can train it "your way."

  2. Dog owners are eschewing formal training. I know that everyone likes to think they are an expert trainer, but there is more to training than teaching a dog to sit. If you can find a good trainer who is well versed in modern canine behavior theory, the classes will be worth every penny. They are invaluable for socialization, as well as for developing communication with your dog.

  3. Many dog owners make the mistake of giving their dogs far too many privileges. Dog, like children, need boundaries. The good news is that dogs that have gotten too big for their fur (you know, the type that growls at you when you tell them to get off the couch on which you've allowed them to lounge all this time) can usually be rehabilitated using the NILIF program. It's a boot camp approach for pooches, if you will.

  4. And finally, I think many people expect far too much from their dogs. They expect their dogs to put up with ANYthing. I have a three-year-old and I know what kids can do to dogs. Not maliciously, but certainly ON PURPOSE. If you find my daughter in time-out, nine times out of ten it is because she has wronged one of the dogs in some way. Every dog has a point at which they will bite. Don't let your child be the one to find out exactly where that threshold is.

I do think it's possible for some dogs to suffer from what we call idiopathic aggression, where there's no known cause. I believe that some dogs are just wired wrong, just like some humans are wired wrong. Cesar Milan can't fix a dog like that, nor can anyone else.

A co-worker asked me what I would do if one of my dogs bit my child. A tough question, to be sure. I adopted Gideon a year and a half ago, when he was around three years old. I think it's easier to evaluate an adult dog and make a determination about his temperament than it is to make the same determination about a puppy. You'll have to forgive me for my anti-puppy bias. I've fostered a lot of puppies over the years (and raised one from eight weeks myself), and let's just say that the bloom is off the rose on that one. I really prefer adult dogs that are housebroken, tolerant, housebroken, trained, housebroken, etc. I found all of those qualities in Gideon. I have yet to hear him growl since he has lived with us. Does that mean he won't bite? Well, I suppose he could, but I've done my best to stack the odds in the other direction. My other dog, Karl, is ten years old and at this point in his life I doubt he would bother. If the kid is bugging him, he gets up and moves (and she heads off to time-out). To answer the question, though: if one of my dogs bit my child, the first question is one of severity. There are well-defined bite levels, starting with a nip that doesn't break the skin and escalating all the way up to death of the victim. For a minor bite, I would take the dog to the vet to determine if the dog had a medical problem that was causing him pain (and I think this is the case more often than people realize). If that wasn't the cause, I would probably take the dog to a behaviorist for a thorough evaluation. If the bite was severe and seemed to indicate a permanent crack in the dog's temperament, I would euthanize the dog. I would NOT give the dog away to someone else. I just don't think it's right to foist your liability off on someone else.

As for the gentleman who called to surrender his young Boxer, I definitely feel badly for him. I wish I had some sort of option to offer people in his predicament. As rescue volunteers we get a lot of calls like this, and we are always grateful that the caller is honest about their dog's history. And frankly, I think most of them are well aware (in advance) that the rescue can't take their dog. I really can't blame them for trying - in most cases they really are trying to do the right thing, whatever the right thing may be.

I don't claim to have any particularly sage advice for anyone who is in the market for a dog. I'm not an expert by any stretch . . . just a dog lover sharing what I've learned in eight years of rescue work, lots of weekends spent in canine behavior seminars, and more obedience classes than I can count. And, I have to credit my countless foster dogs for all they have taught me. Now, can I interest someone in a naughty little deaf girl who needs a home?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Oh. No. She. Didn't.

Because 3,000 miles of driving on our recent vacation wasn't enough for us, we drove five hours to visit friends for the weekend (you just wish you had our kind of stamina, man). Did you know that it's possible to sing "Little Bunny Foo Foo" for an hour straight? It is - just take my word for it. She did the "boppin' them on the head" hand motions for it every time, too.

We did have a nice weekend, once we got to our destination. We were visiting some friends - a guy P has known since his Marine Corps days, plus this friend's wife and kids. They have three boys - they made the third one in the interim since our last visit. We arrived at 6ish on Friday and headed to a kids' fair nearby. The kids rode on a fire truck, played games, and each left with a bag o'crap that they won. I am still trying to scrape a Cinderella tattoo off my kid's arm.

We spent Saturday afternoon at a man-made swimming lake. We sat on the course-sand beach while the kids played in the shallow water. During one of the "safety breaks," P took the kid to the snack bar to buy her a tooth-rotting product of some sort. She came back with a massive freeze pop. The mom-friend was sitting in a beach chair, holding the sleeping baby. "That's a big freeze pop!" she said to my daughter. A jumped up and down in the sand, clutching the bright red tube in her fist. "Yeah, it's huge!" she exclaimed. "Just like you!"

Now, I need to mention that our friend did just have a baby five months ago. Historically, she is not a large person. Like most women who have recently given birth, I'm guessing that she probably has a pound or two that she'd like to lose. But she is not "huge" - unless you're a three-year-old with a big mouth, I guess.

I coughed and sucked the green grape I was eating straight into my trachea. I wanted to move into damage control mode, but what do you say? "At least she didn't say you have a big vagina," I told my friend meekly, recounting the recent conversation where my precious daughter informed me that I have an enormous cooter.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We did the campfire/s'mores gig after dark on Saturday night and then headed out Sunday morning.

When we got back I had to take A to the grocery store, in as much as we had no food in the house. The poor cashier will forever rue the day we got in her line, I'm sure. As I was loading the goods onto the conveyor belt, the kid homed right in on the youthful Super Walmart employee.

"I have a lot of dresses," she started. "This is my pink one. I was wearing a different one, but it got a little bit wet. Just a little bit wet at the bottom from my water table. I got green panties on. (Lifts skirt, is reprimanded by her mortified mother.) Father breaked our house. I got ice cream, but Mama said I can't have it now. I'm three. You have to hold down the little finger." (Demonstrates the "three" pose with her hands.) I can't remember what else she said, but I do recall that she also told the cashier her name and God only knows what else. The hapless Walmart employee just nodded politely the whole time. Then she had to call a manager because she wasn't old enough to ring up the wine I bought and I sure as Hell wasn't leaving without it.

Please tell me that the whole over-sharing thing gets better as they get older. Please? Please?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

And you may ask yourself - well, how did I get here?

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself - Well . . . How did I get here?
(From "Once in a Lifetime" of course!)

Earlier this week an online acquaintance sent me an email to ask if she could pass my email address to a friend of hers. It seems this friend just suffered her third miscarriage and is lost. Does she continue down the path of infertility treatments? Does she consider adoption? I don't know that I have any particular insight to offer this grieving woman but if my "been there done that" status is of any help, I'm happy to give it.

When it comes to the heartache of miscarriage, I surely wish I didn't know. But I do. Each passing day with my beautiful daughter softens the sharp corners of my pain, but it is still there. The tears still flow.

For a time it looked like I would pass through this life as a non-mother, but then I took the chance, grabbed the ring, and here I am.

So, how did I get here? I suffered my fourth miscarriage in 2003. I tearfully told my husband, "I'm done." No more stirrups, no more tests, no more poking and prodding. Everyone has their breaking point and this was mine. He nodded in agreement. There were theories about what was wrong with me, of course, but I have to say that I never found a doctor who was particularly helpful - or who even seemed to give a rip at all, for that matter. I believe my failure to carry a pregnancy to term is directly linked to several auto-immune disorders with which I have been suffering since early childhood. Since my body attacks itself, I see no reason why my immune system would not also attack an embryo.

I did speak to a reproductive endocrinologist who said he could help me - to the tune of $10,000 or so. There were no guarantees, of course. Adoption was looking more and more attractive to us. We'd still spend a fortune to do it, but in theory we'd become parents and wouldn't mind going broke quite so much. But still, it was hard to turn that corner. I continued to drag my feet for a bit.

My mother said something like this to me: "You have to find a way to become a mom. You just have to find a way." At around the same time, a close friend of mine became pregnant. She and I had talked about children, but always in some vague, future-y kind of way. I think her pregnancy helped to push me off the fence. Her son and my daughter were born exactly six weeks apart (both on a Tuesday) and even though she and I are no longer in contact, I still think about her every day. She helped me more than she knew.

After making the BIG DECISION, it wasn't long before P and I were sitting in front of a social worker, answering personal questions and filling out mountains of paperwork. And thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful young woman who at that time did not have the means to care for a child, P and I became parents just a few months later. (You can read A's birth story here if you have time to kill.)

It's challenging to attempt to articulate the "how I knew" part of the story. How I knew I was done trying to carry a pregnancy to term. How I was done being tested for diseases I knew I didn't have (I was tested for lupus and hypothyroidism more times than I can count). How I was just done, period. For some couples, reproductive technology can absolutely help them to become parents. I believe that technology is a gift from God, just like everything else. For some, I think you just reach the point where you know you want to be a mom and that it doesn't matter if the baby has your husband's nose or if the child inherits your penchant for cashews.

For anyone considering adoption, here are some thoughts for your mulling:
  • In order to adopt, you have to get to a place in your head and heart where you don't feel like you are settling for second best. There are many ways to create a family and adoption is one of them. Not worse, not better. I once heard someone say that adoption may be your second choice (because, let's face it, everyone tries the baby-making path first - and why wouldn't they?), but it is never second best. This doesn't mean that you may not feel wistful at times about the experiences you missed (pregnancy, delivery, etc.) but I don't think anyone should go into the adoption process with "if only we'd tried in-vitro one more time" in the back of their mind.

  • In the same vein, you can't be too hung up on biology. My mother divorced my father and married my stad when I was a kid. There are a lot of people in my family who don't share my DNA. My daughter is just one more.
  • Adoption is expensive and there is no use griping about it (sorry for the "tough love" approach there). You just have to find a way. We took out a loan and will probably be paying on it until our daughter has children herself.

If you are thinking about adopting, start researching like crazy. You may find that a lot of the things you think you know about adoption are . . . wrong. Most people think that birthmothers are teenagers. They're not. Statistically speaking, the average birthmother who places a child for adoption is in her 20s. Most people think that birthmothers are drug addicts. Again, the statistics just don't support it. (I don't know much about international adoption, so my comments are mainly related to domestic adoption.) There is a lot to know.

I am, of course, simplifying what is a very emotional, often complex process - for both the adoptive family and the birth family. We wouldn't trade the experience for anything, and we still feel blessed every single day, but I also wouldn't want to sweep the less shiny parts under the rug either.

And to that grieving woman who has just lost her third baby, please accept my condolences on your losses. I know how broken you must feel right now. Give yourself time to heal and to grieve, but don't give up. I want you, too, to know the joys of having your toilet clogged by a flushed Dora toy and to know what it's like to sleep with a toddler's foot in the small of your back. And to know what it's like to hear, "I love you, Mama." (Last night the "I love you" was followed closely by: "Guess what? Chicken butt!")

If you squint a little, she does sort of resemble him

Monday, July 21, 2008

So cheap it's free

I had two main goals over the weekend: 1) keep the kid occupied and 2) not spend any money.

The weekend got off to a rough start. On Saturday morning, I had an appointment to have my van fixed. One tire goes flat at random (which was fun on a cross-country trip) and even though I had asked them to fix it once before, it seems they did not. The other, and perhaps larger, problem is that the AC was not cooling properly. It was sort of a gradual thing and we just kept compensating by turning it up higher and higher. Now, if I was still driving my Explorer, it would not be a huge deal. I would've just opened all the windows and tried to make it through the rest of the summer. But in the van, the sliding doors do not have windows that open. And I have a kid sweltering back there. So I had to take it in.

At first the guy starts telling me that I cannot expect the AC to work that well on humid days. He starts asking me questions that lead me to believe that he suspects I may not know the difference between hot and cold. Then he tells me that they may have to drain the refrigerant to fix whatever is wrong and if that is the case, they cannot legally give me that refrigerant back. It didn't sound like I had a choice, so I agreed.

I sat in the waiting room for about an hour and a half (I watched an episode of "Intervention" on my iPod - isn't it maddening when you are rooting for the addict throughout the entire episode and then find that he relapsed about eight seconds after walking out of rehab?) Then the service guy sits down next to me and starts waving a paper on which he has scrawled "$869.20." I didn't hear much after that. "Rear something or other. Third most expensive repair you can have. If you head through the white door we'll go ahead and take your kidney. It's fine, you'll still function normally. Schedule the repair next week blah blah blah. Something something can't do it today something something."

The more I thought about it, the madder I got. I went to the cashier's desk to pay what I owed for Saturday, and the service guy came back to ask me if I had any questions. I asked if the AC would work at all, since it had been working somewhat. "No," he said, "Because we drained the refrigerant." Ohhhhh. I guess I thought they would try to fix it first and if they couldn't, they would come and tell me they were draining the refrigerant. That would seem like the right thing to do versus, say, leaving me with no AC in the middle of July. "Fucking A!" I said and stormed out (a proud moment, to be sure). I got to my van and realized I was screwed. Just totally screwed. I went back in and was on the verge of tears as I thought of how on earth we would pay that bill. I just don't think prostitution is very viable in these parts. I told the guy that I needed to schedule the repair but that I didn't think it was right that I was being held hostage. Perhaps sensing that I was a woman on the edge, he said he would talk to his manager about possibly getting part of the repair covered under warranty.

Anyway, to end a long, boring story - he called this morning and said that they are going to cover it under warranty. That's good, because I didn't think the prostitution thing was going to pan out. So ladies, crying and cussing really can help in these situations. Give it a try. Guys, I'm guessing not.

As for the rest of the weekend . . . on Saturday, I took the kid to the park for a good chunk of the afternoon. She was thrilled to see that there were people there. She followed one dad and his son to the slide and would not give them a moment's peace. "Come up here with me. Come on! I'm going down the twisty slide. You can't catch me! I have blue eyes. Look! I'm up here!" Eventually I told her, "Okay, you can harass those people for five more minutes and then we have to go." I've noticed that most adults are happy to chat with her, or at least pretend they don't mind until I can come over and drag her away.

On Sunday, we went to the wildlife sanctuary. I spent two bucks on corn for the ducks and geese, but that was about it. We settled on a park bench next to a lagoon to feed the waterfowl. I would venture to say that there were probably at least two hundred ducks and two hundred geese at the sanctuary yesterday. No exaggeration. There were scores of them anywhere you walked. And lots and lots of families who were there for the same reason we were. So who has to come limping up to us, specifically? A goose with no foot. There was just a little nub there where its webbed foot must once have been. I mean, of all the geese in all the ponds! A gasped. "Mama, what's wrong with his foot?" I explained that I didn't know but that I was sure he was fine. I'm sure he's swims in circles a lot, but he can probably fly just fine. And plus, he lives in a SANCTUARY, so he probably doesn't have too many worries.

We fed this particular goose copious amounts of corn out of pure sympathy. The other ducks and geese started limping, too.

Later in the day, every time I thought she would have forgotten about that goose, she piped up with, "But what HAPPENED to him, Mama?" She couldn't wait to get home and tell her father about the handicapped (ah, physically disabled) goose.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Unrequited Love

My sister and my kid

While on vacation last week, we freeloaded at my middle sister's house. We were grateful to have a place to stay and A, of course, was thrilled to hang out with her cousins. My nine-year-old niece decked out her bedroom in princess decor (and used sidewalk chalk to create a very sweet "welcome to your castle!" message in the driveway when we arrived), and wanted her cousin to sleep in her new trundle bed. A peed in it on the last night we were there, but that's a whole other story.

A day or so before we left, my sister was sitting in a chair by her computer. A bounced into the room so my sister scooped her up into her lap and gave her a hug. "I love you!" she said to my smiling daughter.

A hopped off her lap, skipped across the room, and replied: "Yes, YOU DO!"

We got a good laugh out of that one. I told my sister that it's kind of a throwback to the days of adolescent dating, where you tell some guy that you love him and he says, "I know."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

She's going the distance. She's going for speed.

Don't you love Cake? I do. (I've got a mind that can steer me to your house, and a heart that can bring you red flowers . . . ) Do you want to know what song is stuck in my brain today, though? The mail song from Blue's Clues. (Here's the mail, it never fails, it makes me wanna wag my tail . . . ) I don't know if Noggin is having some sort of Blue's Clues marathon lately or what, but it is on CONSTANTLY.

But back to the topic at hand: my friend Selena wants to know why I'm always the driver on family trips. An excellent question, mon amie. And I'll tell you. I drive because my husband is . . . not a good driver. Honestly, I don't even know if he'd argue with that statement. He's had a lot of fender-benders and we've got the insurance rates to prove it. My all-time favorite was when he rear-ended a cop car. The cop (ahem, police officer) had pulled over another driver and P temporarily forgot that the car in front of you needs to be moving before you can move. I mean, I didn't take Physics in school or anything, but . . .

A few months ago he rear-ended a pick-up truck just one block from our house. Last year he got a ticket for making a left turn in front of a large "no left turn" sign. There's always some convoluted story about how, really, when it comes right down to it, it wasn't his fault per se . . .

The other reason why I tend to be the one behind the wheel is: it's my car. When the three of us are out and about, we hop into my uber-cool minivan and I guess it just makes sense to me that I would drive my own car. Besides, I like to drive and moreover, I'm better at it. He's better at managing financial stuff, guessing famous voices on cartoons, and subduing unruly three-year-olds.

I learned to drive in the suburbs of DC. More specifically, I had to learn to navigate something called "The Mixing Bowl" interchange, located in scenic Springfield, VA. The Mixing Bowl (which has been under construction in recent years) was insane because you had about 15 seconds to decide if you needed to take 95, 395, or 495. If you picked the wrong one, you were screwed. Travelers unfamiliar with the interchange have been known to STOP AND BACK UP INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC when they realize they've missed their exit. If you were headed south on 395 and needed to take the Springfield exit, you had to cross over something like five lanes of traffic. Good times, good times. I remember when I was first learning to drive, I had a meltdown in the mixing bowl and my dad actually rolled down his window and started giving "please let her merge" hand signals to other drivers. Talk about a trial by fire. Before long, I learned to be an aggressive driver just like everyone else in DC, and you can imagine how well that went over when I moved to the Midwest. (I've toned it down in recent years but be forewarned: if you sit in front of me at a green light for more than 8 seconds, I will call you names that would make a gangsta rapper blush. If you are a guy, I will imply that your parents were not married when you were born. And so on it goes.)

P, on the other hand, is not comfortable in congested traffic or on busy highways. I'd rather eat glass than let him drive through Chicago. My mild-mannered husband turns into some sort of rabid hell-beast. So trust me, it's best if I just take the wheel.

So there you have it. I'm a driver, I'm the winner.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oops (Plus Random Vacation Thoughts)

Remember about six months ago when my iPod went missing? I blamed a random anonymous youth at the Y for taking it. I also blamed P for leaving my purse sitting on the floor unattended for 1/2 hour while the kid and I were in a Mommy & Me swim class. Well, guess what turned up on Saturday? We were unloading our car at the beach and I heard P say, "Hey, isn't that an iPod?" The second and third row seats in our van can be folded into the floor. The third row simply folds down, but the second row contains two "Captain's Chairs" and those fold up and then each one slides into its respective hole in the floor. Well, "slides" is pushing it a little - it is not as easy as it looks in the commercials, trust me. On the commercials it almost seemed like you could stow those buggers with simply the power of your thoughts, when in reality you pretty much have to break a sweat to get 'er done. When the chairs are not being stowed, those two compartments have a flap over them and can be used for storage. Anywho . . . when the iPod first disappeared, I searched the van about a skillion times. How it rattled around in there for six months and then suddenly appeared in one of the storage compartments on Saturday - I have no earthly idea.

The good news is that now P can have an iPod, too. No doubt he will be delighted to mow the lawn henceforth since he can listen to his crappy music while he does so.

Anyway, back to the beach . . . the trip to Ocean City NJ took us out of our way and cost us far too much money, but it was worth it. We found a hotel room about a block off the boardwalk. The lady said we "got the very last room," which, I suspect, she tells every hapless tourist who wanders in there.

Our hotel room had two double beds. I slept with the kid, thinking I'd have more room that way. P and I have a king size bed at home and I've grown used to having ample space. What a mistake I made, though. It was the longest night of my life. At times I felt convinced that someone had replaced my kid with that little girl born in India with all the extra legs. I woke up every hour on the hour to find a size 7 toddler foot in the small of my back. Or, seemingly, lots of feet. In desperation, I pushed her towards the edge of the bed where . . . she promptly fell off. P accidentally poked her in the eye on Saturday so really, he is still the worse parent.

We did have a fun day at the beach, though. A liked the ocean at first and then grew a bit frightened of it. She napped under our umbrella for a while and then resumed digging in the sand with her pail and "shubble." P wouldn't get in the water, because he is a pussy. I, however, missed the summers of my youth when we took annual family trips to Myrtle Beach. I couldn't wait to get smacked in the head by a wave. So, I swam out into the sea and before long I was ass over teakettle as wave after wave knocked me under. It is now Tuesday and I think I still have sand in places where sand ought not to be.

We spent the evening walking on the boardwalk and eating junk food. We hit a small amusement park and tried out a few rides. A and I went on a caterpillar rollercoaster, which did not make me sick, in case you are having a flashback to my recent ill-fated voyage aboard the Tilt-a-Whirl. The next day she told a stranger at a rest stop allllll about the rollercoaster. She also tried to get him to buy her some "neminems." Watching her talk to strangers the way she does . . . it really scares me to think of what sort of information about our family she might be imparting at preschool.

The trip home was pretty grueling, I have to admit. We stayed overnight in Toledo. The next morning we gave serious consideration to simply living in Toledo. Not because we have any particular affection or affinity for Toledo - we just couldn't bear the thought of getting back into the van. The poor kid watched the same DVDs over and over. After a while she just kept saying, "I just wanna go home and play dress-up." I could hardly blame her.

So, the party's over. I weighed myself this morning and had to check to make sure that my cat had not climbed onto the scale with me or something. But no, it was just me and my fat arse. :::SIGH:::

Dancing on the boardwalk

First time in the ocean

Vodka - wheeeeeee!

The kid took this one of her own feet

With her cousin on the Metro

Friday, July 11, 2008

Winding Down

Our happy little vacation is winding down. We are leaving VA tomorrow and it looks like we are going to head up to the Jersey Shore to spend a day at the beach. Originally, we were supposed to visit a childhood friend of mine (who lives near Philly), but she has a family emergency and won't be around. So, even though it is totally impractical and definitely out of our budget, we have decided to head off-course a bit. The kid has been to the ocean, but only in November. So we don't want to miss our chance to put our toes in the sand and get slapped around by a few waves. We haven't figured out what we'll do about a hotel room - quelle adventure!

The Wolf Trap show that was on our agenda for Wednesday was canceled because of rain (it is an outdoor venue). So, we developed a Plan B, which was to go bowling and then to see WALL-E. The kid had never been bowling before, so we thought this would be as good a time as any to take her. This bowling alley was different from the ones I remember as a kid. You don't get to mill about and test balls out. You stick your finger in a hole and then they assign you a ball accordingly. Alrighty then. Eventually I was forced to admit that the ball they gave me was too heavy and exchanged it - I have the upper body strength of a five-year-old.

They gave us a ramp thingie for the kid, which worked out well. She had no tolerance for the whole "taking turns" thing, but we could've predicted that. They also put bumpers in the gutters, which helped my own bowling score tremendously. One interesting event: I actually ran into someone from high school. She was in the next lane with her son and I kept staring at her like some kind of deranged stalker. Like, "Is it her? Is it her?" I finally approached her and yep, it was Rachel from high school. The good news is that she was a classmate that I actually liked. The odds of running into one I didn't like are probably much higher. Rachel told me that I look too young to have been in her class, but of course she was lying - I look every minute of my 38 years.

The other thing about bowling is that I didn't remember it being quite so pricey. I thought shoes were in the neighborhood of a buck or two. Now they are closer to four. Anyway, between bowling and the movie, Plan B ran us around $100. Ah well, sometimes you gotta throw caution to the wind when you're on vacation.

Yesterday we went to Old Town Alexandria to loiter about. We visited Murphy's Irish Pub, where my dad has worked since the birth of Christ. If you are thinking that we went there to freeload, you're right. He bought us lunch. We also had my niece along, so my dad was happy to see both of his granddaughters.

We also buzzed through the Torpedo Factory, which is an art center comprised of individual galleries where you can wander around and visit working artists and buy stuff. We were just happy to get out of there without A breaking anything. Oh, and we stopped for ice cream because apparently I'm pretty determined to dig out my "fat clothes" when I get home.

That's all the news for now. Buh-bye until next week!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Settling into vacation mode

The vacay is going well. The kid is having a good time playing with her cousins. She gives her boy cousin (age 4) a rack of shit every chance she gets, though. She thinks that being a cousin is an elected position and that she can throw him out of office whenever she wants. "He's not my cousin anymore!" she says when she gets mad at him. She also announced that when her cousin was a baby, he was in her tummy. So yeah, the poor kid is pretty confused. It's no wonder we've continued to drag our feet about the whole "you're adopted" conversation.

The other day I asked her, "Are you being sassy?" and she said, "No, I'm a begetarian!"

On Sunday night we got a sitter and went out with my sister and her boyfriend. My sister and I proceeded to get plowed and then to sing Journey songs while playing pool. And trust me when I say I do NOT play pool, so you know I had to be pretty far gone even to agree to it. When we got there my sister's boyfriend warned her that she could only play "two Journey songs." I thought he said "two dirty songs" and I could not figure out what sort of jukeboxes my sister had been listening to in the past.

Yesterday we spent most of the afternoon at the pool, which was fun. Any chance we get to wear the kid out a little, we take it.

Last night I got together with a couple of friends from high school while P hung out with his kid. J and Kevin are really the only two high school friends I still keep track of. I picked J up and we drove into the District to see Kevin's new condo. We had a few drinks, they made fun of my minivan, and so it went. They compared notes on the gay bar scene in DC while I munched on hundreds of thousands of tortilla chips (I can't wait to weigh in when I get back - ugh.)

Today we headed south to Woodbridge. We brought my nine-year-old niece along. P wanted to go to the new Marine Corps museum so he dropped us off at IKEA. They have a play area at IKEA so I thought I could drop A off there. She is 36 inches tall and she needed to be 37 inches in order to gain entry. I begged the lady to make an exception, but she wouldn't hear of it. I was mightily irritated because really, it's just an inch. I could see if she wasn't potty-trained, but she is. I wasn't asking them to forgive half a foot or anything - just one measly inch! Anyway, my niece did a great job of entertaining her cousin and keeping track of her. I rewarded her by buying her some stuff and some pizza. Seriously, I need to rent a fourth-grader when I get back home. It made the whole excursion a lot easier.

So, that is the blow-by-blow so far. I need to get back to my compulsive overeating now . . .

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Oh, the drama

So, I'm in Virginia. The trip went pretty well. The day we left, though, was all drama. I dropped my dogs off for boarding on Wednesday night. I got the first call three hours later. Gideon had broken out of a crate (this facility uses crates instead of kennel runs). The owner told me she put him in a different crate and then watched him break out of it. She said that for a dog with so few teeth, it was pretty impressive. She said she would see how the night went, but I could tell things were probably going to take a turn for the worse.

When I woke up on Thursday morning (after a restless "what am I gonna do" kind of night), I had an email from her asking me to find a Plan B. I know she felt badly that it wasn't working out, so I wasn't mad - just upset. After whipping myself into a minor frenzy and nearly breaking into tears, I sent an email to my fellow rescue volunteers to ask if anyone knew of a boarding facility where I could take Giddy. With the holiday weekend fast approaching, I feared that most places would be booked solid. My friend Kim stepped forward immediately and offered to take him. She has a couple of kennel runs in her garage. I have never been so relieved in my life. I am blessed when it comes to friends, I'll tell you that. Several other fellow volunteers also stepped forward and offered to take the little degenerate.

On our way out of town, we picked up Giddy from the first boarding facility (Karl was welcome to stay, so I left him there) and dropped him off with Kim. I told her that if she ever needs a kidney or anything, it's all hers.

We drove to Toledo and made it there around 2:30 a.m. We spent the rest of the night in a room at the Super 8 that smelled vaguely like . . . urine, with hints of mildew. Thank goodness we were only there for a few hours before hitting the road again.

The kid did pretty well on the trip. She watched a lot of movies and colored in her coloring books. She has developed a phobia about public restrooms. No, it's not the sanitation issue. It's that the automatically flushing toilets always flush on her before she's done. She no like. So we did bring her little potty and I'm sure a lot of Midwestern tourists are still puzzling over the site they saw - a little curly-headed girl pooping on a potty in the back of a mini van. Also, we had no idea what the etiquette is for disposing of human waste. P ended up carting a pile of poo into a gas station to scrape it out in the bathroom there. Quelle adventure.

So, that's the story so far. Oh, and someone is watching our house while we are gone, in case you are reading this and have thoughts of breaking in and absconding with our 15-year-old television.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Road Trip

We are leaving tomorrow for a vacation out to the East Coast. Yes, we are the only family in America taking a road trip this summer. No doubt P and I will weep openly each time we have to fill the tank.

Raise your hand if you think my husband is packed and ready to go.


Raise your hand if you think my husband will come home from work tomorrow, throw a single pair of underwear into a bag (for an eleven-day trip) and announce that he is "good to go."

I've been packing for several days already, needless to say. I also get to drop the dogs off for boarding and take care of any other vacation-related detail you can possibly think of. He was actually playing online poker last night while I ironed and packed. I mean, he was having fun and really, that's the important thing. I also hope he has fun at that rest stop in Ohio when I give him the slip and take off without him.

Another problem (besides my husband) at home is that we are down to one bathroom. We have two bathrooms, one of which is used primarily by me and the other of which is used by the other two residents. The toilet in their bathroom has not been working for about a week. At first we thought that whatever was in there would eventually disintegrate and then it would work again. This theory did pan out once in the past, believe it or not. P flushed a dead Kissing Gourami down the toilet and it clogged up the works for quite a while. That fish was the size of my hand, so I am not really sure what he was thinking.

But anyway . . . things do not seem to be getting better so last night we started quizzing that short person who lives with us, in case she knows anything. At first she just shook her head and denied even knowing that we have a toilet. Then after we re-phrased the question a few different ways, she started mumbling something about a "Dora toy in Father's toilet." We started searching through her toys to see if something was missing. She has a whole bin full of Dora-related crap, so it's hard to say. But we do think there is a Dora bath toy missing.

I'm guessing most plumbers have a price sheet that actually has a line item for removing Dora toys from toilets. I don't even want to think about what it's gonna cost.

So, that is the news from here. Blog posts will probably be pretty scarce for a while. (I just wanted to let both of you know!)