Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 5

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 26, 2008

All Over but the Shoutin'

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


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

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 22, 2008


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

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

And then I heard this:

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bakin' cookies for Santa

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

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I do, in fact, rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Climbing Out

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I miss my boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2008

In Memory of Karl Lee

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

I love you.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What the kids are asking for these days

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thanks, Santa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hound for the Holidays

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

"Sit, Susie!" I heard her say.

"Goober, his name is Caesar!"

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 7, 2008


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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2008


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

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

But here is what I find works best:

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Thanksgiving (Day 6 of Mother-Daughter Togetherness)

New bebe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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