Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Four-Year Photos

I took the kid in for her four-year photos on Friday. Handling the "talent" sure has gotten easier over the past couple of years. When I took her in for her two-year photos, I think we were both crying by the time it was all said and done.

This year's primary challenge was . . . bruises. Copious, obvious bruises. I'm pretty sure the photographer called Child Protective Services and filed a report after we left. It occurred to me that I should probably wait until after the bruises went away before scheduling a photo session, but the risk there is that she may have come up with a whole new crop in the mean time that were much more sinister-looking. I had to sign several accident reports at Kindercare last week. In one incident, she was leaning forward to put a book on the bookshelf in her classroom, and somehow pitched forward and smacked her face on the shelf. In another, she collided skull-first with a classmate. Yes, that's my delicate little ballerina.

I asked the photographer to do the best she could to work around the bruises. There is a series of reddish-brown circles headed down her right calf in addition to the collection on her forehead. The photographer, despite her youth, did a great job. I don't think I've ever had so many decent shots from which to choose. So, I just went with the ones in which the contusions were less obvious. I have to say that my kid is downright photogenic. The manager of the studio said that my daughter puts her own spin on the poses. I imagine she says that to all of the moms, but I actually do believe the kid is bound for a career on the stage. We'll be rich, rich I tell you!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

R.I.P. Portable DVD Player

Magnavox DVD Player

July 1, 2006 -April 25, 2009

The DVD Player passed away quietly after a brief but brave battle with apple juice (the household's youngest member is transitioning from sippy cups to "big girl" cups). Heroic efforts were made to resuscitate the victim but when apple juice was observed dripping out of the battery pack, CPR was ended. Time of death: 11:32 a.m.

The DVD player will be remembered for saving our sanity on long car trips. He played "Cinderella" and "The Letter Factory" dozens of times without complaint. He had a brush with death when one of his cables was left dangling from the van and was dragged for dozens of miles, but miraculously, he continued to operate without a hitch. Once, just for fun, he played "Sleeping Beauty" in Spanish.

The DVD player is survived by several household electronics, including an aging digital camera, a video camera, and two iPods. He was preceded in death by a CD player and a whatiswrongwiththispieceofshit iron.

Friends may call from 1:15 to 1:20 this afternoon at our home, where the DVD player lies in state.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Weight Loss Tips (yeah, I gotta lotta nerve)

I am simultaneously proud and ashamed of my status as a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers. If you are unfamiliar with the program, a Lifetime member is one who achieved their goal weight and then maintained it for six weeks. I joined Weight Watchers in September of 2005 and reached my goal weight at the end of 2006. I've lost and gained the same few pounds every month since then, and will probably never see my pre-wedding fighting weight again, but mostly I do manage to hang in there.

I am not in any way qualified to offer advice on weight loss, but I'm not gonna let that stop me. No sirree. People actually ask me for weight loss tips from time to time and I do have a few that I think are worthwhile.

First, I should confess what I'm not good at:
  • People always tell you that you should drink so much water that your spleen is floating, but I only drink when I am thirsty (well, except for drinking wine - I drink that long past the point of thirst, but anywho . . . ).

  • I do not make good choices at restaurants. I'd rather eat out less frequently, and eat what I want, than to pull the whole "When Harry Met Sally" can-I-have-this-but-on-the-side routine.

  • I do exercise (particularly in the summer, when I walk the dogs a lot), but I don't get into any major exertion. I really think that shows like "The Biggest Loser" do all of us a disservice because really, who is going to maintain a work-out schedule like that? It is no wonder that so many of the contestants gain the weight back later.

So, here are my thoughts on weight loss:

  • You cannot do this alone. If you could have done it on your own, you would have done so already. You don't have to do Weight Watchers - there are a lot of support networks out there! For me, I really need the accountability of standing on that scale and having that number formally logged.

  • Don't let anyone bully you or tell you that you need to lose weight. If anyone had attempted to tell me I was overweight, I would not have changed my eating habits one whit. I just would have gone to greater lengths to hide them. Every person needs to come to "the moment" on their own. For me, it was seeing a photo of me holding my newborn daughter and thinking, "Oh my." And I did not give birth to her, so I had no excuse for being overweight after she was born!

  • If you blow a day by overeating, don't take it as a license to let the whole week go. Every day is a new day. Sappy, but true.

  • Write down what you eat. This is a huge pain in the ass but seeing it in black and white really does help.

  • This is going to sound silly, but try not to buy clothes with lycra in them. Lycra helped convince me I wasn't overweight because I could still fit into my clothes. It's all part of being honest with yourself.

  • Set small goals. A woman at my WW meeting said, "I can't lose 100 pounds, but I can lose 1 pound 100 times."

  • Never skip breakfast. You will make up those calories somewhere, and probably consume a lot more than you would have if you'd just taken a moment to eat a banana or something.

  • If you don't already subscribe, check out http://www.hungry-girl.com/. Very helpful daily emails.

  • Be really honest with yourself. Don't hide food (I used to buy several boxes of Girl Scout cookies - some that went in the pantry and another box that no one ever knew about). Don't fool yourself into thinking that your body doesn't notice every calorie you consume. Alas, it notices.

  • When you go out to eat, eat until you are satisfied but not stuffed. Then say out loud, "This is my last bite." Then stick with it. If you keep eating after you've said it was your last bite, that makes you a liar. And you don't want to be a liar, do you?

  • There will be weeks where you'll do everything right and not lose an ounce. It's all part of the process and is not indicative of failure.

  • Consider checking out the vegetarian aisle at the grocery store, even if you're not a vegetarian. Veggie burgers (and there are a million varieties) are generally very low in fat and calories. My daughter and I love the vegetarian sausage links, too.
I'm going to use a dirty word here. Deprivation. It is a fine line between deprivation and self-control, and I struggle with this a lot. Yes, I eat pizza. But I eat one piece when I really want two. Is that deprivation or self-control? It's hard to say. I think there are times when we can all be happy enough eating Chips Ahoy 100 calorie packs, but there are other times when you need an honest-to-goodness, fresh-baked, chocolate chip cookie. You can do that as long as you don't eat the whole batch. If you have trigger foods, you have to keep them out of the house. For me, I cannot buy Keebler Fudge Sticks. Just thinking about them right now puts me in a Homer Simpson-like "mmmmmmm" reverie.

Okay, that's it for my sage advice. Move along people, nothing to see here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who's on first?

My daughter is addicted to fruit snacks. I know they aren't the healthiest snack, but probably not the worst that exists (I think the word "fruit" in the name is used pretty loosely). Every day after I pick her up from Kindercare, we carry out a prolonged fruit snack negotiation. We had this exchange last week:

Her: "I want a fruit snack."
Me: "Try again."
Her: "Please can I may have a fruit snack?"

I open the cabinet and gesture to the two boxes sitting on the shelf inside. One is Spongebob Squarepants and the other is My Little Pony. "Which one do you want?" I ask her.

Her: "I want that one."
Me: "My Little Pony?"

She sighs, not having perfected the eye roll yet. "Okay, Mama, can I have YOUR Little Pony fruit snacks?"

Me: "No, it's not MY Little Pony. It's just My Little Pony."
Her: "Mama, can I have YOUR Little Pony fruit snack?" She is getting irritated now.
Me: "It's not . . . oh, never mind. Here you go."

We repeated the exact same conversation three days in a row before she figured out that I was not naming snack foods after myself. She still hands me her garbage when she's done, though. I think you know you're a mom when you constantly have a little kid pressing empty wrappers, used Kleenex, and sticky lollipop sticks into your palm. Glam-o-rous.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

That'll be how much?

Saturday was a beautiful day. The temperature was expected to get into the high 70s and there was not a cloud in the sky. I woke up my niece and told her we were headed to Harper's Ferry for the day. I have always loved Harper's Ferry but hadn't been there in over ten years. My niece claims she can write a little report on John Brown's raid and get extra credit at school, so we made a point of reading all of the plaques and whatnot. We walked a bit down the Appalachian Trail and took some photos of the mountains and the Shenandoah River. There's a lot of history in that area. Then we shared a funnel cake, which was also historic in its own way.

I hope this doesn't lead to a string of nighmares for the impressionable ten-year-old, but we also visited a cemetery while we were in the area. I thought my niece would find some of the old headstones interesting. Many of them date back to the early 1800's. I guess some might think it is disrespectful to wander around a cemetery, but I did make a point of righting all of the flower vases that had tipped over and also fixed a windsock. I figured I'd try to build up a little good will while I was there in exchange for imposing on the dead like that.

Later in the afternoon, I took my nephew (age five) to see "Monsters vs Aliens." My nephew has severe food allergies, so I have always been a little bit nervous about taking him somewhere by myself. But now that he's a little older, he is capable of telling you what he can and cannot eat. Because he has not spent a lot of time with me alone, he cried all the way to the movie theater. He had stopped sobbing by the time we walked into the multiplex, but he was still pretty adamant that he was not going to watch the movie. I asked him if we should sit close to the screen or far away. "Nowhere," he replied. Fortunately, I have a temperamental kid of my own and therefore was not offended.

I stepped up to the ticket counter. "Two for Monsters vs Aliens 3D," I told the woman, who was sporting the mandatory movie theater vest.

"That'll be $22.75," she said.

Thinking that she must have rung up the Pakistani family behind us on the same transaction, I said, "Oh no, it's just the two of us." I swept my arm across to my nephew and back again, as if to illustrate the fact that there were two, and only two, bodies in front of her.

"Yes, it costs more for 3D."

If that was the matinee pricing, I don't even want to know what those same tickets cost at night. I'm surprised there wasn't a loan desk situated right next to the ticket window. I wiped the tear from my eye and slid my debit card across the counter. Then I headed to the snack bar to hand over the rest of my paycheck.

Though he was still looking awfully forlorn, my nephew agreed to sit in the movie theater and eat the "safe" snacks my sister had prepared for him. By the time we left, the tears were long forgotten and he was busy re-enacting scenes from the movie and telling me which character he liked best (Insectasaurus, for the record). Later I found a souvenir he had left me to mark our adventure together - a melted orange Skittle on the back seat of my rental car.

Sunday was my last full day in Virginia. I went three for three when it came to obtaining free meals that day. First, I had breakfast with my friend Felix. We've known each other since the sixth grade which makes us . . . . let's see, carry the 1 . . . pretty damn old. It was wonderful to see him, and he still speaks in hyperbole just like always. (Felix, I hadn't seen you since the Mesozoic era!) Then I met my friend Dave for lunch. Dave and I were both good friends with Kevin, but Dave couldn't make it to the funeral. I think Kevin would have been happy to know that, in his passing, some of the old crew found each other again. Finally, I met my dad and grandma for dinner. We ate at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, and I consumed my weight in chips and queso.

I flew out on Monday morning, making my way to the airport in a driving rain. I returned the rental car and hoped they wouldn't notice the Skittle issue. As hard as it was raining, I don't think the disgruntled employee in the parking lot cared if I'd returned a horse and buggy in place of the Subaru I had rented. The flights back were uneventful, and I even got to sit in the middle seat on my second flight. There is just no end to my good fortune.


My niece asked me how funnel cakes are made. I started to tell her about batter floating in hot grease and then decided that maybe it's better if she didn't know.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Journey

I made it to Virginia on Thursday evening. As it turns out, traveling without a three-year-old is a hundred million times easier than traveling with one. You know I got mad love (as Randy would say) for my daughter, but . . .

I had a layover in Detroit. I had well over an hour to kill, so I walked (and walked and walked) to my gate so that I could find an eatery nearby. Each time I passed a flight monitor, I checked and confirmed that I was headed the right way. Yep, Washington-Dulles at Gate 76. I found my gate and then headed to a Mexican joint just a few yards away. I had eaten only an Easter egg for lunch (we have been eating them at an accelerated pace because somebody threw an egg into the bowl and caused all of the decorated eggs to be afflicted with hairline fractures), so I was pretty hungry. I ordered some nachos and a glass of Pinot Grigio. My flight was boarding at 5:01 so I paid my tab just before 5 and headed out. Okay, yes, I did have a second glass before that if you really must know, but I don't know why you have to be all up in my bidness like that.

I walked into the terminal and checked the monitor again just to make sure I was in the right place at the right time. I stared at the screen in disbelief. My flight had been moved to Gate 19. 76 minus 19 equals 57. 57 gates equals . . . a really long distance. Now, I don't think I am hopelessly out of shape, but I do have asthma. My lungs and I have a standing agreement that I am not to break into a full-bore run with no warning like that. But sprint I did. If I had had the kid with me, I would've been a goner. I was the second to last person to make it onto the plane.

On Friday morning I headed to the funeral. Good ol' Northern Virginia. It took me nearly an hour to travel the short distance from Centreville to the church in Vienna. 66 was backed up for miles. But, I used to live here so I knew to leave early. I arrived at the church with ten minutes to spare and found some old friends from high school. I settled into a pew with them and then wondered how long I would last without crying. I also noticed that I seemed to be the only one not dressed in black. I wore a white blouse and navy pants. Honestly, I don't think Kevin would have expected or wanted me to wear black. I decided I was okay with sticking out a little. I think he would have made fun of me either way.

The funeral was a Catholic service. I kept thinking that Kevin would have rolled his eyes at the goings-on, but then again funerals are for the living and not for the dead. I was able to keep my composure through most of the service, though I felt like the tears were on standby just behind my eyes. Much of the service was about carrying out religious rituals that weren't specific to Kevin, so I was able to keep from crying as long as they weren't talking about my friend in any concrete sort of way. I wondered if he was there. I willed him to come and sit next to me.

Following the funeral, there was an informal reception in an adjacent hall inside the church building. Several of Kevin's friends spoke. I had not volunteered to speak. Kevin's sister contacted me last Wednesday and told me that the family was touched by the blog entry I wrote and wanted permission to print it and post it at the funeral. I felt honored that they felt I had captured him in a resonant way. So, instead of speaking in front of the crowd (a skill I do not possess any day of the week), I decided to let my words stand on their own.

An old friend from high school invited a few of us back to his house, so I headed over there. There were perhaps ten people from our high school at the funeral. And I dated three of them. I mean, seriously, I did not remember being THAT busy back in the days before I met my husband. Criminy. It was great to see everyone, though, and it wasn't as awkward as I might have thought it would be.

The funeral left me feeling emotionally spent, yet happy that I came. It's still difficult to process Kevin's death at times. Part of me feels like I can send him a Christmas card this year like always, and some way, somehow . . . he'll receive it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Memory of Kevin


A snapshot from the old days in Dave's basement
It's a peculiar thing, the way the brain works. Yesterday morning, I arrived at work and decided that I wanted to put an Easter photograph of my daughter on my computer's desktop, to use as a background picture. I had a bunch of photos on my Facebook account, so I logged on in order to grab one. I glanced at the recent updates that some of my friends had posted. Then I noticed a news feed item on the left side of the screen. "In Memory of Kevin Blitzer 1969-2009." 

"Wow, that's not funny," I thought to myself. "That's not even a little bit funny." 

Then it occurred to me that maybe Kevin himself had posted something, perhaps a photo of himself at a party where he had been "generously over-served." Something along those lines, maybe. Kevin has always had an offbeat sense of humor, howling over British comedy that always left me scratching my head (I think I'm the only person on the planet who is not even vaguely amused by Monty Python). I clicked on the link, which brought me to a memorial page. 

I read a few entries. What the? Why was everyone saying these things about Kevin? What is wrong with people? My brain had the scoop at this point, but it would be a few more seconds before it would inform my heart. Kevin, my friend of some 24 years, was indeed gone. I found myself sobbing quietly in my cubicle, still in shock, still struggling to process what I had learned. I packed the items I had just unpacked and went home. It would be a long, weird, weepy day.

I do not yet know the cause of Kevin's death, as I have been unable to find an obituary. I suppose that the "why" doesn't matter too much, though it pains me to think that he died alone. Kevin did have diabetes, though I believe it was generally under control. He was healthy and worked out a lot (as seems to be the requirement for all gay men living in large, metropolitan cities). Last year he bought a small condo in Washington, DC and was very proud of it. I visited him there last summer when I was in town, along with our mutual friend J. Kevin was quite the host, laying out snacks and fetching drinks. We chatted about old times and admired Kevin's interior decorating skills. It was my job to bring mixers for the drinks and I mistakenly got pure, unsweetened cranberry juice to mix with the vodka. We joked that I was unlikely to contract a urinary tract infection for the next decade at least. It was a giddy sort of girls' night out, though I was technically (or at least biologically) the only girl.

I met Kevin in high school (he was a year ahead of me), though we only really became close sometime after graduation. After I completed my freshman year of college at Texas A&M, I decided to transfer to George Mason University and moved back to Virginia. It was around that time that a core group of us - me, Dave, Kevin, Chris, and sometimes Khau, started spending a lot of time together. We'd hang out in Dave's basement and goof around. Sometimes we'd go to a movie. Sometimes we'd pile into Khau's BMW and drive around DC, doing a whole lot of nothing.

It was during those basement days that we made a funny discovery about Kevin. As we were talking, Kevin leaned back on Dave's water bed and looked up at the ceiling. I can't recall who discovered it first, but one of us said, "Kevin, do you tuck your shirt INTO YOUR UNDERWEAR?" When he leaned back we could clearly see the waistband of his Fruit-of-the-Looms, into which he had neatly tucked his shirt. Suffice it to say that we got a lot of comedic mileage out of that one. Kevin was the type who could dish it out AND take it, though. He didn't mind laughing at himself. When talk would turn to sex (and this was before we knew Kevin was gay), we'd tease Kevin about who his "first" had been. "Let me guess," one of us would say, "She lives in Canada and we wouldn't know her?"

"No," Kevin would say, raising his chin defiantly. "She lives in upstate New York!"

Sometime later, I was at the mall and stopped to visit Kevin at JC Penney, where he worked in the shoe department. A friend of mine had met him, dug him, and wanted me to ask him if he might have an interest in her. "My friend Jennifer seems interested in you," I told him, poking at some Reeboks on display.

"Oh, um . . . " Kevin stood there with an odd expression on his face. It came to me then, this thing I had missed for so long.

"Wow, you're gay!" I blurted. Yeah, I'm classy that way.

"Shhhhh, this is the shoe department at JC Penney," he reminded me.

It was never a big deal, of course. I just felt a bit thick for having missed it for so long. Eventually the basement crew disbanded and we all went our separate ways. A few years later I married and moved out of state, though Kevin and I always kept in touch. For a time he moved to California ("to be with his kind," I always teased him) and then later moved back to DC. He worked for the Washington Post for many years.

I convinced Kevin to join Facebook a few months ago. When I brought it up to him initially, he said that he thought he was too old to join Facebook. I told him that my gay cousin is 42, is on Facebook, and sure has a lot of cute boys on his friend list. Kevin joined later that same day.

Before I knew it, he had more friends on Facebook than I did, and posted updates regularly. Say what you will about Facebook, but it does make it easy to keep in touch with friends old and new. Kevin posted his last update on Thursday. "Kevin is bored shitless," it read. Sometime after that he also posted a funny link from Failblog. And then he was gone.

In February, Kevin called and left me a voicemail a couple days before my birthday. He wished me a happy birthday and then made fun of the outgoing message on my answering machine. I wondered why he'd called early, but then decided that maybe he just wanted to beat the rush. Ha! He then called and left another voicemail on my actual birthday, realizing that he'd goofed the first time. I smiled when I heard his message, just happy to be remembered by an old friend. Kevin was always a good friend to me, though he did seem to have a knack, from time to time, of saying the wrong thing on the wrong day. One time he got me so riled up after making a snarky comment about my blog that I "unfriended" him on Facebook for about a week. He begged me to take him back. Eventually I realized I was being childish and "refriended" him.

I am flying out tomorrow to attend Kevin's funeral. The timing is terrible, of course, as funerals always are. But I know I would regret it endlessly if I did not go and say good-bye to the friend who meant so much to me. I feel numb, all cried out, but I know the tears will come again on Friday. I did not expect my friends to start dying for a few more decades, and I am still struggling to get my head around the fact that such a bright light has been extinguished. My heart, suddenly leaden, hurts.
Kevin, I don't know what I am going to do without you. We are supposed to get together in July, remember? I was looking forward to rolling my eyes over your terrible jokes. I would have peppered you with the usual questions. Are you seeing anybody? Are you testing your blood sugar? "Yes, mom," you would always say. But you smiled when you said it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What rhymes with &%$#!

As further proof of her staggering genius, my daughter has learned how to rhyme (and I say that with no sarcasm whatsoever - I legitimately believe that A is very bright). She likes to practice her new skill every chance she gets. You give her a simple word and she'll give you a word that rhymes with it. Cat-hat, chill-spill, and so forth.

Lately, she has been skipping around the house, singing rhyming words as she goes. Most of the words are the sort that actually appear in the dictionary. Some are made-up and silly (I believe I heard her uttering "sprunk" the other day). Some are . . . um, pornographic. Rock rhymes with . . . oh my (starts with a c, in case I lost you there for a second). And truck rhymes with . . . oh no, anything but that. And yet, I've heard them come out of my baby girl's cherubic little mouth. She says them in the same sing-song voice as all the other words, so it's not like she assigns any meaning to them. And while I will admit that I am inclined to spout the occasional "dammit!," I can assure you that I don't bust out the ones she has uttered. Honest! On a side note, she did repeat "dammit" one time, but it turns out she thought I said, "bammit," so that's what she said. I couldn't decide if I should reprimand her for that or not.

This parenting anecdote has been brought to you by the letters "F" and "U" and . . .

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nyquil Dreams

I was sick with a cold for most of the week, so for three straight nights I took that glorious green liquid known as: Nyquil. I slept like a rock, but in exchange I had to endure a lot of very strange dreams. One night, I dreamt that we lost our home. Wait, it gets better. P and I were trying to move into an apartment and were filling out some paperwork to that end. We sat on one side of a beige metal desk while a middle-aged man (who was actually, oddly enough, one of the dog trainers from "Dog Town," one of my favorite shows on the National Geographic channel) sat on the other side.

He scanned our paperwork and then looked up at me. "Mrs. M, you didn't fill in your weight right here." He pointed at the blank line where my weight should go. I shook my head to indicate that I would not be divulging that information. "Well, you can't move in if you don't fill in your weight."

"Then I guess . . . " I replied, " . . . we'll be homeless."

Nice to know that my sub-conscious mind would subject my family to life on the streets rather than reveal my weight. My conscious self probably would have balked at it, too, though.

Other than that, it's been an uneventful week. Boxer Rescue has been very busy. We have lots of new dogs coming in (thanks, suck-ass economy!) but we've also had a lot of placements. I do the paperwork when a dog gets adopted, so that's kept me hopping for the past few days.

Tomorrow, I am taking Fritz-a-Million, my foster dog, to a pet expo in hopes of generating a little interest in him. The rescue has a booth at the expo. He really is a very nice dog; he's just a tough placement because of his age. Honestly though, if I didn't know how old he is (nine), I wouldn't think he was any older than six. I just have to think there is someone out there who would enjoy a nice, easygoing companion. I've only noticed one bad habit with him: when A and I are playing tag in the house, Fritz sometimes runs after me and nips my ankles. I'll stop and say, "What are doing, old man?" and he'll look at me and explain that he just had an out-of-body experience for a second there.

I've been attending these pet expos for the past nine years and I have to confess that I never really get any better at it. I try to leave the whole "chatting with the public" thing for other volunteers who are more qualified. If you ever go to a pet expo, here are a couple of things not to say:
  • "He must smell my dog." He probably does but after the 99th time someone has said it, we just run out of responses.
  • "I'd take you home right now except for A, B, or C." Believe me, we know you would love to take the dog home. It's just that it doesn't make us feel any better about the dog's plight to know that you won't be taking him home.

What should you say, then? Well, the rescue volunteers really do enjoy chatting with people about Boxers and rescue and all that good stuff. Throw a buck in the donation jar, ask us about our adventures in fostering, or tell us about your own dog. You could bring a treat or two for the foster dogs in attendance. Or, better yet, you could bring me a treat. It's all good.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Song Lyrics

I get a lot of song lyrics lodged in my head. Lately I've been singing "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. (including the gunshot parts). Just in my head, mind you. You would not want me singing audibly. Trust me on that one.

I'm not much of a poet myself, but like most English majors I do love poetry. So maybe that is why certain song lyrics appeal to me so much. I have a little repository of them that I store in my brain. That particular mental filing cabinet is in trouble, though. Ever since I became responsible for another human life, it seems like when one piece of information lands with a thud inside my cerebellum, another tidbit of information bounces out.

Here are a few song lyrics I dig. Who else has some good ones stuck in their head?

Freedom has a scent
Like the top of a newborn baby's head
U2 - Miracle Drug

Have a little faith
There's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty but hey, you're alright
Bruce Springsteen - Thunder Road

Asking only workman's wages I come looking for a job
But I get no offers
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
Simon & Garfunkel - The Boxer

Can I take you to a restaurant that's got glass tables
You can watch yourself while you are eating
The English Beat - Mirror in the Bathroom

You pour yourself over me
Like the sun through the blinds
Peter Murphy - Cuts You Up

Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground
James Taylor - Fire and Rain

The light's about to change
You better stand aside
Why you wanna walk
Don't you want to ride ride ride ride
Fountains of Wayne - Survival Car

Breathe out
So I could breathe you in
Hold you in
Foo Fighters - Everlong

You don't really love that guy you make it with now do you?
Trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart
REM - Superman

My therapist said not to see you no more
She said you’re like a disease without any cure
She said I’m so obsessed that I’m becoming a bore, oh no
Ah, you think you’re so pretty
James - Laid

Hot tears flow
As she recounts
Her favorite worded token
Forgive me please for hurting so
Don't go away heartbroken, no
Peter Murphy - Marlene Dietrich's Favourite Poem

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"When I'm a big sister . . . "


Does anyone know where I can rent a child for a day? A temporary sibling, if you will. I need one with some basic Candyland and Chutes & Ladders skills. Play-Doh and dress-up abilities a plus. Salary commensurate with experience. Forward resume with references.

When I finally became a mom, I felt so blessed, so fortunate, that I dared not wish for anything more (i.e. another child). Even now, nearly four years after her birth, I still walk into my daughter's room and think, "It really happened!" I must confess, though, that there are days when keeping an only child entertained is a bit of a challenge.

You may wonder why, then, we have not taken steps to expand our clan from three to four. There are several reasons, including the fact that I'm getting older . . . and creakier. Also, the adoption was financially expensive and emotionally expensive. Do we regret a single second of it? Absolutely not. But, we knew from the outset that we'd only travel the infant path once. Even in those early days of getting up three times a night for feedings, I never complained (or at least I tried really, really hard not to) because I realized those days would pass all too quickly and I would never know them again. We were free to pour all of our love, our resources, our time into this one tiny human. Our computer's hard drive hosts more photos of our child than the number of days she's been on the planet. Obnoxious, I know.

We have left one door open, however. When A is older, we may consider adopting a child through the state. We feel it's important that our daughter is the oldest, so it would be a child younger than she but not so young that we'd be changing diapers again. We haven't given this scenario a lot of thought, probably because there is so much to consider that it's almost overwhelming (what do we do about bedrooms? can we handle a second college fund? childcare? ack!) Realistically, it's more likely that a second adoption won't happen. We are just leaving that door cracked open ever so slightly.

Lately, the kid has been making random comments like, "When I'm a big sister . . . " She has not, however, asked specifically about having a sibling. I think she may be under the impression that one automatically becomes a big sister as part of the growing up process. For now (and possibly right up until college), she has to make do with her dad and me. I played three rounds of Candyland with her on Sunday. I rigged the cards to let her win two out of three times. Sometimes, keeping her in a good mood is more important than "building her character."

I'm usually the one to take her out of the house to various activities and events. A's dad is the one who attends most of the tea parties and such. I'm good for a few rounds of Chutes & Ladders, but I have the attention span of a gnat. He, on the other hand, will sit on the floor with her and play with Diego's rescue center for eons. By the way, I regret to inform you that Diego is no longer able to run the rescue center because, thanks to our new dog Gretchen, Diego is now a triple amputee. Not to worry, though - Baby Jaguar is now running the center quite capably. Sometimes Dora comes over and pitches in. She's a'ight, that Dora.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

An Up-and-Down Sort of Day

We had an odd sort of day yesterday. We attended a kids' festival in the morning and a memorial service in the afternoon. I started the day by weighing in at Weight Watchers. As a Lifetime Member, I'm only technically required to weigh in once a month. I can get into a lot of trouble during those intervening weeks, though. I'll sure be glad when summer rolls around and I can weigh in wearing shorts. I think you'll agree that the average pair of jeans weighs at least 10-12 pounds. Work with me on this, people!

I ran home, picked up the rest of our little clan, and headed to the kids' festival. We go every year, and we've learned to get there as soon as it opens (before a sea of strollers makes movement all but impossible). Basically we just followed the kid around and tried to ensure that she did not get abducted. She ran from station to station, making crafts and completing obstacle courses, glitter flying behind her in a little cloud. She paused briefly to suck down a Capri-Sun and eat a cookie, and then decided to capitalize on her sugar rush by heading straight to the bounce house. We ran into her Godfather and his family while we were there, so we hung out with them for a while. The kid would've stayed all day, but her dad and I reached "maximum children's event" after three hours and dragged her out the door.

The first year we took A to this festival, she was just 11 months old and could only watch the goings-on from her stroller. Now she all but runs the place. In a few short years, she'll be too old (and too cool) to go. Here's hoping she'll be making glitter crowns for just a little bit longer.

2007 version of the crown

We came home with a bag full of books, flyers, and craft projects. There were several temporary tattoos in the bag. She insisted that her father apply a "U.S. Bank" one to her forearm immediately. As he was affixing it to her skin, I reminded him that I was taking her to a memorial service shortly and that maybe tattoos weren't the best idea. "It's okay, she's wearing long sleeves," he assured me.

The memorial service was for a wonderful woman who attended our fellowship. She died of lymphoma on March 26th. I'm always careful not to say that "so-and-so lost her battle with cancer." The terminology has always makes me wince a bit. To say that someone "lost the battle" seems to imply that they didn't fight quite hard enough. It's simply not a fair fight. It seems there is no rhyme or reason to who makes it and who doesn't.

I debated all week whether or not I should take the kid. She probably doesn't remember Lee, because Lee had not been at the fellowship much in recent months. However, Lee always got a kick out of my daughter and the way she sometimes dances in the aisles during hymns and runs her mouth during storytime. I decided that Lee would have been down with it.

We headed downtown to the building where the memorial was being held. They were receiving visitors from 2-4, with a memorial service at 4 p.m. I decided we would pay our respects, visit for a bit, and then head out before the service started. The building was very crowded; Lee touched a lot of people during her life and it seemed half the town was there. As we made our way inside, I paused to talk to a friend from church. A headed the opposite way and started chatting up some strangers near the bar. "Look at those curls!" I heard one of them say. After a few seconds, I decided I'd better retrieve her. "Oh, she's a doll!" one of A's fans told me. "She was just showing us her tattoo!" Thanks, husband.

We made our way into a small alcove where about a dozen people were watching a slide show of photos accompanied by music. Many of Lee's personal belongings were laid out around the room. It was clear that no one was getting out of that room with dry eyes. I remember many a Sunday at church when Lee would tell the children's story during the service. She would settle into the wooden rocker, a dozen or so children at her feet. She wore these reddish glasses that snapped together between the lenses (a magnet, I suppose). I remember those lenses clicking together and then she would read a story to the kids. She was a master storyteller. In fact, Lee wrote a children's book and there were some copies of it laying around with the other items. There were puppets (she was a puppeteer, among her other talents), a hat she wore during chemo, acorns, and photos laid out on the tables. But somehow, it was seeing those glasses that caused the biggest lump in my throat.

A and I settled into a corner and I read Lee's children's book to her softly. Meanwhile, the crowds continued to pour in. So many that we actually had to wait in line to get back out of the building when it was time to go.

The last time I saw Lee, she asked me, "And how are YOU?" It wasn't just a perfunctory question tossed over her shoulder in passing. She stopped, looked into my eyes, and waited to hear my response. Her colorful knit cap was pulled down to her ears, a visual reminder of what she called "the rude intruder" that was wreaking havoc inside her. "I'm doing well," I responded a bit sheepishly. I may never manage to live my life with as much grace and faith, but it's surely a good reminder to try.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"I didn't hit somebody today!"

That was A's exultant announcement when I picked her up from Kindercare a few days ago. My chest swelled with pride at the knowledge that my little buttercup had not clocked anyone on that particular day.

We've continued to struggle periodically with the hitting issue at school. The kid spent part of one afternoon perched on a chair in Miss Amber's office, reflecting on the rightness/wrongness of smacking one's friends. Miss Amber is the director at the center my daughter attends. On the way home in the car that day, I heard this from the back seat: "Miss Amber said I have nice hands!"

I looked at her in the rear view mirror. "Um, I'm pretty sure that Miss Amber meant that you should be nice with your hands. I don't think she was complimenting your hands. Though they are lovely."

To be honest, I'm fairly certain that in some of these incidents, my kid has been slugged first. However, I have to assume she is probably the aggressor in at least 50% of the incidents. We've had several stern-faced "discussions" with her, but we're not sure what else to do beyond that.

Other odd things my child has said to me this week:

"Mama! Gretchen licked my tongue! And I licked her tongue, too!" I'm just going to pretend that one didn't happen. :::Humming to myself while rocking back and forth:::

"I'm gonna be four on May 3rd. And I'm getting a car. A pink one." We were thinking in terms of getting her a "big girl" bike for her birthday, but a Chevy? Not so much.

"And you didn't even have to count to 5!" She's been saying this when she actually does something voluntarily. Normally, she waits until I've threatened the lives of her, her children, and her children's children. If I tell her I'm going to count to 5, she waits until I get to 4 3/4, then rolls her eyes, sighs deeply, and does whatever minuscule task I've required of her.

After passing some rambunctious children on a trampoline: "Mama, look at those kids on that . . . kid jumper." Then, glumly, "I sure wish I had a kid jumper."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Well, *that* was embarrassing

I took Gretchen to her first obedience class on Monday night. Just going for a car ride was enough to whip her into a frenzy, so she was fairly maniacal by the time we pulled into the kennel club's parking lot. I grabbed her leash and she hopped out of the van, alternately jumping into the air and pulling on the leash like a sled dog. When we got into the training building, I tightened my grip on her leash as we attempted to navigate through a throng of dogs and people. Here is what was going through Gretchen's mind: "Where's the party? Is this the party? Am I the party?"

After spending the last 11 years with the breed, I stand by my assertion that Boxers are challenging to train. Whereas a Border Collie is thinking, "What can I do to please you, oh benevolent owner? Finish the laundry?" the average Boxer is thinking, "You paid money for these classes?! Boy, that's a hoot. Hey, are you gonna eat that?"

Nonetheless, I'm going to cram as many classes into Gretchen as I can. I am in the process of applying for an ILP number from the AKC. If I can obtain the ILP number, I can then compete with her in Obedience and Agility. And call me a glutton for punishment, but I think she can get there. It's just going to be a long, long road. Long, as in "New Jersey to Los Angeles" long.

Gretchen did her best to make me look like an idiot during class. The assistant instructor actually felt compelled to come over and give me some tips, even though she only recently started training herself. Gretchen laid down when she should have been sitting. She ran ahead when she should have been heeling at my side. She tried to eat bits of lint/poop/fur/petrified treat particles off the rubber flooring. I kept having flashbacks to the early days of training Lucy when she was a young upstart. Lucy rolled on her back, four white feet poking the air, while all the good dogs trotted past her, heeling perfectly. Eventually, though, she did earn several titles in both Obedience and Agility. There were a lot of wasted entry fees along the way, of course. If we showed up for a competition and she didn't feel like sitting, she didn't sit. She would cock her head as if to say, "What is this 'sit' of which you speak?"

But, we persevere. I think hope Gretchen is smart, which is one of the reasons I wanted a female this time around. When it comes to Boxers, the boys often have better temperaments but the girls are smarter. Gretchen and I will start daily practice sessions this week in an effort to make next week's class a wee bit less embarrassing than the first one. Hope, as they say, springs eternal . . .