Monday, November 30, 2009

What, oh what, will she buy?

Last week I received a letter from my daughter's school (not the "your child failed the hearing test" letter - this was a different one). The parent organization is setting up a holiday gift shoppe so that the kids can buy "winter holiday presents" for family members. Each student is allowed to purchase up to eight gifts, at a cost of $1.25 each. They sent home a printed sheet of blank gift tags and I'm supposed to fill in the eight names. My first inclination was to put my own name on all the tags. Then I decided that maybe that isn't the best way to make a good impression on the school, particularly since I plan to send my child there for the next seven years.

I remember shopping at a holiday store at my school when I was in the second grade. Guess what I bought my father? An ashtray. It was the kind that consisted of a beanbag on the bottom (plaid, no less) and had the metal part with the cigarette holder attached to the top. Can you imagine if a school sold an eight-year-old an ashtray in this day and age? I suspect it would be front page news, lawsuits would be filed, and all hell would break loose. But in 1978 it was, "What a thoughtful gift for your dad!" I bought an equally memorable present for my mom. It was a small figurine in the shape of a squirrel. And I say "in the shape of a squirrel" because it is only vaguely recognizable as a squirrel. It's painted brown and the red painted eyes are all cockeyed. I speak about it in the present tense because my mom still has it. She says she would never throw away the deranged squirrel.

Needless to say, I am dying to see what my daughter will buy. I'm trying to imagine what sort of trinket sells for just $1.25. Perhaps a ballpoint pen or a Diet Pepsi? I am in need of some paper clips, come to think of it. Apparently the volunteers will even put each item in a gift bag so that it's a surprise for the recipient. You know full well that they could encase it in titanium and the kid is still going to run home and tell me exactly what she bought me (and the other seven people on the list). I won't even have to ask her - she'll sing like a canary.

On December 25th, maybe I'll have my own version of the misshapen squirrel to cherish. And cherish it I shall.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Indeed, I did get up at 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday. Some of my friends who are Black Friday veterans advised me in advance not to take it too seriously, so that was the attitude I took. I was armed with shopping lists for my two nieces and three nephews. I scanned the ads on Thursday and plotted my strategy. I actually ordered some stuff online on Thursday, when some stores started their price drops. I knew Best Buy would be a nightmare on Friday so I ordered online from there (and got free shipping to boot). I also ordered a dollhouse for the kid from another retailer. The next day, she started blathering on about some very specific dollhouse that is NOT the one Santa ordered. Someone needs to tell her that once you submit a wish list to Santa, there are no edits. Santa accepts the first edition and that's all there is to it.

When my alarm clock went off at 4 on Friday, I very nearly turned it off and ended the lunacy right there. But, the dogs had also heard the alarm and the next thing I knew, I heard tags jangling and a collective "sweet! breakfast in the middle of the night!" and going back to sleep became an impossibility. I got my act together and was out of the house by 5:15 a.m.

I headed first to the craziest place of all - Walmart. I mean, there is an air of psychosis at Walmart on a "normal" day. My main target was toys and I thought they'd have some good prices. Everyone in town was already there, the traffic so heavy it required several police officers to keep cars moving in the parking lot. I have to say, though, that this being the friendly Midwest and all, people were not all that surly. Many were even downright jovial. I don't know that I would have attempted this same type of excursion back when I lived in the Washington DC area. I got in, found some stuff, and got out. I only bought a couple of "door busters" so in hindsight, I could have waited until another day to go. Lesson learned, I guess.

By the time I was done, it was around 7:15 or so. I drove to a cafe to grab some breakfast, as I had not yet eaten. I updated my shopping lists and tried to keep myself organized. The cafe is right next door to a Toys R Us and I was momentarily tempted to pop in, but I have to say I've never found spectacular pricing there. Plus, I wanted to get to the mall and get a parking spot, as I suspected they were already pretty scarce.

I completed a full loop around the entire perimeter of the mall before finding a parking space. I headed first to Gymboree, which was offering 30% off until noon. I also had a coupon for 20% off, so if you are challenged when it comes to math I will just tell you that I was looking at a hefty 50% discount. I picked up a few things for A and a dress for one of her girl cousins. Then I headed to Kohl's and focused my attention on the toy department. I bought a bunch of toys for my nieces and nephews. I picked up a "shake and go" car for one nephew. It was the police cruiser from the movie "Cars." I had to carry the bags all the way across the mall and then into the next zip code where my car was parked. Every time the bag was jostled, the car would rumble and then say, "SON, YOU'RE IN A HEAP A' TROUBLE!" Over and over.

Needless to say, I was tired to the point of hallucinating by mid-afternoon, but it was a good day. Between online and in-person shopping, I knocked out 90% of my Christmas shopping in one fell swoop.

Now, I just need to figure out how to explain to a four-year-old that there is no way that Santa is buying her this piece of crap Barbie camper to the tune of $70. Santa's generous and all, but he's not mental.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Oh, hand-print turkey, how long I have waited for thee . . .


The kid has come home with turkey art every day for the past week or so. Construction paper turkeys, coloring book turkeys, etc. At church she made a hand-print turkey, which is the pinnacle of turkey-related art if you ask me. During my long, long journey to become a mom, I often filled my head with daydreams of macaroni art and hand-print turkeys. And now the day has come!

The emphasis on turkeys is always a little bit of a mystery to me, though. Why not a cornucopia or something?

Every year at least one person asks what on earth I will eat for Thanksgiving since I'm a vegetarian. I've been adhering to a meatless diet for over 20 years now so it's not as if I'll suddenly be baffled by this particular holiday. And for those of you who have seen me - do I look like I am missing any meals? Call me what you want, but don't call me late for dinner! Ha ha! I'm here all week, folks! Tip your waitresses! Anyway, the answer to the question is that I will eat everything but the turkey (well, I will also skip the stuffing since it is usually made with parts of the turkey). Gravy is also off-limits in most cases. But everything else is fair game. We're eating at a friend's house. I'm contributing a hashbrown casserole, a brownie torte (which my dad lovingly calls "the manhole cover"), and a store-bought pie. I don't like pie but was assigned to bring one, so I figured a bakery pie was the way to go. Most people do not think it is legal to dislike pie, but I'm pretty sure it is.

As I type this, I am working on my Black Friday plan for tomorrow. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am typically out of town for Thanksgiving and can't hit the Black Friday sales. I'm looking at it as an adventure of sorts (just a slightly deranged, nobody-gets-up-at-that-hour-on-purpose sort of expedition). I'm taking a small list along, as well as a rough idea of where I might find the best prices on what. I'll hit a couple of stores, try not to get trampled to death, and attempt to have a little fun while I'm at it. A place in town is opening early and giving a bottle of wine to the first ten shoppers. They are also giving a free glass of wine to every shopper. A glass of wine at 9 a.m. - is that wrong? Don't answer that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The one where I get all old and prudish


I've been trying to decide if the Adam Lambert kiss is worth all the attention it's getting. I know you base your own world view around my take on current events, so here goes: I think it was over the top. Too much. However, not because he kissed another dude, but because it appeared as though he plumbed the depths of the guy's esophagus with his tongue. Seeing the same kiss between a man and a woman wouldn't have made it any less cringe-worthy in my book. Or even two chicks (my husband might disagree with that assertion).

More and more, I form my opinions around this basic barometer: is this something I'd want to explain to my four-year-old? And in this case, the answer was no. It would be one thing if the show had aired in the wee hours, but it didn't. It was prime time (albeit fairly late in the evening). My daughter didn't see the performance, but she is a night owl in the making and it's only a matter of time. I feel stupid enough because I was letting her watch iCarly occasionally until I listened to some of the dialogue (something along the lines of "shut up or I'll shut you up"). Now I just tell her the show no longer airs, even though it is on Nickelodeon approximately 87 times daily. Some days I don't know what I am supposed to protect her from.

Lambert asserts that female artists have been performing flamboyantly and evocatively for years and that no one says a word. He does have a valid point there. The Madonna-Britney Spears kiss from a few years ago caused barely a blip on the radar. And Lady GaGa . . . well, she's out there. Performances by Lady GaGa mostly leave me tilting my head like a dog. I'm not sure I want to explain her to my child either. My theory on Lady GaGa is that if you scrape everything off, every bit of glitter and spackle, she's uglier than homemade sin. I guess I can't blame her for attempting to compensate like she does. Speaking of Lady GaGa, did you see the video clip of Christopher Walken reading Poker Face? Classic.

I'm not trying to shield my daughter from all things unsavory (such as simulated fellatio on an awards show), but I'd really prefer if she encounters them at age-appropriate intervals. I guess I am getting old because a lot of bumper stickers make me cringe, too. Once, I was behind a car (driven by a chick) that bore the phrase "real men eat pussy" on its bumper. And I'm sure we've all seen worse. I'm assuming that the kid will learn to read at some point and then I will have some 'splainin' to do. And life is full of stuff I don't necessarily want to splain.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Can you hear me now?


We received a letter from the health department today. RE: "your child." It turns out she failed the hearing exam at school. Twice. The letter says that "your child may have a hearing loss that is medically and educationally significant." We're supposed to take our daughter for a more formal auditory evaluation.

This notification from the health department, while slightly alarming, is at least marginally better than the one my sister received: "your child may have head lice." My niece did, indeed, have lice. At this point I can't even call my sister's house without itching and scratching all the while. I may have to unfriend her on Facebook just to be on the safe side. Those little nits are pretty tenacious, you know.

So, it looks like I'll be making the kid an appointment with the pediatrician on Monday. Then I guess we'll see where we go from there. Her pediatrician (well, an assistant) did attempt to carry out a hearing test at A's four-year exam back in May. She didn't fail the test, but she also didn't pass. The evaluator filled out the report to say she was unable to properly assess my daughter. The problem was that the kid couldn't seem to remember to put her hand up when she heard the beeps. The tester could see that A's expression changed slightly every time a beep came through her headphones, but the little goober couldn't seem to coordinate the two (hearing + hand-raising). I was told that it's not uncommon for a four-year-old not to fully comprehend the test so I didn't give it a second thought. Until I got the letter.

I don't want to be in denial, but honestly, I think my daughter can hear just fine. The problem is that she doesn't listen. Two totally different issues, I'd say. She can hear perfectly well when you use words like santa, candy, park, or chocolate milk. Phrases like "brush your teeth" and "it's time for bed" are mostly met with silence.

In other news, Gretchen and I were in the local holiday parade today (with the kennel club where we train). I was going to bring Gideon, but he started limping at the last second. I wanted to take him, because he is better with other dogs than she is. Gretchen actually did fine, with the exception of punching a Dachshund in the head and doing the "You wanna a piece of this?" routine with a black Lab. I don't know why, but something about black Labs just seems to chap her ass. She always wants to take them down.

After the parade, I stopped at a craft fair. Guess what I bought? No, not a "snowmen fall from heaven unassembled" plaque, but good guess. The other little witticism often spotted at craft shows that makes me spit up is "don't drive faster than your angels can fly." Why, oh why, must I be so cynical? I blame my parents. This afternoon I made vegetarian chili using a handwritten recipe my mother gave me years ago. Here is what she wrote for me: "add a little of the cayenne. Most people are not as candy-assed as you when it comes to spicy food, so keep this in mind." It is a wonder I am not in therapy.

Anyway, in case you haven't guessed, I bought a hula hoop. One of my web clients conducts hooping classes and somewhere along the way she convinced me that this is a legitimate form of exercise. The hoops are weighted and you can immediately feel the impact on your torso. I figure that when the snow is hip-high this winter, maybe I can spend 15 minutes a day in the basement hooping. Apparently one can burn something like 600 calories an hour this way. Mary was selling the decorated hoops at the craft fair and when I spotted her, I heard myself saying "What size hoop do I need?" and then shortly thereafter I was writing a check.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to explain . . .

My daughter's birthfather is behind bars. He was sentenced to three and a half years in state prison when A was just a few months old. The charge? Second-Degree Sexual Assault of a Child (in other words, sex with a minor). It's unsavory any way you look at it, but I do think it's only fair to differentiate between the 21-year-old dumbass who has sex with an older teenager and the pedophile who molests a small child. It is my understanding that he is the former.

He was scheduled to be released in the summer of 2009 so, out of curiosity, I pulled him up on the circuit court website last week. There was a notation in the records that his parole was revoked. I was a little confused about some of the details of the case so I asked my friend Kim to take a look. She spent many years working for the police department as a dispatcher (I wish she still did because I miss hearing all of the morons-who-call-911 stories, such as the people who ring 911 on the 4th of July to ask where fireworks are being held) and knows about these things. Kim looked him up on the sex offender registry and said that he has been sentenced to another four and a half years in a correctional facility. It was unclear what he'd done to have his parole revoked.

I didn't look at the sex offender registry until a few days after Kim told me she found him there. I pulled him up and was stunned to see a photograph. This was the first time I had ever seen his likeness. And here's what struck me: no resemblance at all. I opened a photo of my daughter and compared them side by side. I tried to picture this man without glasses. I tried to picture him smiling. I imagined him at a heavier weight (the website indicated that he is 6'1" and weighs just 155 pounds). I squinted at him every which way. Same eyebrows, same ears, something? Nothing.

Of course, genetics are a funny thing. Shared DNA does not guarantee physical similarities. My siblings and I are not exactly carbon copies. At the end of the day, though, I'd have to say that my daughter more closely resembles the man who cut the umbilical cord when she was born, the guy with whom she swaps fart jokes and plays PS3 games. The one she summons when a spider invades her bedroom.

I guess I'm not sure what I was expecting when I saw the photo. I already knew that he is African-American, so that part didn't come as a shock. He denied paternity all along (his parental rights were terminated involuntarily after he failed to show up for the TPR hearing), so I suppose what I'm dreading is the day when my daughter goes looking for him. How do I say, "oh baby girl, he does not want to see you"? A's birthmother testified that the guy in the photo is the one who got her pregnant. The man who seemed to her like a good egg and later . . . wasn't. She was living with him at the time and there was no one else. She never lied to us and never had any reason to.

At the moment, my daughter has no idea that it takes two people to make a baby. I guess it is wishful thinking to hope she doesn't find out until her wedding day. But I know that one day she will, inevitably, ask. She will want to know more. I will tell her that her birthmother is beautiful. That she is smart and big-hearted. I will recount all that I remember about the woman who gave me the gift of a lifetime. When it comes to her birthfather . . . well, I guess I just don't know. (For those just tuning in, we already had "the big talk" wherein we explained that she grew in another lady's tummy. We just didn't tell her how she got there.)

I am not the type who wants to shield my child from all adversity. On the contrary, I want her to attempt to play a sport and face at least one colossal loss. I want her to audition for a plum role in a play and lose it to a friend. I don't want to prevent her from knowing any pain in her life.

I just don't want this particular train ever to pull into the station, all the while knowing that, even in full Mama Bear mode, I'll never be able to stop it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Eye Eye, Captain


I accompanied the kid to her first official eye exam yesterday. I took her to my optometrist. He told her, "You can call me John." What the bleep? I don't get to call him John!

I didn't have any particular concerns about A's eyes (her ears are a whole other matter - she gives the impression of being stone deaf most of the time). However, I wanted to take her in now to get a baseline for future eye exams. She had a lot of trepidation about the exam, so I plied her with a slice of cake beforehand. I truly did not want her to be nervous about it, though I have to confess that my pre-exam angst over the puff-of-air-in-the-eye test is enough to cause me to need therapy myself.

My daughter knows her letters quite well, but for younger kids they do the visual exam using pictures on the eye chart. She had no problem recognizing the tiny images, however minute. Until . . . Dr. K (AKA "John") shone the light on a tiny little image of a telephone. It was a traditional push-button model where the handset sits on a cradle. The kid had no earthly idea what it was. "Yeah, children are recognizing that one less and less," said Dr. K, who chose a duckling image instead.

I found it pretty humorous that my 21st century kid does not recognize a telephone. Had it been a cell phone or a wireless handset like the ones we have in our house, she would have gotten it. I hope they don't have a record player on the chart somewhere. Every kid in town would walk out of the office wearing Coke-bottle lenses because they failed the exam. Or, as my friend Felix used to refer to his glasses: "Claudia, I have the Great Wall of China ON MY FACE."

Anyway, the exam was pretty uneventful (well, except for the part where my daughter could not master the chin-here-forehead-against-this requirement and pitched forward into the equipment a few times). I asked Dr. K the same question I asked A's pediatrician a few months ago. "So, um, what color are her eyes?" You'd think this would be one of those facts about one's child that would be automatic and obvious, but I promise you it is not cut and dried. When she was younger, her eyes were clearly blue (probably until she was two or so).

Here's a photo to prove it, lest you think I am delusional:

I know that many babies are born with blue eyes, but most change within the first few months (if they are going to change). Up until the last year or so, I would have unequivocally said my daughter's eyes were still blue, But now, some days they appear to be grey, sometimes green, and sometimes blue. So, I thought maybe I should ask someone who knows something about the subject at hand.

"I'll tell you in just a second," Dr. K replied confidently. He looked at her eyes through one of the contraptions and said, "They're hazel." He invited me to look through the lens at my daughter's mega-magnified iris. So, it seems A's eyes have morphed from blue to a pale green ringed with a light golden brown. Dr. K shot down my "grey" theory when he said that in 21 years of practice, he'd only seen three patients with truly grey eyes.

So, mystery solved, I guess. She does have a slight case of astigmatism, but the doctor expects it will probably correct on its own over time.

I know I've posted this before, but it still makes me giggle every time:

Friday, November 13, 2009

What eez it, man?

[Bonus points for those who recognized that as a Ren & Stimpy quote.]

A couple of people have asked me about the doll with the green thing on her head. Believe me, it is bugging me, too. You have no idea. The more A talks about it, the more I think she is truly expecting this doll under the tree on Christmas morn.

I have quizzed her repeatedly about the mystery figurine. The level of detail she provides makes me think that she did, indeed, spot the doll somewhere. The description I get from her: "she has brown hair and a green crown on her head and a green dress on her body. And she's in a box." I have tried asking for the doll's name. "Um, Alexa?" she usually replies. I can tell she doesn't know. There is an Alexa doll in existence, which is from that blasted "Princess and the Diamond Castle" movie. Alexa does not wear green; her dress is purple and blue.

I have tried Googling "doll with green crown" and "green dress doll" and had no luck. I've spent more time on Amazon than I'd care to admit, perusing the doll selection page by page (hundreds of dolls, no lie). I think my last option will be to take her to Target and try to figure out if that's where she saw the doll. The thing is, I'm such a mean mom that I don't usually let her look at the toys when we're at the store. If I've let her do it at all, though, it was probably at Target. Toy department = guaranteed meltdown. That's why I avoid it. But, maybe the doll with the green thing on her head truly is sitting forlornly on a shelf there. If so, I can "let Santa know where he can find it."

Does my daughter not know that Santa Claus is not psychic????

Speaking of shopping, I am giving some serious thought to venturing out on Black Friday this year. Normally, I am out of town for Thanksgiving so shopping isn't an option (because I'd have no way to bring stuff back with me). This year, the budget is a little tight so if I can save some money by getting up when it's still dark out, so be it. My sister-in-law told me she was actually injured by Black Friday crowds one year, so that put a bit of a scare into me.

I'm not planning to be too ambitious with this particular endeavor. I may hit one or two stores and then call it a day. Who knows, maybe it will be fun. And you know I do love a good bargain.

In other news, my child fell in the toilet at school yesterday. She goes to Kindercare in the mornings and 4K at the elementary school in the afternoons. Her dad drives her to the school and then I pick her up from there. When I arrived yesterday afternoon, some little kid wearing pink highwater pants started running towards me. My daughter only wears dresses (per her own edict). "I fell in the toilet!" she yelled. Apparently she hadn't noticed that the seat was up. I am supposed to leave a spare outfit there for her and I did - a year and a half ago. So she was wearing a summer top that was a size too small and a pair of some other kid's pink velour pants. I don't know if the pants were from the lost and found or what the scoop was. The funny thing was that it had crossed my mind in recent weeks to replace that spare outfit with one that might actually fit. But I kept thinking, "She hasn't needed the spare in all this time, so . . . . no rush."

Needless to say, last night was bath night.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dear Santa

November 10, 2009

Santa Claus
The North Pole

Dear Santa,

It's been a few decades since I've written to you. I hope you are doing well. I assume I've managed to maintain my spot on the good list all these years. As you know, I'm a bit of a goodie-two-shoes. Well, mostly. You don't include the college years in your calculations, right? I also assume there's some sort of statute of limitations on childhood offenses, such as the time I put my middle sister in the dryer and turned it on. Of course, you know full well I only let her go around a couple of times and that she grew up just fine.

Anyway, enough about me. My daughter is going to be writing you a letter shortly. Well, I should say she'll be dictating a letter - she only knows how to write her name and a couple other words. She is going to be asking you for "the doll with the green thing on her head." I have no earthly idea what she's talking about, so I sure hope you know. Additionally, she'd like a dollhouse. Also, every product she has seen on a commercial over the past six months. Lately she keeps blathering on about how she wants a Big Top Cupcake. I keep telling her that an incredibly large cupcake is just . . . a cake.

I hope you will forgive me for using your good name each year in an attempt to extract respectable behavior from my child. I only do it in November and December, I promise. I need to send a similar letter to the Easter Bunny to apologize for the spring. Let's face it - evoking your name, however manipulative, can be very effective. All it takes is one little, "You know how Santa feels about dirty teeth!" and the next thing I know, there is a curly-haired girl sprinting into the bathroom and, shortly thereafter, a hunk of pink sparkly toothpaste is adhered to the inside of the sink.

I've also mastered the art of frowning slightly and saying (in a meaningful tone of voice), "Oh, I don't know how Santa would feel about that." I like to think I know what disappoints you, Santa. I've been known to imply, in vague terms at least, that you personally gave me a hotline number that I can call any time to report transgressions. Don't worry - I only pretend to call. I know you're very busy. You've got all those brats who've appeared on Super Nanny to worry about. Can they ever truly be reformed and move off the naughty list? I guess you've got your work cut out for you.

I suppose that's it for now. If you could bring my daughter the "doll with the green thing on her head," that would be great. Oh, and I'm currently pondering a magic marker ban (did you know that dry erase markers stain like a mofo?), so none of those, please.

Your friend,

Claudia

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Will everyone think I look silly?


My daughter, almost since birth, has generally sported a devil-may-care attitude about her conduct, her appearance, etc. That's how most kids are and that's how it should be. Slowly but surely, though, I'm noticing a new self-awareness sneaking in.

My artsy-craftsy friend Nancy gave her a handmade Halloween pin a couple months ago. The pin is a foam candy corn. It's cute and age-appropriate. When we were visiting my mom last month, I put it on A one day. She looked down at it, frowned a bit and asked, "Is everyone going to think I look silly?"

"No, of course not," I replied, puzzled. For starters, we were in a town over 1,000 miles from where we live. This little hamlet (Corn, Oklahoma - no lie) is so tiny that it has no streetlights and only a handful of stop signs. The odds of someone she knows spotting her and guffawing over her candy corn pin were pretty small. Infinitesimal, even. Second, we had no plans to leave the house that day. My mother and her gaggle of felines were also unlikely to point and mock (at least not right to her face - you know how some cats are).

My daughter is very confident in herself, so I was surprised at her question. Now that she attends elementary school, I suppose more external influences are seeping in. I'm not sure I like it. I mean, this is the same kid who stated, upon arriving at our neighborhood park: "Oh good, there are people here! Everyone will see me!" The same kid who skips in public, hops on any stage she can find, and chats up strangers every chance she gets.

Last Thursday, she and I attended a Fall Festival over at the elementary school. There were craft stations set up and a deejay rockin' some tunes in the gym. By the way, the deejay played "The Cha Cha Slide" and let me tell you, if you want to see chaos, play a song that instructs dozens of young children to "slide it to the left" and "slide it to the right." The deejay gave a quick primer on the concepts of left and right before playing the song, but the end result was still a tangle of minor collisions on the dance floor. Unintentional comedy is sometimes the best kind.

My kid was dancing and running around with some of her 4K friends. I was talking to a mom who lives down the street from me and wasn't paying specific attention to what A was doing at that moment. Somehow, she ended up ass over teakettle and smacked the back of her skull on the dance floor. I hope this will be the first and last time I have to type a sentence like that. She came running to me and I knelt down and did my best to console her. I rubbed her head and wiped her tears and waited to see if she wanted to get back out on the dance floor. To my surprise, she said she wanted to go home. My daughter is not the type to leave a party, nosirree. I always picture the college-version of her yelling "We're not leavin' till we're heavin'!" Then it dawned on me: she was somewhat embarrassed. I pulled her up on my hip and carried her out of the building, she resting her tear-stained face on my shoulder while still clutching her baggie of cowboy trail mix in her fist.

The real bummer: she didn't even get a chance to do the limbo.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dead Things

I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her. - Ellen Degeneres

Thanksgiving is going to be odd for me this year. Normally, I go to DC to spend the holiday with family. Or last year, I went to Oklahoma to spend it with my mom (as you'll recall, my parents are in the process of moving from the DC 'burbs to windy Oklahoma). This year, I took the trip early, spending part of October in OK with my daughter. This means I'll actually be home for Thanksgiving this time around. I think we've managed to score an invitation to eat the big meal with friends. If you are thinking, "Wait, isn't she a vegetarian?" - I am, but it's not as if there is some shortage of food on Thanksgiving. I can manage to eat myself into a stupor just like everyone else.

While I'm happy to be spending Thanksgiving with my husband this year (for the first time in a dozen years or so), what I'm not happy about is the realization that I'll be around for deer hunting. I've always managed to spare myself the sight by being out of town. Growing up in Northern Virginia, I didn't know a single soul who hunted. Living in the Midwest now, I know plenty. Obviously I don't dislike my friends/acquaintances/co-workers who hunt, but I do try to close my mind to it as much as I can. It's like the grown-up version of putting your fingers in your ears and screaming "Lalalala, I can't hear you!"

But yes, this time of year is hard for me. When I am on the highway in November and spot a car with a deer lashed to the hood, my heart (my bleeding, liberal heart) hurts. The deer's head always lolls to the side at an unnatural angle, blood crusted here and there on his massive body. Dignity erased.

Okay, I know what you're going to say. Yes, I know the deer population is probably too large. We've already killed off the natural predators of the deer, so it's not surprising that the deer population swells as a result. Yes, I know some will starve, but I'm guessing that if you ask the deer - they'll choose to just take their chances, thankyouveddymuch. They would also say, "You could only call this a sport if both parties were armed, man." I know many hunters feel they are doing a good deed by culling the herd. They say that the deer will starve otherwise, that there are just too many of them. This leaves me wondering what other altruistic pursuits these folks take on. If the concern about starvation is there, are they holding can drives for the local food pantry? If the concern about animals is there, are they also volunteering at their local shelter on the weekend? Protesting in front of the pet shops that sell sick puppies? Rehabilitating injured raccoons who've lost their habitat to urban development?

We do know there are other ways to keep the deer population from exploding, such as chemical sterilization. It's not as easy and it's expensive, so the idea generally gets swept under the "too much trouble" rug. I've done a little reading on it but am not knowledgeable enough to weigh in either way.

I was listening to a podcast called "The Animal House" earlier this week. The guest speaker was Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, who wrote a book called The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons from the Natural World. During the program she noted that the fees from hunting licenses do go back to wildlife management. I hate the idea that wildlife needs to be "managed," but it did give me pause. We need game wardens out in the field to guard against poachers and to make sure hunting and fishing regulations are followed. So if hunting licenses pay their salaries, I'm not sure where that leaves me.

I guess it leaves me where I started. At my core I am uncomfortable with hunting and yet I know there are valid arguments for deer hunting (I'm not sure I can buy the arguments for hunting other animals, such as bears and so forth). Before landing my current job, I worked for a manufacturing company. It was a mostly blue collar crowd, with some of the nicest people I've ever worked with. One of my co-workers had a deer calendar above his desk. Each month featured a different wildlife scene, such as a lone buck standing in a snowy thicket. My co-worker talked about the beauty of the deer. I had to agree. What I couldn't understand was how he could then turn that corner from thinking "what a magnificent creature" to "magnificent creature must be obliterated!"

What's a bleeding heart to do?

I took this at my aunt's house in Trinity, TX when we visited in 2007. The deer come almost to her back door and she, remarkably, has no urge to blow them away.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let's Pretend I'm a Grown-Up


It's hard to fight crime when you're wearing three layers

After trick-or-treating last night, I helped the kid take a shower. We needed to wash red hairspray out of her hair and chocolate off her hands. I grabbed the hand-held shower head and aimed it at her thick curls, while she danced and spun and did everything she could think of that might lead to what they call a "household injury" at the ER.

She stopped mid-spin and turned to me. I was kneeling outside the tub and we were eye to eye. "Mama! Let's pretend I'm a grown-up, okay?"

"Gotcha," I said. "You're a grown-up." All I could think of was how the "grown-up" had been repeatedly yelling, "I FA-ARTED!" just hours before.

I finished rinsing the shampoo out of her hair and grabbed a towel. "Since you're a grown-up, exactly how old are you?" I asked. For the record, she is four and a half.

She raised her chin and smiled. "I'm five."

Alrighty then.