Friday, December 31, 2010

Au revoir, 2010


2010 was a year of change for me.  I started a new job in January.  I'd been at my previous job for 13 1/2 years.  I didn't leave because I wanted to - I left because my division was sold to another company.  Fortunately, the new company offered me a position and I was technically only unemployed for a weekend (and believe me, the knowledge that 10% of the country is currently unemployed is never far from my thoughts).  I liked my old job for lots of reasons, including the fact that I had no commute (I could actually see the office building from my house and vice versa) and the fact that I was earning almost six weeks of vacation every year. So, at first I was more than a little reluctant to round that corner into something new.  I'm not the most adaptable cat out there.

However, in time I came to see that the new job, though very stressful initially, was probably just what I needed.  I lost my vacation time and some other benefits, but I was happy to be employed.  Whereas my division had been relegated to "red-headed stepchild" status at the old company, our web development team is a valid part of the new one. Honestly, the acquisition was probably for the best - I would have stayed at the old job forever otherwise. Stagnant.

Let's see, what else happened in 2010?  Our finances continued to suck. We're hoping things will get a bit better over the next year and a half, when both cars will be paid off. We're also hoping to avoid major household and automotive repairs for a while - this year we had to replace our hot water heater and some expensive part in P's car (after the car was, tragically, out of warranty by just a few miles).

I took up yoga in the fall.  I think I'm officially hooked.  I have no idea why I waited so long to go.  The instructors are so patient, too.  My brain may think it is telling my right foot to point straight ahead, but my right foot does not receive the memo.  Some kind-hearted instructor always comes around and gently corrects my rebellious appendage.

Other noteworthy events from 2010:
  • My baby started Kindergarten.  She is rapidly learning to read, and we can no longer spell stuff in front of her (I miss that already). 
  • We continued to foster for Boxer Rescue. One of the best moments of my entire year was when my senior foster pooch, Fritz, was adopted back in January.  The lady who adopted him has become a friend and I know I'm a better person for having met her. 
  • I turned 40.  I'll just leave it at that.
  • A and I went to DC in April to visit family.  I got mad at the TSA.
  • In August, we took a very relaxing family vacation. The kid noted that she interprets "relaxing" as "boring," however.  
  • In November, the kid and I drove to Oklahoma.  The drive was mind-numbing and I'm still working on blocking most of it out.
Another bit of excitement for me this year: a lot of really good music was released.  Now, I know ya'll hate it when I talk about music.  When I write a blog entry about music, my blog gets negative hits. Literally. But, I shall close by listing some of my favorite songs from this year. I cannot be stopped.
  • Carolina Chocolate Drops: Cornbread and Butterbeans - I love cornbread and butterbeans, and I love this song.  
  • Kanye West: Monster - I only have a few tracks from Kanye's newest album, but I can see why the critics have offered effusive praise for it.  Kanye is a douche, but he knows he's a douche. It's hard to deny that he's got talent.  I think Nicki Minaj really makes the song, though.
  • The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang - I love just about everything this band does. I think I listened to this song at least once a day for a while there. 
  • Arcade Fire: Month of May - I thought this was one of the better tracks on The Suburbs.
  • Vampire Weekend: Giving up the Gun - This came out early in the year, so I've listened to it to death. Still good stuff, though. 
  • The New Pornographers: You Hands (Together) - This was probably one of my favorite albums of the year. 
  • Janelle Monae: Tightrope - I really think she is the next big thing. 
  • Mumford & Sons: The Cave - I lost a little love for them once they got so popular, but I still dig them.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Great, now I'm one of "those"

A less fat version of me (pictured here with my adorable niece)
I've never been one to make a new year's resolution. To me it has always seemed like a sure path to failure, so I never make them. However, I am truly in need of a change. I'm not making a resolution, per se, but rather, getting my act together.  The timing just happens to coincide with the new year. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Weight Watchers has a new program and I need to get on it. I have not attended a meeting since November 6th, but I will be at the next meeting with bells on so that I can get the scoop on the new program and get started. I have set a personal goal and a date by which to achieve it - June 1st. I have a particular reward in mind and am feeling pretty darned motivated.  For the past few months, I've struggled mightily with motivation (or lack thereof).  I lost a lot of weight in 2005/2006.  I then gained some of it back and lost it again in 2008. I did well for about a year and then set off on a self-destructive course in September of 2009. While I have not gained back all of the weight I lost, I've gained back more than half.

Frankly, I wasn't sure I really wanted to climb that mountain again. I mean, it's not like I'm morbidly obese and that there is some danger of the fire department having to knock out a wall in my house and hoist me out on a forklift. I feel fine.  I go to yoga, I go to step aerobics, and I hit the treadmill.  I don't work out daily, but I'm not sedentary either. The problem, obviously, is that I overeat.  I'm a vegetarian, so I do eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  However, I also have a vicious sweet tooth and it has great power. Also, I swear to you that I can literally hear my metabolism screeching to a halt (that's what turning 40 does for you, my friends). 

My main motivation/frustration, quite honestly, is that my clothes do not fit.  I look like shit these days. I refuse to replace my wardrobe yet again, so . . . . climb the mountain, I must. I'll keep the reward part to myself until the time comes. I'd be embarrassed to make a big production out of it and then not reach my goal.

At the beginning of each yoga session, we are invited to (silently) set an intention for the practice.  I usually try to hold the word "peace" in my mind during the class, as it is my intention to make some sort of mind-body connection and find peace within myself.  However, at last night's class I set the intention of "renewal"   (geez, I hope this isn't like a birthday wish where it doesn't come true if you tell someone what your wish was).  Of course, a few different words came to mind after I fell out of the Warrior III pose for the third time.  Damned gravity.

Anyway, I shall swallow my pride and join all of the resolution people who will be at the first Weight Watchers meeting after the 1st.  Time for renewal, indeed.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fahoo Forays, Dahoo Dorays

Christmas Eve had an inauspicious start, when I realized that my debit card had been compromised.  Chase blocked the attempts to use my card, so I was glad for that. What surprised me was that the blocked transactions were for small amounts, all for "internet services."  Honestly, thieves . . . go big or go home.  Anyway, the only option was to shut down my debit card and send me a new one.  So, that was the first snag of the holiday.

I worked until noon on Christmas Eve.  Kindercare was closed, so P took the day off to stay home with the kid. I ran a few errands after work and then headed home.  We didn't have a lot of plans for Christmas Eve, other than attending church at 7 p.m. and then driving around to look at festive holiday lights (one house, in particular, goes all out). After dinner, the kid insisted on helping me with the dishes (for the first time in her life).  I mean, she was not taking "no" for an answer.  This sudden burst of extreme helpfulness may have been related to me telling her that Santa does not load up his sleigh until he is just about to leave the North Pole.  For borderline children, things really could go either way. Right up until the last second.

The Christmas Eve service at church was very nice.  We sang a few songs and then passed a microphone around to share stories and memories of Christmas.  The kid poked me in the shoulder and said she needed the mike ASAP. So, curious to hear what she'd say (and a little bit frightened, too), I raised my hand on her behalf.  The microphone was handed to me and I turned it over to my daughter. What, oh what, would she say? Perhaps she'd share some shining example of what the spirit of giving means to her. She gripped the mike in her hand and tilted her head downward before she spoke.  "My next door neighbor . . . " she began, "Dressed her dog up like an elf."  Alrighty then.

When we got home, I read to her for a while and then encouraged her to go to sleep (after declining her request to sleep on the couch).  P and I watched bits of "Miracle on 34th Street" (yes, the original - the only one really worth watching) and waited for Santa. We had guests coming over the next morning for brunch, so I started getting my act together for that.

The dogs woke me up bright and early Christmas morning.  I sure wish they understood concepts like "weekends" and "holidays." My daughter, on the other hand, slumbered on.  And on.  When I was a kid, I was up like a shot on Christmas morning. Finally, she rolled out of bed at around 8:45.  She tore into the gifts and P dutifully picked up the wrapping paper along the way.  We actually had to keep her on a pretty tight schedule because of the impending arrival of family members.

As for me, my mom hooked me up quite nicely. She always gets me all sorts of fun things (like eye shadows, bath stuff, manicure sets, etc) as well as stuff I really need (like new sheets for the bed, towels, and so forth). P and I don't exchange a lot of gifts at Christmas.  We do stocking stuffers.  However, we do try to buy decent stocking stuffers - we don't just toss each other a candy cane and call it a day.  This year, I only asked for two items: the "Despicable Me" DVD and this ornament from Hallmark:


The ornament I actually received:

Do you see a resemblance between the two?  Yeah, me neither.  This is what happens to husbands who wait until December 23rd to shop, when the gifts their wives actually wanted are sold out. Now, I know what you're thinking.  "It's the thought that counts blah blah blah."  Well, there was no thought, you see.  If I'd known it would be that challenging, I would've just bought it for myself.  In the mean time, I went out and bought him exactly what he wanted, which was Grand Turismo 5 for the PS3, an electric shaver, some candy, and some cologne.  Also, I took the kid out and she got him a sweater, some lotion, and an iTunes gift card.  But no, I'm not bitter.  Not bitter at all.  He's just got some lonely nights ahead of him, is all.

You're probably wondering if I've had the opportunity to enjoy some baked goods fresh off the light bulb.  Indeed I have.  Cripes, though - between warming up the oven, the actual baking, and the cool down period, it takes the better part of an hour to bake a cake the size of my palm.  The things we do, I swear.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

She's Closin' in

Yesterday I took the afternoon off from work.  I met a friend for lunch at Noodles (Penne Rosa with tofu, oh how I love thee) and then headed home to wrap gifts.  You see, Santa finds it challenging to wrap gifts for a certain recipient, when said recipient is a) home all the time and b) stays up later than Santa does. Hence, the need for an afternoon off while Short Stuff is in school. It's pretty rare that I've got a weekday off, so part of my plan also included the viewing of trashy talk shows, court shows, and the like.

I gathered all of my wrapping supplies in the living room.  Then I noticed that the couch was looking a little . . . crumb-y.  I dug out the vacuum, dismantled the couch by pulling off all of the cushions, and then vacuumed out its contents.  I sucked up enough crumbs to feed a small unincorporated town, which is strange to me because I don't actually allow eating on the couch. Hmmm. 

Then I got back to business.  I settled on the floor, tape and scissors in hand, and then turned on the TV.  What's this?  President Obama delivering a special news conference?  On every bleeping channel?  Son of a !!!  President Obama, I voted for you and this is how you repay me?  I didn't just vote for you - I've maintained steadfast loyalty since the election.  I can't believe you could be so thoughtless as to deprive me of the opportunity to watch roommates battling it out over a cell phone bill on The People's Court.

Plan B: I had a couple of Netflix movies to watch.  I recently re-ordered our Netflix list and bumped my stuff to the top, much to my other half's chagrin. The Netflix account was my idea to begin with, but he quickly took it over and nothing but crap has shown up at our house since that day ("Blood Creek," anyone?).  But this tyranny had to end sometime.  Anyway, I had "The Lottery" so I watched that.  It was a very interesting documentary - really made me think about education and how few opportunities are available to children in some areas of the country.

I started wrapping gifts and quickly discovered that:

WRAPPING PAPER + PUPPY = IRRITABLE SANTA

I put up a baby gate (with pup on the other side) and completed the project. Now we're all set for the big event.  Hiding stuff has gotten more challenging over the years, though.  It was a lot easier when the kid didn't know how to work a doorknob.  Also, she never bothered to figure out those doorknob covers where you have to pinch the sides together to get enough traction to turn the knob.  Those only came off within the last year or so.  The least-used room in our home is a dank little room in the basement.  It contains an old futon, a filing cabinet, some random boxes, and oh yeah, my father-in-law's ashes.  Nobody goes in there unless they have to. Hence, the perfect spot for hidden gifts.

I'll leave you with a photo of my favorite Christmas decoration.  My mom got it for me years ago.  It's an image of Santa that just really works for me . . . an image of kindness and giving that is extended to all (even adorable woodland creatures).  Rock on, Father Christmas, rock on.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Target, Oh My Target


I ended up at Target twice this weekend.  Yes, a week before Christmas.  Now, if that's not enough proof of mental illness, get this: I also went to Best Buy. I'm done with most of my holiday-related tasks.  I just have a few odds and ends left over, each of which requires me to hit a different store in a different part of town.  I suppose I shouldn't say I'm "done" with everything.  There were some tasks that I simply didn't do this year.  I always send holiday greeting cards and this year I did not.  I dug up a box of cards from the bowels of my desk and sent a few to immediate family members, but that's about it (and I really only did that so that I had some way to get A's Santa photos to them).  I felt really guilty about not getting it done (and there are lots of reasons for my failure to send cards to the masses) but then it occurred to me . . . five years from now, is anyone really gonna say, "Hey, remember that year Claudia totally dissed us and did not subject us to a photo card depicting her daughter in holiday finery?"

The kid had two birthday parties to attend this weekend, so that was the reason for the first trip to Target.  I picked up gifts for both kids Friday night.  On Saturday, I hit the gym and P dropped off A at the first party.  The honoree is a boy in A's class.  She says this classmate is "kinda weird" but I suggested she not say that in front of him. While the party was in full swing, I made lunch for the two of us. We sat down and ate a peaceful meal at our dining room table, and hardly knew what to do with ourselves.  "Is this how it used to be?" he asked me.  Family mealtimes with the three of us are fine, but there's a lot of poking at vegetables and "I can't eat this" going on. Many such meals end with the shortest member of our family in time-out and a heap of uneaten vegetables in a dog bowl.

I picked the kid up from the party at the appointed time and it was immediately clear to me that she was completely jacked up on sugar.  Big time. Fearing the worst, I took her to Target to let her pick out a Christmas gift for her dad.  She chose the store, mostly because she wanted to get an ICEE after we were done shopping.  She's a giver, that kid.  The shopping trip was not a fun one.  I found myself gritting my teeth and saying things like "Get out of the Barbie aisle - it should be pretty clear that your dad does not need a copy of 'Barbie in a Mermaid Tale.'"  Also, I should add that every resident of our city was at Target at that precise moment, mostly concentrated in the toys and electronics aisles. The whole scene was making my eye twitch. Finally, A settled on a couple of gifts and I took her home. But not before there was a sizable tantrum over the ICEE.

By the time we got back to our humble abode, I was feeling pretty irritable.  I should have gone back out and finished my errands without Miss Generosity, but I had no gumption at that point.  Instead, I did something fairly uncharacteristic.  You see, I have to be doing something at all times. Although my husband can sit on the couch and play video games until he's got bedsores, I always have this compulsion to do something productive.  Even when I was a small child, I refused to nap.  Anyway, I grabbed my foster pup and shut myself in my bedroom.  I then proceeded to watch a marathon of "Pit Bulls and Parolees."  I watched for several hours.  I'd have kept going except that eventually an episode came on that I'd already seen. When A would come in and ask me for something, I'd pull out the old "Go ask your father" and send her on her way.

This morning, the kid was in a holiday play at church.  She had a very pivotal role as a member of the chorus.  The play was about Good King Wenceslas, and she was instructed to stand up and yell, "Huzzah! Huzzah! God save the king!" periodically. It was a stellar piece of acting, let me tell you. Later in the afternoon, I took her to her second birthday party of the weekend.  More sugar was ingested, but a good time was had by all.

Now, as I type this, she is in the living room, losing her mind.  Last time I checked on her, she had tucked a sword into one side of her skirt and a Hannah Montana microphone into the other. She was wearing plastic princess shoes and balancing herself on a wooden train track while playing a pink princess guitar and watching Spongebob Squarepants. If I wanted this kind of craziness, I'd hang out at Target.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Concert

My kid is in the front row, sixth one from the left
Yesterday I attended the “winter concert” at my daughter’s school.  I wasn't sure why they didn't just call it a holiday concert, since there was a lot of Christmas-ing going on.  There wasn't even a token Hanukkah or Kwanzaa song this year.  This is only my second year having a child in school, but I learned last year that the seating at these concerts can be pretty cut-throat.  You've got grandmas saving three rows of chairs for people who may or may not show up. You've got dads knocking you over to get a photo of their kid. Anyway, I've learned to get their early.  There were two performances: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  I made plans to attend the a.m. show, with P attending the p.m. show (and taking the kid home from there).  I got there 1/2-hour early and still had to sit halfway back in the gymnasium. However, my kid is short and I knew she'd be in the front row (making it easier for me to spot her and vice versa).

The 4K kids went first.  Adorable, as expected.  Then it was time for the Kindergarten classes (two classes combined).  As predicted, my petite lass was in the front row.  I pulled out my camera and did some sort of awkward stand-crouch thing and snapped a photo. The kids sang a song about gingerbread men and another one called "Christmas Makes Me Sing."  For the record, she did not find it all amusing when her dad and I filled in alternate lyrics while she was practicing the song at home.  "Christmas makes me poop my pants" was particularly unappreciated.

After the songs were over, the Kindergarteners were unloaded from the risers and instructed to sit on the floor in front of the stage.  Then all of the subsequent classes performed.  A few parents left after their kid's class performed, but I felt like it was only fair to sit through the whole thing.  After all of the classes had finished, the entire student body embarked on a grand finale - a song about peace that I didn't recognize.  They couldn't fit all of the kids on stage, so some of the classes were led down the aisles.  This is how my little buttercup came to be situated right next to me. 

Now, when she was up on the stage, she looked perfect.  It was dress-up day in honor of the winter concert. She was wearing a black taffeta skirt (perfect for twirling), a red glittery sweater, and a shirt under that.  A velvet headband and black shoes (faux patent leather) rounded out the ensemble.  However, when she appeared by my side for the finale, she had morphed into a homeless street urchin. Sweater? Unbuttoned.  Shirt? Untucked. Skirt? Twisted at some odd angle and pushed down onto her hips.  The piece de resistance was her hair.  Apparently she had taken off the headband and attempted to put it back on, thereby creating some weird sort of hair tumor that now bulged off the side of her head.  Since she was so close to me, I quickly tried to re-assemble her.

Her teacher came over at about that time and informed me that A keeps bringing chapstick to school and attempting to share it with the other kids.  Mrs. L had to throw them away, which I understand completely. I guess it never occurred to me to tell my daughter: "If it goes in or on your mouth, don't share it."  I mean, there are so many things in life that you just know, that it's easy to forget that common sense does need a bit of time to develop.

Anyway, the concert was a hoot and I can hardly wait for the spring version. Onward and upward.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snow Much Family Togetherness


Lately I've been feeling like Christmas is hurtling towards me like one of those high-speed trains they've got in Japan.  Well, if that train were a demanding one with a lot of expectations and shipping requirements, then I guess the analogy would work.  I honestly do try not to let the holidays drive me insane.  I enjoy the decorations in our home, I love watching "Muppets Christmas Carol," and I do love a nice cup of mulled Christmas wine. I get a kick out of my daughter's holiday-induced giddiness.  As I type this, there are two post-it notes stuck to my monitor.  One says "Nic list" (nice list) and below that is a drawing of the illustrious classmate Tyler and some random dog (not one of ours apparently). The other note says, "Santa Clos. I love you Santa." She has been laying it on pretty thick with the man in red lately. She colored him a picture yesterday and instructed me to send it to the North Pole.

Lest you think I am one of those who ignores "the reason for the season," fear not. Although we are Unitarian Universalists* and may celebrate Christmas a little bit differently, we talk a lot about the birth of Jesus and how Jesus was a great teacher who taught us about love and kindness. Just to confuse matters, we also talk about the solstice. I think it will all click in her mind a bit better as she gets older. I hope.

Because I have to ship so many of my gifts out of state, I do have to get my act together ahead of time, and it does get a bit hectic.I started this weekend with a tight jaw and a stress headache after ending the work day on Friday with a phone call from an irate client who had an email issue.  An email issue that apparently was my fault, personally. Because, you know, I randomly delete people's email accounts just for sport. On Saturday, I had a pretty long "to do" list but then a funny thing happened on the way to overachieverville . . . a winter storm rolled in.

The snow was supposed to start in earnest by early afternoon, so I did get a few things done prior to that.  However, the skies were still empty after lunchtime, so I took the kid downtown to a museum.  At Christmastime, the museum always features department store window displays from the 60s.  The animatronic dolls and whatnot have been restored and the nostalgic displays are fun to see.  A gleefully chatted with a talking Christmas tree (she told him she wants an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas - woot!) The museum also offered a "children's holiday shop."  Kids were invited to step inside a little house and shop sans parents.  I handed the kid $12 and sent her in (she was allowed to buy up to four gifts, priced at $2-$3 each).  "Get Mama an iPhone!" I called out as she walked through the wee door.

When we got home, we decided to make Christmas cookies.  Although she was a bit more judicious with her sprinkles this year, the cookies still got a heavy dose.  It took me the better part of two hours to clean the kitchen after the baking project was done.  Later, I took a hot bath while the kid watched the Muppet movie and her dad played something-or-other on the PS3.  As I was enjoying my bath, a note flew under the door and skidded across the tile. "I love my mom."

By Sunday, the storm had done its damage.  The drifting was unreal.  Church was canceled.  My other half set about the job of snow blowing the driveway.  We have a snow blower given to us by A's Godfather.  This particular snow blower is roughly the size of a Smart Car and was made somewhere between the end of Vietnam and the start of the Iran Hostage Crisis (I am not exaggerating). P had no idea how to use it.  We studied some videos on YouTube (do not ask me why men film themselves blowing snow and fondling their snow blowers, but there are literally hundreds of such videos out there) and he was able to figure it out. The authorities all but banned travel today, but we'll have to leave eventually.

Anyway, we spent lots of time indoors this weekend.  We played games, we watched movies, and we wrapped gifts. The good news is . . . we are still speaking. Mulled wine does wonders.

*P is Christian, but as far as I can tell, the denomination is "The Church of the NFL" and is conveniently held right in our living room on Sundays.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Aaaaaand bake by the light of the bulb

Just as young girls have done for the past several decades, my daughter has asked for an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. P and I talked it over. We decided that if I could get one on sale on Black Friday, we'd go for it. I mean, Santa would go for it. I never owned an Easy Bake Oven as far as I can recall and so, before purchasing the oven, I posted the following on Facebook:

Two-pronged question for my friends who are parents. My daughter (5 1/2) wants an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. 1. Is she too young? 2. Will I be able to stand eating that shit?

Well, let me tell you - people have some very strong feelings about the Easy Bake Oven. I got a ton of responses. Most said that the kid is definitely not too young. So, that question was answered easily. However, I received lots of editorial comments about the oven and the “baked” goods that come out of it. A random sampling:

  • Who doesn’t like cake?
  • I think you’ll live
  • Oh, yeah!!! Cooking over a light bulb....pretty gourmet if you ask me!!
  • 5 is a good age. My daughters were 3 and 5 when they got theirs. After showing her how to put the pan in and take it out, she was able to do it just fine on her own. The EBO packets are gross and ridiculously expensive. We buy the Jiffy cake mixes and just dump out the extra batter. They are about $.50 compared to the EBO mixes at $3-$4. You can also find directions online to make your own mixes, but I just go with the Jiffy.
From my reptile rescue friend: Claudia, I don't have kids, but seriously could an easy bake oven be any more dangerous than your daughter running around with one of my snakes? ;)

My personal favorite came from a church friend of mine: As for eating that shit, don't worry about it because you won't live long enough for the little light bulb inside that thing to actually bake a cake to completion! But seriously, the little cakes weren't bad. Becky said she loves 'em.

Also, one of my cousins in Texas read my post and then called to tell me how her kid had nearly burned down the house with her Easy Bake Oven.

I looked up the toy on amazon.com. Well, the reviews were pretty much abysmal. No love for the oven, ya'll. The thing that seemed to piss parents off the most is that the bulb does not come with the oven. And yes, the mixes are ridiculously expensive. Most seem to clock in at around $6-$7 each. My initial game plan is to con some of A's aunts into buying her some mixes for Christmas. After that, I think I will experiment with the Jiffy mixes as one of my friends suggested.  I mean, seriously, I could buy half a dozen gourmet brownies at a local bakery for the same price as one Easy Bake Oven mix.

As luck would have it, Target did have the Easy Bake Oven featured as a “door buster” on Black Friday. I got it for $16.99. Even better, when Santa asked the kid what she wanted the other day, she said, “An Easy Bake Oven.” (and didn't mention anything else) Now, her Christmas list was pretty extensive and we mostly ignored it because it was impossible to focus on specific items when there were so bloody many. She asked for everything for which a commercial has ever been made, and everything that was listed in the toy guides from Target and Toys R Us (including baby toys as well as items marketed solely and specifically to boys). Seeing as how she asked Santa for it, however, we’re hoping she’ll be thrilled to receive it. She'd better.  I had to smuggle that bugger all the way back from Oklahoma and pray she wouldn't realize it was stowed directly under her feet in the van.

Anyway, all's well that ends well. On Christmas Day, I expect to be gnawing on a room-temperature cake with gluey icing by noon at the very latest.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Santa: not as effective as he used to be


I've been making liberal use of the "Santa card" almost since my daughter was born.  In general, it's been relatively effective. "Oooooh, you know how Santa feels about dirty teeth/kids who don't eat their dinner/liars/children who throw clothes on the floor," I say with a sad shake of my head. I mean, really, you know how he gets about these things. A frowns in return, momentarily persuaded that Santa is indeed furious about her failure to throw her dirty tights down the laundry chute (which, incidentally, is located six inches from her bedroom door).

Lately, we are battling some behavioral issues that are challenging our parenting abilities and patience. The lying drives me batty.  We've tried punishing for bad behavior, rewarding for good behavior, and everything in between. I think on some level she realizes that no matter what she does, it's not like anything THAT bad is going to happen.  It's not as though we're going to cut off one of her limbs or sell her to a cult or anything (but don't think we haven't thought about it, mister!)

Anyway, we visited the man in red tonight and I have to admit it wasn't as effective as I'd hoped.  As soon as we walked in through the mall entrance, the kid spotted him and he in turn shook the sleigh bells and gave her a hearty ho-ho-ho.  She giggled and jumped around, her dress shoes clacking against the tile floor. We helped her get her coat off and then she was in his lap in a flash (there was no line, fortunately). I waited until the photo had been taken and then approached Santa.  He and my daughter were speaking in conspiratorial tones.  "Hi Santa," I said. "Listen, we're having some issues at home with someone fibbing and not listening and -"  Suddenly, the kid jumped off his lap and began to run away. I grabbed her arm and she continued to pull in the opposite direction.  She was half-laughing, half-frightened about Mr. Claus being made aware of her crimes.  Not wanting to ruin her visit with the big guy, I gave up and encouraged her to go back and tell Santa what she wants for Christmas.

I have to give props to Santa, though, because I did hear him tell her, "Listen to your parents. Be nice to your parents."  Of course, I'm aware that his primary objective is to get me to fork over a sum of money roughly equivalent to a mortgage payment. In exchange, I received one 5X7 and four wallets. Oh, and a candy cane.  We wouldn't want to forget that.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Week That Was

It's so tragic that it takes me a week to catch up from a week's vacation. But so true. I will try to come up with a more meaningful post soon.

Highlights of the week:
  • My daughter brought home her first trimester report card on Thursday.  At her grade level (Kindergarten) the school grades on a numbering system: 1 through 4.  She received mostly 3s and 4s, along with some nice comments from her teacher. P and I read the report card together and started laughing simultaneously when we got to the two 2s we spotted: "Listens when others are talking" and "uses time productively."  Mrs. L has her number, alright.
  • On Tuesday, I went to my third yoga class.  This session seemed more challenging than the last two, or it could just be that I am falling apart.  My hips quickly put the kibosh on a couple of moves I was asked to do. Mostly I just muddle through until we get to Shivasna, which is where you make like a corpse, flat on your back, and think about nothing. Me like.
  • On Thursday, I had my foster pup neutered.  Because, you know, I like to ruin a young man's week for no reason.  Honestly, though, he never even seemed to notice that his wee little nuggets were gone.
  • On Friday, Gretchen and I attended our final Rally class of the year.  We had two run-throughs.  The first one was atrocious.  She acted like I'd just met her THAT DAY. The second one was much better, but still left me thinking that we should probably just hang up her training leash. Maybe I'll have better luck finding a dog who gives a rip next time around. I should probably look for another breed, though.
  • On Saturday, we cut down a lovely pine tree (at a tree farm, totally authorized), installed it in the living room, and decorated the bejeebers out of it.  You should have seen the puppy's face . . . "Whaaaa?"  He seemed incredulous that we brought an outside thing inside, when we are always telling him that just about everything that comes out of him belongs outside.  
  • On Sunday, I took the kid to see "Tangled," which was very good. These 3D movies are killin' me, though.  Two tickets plus popcorn and two drinks = $34.50.  What on earth do big families do?  Suck it up or just not go?  
Here are a few photos from our trip to Oklahoma (and believe me when I say that even though we've been back for a week, I can still scarcely stand to look at my car).

My nephew, having a tantrum. Adorable, no?

Me and my wee baby sister.

A and her Meemaw playing "Pretty Pretty Princess"
My other nephew, who actually is a Pretty Pretty Princess

My kid, squeezing the soul out of a barn kitty

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What I thought about for 2,000 miles

I had a lot of time to think during my Thanksgiving road trip (over 1,000 miles each way).  The kid mostly watched movies and drew pictures (while taking special care to make sure that no magic marker in her collection will ever see its respective cap again). On the way to Oklahoma, I listened to music on my iPod, as well as parts of an audio book I'd purchased (the new one from David Sedaris). On the way back, I mostly listened to the radio.  I heard "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield at least half a dozen times on Saturday. I'd complain that there ought to be a law, except that my oldest and dearest friend is a die-hard Rick Springfield fan and I can't bring myself to besmirch his (Rick's) fine reputation.

As the miles ticked by, I thought about a lot of trivial things, such as "why do people tailgate me in the left lane and then, when I move to the right, move over and tailgate me there, too?"  However, I also found myself pondering a weightier issue: what will happen to my child if her dad and I are suddenly wiped out by a bus? I have no idea why I settled on something so morbid, but indeed my brain got stuck there. For hundreds of miles.

I did contact an attorney about this matter a couple years ago.  However, apparently you can't just issue a decree as to what will happen to your offspring if you kick the bucket.  You have to address the whole kit and caboodle - your entire estate and what will happen to it if you expire.  Both our kit and our caboodle are pretty far in debt.  It hardly seems worthwhile to address the property issues at this point.

We are mostly in agreement about what should happen to our daughter, though, and have passed that information along to family members.  If my other half and I both perish, we want my sisters to decide between themselves which of them is best able to raise another child (at that particular moment, at least). Basically, just do what is best for their niece. They are to do this without bickering and without the delivery of any sisterly nougies. If neither sister can care for A, we'd like my sister-in-law and brother-in-law to petition for custody.  We really have no idea how these things work from a legal perspective, but those are our wishes.

Obviously my plan is to live long enough to raise my daughter and then to be a complete and utter nuisance to her every day of her adult life. But if I can't, I just want to be assured that she'll be okay and that she'll become the person she's meant to become.  I want her to be a free-thinker, free to choose her own religion and way of life. I want her to take chances and to be extraordinary, but to live kindly and gently.

I hope my sisters are taking notes here.  If my daughter registers as a Republican, I will never forgive you! (Even free-thinkers have limits, people.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Have a magical day!

Today is our last full day of vacation.  Tomorrow we hit the road. Rather than splitting the drive in half, I'm going to drive the lion's share tomorrow and then enjoy (and I use the term loosely) a shorter drive on Sunday.  P leaves for work at 4:30 on Sunday so I'm trying to get home by then - the kid misses her papa.

We spent Thanksgiving at my sister's house.  With the exception of my brother-in-law (who was out on call), the rest of us are vegetarian.  So, there was no turkey on the table, but we managed to stuff ourselves nonetheless.  I brought two desserts I'd made - brownies and apple cake.  And here you thought pumpkin pie was mandatory! My sister did a great job and dinner was delicious. My youngest nephew wore some of his mashed potatoes on his forehead to show his appreciation.  Then Dan (the family's Bluetick Coonhound) did a drive-by whipped cream licking at the kids' table, which caused my other nephew to start shrieking and turning red.  I couldn't understand anything he was saying except "AAAAAAAAAAAH! DAN! AAAAAAAAH!"  Then the younger nephew climbed into my sister's lap and started eating from her plate, with the highlight being the part where he rubbed some of his mashed potatoes in her hair.  At some point, a largish glob of stuffing landed on the floor and someone stepped in it. The other dog, Jules, was on the case and ate it shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, my daughter announced that the dinner roll was the only item on her plate that she was willing to ingest. Thanksgiving dinner may not have been a glamorous affair, but I don't think we'd have it any other way.

My baby sister and I had made plans to go Black Friday shopping, but my brother-in-law was on call again so she couldn't go.  The kid and I spent the night and I got up at 4 a.m. to go shopping by myself (while my sister watched the kids).  I know a lot of people think it's sheer lunacy, but I actually enjoy the adventure of it all.  I don't think I would bother doing it in a big metropolitan area, but people in Oklahoma are legitimately friendly (even at dawn). There is a sort of "we're all in this together" vibe that seems to prevail. I hit Kohl's first and got some good bargains.  Then Target, then the Disney Store. The Disney Store had 20% off until 10 a.m.  I picked up the Rapunzel doll for the kid and got some stuff for my nephews.  The Disney Store was very busy, but the employees (I mean "cast members") had helpfully laid out red tape on the floor to lead the customers (I mean "guests") to the check-out area.  I dutifully followed the tape.  Someone was shouting something about having your ID available when you got to the register.  I sent a text to my middle sister while I was in line. "You are crazy," she wrote.  "Did you bring a flask?" Finally, a cast member checked me out.  I grabbed my bag and began to weave my way out of the store.  "Have a magical day!" she called after me.

Indeed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The day I broke up with popcorn

The kid and her cousins
The vacation has been fabulous so far.  Well, until Monday night.

The kid and I spent Monday afternoon with my sister and her kids. My sister lives on a farm and owns chickens, goats, etc. I had two traumatic incidents that day. First traumatic incident: I witnessed chicken sex.  I was following my sister around as she fed her goats.  Suddenly, one of her chickens came running through at full speed and dove under a nearby bush.  A rooster was right on her heels, flying (well, sprinting really fast) after her like his tail feathers were on fire. He dove under the same bush, threw himself on top of the lady, and then pinned her down.  My sister said, "Oh, now you've seen chicken sex."  It was already over, though (apparently it doesn't take long for sweet love to be made when it comes to our feathered friends). I found it all a bit troubling, though.  It was like the original wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am.  I mean, he didn't buy her a glass of wine or compliment her shoes or anything.

Later, after we went out to lunch and then let the kids play at a park for a while (it was 70+ degrees outside), we went back to the farm.  I was sitting on the couch watching Dr. Phil. My younger nephew (age two) took the opportunity to take off his diaper and air out his business.  I was fine with that.  However, moments later the little guy climbed up behind me and hugged me around the neck. 

"Um, I'm not sure how I feel about my nephew pressing his manhood against my back," I confessed to my sister.  That was traumatic incident number two.

Later, A and I headed back to my mom's house.  I made the kid some popcorn before bed. She had been feeling a little iffy and handed the still-full bowl back to me a few minutes later.  Not wanting it to go to waste, I added a bit of butter and sat down to eat it myself.  You know me - waste not, want not.  Then my mom roasted some pecans (she has a pecan tree out front).  I was stuffed, but couldn't resist grabbing a few of the warm, buttery nuts.  I only ate a couple before my stomach advised me that I was done.  I went to bed soon thereafter.  

I woke up a couple hours later.  "Hey," I thought, "I'm cold.  But also sweating."  Moments later, I was hunched over the toilet as the popcorn and nuts exited my stomach at high velocity. (TMI! Sorry!) I crawled back into bed, continued the sweating/freezing routine, and eventually hurled twice more. Good times.  I thought of one of my favorite Brian Regan routines, where he goes to the hospital with a severe stomach ailment.  When asked, "What seems to be the problem?" he responds, "Well, it seems like my insides . . . want to be on the outside." 

On Tuesday morning, I woke up slowly and thought I might be okay.  I got up, took a shower, and took the kid to the store to get her a new Barbie DVD (because God knows you can never have enough of THOSE).  By the time we got back to my mom's house, I realized I had not rebounded after all.  I spent the rest of the day on the couch watching Judge Judy (Mom had lots of episodes on the ol' DVR). I momentarily pondered the idea of rallying and taking the kid to see the Megamind movie, but the thought of entering an establishment whose primary form of revenue involves popcorn was more than I could bear. Eventually I gave up on wanting to be conscious at all and went to bed, leaving my mother to deal with her granddaughter (who would, I'm told, spend the rest of the evening demanding to watch the Barbie movie, play Pretty Pretty Princess, play Don't Spill the Beans, and so forth).  By Wednesday morning, I felt mostly human again. I was afraid to eat (and still am, for the most part) but managed to have a fun day at the science museum in Oklahoma City with my sister, her kids, a friend of mine, and her kids.

I was disappointed to lose a day of vacation to illness, but was glad I had the luxury of lounging around until I felt better.  At first I thought maybe I'd just eaten too much fatty stuff (I have no gall bladder and technically, I'm supposed to stick with low fat foods, which I typically do) but later realized it was probably a virus, as my mom started feeling like poop the next day (and the kid has felt iffy off and on for a couple of days).  Anyway, I'm looking forward to enjoying the last few days of my vacation, preferably puke-free.  I can't help but shed a tear over the fact that I'll never be able to eat popcorn or roasted nuts again.  Or even say any of those words out loud.  Speak of them never. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We're he-ere

Heinz, one of my mother's millions of cats. She's just five cats away from appearing on an episode of Hoarders.

Well, we made it. I jokingly told a co-worker that I predicted the kid would ask, "Are we almost in Oklahoma?" before we got out of our own neighborhood.  I was wrong.  She waited until we were fifteen minutes away.  Fifteen minutes out of seventeen hours.

We drove for just over eight hours and then stopped at a hotel.  We got there at about midnight.  As it turns out, this hotel (which was actually more of a motel - some sort of family budget inn) was a hub for hunters.  The parking lot was full of pickup trucks and trailers.  One of the trailers had a dead deer lashed to the back. I was grateful that the kid had conked out by then, because I was way too tired to have to explain this sort of thing.

I checked in, woke the kid up just long enough to throw a nightgown over her head, and then we climbed into bed and fell asleep almost immediately.  Normally I would grouse about having to share a bed with Short Stuff, in as much as I find sleeping difficult when I've got a size 10 kid foot planted in my kidney.  However, I think we were both too exhausted to flop around much.  Oh, perchance do you know what time hunters get up? 4:45 a.m. Also, they are required to slam lots of doors before heading out into the woods.  When we got up, all of the trucks (and the carcass) were gone.

We spent another eight hours in the car on Saturday.  The kid would pipe up every half hour or so to announce: "We're in the middle of nowhere."  She wasn't just whistling Dixie - we truly were.  We'd go for hours at a time without seeing anything but plains and farmland - and an occasional hand-painted sign advising us to repent ASAP. Finally, we arrived in Oklahoma City and met my mom, sister, and one of my nephews at a Chili's, where I promptly ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio (I earned it, ya'll).  If I had realized then that my sister would be picking up the tab, I would have gone for a Grande Margarita.

We're all settled in, hanging out at Meemaw's house.  My daughter is spoiled beyond all belief.  My mother bought her a bunch of toys and then bought her two more when we stopped at a store.  And this doesn't even include any Christmas gifts - those are piled in the guest room and are, for now, unopened.  I'm planning to do a lot of relaxing over the next week.  What I'm not planning to do: drive a car.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Drive

The kid and I are leaving for Oklahoma on Friday afternoon.  When people find out we're driving (17 hours), they look at me like I'm barking mad ("barking mad" is my favorite British phrase of all time - please try to use it as often as you can). There is no convincing them of my sanity after that. I started to tell a co-worker, "Well, the benefit of driving to Oklahoma is -" but he raised his hand and interrupted me. 

"There is no benefit to driving to Oklahoma." Okay, fair enough. 

I made the kid sort through the contents of her room a few days ago and choose items to give to her little cousins (boys ages two and three).  She selected some toddler toys that she has outgrown*, some chunky board books, and a few stuffed animals (although did inform me that every single one was her absolute "favorite" even if she had not laid eyes on it since she was in diapers). Every time she would toss an item into the bag she would remark, "Yeah, I can sell that to my cousins."  I kept reminding her that we don't sell things to family members.  I picture my little nephew saying, "How much for the Elmo again?" and digging in some wee little wallet.

So, we are hauling the toys and whatnot, as well as a bed rail, a water table, a bolt of fabric, and lots of other bulky items that I'd never dream of mailing.  See, there is this one benefit, which is that I don't have to freak out over what will or won't fit in a suitcase. Another perk: I don't have to endure my lady parts being patted down by airport security.  Have you been following the news stories about the new travel procedures?  Full body scans, thorough pat-downs, etc.

I started packing on Monday.  Yes, it takes me five days to pack for a trip. I made a hotel reservation for Friday night (we'll stop at the halfway point).  On its list of features, the hotel notes that it is three miles from a particular detention center. That's some good marketing right there.  "One mile from McDonald's, three miles from the prison."  P suggested that maybe my lover lives there and that this whole "visit my mother" thing is just a ruse.

The week has been pretty hectic, but I'll be on the road Friday regardless.  Last night I went to yoga class so that I could, you know, ground myself and find my center.  My center has been a little bit irritable lately. This may have something to do with a certain foster puppy and rampant diarrhea, but that's a story for another day.  Anyway, I don't know if I'll manage to squeeze out another post before I leave but if not, I'll catch ya on the flip side.  Happy Thanksgiving!

*I tee-hee'd under my breath as I loaded the electronic Mickey Mouse phone into the bag.  It has no "off" switch. All you hear, all day long, is Mickey's voice saying, "Hi Pal! How are ya?" Oh, I'll miss it so.  I love you, sister o'mine!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Date Night, Poop, the Plague

I haven't published a blog post in a few days because, well, I caught the plague.  I guess I can't complain in as much as it was only the second cold I've endured all year.  When A was a baby we were sick at least once a month. However, it's true what they say about daycare because now she has an immune system of steel and we're seldom ill.  I lost my voice completely on Sunday and Monday.  By Tuesday, I felt guilty not answering the phone at work so I finally gave in and took a call from a client.  I knew how to fix his technical issue (with his website) and explained the solution to him as succinctly as possible.  I heard a moment of silence from the other end and then finally, "Ma'am? I'm really sorry but I just can't understand anything you're saying."  I tried to convince myself that my voice sounded sexy but I'm sure I sounded more like some raspy prank caller.

In addition to nursing a cold, I've been busy picking up puppy poop off the carpet. A wrote "Den is a pape" on a sheet of paper the other day. She translated it for us: "Dean is a puppy."  However, we've found that it is indeed more fun to call him "that little pape." Sometimes with a couple of expletives thrown in. Anyway, that little pape is nowhere close to housebroken.  As soon as he is neutered and has had his rabies vaccination, my plan is to adopt him out to some unsuspecting family ASAP. If they're lucky, they've got hardwood floors.

I was feeling better by the time this weekend rolled around, so I made plans to have a date night with my other half.  A few days ago I was talking to a couple of co-workers, one of whom is divorced.  He said something like, "Once the kids are grown and you don't have the kids' activities anymore, you grow apart and just don't have as much in common."  My solution to this is, of course, not to allow your children to participate in activities. Honestly, I'm only half-joking.  My rule of thumb with my daughter is that she can participate in an activity, but only one at a time.  I am not sure how I'd handle it if I had multiple children - maybe I would require them to stagger their stuff throughout the year.  A takes swim lessons. She wants to take gymnastics next.  I'm fine with that, but she can't take both at once.

I hope this doesn't make me sound like a selfish mom.  I think my blog alone is evidence that I'm utterly devoted to my child.  I'd throw myself in front of a bus for her (the list of people for whom I'd lay down my life is pretty short - in fact I think it's pretty much just her).  But that doesn't mean I don't still get to be a wholly separate person with interests unrelated to my child. I still get to be me.  And since my husband liked me before the short one came along, I'd like to believe he'll like me once she's off doing keg stands studying very hard at college. So, to that end, we have occasional date nights.

Earlier in the week I'd purchased a coupon via Living Social (similar to Groupon, I guess).  For $17.00 I got a winery package, which included: seven tastings, cheese and crackers, two full glasses of a wine of our choice, and two soiree glasses to take home.  We had a lot of fun.  (Side note to Steph K: please note that I did try the blue cheese from the cheese tray, but can confidently report that blue cheese is still like dung to me.)   After the winery, we headed to dinner.  And, because I'm cheap, I also had a coupon for the restaurant (an Entertainment Book coupon - buy one entree, get one free).  Let it not be said that I am not frugal.

When we got home, the puppy had pooped on the floor (we really should have paid the sitter extra or something) and a bag of dog treats had mysteriously turned up shredded (and empty). The kid was still awake and wired.  But, I had wisely purchased a bottle of wine at the winery.

Dean, Dean, the Pooping Machine

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What are your intentions, young man?

I picked out my future son-in-law a couple years ago.  He's an adorable blond-haired, brown-eyed boy from our church. So, not only is he the same religion (and very bright), he's also a vegetarian - perfect!  And he and A get along great.  When I announced the match, the adorable boy's dad started talking about how he wants a dowry (including livestock), but I figured we'd work it out later.  Much to my chagrin, though, the family is now being relocated to Canada.  After the recent election results, I'm tempted to move to Canada myself. But in any case, it's clear to me that the distance is too great and that I'll have to start from scratch when it comes to choosing my son-in-law.

In recent weeks my daughter has begun waxing poetic about a boy named Tyler.  Tyler is in her Kindergarten class at school.  She drew a picture of the two of them together.  Holding hands.  There is a flower between them, which she assures me is a "flower of friendship." 

Her dad and I are a little bit concerned.  Maybe we need to get some additional information about this young rapscallion.  Find out what his intentions are.  I keep picturing P sitting on our front porch, sharpening his old Marine Corps sword as the wee beau approaches up the front walk.

I was combing the kid's hair after her bath last night.  "I need to know more about this Tyler character," I told her.  "For example, what are his employment prospects?  Does he have a job?" 

Her face brightened.  "We both have the same job!" she exclaimed.  "I pass out the napkins and Tyler passes out the snacks!"

At least he's got some domestic skills, I guess.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Would you call this irony? Or just sucky?

1. I am fostering a puppy.  Yes, you are correct - I said I would never do that again. Further proof of dementia setting in a few decades early?
2. I have lost my voice to laryngitis and cannot yell at said puppy, even when he poops on the floor and steps in it. And then runs around the house.  And then jumps up on me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Temperament

I'm in a bit of a mood.  My rescue work is getting me down lately, making me irritable. I try to keep it in check, but occasionally I turn into Yosemite Sam, shooting myself up off the ground with my pistols (with apologies to my stad for stealing his metaphor).  A couple weeks ago, a lady contacted us (the rescue) to surrender a puppy.  I re-arranged my schedule, missed my step aerobics class, and was all set for her to show up at my house with the puppy.  She called twenty minutes beforehand (after all of the re-arranging was done, mind you) to cancel.  She said she'd found another home for the dog but would let me know if that opportunity fell through.  I was vaguely miffed, but not to the level of my skull bursting or anything.

The woman then emailed me the following morning to say that she hadn't found a home after all and would be bringing the dog that evening.  Again, lots of re-arranging on my end. I asked P to take the kid to swim class and made alternate arrangements for dinner so that I could race to the grocery store and be home in time to meet the puppy owner at the appointed time.  I whipped through the grocery store like I was on meth. I then sprinted into my house to find . . . a message.  She'd again found a home for the dog.  However, I was having trouble understanding the voicemail so I thought I'd better call her back.

She cheerfully told me she'd given the dog away to someone who lives on a farm.  No apology, nothing.  I lost it.  I told her that she'd caused me significant inconvenience (plus, I really wanted to get that pup into rescue and have her spayed).  She started raising her voice and telling me that if I'm so busy, maybe I shouldn't be a volunteer.  I have time to volunteer; what I don't have time for is crazy people. I busted out a few choice phrases and then hung up.  Not one of my prouder moments, but it is what it is.

The thing is, I may be a "type A" personality and all that, but I honestly don't think of myself as a hothead. I generally wake up in a good mood and manage to stay on an even keel.  I keep things light at work and try to get a laugh out of my co-workers when I can. I'm a project manager for a web development company and clients regularly tell me that I'm very  responsive and helpful.  I'm efficient, and they appreciate that.  

The problem with volunteering, though, is that some people forget you're a volunteer. I don't get a lot of abuse from clients at work but if they do want to take me to task for some reason, I can deal because, well, I get paid to keep them happy.  When it comes to rescue work, however . . .  I AM NOT GETTING PAID, PEOPLE.  I do it because I care about the dogs. Sure, I still try to be as professional as I can manage to be (some days are obviously better than others), but that doesn't mean there isn't a limit to how much abuse I'll take. I've had nasty-grams from declined applicants (listen, it's not my fault you have a crappy veterinary care history and have re-homed every cat and dog you've ever owned), been stood up more times than I can count (both by people coming to meet a dog and people surrendering a dog), and yes, sometimes I get a little crabby.

To be sure, I meet a lot of very nice people in the course of volunteering in rescue.  Some of my very best friends are my fellow volunteers.  Many of the adopters I've met have such big hearts they literally take my breath away.  Every week I am humbled by donations (some totaling more than my paycheck) coming out of the blue.  Or by the applicants who pass the youngsters by and ask, "Is the one with the grey muzzle and cloudy eyes still available? I think he's beautiful." And let me tell you, you would not believe how hard my fellow volunteers work on behalf of the dogs - not for a pat on the back or any sort of adulation at all. Good people, one and all.

About half the dogs come to us from shelters and the other half come from surrendering owners. Owners surrender their dogs to us for many reasons: moving, new baby, not enough time, etc.  Some reasons obviously seem more legitimate to me than others, but it is not my place to judge.  I'm here for the dogs.

You've probably guessed that all of this discourse is leading up to something, and it is.  For almost 11 years I've taken care of dogs that don't belong to me.  I've cleaned up poop, vomit, pee, and a few things I couldn't actually identify.  I've held a Boxer's head in my lap as he died (more than a few times). I've pulled rusty choke chains from around dogs' necks. I've been bitten. I've taught dogs basic obedience in hopes that it will increase their odds of finding a forever home.  I've invited strangers into my home to meet the dogs.  My reward?  A gentle kiss from a smooshy-faced Boxer.  The ultimate reward?  The perfect adopter comes along and promises to love that dog as much as I do. Someone who won't let the dog down.

We see a lot of happy endings, and that's what keeps me going.  What brings me down, though, is when people don't keep their word. Honoring one's commitments in life seems, at times, a lost ideal.  The biggest challenge is holding my tongue when someone returns a dog.  Sometimes I manage to do so and sometimes I don't.  I think that people start out with good intentions but somehow fail to recognize that just loving a dog is not enough.  One of the biggest problems I see is that people fail to provide effective leadership for their dog(s).  Right now one of my former foster dogs is being returned to the rescue and I'm frustrated because the dog they have allowed him to become is not the dog he was in my home.  They tell me that he growls when they tell him to get off the couch.  Well, then, don't let him on the flippin' couch!  You won't see dogs laying on the couch at my house.  If they put so much as one foot up on the cushion, they get an "Unh-unh!" in a loud, firm voice.  There are doggie pillows on the floor for them. They don't need to be on the couch and for some dogs, having too many privileges just leads to very bad things. 

If you are thinking of getting a dog, please give some thought to what you are getting into.  Whether you adopt an adult dog or purchase a puppy, a basic understanding of canine behavior will make your life a lot easier.  Pick up a copy of How to be the Leader of the Pack and The Culture Clash. Both are invaluable.  Dogs fare best when you make life black and white for them. Don't leave them wondering if they are the Big Kahuna at your house, because they will attempt to fill the role if you don't (which then leads to a growling dog on your couch).  Set your dog up for success, be a good pack leader, honor your commitment.  Please.

Me and Griffin, one of my favoritest foster dogs of all time

Thursday, November 4, 2010

:::sniffle sniffle:::

I am not sure who authorized this "growing up" business, but I don't think I like it. Not one bit. Somehow, when I wasn't looking, I became Mom instead of Mama.  Oh sure, occasionally I am still Mama when she really needs something or has injured herself (and by "injured herself" I mean "came up with an excuse to have a band-aid").  But more and more, I am now known by the monosyllabic moniker Mom.  I imagine that some kid at school made fun of her or something (she often writes "Mama" on her drawings, after all) and then suddenly I lost the name I had waited so long to hear.

I had assumed she would at least make a pit stop at Mommy before heading straight to Mom.  I remember calling my mother Mommy until at least the third grade before graduating to calling her Mom.  Then came the teenage years where I called her other things under my breath, and then back to Mom again. 

To say that "kids grow up so fast" is such a hackneyed phrase and yet, they do.  My daughter can do so many things on her own now. Of course, there is at least an equal number of tasks she can't accomplish on her own, such as opening a fruit snack wrapper (no idea why this skill continues to elude her).  There is still plenty for me to do. 

Kindergarten seems to have sped up the pace of her development considerably.  Frankly, we think we liked her better when she was fully illiterate.  All of a sudden we can't spell stuff in front of her anymore. She reads fairly well for her age. Also, we have been surprised to learn that we are able to read most of what she writes.  Sometimes I sort through the ever-growing pile of paper in her room and find some of her scribblings.  She is making a "brthdea party" list of invitees.  So far only three kids have made the cut.  Oh, did I mention her brthdea is six months away?  On the way home from the grocery store today, A started blathering on about how she wants her birthday party to be at Chuck E Cheese's.  I told her probably not, but let's talk about it after Christmas. "We're not talking about it today," I stated as firmly as I could.  She pouted all the way home.

A few minutes later, I was busy hauling groceries in from the car.  After the third load or so, I found a handwritten note on the counter upon my return. "I want to toc about my brthdea," it said.

Heavens to murgatroid.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Belle - she gets around

As I promised my mother, I took her granddaughter to every possible Halloween-related event I could find.  If Meemaw was willing to slave away over yellow fabric for weeks on end, the least I could was to make sure the kid was seen in the glorious Belle gown.  We attended three different events this weekend.  And of course the actual trick-or-treating in our neighborhood.  My daughter has had a sugar buzz for about three days straight. 

I'd been holding the trick-or-treating gig over her head for the past week or so.  I told her that for each infraction, I'd take five houses off the list.  I may or may not have implied that those five houses are known to give out full-size candy bars. Listen, I work with what I've got.  Thank goodness I can roll out the ever-useful S-A-N-T-A threat shortly.

Earlier today, we had a minor battle over lunch.  I'd made steamed cauliflower, couscous with pine nuts, and drop biscuits.  Okay, not the most interesting meal but we are running low on groceries. Don't judge me! Anyway, I invoked the "you have to try at least one bite" rule on the cauliflower.  A sat with it in her mouth for about a month of Sundays. Finally she started sputtering and whining about how she had to spit it out.  She did so, and I promptly put her in time-out for being rude about the meal I had cooked. I should add that I'd put a bit of butter, salt, and cheddar cheese on the cauliflower to make it more palatable to her.  I only required her to eat a tiny bite. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize to my mother for all the grief I gave her at mealtime as a child.

After being paroled from time-out, the kid seemed to realize that trick-or-treating was possibly in jeopardy.  She ran back to her room and started churning out letters of apology.  The first one says, "I am sor e mama and but I sil lve yuo."  (still love you) She delivered another one to me a few minutes later, laying it on a little thicker this time. This one said that she couldn't wait to "gv yuo a hug."  And finally the third one: "I cat wt to gv yuo anotor hug mom."  Oh my.

So yes, I took her trick-or-treating. I gave A one assignment, which was to score a Peppermint Patty for Mama.  She accepted the challenge and we were off. I pulled her around our 'hood in a wagon full of blankets since temperatures have dropped and princess gowns are not known for keeping a kid toasty. She kept getting excited and breaking into a run, at which time her tiara would fly off her head.  She was having a great time, though. We trick-or-treated until Belle realized she desperately had to pee, so I brought her home.  Once her bladder had been emptied, we emptied her bag onto the counter. Would you believe there was not a single Peppermint Patty in the pile?  I mean, honest to God, you give a kid ONE job . . .  She says she "really tried" but frankly, I just don't feel like she gave it her all.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yoga, Yo

I tried a yoga class for the first time last night.  I must admit I have been curious about yoga for most of my adult life.  I've often been tempted to purchase a yoga mat and try it at home but then I remember: "The dogs will step on my head."  At our service auction at church last week, I (apparently caught up in the festive spirit of the 60s-themed event) signed up for a "yoga party" to be held in January. A few days later, I decided to check out the yoga studio's website to see what I'd gotten myself into.  The first introductory class is free - well, that's an offer I can't refuse.  The site did a good job of making me feel like beginners would be not be shunned, so I decided to give it a try.

I have a few reasons why I've wanted to try yoga.  For starters, the mind-body connection continues to elude me.  I seem to suffer from what the Buddhists call "monkey mind."  My brain is full of distracting worries and I do not know how to quiet them. Inner peace is a foreign concept to me. But, I truly, truly want to get there. Plus, yoga provides numerous physical benefits and since I'm expecting to need this body for at least a couple more decades* I should probably try to take care of it.  I do belong to a gym and actually show up there fairly regularly, but I feel like maybe I need both - the calorie-burning workout at my gym and the strength and flexibility-building of the yoga session. Maybe yoga will also help me to be more self-aware, to be able to stop myself in those moments when I find myself standing in my kitchen with a handful of cookies (usually some variety that I don't even like all that much).  I eat too much, I probably drink too much . . . yes, I have been relegated to the status of a walking Dave Matthews song.

I showed up at the studio about ten minutes before class, not really sure what to expect.  The lights were low and I caught the vague scent of . . . I guess I'm not sure what. It was akin to the aromatherapy scents you find at a spa when you get a massage (and since I've had three massages in my adult life, I think you'll agree that I'm an expert on this). There was a sign on the desk that read "bare feet only after this point."  I peeked around the corner and found the instructor, who helped me get set up with a mat and other equipment (a strap that is used for certain poses, a blanket, and a cork block that looked like an over-sized brick). I was relieved to see that it was a small class.  I knew I'd feel self-conscious regardless, but if I have to look like a dork, I'd rather have as small an audience as possible.

As soft music played, I did my best to keep up through the series of yoga poses.  The instructor called it "your practice" as in, "you may want to add inversions to your practice."  I inherited bad hips from my mom (thanks again, mamacita!) and struggled with a bit of discomfort on a few of the poses, but mostly I did manage to get my chubby limbs into something vaguely close to what was expected.  I noticed that I was the only one in the room who broke a sweat, but also knew that the other students had been coming for quite a while. Oh, and get this - it turns out that "downward dog" is a legit pose and not just some made-up thing you say when making fun of yoga. At the end, we laid on our mats and the instructor handed each of us a cooled eye pillow (filled with flax seeds, I believe?) There is a multi-syllable term for this meditative period, but I forget what it is.  I really enjoyed it.  I did feel, for just a second there, like I was truly at rest - physically and mentally.

After class, the instructor told me that I'd done well (and didn't even add "for your first time").  I definitely plan to go back.  I also need one of those eye pillows, I think. The things I won't be able to see! Naked Barbies on the floor of my home, glitter from art projects all over the couch, a sliding glass door perpetually smeared with with dog slime. I may just strap that tiny pillow to my head full-time.


*My daughter apparently does not expect me to be around that much longer because she keeps starting sentences with, "Mama, when you're dead . . ."  A few weeks ago it was, "Mama, when you're dead can I have your marrying dress?"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's a draw

Although there are moments when I think it would be nice to have another kid around, I'm generally very content with just one.  A keeps asking for a sibling, of course.  She says, "I want a sister who's five just like me!"  I keep telling her, "That's usually called a twin and it's, um, not happening."  Anyhow, as parents of onlies can attest, keeping a single child entertained can be a challenge at times.  Therefore, I was pleased as punch when my daughter embarked on a coloring/drawing kick recently.  She sits for a solid hour or two at a time, churning out artwork at a steady pace.

The drawings are generally of me, her dad, her, her teacher, and her teacher's cat (Cookie).  She is also learning to write, so many of the pictures have words on them.  A few days ago she handed me a drawing on which she had written: "I like fire."  I really do not know what to say about that.  She learned to write the word after a recent fire safety week (and trip to the local fire station).  However, I do not think this was the intended effect of the lesson.

Here are a couple of samples of recent masterpieces.  You should be able to click on them to see a larger version.

Here is one of me and P. I am always depicted in a dress, even though I only wear a dress or skirt about four times a year in actuality. Not that I don't like wearing dresses; it's more like I live in a part of the country where winter lasts about eight months and pants are simply more practical.  Oh, and please don't make fun of my husband's T-Rex arms - he's very sensitive about them.  Although he is eight inches taller than I am, the proportions are actually a bit off in this drawing.  He only wishes my head was naturally right at the level of his nether region.

Here is one of the whole fam damily.  Note that we allow her to eat ice cream cones that are the same size she is.



Here is a drawing of everyone we know, wearing a sombrero.  Including our dog Gideon (at bottom).




Finally, here is my favorite: the tooth fairy
.
I get a kick out of many of the drawings.  Some of them make me wonder about her quality control procedures, such as the drawing she handed me the other day, which was a sheet of solid blue.  "It's a lake," she said.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pardon the dust

I'm doin' a little renovating. The other blog design was just supposed to be up until I was discovered by a major literary agent and then handsomely rewarded for my limitless talent, at which time I could afford to pay for a custom design.  Shockingly, this has not happened.  So, I'm going generic all the way. I've swapped the color scheme at least a dozen times today so don't be surprised if the palette changes a few more times.  I refuse to commit.

In other news, a few days ago I was contacted by the program chairperson at my church.  She said that the program committee met last week and because I did such a stellar job the first two times I presented a topic at Sunday service, they wondered if I would be willing to speak again in February.  Part of me thought, "Oh, how flattering!" and another part thought, "Oh, they must be running low on speakers."  Regardless, I agreed to do it.  Now I just need to come up with a good topic.  Typically, each speaker tackles a subject that ties in with the seven principles or is at least spiritual in some way.

So far I've considered the following topics:
  • Merging into moving traffic: why it's not as hard as people seem to think.
  • A two-pronged study of Subway restaurants: a) what's up with hiding the napkins so that I have to come up to the counter and beg for them if my child spills orange Fanta all over me? and b) how come 100% of all Subway employees fail to understand what "just a little light mayo, please" means?  
  • Why my daughter directs all requests/pleas/miscellaneous whining to me, even when her father is standing right there.
Needless to say, I've got some additional brainstorming to do.

In the meantime, I insist that you kick off your weekend by listening to this upbeat little ditty:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sister Wives

I realize that every blogger on the planet has already weighed in on the show “Sister Wives.” I have tried to refrain, but now it’s bugging me and I can’t help myself. The show airs on Sunday evenings (well, it did – I think it’s actually done now for the season). P works on Sundays evenings, so I get about a half hour to myself after the kid goes to bed. So of course I use that time to read Faulkner watch sub-standard television programs.

Mostly, I have this expression on my face when I watch:

Me, perplexed and befuddled
A few thoughts come to mind during the course of the show. One: is there some sort of man shortage in Utah? I mean, seriously? Four women are wedded to this lone man, Kody Brown (only the first one is a legal marriage, however). It’s hard for me to comment on the apparent attraction to this particular man, because personally I am not drawn to him. I go for the traditional “tall, dark, and handsome” deal myself. My other half is more like “tall, grey, and handsome” these days, but I still dig him. In any case, Kody is essentially the opposite. I believe that Kody thinks Kody is attractive, however.

The next thought is: what is up with all the chicks wearing long-sleeved shirts under short-sleeved shirts? Watch an episode and you’ll see what I mean. It’s an unfortunate fashion epidemic. It should be stopped.

The third thought is basically just a big question mark over my head. If all parties involved are truly happy, aren’t committing any crimes, and are willing participants, who am I to judge? I definitely struggle to get my brain around the concept of polygamy, though. I don’t know if the sister wives just bury the jealousy or deal with it head-on, but I’m hard-pressed to believe it’s not part of their daily lives. When I look at Meri, the first wife, I’d swear I see real pain in her eyes. I mean, religious convictions aside, how do you kiss your husband good-night every evening and send him off to some other broad’s bed? And how do you do that when the new wife, Robyn, is significantly younger and possibly cuter than you are? 

Also, what do you tell your children, particularly daughters? “Listen, sweetie, you’re not special enough to keep the attention of a man all by yourself. So, plan to settle for leftovers every fourth night.”

There have been times when I’ve thought it would be ideal to have a second husband. However, this would be purely a platonic thing. I would feed him and let him play PS3 games and whatnot, of course. Second husband would fill the role first husband refuses to fill which is, “giving a shit about our house.”  I already have the list of handyman tasks on the refrigerator - I just need the handyman. I guess I won't search for him in Utah, what with the shortage and all.