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.