Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"We wanted you more than anything."

When I got home from yoga class last night (around 8:30 or so), my daughter was in bed, reading. I went in to give her a kiss and tuck her in. As I got closer, I noticed a tear sliding down her cheek.  Then I saw what she was reading. It was the storybook I made a few years ago when we had the big adoption talk with her.

"Why are you crying, sweet girl?" I asked. I was almost afraid to ask, because I sensed that it wasn't the usual "Dad wouldn't take me to Dairy Queen" stuff.  I inhaled slowly and held my breath for a moment.

"Because I can't see J," she replied.  Tears immediately sprang to my eyes. I scooped her up and held her in my arms, rubbing her back with one hand and smoothing her freshly-washed curls with the other. I told her that J, her birthmom, lives far away but that I'm sure she will see her someday.

"If you want, you can write her a letter and I'll mail it to her," I offered. She nodded. 

I do have periodic contact, via email, with my daughter's birthmom, and I'm fairly certain she would be okay with receiving a letter. At age six, A mostly only writes about kittens and rainbows so I'm not sure what she plans to say, but I'll be happy to mail it for her!

Before tucking her back into bed, I asked, "Do you have any questions I can answer for you?" I always try to make sure, when this topic comes up, that I don't leave her with any lingering questions or misconceptions (I remember how my brain worked at her age - for the life of me I couldn't understand how I could turn off the radio and then turn it on later and the same song wasn't still playing. How could it go on without me?) She shook her head no, but then asked me if we had given her a bath in the hospital when she was born. I have told her in the past that the nurse showed us how to give her a bath when our new daughter was just hours old. We certainly needed the lesson- we had no idea what we were doing. I'm not sure why she is fixated on this, but maybe it has something to do with the need to know she was connected to us right from the start. I have read that all adoptees must work through feelings of abandonment and that there is really no way around it. However, I'm hoping to lessen that burden for her because really, she has always been with us. We were in the delivery room when she was born. Her birthmom loves her very much and thinks about her every day (I know this because she tells me so). There was never a single moment when A was unwanted by her birthfamily or by us. I'm hoping all of this will click with her, but I would also never want to downplay her feelings, whatever they may be.

She thought for a moment. "Mom, how many diapers did you buy for me?" Easy questions - yes!

"I don't know," I responded. "About a million, it seemed like? We kept them over there, on your changing table."  I pointed to where the table used to be.  I could almost still see the ten-month-old version of my daughter, gleefully pulling the diapers off the low shelf and flinging them one by one onto the floor.

She laughed.  "I was naked when you gave me a bath at the hospital?" 

"Yeah, that's usually how these things usually work, Goober," I said. I tucked her back into bed and pulled her comforter up to her chin. I leaned down close and kissed her on her tear-stained cheek, then laid my head against her chest. "We wanted you more than anything," I whispered. 

She nodded, smiled, and closed her eyes.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to Schooooool

School starts on Thursday.  My baby will be in first grade. I'm excited to see what she will learn this year, how she will change and grow. What I'm not looking forward to: filling out paperwork. I understand the need for the emergency contact forms but some of it feels a little like overkill.  Maybe it seems worse than it is because I also have to fill out a lot of paperwork for Kindercare (where A goes for before and after school care). Last week I had to submit FIVE forms in order for Kindercare to drive my kid the mile or two to school each day. I am not exaggerating - I counted them. I can only imagine how daunting all of this must be for parents who have multiple school-age children.

I stupidly waited until after our vacation to buy school supplies.  I guess I just don't like to think about summer ending until it's actually over. I did pick up a few items when we were on vacation and happened to be in a Dollar General store, but I figured I'd wait until we got back to obtain the rest.  The list I received from the school was pretty lengthy.  I went grocery shopping Saturday morning and then headed to another store for the school supplies.  Empty shelves.  The school supply aisle was all desert winds and tumbleweeds.  The on-the-ball parents had already been there and cleaned the joint out. Gah!

When I got home, I posted this on Facebook: Clearly I waited too long to buy school supplies. Who do I have to sleep with to get some bleeping glue sticks!?!?

I got quite a few responses from friends and acquaintances. Some commiserated with my plight and some offered to send me glue sticks. From this I can only conclude: a) most of my friends are more organized than I am and b) a few of them really want to sleep with me.  

Two full bags of required supplies (the ugly shoes are in there, too). The kid needs to get a job.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

I am drowning in dirty laundry and piles of unopened mail, but I thought I'd take a quick moment to update my blog. In short, we had a fabulous vacation at the lake. My wee baby sister and her family drove up from Oklahoma and we met at a Shell station in the small town closest to the cabin. It's impossible to explain to someone how to get to the lake (miles of winding dirt roads), so our best bet was to have them follow us the rest of the way there. They had actually arrived the day before and camped nearby. They also brought a bunch of ATVs to ride. Did I ride one? Yes, I did, albeit briefly. Now you are probably wondering if I've been abducted and replaced with a pod person.

My daughter was so excited to spend time with her cousins (as well as her aunt and uncle, of course).  My nephews (ages 2 1/2 and 4) spent a lot of their time smacking each other (I guess this is what happens when kids are sixteen months apart and are, well, boys).  At one point we all went swimming in the lake and we had the boys in a small inflatable raft.  They immediately launched into a full-blown fist fight. This seemed like a poorly-conceived plan on their part in as much as they were in the middle of a deep lake - where did they think they would go?  When they weren't clobbering each other, they enjoyed fishing, riding the ATVs, watching movies, and running around with their cousin. We took all of the kids to a state park for a little hike, and they did great. They even held hands most of the way, which was beyond adorable.

Despite having three young children in the cabin, my vacation was still fairly restful. I read a book in its entirety, which I seldom have time to do. I slept in - well, 7:30 is sleeping in for me. Yesterday morning I stayed in bed for a few extra moments and was rewarded with a visit from a hummingbird just outside the window (I could easily hear the beating of his wings) and the call of a loon out on the lake. That's good stuff.

Two funny memories from the trip:

1. My youngest nephew was wearing a Carhartt shirt that had the words "Tiny but tough" printed on the front. We were out to lunch on Sunday and A remarked on the shirt.  However, she read it as "Tiny Butt Touch."  Needless to say, we got a lot of comedic mileage out of that for the rest of the week.

2. We had a fire in the firepit every other evening during our stay (we would have had a fire nightly except that we found it too exhausting to keep yelling at the kids to stop running precariously close to the flames). After we were done roasting marshmallows, we would usually burn a few items from our quickly-accumulating garbage, like paper plates and such. On the first night, P went to the cabin to grab a bag of garbage and brought it back to the firepit. One of my nephews spotted the white bag and shouted, "White trash!" Of course, the grown-ups in our group chuckled a bit. Spurred on by that, all three kids proceeded to march around the fire yelling, "WHITE TRASH! WHITE TRASH!" as loudly as possible. It is also worth noting that sound carries over the lake like nobody's business. Occasionally I can hear people talking on the other side and I swear it's as if they are standing right next to me.

Here are a few photos from the trip.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Peace and quiet . . . or something like that

We're embarking on a little vacation tomorrow. Don't make plans to rob us while we're gone - we do have someone taking care of our house and our ninja cat while we're on vacation. I'm pretty sure she will be armed (our pet sitter, not our cat, although I'm reasonably certain that Ella Fitzkitty would gladly pack some heat if given the chance). We're doing our annual cabin-by-the-lake trip (a very nice friend lets us use his cabin every year). My wee baby sister and her clan will be joining us. I keep thinking, "Ahhh, can't wait to relax" and then I remember that we'll have a two-year-old, a four-year-old, and a six-year-old there. There's a nice little brew pub where we usually eat when we're at the lake, and I just keep picturing the wait staff frantically playing rock-paper-scissors as we approach to see who gets stuck with our table.

My sister found out yesterday that she is having another boy.  So, we'll have two more boys in the family by the end of the year (total grandkid tally for my parents: five boys, two girls). My mom had three girls and used to say, "I don't know how to clean poop off balls!" When my youngest sister called me yesterday to tell me that the new baby is a boy, she said, "Well, at least I already know how to clean poop off balls."

I've been packing since Monday. We have to take all of our own linens and towels so there is a lot to pack. P threw five items in a suitcase and announced that he is "good to go" so of course the rest falls to me. The food, the ice, the bug spray, etc. Anyway, if all goes well, in about 24 hours I'll have a glass of merlot in hand as I gaze out at the lake and attempt to tune out the sounds of the wee cousins fighting over a juicebox or some such thing.

See you on the flipside!

I'll leave you with this little earworm. Be prepared before you listen to it - it will stick with you. My friend Leslie sent it to me yesterday. If she lived closer, I would've slashed her tires by now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Redneck gardener, c'est moi

Why yes, yes those are pipe cleaners holding up my tomato plant.
Last year, a green-thumbed co-worker gave me a tomato plant.  She told me it would yield big tomatoes, the slicing kind. I put the wee plant in a huge terra cotta planter on my deck and watered it dutifully. I spent half the summer feeling like the world's most inept gardener, because the plant was only delivering little tomatoes. I had no earthly idea what I'd done wrong. Finally, I realized that they were Roma tomatoes (thanks, Google Images!) instead of the big ones (simple plant mixup, apparently). I happily chopped them up into sauces and anything else I could think of. This spring, I decided to try the tomato experiment again, this time buying a variety that promised big ones.  I had dreams of a huge slice of homegrown tomato on my tofurkey on sourdough.

I bought a tomato plant at a local gardening center and installed it in the terra cotta planter.  I jabbed a metal tomato cage into the dirt to support the plant as it grew. Voila!  For the next few weeks I babied the plant, watering it regularly, applying tomato-specific plant food, and helpfully poking the tomatoes with my finger as they developed. Finally, a couple weeks ago, I picked a ripe tomato and proudly placed it on the kitchen counter. A few days later, I cut it open. It was green on the inside. Son of a biscuit!

Meanwhile, many of my friends and co-workers were busily harvesting beans, zucchini, squash, and so forth from their abundant gardens. And all I can manage is a single tomato plant. I'd love to have a vegetable garden but a) I don't know what I'm doing and b) I have three big dogs running around my yard. I have one small corner of the back yard, surrounded by garden fencing, where I've planted perennials. Gretchen jumps into the garden about eighty times a day (in order to bark at passing traffic), trampling everything I try to grow.  I, in turn, lean out the back door every time and yell, "Gretchen! Get your ass out of my garden! How many times do I have to tell you?!"  She cocks her head and stares back, unmoving, as if to say, "Who is this 'Gretchen' of which you speak?"

For the next tomato I picked, I let it ripen longer and indeed, it was not green when I sliced it. It was delicious.  Shortly thereafter, a storm blew through and my tomato plant was leaning precariously to one side. Ever the quick thinker, I grabbed a bunch of my daughter's multi-colored pipe cleaners and lashed the main stalk of the plant to the deck railing. I congratulated myself on my ingenuity. However, another storm blew through and the upper branches of the plant (which was now about five feet tall) became bent.  By the time I figured out I had a problem, a main branch had started to die, taking half a dozen tomatoes along with it. I desperately tried to save it.  I knew I needed something straight and sturdy to prop it up. I found a neon orange Halloween pencil in my daughter's room and tied that to the bent branch. I think you'll agree that this is what any reasonable person would have done. Alas, it was too late. I cut that branch off and tossed it over the fence into the side yard so that my husband could deal with it.

Even without the dead branch, the top of the plant was still too heavy to remain upright. Had I taken thirty seconds to do a little research, I would have known that it is pretty standard to shore up tomato plants with stakes and such, and that most gardeners are fully prepared for that. There are two types of tomato plants: determinate (will stop growing at some point) and indeterminate. Apparently I have the latter, as I have every reason to believe it will take over my 'hood by the end of summer (a la Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors).  Since I didn't have a stake, I rummaged around in the basement for a substitute. A-ha! PVC pipe from an agility weave pole set. I stuck three poles together into one long one and jabbed it into the planter. Again, what any reasonable person would do. I then used some additional colorful pipe cleaners to tie the plant to the agility pole. So far, so good. Tomatoes continue to appear on the branches and I, in turn, poke them and urge them to ripen faster.

Last Saturday, I took A to the farmers' market downtown.  I couldn't help but notice that one can buy a huge, healthy, ready-for-slicing tomato for less than a buck. Huh.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Grey Muzzles

My Lucy Annabel. How I still miss you, Goose!
On Sunday night I decided to cap off the evening with a hot bubble bath. P was working and the kid was in our room watching "Ramona and Beezus." I took this opportunity to finish reading "Dog Town," a book about the pooches who live at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. I had been trying to finish the book for weeks, but every time I sit down to read, it seems like the short person who lives in my house has a VERY URGENT need for me to: pour her some juice, get a knot out of her shoelaces, get her a popsicle from the freezer, and so forth. But finally, I had a few minutes to myself.

The last chapter of the book covers the story of Mr. Bones. Mr. Bones was a mixed breed dog who came to the sanctuary from Puerto Rico. He was extremely dog-aggressive (an attitude that had served him well on the rough streets where he was found) and had to live in a run by himself at Best Friends. As is often the case with dogs that don't like other dogs, Mr. Bones had a hard time finding a forever home. The years ticked by and although Mr. Bones had a lot of friends on the staff and even a band of ladies from New Jersey who came specifically to visit him and volunteer at the sanctuary every year, everyone hoped he would find a home of his own someday. Over the years, he had mellowed considerably and didn't have the energy and/or inclination to threaten other dogs quite so much. Finally, it happened. After a dozen years at the sanctuary, Mr. Bones was adopted by a lady from Maryland. By now he was elderly, his face grey and his bones creaky, but he had his own home at long last. Sadly, he died after just four months in his permanent home, but he had his happy ending nonetheless.  Sharon, the nice lady who adopted him, said she did not regret anything and was quoted as saying, "I loved that stinky old dog."

So, here I was, reclining in the tub, surrounded by bubbles, crying my eyes out. I kept looking at the photo of Mr. Bones and his grey muzzle. Just then, the kid came in.  This was actually her third visit because, you know, God forbid I should bathe without an audience. "Mommy, what's wrong?" she asked.

"Oh, I was just reading something sad," I said.  "I can't stop thinking about it." I told her briefly about Mr. Bones. 

"Why can't you stop thinking about it?"

"I don't know how to stop thinking about something.  My brain won't let me. Do you know how?"

She smiled, shrugged, and hopped up onto the toilet to pee (because, you know, using the other bathroom would be crazy). "I just stop thinking about it, that's all." 

Oh but that it were so easy. For days I had been thinking about an article I read the week before.  It would probably be more accurate to say I was haunted by it. The topic was bears in China and bile harvesting. I will not include any details here, but please Google it if you wish. On Facebook people are always posting petitions, supporting this or protesting that. I can't understand the point of it all, really. People commit horrible acts every minute of every day. The very best you can hope for from a petition is to sway public perception in hopes that something that is currently accepted will eventually be frowned upon by polite society (dog fighting is a good example, I think). But as far as I can tell, as long as suffering goes on behind closed doors or in some faraway land, out of sight is out of mind.

I had also been thinking about a Boxer named Cecilia. Cecilia came into our rescue years ago.  She was a cute little brindle girl.  Luck was seldom on her side, though, because she was adopted and returned a couple times over the years. It was never any fault of her own.  She was returned a few months ago because the adopters lost their home and had to move. My friend Kathy was fostering her this time around. I was at her house last month and was amazed to see that Cecilia, who was nine years old by now, had very little grey on her face and was as energetic as a dog a third her age. She bounced around my friend's living room like a nut. That is why I love Boxers - they never lose that joie de vivre. We thought she'd be in rescue for a while, but much to our surprise, Cecilia was adopted rather quickly. She was adopted by an older couple who had a Rottweiler. They weren't too picky - any dog who got along with their Rottie could have a home with them. Cecilia fit the bill. And they adored her.

Sadly, however, her luck ran out again. Almost immediately after adoption, her new owners found that her lymph nodes were swollen. Cecilia had just been to one of our rescue's veterinarians for an exam, and he hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary. So either he missed the lumps in Cecilia's neck or they formed very quickly. Either way, the diagnosis was devastating: lymphoma. It was fast-moving and fatal. Just two weeks after being adopted, Cecilia was gone. Blinking back tears, I read an email from the adopters describing how they adored her and how they would see her again someday, in another realm. On behalf of the rescue, I sent a flowering plant to them in their girl's memory. 

Senior dogs are hard to place. We've had quite a few pass away in rescue while waiting for their forever home.  This is not the worst thing, because they do live in foster homes and are dearly loved. But it's always nice when we can find each one a home of his own. I had Fritz for a solid year before he landed a loving home. Fritz (Fritty Cent, Fritzenheimer) is still doing well and is adored by his mom. He will be twelve in January and I sure hope he is immortal. Although most of our applicants are looking for young dogs, there are a special few who happily take in the seniors. They can look beyond the grey muzzle, the cloudy eyes, the stiff gait. They know the time will probably be short and will ultimately end in utter heartbreak, but they never regret the decision. Just when I think I can't take one more email from someone wanting to surrender a dog because they "just don't have time for him," I remind myself about all of the amazing adopters I've met over the years, the ones who are heroes to dogs in need.

A few months ago I received the following email from an adopter whose Boxer had just passed away (they adopted him in 2010 and last him about a year later). I had written to her to express my condolences.

Thank you very much Claudia for your kind thoughts. I know every animal owner dreads this time in a pet's life. We are taking it day by day. Knowing that our Ozzie had lived fully and was loved completely until his last moments helps. (Having other dogs to comfort us helps too, though they are mourning in their own ways. It even took them 2 days to lay on "his" couch!  )

What a wonderful experience adopting was for our family!  I truly feel though that he adopted us.  I'll never forget seeing his picture and saying to Joe -  "that's the one" and he was. He brought such a sense of humor and balance to our family. Yes, he was lumpy and bumpy, but I never saw any of that and no one else did after they met him.  He was actually an ambassador for diversity and acceptance!  

Years ago, I bought a book for my children called Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed.  The last page always sticks in my mind -- "So in this world of the simple and odd, the bent and the plain, the unbalanced bod, the imperfect people and differently pawed, some live without love...that's  how they're flawed."

I would do it again in a heartbeat! What we gave to Oz was returned ten fold! Thank you for all your hard work with all these beautiful boxers. 

As you can probably predict, I did indeed shed a few tears when I read this email. Many times I've wondered why I am sentenced to a lifetime of wearing my heart on my sleeve, why I am hard-wired to feel everything so deeply. Is it a personality flaw? I don't know. In software development there is an old joke: "Oh, that's not a bug. It's a feature!" 

As I watch my sweet, goofy Gideon slowly turning grey (his eyebrows are well on their way), and as I think about Mr. Bones, Cecilia, Oz, and Fritz, I know that, at the end of the day, a grey muzzle is worth so very much.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Taking a breather

I saw that image on Regretsy last week and had to laugh. How could it not occur to someone, before creating gigantic words and permanently affixing them to a wall, to check the spelling first? Although I'm generally a good speller (one of my very few talents in life), there are a few words that tend to elude me. "Hors d'oeuvres" is one of them. On the rare occasion when I need to use it, I look it up.  Or, more commonly, I just write . . . "appetizers" instead. Rock on.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I've been struggling a bit lately with my stress level. My brain cannot rest. I go to yoga regularly and I can quiet my head for a few minutes while I'm there, but the world comes rushing back in as soon as I walk out the door after class. My job's been a bit challenging lately, so there's that. As you may recall, I also devote a lot of my time, on a volunteer basis, to a rescue organization.  I do this willingly, of course, but lately I've really felt burn-out closing in on me. The state passed a new law June 1st which requires a higher level of documentation than had been necessary before. The additional paperwork, combined with all of my other tasks with the rescue (website, fostering, adoption packets, expense reimbursements, etc.) just seemed to put me over the edge for some reason. When I get overwhelmed, I start getting crabby with the other volunteers, and that's not fair to them. We have three different email lists for the rescue (foster list, general list, and event list) and for now I've gone to "no mail" on all three. My wee baby sister and her crew are arriving in a few days and we're going to do the cabin by the lake thing for about a week. After that, I'll dig back in with the rescue and, with a little luck, will be somewhat refreshed and less irritable.

In the mean time, I'm spending extra time with the talkative young lass who lives in my home. School starts in a couple weeks and I want to enjoy the time we have left before then. I took one for the team yesterday and sat through "Mr. Popper's Penguins" at the budget theater with her. I used to like Jim Carrey when he was on "In Living Color" a million years ago, but my tolerance for him has been very low since then. (Similarly, my Nicholas Cage tolerance petered out shortly after "Raising Arizona" - which is still one of the best movies of all time.) After the movie, I paid $2 for my kid to stand in a hurricane simulator for 15 seconds - I couldn't take the begging and the pleading eyes.  Have you seen these simulators? They seem to be cropping up everywhere.  At the time, you think, "Ah, what's two bucks?" but then you realize you've let her do it umpteen times and really, you could stand her next to a fan at home for free.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Fair

We went to the state fair last weekend. After the fair (which is held a couple hours away from our home), we stayed overnight with some friends who were kind enough to host us in their home.

We arrived at the fair at around 10 a.m. We headed to a vendor expo building first because it gets really crowded as the day goes on and we wanted to get it out of the way early. The building is packed with companies hawking magical mops and amazing! fantastic! knives and onion choppers. I have actually been tempted by some of the mops (which promise to solve all of my housework challenges) but have no interest in toting one around all day. I bought some soap, some bug spray that was touted as being the end to all mosquitoes everywhere (active ingredient: catnip oil. no lie), and a gift for my unborn nephew. Did I tell you both of my sisters are knocked up? My middle sister is expecting her offspring first, and we already know the baby has a penis. My wee baby sister will find out about her fetus next week. The other thing we bought in the expo building: a $4 pickle. Our kid is gaga for pickles. We first handed her one when she was a baby, because we thought it would be funny to see her make a sour face. She gobbled it up and asked for more. The whole scene was not nearly as funny as we'd hoped it would be.

We then went in search of junk food. Deep-fried oreos, comin' right up! The three of us split an order. I came upon a wine bar at around noon, and since everyone knows that it's perfectly acceptable to have an adult beverage anytime after noon, I ordered a sangria. You see, we were baking in oppressive heat. It was inescapable. Throughout the day I think we spent roughly the equivalent of our mortgage on slushies, water, root beer  . . . basically any form of hydration we could find.

After lunch, we headed to the midway so that the short one could hit the rides. We bought her a wristband so that she could ride as many rides as she wanted. She just hit 43 inches and a lot of the rides require a minimum height of 42 inches, so she was psyched. There was one major problem with the midway, which is that there was no shade or buildings anywhere. I finally ended up sitting under a sparse tree that was next to a sideshow. Yes, a sideshow. There was a sign touting the world's smallest horse.  You could get in to see the horse for fifty cents. However, once people got up to the gate, they found out that for anyone older than an embryo, the price was actually a dollar. So, people paid the buck, then walked around an open trailer, looking down into an area that I couldn't see (because I hadn't parted with a buck, ya'll) and then descended the stairs with a slight frown. I had to admit, I was curious. It didn't take long for me to figure out what was going on . . . mostly because some bowlegged fellow hopped off the sideshow trailer and announced, "It's a fucking Shetland pony!"

Speaking of horses, we walked through the horse barn and saw some beautiful Clydesdales.  Have you ever seen the testicles on one of those animals? Like grapefruit. No lie. Anyway, as we were leaving the horse barn, I spotted a little boy walking towards us, crying. "Hi," I said, "Did you lose your parents?" He nodded.  Oh my, what do we do now?  I figured if there was one thing I could do for him, it was to be a grown-up and assure him that nothing would happen to him.  I asked him his name (Matthew) and asked him where he'd last seen his parents (in the horse barn). Keep in mind, this was a huge fair with thousands and thousands of people.  The horse barn was ginormous. I pulled out my park map. The nearest "reconnection center" was pretty far away and it seemed like a bad idea to take this four-year-old boy too far from where he'd last seen his guardians. We stood with him for a while while we decided what to do. Finally, I called the local police, who said they'd send someone over. A few minutes later, a rotund fellow with a beer in his hand sauntered up to us and nodded at Matthew. I realized he was the dad.  I told him that we'd just called the police and that I'd go ahead and cancel the call. He nodded again, mumbled thanks, and walked away with his son. I didn't really expect any thanks, but he sort of acted like I'd inconvenienced him in some way by looking after his child. Whatever. If nothing else, I taught my child that if someone needs help, help them.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sweating our arses off.  The fair boasts a skyway . . . one of those deals where the tram cars hanging on cables make their way across the fairgrounds.  We thought, "Hey, maybe we'll catch a slight breeze up there."  It turns out that we forgot one thing: the scientific principle that requires heat to rise. Going up in the skyway basically just brought us closer to the sun and we baked like cornbread. We left the fair shortly thereafter. When we got to my friend's house, I sat in front of their window air conditioning unit the rest of the afternoon and evening. I'd probably still be sitting there if I hadn't needed to be back at work on Monday.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Too old for this, too cool for that

The school year begins in a few short weeks, so I've begun buying some of the stuff my daughter will need for the coming year. She needs shoes, so I took her to a shoe store after work on Friday. When she was a toddler and was just learning to walk, I bought all of her shoes at Stride Rite because I wanted to make sure she had the proper fit for her first fledgling steps. Now that she is six and beats the shit out of her shoes no matter what brand they are, I've gotten a little more frugal about the whole thing. I couldn't help but notice that $40 shoes get just as scuffed up as the ones from Payless. Hence, we headed there on Friday. I had been waiting for the BOGO sale because the kid needs two pairs of tennis shoes - one that stays at school (for gym class) and one for at home.

Immediately, she spotted these:

And then started speaking in tongues.  "Shake it up, ohmomiwanttheseshoespleaseihavetohavethem, something something shake it up something oh please please please." There was a lot of breathless urgency about the whole thing.

Apparently, Shake It Up is a show on the Disney Channel. The fact that I had never heard of it makes me think I need to start monitoring TV time a lot more closely. All I know is that she was desperate for these eyesores shoes.

"Let's talk about this," I said. She nodded solemnly. I pointed into the box.

"They're black. You don't really wear anything black."

"I know."

"Also, they're ugly as homemade sin."

"Mom! No they're not! I really want the Shake It Up shoes." Again with the pleading eyes and the desperation.

"Here's the thing. They have laces and YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO TIE."

She shrugged and then vowed to spend the rest of the summer learning to tie her shoes. Also, there is one boy in her class who does know how to tie so she figures she can use him as back-up.  There was one final problem. They didn't have these monstrosities in her size. I asked a salesperson if there might be any in back. I started to feel a little hopeful when I saw the "I doubt it" expression on her face as she headed to the stockroom. Moment later, she was back.  "We sure do!" she said cheerfully, handing me the box. Crap.

A was over the moon.  Just seeing her expression caused me to have one of those "pick your battles" moments. I'm sure my parents let me wear a few things that made them queasy. "Okay, let's pick out a second pair," I said.  I pointed at some Disney Princess sneakers. "How about these?"

She frowned. "I'm too old for princesses, Mom."  Too . . . old . . . for . . . princesses?  'Scuse me while I extract this tiny dagger from my left ventricle. :::sniffle sniffle:::

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Making Amends

My lovely niece, she is depressed. She can't believe I didn't mention her in this blog entry. In my defense (paper-thin though it is), I did write about A's cousins in that piece but couldn't get the wording quite right and ended up deleting that passage. A certain seventh-grader from Northern Virginia most certainly took notice of this omission.

Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about the world's most fabulous niece. You see, I am hopeful that she will become a veterinarian someday and that I will receive free vet care for the rest of my life. I must remain in her good graces.

The awesomeness that is my niece:
  • She was born in 1998, becoming the first grandchild in the family. At birth, she looked just like her father.  However, now she looks just like my sister (except blond). She seems to have received a hefty dose of the "tall, skinny" DNA that missed me entirely. I am pretty sure she will be taller than I am soon, even though I have expressly forbidden it.
  • L is very bright and is a good student. At the end of the school year, she earned every award that her school and the county had to offer - everything from a certificate for serving as president of her school to an academic achievement letter from President Obama. She feels fairly certain that he didn't sign it personally, though. What my daughter was awarded on her last day of school: a coupon for Subway.
  • Even though she is almost officially a teen, she is still downright nice. I'm not saying that the door-slamming and sense of perpetual indignation won't show up at some point, but so far, so good.
  • She makes amazing guacamole. And I don't even like guacamole.
  • She is a good role model for my daughter.  She generally tolerates her little brother.
  • She lets me call her "Blondie" even though it is the lamest nickname anyone ever came up with. It could be worse. My middle sister's nickname is "Cheech." 
  • L is a vegetarian and cares a lot about animals, so I generally assume that she gets these fine traits from me.
Here are some photos of my niece. I hope this redeems me in some way. I don't want to miss out on those free rabies shots.