Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fun Stuff

The kid and I spent a lot of time together this weekend. I worked at a pet expo until 3:00 on Saturday (her dad brought her by to visit me there as well) and after that, we hit the road.  It was just me and her.  I had this theory that if I left P home alone long enough, he would use this free time to stain the deck. As it turns out, if you leave him home alone long enough, he hops in the car and takes himself to a movie (Captain America).

First we went out to dinner. She'd had a fever Friday night and although Tylenol had taken care of it by morning, she still seemed a little off on Saturday. And by "off" I mean "compliant." I wasn't sure whether to worry about her or to sing hallelujah in the streets. After dinner, we stopped at a park.  A storm had just blown through, so the park was empty. I don't mean to brag here, but I found three (wet, sandy) dollars next to the swing set. I'm currently looking into some investment strategies. I'm worried that I'll start getting letters from down-on-their-luck strangers asking for a piece of my windfall.

From there, we went to a candy store and then to a bluegrass concert (a local but extremely talented band was performing). A was the one and only kid there. I think I was actually the second youngest person in the audience, in all honesty. I scanned the crowd and, as far as I could tell, nary a one was born after the Korean war. It was a lot of fun, though. The older folks got a kick out of the kid. At intermission we went to the ladies' room, where we spotted some fancy hand lotions and such that were placed there by a local high-end boutique. I put on some hand lotion that had a fairly pleasant scent - something like honey and jasmine. A put some on her hands and loudly proclaimed that it "smells JUST LIKE MEDICINE!" The lady behind us said, "Well, I guess I'll pass then."

We left the concert a bit before it ended because we had an hour drive to get back home and I didn't want miss crabby-in-the-morning to be up too late. All in all, it was a good time. Winter lasts so long in these parts, and it seems like I always hear myself promising to "do that when it gets warm."  So, I've been trying to make good on my promises.  We even rode go-karts on Tuesday night. Before we know it, the snow will fly and such chances will be lost.

I have to share my favorite photo from the weekend. Elle est tres jolie, ne c'est pas?

Friday, July 29, 2011

It's crazy up in hair

Another self-portrait
As my daughter gets older, I am definitely noticing her need to exert her independence and express her individuality a little more each day. Yesterday she had a playdate at her friend's house. This friend lives three blocks away. I decided to let her ride her bike. I acted like it was no big deal, but in my head, I was mentally calculating all of the things that could happen to her in three blocks. I strapped her helmet onto her noggin, gave her a little push, and then stood in the yard like a lawn ornament until I saw her pull into her friend's driveway. I am planning to do this for all such outings, until she is married.

Try as I might to stop the clock, she persists in growing up. Her wardrobe is one of the most obvious signs. She used to wear whatever I put on her, but now she wants a say in it. So, I've been involving her more in my buying decisions so that we're not stuck with clothing she refuses to wear.  A few pairs of shoes have been rejected out of hand, and I'm still not even sure what it was that made them so offensive all of a sudden.

The biggest kid-related battle I face these days is right on top of my daughter's head.  The girls at Kindercare like to "do" each other's hair.  There are some older kids in A's classroom (they divide the joint up into: children two and under, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, and then "school age") and I think she is influenced by them in some ways.  I send her off with her hair in a ponytail or a headband and when I pick her up, the hair implement is inevitably broken and her curls are poufed out about a foot in all directions. I feel like her head can be seen from space. Now, I should add that this seems to happen whether the girls at daycare touch her hair or not. What I don't understand it why it bugs me so much.

My daughter is bi-racial. Before she was born, I did some reading about different types of hair and wondered what I might need to learn. Braiding? Special conditioners? When she was born, she had soft brown hair that started to curl when she was around 18 months old - nothing that seemed to require any sort of special know-how. Until she was around four, her hair was mostly soft ringlets - not too hard to manage. My wee baby sister has curly hair, so I had some idea of what to do and what not to do. I also began quizzing curly-haired friends about what products they use. I think I've easily spent a mortgage payment on hair products for Short Stuff.  Over the past couple of years, her hair has changed. It's less curly and more . . . well, frizzy. The hair at the crown of her head has very little curl to it, whereas the hair underneath is still very curly.  I use various leave-in conditioners and curl creams and whatnot, with mixed results. Some days her hair looks fine, other days it's pretty much out of control. I've taken her to various stylists, who haven't been as helpful as one might expect.

If she had her way, I think she'd be fine with walking around looking like Medusa. What she really wants is straight hair, just like I would love to have curly hair.  When I fix her hair in the mornings and she is in a particularly cantankerous mood, fighting me all the way, I sometimes find myself saying, "Fine, just go out with your hair like that then!" Like "that" = a big mass of tangles and disorder. It occurs to me that I may be leaving her with the impression that there is something wrong with her hair and of course that is not my intent at all.  My daughter (all parts of her) is beautiful and if you don't agree, I'll fight you.

In the end, I guess it's really my hang-up, not hers. I'm not the roll-out-of-bed-and-go sort.  You won't see me with bedhead or rolling through town in sweatpants. I remember one day my long-time hair stylist had finished blow-drying my hair and, on a whim, combed a zigzag part into my hair. I stared at myself in the mirror. Donna looked back at me and said, "You can't stand it, can you?"  She laughed.  She was right. I could not.

So, what do I do? Try to coerce my daughter into complying with how I'd like her hair to look (i.e. like she is not homeless) or let her do what she wants and not worry about it?  Is there some magical product that would allow her wear her her natural but without all the . . . disorder?

I'm off to fret about some other trivial thing now. Like how no one on Facebook seems to know the difference between your and you're.

Seriously, how does she keep getting my camera???

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Little Miss Popular

Self-Portrait
Before my daughter was born, her birthmom warned me that I would be reduced to the status of a small rodent from the date the baby arrived on the planet until . . . well, forever. And it was true. Everyone I know was smitten with the little cherub - they still are, in fact. I'm pretty sure most of them like her better than they like me, not that I blame them. I mean, I know every mom thinks her child is particularly spectacular, but mine is irrepressibly cute and outgoing and has a giggle that leaves you no choice but to start giggling yourself. You see, that's one benefit of adopting - I can be pretty obnoxious as far as bragging about her and it's not as if I'm paying some sort of compliment to myself at the same time. It's not like I'm pointing at my child and saying, "Did you see what I MADE?! My DNA is extraordinary, is it not?"

My father called me last week to make sure we'd gotten home safely from our visit to the east coast. As part of his refusal to acknowledge technology of any sort, he loves to buy those little disposable cardboard cameras and uses them aplenty. When he called, he had just picked up a batch of photos he'd had developed. "I got some pictures of my baby," he told me.  For half a second, I thought he meant me (since I am, you know, his first-born child and all).  Then I realized he meant his granddaughter. Ah, of course.

My sisters and my parents sent me birthday gifts in February. They arrived from between a week and four weeks late. The gifts they sent my daughter in May? Right on time.

I'm mostly just amused by the whole thing. Her fan club is vast. Relatives call specifically to speak to my daughter. Many of my friends buy Christmas and birthday gifts for her. A has three living grandparents and all three are hopelessly in love with her. My stad gets such a kick out of her (he was amused to learn of her recent tantrum because I would not allow her to wear tap shoes to church) and loves spending time with her. My mom makes dress after dress for Miss-I-Don't-Wear-Pants. She is counting the days until A is old enough to fly as an unaccompanied minor so that I can ship her granddaughter out for a visit (the two of them can't wait to stay up late and eat ice cream for dinner, I suspect). When we were in VA, my father handed the kid $40.00 and told her it was "grandkids' day." This was in addition to the c-note he just gave her for her birthday. After handing her the cash, he pointed at me and said, "You'll just have to wait until I die."  (I'm named in his will.)  That could be arranged, I thought to myself.

On Sunday, I took my daughter to visit her Kindergarten teacher. Mrs. L had called a couple of times this summer, wondering when A could come for a visit. I don't remember a teacher ever inviting me to their home, that's for sure.  Mrs. L has a pond, sheep, cats, etc. and enjoys having students drop by (she and her husband are empty-nesters). Anyway, the kid was beyond excited by the time we pulled up at her teacher's home. "This is the best kind of day!" she exclaimed as she hopped out of the van and ran into the arms of her teacher.  We spent the next hour and a half touring the home and the pond, sipping lemonade and taking photos. We talked a bit about academics. Mrs. L told me that my daughter reads at "at least a second grade level."  Needless to say, I was one proud, puffed-up mama. (I didn't make her brain, but I get to take partial credit for all the reading she and I have done together!)

As wonderful as my daughter is, I have to feel a bit sorry for her future boss as well as her future spouse. Why?  Two words: weekday mornings. I don't mean to spill all of her secrets (oh, who am I kidding? of course I do!), but Miss Popularity is an absolutely ill-tempered tyrannical pill for about the first two hours after she gets up.  You didn't think it was all sunshine and giggles around our house, did you?
With her teacher


With Granddaddy

With Grandpa

Saturday, July 23, 2011

#600 - that a lotta bons mots, people

Here 'tis, my 600th post. That reminds me - I got an email from Once Upon a Child advertising a clearance sale on July 23th. And a client told me she'd get me feedback on a website design by June 31st. I'm the only one who finds this stuff amusing? Ah, okay.

On this auspicious occasion, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my small but ardent pool of readers. As you may have noticed, fame and fortune continue to elude me, so I'll keep plugging away at this writing thing. I sometimes wonder if, someday in the future, my daughter will read my blog and declare it to be blatant child abuse.  I've carefully chronicled the last four and half years of her life in intricate detail, and it's true that she did crap her pants a lot in the early entries.

We're getting ready to head to a wedding and so, alas, I must keep this short. As I was typing this entry, I learned of the death of Amy Winehouse. I guess I knew it was coming, just as we all did. A few weeks ago, I watched with sadness a recent video of her on stage in Europe, stumbling around and forgetting the words to her own songs. While it has not yet been confirmed that her death is attributed to drugs/alcohol, I think we'd all be astounded if it was somehow unrelated. It's a crying shame, it really is. When I first heard the Back to Black album a few years ago, I don't know when I'd been so blown away by someone's talent.  I guess when someone is determined to self-destruct, they'll always find a way. Ah, such a shame.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Remembering Brody-O

Years ago (11ish), I got involved in rescue as a volunteer. At that time, there were just two of us (Vicki, the rescue's founder, and me), taking in homeless Boxers and finding new homes for them. Today, the organization has expanded considerably and has taken in well over 700 dogs to date. Over the years, I've learned a lot about canine behavior, fundraising, and various medical conditions ranging from entropion to degenerative myelopathy to megaesophagus. I've made some wonderful friends along the way and I've met a few nutjobs, too.

Back in the early days with the rescue, I used to write articles for a site called Themestream. The way Themestream worked was that people could post their writing and if a site visitor clicked on your article, you'd make a few cents. I was actually faring pretty well on the site and had the intention of donating the money to the rescue. I certainly would have done so, except that Themestream shut itself down and left like a thief in the night, not paying any of its writers for their work. I think a few people tried to file lawsuits, to no avail. A friend recently dug out an article I wrote for Themestream and sent it to me. I was glad to have it, because I lost some of my older writing when my computer died its violent death in May.  So, here it is, the story of Brody-O, a sweet soul who lives on in my heart.

*********************************************

I imagine that Brody the Boxer must have started his life as a typically exuberant and affectionate pup. By the time we met him, he was a sweet but cautious adult. As we would soon learn, he looked fine on the outside, but on the inside he was broken. We just didn't realize at first how badly he was broken. We thought he was simply damaged and that with a steady stream of hugs and kisses and "good boy's," we could fix him up good as new. We'd done it before and we thought we could hand out second chances just that easily. Our proverbial cup is always half full.

Last summer our rescue got a call from a Wisconsin shelter asking if we could take a nice six-year-old male Boxer. First we did what we always do - mutter and sputter about how someone could dump a six-year-old dog. Dogs of that age are difficult for us to place since applicants naturally want a younger dog, one that will be with them longer. Nonetheless, we agreed to take him because that is what why we are here - to help Boxers in need. We've even managed to place several 8-10 year old Boxers with kind-hearted adopters. At least you don't have to worry about chewing and housebreaking, we always say.

All we knew about Brody was that he had been surrendered for being a "runner" and that he hadn't been treated very well. From what we were told, he had lived with two different families. When the first family gave him to the second family, he ran away and returned to the first. Evidently he ran away a couple of times and ended up at the shelter. Eventually, no one wanted to claim him.

My rescue partner, Vicki, picked Brody up and brought him back to her home. Her teenaged daughter Kim took an immediate liking to Brody. He was a handsome fawn with cropped ears and a black mask. His dark eyes seemed very knowing. Brody was obviously very bright and Kim even taught him to raise himself onto his rear legs and dance. Before long, though, a few little warning signs began to appear. Brody very much enjoyed being outside and sometimes didn't agree that it was time for him to come in. One day Kim went outside to lure Brody in. Brody growled at her and took a rather menacing stance. Not long after that incident, he again got very agitated when Vicki told him to stop rooting in the garbage. We attributed Brody's behavior to the many recent changes in his life and felt that in time he would become more comfortable and not exhibit defensive behavior.

Since I have done some obedience training with my own dogs and with many of the rescue dogs as well, Vicki and I decided that she would transfer Brody to me so that I could work with him. I don't have children and my house is a bit less chaotic than Vicki's, so we felt that Brody would fare better in a quieter environment. Sure enough, Brody did very well at my home. He got along with the other dogs and did very well in his training. Once or twice a week I would take him to obedience class and the instructor would always remark on what a smart, well-behaved dog Brody was.

As the weeks passed, I came to love Brody very, very much. He was sweet and affectionate, and I felt that we had a wonderful, wordless bond. I loved the way he would spin himself in circles when he knew it was his turn to go for a r-i-d-e. At the same time, Brody was a fairly complex dog and I began to have my doubts that the right home would ever come along.

We had some nice warm autumn days then, and Brody often did not want to come back inside. He would approach the door as if he wanted to come in, but then would scoot away when I opened the door. Over time it became harder and harder to lure him in. Brody knew nothing but kind words in our home, but he never seemed able to shake those residual memories of prior mistreatment. It was as if he was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Eventually came that sad October day when our hopes for finding a new home for Brody slipped away. I left work for an early lunch that day. We had an applicant who wanted to come by and meet Bandit, a young deaf Boxer who was living with me at that time. The young man brought his three-year-old child and his female Boxer for the visit. I left the other dogs crated in order to give the family time to meet Bandit and interact with him. Eventually, I decided to let all of the dogs out to go potty so that I could get back to work. Afterward, I rounded my two dogs up and brought them back into the house. As I should have guessed in advance, Brody did not want to come back in. He was sitting on the deck, watching Bandit cavort with the visiting Boxer. "Come on in, Brody-o," I said. The day had grown chilly so I knew that I couldn't leave Brody outside. Boxers are strictly indoor dogs. Their single-layer coats make them poorly suited to cold temperatures, and their short muzzles make hot weather equally perilous. As I was talking to the visitor, I had Brody's collar in my hand. I began to walk toward the house with the intention of bringing Brody with me. He sat in place and would not move. In retrospect, I know that I should have let go of Brody's collar right then, but I held on for just a moment too long. Quite suddenly, Brody began lunging at me, springing up to his full height. He seemed to be targeting my hands. I couldn't read his face; it was if he was a different dog. I drew my hands up towards my chest, all the while yelling at Brody to stop. Brody was clearly out of control and seemed unable to stop. He lunged at me again and again. Jay, the visitor, stood horrified, holding tightly to his child and his own dog. He later confessed that he felt terrible about not being able to help, but I knew he had to put the safety of his child and dog first. In the span of those few seconds I did something I had never done and hope never to do again. I began kicking Brody, just to keep him away and bring him back to his senses. Finally, as quickly as it had begun, the attack was over and Brody had retreated. I felt terrible about Jay having witnessed this terrible scene. I didn't want to blow Bandit's chances at getting a new home. Jay asked me if I was okay and I said I was fine. I grabbed a wad of paper towels from the kitchen and wrapped it around my left hand, which seemed slightly worse off than the right. The towels immediately turned red and I knew it was bad. "Thanks for coming by!" I said to Jay. I hoped he wouldn't notice how distraught I was.

When he left, I called my husband and told him to come and take me to the emergency room. I then called Vicki to let her know what had happened. Sadly, we agreed on a course of action. We had known that Brody was a bit quirky, but we had hoped that an experienced dog owner could give him a good home. We never dreamed that he would bite someone. When I opened the back door soon after the attack, Brody came bounding in with no hesitation. As I sat on the couch waiting for my husband, Brody came and put his head on my lap, licking at my makeshift bandages. "Oh, Brody," I sobbed. "Why?" It was if he knew on some level that he had caused this terrible thing. I kissed him on top of his head and told him he was a good boy. My husband arrived and took me to the emergency room. They declined to sew up the wounds because dog bites are considered "dirty" and the risk for infection is very high. They cleaned me up and sent me home with some strong antibiotics and painkillers. I didn't know which hand hurt worse. My left hand was lacerated in more places than I could count. My right hand was bruised and had wounds on both sides where Brody's teeth had clamped down. I held my hands out gingerly on the way home. Even today I still do not have full flexibility in my left index finger.

Initially we thought of moving Brody to a shelter where he could be isolated. But I just couldn't picture my Brody-o spending his last ten days in a cage. By law I had to wait ten days before having him euthanized, even though I knew he was vaccinated against rabies. I spent those ten days making sure Brody knew that he was loved and well cared for. We cuddled together on the couch. The only difference was that I was a bit cautious around him. For the first time in my life, I was afraid of a dog.

That evening I called Jay to apologize once again for the terrible scene he had witnessed. Since he had a Boxer already, he was very familiar with the breed and knew that it is excessively rare for a Boxer to bite anyone. I had prayed that Brody's behavior would not reflect negatively on the breed itself or on Boxer Rescue. Fortunately, Jay remained very excited about adopting young Bandit. Today, Bandit has a customer service job at the family's Harley-Davidson dealership.

Although it might seem strange for me to say, I was relieved that Brody had bitten me and not an adoptive family. I was also relieved that my own dogs had been in the house during the attack. Since my Boxer, Lucy, gets agitated when my husband and I pretend to wrestle and swat at each other, I can only imagine what she would have done to try to protect me.

After much soul-searching, I have decided that it seems appropriate now to tell Brody's story. Dogs are remarkably resilient creatures. A dog's loyalty is so woven into his heart that he will stay with someone who abuses him, even when he has a chance to run away. The world is full of stories of animals that have survived all sorts of horrors, but always emerge pure of heart and ready to love again. In Brody's case, though, we think he had perhaps just endured too much. We saw it in the way he always came to us for some affection with his head down, as though he didn't deserve even the smallest pat on the head. His dark, knowing eyes always seemed to wonder when our kindness would end and the abuse and neglect from his old life would resume.

On that Saturday morning in early November, Vicki and I solemnly loaded Brody into her van and drove him to my vet. My vet apologized and explained that he would have to muzzle Brody for the procedure. We nodded in understanding. A veterinary technician came in to help, and we all lifted Brody to the exam table. He was distressed by the gauze looped around his muzzle. Vicki and I were blinking back tears as the full impact of Brody's imminent passing became reality. We each stood on one side of him. The veterinarian prepared to inject the sodium pentobarbital into Brody's right rear leg. I held Brody's head and tried to reassure him. "I'm so sorry, Brody," I murmured. "You are such a good boy, such a good boy . . ." Within a few moments Brody was quiet and the vet confirmed that his heart had stopped.

Vicki and I spent a lot of time talking about Brody and what might have gone wrong with him. As rescuers we pour our hearts into saving dogs. We live for cards and emails from adopters telling us, "thank you for bringing this great dog into my life!" Our only solace was focusing on the many, many dogs that were now snoozing on couches in new homes around the state. We hoped that Brody knew we loved him. We imagine now that he spends his days in a place where he never has to come inside and where he knows only soft words and gentle hands. We would want nothing less for our Brody-o. He's not broken anymore.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Little Runaway

The kid had a rough day at daycare on Thursday. Her age group went on a field trip to a planetarium, boarding two small buses to get there. Apparently my child thought it would be a good use of her time to smack one of her fellow passengers on the way back to Kindercare. A's regular teacher happened to be on the bus behind the one A was on. Miss Heather saw her lean all the way across the aisle to clock this other kid (more than once, apparently). A caused enough of a ruckus that the bus driver would have stopped the bus had they not been on the highway.

So, needless to say, this episode was recounted to me when I picked up my daughter after work. On the way home, I advised her that her punishment would be no TV that evening. She began to wail. "Not even a mooooooovie?"  Ah no, you may not watch anything that might appear on a screen of any type.  I told her she was welcome to hang out in her room and read.

She cried all the way home. "I don't like this punishment, Mom!"

"Then it's perfect,"I told her.

When we got home, she seemed determined to be miserable all evening. She went out in the back yard and moped around. I went out to water some flowers and saw her fiddling with the latch on the gate, mumbling something about running away.  "If you're going to run away, please go out the front door. I don't want you letting the dogs out."  She stomped back into the house, but her dad was blocking the front door with the ironing board (yes, he irons).  He told her she'd have to wait until later to run away.

About an hour later, she was in the back yard again.  This time, she succeeded in opening the gate.  When I came upon the scene, she was just standing in the open fence, watching my dogs run down the street. Argh! I told her to go in the house and I'm pretty sure she knew from the tone of my voice that if she was in trouble before, now she was REALLY in trouble. She started trying to tell me that she hadn't let the dogs out.  Well, unless the dogs sprouted thumbs in the last day or two, it wasn't them who opened the latch.

I ran in the house and grabbed the treat jar and a stack of American cheese. I shook the treat jar and started yelling for the dogs. I know from experience that chasing dogs is an exercise in futility.  Kaiser (my foster dog) came back first.  Good boy, Kaiser! I put him back in the yard. Gideon and Gretchen ran in circles and made a few passes in my vicinity before submitting to the captivating allure of cheese. 

As for the kid, the evening included a few more bursts of pouting and petulance.  Then she made this sign and tacked it up on the wall (I think the rainbows and stars make it extra special, don't you?)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Yeah, it was worth it

I weighed myself Monday morning. Yowza. Apparently, my body did indeed notice my vacation-related indulgences and expanded accordingly.  Damn!

Some of the stuff I enjoyed:
  • Utz Barbecue Potato Chips (I can't get these locally and that's probably for the best)
  • A chocolate chip cookie from Larry's Cookies. It was approximately the same diameter as a personal pan pizza. I just noticed that these cookies can be ordered online. Perhaps I should forget that I know that.
  • Pizza from Bugsy's Pizza. In fact, I ate pizza twice that day. I say that with no pride in my voice, believe me.
  • I have never been a big fan of guacamole, but I think I'm changing my mind. My niece made some fresh guacamole and I ate a shameful amount of it.
  • A fourteen-dollar glass of wine at this place. Well, two glasses, if you want to get all technical about it. I don't think the wine made me fat - I just mentioned it in case you might be impressed by this degree of fanciness. (Many thanks to my fancy friend who paid for this little outing!)
  • Some dark chocolate wafer things from Trader Joe's. And by "some," I mean "whole bag."
  • Some fabulous tex-mex from Anita's.
  • A Belgian waffle from the Silver Diner. Oh, and a side of potatoes.
I'm sure there were other extravagances, too, but I've probably blocked them out. I did eat a fair amount of fruit and did a decent amount of walking (and God knows I was sweating like all-get-out in the DC heat), but it wasn't enough to counteract the caloric onslaught.

I quickly got back on the proverbial horse on Monday and have dropped a couple pounds (of the six and a half I gained). I am pretty sure I can't lose four pounds in the next 36 hours before my Weight Watchers meeting, so I'll just go and face the music. I am biking 35 kilometers in a charity event on Sunday so maybe that will help for next week's weigh-in.

So there you have it, my confession.

At the wine bar

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Destination: Hell

We thoroughly enjoyed our vacation, so we thought we'd ease back into reality by staying in the worst hotel the world has ever known. Now, I should preface my tale by stating that I've always had really good luck with Priceline. I've used the "name your own price" feature at least 25 times and have always gotten downright decent hotel rooms.  Most of the hotels have had a nice breakfast (not just the "continental" breakfast where they throw a stale muffin at you when you check out) and most have also had a pool.  So, I had no hesitation about using Priceline to book a hotel room for our trip back home. It's a 16-hour drive so we wanted to break it up at roughly the halfway mark.  I got online and bid on a room like I always do. My bid was accepted by an Extended Stay America hotel. I checked out the hotel's website. No pool, but everything else seemed okay at first blush. No worries.  Until we checked in.

Now, I don't think I am that particular about hotels. I don't need toiletries (I pack my own) and can live without breakfast. All I really want (particularly when we are just traveling and not staying in that town as a destination) is a clean hotel room and a suitable bed.  When I checked in, I asked if we could have a room with two beds. No. Okay, how about a cot?  We don't have cots. Okay, well, if I had called earlier, could I have gotten one? No, we don't have them at all.

I guess I was waiting for the front desk person to at least pretend to be helpful and accommodating.  Then she said this: "You're here for one night. You won't receive housekeeping."  I almost bit my tongue off to prevent what would have been my reply (something to the tune of, "did I ASK for housekeeping, beyotch?")  We were going to be there for 12 hours and weren't expecting housekeeping services, but whatever.

We walked upstairs to our room. I have no idea if smoking was allowed anywhere in the building, but the whole joint reeked of it. The hallway carpets were stained with God knows what.  We entered our room. A queen bed - awesome.  I knew instantly that this would be the worst night's sleep of my entire life. Moments later, we noticed that the bottoms of our feet were black. The carpet was that filthy. We realized we'd have to keep our shoes on the whole time (even, comically, after we donned our pajamas a couple hours later). We went to Chipotle for dinner (where, as an added bonus, our daughter spilled a full container of chocolate milk on the floor) and then returned to the dark underworld in which we'd spend the night. I attempted to give my daughter a bath, but of course the tub stopper did not work properly. My night just kept getting better. Oh, and did I mention that Aunt Flo had arrived with a vengeance earlier in the day?  I thought you'd want to know that little detail. My husband, shockingly, did not want to discuss it when I brought it up.

I hadn't planned to drink any adult beverages that night, but I thought better of it once the sleeping arrangement fully sunk in. I drank a glass of Merlot and then another. Then I hopped in bed and hoped for the best. Our adorable daughter was snuggled in between us. As soon as the lights went out, she sprouted about eight extra sets of knees and planted all of them (at high velocity) into the small of my back. For the next five hours, I did everything I could think of (short of forcing her to sleep on the nightstand) to make the situation work, including: shoving her over to her dad's side of the bed, tucking in a blanket around her in an attempt to immobilize her legs, putting her new build-a-bear cat between us to buffer the assault she was delivering, and just helplessly spouting, "Sweet Jesus!" every fifteen minutes or so. Finally, P took one for the team by moving into the center and placing her on his other side. I finally slept for a couple hours, waking periodically to ponder the possibility of bed bugs hanging out in this dump.

We finished our drive home the next morning. As soon as I got home, I promptly got online so that I could write a bad review of the hotel lest it slip my mind later. However, literally hundreds of people had already beat me to it. The complaints were the same: filthy carpeting, unmotivated staff, pervasive smell of smoke, etc. Looking on the bright side, my own bed has never looked better.

One of my favorite photos from our vacation (A and her cousin - they are 16 months apart in age):

Friday, July 8, 2011

Party's almost over

We're headed home tomorrow. We drove straight through to DC on the way out, but will stop at a hotel on the way back. My van has been fixed, so at least I won't have that to worry about when I return. Shall I tell you what was wrong with it? Well, to provide a bit of background . . . for the past nine months or so, every time I get an oil change, the technician helpfully informs me that my battery is testing low. Each time, I pass this information along to my other half. He did not want me to have the dealership install a new battery, because he can do it himself more cheaply. He told me he would take care of it. As our road trip departure closed in, I asked about it multiple times.  I received a lot of eyerolls in exchange for my helpful reminders.

Anyway, guess what's wrong with my van. Go on, take a wild guess.  Yes, dead battery. The dealership called me today. The battery was so thoroughly drained that it could not even accept a charge. So, between the tow, the new battery, and cleaning the conductors (or some such thing), we are out $270. I know it is immature to say "I told you so" but I cannot think of a mature way to say it. I'm thinking of having a tee shirt made. I may also rent one of those marquee signs on wheels and place that in my front yard for a few weeks. I TOLD YOU THE BATTERY WAS DYING

In other news, we took the kids downtown to the Folklife Festival yesterday. As soon as we stepped off the Metro, we spontaneously melted. We were sucking down water and lemonade as fast as we could. The Peace Corps had some kids' activities so we took the cousins to that area. They each got a passport and did a bunch of activities in order to get their books stamped. We also let them ride the carousel on the Mall. We ducked into the Old Post Office Pavilion for lunch. I think we would've eaten in Hell if it had seemed even vaguely cooler than being outside on the Mall (which, it is worth noting, is essentially treeless). You may remember from history class that DC was built on a swamp. Or if you don't, this will make sense to you if you've ever visited. Before heading out, we hung out in a music tent for a while. P and I had hoped to spend more time doing that, but the kids were about to expire. Our kid insisted that she had cornered the market on being hot. If someone else claimed to be hot, she immediately corrected them and stated that she was the hottest anyone has ever been or will be in the future.

This morning I accompanied my sister and her boyfriend to the 4D ultrasound for their baby. It was pretty interesting (I never got to experience any of that myself). I was unable to confirm that the baby has my nose, because he held his hand in front of it. It was a classic "no paparazzi!" move. We were relieved to see that he still has a penis, because everyone has been buying boy clothes, including me. My new nephew was shy about showing his face, but had no problem displaying his junk. Hmmmm

My sister took the kids to Chuck E Cheese this afternoon (apparently the baby is sucking all of the good sense right out of her) so P and I took the opportunity to have a little lunch date in Old Town Alexandria. Our kid has actually not been bugging us much at all, because she is so busy playing with her cousins all the time. We're all still on speaking terms, but I'll let you know for sure after we spend the next two days in the car. Onward and upward!

My mohawked nephew on the carousel

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How I've missed you, cola Slurpee

We don't have 7-11's where I live, so I always get a cola Slurpee when I'm back in the DC area. I bought one today and indeed, it hit the spot. When I'm back "home" in Northern Virginia, I try to satisfy any cravings for things I've missed but alas, some do not live up to my memories. I ate lunch at Jerry's Subs & Pizza today (which we don't have out west) and it was so-so. Last time I was in town, I got a cookie from Larry's Cookies because I always loved them so, but it was not as fabulous as my memory led me to believe it would be. I may grab one tomorrow when we're downtown for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, juuuuuuuust to be sure they're not as good as I thought they were. I am happy to report that Utz barbecue potato chips still meet my expectations, so there's that.

We're continuing to enjoy our vacation. A is being a bit of a pill and we're not sure what to do about it. We're not all that motivated to discipline her heavily, because punishing her also punishes us. I think she knows that we're less inclined to rein her in when we're in someone else's home, too.

Yesterday we went to Baltimore to visit Geppi's Entertainment Museum. This was P's idea - there was a comic book exhibit he wanted to see. He had a little nerdgasm when he spotted a mint condition copy of the first comic in which Superman appeared. He forced me to take a photo of it.  After the museum, we went to the Inner Harbor and took the kids (our unruly child plus our niece and nephew) out to lunch.  Then we toured a submarine and a Coast Guard ship.

I did call the dealership yesterday and arranged to have my mom-mobile towed.  I tried being in denial about the whole thing, but was fairly certain that the van wasn't going to repair itself. Of course, she certainly had the time to do it while left in the garage for nine days. What she lacks is the motivation.

Speaking of motivation, I brought my work-out gear and yoga mat, but have had trouble finding a class that worked with all of our other plans. So, I've just been walking my sister's dog a lot. Bessie Mae is a hound dog of some sort. Walking her is nothing like walking a Boxer. For starters, she takes her walks very seriously. There is a lot of snifflating to be done, and all of the information gathered must be carefully cataloged and archived. The process is very slow and methodical, so I can't say that I'm burning a lot of calories. When I walk my Boxers, they go full speed ahead with this approximate thought taking precedence: "Derrrrrrrr."  Honestly, they don't even recognize our own house when we get back from our walk.

On Friday, I'll have the opportunity to view my new nephew in utero. My sister is getting one of those 4D ultrasounds. I'm a little bit unclear on what the 4 D's are, but I'm hoping to confirm that he has my nose because I did get a better nose than my sister (just kidding, sis! Your nose is fine! I still have a bigger rack, though!)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Vacaaaaaaaaation

You may be thinking to yourself, "Self, why has Claudia not updated her blog? Is it a lack of commitment? A general sense of malaise, perhaps?" Well, we're on vacation. It took me five days to pack for a nine-day trip. Plus, I had to drop the three dogs off at three different locations before we left (don't ask - the doggie diaspora is a long story). The goal was to leave at 6 a.m. on Friday and drive straight through to my sister's house in Virginia. We were all packed up and ready to go, but when I attempted to start the car, I heard an ominous clicking noise. You would not think that a clickety-clickety noise could be ominous and foreboding, but trust me, it was. We didn't really think it was the battery, but we tried jumping it just in case. No dice. So, we went with Plan B, which was to unload everything and toss it into P's car, which is a Taurus. Less roomy than the van, of course, but we had no choice.

We drove all day and arrived at my sister's abode at around 12:30 a.m. A hung in there until 10:30 before conking out in the back seat. P arrived at maximum crankiness long before that. The drive was mostly uneventful. I had downloaded Spongebob Squarepants' voice for our GPS before we left. His jokes were funny for the first 100 miles or so, but not at all after that. When it wasn't my turn to drive, I sat in the back with the kid. I watched "The King's Speech" on our laptop and the kid and I took turns reading poems from "Where the Sidewalk Ends."

We're all settled in and are having a great time. I'm trying not to fret too much about the van, and I'll have you know that I have not made a to-do list in four days! Yesterday we had tickets to see Mamma Mia! at Wolf Trap.  They were lawn seats. I don't know exactly how hot it was, but I'd say it was pretty close to the temperature at which one ordinarily reheats leftovers in the oven. My sister is pregnant and was really in danger of overheating, so we gave up and left after 1/2 hour or so. We went back to the house and let the kids play in the sprinkler. My sister and I stood in the sprinkler as well, even though we were fully clothed.

Today we're headed to my grandma's house and then I guess we'll do something related to explosives later tonight. I am hoping to visit some of my friends while I'm here. P and I went out with my friend J on our second night here. I was planning to visit J's parents while I'm here, but I have it on good authority that his mom is rankled over my "special people" post from last week. Mary, please take me back! Blame it on my kid - it's all her fault!