Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Are you happy, Aunt Claudia?"

I spent the evening with my three-year-old nephew yesterday. It was my brother-in-law's birthday and he and my sister had dinner reservations. So, I decided to take my nephew out while they were dining.

At first, he wasn't too keen on leaving the house with me. I knew he'd be fine once we got on the road, though.

"Are you doing okay back there?" I asked him once we were a mile from home.

"It's not," he replied and gave me a little scowl.

"How about some Christmas music?"

"Yeah, Christmas music!"

And from then on he was fine. Yesterday morning, I told him, "Say 'happy birthday' to your daddy."

Instead of wishing his father a happy birthday, he said, "I want my Christmas."  So sentimental, that kid! Anyway, I know he's really getting into Christmas so that's why I figured some festive holiday music would be met with some enthusiasm.  We drove to Tysons Corner.  I wanted to stop at Lush for some bath bombs and also needed to pick up a birthday gift for my niece (who is returning home from Australia this evening). Sweet 16! I can't believe she's practically an adult. It seems like just yesterday she was playing with Polly Pockets and watching Blue's Clues.

As you might guess, I was not the only person headed to Tysons on a Saturday. Parking was insane. I finally found a spot, loaded my nephew into his stroller, and headed off in search of an elevator. Unbelievably, the four-story parking garage did not have one. Grrrr. I was not about to move the car, so I bumped the poor kid down a flight of stairs. I have to say he was a good sport about it. He talks constantly. "You can't find an elerator, Aunt Claudia? Did you see that car? It was orange. That's cool."  Everything is "That's coooool."

First we stopped at a candy store. I am determined to be the cool/fun aunt, so I bought him a plastic Santa full of candy.  Then I took him to the Disney Store. To say that my nephew is nuts about cars would be a drastic understatement. I tucked two Matchbox cars into my suitcase and gave them to him when I first arrived. He added them to his collection of hundreds. When we got into the Disney Store, he spotted a collection of three cars from the Cars movie. I took a picture of it and sent it to my brother-in-law to ask if these cars were already floating around the house somewhere. Good news - I was free to buy them. I was on track to be the best auntie ever.

We then headed to Lush and then to American Eagle to buy a gift card for my niece. I always feel like I'm about 100 years old when I visit American Eagle (which I do just once a year, to buy that gift card). The loud music, the hipper-than-thou cashiers, the clothes made for people with no hips . . .

There were other places I wanted to visit in the mall, but I decided it was best to give up at that point. The place was extremely crowded and most of the stores seemed impossible to navigate with a stroller. My nephew was behaving very well. I mean, he had cars and candy, so he was all set. I wanted to go to the food court on the third floor but it seemed like it would take an act of congress to get the stroller up there. So, we headed out.

When we got back to the parking garage, a car followed me to our space. I thought, surely they are not going to sit and wait for us. It seemed clear that it would take a while before we would be ready to pull out. First I had to extract my nephew from the stroller and load him into the car. He didn't want to let go of the cars, which made it a challenge to get him strapped into his carseat. Then I grabbed our stuff from the stroller and put it in the car.  And then came the final challenge . . . collapsing the stroller. I could not make this happen for love nor money. I'm sure the hardcore shopper in the car was wondering how on earth I didn't know how to collapse the stroller. It definitely didn't work the same way my daughter's stroller worked when she was little. I tried pushing and pulling the bar, looking for a handle of some kind, etc. Finally I just shoved that mofo into the back of my sister's Expedition as is. At long last, we were ready to go.

Next up, we drove to my grandma's house in Arlington. She and I chatted while my nephew zoomed around the house with his cars and caused minor mayhem. She has a priceless collection of Hummels and I did get a little nervous when I saw him peering into the glass case where they live. So, I would talk to my grandma for a few minutes, then get up and make sure the three-year-old wasn't drinking Windex or anything. At one point I got up to check on him and smelled an aroma of lemony freshness. He had found a bottle of Pledge and sprayed it all over the guest room (including the bed pillows). Ooooops.  Eventually, I decided we'd better head home. It was getting late and I knew my sister would be home shortly. I was hoping to get a photo of my nephew and my grandma, but the kid was not willing. He was done. "Bye, Gammaw!" he shouted, blowing kisses from the front walk. As I was opening the car door, he ran across the street, causing me to call him by his full name, loudly.

"Sorry, Aunt Claudia!" he said as he climbed into his car seat.  I have to say that he does have darned good manners for a three-year-old. As we were headed back home, he said, "I love you, Aunt Claudia. Thank you for the cool cars." Then I heard him say that he is a "yucky" (lucky) boy.

As we listened to more Christmas carols, he said, "Are you happy, Aunt Claudia?"  In 44 years, I don't think anyone has ever asked me if I'm happy. I'm guessing he didn't mean, "Are you content with your life choices?" but rather, "Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Yes, I'm very happy, " I said. "I'm happy when I'm with you."

"Happy when you're with me? That's cooooool."

Saturday, November 29, 2014


I'm having a fabulous time in Virginia. I'm staying with my middle sister and her family.  I'm staying in my niece's bedroom since she's in Australia with her dad. Her bed is super comfortable and I like all the girlie colors in her room. Basically, what I'm saying, is that I'm staying. You cannot overestimate the importance of a good night's sleep. My sister was teasing me yesterday because I was still wearing my pajamas as of 11:30 a.m. In my defense, I was online doing some shopping. Normally, I like to get up at the crack of dawn after Thanksgiving and fling myself into the Black Friday zaniness. However, thanks to the over-packing skills I learned from my mother, I can barely fit my toothbrush into my suitcase. Shopping is pretty much out of the question. I did get some good deals online, though.

My flight out here was not as uneventful as I might have liked. I got to the airport on time, only to find that my flight was delayed. I was disappointed but not overly traumatized. I didn't have a connecting flight or anything, so the only real inconvenience was that my sister was going to have to pick me up much later than anticipated. After I got through security, I headed to Chili's for a beverage and a snack. Because of all the delayed flights and the heavy Thanksgiving traffic, there was a line just to get into Chili's. I wanted food and drink badly enough to stand in it, though. I just kept thinking, "Wow, I am standing in line for a CHILI'S."

Eventually, the plane arrived but the crew had timed out. So, we had to fly to Chicago to pick up a new pilot. Part of me felt vaguely inconvenienced but the more rational part of me understood that it's better to have a pilot who hasn't been in the air for three days or something. Anyway, we flew to DC (with our new pilot) and my sister picked me up at around 12:45 a.m. She was a good sport about the delay.

I am having a great time but am missing my husband and daughter, of course. I've been chatting with them regularly. I have had to explain my solo trip quite a few times to quite a few people. I just want to say for the record that my child has two parents and that it's okay if she spends time with just one of them for a little while. Everyone will live. Plus, I left him with a helpful list.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go take a shower so that I can get out of my pajamas before noon today. I am meeting a friend for lunch this afternoon. My sister and I went out with another friend last night and had a lot of fun. My dad and his fiancee came over for a visit yesterday. I've been getting some visits in but not over-scheduling myself (as I've been known to do).  Later today I'm taking my nephew to visit my grandma. I'm feeling brave, what can I say.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Three cheers for headgear!

The day has finally arrived. Headgear day! I feel a bit sorry for my daughter's orthodontist. I have a feeling that most kids hate him until they see the end result of all the re-arranging and appliances  - in theory, straight teeth. We pass Dr. M's office building pretty regularly and my daughter shakes her fist at it every time. She was basically a pill during today's visit. He had to make an adjustment to her palate expander and she was not what you'd call a good sport about it. I don't think Dr. M loses a lot of sleep over the fact that my daughter dislikes him, though.

Anywho . . . the kid was fitted with her new headgear and we were sent home with instructions and about a hundred million tiny rubber bands. The instructions are that she needs to wear it at least 10 hours a day, if not more like 12. We can't even get Her Highness to flush a toilet - making her wear headgear feels like a Herculean task right out of the gate. But, we shall see.

Be glad you don't have to sleep with this bugger attached to your face.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How do you say, "Keep your affections to yourself" in Spanish?

We got a new foster dog yesterday. His name is Botas and he came from a Spanish-speaking family. He has four white feet so I'm assuming that's how they came up with his name. Apparently Botas = Boots. I took umpteen years of French so I'm not much help in this situation. My wee baby sister suggested that I watch some Dora in order to get up to speed, but I'm pretty sure that telling my foster dog how to evade Swiper or how to make the best use of my magical backpack wouldn't be all that helpful. (I had the backpack song stuck in my head for about 18 solid months when A was a toddler . . . loaded up with things and knickknacks, too!)

Botas is around one year of age and as far as I know, he has never seen a vet. The surrender form was pretty sparsely filled out. The former owners originally contacted us and said that he has behavioral issues. The only "bad" behavior I've seen so far is marking in the house. I am going to have him neutered in a New York minute so that should be the end of that. They said he jumps on people. Well, every Boxer does that. Gideon is older than Methuselah and still delights in jumping high enough to get his tongue in a (standing) visitor's mouth.  

Anyway, we might have a couple of rough days as he settles in and until we can get him neutered. If someone who speaks Spanish could come over and give him this message, that would be great:

"It's okay that you like boys. We understand that you were born that way. However, Gideon is a bit old-fashioned and wants you to keep all of your parts to yourself. That's why he keeps telling you to go fuck yourself. He sincerely wants you to do that. Also, we're not sure what sort of magical food you're expecting to see in your food bowl, but the dogs around here eat dog food. You can keep refusing it, but I guarantee that we can hold out longer than you can. Finally, when I'm lying in my bed and it's pitch dark in my bedroom, this means that I am sleeping. Sighing loudly at my bedside and occasionally delivering a right hook to my backside . . . well, it all makes me a little cranky. We can see that you're cute and that you have potential. If you could learn the rules sooner than later (and Gretchen will be happy to explain them to you AGAIN if you have forgotten), that would be greaaaat."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Everyone will live . . . right?

Two weeks from today, I'm headed to Virginia to spend Thanksgiving with my middle sister and her family. I can't wait! My sister's older kids are headed to Australia with their father, so I won't really get to see them (I think they get back late Sunday night and I fly back out on Monday). I'm bummed about that, but I still get to spends lots of time with this guy:

One of the younger models in my nephew collection
He hasn't seen me in a year so I picked up a couple of Hot Wheels cars to tuck into my suitcase. I figured that might help to win his favor.  As you can see, he's suffering from a severe shortage of wheeled vehicles:

It's tempting to squeeze all kinds of stuff into the five full days that I'll have at my disposal, but mostly I'm planning to relax and just spend lots of time with people who mean a lot to me. I am hoping to sneak in a visit to Tyson's Corner so that I can go to Lush (shhhhh), but I don't really have any other firm plans. My sister and I haven't figured out Thanksgiving dinner yet. I've been adding some recipes to my Pinterest board just in case I am called upon to make something or other. I haven't decided if I will attempt any Black Friday shopping this year. I'm obviously limited by what I can fit in my suitcase (or ship stuff back to myself, I guess).  I may do some online shopping. Christmas stresses me out, but I'm trying really hard to suppress my angst. 

I'm a bit concerned about how my husband and daughter will fare while I'm gone, though. As I was leaving the gym last night, I got a text from my daughter. "Dad has a headache. Please come home." It's true that my other half was a bit surly yesterday. He went to bed at 8 p.m., which was fine because no one wanted to deal with his cranky ass.

He was off work today because he works for a bank and it's Veteran's Day. Anyway, since he didn't have to work, we didn't need to take the kid to daycare before school. "You'll need to call and let daycare know she won't be there today." I knew what was coming next.

"What's the number?"

"You'll need to Google it, " I said. "Takes two seconds."

"I have to Google it?!"  He was incredulous. "Why isn't it written down?"

I gave up and Googled it for him. Like I said, two seconds. I read the number to him.

"Well, I'm going to write it down," he said. He said it like he was the first person to come up with such a concept.

I could have done all of this for him, but I was trying to push him to be just a wee bit more self-reliant. I mean, my husband is a smart man. I feel like he can handle this stuff. What if I get hit by a bus or something?

Before I left for work, I gave him a couple more reminders. "You'll need to sign her reading sheet and put her stuff in her backpack. Don't forget her lunch."  (I had made the lunch ahead of time because I think it would have put him over the edge if he had to do it.)

"I have to do ALL THAT?"

So, I don't know what's going to happen when I'm gone in a couple of weeks. He'll need to:
  • Make sure his child is dressed appropriately for the weather each day.
  • Check her backpack daily. The other day I found a wadded piece of paper that turned out to be a permission slip for her to participate in a parade next week. It was VERY URGENT according to my daughter, but not so urgent that she thought it was worth mentioning, even though it was due the next day. 
  • Check the lunch menu at school. If the meal is meatless, she can eat the school lunch. If not, he'll need to make her lunch (or supervise her verrrrry carefully while she makes it).
  • Fill out and sign the daily reading sheet. 
  • Feed himself and his child. 
  • Pay the daycare. 
  • Find a babysitter for the night he has to work. 
  • Make sure his kid bathes regularly. She does not do this sort of thing voluntarily.
We'll see how it goes. If there's one good thing about being a mom it's that you've got total job security. No one wants to come along and do any of the shit you do every day.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Well, that was a good use of your time

While I was at yoga tonight, my kid and her dog snagged my camera and took selfies. Or would it be ussies? I guess I'm just glad it's no longer necessary to pay for film and photo development.

I should add that she was supposed to do her homework and her nightly reading while I was gone.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

You kids, with your bad songs and your fine print

I went to the gym last night. We try to go together as a family on Monday nights, but my husband decided to stay home and eat fun size candy bars from his daughter's Halloween stash instead. Don't tell him that I told you that.

As usual, I got to the gym and then climbed onto an elliptical machine (I say "as usual" because I only know how to use three machines and the elliptical is one of them). I recently added a couple of new songs to my workout playlist so I was eager to get started.  Here's the confession part. I recently bought new earbuds. I know for a fact that one little bud has an L on it and the other has an R on it. The microscopic L and R are black, the same color as the ear buds. I have no idea which is which. I just shove those bad boys in my ear holes and hope for the best. I'm pretty sure my left ear is hearing music meant for my right and vice versa. This getting old stuff is for the birds!

I typically bring my lunch to work. I often eat vegan pockets of various kinds - like this one, for example. Every single time, I find myself looking at the tiny print on the back of the wrapper for clues on how long to cook the thing in the microwave. It either says 1 1/2 minutes or 112 minutes - it's hard to say which.

I regularly find myself studying garment tags when washing new clothing. Wash in cold water or piping hot water?  I usually just decide I'll take my chances and throw it into the washer with a "what the hell" shrug.  I know I need to give up my contact lenses and go for bi-focal glasses instead, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Vanity, thy name is Claudia.

I have other clues about my age (other than my traitorous eyeballs, I mean). My daughter is obsessed with Top 40 music. She loves listening to the weekly countdown. Last week she told me, "Mom, Meghan Trainor didn't win. She came in second!"  She frowned at me in a way that gave me the impression that I should be pretty bummed out about this tragic turn of events as well. Now, if you don't know who Meghan Trainor is, you are probably even older than I am. I'll wait here while you Google her.

"Sweetie, Meghan Trainor is making money hand over fist so it doesn't really matter if her song is number one or number two. You don't need to worry about her, trust me."

Anyway, my kid has memorized every lyric to every Top 40 song and belts them out at the top of her lungs. And, good gracious, are the lyrics stupid.  They make me cringe.

Here is a sample:

Is it weird that I hear
Violins whenever you’re gone
Whenever you’re gone
Is it weird that your ass
Remind me of a Kanye West song?
Kanye West song

Now, most of the songs she likes are chock full of inappropriate lyrics. At least the worst words are bleeped on the radio. I find that it's impossible to keep these songs off her radar, though. I mean, I can physically turn them off but she still finds a way. She is always begging me to turn on a local station that she likes. Sometimes I give in, sometimes I don't. I'm not all about that bass (no treble), I guess.

The fact that I am shaking my fist about dumb song lyrics is just another sign that I'm older than dirt. It's how I knew my mom was old when she criticized the lyrics of songs that I liked when I was a kid. In the midnight hour, she cried more more more. With a rebel yell, she cried more more more.  "More what?" my mother would ask.

With my new car, I have a three-month trial of Sirius XM radio. I made the mistake of telling the kid that there is a Top 40 station on there, so now we have to listen to that when she's in the car. Bad music always finds a way, I guess.

Another little tidbit about my trip to the gym . . . as I was zipping along (but going nowhere) on the elliptical, a cute guy walked over and then settled on the stretching mat to my right. I glanced over and noticed that he was doing push-ups. And then I noticed . . . that he was so young that he could easily be my son. So now, on top of going blind and not understanding popular music, apparently I'm also some kind of pervert.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Orthodontia Update

First off, my kid does her daily reading in this position:

I'm not sure what it all means. Second, her front teeth currently look like this:

I guess the palate expander is doing its job, because her front teeth are getting farther apart by the day. It's like they're on separate coasts, one in Los Angeles and the other in NYC. In fact, they've started warring rap groups. It's a little alarming, but I know it's all part of the grand plan. We have to turn the key for a couple more weeks. Then the expander stays in place for several months so that the bone can fill in where her hard palate has been forced apart. I feel like I could drive a Smartcar through those front teeth, but the kid doesn't seem alarmed. 

In other news, she and I spent the weekend together so that we could volunteer at a pet expo out of town. We ate dinner at a fabulous vegetarian/vegan place and then went back to our hotel to go swimming. Lots of mother-daughter quality time. I even got her to tell me which boy at school she likes. When I took her to a school dance last week, I saw about half a dozen boys chasing her so I couldn't be sure which one was the object of her affections. Anyway, I have the scoop now but I've been sworn to secrecy. We also talked about a book my sister sent her, called "The Care and Keeping of You." It's an American Girl book that used to belong to my niece. I asked the kid about it and she said she read the whole book. "Well, do you have any questions about menstruation?" I asked her.

"Oh, I didn't read the page about ministration," she responded.  

"Do you want to?"

"Not really."