Friday, May 22, 2009

The not-so-friendly skies

Note to self: Having your three-year-old badmouth the pilot of a large passenger plane while in mid-air is generally a bad idea.

Next time, make sure we’re on the ground first.

***

We were taking our young son on an airplane for the very first time.

Clearly, we were insane.

But driving to Mexico was not an option. When I typed in the itinerary, the little guy inside my computer laughed in hysteria then spit out the requested information. It was 2,780 miles (and 48 hours) from our home in the Midwest to the sunny beaches of Cancun.

Uh, thanks. I’ll pass.

That was about 2,779.5 miles longer than I wanted to spend in a car with a three-year-old who had suddenly forgotten all comprehension of the phrase, “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?!”

So that meant preparing our son for one of the most fabulous – and potentially terrifying – experiences of his life.

Kinda like voting for president or going to the prom.

“OK, kiddo, here’s the deal,” I told him a few days before our trip. “When you get to the airport you have to go through Security.”

“Thuck yurrattee?” he answered in his Cindy Brady-esque lisp. “What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s a wonderful thing,” I replied in a sing-song voice. “Where you wait in line for hours until a complete stranger feels you up, only to be pulled aside like a side-show carnival freak and sent to a little room where they use a ballpoint pen to scope your innards for illegal drugs and explosive items.”

His reaction was silence and a blank stare. “Uh, thanks. I’ll pass,” he finally said and ran away.

***

“So when do we give him drugs?” my husband asked as we stood in the infamous Security line three days later.

“When do we do what?” I asked distractedly, tugging along four carry-on bags, our son, the camera, a stuffed giraffe, boarding passes and three passports while he followed behind toting nothing but a cup of coffee and a smile.

That was about to change, I thought, and shrugged one of the bags off my shoulder and slammed it into his face.

He “oofed” in response, grabbed the bag, juggled his coffee then pointed at our son, who was currently eyeing the approaching security agent like he was the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
You know, before his heart grew three sizes big.

“When do we give him drugs to put him to sleep for the flight?” my husband clarified.

“I didn’t know we were supposed to bring any,” I replied. “If you find some, let me know. I could use some myself.”

***

“Somebody needs to tell that guy to fly better!” my son yelled out from our seats in the back as the stiff crosswinds battered the aircraft during its landing, sending us rocking back and forth like a pitch-crazy pendulum and wondering if we had survived an easy three-hour flight only to perish in a fiery crash 20 feet from the runway.

As he spoke, a few fellow passengers snickered in agreement. However, most of the other 82 heads – including three flight attendants – turned to look back at us, no doubt interested in learning more from this wise little person who appeared to know more about flying than the gentleman up front with the captain’s stripes, manning the controls at that very moment.

I felt the heat of their gazes and promptly swung my head around to peer intently at the only object behind me – the door to the miniscule bathroom.

I turned back around and hooked a thumb over my shoulder, “Woo-wee! That ‘Occupied’ sign is FASCINATING! What a FABULOUS invention, don’t you think? And look at that door! It’s so…shiny…and…everything. Wow. Quite…uh…impressive….,” my voice tapered off as everyone looked at me like I had suddenly transformed into the Unabomber.

I silently wondered if I could use the lavatory to flush myself from this short altitude without cracking my head open on the hard runway or if I’d just shoot out the back like an out-of-control tumbleweed, leaving a slug-like trail of blue-dyed toilet water behind me.

Oh, a girl can only dream.

After the plane taxied to the gate, we rose from our seats, gathered our belongings and slowly made our way down the aisle. We passed the open cockpit door and heard a voice shout, “Welcome to Mexico.”

The pilot then pointed at our son and added, “Next time, we’ll let him fly the plane.”
(originally published May 6, 2009)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wonder Mutt of West Edwards Street

Chaser, Wonder Mutt of West Edwards Street, has toenails the size of Wisconsin.

Thick, razor-like claws that rival anything a T-Rex had, which means no one wants to go anywhere near her when it’s time to trim the little suckers.

“You do it,” I ordered my husband and held out the clippers.

“I ain’t gonna do it. You do it,” he replied, knocking the clippers aside.

“I don’t think so.”

“Uh, she likes you better.”

I sighed. “I’m gonna have to play the labor card again,” I said. “Remember? Two inducements and 24 hours of gut-wrenching pain?”

“That was with our son, not the dog,” he answered.

“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “That card is like the Joker or the one-eyed Jack. I can use it for anything.” I looked him directly in the eye and reiterated, “Anything.”

“That’s not fair!” he howled.

“Keep it up and I’ll whip out that card when it’s time to clean out the garage. Or tax time. Or just because it’s a Tuesday.”

***

The first rule of engagement is Know Your Enemy.

OK, I don’t know if that’s actually the first rule but it sounds like a good one. So I’m gonna go with it. Too bad we threw the rule book out the window the first time we had to trim Chaser’s toenails. ’Course, we had to. She’d already eaten most of it.

Our enemy was sneaky and quick, possessing a rather well-structured grasp of the English language. And apparently born with an instinctual, visual understanding of what a pair of nail clippers meant.

“Where’s the dog?” my husband asked, snapping a sharp pair of dog nail clippers and waving them in the air.

I saw the business end of one fuzzy-tailed golden retriever take off down the hallway.
Smart puppy.

“She’s headed for France,” I answered. “Or any place where extradition is a slow and painful process.”

The next thirty minutes rivaled a Marx Brothers’ movie, considering the number of passes we made around the house while chasing her. At one point, I thought I spied Harpo, but that could have just been the concussion from running into the refrigerator.

As the battle ensued, I began to wish I was armed with something more effective than the oven mitt I swiped from the kitchen on the third pass.

“OK, I think I got a leg,” my husband said. At least that’s what I think he said. He was only visible from the knees down. The other half was buried under the bed and latched onto one very angry and cornered puppy.

I heard a low grrrr. That didn’t sound promising, I thought, considering I wasn’t sure which animal it had come from.

“Uh, babe, maybe you should walk away,” I suggested. Which was easy for me to say. I was already near the door, mentally calculating the distance to the back door. Factoring in my top rate of speed at 15 mph, I figured I’d have just enough time to make it to the garage and flee to safety before Chaser unleashed her Cujo-like powers on me.

“No, we gotta do this!” my husband insisted. “It’s important she learn who is boss around here. It’s about establishing dominance over a lower life form of the animal kingdom. It’s about – SON OF A –!”

His oath was cut-off by the loud smack his head made when it connected with the bottom of the bed’s frame.

OK, we established which animal was the lower life form of the animal kingdom. At least IQ-wise.

“She bit me!” he yelled and scrambled his way out from under the bed. He took one look at me and quickly forgot about his throbbing hand.

“What the hell do you have on your head?”

I reached up and tapped a finger on the makeshift helmet - a wire-mesh strainer I had grabbed from the kitchen during pass number 4.

“Not looking so stupid now, am I?” I answered. “Bet you wish you had one of these before you crawled under that bed.”

***

Writer John Steinbeck once said, “I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”

Yep, that about sums it up.
(originally published Dec. 12, 2008)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Someday my prince will come

If the Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky had added a Power Ranger and an Egyptian mummy to his classic ballet, “Sleeping Beauty,” he’d have captured the heart of every child on the planet.

Or at least my child.

“Is he really listening to that stuff?” my husband asked skeptically when he walked into our two-year-old’s bedroom one evening where we sat on the floor listening to the opening bars of Tchaikovsky’s tale of a princess who falls under a sleeping spell after pricking her finger.

“‘That stuff’,” I prissily answered, “is called classical music, and this particular ballet is ‘Sleeping Beauty.’”

His eyes narrowed and he asked, “Wasn’t that a cartoon? The one with all the fairies, right?” He snorted. “It must be gay.”

“I understand it’s not Larry the Cable Guy, but it is one of the most famous pieces of classical music in the world,” I said.

He just looked at me, obviously waiting for something else. I stared back. And lasted seconds before caving. I rolled my eyes and added, “And, yes, Walt Disney made it into a cartoon too.”

“Hah!” he smacked his hands together. Then pointed a finger at me and said, “And we went to Larry the Cable Guy’s show. As I recall, you were the one who fell outta her seat laughing when he did that impersonation of a pig stuck in a Porta Potty.”

Before I could open my mouth in defense the music got louder and our son stood up and ordered in a whispered voice, “Be quiet, Daddy. The dragon is coming.”

My husband looked at me for an explanation because even his Blue Collar-lovin’ mind understood the ballet didn’t have a dragon.

“Uh, well, see he wasn’t really getting into it, so I added a few things to the storyline,” I admitted.

Curious, my husband sat down on the bed and asked, “What kind of things?”

I shrugged, “I threw in some characters from the cartoon, like the dragon.”

“Yep, dragons!” Gabe yelled behind me, followed by a loud grrrr as he launched into his best dragon imitation by stomping around the room and knocking his toddler-sized teddy bear to the floor and pouncing on him to administer a half nelson wrestling hold.

My husband laughed and asked, “Anything else?”

I nervously bit my lower lip, looked down and mumbled something along the lines of “um, a puherraner.”

“Uh, I didn’t catch that,” he laughed, leaning in closer.

The music got faster and the notes tumbled from the stereo’s speakers, and that’s when Gabe yelled out, “Here he comes! Here comes the Power Ranger! He’s gonna get the dragon!”

I cringed and my husband laughed, “A Power Ranger?!”

“The red one, to be exact,” I answered as Gabe yelled out, “Where’s my sah-ward?! I need it!”

My husband mouthed the word “sah-ward” with a blank look on his face, so I reached under the bed and pulled out an empty wrapping paper tube and handed it to the Power Ranger standing next to me.

“Here you go, kiddo,” I said. “Here’s your (I paused) sword.”

He grabbed the cardboard tube and began swinging wildly at the imaginary dragon flying about his room.

You got to admit, the kid’s got an imagination. He gets that from me. The ability to power burp? That he gets from his dad.

My husband was having a ball watching our son, so I figured I was off the hook for taking a little creative license with one of the world’s most treasured ballets.

That was, until our son completely sold me out.

“Hey, Mommy,” Gabe said. “When does the mummy show up?”

I did what I do best.

I played dumb.

I answered, “Uh, what mummy?” I slowly stood and inched toward the door.

He ran in front of me and held out his arms to stop me. “Remember? You said the mummy would show up after the Power Ranger killed the dragon, and then Prince Gabe,” he looked over at his dad and whispered, “That’s me,” and looked back at me, “beats up the mummy then kisses the princess and she wakes up from her nap.”

I ran from the room as my husband roared with laughter, “I don’t think that’s the way Disney wrote it. But it would have been a lot more interesting than those gay fairies, that’s for sure.”

(originally published Jan. 30, 2008)