Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Lobotomy anyone?

It was a GREAT road trip.

Right up until the projectile vomiting started.

But let me back up a bit. There’s a section of interstate that runs through America’s Heartland that could be mistaken for East Las Vegas Show-Me style.

In the span of 10 miles there are about 156 adult/XXX stores offering everything from videos to lap dancing to LIVE NUDES (as opposed to dead ones because I guess that would be gross) and gifts that are sure to delight the special pervert in your life.

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas, so as we drove by I had a brilliant idea. “Hey, why don’t we pull into one of those adult stores and get our picture taken?” I pointed out the window. “We can use it as our holiday card. Kinda like ‘Merry XXXmas to all!’”

And...uh...that’s when my husband almost crashed the car. “Are you serious?!” he asked and jerked the wheel back to the left to avoid the fast-approaching ditch.

Apparently he was astonished that his prude of a wife would actually suggest it. Especially with her in-laws in the car. Who’s the prude now?

“Sure!” I answered. “Why not? It’d be funny.”

He quickly scanned the road for the nearest exit and just before reaching it...I chickened out.

“OK, maybe that’s not such a great idea,” I waivered and pointed to our 4-year-old son in the back seat. “Especially with you-know-who with us. Division of Child Services probably has those places under video surveillance. We stop in and next thing you know we’re on an episode of ‘Cops.’”

“Hey, I like that show,” my husband said.

“I know you do, babe, but that doesn’t mean you want a starring role.”

I was saved by the bell when my mom-in-law’s cell phone rang.

After the usual hello’s and how-are-you’s we heard her shriek, “You found WHAT in your hotel room??!”

OK. Now that’s a sentence that is definitely gonna catch a person’s attention. It’s like shouting “Fire!” in a theater or hearing “Does this look infected to you?” from the guy sitting next to you on the airplane.

And - fortunately - it was enough of a draw for my husband that he blindly drove past the exit for the last XXX store.

After a few minutes of chit-chat, she hung up the phone to be greeted by silence from the other four passengers in the car.

“Soooooo,” I said, trying to sound casual even though I was dying inside, “who was that?”

Long story short: friends who were also traveling had checked into a motel. Not having made reservations, they found themselves staying in an establishment perhaps more suited to adult store patrons than a place where a group of respectable retirees would normally spend the evening.

A member of their group likes to take a quick inventory of the room after checking in. Upon lifting the skirt of the bedspread she was greeted with the sight of a pair of underwear beneath the bed.

As if that wasn’t enough to make you toss your cookies? It was a DIRTY pair of underwear.

Now, how she got close enough to verify that fact I don’t know. I don’t wanna know. And - if I could - I would take a screwdriver and drill it into the part of my brain where this recollection currently resides.

Holiday lobotomy anyone?

Three hours later, I still had the shudders. And had put at the top of my To Do list when checking into our own hotel room was definitely Canvass Room for Dirty Underwear. (Thanks for the lesson, Patty).

But before we could reach our destination that evening we’d have our own inaugural event.

In a way, I suppose we were lucky our son reached the grand age of 4 before dealing with a rite of passage most parents dread: carsickness.

But a little warning would have been nice.

There we were happily watching movies. Giggling. Talking about the hotel we planned to stay in. Indoor pool. Video games. He was such a happy little traveler.

And then quicker than Tiger Woods can pick up a cocktail waitress, my son turned his head and puked.

Again and again and again.

OK, I thought. Road trip over. Let the holiday lobotomy begin.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm no Albert Einstein

Judging by the horrified look on his face, you’d think I’d just handed him a dead raccoon.


...Rather than a book titled, “What Will I Do If I Can’t Tie My Shoe?”

“But you said it was a SURPRISE!” my 4-year-old son hollered from the couch, curled in the fetal position he’d once assumed during 24 hours of labor.

“It IS a surprise!” I answered and waved the offending item in his face before tossing it next to him on the couch. “It’s a new book!”

He shoved the book to the floor and screamed, “I don’t want it! I want a REAL surprise. Like a race car. Or a puppy. Not a stupid...old...BOOK!”

This had turned ugly. Fast.

I glanced around for angry villagers carrying pitchforks and blazing torches but only saw our golden retriever slinking off with said book clamped in her fuzzy muzzle. I reached down and snagged it just before it became her lunch.

Then I sighed. Where did this all go so horribly wrong? He’s a good kid. He rarely throws tantrums. Says “please” and “thank you.” Picks up his toys (sometimes). Remembers to lift up the toilet seat (usually). And only occasionally picks his nose.

So at what point did my life take this terrible turn? What had served as the catalyst to this horrendous display? How did Chucky from “Child’s Play” pull off this body snatcher switcheroo with my beautiful, tow-headed angel?!

The answer quickly flashed through my mind, and I growled in response.

Literacy. Apparently it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

I thought I was exercising a practical parenting moment. He wants to learn to read. He wants to learn to tie his shoes. So when I stumbled across a book that showed how to tie your shoes, I figured A + B = C. Voila! Let the magic begin.

I. Am. A. Genius.

But apparently I’m no Albert Einstein. There was something a bit faulty with my math. I failed to take into account a preschooler’s concept of what constitutes a “surprise.”

Note to self: Race car = surprise. Puppy = surprise. Double-scoop, triple-hot fudge sundae = surprise.

Book = I’d rather have a root canal.

OK. Lesson learned. Call off the angry villagers. And put out the torches before you set the Christmas tree on fire.

***

Speaking of Christmas, this is the first year our son has begun asking questions about the big, fat guy in the red suit.

Except the little guy is already well-versed in Political Correctness (where the heck did that come from?).

“You shouldn’t call Santa Claus ‘fat,’” he told me in a wise voice. “It’s not nice.”

I looked down at the crayon drawing I’d just completed, which included a rather large pictorial of Santa’s big belly that jiggled like a bowl full of jelly.

Hmm. “How ‘bout we call him plump?” I asked.

He shook his head sadly and answered, “That’s just a fancy name for fat.”

Geesh! For a kid who doesn’t like to read he’s certainly building a rather vast vocabulary.

“Uh, that’s right, kiddo,” I quickly agreed. “It’s mean to call someone fat. So let’s call him...uh...gravitationally special.” Take that, Albert Einstein.

That seemed to make my son happy, so he then proceeded to ask no fewer than 347 questions about the Big Guy. Including.....

Where is the North Pole? Would I have to take a plane to get there? What is Mrs. Claus like? What does a reindeer smell like? Can I have a motorcycle? How tall is an elf? How many toys do they make each year? How heavy is his sleigh? What happens if a kid lives in a house with no chimney?

And then I respond: At the top of the world. Yes, you’d have to fly. Mrs. Claus is...gravitationally special too. Reindeer smell like popcorn. A motorcycle? OVER MY DEAD BODY. YOU THINK I’M STUPID?! Tall enough to reach the workbench. 3,567,321 toys, not including iPods. 2,657 pounds, without presents. Santa unlocks the front door with a magic key.

As he ran off to ponder this new knowledge, I made a mental note to add a post script to Santa’s letter this year: No books, please. He’d rather have a root canal.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Green TP?


"They’ll take my Ultra Soft Charmin only when they pry it from my cold, dead, aloe-smelling hands."

A great column from the Kansas City Star: http://bit.ly/4XHC0h. And one that my husband would agree with.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Like Sitting Bull...with a sombrero

It was like being a referee at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Only uglier.

With my husband playing the role of General Custer and our preschool son starring as Sitting Bull, our home had become the scene of a four-star death match usually only viewable through Pay-Per-View for $49.95.

And I wasn’t the least bit happy about getting a free showing.

Only 4 years old but armed with the knowledge that he “knows everything about everything,” our son was confident it was OK to wear a green and white football jersey with navy blue shorts to school that day.

And boots. Dear God, I can’t forget the boots.

I quietly slipped into my son’s bedroom just as a T-shirt whipped over my head with an “I am NOT gonna wear that and you can’t make me!” hurled right after it. Apparently my husband was equally confident that one’s clothes should match.

At that point, my husband’s face was the color Custer’s probably was when Sitting Bull told him to stuff it.

And we know how well that worked out for Custer.

But history has taught us zilch. He continued to argue with the little guy about his clothes – right through breakfast, brushing his teeth and putting on his jacket.

And in the end, our son went to school with a green and white football jersey, navy blue shorts and snow boots and my husband was nothing but a beaten-down old man curled in the fetal position on the floor talking to himself.

And you know what? I really didn’t care.

I wasn’t playing the role of Custer that day. It’s my son’s clothes, right? It’s not like he wanted to take weapon-grade plutonium to school for show-and-tell. (Note to Big Brother out there: We DO NOT have said plutonium, so please don’t send the FBI to West Edwards Street. We only have the empty box. My mom shipped us a fruit cake inside it.)

And it’s not like he wanted to paint his hair purple or buy a Snuggie or any other socially questionable activity.

He’s just learning to form his personal style, I told my husband. So pick your battles, I advised him. Life will go a lot easier if you do it my way.

And you won’t be left blubbering in the corner in the middle of a nervous breakdown. Besides, our insurance policy doesn’t cover mental health treatment.

I walked off, smug in my knowledge of the universe and dealing with a 4-year-old who couldn’t possible beat me down as he’d just done to his own father.

Until it happened to me.

***

“You’re NEVER allowed in MY room AGAIN!” preceded the loud slamming of his bedroom door.

I slunk down the stairs in shame and walked in the kitchen.

My husband casually asked, “Trouble in paradise?”

I sighed and slid into a chair. “I tried to get him to change his clothes,” I said. “It’s Thanksgiving dinner. He should look nice. He should NOT be wearing a Transformers’ T-shirt, a pair of long johns and the sombrero we bought him in Cancun.”

“So letting him develop his personal sense of style was a crock, right?” he asked with more than a hint of an I-told-you-so smirk.

“I should have just walked away,” I said. “But, no. I stripped him down like a $3 Barbie doll and dressed him up real nice.”

“So what’s wrong with that?” my husband asked.

I whispered, “He cried. Big, fat crocodile tears. He was humiliated. Then he yelled at me to get out of his room, and I can’t blame him.” My bottom lip trembled, “I can’t believe I did that.”

As I collapsed into a quivering mess of guilt-ridden sobs, my husband walked upstairs to find our son once again dressed in his Transformers’ shirt and long johns. With the sombrero perched jauntily atop his little blonde head.

He was happy as a clam and raring to go, with no idea he’d just broken yet another member of the family.

Sitting Bull the Second.

With a sombrero.

God help us all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Desperate for a human's undivided attention


His name is Bruce (left), and someone threw him into a fire.


At least that’s what staff members at the New Nodaway Humane Society’s animal shelter suspect. His feet were burned, the nails curled in, hair singed off and his face raw. Through the shelter’s loving care and dedication, he is healing, and along with 100 other feline friends at the shelter, he will be available for adoption for half-price in early December.

Due to the generosity of several area veterinarians, the humane society will offer a reduced adoption price of $35 for each cat and kitten at the shelter, manager Cindy Nelson said.

“This means the Nodaway Humane Society might have to absorb some extra costs, but the main objective is to get these animals out of cages and into good homes with people who care about them,” she said.

The $35 fee – half of the regular $70 cost – includes spaying or neutering, vaccinations, worming and an ID microchip in case the animal is lost. Animals can be adopted for the special price from Tuesday, Dec. 1, through Saturday, Dec. 5, and Tuesday, Dec. 8, through Saturday, Dec. 12, at the animal shelter located at 829 S. Depot St., Maryville.

A few of the cats have special needs, said Marlene Thompson, a volunteer who spends a lot of time with the shelter’s animals and loves each as her own.

“There’s Cheeto, who is deaf and will make someone a great pet. He just gets scared because he can’t hear what’s going on, poor thing,” she said. “There’s also Pixel, who is missing a hind foot. Like we humans, some of these cats have challenges to face, but they are very loving.”

While there is no national standard for reporting animal euthanasia, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that more than 4 million dogs and cats – including more than 70 percent of all cats that enter shelters – are destroyed each year.

The Nodaway Humane Society’s animal shelter is the area’s only no-kill facility and chooses to focus on saving lives and preventing litters. Members believe each and every animal deserves a second or third chance and only euthanizes an animal due to health reasons or if it’s deemed dangerous to others, Nelson said.

That means the shelter is often full, and many of the animals have spent months waiting in small cages. Future goals include a low-cost spay/neuter clinic and a feral cat program, which encourages the rescue and neutering of animals that are then returned to their natural environment. Until then, the shelter looks for inventive ways to encourage the adoption of the multitude of animals in its care.

“Our dedicated shelter staff members work extremely hard to make sure our animals are well-taken care of,” she said. “Because of overpopulation in our community, our shelter is full. We cannot euthanize to simply make room like other shelters do.”

Nodaway Veterinary Clinic, SouthPaws Veterinary Clinic and Francis Veterinary Services are helping make the event possible by spaying and neutering the cats at a greatly reduced rate. The Nodaway Humane Society hopes the event will help reduce its operational costs associated with caring for 100 cats and almost 70 dogs each day. This includes food, litter, medicine and vet bills.

“If you already own a pet, then you can imagine how expensive it is to take care of 170 of them,” Nelson said.

The advantages to choosing a shelter pet are many, including the chances it is house-trained, friendly around children and other pets and incredibly loving and thankful for a second chance. The knowledgeable shelter staff can help people pick out the animal that is right for them and their families, Nelson said.

“Meeting an animal in person is a great way to understand its personality. However, we understand visiting a shelter can be sad for some people,” Nelson said. “While our shelter is clean and the animals are well-taken care of, it’s difficult to see these sweet animals in cages. They are scared, lonely and desperate for a human’s undivided attention. If it’s hard to take in, we invite anyone to look at our Web site and view the animals for adoption. It can help narrow down your choice before you arrive.”

The NNHS animal shelter is open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 1 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed to the public on Sundays and Mondays.

The NNHS animal shelter provides temporary sanctuary for lost or abandoned pets and provides education about pet care and owner responsibility. For more information or to view animals available for adoption, please contact the animal shelter at (660) 562-3333 or log onto www.nodawayhumanesociety.org.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Low-gluten altar breads: Holy Spirit at work


In addition to being a wife, a mom and a columnist, I also have a GREAT job as director of communications for a congregation of Benedictine sisters.

I don't often post work-related articles here, but I'm rather proud of this one: http://bit.ly/4ugvKo.

I was asked by Special Food Groups magazine to pen an article about the history and spirituality behind the Sisters' ministry of baking low-gluten altar breads (also called communion hosts).

The Sisters have been making altar breads for almost a century. To date, they are the largest religious producers of such breads. A few years ago, they invented a low-gluten bread for those with allergies or Celiac Sprue Disease. The Sisters are the only Vatican-approved makers of these special breads.

Oh, and did I mention they ROCK?! Hands down, they are the greatest people to work for, and I'm so delighted to call them my friends.