Friday, December 24, 2010

Misted toe and other holiday treasures

“For claymation, that’s one hot chick.”

OK. Not a sentence a gal hears her husband say every day. Not even mine.

I could only shake my head and ask in disbelief, “Did you really just say those words? Together? In a row?” I snorted and added, “I think it’s time to put down the beer.”

He put down said beer then pointed to the television where “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” blared happily in front of our five-year-old son.

“Come on! Look at her,” he said. “Blonde hair. Blue eyes. And she’s – like – 60 years old, but she’s still hot.”

I snorted. “The show’s not that old. 40. She’s not a day over 40. And you know the hair is a wig, right?”

He shot me a nasty look and answered, “You’re just jealous.”

Jealous? Of claymation?

I took another look at her. No wrinkles. No gray hair. No extra 20 pounds on the hips. And her boobs didn’t jiggle when she walked.

Son-of-a-pickle.

My husband was right. Claymation rocks.

***

Later that evening, after watching yet another Christmas classic and witnessing two cartoon creations share a smooch, I smacked my forward and said, “That’s what I forgot to hang in the house – mistletoe!”

“What’s misted toe?” my young son asked. “Do you have to go to the doctor for that?”

I looked down at him, his face eager with the expectation of knowledge.

Kinda like the time I tried to explain the concept of terminal velocity when he asked why his basketball fell faster than a marble when pitched off our second-story balcony.

But I digress…and we promised not to talk about that particular incident anymore.

“Not ‘misted toe’” I laughed. “MISTLEtoe. And it’s awesome!”

I sat down next to him and proceeded to fill in all the wonderful details about the magic of mistletoe. After I finished, I clapped my hands in excitement and asked, “So what do you think?”

His look of eager anticipation had quickly turned to fear. Frankly, I doubt he’d heard anything after the word “kiss” had entered the equation.

He shuddered and answered as only a five-year-old boy can. “Eeeeewwwwww!”

Oh, he’s gonna make some girl so happy one day.

***

“I know Santa Claus is for real,” my son announced one day after school.

I froze like a reindeer in headlights. Crud. This day had arrived. And I wasn’t ready for it. I thought we had another year. Maybe two before we started this little dance.

But apparently the kids had been talking. 

Stupid kids.

“I…uh…er…whew!” I stumbled. “How about some ice cream? You want ice cream? I think we should go get some ice cream? What about you? Wanna get some ice cream?”

My son said, “It’s 12 degrees outside…of course, I want ice cream. But let me finish.”

Darn. Distraction failed. I should have thrown in an Xbox. That would have done the trick. I sighed.
“I know that Santa Claus is for real,” my son repeated.

I took a deep breath, bracing myself for the question I was about to ask....“How do you know Santa Claus is for real?”

He shrugged and said, “Well, who else would put presents under the tree?”

Oh. God bless the innocence of youth. I nodded in agreement, patted him gently on the head and said, “Who else, indeed.”

And before I could relax from that Dear Diary moment, he moved in for the kill.

“But what about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Is he real?”

High on the knowledge my son was still in Santa’s corner I quickly answered, “Of course. Don’t you?”

He shook his little blonde head sadly and said, “No, I don’t think so.”

Aw. Crud. Death to Rudolph? I think I’m gonna cry.

“But…he’s in the book…and there’s a song about him…and everything,” I stuttered, trying not to panic but failing miserably. “All the reindeer loved him, you know. They shouted out with glee…and everything….”

My son looked at me with kind eyes that betrayed his pity, “Just because he’s in a book doesn’t make him real, Mom.”

My face fell with sadness at the passing of this small part of his innocence. Sensing my distress, my little boy put his hand on my shoulder and asked, “Wanna go get some ice cream?”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The bucket list



Plumbing is best left to professionals.

Otherwise, it’s never gonna turn out the way you want. Unless you planned to flood the bottom floor with 6 inches of water then – yes – by all means, go for it.

So why oh why were my husband and I even attempting it?

Hubris. That fancy little word for confidence that teeters on the edge of cheery optimism from the Little Engine That Could and that kiss-your-rear-goodbye downhill skier from ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” opening montage.

So when I broached the subject about fixing the leaky downstairs toilet ourselves, my husband’s reaction was utterly predictable.

“Are you crazy?”

I shrugged and said, “How hard can it be?”

He just stared at me.

I rolled my eyes and snorted in disgust, “Please. It’s a toilet. Not the space shuttle, which I have flown, by the way.”

Then it was his turn to roll his eyes. “You flew a flight simulator at Space Camp when you were 12. And didn’t you crash it, causing death and destruction along the entire Eastern seaboard?”

He had to bring that up, didn’t he? Some wounds, you know, never heal.

I took a deep breath, “In any case, it needs to be done.” Then I stared a hole right through his forehead until he squirmed and yelled, “OK! I give up!”

I smiled, crossed my arms over my chest and figured this would be a snap.

Twenty minutes later we were dismantling the contents of one Toilet Repair Kit and reading about the required tools necessary for the job: wrench, screwdriver, scissors and bucket.

A bucket?

“If we turn off the valve and shop vac the water in the tank, what do we need a bucket for?” I asked.

My husband, on his hands and knees with his body curled around the toilet, could only shrug in response. He reached under the tank and unscrewed the bolt fasteners. I heard a loud WHOOSH followed by "Holy Sh--! My husband scrambled to untangle himself from the base of the toilet and yelled as water flooded to the floor.

The torrent ended quickly as there was just a small amount of water left in the tank. My husband quietly muttered, “Guess that’s what the bucket was for.”

Score 1 for the toilet.

OK, so we were off to a rocky start, but I still had confidence. We continued unfastening nuts from bolts and eventually managed to remove the non-working guts from the tank.

Score 1 for us.

Then we had to put everything back together again. I stared at the piece in my hand, looked at the bolt in the toilet and quickly assessed, “That ain’t gonna fit.”

My husband took the plastic washer from my hand and laughed, “’Course it will.” He then held up said washer to said bolt and went hmmm.

Which is plumber-speak for we got a problem here.

“See? The diameter isn’t wide enough to fit over the bolt,” I said. Then added, “I took Calculus, you know.”

He looked at me and said, “What’s that have to do with anything?”

I shrugged.

He stared at me for another moment then looked back at the washer and again tried to shove it over the bolt. As if it had magically expanded during the Calculus-portion of our conversation. I rolled my eyes.

I took it from his hand and said, “Look. There are notches in the middle. I think you are supposed to cut out that piece so it’ll fit over the bolt.”

He asked, “What do the directions say?”

Brilliant. Let’s finally consult the directions an hour into the project.

I grabbed them off the counter, perused the Pig Latin-inscribed diagrams (without even trying to decipher them) and quickly tossed them to the side.

“Doesn’t say a damn thing,” I stated.

I grabbed the scissors, took a deep breath and began snapping away at the plastic. I handed it over to my husband, Mr. Doubting Pants, who skeptically looked it over then bent over the toilet.

A short pause followed by, “Damn.”

I leaned over and saw that the washer now fit snugly over the bolt. I straightened, looked him in the eye and said, “Go ahead, you can say it.” I poked him in the ribs and said, “I. Am. A. Genius.” 

He sighed, and I added, “By the way, I got an A in Calculus.” Then I mockingly saluted him and walked away. 

Score 1 for me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, WonderMutt


Eight years ago today, the world was blessed with a beautiful, goofy, freakishly huge Golden Retriever named Chaser.

I miss her talented tricks, obsession with tennis balls and love of Cheetos, belly rubs and Grandpa Bill.

She was unbelievably special to us, and a part of me will always be with her.

Love you, WonderMutt. I hope they have tennis balls in heaven.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

ACHOOOOO


Reason #1 why it stinks being a female who has given birth:


A clean pair of underwear will last approximately 2.5 seconds after you let go of one gigantic sneeze and end up peeing your pants.

Reason #2 why it stinks being a female who has given birth and lives with males?

Only the dog – a fellow female – understands why you did it.

***

“ACHOOOOO!”

Silence. Followed a split second later by a not-so-great feeling that means I have to find a new pair of undies.

“You have GOT to be KIDDING me!” I screamed from inside our walk-in closet. I then added an extra S#&!


I stripped off the offending undergarment, tossed it into the laundry basket, pushed open the door and walked into the bedroom – only to find our 5-year-old son on my bed, laughing at the funny antics of SpongeBob SquarePants on TV.

As I was currently in a state of undress that was only legal in Vegas…on a Tuesday…I quickly ducked back behind the closet door and asked, “Uh, how long have you been there?”

He looked over at me and answered, “Long enough to hear you say, "S#&!'"

I sighed, slumped and THWACK – my forward connected with the door.

Ouch.

Rubbing the growing lump on my head, I made a mental note to have the Please Do Not Repeat Swear Words Just Because Mom Said Them lecture – again – with him soon. Then I considered my quandary. I was here.

In the closet.

My underwear. You know, ones not currently balled up in the laundry basket, were in the dresser all the way across the bedroom. My fuzzy robe hung on a hook behind the bathroom door about five feet away.

OK. Plan B. I turned around and surveyed the clothing options within the closet to make me presentable for a walk across the bedroom.

Oh, look-ee here. My prom dress from 1991.

It was long, white, puffed like the Michelin Man and contained about 56 miles of lace. That could work.

I reached for the hanger, pulled the dress out, cocked my head to the side and…hey…it shrunk. What was up with that?

Oh, yeah. I was a size 4 in 1991.

Unless I snapped my fingers and made the Way Back Machine suddenly appear, there was no way in hell that dress was ever gonna fit again in this lifetime.

I made a mental note to send it to Good Will. Because I was no longer feeling any good will toward it myself.

Moving on.

I quickly thumbed through the hangers. Business suits, dress slacks, silk shirts and fourteen pairs of the most uncomfortable heels Paris Hilton wouldn’t even wear.

Well, that’s not gonna work.

OK. Plan C. I turned toward my husband’s side of the closet and grabbed his suit jacket, wrapped it around my body and prayed like hell all my lady parts stayed hidden during the jog to my dresser.

I was halfway across the room when I heard, “What in the hell are you wearing?” from behind me.

I spun around and came face to face with my husband. I pleaded, “I have an explanation. Really. I do.”

He crossed him arms over his chest and waited with a Let’s Hear It look on his face.

I skimmed over the part about ruining my undies because – really, that’s oh-so-not-sexy – and quickly proceeded to relate the dilemma of being naked in the closet, needing undergarments but having a 5-year-old in the vicinity.

At the end of my narrative, my husband looked at me and quickly responded, “Why didn’t you just ask him to leave?”

OK, a useful tip I could have used TWO SPONGEBOB EPISODES ago!

I snapped open the dresser drawer, grabbed the first pair of undies my hands touched and slunk back to the closet while howls of laughter from the XY-chromosome members of the household trailed behind.

I walked inside the closet, cursed the fact that 24 hours of labor had ruined my bladder control forever, and pulled on my ill-gotten pair of new cotton drawers.

And then – before I could stop it – ACHOOOOO.

Ah, S#&!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Well played, Fuzzy One

Some people think waterboarding is torture.


Me? It’s missing the regular season’s biggest game because of a slight intestinal abnormality (no details, please).

Priorities a little messed up?

Sure, but I recycle. I figure it all evens out on the big morality counter.

First Quarter

From the first snap, it’s apparent this game will be a close one. So 12 seconds into the gridiron battle, I jump up and announce to the dog, “I can’t take this anymore.”

If George Washington had to count on me during the cold, harsh winter at Valley Forge, we’d be speaking the Queen’s English and taking afternoon tea breaks now.

So I head upstairs, throw open the closet door and assess the laundry. I hate doing towels. They’re big. I can wash — like two — at a time and end up spending the length of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy just on towels.

So I wait until we’ve used every one in the linen closet. Even the what-the-hell-is-that-stain? ones that look like they came over on the Mayflower. And judging by the size of the pile of towels in the corner of the closet, it might take until Thanksgiving to wash them all.

Second Quarter

I cannot sit still as the score remains close. Apparently screaming at the radio until a vein in my right eye pops isn’t proving helpful to my team. So I decide to put restless energy to a more productive use and give the dog a bath.

Understandably, she does not agree.

It takes six treats, four trips around the dining room table, three dropped F bombs, a near concussion (mine) and one strategically timed body tackle to convince her otherwise.

Just as I move to heave her through the bathroom doorway she arches her back and throws out her hind legs, hooking her paws on the doorjamb.

Where’d she learn that move?! She’s like some Chinese acrobat on crack!

Stunned by the sudden stop and shift in weight, I fly right over the top of her and land in a heap next to the toilet.

She woofs something that suspiciously sounds like “loser,” scrambles her legs back into a fight or flight position…and chooses the latter one.

Well played, fuzzy one. Well played.

But we humans didn’t claw our way to the top of the food chain by being stupid. Well, the dinosaurs going extinct helped a bit but – darnit! – there is something to be said for old-fashioned, caveman ingenuity.

I call it ground chuck.

One hamburger patty later, the puppy is in the tub, slathered in shampoo and contemplating her revenge, if the wicked slant of her brown eyes is any indication.

Third Quarter

The other team’s offense wakes up in the second half and begins playing decent ball.

I am not amused and proceed to plow through three-quarters of my son’s Halloween candy. Since he’s actually at the game, I figure he owes me.

Fourth Quarter

Somewhere around the middle of the fourth quarter I realize the dog is missing.

For some people that might not be a big deal if — say — your dog is a Pomeranian that can hide behind a fruit basket in the kitchen.

But it’s a little more difficult when it’s a 60-pound Golden Retriever who’s probably still miffed about bath time.

So color me curious.

Since my team has the ball but is trailing by two points with just seconds left on the clock and no time outs, I fear it’s over and I should go look for the dog. You know, just to make sure she hasn’t packed her Milk Bones and headed to a neighbor’s.

Six…Our field goal team flies across the grass and scrambles to the line of scrimmage.

Five…Mass chaos ensues. So I think maybe I should stick close and see how this plays out. The dog knows where we live. She’ll be back before dinner.

Four…The radio announcer mentions something about something. I am unable to comprehend because the blood is pounding so loudly in my ears that I’ve gone deaf.

Three…The kicker lines up.

Two…I start thinking now would be a good time to have one of those at-home defibrillator thingies.

One…The ball is snapped as time expires, and I’m on my knees in front of the speakers waiting for the call. A small eternity passes before I hear, “It’s good!”

And that’s when my head explodes.

What a GREAT way to spend a Saturday.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Come over to the Dark Side


Gabe trick-or-treating at Grammy's and Grandpa's house.


After a quick trip around the neighborhood, Lord Vader returned home and handed out candy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Grin and bear it


It was like sleeping with a grizzly bear.

You know, without that whole fear of being eaten alive kinda thing.

I shoved an elbow and growled, “Move over.”

“I’m already on the edge. In more ways than one,” my husband growled back.

The love between us (along with the 60-pound golden retriever “puppy” ironically named Bear) was skating on thin ice.

And when said Bear rolled over onto her back, stuck four fuzzy paws in the air and dropped her golden head on my pillow (and half my face, by the way), I’d had it.

Take my blankets. OK.

Take my spot. I can deal.

But mess with my pillow, and you’re gonna find yourself homeless. Or at the very least - bed-less.
I shot up, pointed a finger at the corner of the room and ordered, “Get down!” 

Suddenly the dog who can pinpoint a tomcat from six houses over had apparently gone stone deaf.
I shoved her fuzzy rump and shouted, “Out!”

She stretched long legs into the air, lifted her tail and swatted it back down onto the mattress. Then commenced snoring.

This. This right here is why people buy ankle-biter dogs the size of a pot roast.

Pot roast doesn’t steal half the bed during the night.

“What is her deal?” I asked my husband in exasperation. “Every day. Every. Friggin. Day. At 5 a.m. She jumps on the bed, wiggles her way between us and goes back to sleep. She’s the alarm clock from hell.”

He rolled over, threw me a dirty look in the dark and answered, “Why are you talking to me like I don’t already know that?” He swung out an arm, “I’m lying right here, you know.”

Ignoring him (as usual) I poked the dog in the side and muttered, “Move it. Out. Down. And whatever other preposition I’m forgetting at the moment.”

I reached a hand under her back to give her extra motivation and received a low grrrrrr in response.

Flashes of grizzly tore through my mind, and I decided to live to fight another day.

Later, my husband spotted me curled up on the couch, reading.

He leaned over to read the title, “German for Dummies.” He raised an eyebrow and pointed at the cover.

I shrugged, pointed at the dog and said, “She doesn’t appear to understand English very well, so I thought I’d take a stab at German.”

***

The phone rang the next day while I was at work.

Without a “hey, baby, whatcha doing?” or even a “hello” my husband proceeded to tell me - in a rather loud voice, if the ringing in my eardrum was any indication - what he’d come home to at lunch time.

“She chewed on the corner of the grandfather clock. You know, the one your dad made?”

What? The clock we wrapped up tighter than King Tut’s booty in order to transport it from my mom’s house to ours and still ended up disrupting the mechanism so it only chimed at 2:47 in the friggin’ morning, trying desperately to keep from taking a baseball bat to it while feeling guilty about moving it in the first place only to break it because my dad crafted the thing with his own blood, sweat, tears, swear words and 47 cases of Budweiser?

Yeah.

I vaguely recall it. I cringed and answered, “So how bad is it? Did she just take a nibble or did she go full beaver on the thing?”

“Well, you can definitely tell she tried to eat it for a snack,” he snarled. “Plus, she ate a book.”

Uh-oh. Not quite the way a dog should get a little extra fiber in her diet. “Which one?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” he asked.

“Well, I’m kinda curious,” I said. “Is she a Harry Potter kinda girl or did she go straight for the Mark Twain?”

“I don’t care, and I gotta get back to work,” he snarked back.

“Why are you barking at me?” I sniped in return (two can play this game). “I’m not the one who ate it.”

“I’m not barking at you,” he responded.

“Yes. You are,” I countered. “No. I’m not,” he answered.

Man, marriage is the BEST!

“Tell you what,” I offered. “When I get home I’ll sit her down and read her the riot act.” I paused. “But I’ll probably have to do it in German.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Put that in your peace pipe and smoke it

Nothing spells trouble like a deadline around the corner with a case of writer’s block camped out in the driveway like Cousin Eddie in “Christmas Vacation.”


It ain’t going anywhere. And there’s a good chance something is gonna explode. So you’d think the family would help me out a little bit, right?

Wrong.

Wednesday. 7:14 p.m. Four days before deadline. Geesh. Even God had seven. Six if you don't count his day off.

“Do flies poop?”

The question, uttered by my five-year-old son, popped up just as I sat to write my weekly column.

It’s like he’s watching me on closed-circuit video and pounces just when he thinks things are starting to get interesting.

My fingers frozen above ASDF JKL; and there they stayed. I turned toward the royal heir and stumbled through my response, “Uh…er…what?”

He replied, “I was reading a book about flies and wanted to know if they poop. ‘Cuz it wasn’t in the book.”

The mom in me was THRILLED the little guy was reading something on his own, without threat of death or confiscation of future Halloween candy hanging above his little blonde head.

But the wife (and writer) in me who didn’t want further interruptions simply responded with wisdom passed down through the timeless ages of parenthood.

“Go ask your father.”

Thursday. 4:12 p.m.

We arrive home from school. I set up the little guy with SpongeBob SquarePants and instructions not to bother me unless the house was on fire.

And only then if he can’t remember where the fire extinguisher was.

I sit at the desk, turn on the computer and click open a blank page. And away we go….

A poke to my shoulder registers a brief moment before “I’m hungry. What can I have to eat?” reaches my ears.

For the love of all that is holy!

“Are you freakin’ kidding me?” I asked with the minimal amount of love I was capable of at that moment.

Sure, it didn’t sound too loving, but I thought not shooting death rays from my eyes showed remarkable restraint on my part.

I should get a medal or something.

Sunday. 9:05 p.m.

I sat in bed, laptop across…well…my lap and running the risk of getting Toasted Leg Syndrome. Leave it to the media with waaaay too much time on their hands to come up with this happy term. Seriously. It sounds like something you’d make with s’mores and top off with a beer.

Chuckling at the irony of not being able to use a laptop directly on my lap top, I proceeded to get down to the business of writing.

My husband, settling in for an early night of beauty sleep, plopped down beside me, pulled the covers up to his neck, rolled onto his side and commenced snoring immediately.

He had no cares. No column to write. No deadline looming over his head. I envied his guilt-free conscience, allowing him an easy route to blissful slumber.

I’d love to clock him with a pillow right about now.

Just as I began reaching for said pillow, the dog bounded on the bed and began boofing for all she was worth.

“The dog has to go outside,” I lamented to my hubby. “I’ll give you a million dollars to go downstairs and let her out.”

“You don’t have a million dollars,” was his muffled response.

Mentally counting the money left in my wallet I asked, “How’s $12 sound to you?”

Silence. “Sounds like you’re going downstairs.”

Monday. 7:02 a.m.

“OK, it’s crunch time,” I wailed. “I need a column idea. Now.”

My husband chuckled with a non-surprising lack of sympathy.

“Careful,” I cautioned. “I suggest you not mess with me today. I come from a long line of people one does NOT mess with.”

He smirked and answered, “Your ancestors were Irish and German. The only thing you’re gonna do is pour a whiskey and start a war somewhere.”

OK. Good point.

“Hey, there’s also some Native American flowing through my veins,” I countered. “At the risk of sounding insensitive, I could scalp you. Or, at the very least, crack a peace pipe over your head.”

“That doesn’t sound very peaceful,” he cracked back.

And there’s my column….

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Learning about your past

Gabe's assignment this week in Kindergarten is to pick a community helper and do some research.

He chose to learn about a police officer. And that we did. We learned what requirements the job entails, what he/she does for a living and how he/she helps the community.

Plus, the kids are encouraged to bring a picture of something that represents their community helper.

As it happens, I have this great photograph of my Grandpa Kelley taken during his years as a motorcycle cop. He eventually became chief of police in Ossining, New York.

Gabe didn't know which was cooler - that his great-grandpa was a police officer...or that he rode a motorcycle.

My grandpa passed away many years ago, so it was nice to share his story and his life with my own son.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Masa!





Earlier this year we joined Northwest Missouri State University's Friends of International Students. Community residents are paired with international Northwest students. Last month we met our friend, Masa, who hails from Japan.

The university did a great job in pairing Masa with our family. He loves sports (especially soccer) and has a golden retriever at home. We welcomed Masa and his friend to our home yesterday for an early birthday celebration.

The guys played soccer and Wii with Gabe then we followed with a traditional don't-count-the-calories American fare of hot 'n spicy chicken, green bean casserole and loaded mashed potatoes. PLUS, we made Masa our family's traditional Red Velvet birthday cake.

According to Masa, only Japanese children get cake on their birthdays. We told him - here in America, you get cake until you die! Hah!

Gabe gave Masa good points for his technique for blowing out the candles while we sang "Happy Birthday." All in all, a great day spent with new friends. Next up? Gabe wants Masa to teach him how to write his name in Japanese. Stay tuned....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Effort-less

“We should make him run laps,” I muttered to my husband in disgust.


He snorted in response. “He’s 5.”

I shrugged and gestured toward our son as he fluttered around the soccer field like a ballerina on LSD.

“I don’t care,” I said. “Look at him! He’s not even trying. I’ve seen kids wearing full-body casts make a better effort.”

“When? And where?” my husband asked, apparently doubting my statement about viewing kids in full-body casts playing soccer. Come on. Like that’s so hard to believe.

“On YouTube. You can find anything on YouTube,” I answered. “In any case, it’s embarrassing.” I waved toward the field. “And what is he doing now? The ball is over here, and he’s way over there PULLING HIS SHIRT OVER HIS HEAD?! Oh, for the love of God.” I dropped my head into my hands and felt waves of shame wash over me.

“Hey, it’s kinda cold out there today,” my husband, Mr. The Glass is Half Full and apparently in the running for Parent of the Year, pointed out. “Maybe he’s cold.”

OK, so the unseasonable cool September Saturday was a little out of the norm. And the monsoon that preceded the game probably hadn’t helped. Big deal. So it was a little cold.

“Anyway, we don’t have room to complain,” my husband continued. “We’re sitting here in the car where it’s warm and dry.”

“Hey,” I answered defensively and waved my hand out the window, “we got the windows rolled down.”

The coach blew the whistle and hollered, “Half time!”

Thank God.

Our little boy ran over in excitement, yelling for water as if his little life depended on it.

I handed over the water bottle and watched him chug down half the contents in one big gulp. Man. He’s soooo gonna be a legend in some fraternity one day.

He finished, swiped his sleeve across his face and handed the bottle to his dad. Before he could turn and run back toward his teammates, I slapped my hands on his shoulders, looked him dead in the eye and yelled, “Let me see your game face!”

He smiled, put up his hands like an extra in “A Chorus Line” and sang, “La-di-dah-di-dah.” Then he giggled.

Sigh.

“I don’t think so,” I growled. “Like this,” and screwed up my face like I’d been constipated for a week and grunted.

Hard.

The people sitting next to us – the nice people who actually sat on the sidelines in their lawn chairs who teach their children it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun and learning to play by the rules and the world is a warm and fuzzy place where everyone skips around eating lollipops – began to snicker behind their foam #1 fingers.

I waved my hand dismissively in their direction and told my son not to pay attention to them.

“Let’s try that again,” I instructed. “Game face. Now.”

He sighed but decided it was not time to push the crazy lady. He balled his fists, bared his teeth (even the two loose ones on the bottom) and grunted, “Grrrrrrrrr!”

Oh, it was a Dear Diary moment. Proudly, I wiped a tear from my eye, pointed toward the dastardly enemy (four little boys wearing cheery, Cookie Monster blue uniforms – they didn’t fool me) and hollered, “Now, go get ‘em!”

I watched my son run back on the field and high-five a teammate. OK, I thought. That’s a good start.

…And that was the highlight of the second half.

“Look at his teammate,” I told my husband. “Now THAT’S what I like to see. He’s a foot shorter than everyone else and running with his hands in his pockets and STILL beating them to the ball.” I paused and looked around for his parents. “I wonder if they’ll let us trade.”

My husband screeched like a little girl and answered, “You cannot be serious.”

“I guess not,” I conceded. But before I could make a mental note to have our son run laps after we got home, the game had ended, and I noticed my beautiful, spastic, goofy child was the first in line to perform the post-play “Good Game” slapping of the hands ritual.

I guess we must be doing something right after all. But maybe next time I can get him to do it with his game face on.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thank God in heaven there's school tomorrow

"Thank God in heaven there's school tomorrow," my five-year-old son sighed yesterday. That's what a private, Catholic school education gets you...

His excitement centered around the arrival of these:

The Shoes. (For those who missed the "Shoe Saga," click here.)

The very ones he worked and slaved and toiled for...OK...not really. He did work hard, but well-meaning friends were fairly easy with their money for any task performed. And the shoes arrived today.

He was up, dressed and ready to go at 6:15 in the freakin' morning today. Ready to show off his shoes to the world. However, I will admit. He seems especially happy about these shoes because 1) they light up and 2) he earned the money himself. It's so sweet to see a little boy take so much pride in himself. Here's hoping it's a learned lesson he'll remember.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What a difference a week makes





This is a picture from Gabe's soccer game LAST week (he's second from right).

I have no such pictures from this week.

The weather was bad. Monsoon season bad. As we headed for the car before the game, Gabe yelled, "Are we gonna play in this stuff?!" I yelled back, "As long as there's no lightening...you play. Even if there's a flood...you play. In fact, playing in a flood is FUN!"

His response? Well, if he was allowed to use The Bird, he would have flipped it.

In any case, bad weather = few kids showed = not much fun = run around like he's the Missing Link.

Last week? One goal. Two assists.

This week? One mad mom. And "What the hell are you doing out there?" yelled twice in frustration.

Oh, well. At least I got a good column out of it for next week. By the way, is it inappropriate to make my 5-year-old run laps?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

He's too cute for jail



One would think he was talking about the Hope Diamond.

“They are the most awesome things I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” my five-year-old son waxed poetic after school one afternoon in excitement. “They are shiny and cool and AWESOME!”

“Yes,” I nodded in agreement, “but they cost $50.”
 
He ignored my comment and continued, “They light up and EVERYTHING!”
 
“Yes,” I nodded in agreement and repeated, “but they cost $50.”
 
He wrinkled his little blonde brows into a furrow and responded, “How much is $50?”
I laughed, “About $48 more than you have in your piggy bank.”
 
“Rats,” he mumbled in disappointment from the back seat.
 
But a simple matter of poverty had no effect on the little guy. For the remainder of the day, Tom Sawyer Baldwin took every opportunity to talk us into buying the shoes for him.
 
I finally cracked after hour #4.
 
“Listen up,” I said curtly. “It’s not your birthday. It’s not a holiday. So there is no way on God’s green earth your dad and I are buying you a $50 pair of shoes for no reason whatsoever.”
 
He opened his mouth to reply, but before he popped out another word I put up my hand to stop him and said, “That’s spending $10 on a shoe for every year you’ve been alive. That’s like me spending…oh…yikes.”
 
Doing that kinda of math was both difficult and embarrassing. “Uh, let’s just say I don’t have enough money in MY piggy bank for that kind of purchase.”
 
He stomped off in a huff with our Golden Retriever puppy trailing happily in his wake, oblivious to his sour mood.
 
I shouted after him, “Welcome to the real world, kiddo. It sucks.”
 
The dog must have thought I said “ducks” because she whipped around, tore back down the stairs and ran up to me in excitement. “DUCKS? WHERE?” her chocolate brown eyes shone, “Can I eat one?!”
 
My son’s only response was the slamming of his bedroom door.
 
The ungrateful little monster. Suddenly a roof over his head isn’t good enough, huh? Food on the table. Clean clothes to wear every day. Nice warm bed to sleep in. Video games and a lifetime supply of peanut butter. Not good enough?
 
Selfish little bugger.
 
Then a thought suddenly struck me, and I blanched. My mother was right! We CAN’T have everything we want!
 
I remember those days. Wanting something so badly, I would scream and cry and act like…well, an ungrateful little monster.
 
Sigh.
 
It was time to make deal.
 
“OK, here’s how it’s gonna go,” I said, sitting down beside him on his bed where he had chosen to sulk the day away. “If you want those shoes, you’ll have to earn the money to buy them yourself.”
 
He sighed and answered, “How long will that take?”
 
I shrugged, “It depends on how hard you work.”
 
So I scheduled some new tasks he could help with around the house, set a more-than-generous wage and made him promise not to unionize with the dog. By the time we finished negotiating, he was more excited than the time he saw Santa Claus at Kwickie Mart.
 
On a Tuesday.
 
In July.
 
But the excitement lasted all of 45 minutes.
 
He walked into my bedroom, sighed loudly and flopped on the bed. “I wish we had a color printer,” he said.
 
I raised an eyebrow and said, “We do. Why?”
 
He rolled over and said, “So I could print my own money and buy those shoes faster.”
 
Oh. Dear. God.
 
Part of me wanted to laugh at his crafty resourcefulness.
 
The other part wanted to find the nearest lawyer and put him on retainer.
 
‘Cuz chances are we’re gonna need one in the future.
 
I patted my son on the back in sympathy and said, “Well, our federal government prints money like it’s going out of style, but — unfortunately — they get a little grouchy when we mere peasants attempt to do the same.”
 
He shot me a look that clearly stated he thought I was insane, so I tried again. “We can’t print our own money, kiddo. That’s called counterfeiting, and it’s against the law. We’d go to jail.” I smiled at him, “And you’re too cute for jail.”
 
He processed that for a moment then answered, “But we’ll only go to jail if we get caught, right?”
 
Oh. Dear. God.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Froggy went a courtin'



My husband entered the kitchen, walked right up to me and uttered a phrase never before said in the history of mankind.


“A frog urinated on my hand.”

Excuse me?

“A what did what on your hand?” I exclaimed.

He put his hand right up to my face and repeated, “A frog. URINATED.” He waved his hand two inches from my nose and continued, “On. My. Hand.”

I quickly brushed his hand of stickiness aside and replied in a most supportive manner, “Ewwwww!”

He hollered, “I KNOW! I didn’t know frogs could do that!”

My husband then began his tale of woe.

“I was in the garage,” he said, “when I noticed there was this frog. On the wall. Just sitting there.” He repeated, “On the wall. Like he owned the place.”

“Is he some kind of magic frog?” I asked in wonder. Maybe my husband getting squirted by a radioactive amphibian would bestow special froggy powers, kinda like Spider Man.

Only not nearly as cool.

“No, he’s not some magic frog,” my husband insisted. “He had these sticky, webby, suction cup things on his legs so he could stick to the wall.”

Yes, I’m sure “suction cup things” would be the correct scientific term here.

“I reached up to pull him off, grabbed him,” he said, “and felt something run down my hand!”

The look on his face was priceless, and I tried hard not to crack a smile. Really, really, really hard.

OK, maybe not so hard.

I snorted with laughter, pointed to his hand and said, “Well, you’re lucky he did a #1 rather than laying something else.”

“What?” he exclaimed as he walked over to the sink and grabbed the biggest bottle of soap he could find. “Like a #1 is any less gross than a #2?” He sniffed his hand, “And you won’t believe how much this stinks!”

I shrugged and said, “I’m just saying. Things could have been worse. It’s really just a matter of perspective.”

Mr. The Glass Is Half Empty was not amused and continued scrubbing at his hands like Lady Macbeth.

I admit I was curious. Blame my choice of avoiding college biology in favor of theater appreciation, but I had no idea frogs could pee. Or would pee. Or would want to pee.

So I got to thinking. Then really freaked out my husband by saying, “What if it wasn’t urine?”

He froze at the sink. Turned slowly, looked straight into my eyes with terror and asked, “What?”

I smiled and sweetly said, “What if it was…” pausing for dramatic effect….“something else?”

He gulped nervously, looked down at his hands and began to hyperventilate.

Oh, this was fun.

“Maybe the frog, you know, wants to be your boyfriend instead,” I hypothesized. Then I sat back and waited for the show to begin.

…Sooooo after my husband regained consciousness and picked himself up from the kitchen floor he tore into the office and began furiously banging keys on the computer.

I smiled. Like a puppet on a string.

I casually followed, walked up behind him and asked, “Whatcha doing?”

Hands shaking in fear, he kept hitting the wrong keys until finally screaming “AHA!” and sat back in the chair, pointing at the screen.

I leaned over to read, “Why do frogs pee when you pick them up?”

Wow.

Seriously.

You CAN find anything on the Internet.

I continued to read the Web posting from the frog expert, someone who probably knows the correct term is NOT “suction cup things.”

“Right there!” my husband shouted. “It says right there that frogs pee when you pick them up because it’s a defense mechanism. And it stinks so predators won’t try to eat them. So there!”

He slumped back in his chair in vindicated relief.

I patted him on the back and said, “So, now you’re happy a frog peed on you?” Then I smiled and said, “Come on. I’ll get you a beer. That’ll make you feel better.”

He shook his head and turned back to the computer.

“What are you doing now?” I asked.

With determination, he answered, “Looking for frog leg recipes. Next time I see Kermit, he’s going down.”

Pee on him once, shame on you.

Pee on him twice, you’re dinner.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

She thinks she's helping


Home sick + Magazine deadline = Working from bed today. With a golden who thinks she's a lap dog.


And this is how she thinks she's helping. She managed to type an entire sentence of gibberish on Page 6 before I noticed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Art smarts


Gabe and his first homework assignment - complete!


Gabe's kindergarten class was instructed to find pictures of things they enjoy/like then decorate their journals with them.

We Baldwins may not be artsy fartsy folk...but we can do wonders with a glue stick.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Making the right decision


Her name is Bear.


And each day she helps heal the aching throb that pounds my chest and the heaviness that weighs on my soul.

***

Pets burrow into our lives and our hearts with the greatest of ease. Providing unconditional love and a purity of soul unlike anything else we experience.

We feed them, provide shelter, take them to the vet, play with them, hold them, laugh at them, get mad when they break something, wonder what they’re thinking when they cock their head and stare into our soul.

But Chaser, WonderMutt of West Edwards Street, was special.

When she was diagnosed with bone cancer, my husband and I made the difficult decision to have the leg with the tumor amputated. The cancer, a sickeningly aggressive form, had yet to spread but would not be stopped.

But we could slow it down. Give her - and us - a few extra months. Moments for car rides. Belly rubs. Swimming at the lake.

The surgery was a success. She was hopping around on three healthy legs. A little groggy. Somewhat confused. Probably a whole lot mad. We got the call that she was ready to come home.

Then, soon after, the phone rang again....

Chaser. My Chaser.

Was dead.

Perhaps a blood clot, but it really didn’t matter. She was gone.

As our vet continued to talk, her voice cracking with disbelief and sadness, I remember looking down at the kitchen floor beneath my feet.

It was covered with a patchwork of area rugs I had conned from friends all over town and taped to the hardwood floor to provide traction to a fuzzy friend who’d be a little uneasy on her paws for a while.

I reached down and slowly began to peel back the tape. Shock willing my body to do something, to stay productive and keep my mind from shutting down. The menial task of removing the rugs was the only thing that kept me sane in that moment.

Then I had to tell my husband.

Nothing prepares you to say it.

Nothing prepares you to hear it.

In the weeks after, as we adjusted to life without her in it, we battled our own demons.

My husband - racked with guilt she didn’t die at home surrounded by family.

Me - racked with grief, walking into the vet’s office to pick up her collar with the bone-shaped brass tag marked “Chaser” hanging forlornly from it.

The pain cracked my heart, and my life would never be the same.

***

Just a few weeks later, another phone call changed our lives.

A friend who volunteers to get dogs and cats to rescue organizations knew of a golden retriever who needed a home.

She didn’t want to push. Didn’t want us to feel obligated. Knew we probably weren’t ready but wanted to let us know anyway.

I should have said, “No.” I wanted to say, “No.”

I needed to say, “No.”

But the girl needed a home.

I made the 30-minute drive and prayed with each mile that she’d be nothing like Chaser. Heavy with the burden that my husband had left the decision up to me, I desperately tried to sort through my brittle feelings.

What if I made the wrong decision?

What - exactly - was the right one?

And as I made the return trip home, looking down to see a golden head lying in my lap and big, beautiful brown eyes staring back up at me with such love and trust, I knew in that moment I had made the right one.

A friend said when our pets pass away it’s as if they make room in our life for a new one. Bravely stepping aside so another can be loved.

So today we have another collar, with another bone-shaped brass tag.

And this time it says, “Bear.”

***

If an animal has touched your life like Chaser and Bear have touched ours, please consider supporting your local humane society or animal shelter. National groups like the Humane Society of the United States promote animal welfare, but neither its dues nor donations directly support your local shelter financially.

So please think about making a difference where you live. In Maryville, the New Nodaway Humane Society has launched its annual membership drive for the community and surrounding Nodaway County area.

Dues start at just $24. Junior memberships for those under 18 are just $12 a year. Not much, is it? But it means so much to the dog or cat you help save.

Please click here to learn more and help other families find their own Bear.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spay or neuter your pet...PLEASE!


Bear is a brave little girl. She underwent the spay procedure yesterday and is already back to normal, playing with my husband outside on this beautiful summer afternoon.

If only we humans could bounce back so fast!

As a volunteer and board member with the New Nodaway Humane Society, I spend much of my time advocating the importance of spaying/neutering pets.

And people still refuse to listen. Got questions? Click here to learn the myths and the facts. The only way your local animal shelters will ever get ahead is when people step up and become responsible for their pets. Do it. Do it now. Please.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

GERANIUM!


Nothing brings out the stupid like a summer vacation and a little family rivalry.


And people in their 40s should sign medical waivers before performing cannonballs and back flips off a lakeside swimming dock.

Just sayin’....

“What do you think you are doing?” I hollered at my husband, having just spotted him balanced with heels hanging over the edge of the dock, back to the water and in what appeared to be a countdown to launch position.

“A backward tuck and twist,” he quickly responded before jerking his thumb to the left. “I’m not sure what this joker is planning.”

The joker beside him was my brother-in-law. Equal in age and what appeared to be IQ, he simply nodded and gave the universal sign for insanity: two thumbs up.

Before I could remind them that the odds of successfully performing such a maneuver at their advanced stage of age really wasn’t in their favor, they yelled, “THREE-TWO-ONE-GO!” and hurled themselves backward into space.

Time stopped for one brief moment as they hung there in silence.

Then all hell broke loose.

Arms went one way. Legs another. An elbow flew out and shot the other one in the nose. A foot ended up in someone’s stomach, and a scream that rivaled an 8-year-old girl at a Hannah Montana concert tore through the air.

It finished with a deafening splash and a wake big enough to cause a tsunami and wipe out a small fishing village in New Guinea.

The rest of us stood in silence, waiting for some small sign the maniacs had survived their suicidal leap.

With baited breath, one head popped up through the surface. Shortly followed by another. They shouted their jubilation while coughing up half the lake and slowly swimming back to higher ground.

I sighed in relief then turned to hear my 5-year-old son scream, “That was AWESOME! Can I do that?”

Wearing red swimming trunks with a bright yellow life jacket wrapped around his body and blue goggles strapped to his head, he was a kaleidoscope of colors on that hot summer day.

And he was entirely too cute to follow in such undesirable footsteps of the family elders, Thelma and Louise.

“No,” I said. “You can NOT do that.”

“But, Mom,” he managed to eek out before I interrupted with an “over my dead body.”

Then - before anyone else knew what was happening - my other brother-in-law tore across the dock, screamed, “GERONIMO!” and took a header into the lake.

I was surrounded by crazy.

And not in a good way, like at a shoe sale or opening day.

No, in a we’re-so-gonna-end-up-on-YouTube crazy kinda way.

I shook my head in disbelief then turned to hear my only child scream, “GERANIUM!” and jump into the air, following his uncle into the water.

Sigh.

While it was unbelievably cute that he had misheard his uncle’s war cry and instead replaced it with an ode to flora, I had obviously lost control of the situation.

Not that I ever really had it in the first place. Welcome to my life.

The afternoon continued with siblings attempting to - and succeeding in - throwing each other off jet skis. Summer’s favorite past time behind making s’mores and drinking beer.

Or was that drinking beer and making s’mores?

Anyway, we watched as pinwheels of arms and legs spun across the water as their bodies were hurled from the racing watercraft, skidding off the surface for several feet then sinking below out of sight.

In between bursts of laughter from the gallery, I leaned over to inform my son that while watching Dad perform selections from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” really wasn’t safe and please don’t think about doing this when you’re older but if you do have the heart to make sure I’m dead first.

And then they graduated to that wonderful sport that turns grown men into boys whose maturity level has yet to sprout past the fifth grade.

Tubing.

They rocked. They rolled. They bounced. They bucked.

They scared fish and performed stunts that are probably illegal in many states.

And everything was fine and dandy.

Right up until the next morning.

When they realized there weren’t enough pain killers in the world to make life right again.

And there’s a lesson in that for all of us.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Life is golden

Bear has adjusted nicely to our home.  In one short week, I can report the following:

1. Housetrained in two days.

2. Learned to sit, stay and lay down. Also understands what NO, DROP THAT and WE DO NOT EAT POOP mean.

3. Decided the most comfy place to sleep is on our bed. Since she's already 56 pounds and growing...the odds of her staying in it are very, very low.

4. Gabe is her favorite person. He's even better than peanut butter.

5. Chewies rock.

6. She's definitely a golden: bred with an inate need to steal socks and other assorted laundry items.

We have loved opening our home to this beautiful spirit. Sometimes when she cocks her head a certain way or runs down the hallway, she reminds me so much of Chaser it makes my heart ache.

After Chaser died, a friend remarked that when our beloved pets pass it's as if they leave to make room for another. In a way, that has happened. We'd give anything to have our Golden Girl back with us. But that's not possible. So here we are, sharing our love with another.

Chaser trained us well.






Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lake fun and other news


We spent a wonderful week at the lake with Jon's family. It was so great to see my hubby relaxing. His job can be stressful, so I'm happy he got to enjoy the water, dumping his little bro off a jet ski and throwing his son into the lake...repeatedly. Ah, good times.


And we were so proud of Gabe. He is great about trying new things. Jet skiing. Tubing. Diving off a 12-foot platform. The best missed photo op was when he flew off into the stratosphere while tubing at an alarming rate of speed. However, after spitting out a gallon of water he announced he was ready for Round 2.


And the day we returned home we welcomed Bear to our family. She's an 8-month-old golden retriever. We weren't looking yet; still dealing with the loss of our beloved Chaser. But Bear found us anyway. She already had a great home, but the family needed to downsize the number of dogs they had. So she has found a home with us.

As she was in an outside kennel, we're experience the joys of housetraining. And she's quickly learned the value of air conditioning and comfy beds.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hole in your heart

For better or for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Right up until somebody kicks the bucket.

Ah, the lovely marriage vows.

It wasn’t until seven years later we realized we had omitted one: Nothing spells togetherness like a couple attempting to bury the remains of a beloved dog.

Then all bets are off.

***

When our beautiful Chaser, Wondermutt of West Edwards Street, passed away, my husband and I had her body cremated.

I had envisioned tossing the ashes into the sunshine and wind. Say a poem. Sing “Kumbaya.” You know, a real “Dead Poets Society” kinda moment.

My husband, on the other hand, had different ideas.

“I want to bury her in the backyard. At home. Where she belongs,” he stated. (Let’s disregard, for the moment, that it’s illegal to do so in most towns. Go ahead. Arrest us.)

He picked up the small box we had prepared containing her ashes and headed out the door.

Before I took two steps, he stopped me and motioned toward the garage wall.

“Grab the shovel,” he said, “and the spade. Don’t forget that little trowel thing. And the clippers.”

Geesh, I thought as I collected the items. Are we digging a hole to friggin’ China or what?

I dropped all the tools into a pile at his feet and pointed out the spot I had chosen beneath a tree. I took a deep breath. I will not cry. I will not cry.

My husband picked up the spade and quickly got down to business.

For about 37 seconds.

“What the hell!” he yelled, his hands rattling from the impact of the spade ramming into a particularly large tree root. He tossed the spade onto the ground, bent over and surveyed the situation.

I decided not to complain that said spade had landed and smashed three plants nearby.

With gloved hands, he began digging through dirt covering the root, trying to ascertain just how far it reached.

Apparently the answer was China.

“OK, this isn’t gonna work,” he huffed and stood up. “Find another spot.”

My jaw dropped and I peered down into what seemed like a perfectly good hole to me and whined, “But I want THIS spot. She used to sit right here. Watching the neighborhood. Terrorizing rabbits. Being beautiful.”

I will not cry. I will not cry.

My husband pointed at the hole and answered, “I. Cannot. Dig. Out. That. Root. Without. A. Nuclear. Warhead.” He paused and repeated curtly, “Find. Another. Spot.”

I pouted but knew if I insisted I’d be digging the hole myself. Alone.

A girl learns a few things after seven years of marriage. I sighed and gestured nearby. “OK, how about there?”

He looked over and asked, “There? Where that flower pot is?”

“Yes,” I answered with one raised eyebrow. “Right there.”

His own eyebrows met in the middle of his forehead, but he didn’t say a word.
Apparently a guy learns a few things after seven years of marriage too.

He yanked on the pot, picked it up and moved it over. And got back to work digging hole #2.

Twenty minutes, two broken shovels, one lost trowel and 138 swear words later we were the proud owners of one gigantic hole.

And that’s the point our five-year-old son wandered into the yard and demanded someone make him a peanut butter sandwich.

Before my husband could howl at his poor timing, I shepherded the royal heir back toward the house. “It’s only fitting, you know. Chaser did love her peanut butter,” I pointed out.

When I returned, Chaser was in the ground, and my husband was pouring dirt back into the hole.

No ceremony? No poetry? No Kumbaya, My Lord? What kinda funeral was this?!

“So that’s it?” I asked, watching him casually toss another uprooted plant to the side. “It’s all over?”

He stood, wavering from the exhaustion of digging halfway to China in 90-degree heat and answered, “Yes, but just so you know, we’re never burying another dog.” He paused then added quietly, “But now she’s home.”

And then we looked at each other, looked down at the freshly dug earth, and with the physical task completed, the weight of the moment pushed us over the emotional cliff we had tried so hard to avoid.

And then we cried. There by her spot under the tree. Together.

Now that’s marriage.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Golden Girl memorial

The flag I ordered for Chaser's memorial arrived today.

Thanks to my in-laws for the inscribed plaque. It pairs nicely with the pawprint stepping stone Chaser and I made a couple of months before she died.

We continue to heal. Missing her tons. Life goes on.

It's just not quite as bright as before.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The show must go on


When the Fourth of July rolls around each year, my husband considers himself a master of pyrotechnics.

I prefer another term.

Pyromaniac.

I peeked inside the plain, brown paper sack and asked, “What exactly is a Dragon of Doom?”

My husband, eyes alit with the kind of manic craziness that usually ensures a one-way ticket into a straight jacket, answered excitedly, “I have no idea, but it’s gonna be awesome!”

He paused then added, “Careful with that. I had to give them my fingerprints and a DNA sample just to buy that thing. So there’s a good chance it’s radioactive.”

Oh.

Dear.

God.

As the holiday approaches, days of preparation are in order. Scouring firework tents across three counties and two states. Building launch pads. Checking satellite schedules so he doesn’t accidentally knock out a government-issued orbiter and bring down the wrath of Homeland Security.

Again.

But no matter how much one prepares. No matter how many plans one makes. No matter how many permits one files with the local government....

Mother Nature is gonna screw with you.

“Uh, so...how about this rain?” I asked with trepidation as my husband stood just inside the open garage door, his gaze locked on the pouring sheet of rain outside.

He was purple with rage and a slight buzzing was humming off his body. I backed up slightly, knocking into a display behind me and sending pieces of brightly colored fireworks scattering toward the ground.

I cringed and said, “Oops. Sorry.” And ran like hell back into the house.

Mother Nature - 1.

My husband - 0.

Twenty minutes later, awash with the kind of stalwart determination of Never Give Up that built this great country of ours (which also led to the invention of Silly Putty and duct tape) he announced to all that the show must go on.

“I have a plan,” he said.

I bit my nails nervously as a million thoughts rattled through my mind. The first of which was the realization the banks were closed and the ATM has a $300 withdrawal limit.

Because - undoubtedly - his plan had a high probability of ending with a judge and a bail order.

“You’re coming with me,” he announced and pointed my way. I slowly turned around, hoping there was someone standing behind me.

Crud.

It was just the refrigerator. Unless it magically sprouted opposable thumbs, I was out of luck. My shoulders sagged, and I took a step forward.

“And bring the umbrella,” my husband threw over his shoulder on his way out the door.

So there I was. Standing at the end of our driveway in the middle of a downpour holding an umbrella over my husband as he attempted to light the first firework in the rain.

While part of me admired his determination to follow things through, another part of me - especially my bare toes when he took a step back and smashed them - decided this was getting out of hand.

Just as I opened my mouth to share my black thoughts, I saw him place the lighter next to the fuse and prepare the launch sequence.

Then click.

And...nothing. No flame. No orange ball of ignition.

Nothing.

Click. Followed by a disgruntled grrr as he gave the lighter a savage shake.

Another click. Followed by a more animated “You stupid piece of sh--.”

Then another click. Followed by BOOM.

Which, in my estimation, is exactly the sound of a small sledgehammer busting up a cheap piece of plastic into about a gazillion pieces. But since my husband was back in the garage at this point...it was only a guess.

After a short silence, he stalked out of the garage and said, “The lighter...uh...ain’t working. We got any matches?”

Half a box of spent matches later (because 47 in a row went pffft in the rain before he finally got one to light the fuse) the Dragon of Doom soared high into the sky.

With a BOOM that thundered over the city, it exploded into a shower of dazzling purple and blue flames that seemed to stretch a million miles wide.

“Ooooh!” I said excitedly and shivered with excitement.

And then I uttered the very words that made my husband’s night:

“Do that again!”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lock it up tight

When we decided to have Chaser's remains cremated, I had envisioned spreading her ashes at the pond on the family farm. Symbolically setting her free to become one with the wind and the sun.

But my husband had other ideas. He wanted to bury her ashes in the backyard. At home. "Where she belongs," he told me.

At first, I wasn't sure what to think. Then, remembering that it's not really her, she's already flown to her new home, I agreed. Maybe because I keep finding myself staring out the windows into the backyard, searching for her face. Then I wander outside to sit under the tree she spent so much time under just to feel close to her.

And then a part of me - the part of my soul that will always belong to her - whispered 'this is the place.' So we've chosen a special spot beneath her tree. We planted some flowers and laid the stepping stone of her paw print there. I purchased a small set of windchimes, which now hang in the tree. And when the wind blows, the sound reminds us of the jingle of her collar.

Standing there, I feel peaceful. And now I have something to look for out the window again.



Jon's idea turned out to be a great one. He made a vault of sorts, including Chaser's parrot, Jose, a family portrait, her Bearcat collar and her remains, which I topped with a beautiful sunflower since I always called her my brown-eyed girl. And - never forgotten - one of her tennis balls.

To some, it may seem a bit much, a little dramatic, a little weird. But for us, it seems a fitting tribute to a golden girl who brought so much joy to our lives.

So we'll lock it up tight and bury it in Chaser's garden.

Friday, July 2, 2010

She's everywhere


I finally broke down today and decided to vacuum.

I haven't done that since Chaser died. Seems silly, but I knew it would be the last time we'd see her golden fur scattered on the rugs. After spending the past 7 years vacuuming 5-6 times a week - and successfully burning up three vacuums - going two weeks between jobs was some kind of major house-slob record.

Just as I was getting started, I discovered three tennis balls under the couch. Chaser had stuffed them there for a rainy day.

It made me smile...so I left them. Even though she won't be back to claim them, they'll be waiting for her successor some day.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Land of PureGold Foundation

Through the wonders of social media a few months ago, I met the founder of Land of PureGold Foundation. The foundation promotes the human-canine bond and responsible pet ownership, and also funds cancer research and treatments for working dogs for animal-assistance therapy, search and rescue, etc.

Rochelle first contacted me after reading one of my columns, which featured my Chaser. She wanted to reprint it in Pet Talk, her foundation's newsletter. Of course, I said YES!

Just a few short weeks later, she returned the favor by providing us with a great resource - http://www.tripawds.com/ - after learning about Chaser's osteosarcoma diagnosis.

As if Rochelle hadn't helped us enough...she continues to amaze me. In this month's foundation newsletter, she included a two-page feature on my Chaser. Others will read about her journey and her life. It is ways like this my Chaser will live on.

You can read it here (pages 7-8).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Little surprises

Even after she's gone, our Chaser continues to surprise us.

While searching for their phone number, my husband stumbled across this today:





It's the website for the Veterinary Speciality and Emergency Center. We took Chaser there for her eye exams. I guess they decided she was beautiful too.

We always joked she could have been a movie star. However, it was enough she was a star in our hearts.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Knee of nastiness

Our five-year-old was sick.


For some households, that’s a daily occurrence. But when you live with a child who’s healthier than God, you get a little spoiled.

So when the fever started at midnight and he wandered into our bedroom asking to share some space, it was hard to turn him down.

But I was less than enthusiastic to share our queen-sized bed with two other humans.

Correction: I was less than enthusiastic about the five-inch strip of mattress along the edge of the bed that I had been assigned.

After getting the little guy settled with the big guy, I grabbed my pillow and headed into the guest room in search of wider pastures.

I collapsed on the bed and went to sleep. All was great.

Until 3 a.m. Then all hell broke loose.

It was a scream like no other. Stabbing and full of blood-curling agony.

It pierced through my sleep-addled mind and sent me on full alert. I’m a mom. It’s in my genetic code to Move-Assess-Defend.

I catapulted out of bed and took two quick steps.

And that’s when the Tilt-A-Whirl started, and I thought to myself, “Self? How in the hell did you get on a Tilt-A-Whirl at 3 in the morning?!”

And the next thing I knew I was falling face first. My knees skidded along the floor. My shoulder rammed into the door frame. I landed hard on my wrist and felt a large pop in my bicep.

But nothing was gonna stop me. I started crawling. And yelling. “OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD!”

OK. I’m usually calmer under pressure. But that scream had scared the you-know-what right outta me.

I dragged my battered body across the hall and into our bedroom. In the darkness, I could make out the outline form of my husband sitting up in bed. He shouted, “Are you OK?!”

I reached over and grabbed Gabe. “Answer Daddy!”

A pause, then my husband pointed at me and clarified, “I’m talking to you!”

That’s when I noticed our son had already fallen back asleep. Oh. Guess we’ll mark this one up to a bad dream and move along.

I sighed in relief then shrugged my shoulders and answered sweetly, “Why? What did I do?”

He snorted in response and said, “Out there. Across the hallway. What the hell happened to you?”

“Oh.” Pause. “That.” Another pause. “I ran into a little trouble.”

My husband asked, “What kind of trouble?”

Sigh. “My feet.”

I reached over and clicked on the table lamp. I closed my eyes and asked my husband, “How bad is it?”

I heard him shuffle a bit closer, followed by “Ewww!”

I cracked one eye slowly open and peered down. My right knee didn’t look too bad. Already swelling like I’d taken a baseball bat to it, but no blood. That was good.

Then my vision shifted over to the left leg and - !

It looked like I had raked it with a cheese grater then smacked it with a hammer then finished it off with a hot iron set to steam.

And it was oozing something that probably could be used for some whacked out Voodoo ritual involving a skinned chicken.

I flopped back onto the floor, landed on my busted shoulder, dropped the F bomb then gently rolled onto the other side.

“Are you just gonna sleep there?” my husband asked.

What a stupid question. I was never going to sleep again. I ignored him and asked, “Am I gonna need a skin graft or something?”

“No,” he chucked. “It’ll be OK.”

I didn’t believe him and gestured toward the knee of nastiness. “Seriously? I’m gonna need a skin graft. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the doctors will take it off my rear.”

“You won’t need a skin graft, and they won’t take it off your rear,” he muttered, grabbing his pillow and covers and obviously planning to go back to sleep. Oh. I don’t think so.

“Why not?” I asked. “I’ve got a lot to spare back there.”

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gentle Giant

Our Chaser was a perfect example of a Gentle Giant.

She had no clue how big she was. Leave a door ajar in the house? She'd sit there looking through the crack until someone opened it wider. Thunderstorm approaching? She'd (attempt to) curl up under the desk and wind her furry body around my feet. I don't think she ever realized that 70 of her 100 pounds never made it under the wood.

And she was so sweet with little kids. Never once did she growl or bite or lunge toward tiny hands reaching for her fuzzy ears or tail.

Our Gentle Giant.....

Title: Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bite (originally published October 2008)

Death by hide-a-bed.

I always figured there were a million other things that would lead to my demise. High cholesterol. A plane crash. Using the hair dryer in the bath tub while shaving my legs.

But never in my wildest dreams – or nightmares – did I imagine this moment. My legs sticking high in the air. My torso sinking into a giant chasm.

Time froze as I opened my mouth to scream and only managed to eke out a quiet, “Oh. Dear. God.”

It began as an innocent trip with my in-laws. A camper packed with four adults, one busy toddler, two large dogs and a brand new puppy. Do the math and you’ll discover that’s a whole lot of bodies to share one small space.

But we managed just fine. That is, until night came. The dark, dark night. When the moon rose slowly into the inky black sky to bathe the world below in an eerie glow of white…oh…whatever. It was dark, OK?

Chaser, our golden retriever, had already claimed her spot at the end of the tiny sofa bed on which my husband and I would be sleeping.

“Are you comfortable, Your Highness?” I mockingly said to her as I moved her golden tail out of the way and crawled between the sheets.

My husband, Jon, poked his head out of the bathroom, took one look at the 94 pounds of dog taking up the rest of the bed and simply said, “I don’t think so.”

As usual, I ignored him. “Where’s the television remote?” I asked, patting down the mattress around me. “It was just here a second ago.” I buried my hands under the covers and began searching the area around Chaser. Her low growl told me I was invading her space. I poked her in the rear just for fun.

“Better be quiet,” Jon warned as he walked in and pointed down to the sleeping baby snuggled in the playpen set up next to the table. “You’ll wake up Little Big Guy.”

I doubted it. Like his dad, it takes a sonic boom to get him moving once he falls asleep.

Jon stopped at the kitchen counter, deciding it offered a little more space to remove his contacts than the phone booth-sized space of the camper’s tiny bathroom.

He looked down at Chaser, who was suddenly faking a deep sleep. When he turned his back, I noticed one chocolate brown eye crack open.

Just because he’s blind without corrective lenses doesn’t mean my husband can’t see. Without turning around he ordered, “Move it.”

I muffled a laugh as Chaser slowly stood up and stretched. First her front legs, then her back. She yawned. Gave a shake that started at the tip of her black nose and ended with her tail. Sat on her haunches, lifted a back paw and scratched at her ear for a bit. She was stalling like an 8-year-old avoiding bed time.

“Come on, puppy,” I said softly and smoothed the covers next to me, “there’s plenty of room up here by me.”

And that, my friends, is what is called a tragic flaw in literary circles. An error of judgment, if you will, that leads to a person’s demise. The point of no return. Elvis has left the building. The Fat Lady is singing and it ain’t a pretty song.

As she made her way up the bed, Chaser’s bulky frame joined forces with my own dainty poundage (insert snort here) near the head of the bed and gravity took us the rest of the way.

The foot of the bed shot straight up in the air.

And not just a few inches off the floor. No way, baby. This sucker shot up a good five feet, sending me and the dog sliding down toward the rapidly widening crevice that formed at the head of the bed.

Then time stopped.

And that’s the sight Jon saw when he turned around. The black metal of the bed’s undercarriage as it sat high in the air, only the tips of my toes visible over the top edge of the mattress.

He peeked around to see me clutching Chaser tightly around her neck in a pathetic attempt to prevent her from being swallowed by the dark pit under the sofa. Or maybe I was just trying to save myself.

Jon quietly walked over, but before reaching the bed he pointed to the floor and said, “Hey, you found the remote. Cool.”

He picked it up and switched the channel to a college football game. Almost as an afterthought, he reached over and pushed the bed back down to earth. Our hero.

I looked at Chaser. She looked at me. Bonded forever by our near-death experience, she leaned over and gave me a big smooch with her floppy pink tongue.

And that’s when I pushed her off the bed and onto the floor.