Monday, December 07, 2009

A Christmas Re-Run

This is one of my first blog posts. Yes, a re-run! How very surprising! This was requested by a reader and, well, 'tis the season. (Merry Christmas, Jules.)

Monday, December 19, 2005
Christmas Decorating For OCD Couples

Hubs and I know better than to try to decorate the house together. It's not that we haven't tried, you understand. It's just that Hubs is somewhat, and I say this with great love and respect, "particular" about where the decorations go. And by "particular," of course, I mean a raving, perfection-obsessed, control freak who makes me ponder the idea of ripping my own fingernails from their beds just to distract myself from the agony of his constant adjusting of the scenery. Over the past several Christmas seasons I have learned how to handle this little quirk;I let him do his thing and I do mine. My thing includes setting up the nativity scene.

Hubs still tries to oversee my work, however. Like a few years ago, after he finished hanging enough lights on the house to make Clark Griswold weep with envy, he came inside and stood watching me work for a few minutes. Then he just couldn't help it. He had to ask.

"Um, Stacey? How come the Wise Men are on the other side of the room?"

"Because they weren't actually at the stable that night. They didn't find Christ until quite a bit later. So I put them over there, like they're still en route."

"But still, it's the nativity. I think they're supposed to all be together."

"It's not historically accurate to have the Wise Men at the stable."

"Okay, well, that may be true, but I'd like to point out that it probably isn't historically accurate to have the Obi Wan Kenobi action figure acting as a shepherd, either. I mean, he's a Jedi. There were no Jedi at the stable that night."

"Oh yeah? How do you know? WERE YOU THERE? I didn't think so."

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Greatest Game

Over the weekend, Son finally realized a long-cherished dream of his: to own an Atari video game console. I'm not exactly sure why this was such a coveted item for him, nor am I sure he knows. He simply says, "It's a piece of gaming history." Nice. Something from my childhood is viewed by my son as "history". An antique, if you will.

Although it was fun to watch Son eagerly catalogue and assemble his new toy, I admit I began to experience a small amount of panic. It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that I lack the skills to play video games. Technology and I are not exactly on the best of terms. In fact, the other day, I was afraid I'd have to wait for Son to get home from school to set up the Wii for me. And then I'd have to bribe him to go away so I could play without being heckled. It was much like the time I had to wait for him to come home from pre-school to set the VCR for me. (Fortunately, my mother-in-law came through for me on the Wii thing, thus sparing me further mockery.)

Son takes entirely too much delight in his video game prowess. Since the time he picked up his first controller, he has heaped the abuse on us, even stating repeatedly that he doesn't feel safe riding in the car with people who can't even negotiate their way around Wario World. And all these years, my go-to excuse has been, "I may not be able to play these games, but wow. You should have seen me play Pong. I was truly great." It seemed like a safe thing to say at the time. What were the odds that he'd ever find "a piece of gaming history" and actually WANT to play it?)

So, yes. A bit of anxiety over the imminent blowing of my cover. I mean, I really WAS able to play Pong. I really was able to do a lot of things, once upon a time. I had skills. Skills that apparently fade if you don't practice them for a couple of decades. (And while we're on the topic, whomever came up with the phrase "It's just like riding a bike" clearly had never met anyone like me when they came up with that particular bit of nonsense.)

Last night, after a day of evading Son's challenges, I finally agreed to play. And let me just say that when I beat him soundly, I have never in my life experienced more joy in a win. I was giddy with triumph. Sure, I know that in a day or two, he'll be able to take me out easily, but that's certainly not going to stop me from revelling in the moment while it lasts.

The instant I realized he was starting to get the hang of it, I handed over the paddle and announced I was going to let someone else have a turn. I went downstairs and soon my mother-in-law came down and shared the information that my father-in-law was having a marvelous time trouncing Son. Earlier I'd had the opportunity of witnessing HER have a marvelous time defeating Son as well, so, you know. I couldn't miss the final blow.

When I got back upstairs, I found Son scowling with frustration at the screen while my father-in-law was demonstrating, "See? I can even do it with my toes!" Sure enough, he had the paddle on the floor and appeared to be scoring effortlessly using only his toes. I sat and watched for a few minutes until my father-in-law grinned and said gleefully, "You should try this, Stacey, because (Son)...he's just not very good at this at all!" Son's scowl deepened as his grandpa handed over the controller. I moved it a few times and noticed something odd: No matter how I turned the paddle, my little player continued to move independently. "Um...this doesn't seem to be working..." Grandpa rushed to assure me, "Oh it works, just keep moving it."

I was a little slow, but I finally caught on. And sure enough, I was easily able to defeat Son who could not BELIEVE how poorly he was doing. We played game after game, each one ending in the thrill of victory...for me. Son's grandpa kept trying to give him helpful tips, pointing out how I was smoothly moving my player up and down, and tracking the "ball".

After several games, Son demanded to switch controllers, since his was obviously faulty and "jittery". "Oh no," Grandpa said. "The one you have is fine." Then Son demanded to switch to a different game. Grandpa informed him that the winner got to pick the next game, so until Son could beat me, he'd have to play the game of my choice. I chose to continue with Pong. "You know what?" I asked, as I proceeded to win yet another game, "I think you've been spoiled with all your cool graphics and sophisticated controllers. I think when it comes right down to the basics, this is the game where true skill is required. Back in the day you had to really KNOW how to play if you wanted to win."

I showed Son all kinds of ways to play. With one hand. With my elbow. I even showed him how I could just listen to the sound of the game and still hit the ball every time, WITH MY EYES CLOSED. "This isn't fair!" he protested.

"Sure it is. Besides, Son, part of being a good gamer is knowing how to accept defeat graciously."

"Yeah right."

Never have I seen such consternation. It was beautiful. On and on we went, Son losing more bitterly every time. Grandpa eagerly urging Son to keep going. Finally, Son appeared to simply give up. He sat back as my player continued to score points and eventually win, 21 to 0. It was around then that Son held aloft the other end of the controller's plug. "How are you playing without even being plugged in?" He demanded.

"I'm just that good."

"Ok, what's going on here?" he asked, suspiciously. I sat and pondered Grandpa's poker face for a few moments until the light finally dawned for Son. "I've been playing the COMPUTER??" He tried to wrestle the controller from me, between trying to tickle me into an admission.

"I can't believe you did that, Mom!"

"I can't believe it took you so long to figure it out! Playing by SOUND? Really?"

Then Grandpa scored the best shot of the night: "I can't believe you didn't figure it out when I let the dog play. And she won."

So, no, maybe I didn't deserve all those wins. (Okay, I didn't deserve any of them, though I still contend that I beat him soundly when I was actually in control of my player earlier in the evening.) But, oh, that was glorious!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

And a Little Child Shall Lead (And Amuse) Them

For Labor Day weekend, Hubs, Son and I went to Yellowstone. With his parents. And his sister. And his sister's two children. In a motorhome. We became very close in many ways. Granted, it's an extremely nice motorhome, but at the end of the day, no one got up at night without running the risk of stepping on my sister-in-law's face because she drew the short straw and was sleeping on the floor. And yes, technically the fact that we didn't draw straws at all and just told her we did it using a proxy and her proxy lost should probably have caused us to lose a bit of sleep. However, I think the lost sleep can be directly attributed to my neice.

K is three years old. We must be very clear on this point, because if you get it wrong, she'll correct you swiftly and loudly. K is probably one of the most emotionally healthy people I know. Seriously. When something upsets or hurts her- and she's three so this happens frequently- she screams. Loudly. And often at great length. With the loud, long, screaming screams. And then she cries. Also loudly. To the point that I was actually quite impressed that she had that kind of lung power and, as we waited for the storm to cease, I contemplated her chances at one day becoming an opera singer. I think she could do it. (She does an amazing rendition of "Old Macdonald Had A Farm". I especially like it when on that farm he has a Giraffe.) Also, she requires that everyone avert their eyes and avoid looking at her while she's upset.

And here's the beautiful thing about this approach: when she's finished? It's over. Done, dealt with, complete. There are no grudges, no hurt feelings, no alliances and gossip with other family members, no Machiavellian plots to avenge the wrong. For that matter, after a couple of particularly lengthy displays of displeasure, she couldn't even recall for sure why she was upset in the first place. She explained to me, "Sometimes you just need to cry."

I think this is BRILLIANT. And don't think I didn't contemplate doing exactly the same thing the other day when I got exceedingly bad news from the dentist. I still might. You never know. Seriously, why do we teach children not to cry? Or expect them to just stop being upset? She's three. That's what she does. And it works. I don't know about you, but I can't just turn off pain or hurt, and I'm considerably more than 3 years old. Instead I turn off the appearance of pain and hurt. Which accomplishes very little really. The pressure just accumulates until one day it blows up over something very trivial and we're left wondering just when exactly I completely lost my mind. I wonder if people become anxious around a tantrum precisely because THEY were taught that crying is bad. I mean, sure there are times when the tantrum thrower should move or be moved to a discreet location before letting lose. (By this, Son, I mean when Barbara Bush is giving a speech 15 feet away and you start screaming, we're not going to hang around and let you add to her sound bites.)

Anyway. In addition to the wisdom of the art of the tantrum, K kept us amused. Vastly so. For example, one day we were in the car and she was playing with a little plastic box, which she decided for the moment was a camera. "Say cheese, Aunt Stace," she directed before snapping a picture. (At some point she dubbed me "Aunt Stace." I'm not sure if this is because she overheard Hubs calling me "Stace", since he's among the very few allowed to call me "Stace", or if she simply decided the extra syllable was just unreasonably excessive.) After taking my "picture" she gazed at the box with concern. "Oh no, you have your eyes closed."

"I do? Let me see? Hmm. Yes, you're right. Want me to throw that one away?"

"Yes, throw it in the garbage." (Apparently her "camera" produces Polaroid photos rather than digital images.) So I carefully took the imaginary picture from the "camera", crumpled it up and threw it in the garbage. She rolled her eyes in disgust. "No, Aunt Stace, you have to rip it up."

"Oh. Right. Of course. Sorry." I sifted through the garbage sack and fished out the imaginary photo, carefully tore it into pieces, and put the remnants back in the trash. "Ok, now what?"

"Now I'll take your picture again." She lifted up her little box and instructed, "Say 'Norma!'"


"Say 'Norma.'" To her credit she refrained from adding, "Like, duh, woman."


"Yes, say 'Norma.'"

This apparently did the trick since she was satisfied with the next picture. We never did figure out where 'Norma' came from. (Although every subject of every picture taken after that, including the moose and a nice Japanese tourist lady who asked my father-in-law to take a picture of her, was required to say "Norma.") My sister-in-law theorized that perhaps K has a friend named Norma. It doesn't really matter though. K is perfectly fine with random thoughts and seemed a little surprised that we were all so very clueless.

She's also very encouraging. As we drove through the park, she handed me her Little Mermaid game. You know, one of those games with water in them, and you push the buttons and try to get the rings to go over the pegs? Turns out, I'm not very good at this. "I'm sorry, Sweetheart, I don't know if I can do this." She patted my arm consolingly and advised, "Be strong, Aunt Stace."

Bedtime was interesting. And hilarious. As we were trying to get settled in, K was in her little bed shouting strings of random thought. And then out of nowhere, into the silence she demanded, "Are you KIDDING me? Are you REALLY KIDDING ME?"

Hubs and I started giggling as silently as possible. Which became difficult when she announced, "You're gonna be kidnapped...and go to the hospital...and the library. And the County Jail..." At that point, our laughter got her attention. "Stop laughing!" And then she yelled, "YOU BETTER BE QUIET OR YOU'LL WAKE GRANDPA UP!" She had a point. We were laughing so hard I don't know that anyone in the campground slept much that night.

During one drive, K became very annoyed with anyone who had the audacity to speak to me. "I'm talking to Aunt Stace. You don't talk to her. I'm talking to her." Grandma later observed, "I think Aunt Stace is your new favorite friend." K looked at her grandmother with an expression of wonderment mixed with grave concern that Grandma seemed unaware of a very important fact. Little K raised her hands to her sides, palms up as if embracing a large group and explained, "But Grandma, there's lots of friends in this world."

Indeed there are. And how lucky are we that this very wise little girl is one of them?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Intelligent Design. Anyone? Anyone?

You know how there are people who get grumpy when they haven't eaten recently? Ok, yes, basically if you know ANY people, you know people like this. I married one of these people. And since I am one of these people too, you can go right ahead and assume that Son also has this trait. The condition of hunger seems to affect our ability to think, act or speak with any semblance of reason or logic. Depending on how long we've been afflicted by starvation, our response can range anywhere from mildly cranky to throwing ourselves on the floor and screaming simply because someone else dares to EXIST in the same house.

The other night, I had taken Son to the Big City and happened to end our errands around the same time Hubs was leaving work. Son was already displaying symptoms. After all, it had been nearly an hour since he'd eaten last. So I called Hubs and asked if he'd like to meet us for dinner. After walking out of one restaurant because the server had the audacity to linger at another table asking inane questions about beverages, Hubs decided the appropriate response was to go elsewhere. I could almost see the "Low Fuel" light blinking on his forehead so off we went.

We ended up at IHOP, partly because it was close, but mostly because Hubs has a thing about eating breakfast foods for dinner which is cool because so do I. And Son...he's 14. He'll eat anything.

Once Hubs had chocolate milk and maple syrup on board and his blood sugar was stabilizing, we began to reminisce about a prior visit to IHOP which took place years ago.

It was the good old days when Dad was able to eat in front of Mom without getting in trouble. Most of us had our Low Fuel lights flashing and that's how Dad, Mom, Hubs, Son and I ended up at IHOP. Again, because it was very close by and when it's time to eat we just don't want to waste time.

We had started eating and were beginning the journey back to the land of the rational thinkers, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, when I noticed something had caught Hubs' attention. I assumed he'd been distracted by something shiny, and since I like shiny things too, I turned to see what he was looking at.

Turns out it was more of a "whom" than a "what." I looked at Hubs. Hubs looked at me. We both looked back at the man who portrayed one of my most beloved movie characters.

"Is that...?" I whispered out of the side of my mouth. Very nonchalant. Hubs nodded back, feigning fascination with his toast.

"Yeah, it's gotta be. Look at his shoes." It was about that point when Mom, who was sitting across from me caught a glimpse as he was seated behind and slightly to the side of her. She stared at his reflection in the glass. (Staring at a reflection is obviously much less intrusive than staring at the actual person, am I right?)"Oh it's got to be him!" Mom announced with glee. "Who else would wear tennis shoes with a suit?"

Son, who was about 9 at the time and had clearly not received the memo on how to fool a celebrity into thinking one is very sophisticated and is not star struck at all, immediately leaned across the table and in a whisper loud enough to carry across county lines asked, "Dry eyes?" I tried to shush him, but he had already moved on to "Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?" Then he started scrambling for a pen and asking us if he could go get Ben Stein's autograph. Meanwhile, Mike and Mom were discussing the fact that there was a limo outside and a driver-type person had just been seated with Stein.

"It'll just take a second, Mom, c'mon, please?" I'm not sure why I didn't give permission. It just seemed like celebrities would probably really appreciate being able to eat in peace without being gawked at, whispered about and being pestered for autographs. And after all, we were already doing the gawking and whispering thing, but I like to pretend that we were somehow cool enough that Stein wouldn't realize what we were up to, despite being seated about 10 feet away.

"No," I informed Son. "Let him finish his dinner without interruption. If we're still here when he leaves, you may ask then." Son then started eating with such extreme slowness I'm not entirely sure he even had anything on his fork every time he raised it oh-so-slowly to his lips. It was at about that time that Stein got up and headed toward the restroom.

"Now, Mom? He's not eating now, can I ask now?"

" know, I think this is probably not a good time to interrupt either."

While Stein was out of earshot (I hope) we sat and dissected his life and career. We quoted his film work, his commercials, the fact that he'd been a speech writer for Presidents Nixon and Ford. And how weird it seemed that he would have been a speech-writer for these Presidents and how much more entertaining it would have been to hear Stein deliver those speeches himself. Then he returned to his table and we returned to our covert glances from the corners of our eyes. Or in Mom's case, the reflection in the window. I know. We are just so cool.

Within a few minutes, Stein finished his meal and approached our table. Seriously.

"Hiiii," he said. That voice. No question it was really Ben Stein, but he kindly introduced himself anyway, "My name is Ben Stein." We all pretended to have just barely noticed his presence and greeted him. Actually I started with "hello" but half-way through decided to go with something else, but couldn't think of what exactly, so basically I just greeted him with "Hell."

"I'm participating in a debate tonight at the college across the street..." We all looked out the window as if just noticing for the first time ever that there is a college there. I told you. We're very cool.

"We're debating Intelligent Design and we need people to come sit in the audience. We will pay you each twenty dollars (it's very important that you imagine him saying all of this in that voice.) if you'll come and just sit in the audience for two hours." Really? Go listen to one of my favorite actor/writers and get PAID for it? But before I could even get "Absolutely!" out...Mom and Hubs mentioned that although it sounded very interesting, it was getting late, it was a school night, Hubs had to work the next morning...or something like that.

Stein was gracious. He thanked us for our time and approached another table with his pitch. I wondered briefly if he enjoyed being a celebrity who interrupts the mere mortals while at dinner. I know I appreciated the irony.

As he was leaving, Dad, who was also a bit disappointed at missing out on twenty dollars for doing nothing more than he planned to do the rest of the night...sitting...watched Stein as he finally returned to his table, collected his things and prepared to leave.

Apparently Dad's blood sugar levels had returned to normal around then. Dad, who doesn't exactly speak quietly, stared after Stein and mused, "You know...that guy kind of looks like that guy from the "Dry Eyes" commercial.

All in all, it was probably a good thing we didn't go to the debate. It would have been unfair. With us there, the theory of Intelligent Design wouldn't stand a chance.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blessed More Than We Know

Last week, Hubs and I got to take Son to a neurologist. There were a number of reasons for this. One, Hubs got to take the morning off work and hey, who doesn't want to spend a rare morning of family time sitting in a doctor's office? But the delightful prospect of spending hours catching up on our "Highlights for Kids Magazine" reading aside, we went primarily to see why Son is having seizures.

Given the timing of the most recent one, we determined the cause is probably not just a desire to be liberated from school. I mean we haven't ruled it out entirely, of course, but we think there may be other factors involved. This time, rather than sitting in English class, he was getting ready to ride his bike when he announced to Grandpa, "I think I'm going to faint. Help me, Grandpa." Thank heaven for Grandpa.

I was in Orem when my phone rang. (For those who, for reasons I cannot imagine, have not acquainted themselves with Utah geography, Orem is about 40 miles away from Nephi, which is where Hubs' parents live.) I don't remember much about the drive home, other than noting that my car goes a LOT faster than I ever realized it could.

Grandpa handled the situation perfectly, and I am beyond grateful that he was there. He had the dubious job of letting me know my son, my only child, had just been taken to the hospital. In an ambulance. He told me I needed to get there ASAP and he managed to tell me all of this without completely freaking me out. (I didn't completely freak out until I was actually AT the hospital. I was just "mostly" freaking out on the way home, as I repeated over and over "He's at the hospital, he's in good hands.")

Hubs was in Texas at the time and he got to spend the whole night freaking out all by himself, until he was able to switch to an earlier flight home. I spent the night holding Son's hand. I held his hand all night for two reasons. One, he wouldn't let go of mine, and two, I didn't want to let go of his. So there you go.

I'm not going to go into any more detail here, even though Son has given the go-ahead to write about this. I'm just going to go with: He seized for 45 minutes. It was bad. It is not something we'd like to do again. And we recognize we were extremely blessed in many ways. It could have been so much worse.

And so it came to pass that last week we were all hanging out with the neurologist. And we learned some interesting things. Among them was a directive by which Son was particularly dismayed; no caffeine. Apparently, caffeine can trigger seizures. Who knew?

Now, you'd think a kid who has already been told by his parents "Don't drink caffeine" would not particularly have a problem with this. But this is a kid who has been told "Don't drink caffeine" and has done it anyway. Apparently quite frequently. I know. A teenager who defies his parents. Shocker.

The reasoning behind this rule, aside from wanting to avoid potentially addictive substances, is Son on caffeine is kind of like Taz on crack; it may be entertaining to watch from a distance, but if you're on the clean-up crew or responsible in any way for him...not so much.

Anyone who knows me well knows I am, myself, hypersensitive to caffeine. A can of Coke can keep me awake for hours. Hours that I spend talking REALLY FAST. We first discovered Son has similar tendencies when he was about 4 years old. Mom and I had gone to lunch leaving Son, in theory, in the care of my father. I returned to find Son bouncing off walls, speaking so rapidly I could have sworn he was speaking in tongues, and it would not have surprised me in the least to have seen his head rotate a full 360 degrees. "Dad," I inquired, "why is my child possessed by Satan? What did you feed him?"

"Why? What did he tell you?" (This was also the day we realized that leaving Son and my dad together unsupervised is something akin to handing Bonnie and Clyde some ammo and a few Google maps to the nearest banks.) Dad admitted that they "might have had some ice cream. And a few Oreos. And a couple of York Peppermint Patties. And maybe some Smarties..." Nutrition has not always been a big priority for Dad.

"Uh huh." I glanced around and noticed 4 or 5 Pepsi cans sitting on the counter. Empty Pepsi cans. "Dad...did you let him drink Pepsi??"



"What did he tell you?"

"Dad, I'm asking YOU. Did he or did he not drink Pepsi?"

Dad struggled for a minute, sputtering and stammering and resembling, in many ways, a deer in the headlights only somehow worse. Finally he responded with, "Well it was DIET Pepsi!"

Oh. Oh good. Because everyone knows that should cancel out the truckload of sugar they had consumed.

So, yes. We've known for awhile that caffeine and Son should not be spending a lot of time together. But to add insult to injury, he was also instructed to avoid soda in general. This is quite a blow. One of Son's favorite activities is going with his grandpeople to refill their mugs with fountain drinks (and really, at what point does it stop being mug and start being a bucket? 55 ounces is still just a mug? Seriously?) and go for a drive. We're looking at Gatorade now. Crystal Lite. Propel. That sort of thing. Which somehow just doesn't seem as appealing in Son's world. "How come all the good stuff turns out to be bad stuff? It's just not fair," he observed as he bemoaned his caffeine-free, non-carbonated fate.

I totally get it. I'm still not completely over my shock and sadness about the whole "Alfredo sauce isn't health food" thing. Still. He's been deeply disturbed about not being able to recall any of the events during or the day after the seizure. "This must be what it's like to wake up after a night of drinking and not knowing what you did the night before, and hoping you didn't kill anyone while you were out," he observed as he was being released from the hospital the next day.

"That's probably true," I responded. "So what are you going to with that?"

"One thing for sure, I'm never to going drink or do drugs because I HATE NOT KNOWING WHAT I DID!"

Doctor ordered abstinence from caffeine AND a decreased desire to experiment with drugs and alcohol? Yes, we may have been even more blessed than we realize.

Monday, August 03, 2009

I Really Did NOT See This Coming.

I've been informed that I'm once again guilty of blog neglect. Consequences have been threatened. Bad consequences. And so, for those wondering, and those whose wonder has turned to alarm, yes, we're still alive.

June was the month of THE MOVE: Phase One. (Do I really need to explain why THE MOVE is always written in all caps? No, I didn't think so.)I had supposed, naively it seems, that THE MOVE would be accomplished within one phase.

It appears I was mistaken.

Between various glitches and Hubs' need to evaluate, re-evaluate, reconsider, and then again evaluate every house on the market in Utah County (which conflicted, sometimes LOUDLY, with my own need to JUST PICK ONE ALREADY) June was a tad stressful for us. Much the same way the French Revolution was a bit inconvenient for some.

And thus it came to pass that we realized by the end of June, if the new residents of our home had any kind of objection to our remaining there with them, we were about to become homeless. Gypsies. Bedouins. Nomads.

And then one night Hubs came home and announced that he'd found a solution. Until we get the house deal worked out, we would be able to live with...his parents.

Don't get me wrong, his parents are good people. To my knowledge neither of them has ever committed heinous wrongs like cannibalism, mass murder or participated in tractor pulls. And during our time here, they have done everything possible to make us feel comfortable. They have been incredibly generous and gracious and I can fault them for nothing. In fact, I'm a little worried that when we're on our own again, Hubs will return from work to a disaster of a house and an empty table and I will simply look around in bewilderment wondering why the house is no longer magically taking care of us.

In the beginning, though, I was worried. I was very worried. And what worried me was...well, they have a dog. Or perhaps more accurately, a dog has them. Sophie is a shih tzu; a breed that Son takes great delight in pronouncing incorrectly. Although, as I understand it, most Americans who pronounce it "sheet-sue" are equally incorrect. (It's actually sure-ds. Or something. Still, you've got to admit the pronunciation "sheet-sue" does sound better than Son's alternative, which I probably don't need to describe here in detail.

At any rate, here's the dilemma. Sophie, despite her own apparent beliefs, is in fact a dog. I'm not a dog person. Not anymore. There was a time,yes, that I, too, belonged to a little dog. But I kind of thought I was maybe a one-dog person. My dog, as dogs tend to do, got old and sick and one day Dad had her murdered. (Murdered, euthanized, whatever.) And that was it. I figure the same will probably happen with Hubs. I mean, I probably won't want to find another man once he's gone. I don't expect my parents to murder him. At least I don't think so.

The point being, I'm not the sort that has an easy time with putting my heart on the line again once it's broken. I'm more the sort who, with very few exceptions, throws away every reminder, moves if necessary, and never allows the heart to be vulnerable that way ever again.

So upon our arrival, I assumed my heart was locked up nice and tightly. Inaccessible. Invulnerable. Ice cold. I planned to tolerate the dog, as after all, it's her house. (I'm pretty sure her name doesn't appear on the deed to the house, but make no mistake. It's her house and she graciously allows her people to live in it with her.) Son and Hubs, of course had no such reservations. It did not help matters to see Hubs home from work and immediately run eagerly to greet...the dog. One of our first nights here, Hubs and I went for a walk. And his new girlfriend was of course invited. "Honey, what do you think about getting a dog?" he asked.

"Honey, what do you think about getting a divorce?" I replied.

I mean, I can see his point to a degree. She's got this little face. And it's a cute little face. Very cute. Ok, it's the most heart-melting adorable little dog face ever. And she's well-behaved. She can do tricks and she spends a lot of time snuggling with her people and playing with her squeaky toys. So, yeah, she's...ok. If you're into that sort of thing. And I most decidedly WAS. NOT.

Son once told me dogs are the only creatures capable of complete forgiveness and unconditional love. (Lately I've been working on the concept of unconditional love, but I do seem to have a stumbling block when it comes to creatures who steal my heart and then just up and die. Death does seem to be a deal breaker when it comes to animals. Not with people though. Although I'm not, at the moment sure if that's a good thing or not.) I wasn't sure if Son was correct in his assessment of the unconditional love of a dog or if dogs are just really clueless. Because no matter how clear I have tried to make it to Sophie that I'm not interested in a relationship with she is. Being cute and adorable and seemingly oblivious to my utter lack of interest.

My father-in-law was also a bit chagrined to realize one evening, when he went to tuck Sophie in for the night and she ran to Hubs for protection. I believe it was about that time Father-in-law announced, "Tomorrow you guys need to find another place to live." At least I'm not alone in my feelings of abandonment.

My first morning here, my mother called to make sure THE MOVE: Phase One was on track. She asked how I getting along with the dog. "Well...I have dog saliva on my ankles, but they also have Wireless know. I'm good. It evens out." Mom said, "I don't know how you can't just fall in love with that little face."
"Mom," I explained for what seems to be the thousandth time, "it takes more than a pretty face to get my attention. Not. Gonna. Happen."

(Side note, my parents are also owned by a dog. A big dog. A big dog that seems to have issues with her self-image as she is under the impression that she's actually a lapdog. And she most decidedly is NOT. She's a Shetland Sheep dog and no one, NO ONE is allowed to stand in that house unless they want to be "herded" back to their seat. Mom is the disciplinarian, Dad's the treat-giver who breaks all the rules behind Mom's back. It's pretty much the same way they raised us. It offends them deeply that I'm not in love with their creature. I can't help wondering if they think if I learn to accept Sophie I will somehow develop a feeling of fondness for their dog. Just a guess. But I digress. As usual.)

So anyway. I'm chagrined to report that the other day we were riding in the car and Sophie climbed between Hubs and me and snuggled up next to me. (Told you she disregards my obvious lack of affection for her.) But then...she put her head on my knee. And I don't know what happened. Without thinking, I reached out and scratched behind her ears. Next thing I know she's got her head in my lap and I'm stroking her back. Naturally when I came to my senses I retracted my hand and liberally applied the anti-bacterial to BOTH hands, as if my display of affection could somehow be eradicated with enough alcohol-based solvents.

Today, when I arrived back after running errands, a memory was pulled kicking and screaming from the back of my mind; from that little box where it's been so securely locked for the past 14 years. I was reminded what it's like to be greeted with such enthusiasm and affection it was as if I'd been away at war and she'd assumed I was missing in action and I was never coming back.

The wall is cracking. Or cracked. The carefully locked box in which I keep my heart is being slowly but surely unlocked. I'm falling in love with this little beast that I had every intention of merely tolerating.

Nobody tell Hubs though. I can love him, but if he finds out I not only love him but his little dog too...I'm toast.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Realist

My mother is a practical woman. A realist, if you will. Dad and I, though, we're the dreamers. Mom has spent most of her adult life trying to haul one or both of us kicking and screaming back into reality. I like to think I'm not quite as bad as Dad, though. I mean, when we play the Lottery game, I don't actually go out and start test driving Jaguars. (Ok, a Mustang once, and I wasn't really serious. Ok, ok, I wasn't THAT serious.)

You all know the Lottery game, right? The "If You Won A Billion Dollars What Would You Do With It?" game. This is one of my favorite games ever. I love the "What if" games. All of them. Well, except for the "What If You Shut Up and Let Me Go to Sleep And When We Wake Up We'll Decide If We're Going to Stay Married?" game that Mike came up with one night. I'm not so fond of that one.

But still, I love these games. Because, sure, it's IMPROBABLE that I'll one day be stranded on an island with only a kazoo, a pomegranate and Brad Pitt but it's not IMPOSSIBLE and I'd like to be prepared so I don't commit some horrible faux pas like NOT KNOWING HOW TO EAT A POMEGRANATE CORRECTLY(Because think about it, do you know how? And if not, would you want that to come to light in the presence of Brad Pitt? I did not think so.)

Dad also loves the "What If" games. His real life may not be that eventful but let me assure you, his fantasy life is unrivaled. So anyway, one day Dad and I were playing the Lottery game. And Dad had gone on at great length and detail (he puts a LOT of thought into this) about the houses he'd buy for his children, the cars, and yes, I might even at last get that pony. You know, the usual. And then I detailed my list of dreams. (We had to up the amount from a million because we felt we should be somewhat philanthropic, but we still wanted to be able to finance the private island.) As we're doing this, Mom was wandering around the room straightening things, because that's what she does. She straightens things and rolls her eyes. But on this day, she actually was willing to play with us.

I sat poised on the edge of my chair, waiting to hear what Mom would do with a billion dollars; what crazy wild dreams she has somewhere under all the perfectly combed hair. And as I waited, she gazed off into space and got a kind of dreamy look on her face before announcing, "Well, I guess I'd move into one of those cute condos by the office."

"Why would you choose to live there?" I asked, thinking of all the exotic places she's mentioned wanting to see. And she did not disappoint. Still in that trance-like state of dreaminess she announced, "Well because then I could walk to work if my car didn't start."

I love my mom. Not only is she a great mom, I can be confident she's not going to just fritter away those billions I plan to inherit.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Moving Experience

Right now, we're in the middle of another move. Why? Good question. I'm beginning to think we're just the kind of people who see the opportunity to experience prolonged and profound chaos and say, "SIGN. US. UP."

Now, for those keeping count, this is the second move in two years. And if you're wondering if two years is really long enough to forget the horror, let me assure you, it is not. And yet, it became quite clear this evening, that Hubs is under the impression that this whole moving thing? Completely new to me.

Tonight, Hubs informed me that he's been storing boxes in the garage. Not just any boxes, but the good copier paper boxes of which I am so very fond for moving purposes.

"Ok," he tells me, leading me into the garage, "Here are the boxes. These are all empty, so use these."

"The empty ones?"


"And this is something you feel you need to specify?"

"I just want you to know which boxes to use."

"That's very sweet. Ok..let me see if I have this straight. You'd like me to use the boxes that don't have anything in them as opposed to the ones I've already packed things in? Is that right?"

"Well, I just don't want you to haul a box all the way upstairs and then realize it's already full."

"I see. So, if I notice a box is really heavy, and I haul it upstairs anyway because I, for whatever reason, assume that in this case the heaviness means something OTHER THAN THE BOX ISN'T EMPTY, what should I do then? WHAT?!"

Wish us luck.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Doused and Drenched Dignity (Yes, I've posted this one before.)

With the brief appearance of Spring, Hubs and I have once again been discussing what to do with the yard. Or if we should even HAVE a yard, given his lack of time and my propensity for killing all living things under my care. (How Son has survived this long is a mystery to us all.) Whatever we do, we'll have fun, which reminded me of this particular event I wrote about a few years ago. (Hey, Summer's coming. Time for re-runs!)

Doused and Drenched Dignity

I’m well aware that one shouldn’t marry a man believing that one can “change” him. So, when I say that I’ve had my husband under my personal care for intensive humor rehabilitation, I don’t really see it as trying to change him. Instead, I am merely trying to help him achieve his full potential. Don’t get me wrong, one of Hubs' most attractive qualities is his sense of humor. He’s a great connoisseur of the ironic and the absurd. However, he’s also a dignified and rather reserved man. Although he is capable of silliness in the privacy of his own home he does his best
to maintain his dignity in the presence of others. Considering who his wife is, this has actually been quite an accomplishment. Our neighbors have known Hubs all his life and until recently believed Hubs to be a cool, collected young man; serious and sober; a paragon of propriety. For most of his life, that’s exactly what he was. Then one day, he met me and life for Hubs has never been the quite the same.

I am pathologically incapable of maintaining the facade of decorum for longer than a few hours at a time. It’s not always deliberate, but I generally manage to trip, fall or somehow create an embarrassing or awkward situation. Sometimes I simply think of something humorous and begin laughing for reasons that are apparent to absolutely no one else. Hubs just shrugs indulgently, and continues whatever he is doing in his usual perfectly proper comportment.

The recent public unveiling of Hubs' silly side began, as is so often the case in these matters, with the highly hilarious job of mowing the lawn. Hubs, Son and I have developed a routine when it comes to lawn care. Hubs does the edging and trimming, I perform the arduous chore of driving around on the riding lawn mower (no sacrifice is too great when it comes to maintaining our yard, you know) while our son uses the leaf blower to remove the clippings from the sidewalks and driveway.

As I was doing my part, I noticed that despite the fact that we have asked Son countless times to put his “Super Soaker” water-gun in the garage when he’s not using it, the toy had been left on the lawn. Dire consequences have been threatened if this violation occurred again. So, I did what any responsible mother would do; I picked it up and took it behind the house to fill it. This particular water gun is approximately the size of Mickey Rooney, so it was a little difficult to conceal as I drove the lawn mower to the front of the house. Fortunately Hubs was dutifully focusing on making sure our lawn was perfectly edged. He never saw me coming. As soon as I was within range, I aimed and opened fire, dousing my husband from head to toe. He scarcely reacted, unless you count the look of censure and disapproval he directed at me. Realizing that Hubs was not amused with my attempt at levity, I did the only thing I could. I turned around, and retreated to the back of the house to reload.

As I returned to the front yard to continue my attack on Hubs' dignity, it occurred to me that he might get angry. But I am nothing if not dedicated to the task of getting him to lighten up. I realized when I turned the corner, that the edger was lying on the sidewalk. As I contemplated the implications of this development, I realized Hubs was in the garage, the big coward. As if that would deter me from my mission. I was caught completely off guard when from the dark interior of the garage came a forceful stream of water from the garden hose. I was shocked and stunned. He actually turned the hose on me. I beat a hasty retreat to regroup.

I realized I was at a distinct disadvantage since the lawn mower is only slightly less noisy than a Grateful Dead concert. After considering my options, I chose to hire the services of a mercenary. Fortunately, ten-year old mercenaries are easily bought. For the price of three cookies and an extra half-hour of Nintendo privileges, Son filled his spare water gun and went around one side of the house, while I acted as a decoy by driving around the other side. As I
predicted, Hubs was waiting for me. He turned the hose on me again, but this time, rather than retreating, I pressed bravely onward driving directly at him. It was like a bizarre game of “chicken”. He kept waiting for me to swerve; I kept waiting for him to duck into the garage. Frankly I felt fairly certain that I had an advantage being on a small vehicle complete with sharp, whirling blades. I have to give Hubs credit, though. He stood his ground. At least he did until he was attacked from behind.

After that, it became a free-for-all. Hubs managed to completely drench both Son and me. Then Son, who will not receive full payment for his services, turned traitor and joined Hubs in driving me from the lawn mower. Once I was unseated and vulnerable, Hubs and Son both put all their efforts into making sure I was drenched and defeated.

I realized I had no choice but to surrender. As I opened my mouth to utter the words that had never before crossed my lips – “You win”– Hubs turned on the leaf blower, moved to a huge pile of grass clippings and successfully covered me from head to toe in freshly cut grass.

It was at about that point that I noticed we were being watched. The commotion in our sedate little neighborhood had evidently prompted the neighbors to investigate. I also noticed that we weren’t receiving the customary covert glances our neighbors generally employ. Even the neighbors across the street had come to a standstill and were watching with dropped jaws and wide eyed stupefaction. For a brief moment, I wondered how Hubs would react to the realization that his decorous cover had been so thoroughly blown. He simply laughed, and proceeded to cover me with more grass.

I have never been more proud.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Someday He'll Need Therapy

Years ago, Hubs and I came to the conclusion that we will never again be able to speak to each other with any degree of privacy unless we actually have evidence that Son is at least 20 miles away. Even then we're careful. Son has also become more careful over the years. He no longer sits and eavesdrops in locations where he's likely to fall asleep and tumble down the stairs. Now he stands in the shadows in the hall.

It's somewhat difficult for me to fathom why a child who acts like he's being put through physical and mental torture every time we speak to him still feels he has a right to be informed of our every thought and word, but I've found as long as we're not addressing HIM, we have his undivided attention.

And so this morning, on this most glorious of all holidays, we decided to make this work for us.

Hubs and I went downstairs and began a conversation about Son's school performance. This is not a topic Son particularly enjoys discussing. In fact, he tells us the very subject causes his ear drums to melt, which is a problem because his brain is then in danger of just rolling right out of his head.

It's a chance we're prepared to take.

Right on schedule we hear Son making his way to the kitchen.

"...and so his counselor says if we want to, we can put him in that program and maybe he can be caught up by the end of the year," I begin.

"Hmm. Well it sounds like a good idea. Kind of a pain having to get up that early on Saturdays though." The sound of Son's sharp intake of breath assures us our unseen audience is paying attention.

"Yeah, I know. 6 a.m. is even earlier than he normally gets up on school days. Still, if we do this we can avoid summer school."

"I guess we can alternate taking him. That way we can each sleep in every other Saturday." I grin and give Hubs a thumbs up. Sleeping in on Saturday is something very close to Son's heart.

I continue, "There may be a solution that will work for both of us. His counselor said if we're within the boundaries, he can take the bus."

"On Saturday?"

"'s not the, uh, regular bus."

At this, Son can take no more. "WHAT?!? You're sending me to school on the short bus? On a Saturday??" I look at him reprovingly. "I'm sorry. But still, Mom! I'll get teased!"

"Oh, I don't think so. You're going to be going so early no one will be around."

"What do you mean 'early'? What are you talking about? They don't have school on Saturday!"

"Eavesdropping, were you?"

"I can't help it if I overhear you. You were talking about ME."

"Son, when we're talking TO you, you don't listen. Why do you care now?"

"I am NOT going to school on Saturday. I don't want to."

"Funny, I don't recall asking you if you want to."


"Son, you had a choice at the beginning of the year. You made the choice not to turn in your homework. And yes, you have a right to make that choice. Unfortunately, the consequence that is attached to that choice is your loss of freedom on Saturdays until school's out."


"It's out of my hands, Son. Your choice, your consequence."

"But...for how long? How long do I have to do this?"

"Until school's out."

"That's three months away!"

"No, actually, it's just two."

"March, April..." The light began to dawn. "MOM!!! It's April. April first." Relief and irritation warred. Relief won.

Then came the anticipated threats of retaliation.

"When I get home I am SO going to get you for this," he promised.

We're not worried. We're safe inside the house. Particularly after I have the locks changed today.

Time to update?

So where have I been this time? Good question. For the past year, most of my good stories have been work-related and thus off limits for public consumption. A pity, since my eyes have rolled so much in the last couple of years that I'm no longer certain they're actually attached to anything.

I've also been busy trying to retain my oh-so-fragile grip on sanity while trying to prevent Son from becoming an 8th grade drop-out. He tells me I'm "squashing (his) dreams" of becoming a software tycoon at the age of 13. Perhaps. On the other hand, he's squashing MY dream of not having him living in our basement when he's 40. So, you know, fair's fair.

A few weeks ago, Hubs and I decided Son needs me more than the company does, and thus I am free at last! Well, if staying home, doing laundry, cooking meals, cleaning house and spending hours arguing the finer points of homework completion constitutes freedom. And for me, it does.

So as promised, I have returned. Look out. I've got stories.