Category Archives: dog

Candy Barred

You know you’re getting old when you start off a sentence with “Back when I was a kid–”

But that’s exactly what I did this morning when my daughter woke up, found out Halloween was over, and burst into copious tears.

“B-b-but Daddy told me Halloween goes on for days!” she wailed.

“I think he meant days in advance,” I said drily. Off her blank look I added “you’ve been celebrating it for roughly two weeks.”

Time means little to a four year old. Elapsed time, even less. Elapsed time during which the child was eating more candy than any adult should in a decade and feeling absolutely fantastic about it? Unintelligible.

“Look,” I went on, “back when I was a kid, Halloween was only one night. About three hours. That was all we got.”

“Really?” Myra-Jean responded in a quavering voice.

“Yup.” I cuddled her a little closer–we were in her bed together, she under the blankets, me on top of them. “We didn’t have the Halloween festivals leading up to it, the block parties, the “Boo on the Boolevards.” We didn’t trick or treat at Starbucks a week before. We didn’t even have Starbucks. ”

She looked at me, obviously pained. “Whoa.”

I built up steam. “It was one night. A little sliver of time. We didn’t even get face painted at school. Heck,” I went on, musingly, “I don’t think I got face painted at all until I was, like, twenty.”

MJ started crying again. I should’ve quit when I was ahead.

“The point is,” I went on, stroking her forehead, “you get a lot more Halloween than me or Daddy ever did. So I’m sorry it’s over, but–”

Myra-Jean sobbed harder. “It’s really over?”

I looked at her in disbelief. “Didn’t we just discuss this?”

Her cries rose loudly in the small, morning-shadowed room. Jesus. You’d think her dog had just died. She would definitely wake Mike.

“Let’s go get some breakfast.” The kitchen was a bit farther from our bedroom.

Feeding the animals distracted her for a few minutes, but soon Myra-Jean was whimpering again. Standing by the dining room table, she poked at the ruined finish of the wood with a stray fork. “Mama. I’m not happy.”

“You don’t say.” Grabbing the utensil gently out of her hand I tossed it into the sink. Just because she was grieving didn’t mean she got to be destructive.

“I want to go trick or treating one more time!”

I sighed, staring at her uselessly. I was out of ideas. At my feet, Walter mewled. Mina nipped at him. Walter hissed. Myra-Jean screamed.

“Mina!” I shouted. “Walter. Myra-Jean! All of you calm down!”

Enter Mike. No big surprise. Hard to imagine how anyone could sleep through an uproar of such Biblical proportions.

“What’s going on?” he asked blearily.

Handing him a cup of coffee, I explained. “Mina’s trying to kill Walter, as usual. Also,” trying to keep any trace of sarcasm out of my voice,”Myra-Jean is feeling really sad because Halloween is over.”

Mike nodded gravely and turned to MJ. “You know, you can still wear your costume any time you–”

I had tried this tack already, and knew where it was going. I covered my ears.

“I don’t care about my costume! I want to trick or treat!”

“OK,” Mike said calmly. Really calmly, considering the hearing damage he’d just incurred. “You know,” he continued, “back when we were kids–”

“I tried this,” I interjected quietly.

Deaf to my warning, he went on. “Back when we were kids Halloween only lasted for one night.”

Shaking my head, I began washing dishes. Mike talked for a few minutes, repeating essentially what I’d said earlier. But he closed with something new, something said in a fun and conspiratorial voice:

“Even though trick or treating is done, we still have the candy! Lots of it! Candy eating goes on for awhile.”

MJ’s head swivelled towards me. “But Mama said no more candy after Halloween.”

Wuh-whoa. I’d forgotten about that conversation.

MIke cocked his head at me, then looked back at her. “I think she meant no more trick or treating.”

“No,” MJ declared. “Mama said I could only eat candy on Halloween, and after that it was only for ‘special occasions’.” She emphasized the latter phrase carefully, although she had no idea what it meant.

MIke shot a look at me.

Wincing, I muttered ruefully “I think I might have said that.”

Silence.

“I wasn’t really thinking,” I squeaked. “Sugar’s just so bad for you.”

Mike nodded slowly. “So that’s why she was shoving candy in her mouth last night like a just-freed prisoner of war.”

How poetic. I nodded. “It might’ve been.”

“Is this what your parents did?” Mike demanded.

“No.” I winced. I could feel the word HYPOCRITE flashing over my head like a Broadway marquee. “We ate candy all month.”

Mike shook his head, then smiled. He wasn’t mad. He was just laughing at me. Which is worse. I couldn’t blame him.

I turned to MJ. “I’m sorry, honey. Of course you can still eat your candy. For many days to come. Forever.” Or at least a week, I added in my mind.

Myra-Jean smiled for the first time that morning.

When I left the kitchen she and Mike were happily sorting her booty into piles. There was a lot of it. An indecent amount. Absolutely no more trick or treating was necessary.

Just a little bit more give and take by the old timers.

Or one in particular.

If only you could trick or treat for that.

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Four for Four

Birthdays come but once a year. And it’s a damn good thing. Any more, and parents would be dropping like flies.

Or I would, anyway. MJ’s party was four days ago now, and I’m only just feeling human again. As for my pocketbook, well, it may need a bit more time to recover. Because you know what? It turns out that even a super casual, bagels-in-the-park,  cupcakes from Vons, no favor bags birthday party can be extraordinarily expensive. It might’ve been cheaper to rent a yacht. Who knew?

But it was worth it. I think. Myra-Jean seemed to enjoy it. Mostly.  I mean, let’s be honest–by the end of such a party pretty much any preschooler is in a stage five meltdown. What with the sugar, the attention, the pinata, the grownups goosing their cheeks–it’s enough to make even the most phlegmatic of four-year-olds blow a gasket. MJ, being no exception to this rule, spent the last half-hour of the party refusing to acknowledge departing guests and screaming “I just want to open my presents!!” I thought we were going to have to sedate her. Good times.

But then it was over–the invitees headed home, the cups and plates cleaned up, the smashed Jupiter pinata stuffed in the trash, the remaining cupcakes tossed. We headed up the hill to our house and ate takeout lunch with our family. Everyone was starved. One thing you forget to do at these things is eat.

As for MJ, she was all over the place. One minute she played with a new toy, the next she was sobbing over getting served the “wrong kind of chicken.” She said she’d enjoyed the party, but it was hard to tell. She was tired. She was mean. She was edgy. And this edginess lasted for the next three days.

It only seemed to lift yesterday–the actual day of her birthday. I’d had to work–a fact deemed unforgivable by my daughter–and it looked like the day could be a total debacle. Myra-Jean was furious when I left.

“You may never go!” she screamed. “Ever!”

The four birthday-themed postcards I’d left her notwithstanding, I felt like the worst parent alive.

But as the day went on, I heard that she cheered up. School was fun. The weather a bit cooler. In the afternoon she did some gardening with her father.

And then I was able to get off early to meet them for dinner! At our favorite restaurant!  We ate pho and crayoned pictures of Walter and Mina on small white pieces of scrap paper. MJ chewed french fries with fish sauce and seemed ecstatic to be up past her bedtime. After dinner, we went to ice cream; when we were done eating it I watched, grinning stupidly, as my husband and daughter danced to “American Pie” in the middle of the empty parlor’s floor.

There, in that moment, I found the joy of her fourth birthday. And, judging by their faces, I’d have to say Mike and MJ did as well. No pinatas, no space decorations, no craft table, no hats. Just a quiet dinner, a sweet dessert, and the hard slate floor of an empty shop.

Perhaps next year we’ll just skip straight to that.

To Done, 10-15-13

Ah, Tuesday. My half day “off.”

  • Dropped MJ at school.
  • Went to car wash.
  • Returned a phone call while waiting for car to be cleaned. Counseled a girlfriend on boy troubles.
  • Drove to Target, still on phone. Continued talking to friend while  looking for stuff for MJ’s space-themed birthday party on Sunday. Uttered phrases like “some mens’ brains really are in their dicks” while perusing the kids’ paper products. Found nothing. Left with cotton balls, candy for the pinata I hadn’t yet purchased, and streamers.
  • Went to Michael’s to return a huge bag of wrong stuff Mike bought for the party. Planned on buying more wrong stuff, but the clerk wouldnt let me return because I didn’t have Mike’s Amex. Spoke angrily to her. Told her I would never shop there again. Knew I was lying. Still, to save face had to leave without making any purchases. Decided to send Mike tomorrow.
  • Dropped suit at dry cleaners.
  • Did a shop at Fresh and Easy, worried the whole time about pinata candy melting in car.  Noticed giant lumpy pumpkins for sale. Got one for MJ. Also bought four bags of groceries, several cases of juice boxes for party, toilet paper, and various kiddie snacks.
  • Raced everything home, unloaded car. Put groceries in fridge. Put candy in fridge. Put toilet paper in bathroom. Lugged lumpy pumpkin to front steps. Worried it would die in the sun. Wondered if it was actually alive. Left it.
  • Changed sheets on our bed
  • Changed sheets on MJ’s bed.
  • Put in a load of laundry.
  • Raced back down hill to nail appointment.
  • Read entire September 3rd edition of New Yorker while getting mani pedi.
  • Went with still-wet nails to bakery to order MJ’s birthday cake. Tried to find solar-system-themed decoration. No luck. Ended up ordering a Transformers cake without the action figures. All that will remain is a partial, fuzzy picture of an unnamed planet. I will supply additional decorations myself. From where, I don’t know. Probably Michael’s.
  • Drove to party supply store to reserve tables. Far more expensive than last year. For a “low key” gathering, this thing is starting to break the bank. Looked for a rocket ship pinata. Nothing close. Sales clerk suggested I buy an R2D2  and cut the legs off. WTF? Left.
  • Went to another party store. It had tons of pinatas, all of them star-shaped with media characters on sides. Contemplated the saturation of corporate branding in kids’ products. Contemplated painting over a Barbie face to make a plain star. Contemplated suicide. Left empty-handed.
  • Picked up MJ, who was grouchy and tired.
  • Brought her home, showed her new pumpkin. Was informed it was the “wrong kind.”
  • Wondered if pumpkins are returnable.
  • Walked dog.
  • Brought in trash bins.
  • Switched laundry.
  • Fed animals.
  • Made dinner.
  • Got MJ ready for bed. Consoled her when she found out I have to work tomorrow and cried for half an hour.
  • Put her down.
  • Straightened house.
  • Wrote post.
  • Considered going back to work full-time.

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Soap Opera

Dishwasher soap should look totally different from the regular, hand washing kind. If it did, I wouldn’t have accidentally poured the latter into my Gaffers & Sattler a couple of nights ago. Poor old appliance. As if being ancient and obsolete wasn’t enough, it’s now stuck midway through a cycle, filled with semi-washed dishes, and clogged with suds.

Fortunately Mike caught my mistake before the entire kitchen floor was flooded.

I looked online for how to deal with this. Turns out there are eight steps! Eight! Four more and I’d be in AA. De-soaping a dishwasher involves towels, a bucket, white vinegar, salt, and God knows what else. I stopped reading after step three. Because who has the time for this?

Still, I bought salt at Fresh and Easy. We needed it anyway. They only had the non-iodized kind. The regular stuff was on sale, and had been cleared out completely. Who waits to buy salt on sale? Is seventy-nine cents really too much to ask? Also, what’s up with the non-iodized thing? Who buys that? Why do they make it?

Most importantly, will it work on a soap-clogged dishwasher? If not, I guess I can always use it to make play dough, since Myra-Jean cannot master the art of re-sealing tupperware. Ergo, every new batch we make dries out in less than 24 hours.

There’s a cup of salt in every batch.

Maybe I’m the one who should be looking for it on sale.

Back to the dishwasher. Here’s what I do know: I have to take all those dishes out and hand wash them. This is depressing, since I’ve already psychologically placed them in the “clean” category. This mental change in status will require major brain rewiring, and probably several extra cups of tea.

And of course I’ll eventually take the eight steps. What choice do I have? I’ll break out the towels, the salt, the eye of newt, whatever. Probably baking soda, too. Everything calls for that. We still have plenty, fortunately–we keep a lot in stock for when Mina attacks a skunk.

The other option is we just stop using the dishwasher.

I’m a genius.

I’m also excessively lazy. Is there a twelve-step program for that?

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To Done, 10/8/13

Today MJ was in school from 9:15 to 2:15. Here’s what I got done while she was gone:

  • Picked up all toys, clothes, and artwork from floor.
  • Straightened MJ’s “studio.” Put all beads, pipe cleaners, stickers, “treasures,” and stamps back in their designated bins, muttering under my breath the whole time.
  • Vacuumed whole house.
  • Mopped kitchen and utility room.
  • Cleaned both bathrooms.
  • Did three loads of laundry.
  • Wrote fundraising e-mail to committee of Winter Faire at MJ’s school.
  • Attempted–twice–to reach donation department at Home Depot. Want them to give two Christmas Trees for our Faire. Won’t get hopes up–they won’t even spring for voice mail.
  • Wrote e-mail to work, asking for days off so that I can attend important Halloween events with MJ. Worried I’ll be denied.
  • Attempted to play with cat. Desisted, due to lack of interest.
  • Washed kitchen rug.
  • Wiped windowsills.
  • Dusted living room.
  • Removed one more alphabet sticker from flat screen TV. At this rate it will be cleared of them completely by 2014.
  • Attempted to remove glue from coffee table. Failed.
  • Attempted to remove piece of construction paper pasted to bathroom sink. Failed.
  • Loaded dishwasher.
  • Wrote another fundraising e-mail.
  • Scanned and e-mailed banking forms for our life insurance company. We fell victim to fraud again (!!) last week, and have had to close our old checking account and open a new one. This has meant contacting everyone we do online billing with and giving them our new routing number, etc. Next time an innocent-looking teenager comes to our door selling newspaper subscriptions “for her school” and asks me for a voided check I plan on assaulting her with a stepping stool.
  • Made bed.
  • Brought in trash cans.
  • Ate lunch.
  • Wrote this.
  • Left for pickup.

Tomorrow, at least, I get to go back to work. Maybe I’ll even get a manicure on my lunch break. That’ll feel like a day off, indeed.

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Card-Again!

Even Picasso must’ve come up empty sometimes. And I’m no Picasso.

I’m starting to run out of ideas. For postcards, that is. Somewhere along the line Myra-Jean persuaded me that three was not enough to assuage her grief at my newfound part-time employment. I should be leaving her four. Four postcards, three days a week. I’ve been working for about a month and a half now. You do the math.

No? I’ll do it for you.

Seventy-two. That’s how many postcards I’ve made so far. Seventy-two original drawings. I’m running out of subject matter!

I’ve drawn cats, dogs, owls, camels, elephants, sheep, snails, and flowers. I’ve gone exotic, drawing sloths, okapis, and octupi. I’ve crayoned pastoral scenes, gardens, planets, and the sun. I’ve made up creatures. I’ve drawn MJ herself. And still, three nights a week, I have to come up with more.

The results are getting increasingly random.

Last night, for example, I started with food:

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Then moved on to a landscape. Which is not my strong suit. The result looked perfunctory.

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Next there was my old standby: a dog. But I put a flower in front of him, to change it up a bit.

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Because, you know, dogs and flowers are a logical pairing. Kind of like white wine and fish.

Finally, I sketched a dinosaur. Not a very good one, I might add. It looked more like a seal with legs. Plus, I forgot the tail until the last minute, then squeezed it in on the right. To deflect from this obvious error I put a cat on its back. Walter. Why not? At least up there he’ll be safe from Mina.

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I tried to make the accompanying text expand on of the image.

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It didn’t really work, but that’s another conversation.

The point is, I don’t know how I’m going to keep this up. And I have to. The postcards are the only thing keeping MJ from having a nervous breakdown on the days I work. But I’m getting a nervous breakdown making them! I need ideas. I’m not an artist. I was a philosophy major, for God’s sake.

Perhaps each card should feature a fragment of Socratic dialogue.

Or maybe I should move on to collage.

Walter Works

Just think about it. If Walter White had had access to Obamacare, the whole “Breaking Bad” thing could have been avoided.

Not that I would have wanted that–his loss was certainly our gain. But, having watched the last episode of the final season on the day open enrollment began, I couldn’t help but ponder the irony. From what I hear, his coverage would have been quite reasonable under the new plan.

The other Walter in my life–our new cat–feels much the same way. He lay next to me for the whole episode, totally engrossed, and told me afterwards that, in his opinion, none of that bloodshed was either seemly or necessary. Decent medical care from the outset, along with good nutrition and proper rest, could have handled the problem.

“So much killing, for why?” he added.

Such pacifism makes no sense coming from him. He’s been fighting my asshole dog all week. Tooth and nail–and that’s not a figure of speech. Mina makes nothing easy, much less the arrival of a new adolescent cat in the home. She’s been on Walter like white on rice, causing cortisol levels in the house to shoot up to record highs. For the first few days I was sure she’d try to kill him. At which point I would reciprocate.

I needn’t have worried.

For Walter has fought back valiantly. Oh, sure, he’s small. But he’s tough, too. Mina has so many scratches on her nose that I’ve taken to calling her Scarface. Try explaining that reference to your three-year-old.

Anyway. It’s getting better. She’s still stalking, but from a few feet away now.

As for Walter, he mostly lays around. I guess that’s what cats do. I expected more fireworks, more backflips, more nuttiness. But he’s six months old. Perhaps by that age cats have gravitas. This one does. Either that or he’s sick. Cancer. Shit. Maybe that adoption place knew they were passing off a dud. And his accompanying medical bills. Assholes. How the fuck will we pay? I lose sleep.

But he doesn’t.

Neither does MJ. She’s thrilled. When Walter’s not draped like a fur throw over the sofa it’s because he’s being carried by her, usually in an incalculably uncomfortable position. She totes him everywhere, calling him “Ah-WOLL-y.” She pushes him in her rocking chair. She covers him in cheap jewelry. She fold his ears backwards.

She tried to sleep with him, but he bit her. No matter. She is smitten. It is worth it for that.

It is worth it for someone to watch the last episode of Breaking Bad with. It is worth the bloodshed. It is worth the expense.

As long as nobody dies. Or gets cancer.

Because there ain’t no Obamacare for pets.

Yet.

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