Category Archives: dog

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?

IMG_1012

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.

IMG_0997

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:

IMG_0971

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

IMG_0972

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

IMG_0970

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.

IMG_0974

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

IMG_0975

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.

IMG_0951

Here Kitty

Today’s a big day. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach.

Or perhaps I should say mice.

Because, after long last, it’s kitten day. The day we pick up our young, grey adoptee, Wally, from a local rescue. (A place, I might add, whose qualifications for adopting are so stringent you’d think we were getting a six-month-old baby.) It’s taken two weeks for the whole process to go through, but we’re done now, approved, prepared. We’ve got the carrier, the litter box, bell toys, Trader Joe’s scratch pad–I think we’ve covered everything.

But really nothing will prepare us. I’m terrified. I know what a kitten is. Oh, they’re cute, fetching, lovable, and all that. That’s what gets them in the door. But they’re also middle-of-the-night head pouncers, mewling meowers, tchotchke smashers, stinky poopers, furniture destroyers, and skin shredders. I hope we can handle it. Not to mention afford it!

Right. The money. Why, you ask, did you elect to do this now, with your finances in their current state? Pets are expensive.

My short answer is, blame Mike. About a year ago, in a moment of weakness, he promised MJ a kitten if she’d start pooping in the potty. We were desperate; bribewise, candy wasn’t doing it. Cut to the present. The kid is trained. Goodbye diapers. It’s a damn miracle. And I didn’t want to be those parents that made conditional promises and then hoped their kids would forget.

So I reminded her.

Which is why Mike’s short answer to the above inquiry is: blame Jessica.

In any event, a cat is coming. The house will never be the same. Mina will never be the same. Our couches will never be the same.

But Myra-Jean will believe us when we give her our word.

A small price to pay, right? Small and furry. And able–God, please–to poop where we ask.

IMG_0935

 

 

 

Hoop Screams

Who would’ve thunk it? The last vestiges of my sanity, stolen by a hollow, round object with orange and white stripes.

No, not a barber’s pole.

A hula hoop. It’s everywhere. Like the makeup brush, the play money, and a few other things I’ve written about here, it’s become totally ubiquitous. But Jesus. Those other items were small. This is different. You can’t have a hula hoop underfoot. It’s seriously unsafe. And you shouldn’t have to see one all the time. It’s a special treat–like cotton candy. You don’t want to eat it more than once a year.

But that’s exactly what I’m doing. Figuratively speaking. For everywhere I turn, there the damn thing is. Like a dog, but with no tail. Or fur. Or–anyway.

I’ve come to believe that the thing is possessed. It moves of its own volition. I never see Myra-Jean play with it. Never. Yet there it is, on the couch. And now it’s in the bedroom. Oh, hello, asshole hoop in the shower. And today? I found it on the kitchen floor, when yesterday I remember very clearly throwing it behind the dresser.

Because yes, I’ve taken to hiding the damn thing. Not quite being ready to trash it, I drop it, instead, behind large, mid-century pieces of furniture. Usually with a great deal of cantankerous muttering. I know, it’s the vertical equivalent of sweeping it under the rug, but I can’t help myself. I’ve also tried sweeping it under the rug. That doesn’t work either.

If I were a different sort of person I’d drill a hole in the wall, put up a nifty hook, and hang that sucker out of the way. I’d make a laminated label, too. A colorful one. In a cheerful font. “Hulas, etc,” it might say. In case other hoop-like objects came later. And there my striped nemesis would remain, coming down only at appropriate moments. Like a well-behaved object of whimsy should.

But I’m not a hook-maker. And I don’t know how to laminate. I don’t do organized. I try, but certain objects elude me. Like this one.

And most others.

At moments like this–when, say, a hula hoop has become the repository of all of my rage and frustration–I wonder whether it isn’t a good thing that I’ve gone back to work. Because I get crazy. It’s the chaos. I don’t “ride it” well. Staying at home is all chaos. Houses are chaos. Dogs are chaos. Kids are chaos. (They’re also, if they’re almost four, sort of psychotic. But that’s another conversation.)

Suffice it to say, work is the easier place. Yes, I miss MJ when I’m there–it’s like a hole’s been drilled out of my side, cauterized, and stuffed with wet hay–but at least when you pick something up it stays there. Things have places. Also, I get breaks, and wear nice clothes, and, holy Christ, lipstick! Remember that? And best of all, the toilet gets cleaned by someone else.

But tonight I’m here. And as I prepare to curl up with my laptop, and Breaking Bad, and my dear girl sleeping in the next room…the hoop gets a pass. I’ll pick it up tomorrow. Or she will. Or it’ll transport itself to the roof.

One thing that’s guaranteed?

It’ll move.

IMG_0878

To Do or Not To Do

Who says grownups don’t have homework? We’ve got a shitload. And there’s no blaming the dog if we don’t get it done.

I’ll speak for myself. I can’t catch up. If life were a graded class I’d be scrambling for a D.

These days, with work added in, I feel unbelievably swamped. Because everything now must be squeezed into the four days when I’m home. Or the parts of those days, that is, when MJ is not demanding my undivided attention to make up for my absence the rest of the time.

Which boils down to about, oh, forty minutes a day. Into which I try to squeeze the numberless quotidian duties of a modern mom, wife and homeowner. Plus:

The fundraising. It’s always on my mind. Always. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Or the committee chairmanship. How, I ask myself, will I raise thirty thousand dollars for my kid’s school? How? I lie in bed at night worrying. Plotting. Despairing. When I finally fall asleep, I dream about car washes, bake sales, ebay auctions, bank robberies. Only the latter is effective. Because it’s carried out by three-year-olds, with sticks for guns. Riding on bananas. Who’s gonna say no to that?

Then I wake up. And we’re still at zero.

Anyway. Then there’s this blog. I love it. But it’s an obligation, too. Self-imposed, but aren’t most of them?

Next: the garden. Jesus Christ, what a time suck. A while ago, in a fit of impatience and shortsightedness, I had Mike tear out the sprinkler system. Now everything has to be watered by hand. Every other day. Because it’s 150 degrees out there. Plants wilt easily. So do people. It’s a drag. And it takes seventeen hundred hours. I hate it. But I hate looking at bare dirt, too.

Next: the lunches. If we don’t pack those the night before, the morning is a disaster. Even under the best of circumstances our days begin frantically. God forbid we should add in one more task. Especially one involving mayonnaise.

Then there are the phone calls. To friends, family, insurance companies, tax assessors, veterinarians, doctors, handymen,  exterminators, board members, possible fundraising connections, old acquaintances whom I’ve been promising to call for years and haven’t and now they hate me.

And don’t forget the straightening. And straightening. And straightening. And dishwashing, laundry, bathroom cleaning, garbage emptying, sheet changing, doghair sweeping, toy picking up, dusting, organizing, mealmaking and melted-crayon-scraping.

Once all of the above is done (hah!) there’s the book club assignment. “Gone Girl,” at the moment. I like it. But I hate it more. Especially as it has to be done by Wednesday, and I still have 100 pages to go. Each of which will drip with venom, duplicity, and perfidy. Good for the outlook! Next book: “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

Speaking of positives. There is one homework assignment I love. It’s the postcards to Myra-Jean. These are crucial now. They are the sole reason she no longer bursts into tears when I tell her I’m going to work. They actually make her glad. Glad I’m going, so she can look for them. It’s that easy. Or so it seems. It probably isn’t. But it’s helping.

And guess what? I like drawing them. I do it the night before. It relaxes me. Crayons are a cooperative medium. Unlike life.

Anyway. I imagine her face as she finds them, her tapered finger pointing as she sounds out the letters “O-W-L,” her delight at the image of a favorite planet, her soft smile as Mike reads my words. This makes me happy. I need no dog here. Nothing to snatch away this highest and most pleasurable of tasks: the lightening of my daughter’s day. I love it.

And it makes me feel better about everything else that’s been left undone. At least I’ve got my priorities right.

That and thirty grand will get me a decent night’s sleep.

IMG_0835

Dog Gone It

They say you should let sleeping dogs lie. But when it comes to dead ones? I’m afraid the truth will out.

I’ve been avoiding letting MJ skype with my mom and step-father. Their dog Otis died two weeks ago, and I hadn’t found a way to tell her yet.

What’s the connection? It’s simple. Whenever MJ skypes with someone, the first thing she wants is to do is “talk to” their pet. The humans are sort of an afterthought, honestly. It’s the animals she wants to see. A Skype call with my mom and step-father, then, always featured a visit with Otis. Usually passed out on his rug. Still, it was MJ’s favorite part of the call.

But now Otis is gone. MInd you, he lived to a ripe–and then some–old age. By the end he’d grown stiff, deaf, and completely incontinent. Coming with our family to Nova Scotia this summer was his canine swan song–even if he shat in the car the whole way up. His last weeks on earth were happy and sun-soaked, frail and skeletal though he was.

We grownups knew he was at the end. Sometimes, when he was lying in the grass napping, we’d have to shake him lightly to see if he were still alive. It could be quite hard to tell. MJ, who doted upon him, was oblivious. It never occurred to her for a moment that, when she said good bye to him on the morning we flew home, it would be for the last time.

He was put down two days later.

Since then we’ve been agonizing:  to tell her or not? The latter seemed the better choice. With all the changes afoot, it seemed cruel to toss in an additional blow. “We know you’re upset about your mom going back to work, but–remember Otis?”

Finally, though, we broke down. A couple of mornings ago MJ asked, for the third time, to skype with my mom. We’d been putting it off, changing the subject, making excuses, but we knew it couldn’t go on. We lived in the modern world. We couldn’t hide behind a telephone. MJ wanted to see her grandparents. And, even more, their dog. We had to tell her.

Mike and I exchanged meaningful looks. This was going to suck. First of all, it was way too early for such weighty conversations. I’d barely made my first cup of tea. Secondly, Myra-Jean had never known anyone who died before. This was going to hit her hard.

MJ was sitting on the bench next to me. She’d decided to start a puzzle while she waited for the computer to boot up. “So, honey,” I said gently, putting my arm around her, “before we Skype with Nana Bonnie Mike and I need to tell you something.”

Deeply engrossed in her new undertaking, MJ barely looked up. “What?”

Mike, who was standing in the kitchen, took a step closer. In his softest, kindest voice, he said “It’s about Otis.”

“Oh.” She didn’t look up. She was piecing together a picture of a dinosaur. It was standing in flowers and wearing a derby. Hatosaurus.

I nodded at my husband. Let him be the one to break the news.

Mike cleared his throat.”So when animals get very old their bodies slow down.”

“Oh.” Another piece.

“Yeah. And then, well, they get sick, and have problems, and, um, eventually they just, um, pass on.”

I shot him a look. Pass on? She’s going to think it’s a game of hot potato. “He means they die.”

MJ looked up, her face implacable. “Oh.”

I remembered–vaguely–something I’d heard her teacher say. “Die means they stop moving and they never start again.”

“Otis is gone, honey,” Mike added, tenderly. “He won’t be able to Skype with you anymore.”

MJ nodded slowly and looked down at her work. There was only one piece missing. Finding it beneath her leg, she placed it carefully in its spot. We waited, solicitously watching her lowered head. After a moment she looked up.

“Mama?”

“Yes, sweetie?” Here it came. The death question. Oh God. OhGodohGodohGod.

MJ smiled. “I am a puzzle genius.”

There was a beat. “But honey. About Otis. How are you with all of that?”

Myra-Jean shrugged. “I’m great.” Hopping down from the table, she began putting her puzzle away. “Can I please have a glass of milk?”

And that was that.

Mike and I are praying it’s developmental and not sociopathic.

In the meantime? Our little genius wants a cat.

IMG_0640

Happy Meal

Happiness is:

  • Hating your new co-workers a little less.
  • Coming home to find your daughter still awake, even though it’s an hour past her bedtime.
  • Being so excited to see her that you almost break your nose on her head as you embrace her.
  • Her being so happy to see you that she doesn’t even notice the collision.
  • Lying next to her in her wee bed, your feet hanging over the endboard, talking about her day.
  • The way she says, over and over again, “Mama. You came home.”
  • Her new painting–almost miraculously beautiful–of Mina and an octopus.
  • Finding that not only has your husband prepared dinner, but the plate waiting for you is covered with paper towel then plastic, so you will not ingest hormone-disrupting chemicals after microwaving.
  • Knowing that, since said husband is going out, you can eat the aforementioned plate at the table like a zombie while binge-watching “Orange Is the New Black” on your laptop.

It is incremental improvement, even when this seems impossible.

It is knowing that you don’t have to work tomorrow. Or you do, but at home. Your favorite place of employment.

IMG_0784

Loaf Lost

If we were a restaurant, we’d have been shut down by the health department today.

IMG_0752

Yes, it’s a meatloaf. Don’t laugh.

That’s the final version. There was an earlier incarnation, which tasted mystifyingly raw inside, even though it had cooked for an hour and a half. I ate a small slice, and got so freaked out I fed the rest to the dog. It was creamy, like polenta. I don’t know much, but I know meatloaf isn’t supposed to have the “mouth feel” of creme brulee.

So I put the remaining half back in the oven. Because Mike would need dinner, too, when he got home. And I was not feeding him turkey pap.

An hour later I remembered to get it out.

“What did you do to it?” Mike said, when he saw it.

I shook my head. “I don’t know, exactly.”

“Oh, well. I’m sure it’ll taste great,” he said, in that game way people do when they know they are about to step off of a culinary cliff.

Later, after he’d eaten all of it–good man!–we talked about what had gone wrong.

“It just wouldn’t cook,” I insisted. “It was in there forever. It tasted like oatmeal. And then it got burnt.”

“Was the oven temperature right?” Mike asked.

“Yes.”

He shook his head. “Then I don’t know what to tell you.” There was a pause. “Did you follow the recipe?”

“Yes,” I snapped, rolling my eyes exasperatedly. Then I thought about it. I’d used a bit more ketchup than was called for. And a bit less meat.

I mentioned this.

“How much more ketchup?”

I counted in my head. “Maybe four times?”

His eyes widened.

“It was a mistake!” I stammered. “I read the recipe wrong. And then I forgot–and I had to–anyway. Maybe five times. Do you think that could’ve been the problem?”

“It’s a lot of extra liquid.”

I cocked my head. “Ketchup is a liquid?”

He ignored this. “Of course it tasted creamy. It was soaked.”

Whatever. What’s done is done. But I’m renewing my vow–first made after the Mark Bittman chicken debacle two years ago–to never again cook a recipe that calls for a meat thermometer. It’s not worth the pain, the humiliation, or the attendant mild nausea.

As for our home-restaurant? The one Myra-Jean is now calling “Food?” We will simply go vegetarian. Or vegan. Or better yet, raw. I suspect I have a knack for that.

Reservations, anyone?