Friday, May 29, 2009

I'm a Handy Girl

If you're familiar with my book TOUGH CHICKS, then it shouldn't come as a surprise to you that I like to build things. I'm better at destroying things, but building comes in at a close second. My latest project - a retaining wall! The hard part was not the wall itself, laying and leveling bricks is easy cakes. Re-grading this section of my yard and putting in drainage was the hard part. It was a lot of digging. Of the three chick characters in my book, we have Penny, Polly and Molly. I'm Molly - the one who likes mud. Over the past couple of months, I've been waking up early, sucking down coffee,  and DIGGING! Let me make this clear - no one helped me. I've learned to not let my husband, Lee, breeze by at the final stages of my projects and place a few bricks or nails, therefor allowing him to take partial credit for the end result after I've done all the backbreaking work.

I'm the one who has painted every wall in my house, planted every plant in the yard. Lee does help at times. As you may recall, I'm accident prone. I've scalded half the skin off my hand just making a cup of tea. Out in the yard, I've crushed my fingers with an erratic ax butt and dropped numerous things on my poor, abused toes. For obvious reasons, Lee is in charge of ALL cutting power tools and anything that requires going up high on a ladder.

I'll admit, when we first got married I had delusional fantasies of the two of us fixing up our little fixer-upper house. Little did I know, I did not marry a handy dude. He hates working in the yard and doing any kind of domestic repairs or maintenance. He loves going to to the gym and working out, so he certainly does not object to activity in general. We still live in our little unfixed fixer-upper. It has provided me with an abundance of projects and injuries and marital spats over the years. Who can ask for more?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Another Dead Cat

My close friend Christian is always suggesting that I write about some of my unusual life experiences. My life is not unusual. My life is quite boring. Weird things just "happen" around me. Disturbing things that I find inappropriately funny. Christian finds them funny, too. Our spouses never find them funny. Usually it's just the two of us, two funny girls, laughing at not funny weird happenings. 

The year was 1998. I had a three month old newborn baby. The cat was named Theo, a stray that "found us" many years prior to his sad passing. By the time Theo reached old age, we were done bringing senior citizen pets to the vet for extreme life-prolonging care. If you plan on growing old in my house, be prepared. No more kitty chemotherapy (Hobie Cat), forget the bagged fluids injected daily for failing kidneys (Maynard). Old animals are left to slowly fade in the comfort of their little beds. Cheaper, and everyone seems happier. I'm not cruel. The suffering ancients are put to sleep at the vet. Except for the rabbits. Thanks to years of 4-H as a child,  I can kill a rabbit with my bare hands. 

Theo was very old and we knew he was going to die soon. He was a purebred cream-colored Persian with a flat face. He liked to drool and hump pillows. Theo was getting skinny and slowing down, but still was happy to wander my yard and sleep in the sun. He died smack in the middle of my front lawn. I peeked out the window early one morning and informed my husband of our deceased pet. I asked him to "take care" of it. My husband, Lee, grabbed a shovel, scooped up the cat, and deposited him inside a giant plastic yard waste bag. He tied it securely at the top. And left it on our front lawn. 

Knowing my husband, and knowing how he "takes care" of things, I'm pretty sure Theo would have wasted away in that bag indefinitely. It was a warm day, and as things heated up outside, I noticed the bag holding dead Theo was starting to inflate like a giant black balloon. The gas from decomposition. On our front lawn.

So, I called the SPCA to see if I could pay to have them dispose of Theo if I brought him in. What a bargain - only $20 bucks. I packed up the newborn first, put her in the car. I put Theo in the trunk and hit the road. The SPCA was unusually crowded, so I parked about two blocks away. Swinging my baby in her car seat in one hand and my bag-o-dead-cat in the other I marched down the street and through the doors of the little SPCA building. It was filled to capacity. With excited young school-aged children. Lady on the phone didn't say anything about a field trip.

I held bagged Theo up high and patiently waited my turn in line. When I finally got to the counter, I realized that announcing I had a dead cat in the bag might be disturbing to the children. So I leaned forward and whispered to the lady, "I have a dead cat in the bag." She looked confused, so I whispered louder, "In the bag, A DEAD CAT." I lifted it higher and swung it a bit for her to see. She now looked alarmed in addition to confused. I was getting worried. Seriously - she couldn't possibly think I was trying to rob the joint with a baby and a dead cat?

Uncomfortable social situations are my area of expertise. I find myself in a lot of them. I quickly reevaluated and reminded myself to- 1. Make my face look as pleasant and normal as possible. 2. Use a calm, happy, in control voice. 3. Smile, but don't offer too much of a smile. 4. Explain things clearly and quickly. Okay. Normal voice, "I called earlier and I've brought in my dead cat to be disposed of." 

Counter lady jumped up and quickly took my cat, then my money. I waded through the curious kids and the glaring chaperones and left the building. Drove home. Called Lee. He saw nothing funny in the situation. Called Christian. Yep, funny. Knew it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I found this note on the floor of my eight-year-old son's room. At first I thought my poor child was suffering from extreme self-esteem issues. It turns out, my darling was just writing a little something to tape on the back of some unsuspecting person (his dad was the target, according to his sister) as a joke. 

After my initial panic, my instinct was to correct the misspellings. Idiot has an i in it, geek is spelled with a K, not a C. All day is not one word. I curbed that impulse. My husband and I read the note together later and both agreed that the "In conclusion..." part at the end was our favorite. No, my child did not get in trouble. In fact, I haven't told him I found and read this little treat.

I'm the one always telling my kids they can write whatever they want, in any format, for fun. That in writing they can be bad, talk back, do things they can't do in real life. I find bizarre notes and stories around the house quite frequently, and they are not always mine. Every time one of my kids puts pen to paper, I do feel a sense of satisfaction. Even when I teach upper-grade writing groups, I tell the kids to not worry about spelling for my exercises, to just focus on the writing.

So, back to the note. No harm done. I'll just have to remember to start checking my own backside before I leave the house.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Don't Mess With Granny

Granny is not happy with me. My mom is a fiercely loyal and supportive grandparent to her seven grandkids. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I went and publicly complained about her perfect little firstborn granddaughter. I think I called her a nightmare baby in my last post. Granny was not amused. Granny is worried that I may damage my poor child by telling her what a difficult baby she was.

I do tell my daughter - now 11 - the truth, because I don't want her to be as shocked as I was if and when she is one day a mother. I tell her that as a baby she cried and cried and cried and loved to have me hold her every minute of the day and that it was very hard work. And I tell her it was worth every second because I love her. And that thank goodness she turned out to be such a great kid or we may not have kept her. Kidding. We would have sent her to live with her grandparents. Kidding.

My mom was convinced that I had somehow TRAINED my newborns to not like to be held by anyone but me. Darn, how did she ever find out? Yes, I showed my kids photos of granny as soon as they were born and taught them to scream and fuss whenever they saw her coming (don't ask about my methods). Of course, the plan failed after they got a taste of my mom's unbelievably good homemade cookies and cakes. Now they love granny more than they love me. I should have known. Don't mess with granny, she'll eventually get her revenge.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Depressed Moms and Babies

Some researcher out there has a bone to pick with mom. It's the week before Mother's Day and have you read the headlines? The article sent out over Reuters? It reads: Babies sleep poorly when mothers are depressed.

I think they have it backwards. If I remember correctly from my own experiences, babies that don't sleep are the cause of depression. At least with this mother. I had horrible babies and horrible depression. My daughter in particular - nightmare baby. She came out screaming and didn't stop for the first year. Hated the car seat, swing, crib, bouncy seat, kind old ladies who smiled at her in the grocery store... pretty much she hated everyone and everything outside of my arms. I was stuck not only having to hold her every minute of the day, but having to walk with her, keeping her in constant motion. If I sat down, the screaming would start. It's not the preferred method for recovering from childbirth.

Within two years, we found out that we were dealing with not just a high-strung, fussy kid, but a child with sensory integration problems. That explained some of the behaviors.

I do remember feeling guilty for having a child that was clearly unhappy. I kept asking myself what I could have possibly done to create such an unhappy baby. Obviously, the other moms knew some secret trick to mothering that I didn't have. I think I successfully overcame my obvious maternal deficiencies by venturing into the realm of homemade organic baby food and buying the latest in educational toys. Or so I like to think.

So, for all the depressed moms out there, I don't think this study is going to be particularly helpful or uplifting. Once again, you are to blame - well, at least your depression is to blame. Keep heart, though. Those fussy babies can turn out to be great, brilliant, wonderful people. I can vouch for that. And I'm pretty sure they'll vouch for me as a good mom.

The research is based on the study of 18 infants. Not a big study. Depressed moms had babies that took, on average, an hour longer to fall asleep. With a group that small, I'm sure it took only one or two screamers to throw that curve way off. My little angel could have kicked butt in that study, not that it was a contest or anything. I wonder if they scored extra points for babies that woke up within an hour after falling asleep.

My advice: Burn the article and have a great Mother's Day. Maybe you'll get a nap.