Friday, October 23, 2009

ER Adventures

Lola has come down with a lovely case of the croup! She was barking and coughing. She and I made a visit to the ER Tuesday around 3:30 in the morning. I had been sleeping with her, to keep an eye on her breathing when I noticed she was struggling for air. Sean carried her to the car. She was not happy to say the least. "Why are you guys doing this to me? It's the middle of the night for crying out loud!"

To change the subject and keep her calm I asked her what she thought our neighbor's cat Moe might be up to. Her salty reply "Probably sleeping." There were no other shooting, stab wound or swine flu victims waiting. We were the only ones. Lola settled in to watch a Rosanne rerun as I gave her information to the desk attendant.

We were shown to a room and her temp was taken. 99 degrees as it had been all day. The nurse switched on the Disney Channel and we cozied up together in the bed. "Mom, are there shots here at the dentist?" I told her this was not the dentist, but the hospital where she was born. She wanted to know why we weren't seeing her doctor. Because it's the middle of the night, or morning, or I smell coffee and I need a cup!

As we are waiting for the doctor I realize how tired I am. Adrenaline coursed through my body and now I'm coming down. My knees are knocking and I just might ask for a cup of that coffee. My baby, my sweet, sweet baby. Everything is OK. A case of croup and the doctor gives her an oral steroid to help her breathe. The doctor is yawning. I wonder how his day has been.

"Mom, can we stay here all night? I like this cartoon." She's comfortable and has enjoyed the attention of the nurses. She amazes me, this child. I was impressed with her maturity and curiosity. She viewed this as an adventure. That's what I told her it would be, trying to get her into the car. "We'll have a little middle of the night adventure, just you and me, OK?"

We were home by 4:30. Still dark, no porch lights on, no street lights to signal the beginning of another day. We watched another cartoon on the sofa, in the dark. "Mom, I'm ready for bed, I'm tired." "Guess what little lady, you get to stay home from school for another day." Her smile was so bright it lit the way to her room.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Think I Vacuumed Up My Marbles

"I think you're losing your marbles sometimes!" Sean said this to me in the most serious tone. We were gassing up the car for a six plus hour drive back to Pennsylvania for a family wedding. Lola was digging into her bag of crayons and coloring books and Gibson was entertaining himself with his Pup Pup Blanket.

"Didn't we talk about this just a few weeks ago?" Sean asked the gas attendant to fill the Volvo with medium grade gas. "Regular is fine." I said. "Michelle, you don't use regular. It even says so in the manual. How long have you been using regular!?" I felt like an idiot. The attendant gave me side glance as he squeegeed the front window.

From the backseat, "Daddy it's OK, Mommy can use the gas she wants and you can use your gas." Lola, always the diplomat. I use regular grade. It's ten cents cheaper. Mia Culpa!

Some days I do think I'm losing my marbles. I've gotten out of a schedule. I have my mom schedule. I do that in my sleep. I miss the good old days of going to work, getting dressed, putting on makeup, thinking about a great outfit to wear with heels, get in your car and drive, paycheck kind of work schedule.

I had an eight o'clock doctor appointment this morning. At least I thought it was this morning. I woke Lola and hurried her into her clothes, brushed her teeth and hair and we were out the door and on our way to school. With five minutes to spare I arrived at the medical building. I gave the receptionist my name and doctor name. He looked perplexed. "You scheduled this when?" Sometime last week for allergy troubles. "Well, it looks like you're early. About a week early. Your appointment is for Monday the 26th." Expletives went off in my head, a real fire cracker Fourth of July kind of pop, explode tirade of curses.

I arrived back home within 20 minutes. Sean was dressed for work and feeding Gibson scrambled eggs. "My appointment is for NEXT Monday." I sat down with a cup of coffee. Poor Lo, I rushed her out of the house frantic so as not to be late for a non existing appointment with a doctor I see maybe twice a year. Sean suggested I keep a daily planner so I don't "lose track of my days." "I don't lose track of my days, I know perfectly well what day it is!" He made it sound as if I spend my days in a TV induced, hazy swell of pajamas and cheap paperbacks, lounging on the sofa, leering at the park maintenance men when they mow the common.

It's Tuesday, or wait Wednesday? I have to take the car in for service. There's a funky smell and I think the air filter needs changed. The furnace guy is coming for yearly maintenance and I need to touch base with our squirrel guy and make sure our attic is pest free. I have to call a party rental place for a helium tank for Lola's Halloween party and make a call to Newman's vet to have his Prozac filled. The kid's rooms need cleaned and sheets off the beds to be laundered. I have clothes to drop off at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. I vacuumed yesterday but it still looks like a bomb went off in the living room.

Daily planner....I don't need no stinking planner!

Old Girl, Old School

I have a cell phone. I have a cell phone I hardly ever use. I have a cell number. I have no idea what it is. It's written down somewhere on some assorted dry cleaning ticket in the bottom of one of my handbags. Whenever I'm filling out paperwork I leave that blank....well....blank.

My husband has a cool phone. Square, sleek, internet access. "Ooooh, I want one!" Most days it's like a cement block around his neck. On the weekends it rings, buzzes, vibrates on the kitchen hutch.

I signed up for internet banking several months ago. I've been a To The Penny checkbook balancer from way back. I like writing in the columns, using decimal points, having everything come out as it should. I've been told this is "old school." Annoyed tellers on the other end of the phone suggest I sign up for online banking and blah blah blah it's so convenient. I'm told I can even pay my bills online, eliminating the need for bothersome envelopes and stamps.

I sign up. I log on. I'm ready to pay my bills through some ethernet cables and tin cans and string and monkeys on either end who will transmit my electronic funds to God knows where. None of my existing accounts show up on screen. I call the bank. For mortgage dial 2. For access to loans and equity lines of credit dial 3. I just keep pushing zero. "Hi, I signed up for on line banking and am having a problem paying some of my bills?" "Well, shouldn't that information already be there?" "Oh, I have to manually type in the payees and their addresses?" Well that's not very convenient!

I'm back to buying stamps at the post office and sitting in front of my computer writing out checks.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Puppy Love

I am a crying, sniveling mess. It's a chilly afternoon and I've spent two precious hours watching the movie Marley And Me. It's rare I watch TV in the afternoon. The blare of the screen and many talking heads is depressing. I might as well stay in my pajamas, cozy up with a nice aerosol can of processed faux cheese and turn on the gas oven. But for some reason I ignored the laundry and unpacking of the suitcase from our weekend in Pennsylvania and turned on the tube for escape.

I had missed about 20 minutes of the movie. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as a couple who fall in love, have this whirling dervish of a puppy, and face the challenges of raising children and building their lives together. The glue of the story is Marley. He chews, slobbers, eats everything and anything. Just when they've had enough he does something more destructive thus more endearing to them and the audience. Cue the strings and the audience says "awwwwhhhhhhh."

This is not my type of Hollywood fluff. I'm a movie snob who avoids at all costs most stuff for mainstream movie goers. I forget that movies are entertainment. I need to be less serious about such stuff.

So the couple suffer an early miscarriage then fast forward to a baby, a job promotion, Marley failing obedience school, humping poodles, terrifying babysitters, more kids on the way. There is the realistic arguing tired parents go through. The resentment of "giving up" things in your life. The changes endured, the loss of and wonderful gain, the push and pull of everyday life. Some of the dialogue I could actually identify with.

I knew or half heartily guessed the outcome of the movie. Marley ages and not gracefully. Our knucklehead of a dog is turning the page on this chapter in his life. Newman, Newberman, Nut Less Wonder, Scooby Doo, Captain Grey Beard. He's been in our family since he was a pup. His history, his geneses is stuff of Hollywood.

He was a carny dog. He traveled with a carnival that had made a stop in a small Pennsylvania town where our families still live. Sean's brother agreed to take the puppy after a friend said she had the dog but could not keep him. She knew some of Newman's past. After being rescued from the carnival, some kids kept him in their backyard shed for about three weeks. He was supposed to be a secret from the parents. That secret was bored with being kept in the dark. Sean's brother named him Newman after Mad Magazines Alfred E. Newman. He's a motley mix of Shepherd, Black and Tan Hound, and another large breed whose utterance of their name sends small children running to the house for safety.

Newman's stay with Ryan was a happy one. They would camp outdoors and share Chinese take out together. They were brothers. Ryan met and married. A baby was on the way and Newman had to go. He stayed a bit with Sean and Ryan's mother. He kind of became the relative that was entertaining, always good for a story, and funny when he was drunk (sometimes?) But he wore out his welcome there. Here's a one way ticket to Massachusetts Newman!

Ryan brought him on a sunny autumn weekend. I still remember Ryan sitting on the front porch devastated that he had to give his first love away. Newman sat at our front door for two days, waiting for him to come back. Our cat was not happy to have him in her house. The scratches and nail marks on our freshly refinished floor bears the story of the first few months. I wasn't exactly thrilled to have a large dog with an even larger tail in our home. One sway of that tail and he would clear off our coffee table. That Christmas I had no ornaments survive the lower branches. Oh and he had separation anxiety. We found this out after coming home from Ireland. He ate three sets of antique french doors. Really ate them! He ate basement steps. He ate through a metal fence meant to keep him from harming himself. He ate rugs, window blinds and sashes. Prozac has remedied much of his behavior.

I remember the first week he was in our home. I was lying on the floor in front of the fire. He curled up beside me and laid his head on my stomach. I was part of the pack. When I was pregnant with Lola and on five months of strict bed rest, he was my constant shadow never leaving my side. "Oh you'll have problems with him and a new baby in the house." That's all we heard from those who thought they knew Newman. I brought her hospital cap home and let him sniff before we brought Lola in. He didn't seem impressed. That first week the mailman came to the door and Newman sounded the alarm and ran to the top of the stairs not budging. Lola was asleep upstairs in her crib.

He's dug huge craters in our backyard, destroyed doors, steps, and carpeting, bolts out the backdoor at every chance he gets. He's antagonized the neighborhood dog walker because he knows she doesn't like him. A substitute mail carrier absent mindedly left a warning card with our mail a few years ago. " Alert, aggressive dog at this mailing address." He's heard "stupid dog" more than once from me. He has never bit anyone and plays well with others. Our kids take toys and food out of his mouth without even a snarl. He is the best stupid dog as I scratch between his eyes on that special spot on his nose and rub his silky ears between my thumb and finger. He opens one bleary eye woken by my affection.

He's 13 or 14 now, we never know. For several years in a row we said he was 10. It felt like a fitting age for his behavior. When the day comes we've talked of cremation. Everyone in the family would like a memento of Newman. His back legs are weak and he can't jump into the back of the Volvo. Some nights we hear him coming up the stairs, like a gimpy old man with laboured wheezing. When he makes it to the top he sleeps in Lola's room as tight against her bed as he can. Some nights he doesn't have the strength to make the climb. We know the day is coming and we're not sure what we'll tell Lola. What we tell ourselves? For now we're a family with two great kids and a knucklehead of a dog who we love.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tears And Fears Of A Parent (or should I buy it to shut her up?)

I had two stops to make before I picked Lola up from daycare. Red wine for the beef soup and butternut squash and fresh thyme was also on my list. I had planned on doing both before getting Lo. Time was not on my side. I stopped at the wine store for the red and looking at the clock in the car, decided to head to the grocery store after procuring my precocious blondie.

Lola is spoiled. Hard core spoiled. It's my fault. She's a loving, compassionate, creative, affectionate manipulator who can get her way with a bat of her dark lashes and pursed ruby cherub lips. On a whim I pick up coloring books, stickers, things that give her face that "Oh mommy, I love you!" glow. I grew up not dare whining or pouting at the grocery store surrounded by eye level metal row upon row of the most amazing magical candies. I remember at a party my parents were hosting saying "When I grow up, I'm going to buy my own Cheetos Corn Chips!"

I illegally procured a pack of Life Savers grocery shopping with my mother. I may have been 5. I sat in the back of her Chevy Malibu happily unwrapping the candy. I was promptly marched back to the store and made my heartfelt apology to the store manager.

I buckle Lola into her seat and tell her we have to stop at the store for just a FEW things. She skips alongside the cart as we roll down the isle. "Can I have a Crunch Bar?" NO. "Mommy, please I beg you, have mercy, just a doughnut?" NO! Her voice notches up a few decibels. "Mom, just a Munchkin and I promise I won't ask anymore!" This high stakes bargaining from a 4 year old.

Tears are streaming down her face. She's starting to break out into hives on her cheeks. I tell her through gritted teeth "Mom says no, you can't have a snack every time we go somewhere. I said no and I don't want you to ask me again." Her whiny reply "But Mom, you always buy me something!" Yes, I've stepped in a steamy pile of it this time. "Lola, listen to Mom, If I buy you something special every time we go shopping then it won't seem special anymore."

People are giving me "that look." That look when a kid is being a brat and making a spectacle of her mother. I wore Sean's old sweatshirt and hadn't brushed my hair since 7:30 this morning. I may have looked a bit haggy, adding to my mean mommy mystique. The looks I was getting from the produce boy made me believe I was poking her with a hot stick.

Gibson is now crying because Lola is crying. I take a few deep breaths and grab the Worcestershire sauce and grated Pecornio Romano Cheese. Why do I take her tantrums personally? Why do I engage her in a verbal throw down. Voices of my mother come out of my mouth, all unhinged and booming. I must remain calm. Oh crap, I forgot the beef broth!

We make it to the check out isle. Gibson is pulling quarters and pennies from a donation cup on the counter. "Why can't I get anything?" She spies a Nick Jr magazine. "Can I have this?" No. I feel calm and in control. Her pitiful mewing is bouncing off my cold cold heart. As we walk out we pass the in store bank. I think maybe I'll grab her a lollipop. No, that would defeat my purpose. Not every trip to the store should result in a prize, toy, or candy just because she's gnashing and wailing.

She's still fussing in the backseat but the storm has past and just a few tears remain. I offer her a mini raisin bagel and milk as an after school snack with a side of SpongeBob. Gibson is having strawberries. "Mom I just want a huggie. I'm sorry I was hard at the store." Does she realize she was? Is she just mimicking what I have said to her? Does she understand how much I love her and want to see her as a happy kid, teen, well adjusted adult? I'm getting ahead of myself. She just wants to climb into my lap and have her back scratched and watch her cartoons.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Boo To YOU!

I'm actually hosting a kid's party at my house! We haven't had a birthday party for Lola yet that her friends have attended. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I can't name a holiday I don't like really. The fall season creates this need in me to cook more, bake more, and just celebrate!

I asked Lola if she wanted to have a Halloween party for some of her friends. "Really, here at my house with friends? Will there be cake?" That's always her barometer of a good time. Cake.

Well, that was settled. A party! I was on a pre party planning high! Then lying in bed that night I realized what I'd done. Oh crap! I'd have to have people over, have food, games, drinks, worry about kids spilling food and drink on my furniture, wondering if there would be enough room for the kids and parents, thinking of making a cake, double crap...I should make a pinata....I have to buy more Halloween decorations, candy, maybe a costume for me?

Lola ran through the litany of what she wanted to be for her party. First she wanted to be a mummy! I was soooo excited! I would make her the coolest mummy costume, wrap gauze and cheese cloth all over her, do some crazy mummy-ish make up on her face. Then she chose a princess. Bummer. I wanted more creativity for her (OK for me.) Then she found a photo of a sexy vampiress with ghoulish cleavage bursting out of her corsetted top. "Mom, this is who I want to be!" following me around the kitchen. I suggested we keep looking at costumes. She has finally settled on being a vampire bat girl. The costume arrived the other day. I hung it on her armoire door. She asked me to take it down last night. It was frightening her when she slept. Jackpot!

While Gibson naps, I've been working on her pinata. My intention was a ghost. The balloon lent itself more to a gruesome gourd, a sinister squash, a peevish pumpkin? A pumpkin it is! I love the feel of the flour paste and smooshing the goop off the newspaper strips. Very therapeutic. The smell reminds me of being a kid. That's probably why I love this holiday so much. You can pretend, dress up, make believe, eat candy, watch scary movies, enjoy the crunch of fall under your feet while admiring the moon, the air has a certain smell too of burning leaves, ghosts, incense, spirits releasing into the air.

I should rent a card table for the kid's crafts and pumpkin painting. Maybe rent extra chairs for musical chairs. I bought a CD of spooky screams, cat howlings, and creaking doors. This will be fun! I need to narrow down my menu. My first thought was quiche and Bloody Marys for the grown ups. Yes, I am having adult beverages. For some reason this seems taboo at kid's parties? Sure cake is great, but libations are a crowd pleaser! Pizza and a spider web cake for the kids...and I'll have a plate of fresh veggies and fruits to balance the corn syrup induced comma the kids will willingly slip into.

I'll wager a bet there will be carrot sticks and strawberries left over. Oh the horror!!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Squirrels Are Driving Me Batty!

It's late evening and I'm trying not to listen to the desperate squeaks and chirps from the trapped squirrel above me. Two neighborhood cats are sniffing around the house. They too hear the squirrel.

We've been plagued by these pest the past few weeks. They've decided our attic is better habitat to raise their young than say, the trees or woods behind our house. Now there's a family just above Lola's bedroom. I've heard them mid afternoon while putting her laundry away or early morning, if she's had a dream and can't fall back to sleep. I'll lie with her and we listen to them. Their tooing and froing. They've developed a taste for my art books and stacks of old photos. Mama and her babies make such a racket as if they're installing a hot tub on the roof! The other morning I actually thought someone was in my attic moving boxes around. I grabbed a chunk of copper pipe and a tennis racket. What would I do if someone were up there? I hadn't figured it out that far....

I called the squirrel guy again. Honest to God, this man eats, breathes, and sleeps rodent removal. At $485 a pop, he should! He's been bitten many times, fallen off ladders, fallen into lakes, ponds, people's driveways. He deals with the above mentioned as well as raccoon, woodchucks, skunks, all the woodland creature that look so fat and cuddly in children's books sitting together around a campfire sharing Smores, telling ghost stories.

Today he climbed to the third story and set traps outside the corner of the roof. He stuck his hand in a small hole the mama had made. "Yup, they're in there!" He quickly drew back his hand before mama could have a mid morning munch of human. She had shredded some books and photos for her nest. I told Tom I saw the mama push two of the babies out the corner of the roof and watched them plop to the ground below. Tom said this is not typical behavior. His theory: another mama squirrel may have her eye on this cozy corner.

So I'm trying not to listen to the sorrowful, panicked squeaks. I've learned quite a bit about squirrel behavior from Tom. When we first hired him for "removal" last fall, he said there's no such thing as squirrel relocation. If let loose in a nearby field they always find their way back to their nest. Or in our case, back to our attic. I pictured a bunch of little squirrels huddling together behind some speak easy hoping not to be found out, turned in, by say a rat. There would be grainy black and white photos of them surfacing with black bars over their eyes to protect their identity.

Latest count, we've caught two youth and I think it's the mama squirrel who will soon join them. I made a call to Tom's cell and hoping he'll make quick work of it.