Friday, December 31, 2004

And He Says He's Had Better Birthdays

Wednesday. A seemingly ordinary day. Kids a bit sniffly, Charles a bit sniffly. Me, so far, so good. Charles has the week off to breathe and play with the kids. I am off to work my strenuous 1/2 day. No frantic Community Clinic in the afternoon, just errands and home again to 4 days of family without the craziness. Gotta say I had been looking forward to just this for what seems like forever. Also Charles's birthday, therefore excuse to pick up big pizzas for dinner. At 9:47, I am struck with the certainty that I am getting good and sick. This dismayed me as I felt fine at 9:46. Oh, well. Only to be expected. Certainly won't be the last time. Four years ago, when I first started doing this clinic, I got sick 14 times between November and July. Heh.

So home I come with pizzas and aches, feeling a modicum of personal pity, but not much, seeking tea and couch, which I found. Sara got up from her nap soon after I got settled, happy to cuddle and watch Blues Clues and talk about noses. Colin got up from a nap, came in, said he was going to use the bathroom, and then went back to bed. Odd, but when he does deign to nap, he does it to extreme. Meanwhile, Charles has taken his sniffles and Emma off to the vet to figure out why she has been scratching herself for the past week.

They get home with doggie antibiotics for the allergic rash she has secondarily infected and we toss the pizzas in the oven. Hm. Where is Colin? Sleeping. Feels a bit warm. Let's get the thermometer.


Both ears. New cover for the thermometer. Checked against my temp. And he looks bad.

Got my attention. Motrin STAT. Call Lilian to be with Sara while we head to the ER, stocked with book, water, juice boxes, Teddy Grahams, Gameboy, and Chapstick. Hey, we all know a visit to the ER is like a camping trip. I refrained on packing the camp stove, only because we don't own one. Plus, I figured if we had to, we could forage for days off the contents of the vending machines, subsiding on orange crackers and red vines. I know how to survive in the hospital environment. If needed, I could even sneak up to the wards and loot their stashes of apple juice and saltines.

Turns out my survival skills weren't needed. We were the only ones at the check-in desk and there was no one in the waiting room. Had I been new to town, I would have fled, as surely that was a sign that not even those dying a bloody death would come in for care. I mean, an empty ER? Even the bad ones are full.

The extremely competent and efficient young woman at the intake desk asks what is wrong and at the information of a temp of 105.5 she signals to the extremely competent and efficient nurse, who bundles Colin and Charles to the closest exam room and start all the data taking. I answer all the questions and fill in the surprisingly few forms at the desk and by the time I am back there 10 minutes after walking in the door, Colin is being seen by the extremely competent and efficient and nice physician's assistant. He listens and asks all the appropriate questions, making sure the reported temp is reliable as by now, the Motrin has kicked in and he is down to 100. And he takes my word for it. Colin is now looking shockingly better, eats one Teddy Graham and is sipping on water. We are relieved that he has no evidence of ear infection, strep, or junk in his lungs. A chest x-ray is done, "just to make sure" given the juicy cough, by an extremely competent and efficient and nice x-ray tech, and is just fine except for an area of possible haziness in both lungs consistent with a viral pneumonitis. Or not. I chat with the extremely competent and efficient ER doc, who, sensing medical training from my verbiage, asks if I am a nurse. I say, "No, a doctor." She apologizes, for some reason, as if being mistaken for a nurse was anything but a compliment. (I wonder if anyone who is a nurse and is initially mistaken for a doctor gets an apology and if so, if they are bemused or offended.) We go over the finer points of the x-ray to pass the time and a few minutes later, the printer spits out the results of the nasal swab: Influenza A - Positive.

We decide to put both Colin and Sara on the Tamiflu and some antibiotic drops for the raging eye infection that he has developed, as well. (Charles, Lilian, and I don't need it as all of us have had our flu shots.) Done, including check-out, in an hour or less.

Off to the pharmacy, that we are told by the ER nurse is open, sadly to find that they don't have any of the Tamiflu in and can either get it tomorrow or call to the hospital pharmacy and see if they have it. Which they do. Back to the hospital, but it is hard to be anything but grateful. Prescription filled and home again. Then things turn grim.

As we were flying out the door, literally, we find Emma barfing in the study. Bleh. Gratefully, I accept Lilian's offer to clean it up and we hit the road. We get home to clean the dog mess out of the carpet with the steam cleaner, give Sara her 1st dose of medicine, dose Colin, and send Sara off to bed. We keep Colin up (now about 10:00) so we can give him a dose of Motrin and something for his congestion (plus he had the 6 hour nap) and get something food-like in his stomach. After much battling, we get the prescription meds in stomach and eyes. He eats chips and cookies and drinks milk (not sweating the nutrition here) and looks so much better. He takes the Motrin with protest. He fights the chewable decongestant. He says it will make him throw up. He does, instantly, all over the couch. We clean it up and have the useless dialogue about talking yourself into vomiting. But he needs the meds. We let him calm down and re-dose him. He barfs it up within seconds. On his bedroom carpet. We ask him if he thinks he can swallow the pill. He does so like a champ. And sleeps. Apparently, I have passed on the pukey-gene to him. As a kid, I could hurl at the drop of a hat. Once more, my folks have their revenge.

At this point, at about midnight, Charles sums it up: "Well, I've had 41 better birthdays."

Yes, I suppose he has, but it could have been so much worse.

Colin is doing so much better. His cough is drier and his fevers are dropping. He is actually eating, always a sure sign he is on the mend. Sara's tiny fevers are gone and her cough is fleeing. She is her usual bouncy self. Emma puked once again the next morning (outside) but is now better and keeps her antibiotics down. Charles is feeling better and has started exercising again (takes a lot to make him forgo his work-outs) and I am no longer achy, just phlegmy. So, 5/5 better. A sedate New Year's Eve we will have, but that is par for the course.

A Happy New Year to all of you, too.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

White Christmas, HAH!

Well, it was a pretty, storybook Christmas morning scene: Waking to snow, kids shrieking with glee, wrapping paper flying, chocolate Santa hors d'ouvres before a breakfast of sweet rolls and sausages, all followed by the first real snow romp of the year. While it is only 2 inches, it is still enough to make everything white and to run a sled. Sara had her 1st sled ride, which she preferred to do supine with the snow falling on her face. The sled she referred to as "boat" which makes more sense, if you think about it. Emma also had her 1st snow, but sadly the snow is too dry to play "snowball fetch". I actually think she will love snowballs as she loves the chase but hates, HATES, to give up the ball for you to throw a second time. With snowball fetch, she can chase limitless balls that we can garner just by bending over and she will never, ever, have to share.

I have actually opened very few presents at this writing. The reason is two-fold. First, I like to savor the present part and I actually get sad at the thought of the last present being opened. That means that Christmas is over and I absolutely love the whole Christmas thing. Last year when going through things for the big move in February, I came across a medium sized box in the guest closet with my name on it. Dad and Cathy had brought our Christmas gifts when they drove out the preceding summer and I put them all in the guest closet for hiding. The remaining present somehow got separated from the herd and missed the whole sitting under the tree thing. I put the present on a shelf of my closet where I could see it and just know that I had a present sitting there for me, should I ever need one. Damn thing just made me happy knowing it was there for 6 months. I finally opened it on my birthday as the guilt was getting a bit much. It was this wicked-sharp Native American design chopping blade with curved wood block for chopping fresh herbs. It has an official name but I am just too damn lazy to trot out to the kitchen and look at the name on the box. Even comes with it's own block of grease-stuff to keep the wood in condition. I love it but was a bit sad no longer having The Present. I am so very strange. Must come from all those years of delayed gratification that is medical training. Warps you in ways you never dream of. Anyone else like this? The people I have told so far are unanimous in eying me as though I were seriously weird. Nothing new.

Anyway, the 2nd reason, the main reason for still having a pile of presents, is that it was such an out-of-control, free-for-all of a kid present opening frenzy, that it was all Charles and I could do to keep up with the 2 of them. Imagine kids and hands instead of baby birds and beaks and you will get the picture. Except at least for the mommy and daddy birds, the chicks are confined to the small nest, not the dining room and everyone else's presents. I am still a bit shaken. I also received a new video camera from Santa and was attempting to record the moment for all the grandparents. It is actually a very cool camera that takes stills (which I completely forgot about doing, so we have vid but no stills. Heh. Sorry.) and video and downloads straight to DVD or computer or whatever. Loads of fun. Lots to learn. Big instruction manual. It may be that I can create still pics from frames of the video, so all may not be lost.

So that is that. I will probably open the rest of my presents after the kids are down and I have a nice glass of red wine and all is calm and still again. Will I spirit away one present for another day, thus ensuring that Christmas is not completely over? I don't think so. I think that has to be unplanned. But it was nice while it lasted.

Merry Christmas.


Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve!

Make that Merry blinking early Christmas Eve morning. For some reason, we are all up at the unfortunate hour of 6. And by "we" I mean "me". Charles has been up for hours, but that is his issue. Colin has been up since 5, but as he actually asked to go to bed at 6:50 last night, it makes sense. No, he is not sick, he just got stuck on the idea that since tomorrow was Christmas Eve, that Santa was coming last night rather than tonight. In all honesty, Charles and I DID point out the truth. Once. And then shrugged to each other and bundled him off to bed. Sara soon followed and we found ourselves in the lovely circumstance of it being 7:30 with both kids asleep. So instead of a kid's Christmas movie, we watched the 3rd Harry Potter movie.

Unfortunately, I woke up thirsty at 2am. And then realized I had to, erm, use the facilities. Seemed a waste of time, to empty the tank and then immediately fill it, but with some things it is useless to argue. After all the excitement of taking care of fluid maintenance, I was unable to drift back to sleep. The reason for which was my asshole of a stomach:

S: "Grumble, grumble. I'm hungry."

D: "Shut up. Go to sleep. It's 2am."

S: "I'M HUNGRY! Get me some cranberry bread. It's just there on the counter."

D: "No. You know the rule. No middle of the night eating. Ever."

S: "Don't give me that. You've done it before. Just get up and grab that box of cheezee crackers. If you take the box back to bed, we will both be happy. Charles probably won't notice and you are washing the sheets tomorrow, anyway."

D: "I broke the rule once. When I was pregnant. Pregnant doesn't count. Go to sleep. It's not happening."

S: (sounding like Audrey 2 in Little Shop of Horrors) "FEED ME!"

D: "(bleep) you. I am not getting up."

The conversation degraded from there with much said on both sides that will require "working through" but I did win the battle. However, when I surfaced from sleep at a bit before 6am, my stomach was waiting in ambush. I made sure it realized I was still boss, though, and fed it an orange first. And then made a pot of tea. And last of all hacked 2 large pieces off the loaf of cranberry bread on the counter. So stomach is happily mulling over the bread (I can tell as it is making those happy tummy gurgly noises) and I am sipping a 3rd cuppa and catching up on my blog habit.

To be fair, though, the poor stomach did have to put up with a lot the day before yesterday, which was the clinic pot luck lunch, Midwest style. There was not a single fruit or vegetable, just miles of cheeze and chips and dips and salty soups. All tasty but combining to make for some rather unpleasant gastric distress a couple of hours later. I would have brought some homemade bread or a veggie or fruit platter, but I was forbidden from bringing anything. Wonder what they are trying to tell me? We won't mention the constant whining about obesity or the candy drawer behind the nurses station.

I always have to think of the story of my sister's wedding shower thrown by her soon-to-be inlaws in Iowa. My sister is vegetarian, something that completely flabbergasts them. She suggested a pot luck salad luncheon for the shower. And that is exactly what she got. Midwestern salads. I believe it was something like 1 potato salad, 2 macaroni salads, and 37 jello salads, many with Cool Whip. The ubiquitous "Mexican layered salad" was probably not there as that would have meant seasoned hamburger in it, which is a bit of a shame, as any REAL Midwestern pot luck must have the Mexican layered salad with shredded cheeze from a bag. Nothing gets the bowels going faster. I'm actually surprised this is not found in capsule form next to the Ex-Lax. Probably can't get a patent on it. Pity.

Colin's birthday was a smashing success, if success means he got cheese pizza "with cheese and sauce and nothing on it", chocolate cake with chocolate frosting decorated with Scooby Doo motif complete with bobble-head Scooby and 2 working curly straws (huh?), followed by a pile of presents. He is already plotting his next birthday. There was some grumbling from some of those in the adult sector that the frosting was "too fudgy" but I say "bugger that". As if. Plus, that is the perk of being the cake picker-outer. I get to choose the fudgy rather than the bland white frosting.

So today, we will loaf around (and starting at 6am means there is a lot of day to be loafed), Colin and I will make cut-out Christmas cookies when Sara naps, and we will eat "snacky" dinner and drink champagne. Santa will come and hopefully bring Colin the only thing he wants, a Lord of the Rings game for the computer. Somehow, I don't think he will be disappointed.

All our love to you and hope your Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice or Festivus is warm and bright and filled with all good things. With our 2 bugs, I think this will be our best yet.


Friday, December 17, 2004

Happy Birthday, Booboli Boo

Today Colin is 6. He has graduated to needing 2 hands to show his age.

He is, of course, extremely excited, so much so that he woke at 3am and spent an hour talking to poor Charles on the couch. Charles, in the throes of a viral snot-and-phlegm fest, was already up on the couch, so it was some father and son bonding. Colin joining him in the snuffing and coughing. (I know this as I was awake, too, in the nice warm flannel-and-down bed, not the couch.) If it takes a wise man who knows his own son, Charles is a guru.

They both nodded off at about 4 am, thank God. I had visions of a newly-minted 6-yr-old at school today with a whopping 7 hours of sleep (hey, that's 45 minutes to you and me) trying to cope with the intricacies of ornament and cookie decoration day. I laid plans and contingency plans until I dropped off at 3:55 am. Fortunately, they were needless, and he was his bright and excited self at breakfast today.

I was one of the half-dozen parent volunteers at the annual insane kindergarten ornament and cookie decoration day. All 4 of the kindergarten classes do this simultaneously. They make about 5 different, rather elaborate, ornaments involving lots of sequins, felt, beads and glue and then head out to the tables in the hall to slather teeth-aching amounts of bright frosting onto cut-out cookies that are then covered in sprinkles and candies. They then eat the cookies on the spot. Colin's teacher is so wise. It seems the custodians are responsible for cleaning up the halls and the teachers for cleaning up the classrooms. Judging from the color of Colin's face, he favored blue frosting. And it was all accomplished in something like 90 minutes. I am still in awe. So, Colin went off to not eat lunch with his classmates and I went home with Sara and decorated the kitchen in ridiculous amounts of streamers for the party tonight.

The holiday concert last night was everything I had expected. Fortunately, the kindergarteners went on first. Each and every one of them shouting out the last 1/2 of each verse (as they didn't remember the words, exactly) and waving their arms around. It was truly priceless. Sara was not impressed, though, and was very incensed that the lights were turned down for the performance. She tried to point out this obvious error to those in charge, bellowing at the top of her remarkably large lungs, "TURN ON THE LIGHTS!!!! TURN ON THE LIGHTS!!!!!! LIGHTS ON!!!!!" At the age of 2, she can be either contained or quieted, not both. We fled as Colin's class left the stage and skedaddled with him. Not bad. Both kids in bed by 8 and us with our feet up while every other parent for 20 miles was sitting on bleachers or metal folding chairs listening to the school song, which is set to the tune of "It's a Small World". No joke. Heh. Heh. Heh.

And, there we are. Just waiting for Charles to come home with pizza and chocolate frosted chocolate cake with professionally done Scooby Doo motif, and for friends to show up to help consume and sing.

So, happy birthday, Booboli Boo. Best guy in the world. May this year hold as much joy for you as you bring to us, amazing, wonderful, 6-year-old boy. Can't wait to see it with you! And to play with your new toys. Good thing you share, huh?


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Idiots, All

Idiotic credit card companies.

In the mail yesterday 2-yr-old Sara received a credit card application.

Now we are sadly used to getting these unwelcome offers to get sucked into more debt. I honestly can say that it has probably been years since the mail has come and there was no piece of junk mail credit card offer in it. Years. The current record in one day's mail was 6 separate credit card offers. We have reached 5 more than once. I assume we are no different than most. We have never taken them up on any of these offers. We shred them as soon as we get in the door. We are obviously on multiple "potential sucker" mailing lists, something that happens if you have any commerce with the outside world. It annoys me but not enough to take action. Again, I am supremely lazy.

But how in hell did they get Sara's name and address? She has no bank account. She is on no document aside from her birth certificate and social security number. The only thing I can think of is through the billing office for our health network and I can't imagine they would be selling patient info, given HIPAA confidentiality guidelines. I am perplexed. Maybe from someone nice sending her a gift mail-ordered with her name on the package. Maybe that would be us. Drat.

The big event tonight for us Piffles is Colin's 1st ever Holiday Concert. Eeeeep. Tonight he gets to put on his new navy blue pants and a clean (maybe red?) shirt and stand up with his classmates and sing 2 songs. "We are Santa's Elves" from that supreme piece of holiday tripe, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (Well, yes, we do own a copy. Yes, it plays several times a week. What's your point?) and "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas". Complete with coordinated hand gestures. How ambitious is his school music teacher? So we are all in anticipation. And by "we" I mean Colin and I. I truly can't wait. I have picked out which Christmas-themed sweater I will wear. (Yeah, I have 2 Christmas-themed sweaters. I bought them, myself, with malice aforethought. I will hang my head in shame.) Colin has been practicing his songs and hand gestures for weeks. We do them together in the car. Poor Charles. You would think that, having actually chosen the career of educating children, Charles would be enthusiastically singing and making sleigh motions with his hands along with Colin and I. (He is looking forward to going, just not with quite the glee) . But, he just drives down the road with both hands on the wheel of el minivan, covertly singing along with Springsteen.

So, that is our evening. School children mangling treacly holiday songs. With hand gestures. And I am counting the hours.

How did I get here?


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pink Card

My husband is truly wonderful. He is funny, smart, considerate, and very handsome with straight teeth and athletic build. He would be perfect (and therefore detestable) if it weren't for the issues of the dirty socks and the crumbs on the counter. It will therefore come as no surprise that he is, in fact, Canadian.

He has been a lawful and tax-paying member of American society for many years. You have to really look closely to see that he is not a Yank. The only thing that is usually noticeable is the use of the word "eh" a bit more than absolutely necessary. He holds a resident visa and carries his green card (actually it is pink). He signed up for the selective service at the age of 18 and can be drafted, assuming the army would ever want a 42 yr old principal, although they could do worse. He has all the responsibilities of a citizen but can not vote. After many years, he has decided that he is ready to take the leap and become an American citizen. He feels strongly about his Canadian heritage, the horrible band, Loverboy, notwithstanding. The only stumbling block to obtaining his American citizenship has been that the US would have made him resign his Canadian citizenship. Recently, he has become encouraged that things have changed and he will be able to become a dual citizen. As a holder of dual citizenship, he would still be able to root for the Canadians in international hockey events, including the Olympics.

But, first things first. His green (pink) card was about to expire and therefore he got to take a personal day yesterday and head into Milwaukee to the immigration building to renew his resident visa. This is usually not a difficulty. Actually, when he first came to the US, he was given an unlimited green card (actually green back then) with no expiration date. Sadly, he lost it a few years ago and it was replaced with his new green (pink) card which expires this year. With typically logical (and therefore flawed) reasoning, he thought he could kill 2 birds with one stone, renewing his current green (pink) card and starting the dual citizenship paperwork with one fell visit.

He gets to the lobby and finds himself along with several other of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Fortunately, he was in possession of a picture ID and he, along with one other lone soul from Africa, got to get past the lobby. Up he went to the main floor to keep his appointment, cashier's check and surprisingly short online form in hand (they will not take personal check, cash, or credit card at immigration). He then waits and waits, of course. He notices that he is the only one on the huddled-masses side of the counter (the guy from Africa no doubt in his own personal bureaucratic purgatory) and that there are 2 women sitting at desks on the other side drinking coffee and chatting. They might have also been eating donuts. If not, they should have been. Finally, he gets to meet with .... Chris. It then gets surreal.

Chris (demands): "So, are you about to be deported?"

Charles: "Uh, no. But I guess you would know before I did?"

Chris (scowling and failing to see the absurdity of the question): "So you are not about to get deported?"

Charles (seeing the error of his ways): "No."

Chris: "Why is your card pink? I've never seen one like this."

Charles: "Um, it was the one they gave me in Portland. Perhaps they do things differently there or they changed the card a few years ago?"

Chris (scowling harder): "I've never seen one like this."

Charles (becoming seriously worried about the future of his adoptive country):

Chris then has Charles sign his name over and over as it doesn't quite match the tiny computer scanned copy they have on file. If you knew Charles' signature, this would not surprise you. It does have the advantage of being, well, difficult to forge. It is also difficult to perfectly duplicate in a tiny box for a computer scan. Finally, they achieve match.

Chris: "Your new green card should arrive in 12-15 months."

Charles: "But the temporary one you just issued expires in 12 months."

Chris (again failing to see the absurdity): "So?"

Charles wisely fled. At some point in the conversation, he did ask Chris how to start the dual citizenship process. Chris had never heard of such a thing.

We have a bet going that his dual citizenship will go through before his next green (pink? yellow? actually green?) card comes in the mail. Actually, I guess to have a true bet, one of us would have to think the green card would come first, something that caused much hysterical laughter last night. That was then followed by dreaming up new Monty Python sketches featuring the green (pink) card fiasco.

So, he still has his old green (pink) card, now mutilated with 2 holes punched in it and a sticker affixed over the old expiration date, but still proudly holding together.

Sort of makes the DMV look like a paragon of efficiency and bonhomie, doesn't it? At least we have always walked out of there with a new picture ID / driver's license on the same visit. That visit might have felt like it took 12-15 months, but at least, in the end, mission accomplished.


Monday, December 13, 2004

Channel Surfing

Yesterday, I channeled my mother.

It is actually a good thing. Growing up, Christmas was always huge. We didn't have a lot of disposable income and for several years we had even less. We always had healthy food, warm clothes, plenty of books and a lot of love, but ours was not a consumer-driven household. To it's credit. But Christmas was different. On Christmas my sister, Gail, and I would tiptoe downstairs at 5 am and invariably be astounded by the gargantuan pile of loot that seemed to obstruct the view of all but the top of the tree. It was absolute magic. I think this is why I still believe, in part, in Santa. Yes. Just-shy-of-40 me.

And so each year, I channel Santa, through my Mum, to me. Including the wrapping. Oh, woe, the wrapping. You see, each of those 847 presents under the tree (plus 3-4 in each stocking) was wrapped in paper with coordinating ribbon or bow, the picture in the paper framed nicely on the front. No gift bags for Santa. For shame. So that is what I did yesterday, in the loft above the living room. Fortunately, I do not work full time and the kids go to bed at an early hour, so I have been able thus far to forgo the second part of the Mum-Santa legacy, the wrapping of the 847 individual presents at 2 am Christmas morning. Plus, there's something a bit disheartening seeing all your wrapping in shreds on the floor a mere few hours after you lovingly and artistically placed that last piece of tape. I still have about 20 to wrap, mostly for Charles, including his birthday, and for friends, but the rest is done.

I also made a double batch of Mama Joyce's spaghetti sauce, the best meat sauce in the world in my opinion, the only opinion that counts in the House 'O Piffle, where I am head chef. So we had the world's best spathetti for dinner with the extra in the freezer keeping the pesto company. Red and green. Chez festive.

In other holiday news, we had the 2nd of our work parties. Mine was a typical medical one. Someone reserved space at a restaurant and about half of us showed up with spouses. No (ahem) themes. No gift exchange. Just food and drink and talk. Actually, the school Hawaiian-themed party for Charles' work was rather fun, lots of people am fond of that I had not gotten to see in over a year. As we were leaving, things were starting to shift into gear with the ritual spiking of the punch bowl. Felt rather junior-high (although not the Jr high I went to) with a crowd of hula-skirted, Hawaiian-shirted people standing with their back to the punch bowl while others clandestinely emptied the contents of various bottles in the mix. It did smell enticing, I must say, but we were good and skedadled. While I know Charles is liked by most, it is hard to get the party really going with the boss there.

So, there we are. Happy holidays all. Next up: Christmas cookies with Colin and Sara. (If I am feeling energetic and cocky.)


Friday, December 10, 2004

Prussia vs Berlin

Feeling more than a bit cabin feverish, Sara and I put on boots, fleece, and coats with hoods and slogged outside in the 35 degree drizzle. Emma, the force behind the slogging, leaped ahead down the steps from the deck to the backyard. Sara and I came a bit more slowly, wet wood and all, and alighted on the grass.

"OK, Sara, here we are, where do you want to go?"

"Check on barn."

"OK, we'll go check on bar-har-Watch!-NO!"

Her boot hits a large pile of poo square on.

Grrrrr. "BAD DOG! Ooooooh. Baaaaaad Dog!" Emma hangs her head in shame for .27 seconds and then dances off to smell things.

Sigh. Yes, when one has a dog, it is usual to have to watch where you step. Unless you had the world's most rigid follower-of-the-rules dog, Maia. For Maia, the law was the law. Pooping and peeing only happened in one place, initially in ivy, and then with the move to the Midwest, she condescended to consider tall grass as an alternate. Actually, this lead to problems in our 1st corss-country drive with Maia, when I was pregnant with Colin. We drove to Minneapolis to see my sister, bringing Maia. Unfortunately, there is no ivy at all along the way for a dog pit stop. She held all excretions for almost 24 hrs, finally letting loose in some long grass in Idaho. And she felt bad for doing so. Maia was clearly Prussian at heart.

Emma is from Berlin. 1933 Berlin. The Berlin of Cabaret, where moral codes were loose. You see, she just doesn't see the point of following our rules. If she knows you are watching, she will go to the dog pooping place by the line of small evergreen trees. If not, she will go anywhere she damn well pleases. Like the foot of the deck stairs. She will steal food if she thinks she won't get caught. With Maia, you could set your plate on the floor and walk away, knowing she would not touch it. Emma will steal the kids' toys. She will sneak dirty items of clothing out of the laundry basket to lie on (something I find strange). She will not always come when called. She is just a naughty dog.

So we all took a soggy walk around the back 40, checked on the barn (an empty 20' X 20' structure that used to house 2 horses but now houses a lawn mower and gas cans) and worked up an appetite for lunch, which we ate with Emma curled on my feet.

So she is a naughty, sweet dog. Lucky for her.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004


December is birthday month for 3 of us in the Land 'o Piffle: Colin, Charles, and Emma-the-dog. Now, I am not one to celebrate the birthdays of pets. I know many are so inclined and I have nothing against it (although I find it rather weird), but I am just so very lazy and don't feel the need to lift a finger to celebrate the birth of a being for whom it will be meaningless. I confess I also don't see the need to put on the dog, so to speak, for birthdays of 1 and 2 year olds, either, resulting in almost vanishingly minimalistic early birthdays for our kids. I swear I honestly only did it for the pictures. I figure that is one less thing they can hold against me in the future. At least I have pictures of them having cake and candles and messy frosting. "See, honey, I really DO love you! Let me show you the pictures again. Why are there no streamers or crowds of people or clowns or bouncy tents? Well, you see, they were there, it's just that the camera angles don't show them. Really."

So anyway, yesterday, Emma turned 1 year old. Officially no longer a puppy, but a dog, whatever that means. Actually, for a German Shepherd, it means a lot and she has been moving toward doghood for the past couple of months. As a puppy, she was not especially vigilant and never barked, unlike her predecessor, Maia. For the past several weeks, she has suddenly developed this 3rd ear, hearing all sorts of either inaudible-to-the-human-ear sounds or sounds that never existed in the first place, except in her mind. She then leaps up, looking terribly concerned and affronted, and dashes off, barking at the top of her voice. So unhelpful. Fortunately, both kids were raised from conception with the background of loud German Shepherd barking, and it almost never wakes either of them. She is also suddenly most distressed if one of her charges (meaning any human that has ever entered the home) leaves her watch, even to walk to the end of the drive to get the mail. Let's just say that it is pure torture for her to have Colin wait for the bus at the end of the driveway. She stands at the window in the study whining and barking until he is long gone. Poor pup. We just don't understand that if she is not with us, how can she possibly protect us? Fortunately, she has not developed Maia's alarming fixation on food, meaning Charles is not wakened at 4:30 each am with a blow to the solar plexus, an unsubtle way to get him up to feed her.

Emma is extremely affectionate, however, and has never given up the idea of being a lap dog. She is also alarmingly dexterous with her paws and will soon be able to open doors, drawers, and start up the car.

So, happy birthday, Emma-puppy. I will leave you with the story of her joining us, last March:

Feeling like we were ready to have another dog after losing our beloved Maia suddenly the previous fall, we drove off to see some puppies a very good breeder had for sale. We told ourselves that we were just looking, but stopped on the way to get a large puppy crate, so the puppy we were certainly not going to come home with would be safe in the car. We are so pathetic. We knew we wanted a female who would love our kids, like Maia did. We also wanted one with less "attitude" than Maia. Calm and accepting of her permanent position of junior Tail-Piffle with no aspirations to the crown. The breeder had a group of 5 female sisters 3 months old. We met their mother, father, and grandfather. When the puppies came in, we expected to have a hard time choosing just one. In they dashed and 4 of the 5 first ran around the room, sniffing and playing with each other. One, however, made a beeline and jumped into my arms. She then went to Charles and then back to me and settled in. She had obviously chosen us. She seemed on the docile side, didn't jump, cuddled, and was a bit submissive without peeing too much. Absolutely perfect. We filled out paperwork and took her home, naming her Emma, one of the names short-listed on our list of baby girl's names when I was pregnant with Sara. All was calm, cuddly and well for 8 days. 5 am Monday morning the next week, Charles and I were wakened by the sound of wretching from Emma's crate (our dogs sleep in our room). We instantly snapped to, but were too late to get her outside. Charles tended to her and I prepared to deal with the mess in the crate. I found a very odd thing. A bezoar the size of a large mouse consisting of compacted green tennis ball felt with a 6 inch length of surgical tubing attached like a tail. She leaped from the floor, practically doing back flips and hasn't stopped since.

A joy she is. A bouncy Tigger-like joy, none-the-less, but a true joy.

May you bounce for years, 60 lb lap dog wannabe.


Friday, December 03, 2004



Each year about this time the work parties roll out. One for me, one for him. My work parties tend to be fairly low key and sometimes don't happen at all or are thrown together at the last minute as, for example, last year's "everybody who can make it, come over to Jan's tomorrow night. Someone is bringing a karaoke machine. " party. We were busy but I got to see the pictures, which was almost like being there. Sometimes better. Charles's work parties tend to be more along the lines of "events". His school also has the rep of being the best of the partiers, which is saying something in the realm of teachers. For years past, the parties have been similar on the dress code side: black velvet, heels, that sort of thing. Surprising to me, actually, as it is held invariably at the local Eagle's club (hey, the choices are the Elks, the Moose, or the Eagles in Freeport) and dinner is a choice of T-bone steak or chicken breast, both cook-your-own. The meat is accompanied by the usual Midwest sides of bread, iceberg lettuce with shaved carrots, and, as I recall, corn and potatoes. After dinner comes the planned fun and games that degenerate into drunken dancing.

I have only attended one of these soirees, that being our first year. The second year I was doing that post-partum-no-sleep-can't-fit-into-anything-remotely-clothes-like-and-I'll-be-damned-if-I-go-wearing-maternity thing. Last year, it was held on the day Lilian arrived to live with us and we felt it would be a bit, well, rude to say, "Hi, nice for you to move 2,000 miles out to live, see you tomorrow morning. The guest bed is made up. Byeee!"

So that brings us to this year. The year I bought the first party clothes I have gotten in 13 years. Black velvet, gold, heels. Let's go!

Friday last, I answered the phone:


"Hi Diana, it's Stacy." (Charles's asst principal, and one of several who look out for me, thank God!)

"Hey, Stacy. What's up?"

"I need to talk to Charles about a couple of things but wanted to make sure he told you that the Christmas party is Hawaiian this year."

"Hawaiian? Huh. Hawaiian Christmas party? Really? Well. Thanks so much for the head's up. No, no, he didn't tell me. Good to know. Hang on, I'll let you speak to him while I figure where to hide his body after I'm done with it. Take care and I'll see you Saturday! Bye!"

Well, I did let him live, but only because I know there is no worse punishment for him than having to go to a theme party. Especially one he can't drink at because, well, 1: principal in a v. Conservative town and 2: he doesn't like to have someone else drive, so he is designated driver.

So, I have borrowed one large print flowered shirt, one lei, and have flirted with adding a pair of long knee-length shorts, black calf length socks, white velcro shoes, painting my nose with zinc oxide and hanging a large camera around my neck, but I probably will just wear khakis and maybe flip flops.

No wonder I only buy party clothes every 13 years.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Aloha Oi and Hawaii Five-O to you!