Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It's the time of year when I like to sit down for ten consecutive minutes and jot down a few things that I am thankful for.

Since writing that sentence, I've gotten up three times--once to get Rollie a quote Special Treat for eating all his Apple Dapples, once to open a mini box of raisins for Elsa (who already got her Special Treat  but God forbid Rollie get to have something and she doesn't at the Exact Same Moment) and once for letting Ollie outside so he can get away from Rollie, who was following him around the kitchen to offer him a lick of candy cane).

Still, I am thankful for these interruptions. It means that my children are healthy enough to eat candy at 6:30 in the morning. And my dog is intelligent enough to go in the opposite direction when he sees one of my children coming at him. And that my coffee is strong enough that I don't feel like going back to bed the instant my healthy children start whining for Special Treats while my dog paws at the back door to go poop in the yard.

I am so thankful that I am lucky enough to stay home with these little carpet pee-ers. Mainly because I can't imagine going to work all day long, and then coming home and squeezing hilarious exasperation into two hours that is usually spread out over the course of an entire day. Somehow it seems like finding Elsa shredding up an economy sized box of tissues all over my carpet would be far less endearing if I'd just come home from a long day of meetings, office politics and smelling the collective gas of three other cube-neighbors.

I am so thankful for my family, too. My parents are here, nestled on my couch in total silence because a commercial is on and my dad would rather listen to a legion of out-of-tune violins playing Mozart than a 30-second Snuggie pitch. And despite their getting weirder and weirder with each passing year (no joke--an hour ago my dad went onto the back porch with an empty milk jug he'd filled up with water so he could use it to "strength train" and my mother was asking for advice on how to apply icing to a cake because she's "never done it before"), I still adore them.

I am thankful for my siblings, most of whom are right now hurling toward my house by air and by interstate.  I am thankful for the fellowship we will enjoy, sitting around the table eating turkey no one in my family had to touch (which means that it had virtually no chance of being ruined...unless my brother spills his beer on it). I am thankful for my quirky, off-beat childhood, which I think has contributed largely to my ability to behave inappropriately in a variety of settings. This includes Chinese restaurants.

I am thankful for my friends, without whom I would be curled up on the top bunk of Rollie's bed most of the day, being pelted by Matchbox cars and pacifiers from below as my children demanded I come down and reenact Toy Story 3 with them. I am thankful they all have children who can be as difficult and draining as my own, and that they aren't afraid to admit it. I am thankful when they seem to know more about motherhood than I do, and I'm thankful when I can dole out my own advice without them suspecting that I'm completely talking out my ass.

And I'm thankful for Jeff. I've known him half my life and he still surprises me. And makes me laugh. A lot.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, dear readers. May you enjoy every minute of the holiday (even if this requires you to pound an entire bottle of wine alone in your mother-in-law's bathtub). Cheers!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maggots And Snails And Puppy-Dog Tails

After three-and-a-half years of viewing our dog as this hairy thing that we walk and sometimes feed, Rollie has decided that suddenly Ollie is his new best friend.

Ollie is our 11-year-old Chow mix (mixed with what we're not sure, but I think it's part grouchy old man and part throw-rug).  I've written about his life before our kids came along and ruined everything, but in a nutshell, here's an illustration for you: Ollie pre-kid = our furry, adorable son. Ollie post-kid = our stinky, inconvenient Swiffer.

Ollie is not a kid-friendly dog. He's not one of those dogs that kids can lie on and tug his ears, one that curls up at the foot of Rollie's bed or patiently allows Elsa to dress him up in bonnets and socks. He doesn't much care for our children, but tolerates them only because they still struggle to get food from their plate to their open little mouths without dropping at least half of it onto the floor. He's gained 5 pounds since our kids entered the scene. And even though he seems quite aware that our children generate an unending supply of vittles, he would just as soon smother them with his bushy tail than lick up their spilled mac&cheese.

Despite this, a few days ago Rollie began following Ollie around and talking to him. I'm not sure where Rollie's new-found attraction to our dog stemmed from, but his one-sided conversations usually go something like this:

Rollie: I love you, Ollie.
Ollie (lying on his side in the middle of the kitchen): .....
Rollie: You're my best friend.
Ollie (sighing through his nose): ....
Rollie: We're gonna grow up together, you know.
Ollie: ....
Rollie: You can come to school with me, and go on the playground and go to Publix.
Ollie: ....
Rollie: Would you like me to pet you?
Ollie (lifting his head and looking at Rollie like, are you serious?): ....
Rollie (edging closer to Ollie): See? Isn't this nice? You like being pet, don't you?
Sound of Ollie's dog tags jingling and his nails on the tile as he gets up and trots to a different part of the house.

Not that I mind seeing this unrequited love unfolding in my kitchen, but in a way it's sort of...unfortunate that Rollie is just now realizing that Ollie is our pet. I mean...Ollie's 11. What is that, like, 98 in dog years? Rollie is waiting until Ollie is essentially on his way to the Great Fire Hydrant In The Sky before he decides to fall in love with the dog. Here I was thinking when the day finally comes when Ollie trots through the Valley of the Shadow of Euthanasia,  Rollie would care less. Now I'm watching Rollie plop down in front of the dog to read him If You Give A Moose A Muffin. And all Ollie wants is for Rollie either feed him some peanut butter or leave him the hell alone.

Yesterday Rollie seemed to accept that he and our dog weren't about to split a Best Friend necklace, and so he tried to substitute another animal in Ollie's stead.

A dead snail.

This snail has been hanging on our back porch for a few days now. I figured he was just extra slow, and didn't think much of him until Rollie came to me while we were in the backyard, holding the snail between his fingers.

Rollie: Look, Momma, a snail.
Me: I see that. Why don't you go put him back where he was?
Rollie: No, Momma, I'm gonna keep him. He's gonna be my pet.
Me: I don't think snails make the best pets, bud.
Rollie: But he's so cute. He wants to stay with me.
Me: Um...not sure if that's such a good idea.
Rollie: What can I put him in?
Me: Why don't you leave him outside and just visit him?
Rollie: Do we have a bowl I can keep him in? I can put him right next to my bed.
Me: ...Yeah, we have a bowl.
Rollie: Little Bill has a hamster, and now I have a snail.
Me (realizing that the show Little Bill must have been the inspiration behind Rollie's latest pet obsession): Ooooh...okay....

And so it came to pass that I pulled out Jeff's favorite cereal bowl, filled it with water and held it out for Rollie to deposit his pet snail.

When Jeff came home later and Rollie proudly showed off his new best friend, Jeff reaction was a little more sane than mine.

Jeff: This snail isn't a water snail, Rol.
Rollie: But he's happy in there.
Jeff: I don't think he is. I think we need to put him out in the flowerbed.
Rollie: No, Dadda. He's mine.
Jeff (studying the bowl):  Are those baby snails in there?
Rollie (seemingly overjoyed that he is the proud papa of a bunch of squirming little baby snails): Where? Where are the baby snails?
Me: There weren't any baby snails there when we put him in the water.
Jeff (scrutinizing the bowl more closely): are maggots.
Me: So that's why that thing smelled so bad.
Rollie: ...Can I keep them, too?

Their early relationship. I'm pretty sure Rollie was finding
some leftovers in his folds for Ollie to snack on.
Jeff took the bowl outside and unceremoniously dumped Rollie's pet snail and pet maggots into the flowerbed. Rollie looked on somberly, then ran back inside to look for Ollie. Who was busily licking up remnants of dinner from the floor.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gender Bender

Rollie has been on a kick lately. He has been categorizing things based on gender. People, animals, toys, articles of clothing.  Some of these make sense: Elsa is a girl. Others...well...let's just say that I never knew his bedspread had a penis.

His new way of labeling genders has evolved from the classic Boy and Girl to a more advanced way of viewing the traditional models of male and female: Peacocks and Peahens.

It's all Jeff's fault. He and Rollie had an in-depth conversation about how peacocks are boys and peahens are girls. The next day on our walk, everything Rollie saw he tried to label. A bright red cardinal, a flower, a water fountain. When an old man on a giant tricycle pedaled past (don't laugh--my mom has one, too), things got a little...confusing.

Rollie: That girl on the tricycle is a peahen, Momma.
Me: Actually Rollie, that's a man.
Rollie (craning his neck for a better look): Why is that a man?
Me: What do you mean, why? He just is, bud.
Rollie: But he's on a tricycle.
Me: So? You have a tricycle. Are you a peahen?
Rollie: ...No.... I'm a peacock.
Me: That's right. So's he.
Rollie: ...But Nana has a tricycle.
Me: Yes indeed she does.
Rollie: Is Nana a peahen?
Me: Among other things.
Rollie: Does she eat peanuts?
Me: Sometimes.
Rollie: ... Does she have a big tail?
Me: No. She has big hair, though.
Rollie: Why does she have big hair?
Me: That I couldn't tell ya.

I don't know if it's a boy thing, a three-year-old thing, or strictly a Rollie thing, but his whole gender identification obsession strikes me as quite hilarious. I try not to emphasize to Rollie what toys he should prefer, what colors he should like, or what ballet move he should perform only in private. His favorite toy is a diecast Lightning McQueen, but his favorite color is pink. His favorite show is Dino Dan, but his favorite aisle at Target is the one with a bunch of Disney princesses encased in a plexiglass box (and they belt out musical numbers when you press the big button on the box. Yes, it's as obnoxious as it sounds).

So I suppose Rollie has a feminine side? He's part of a new generation of semi-masculine tomgirls?  He's a Metrosexual Peacock?

And just when Rollie thinks he has the whole peacock/peahen gender bending riddle figured out, he sees something that throws him for an absolute loop.

This weekend I took the kids to our local PetCo to kill some time while we were waiting for Jeff to stop goofing around at the brewery and participate in some family bonding (which usually includes buying diapers, goldfish crackers and using about 50 thousand baby wipes to clean up the inevitable spilled milkshake from someone's carseat.)

It was Adoption Day at PetCo, and toward the back of the store were several cages with wiggling, panting, yipping dogs. As my children were cooing over a beautiful brown mutt in one cage, an older-looking dog paced in the cage next door, pawing at a rawhide on the floor. This dog didn't have much fur on her tummy, but did have six large, saggy dog-boobs, evidence that humans aren't the only members of the animal kingdom to suffer from the post-baby saggy-boob affliction.

While I was lost in silent commiseration with my fellow um...female, Rollie came over and peered inside the cage.

Me: Aren't these doggies cute, Rol?
Rollie: ...That's a boy doggy, Momma.
Me: I'm pretty sure she's a girl, buddy.
Rollie: But look, Momma. She's got a lot of penises.
Me (realizing that if I don't set the record straight on this one, Rollie may start assuming that all breasts are actually large, supple penises in disguise...which may ultimately put a huge damper on his dating life): Those aren't penises, Buddy.
Rollie: ...But they are, Momma.
Me: Trust me, they aren't.
Rollie: ...But he has so many.
Me: Yeah. It looks like that, doesn't it?
Rollie: ...I don't have that many penises.
Me (thank God): And you never will.

I suppose I could have explained the whole canine Crying Game to him, but some things are better left unsaid. At least in the middle of a crowded PetCo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Swearing Mantis

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you (and yes, I am looking for validation that I am a good, attentive mother and not a lazy, disconnected mom-slug):

So the other night after the kids were snug in their cages, I'm sitting on the couch with Jeff and we're rehashing the day's events. He's telling me about his meetings and emails and meetings and I'm listening with at least one, maybe one-and-a-half ears, offering the necessary commentary and support that any loving wife would (which means my mind wanders over to the Laundry, Facebook and Matt Damon only a few times).

He asks how my day was, and I try to remember back to the talking points. Not always an easy task, since sometimes my days blur together in one long, convoluted mishmash of picking up toys, yelling and scraping uneaten meals into the sink. But this day does contain some highlights that stand out.  And by highlights I mean situations so frustrating I wonder what the return policy is for Mr. Stork (I kept the receipts for both children just in case).

And so I begin my soliloquy about the day. Right about the point where I'm relaying how I discovered that Rollie can reach the top of the fridge by scaling the counter and standing on his tip toes to pillage the stash of Halloween candy, I notice Jeff has a look on his face. It's a look I recognize, although usually it's because it's coming from my mother-in-law in response to something she's seeing my children doing that she silently disapproves of. Apparently The Look is hereditary.

Me: What?
Jeff: ...Did you see him do that?
Me: Yeah, I stood right there and watched him climb onto the counter like a friggin' lemur.  No, I didn't see him do it, I was in the driveway with Elsa pulling weeds.
Jeff: .....
Me: What?
Jeff: Nothing....
Me: What?
Jeff: No, it's just....what if he'd fallen?
Me: ...But he didn't fall.  It's not like I condone counter surfing.  I was Out Side.
Jeff: Well, did you tell him he's not allowed to do that?
Me: Uh, yeah?
Jeff: What did you say?
Me (thinking about how I discovered Rollie munching on a piece of candy I knew had been on top of the fridge. I told him very firmly that I didn't want to ever see him climbing on the counters again, and his response was: 'But Momma, you didn't see me do it.'  Somehow I don't think this will make Jeff feel better): I just told him to never do it again because it wasn't safe.
Jeff: He could have fallen and caved in his face.
Me: I know that.
Jeff: .....
Me: Come on, it's not like I can watch them every single second of the day.
Jeff (sounding like I'd just told him the earth is flatter than my post-children chest): I guess.
Me: No. Seriously. I cannot possibly keep watch over both our children all day long. There's no way.
Jeff: ...I guess.

And before I grow gigantic pincers, lunge forward and bite my husband's head clean off, I try to see things from his perspective: He's at work all day, leaves the house before the kids wake up and usually comes home after bath time.  During the week, he only sees them for maybe an hour. In that hour, the kids don't leave his sight, mainly because they are so crack-happy that he's home they follow him around like a couple of intoxicated ducklings. The poor man can't even use the bathroom without one or both of them pawing at the door and yelling at him underneath it until he lets them in.  So I can see how he wouldn't quite grasp the potential for me to be on one side the house trying to be productive and our children on the other side of the house, trying to see what happens when Rollie uses Elsa's tummy as a golf tee.

Sure, I could be vigilant 100% of the time. As long as Jeff doesn't mind eating air-sandwiches for dinner, wearing dirty laundry to work, and wading through piles of dog-hair, toys and stepping in puddles of God-knows-what to get to a bathroom with layers of grime on the countertops and orange rings in the toilet. Oh yeah, and as long as he doesn't mind me being a bug-eyed raving lunatic who flees into our closet and sobs in incoherent relief the instant he gets home.

As I explain these things to him, Jeff's Look if Disapproval morphs into one that says, I'm sorry for being an'll have to forgive me...I'm away from my children 14 hours a day and when I hear stories of them running around an environment with so many hazards, I get nervous.

Which is precisely why I'm all for investing in those giant cages I've been talking about. No Muss, No Fuss. Fill it with toys, food, a little hay, and bam. No more counter-surfing. No more goose-eggs. No more jumping on the furniture. I can already see the look on Jeff's face the day he comes home and finds me in the kitchen, whipping up a six-course meal that he and I can enjoy in harmony while our children playing peacefully in their matching cages.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Brat Stew

I recently read an article entitled 16 Things I Have Learned About Being A Mother by Chris Jordon (a mother of seven, which means she is one child crazier than my own mother...if that's possible).

I think this title inspired me to view the other day as a series of lessons in motherhood rather than as a prime example as to why animals eat their young (and sometimes bite the heads off their mates...but we might save that for another blog).

So here we go:

Lesson 1: The phrase "Poopy Butt" is an unacceptable classroom expression.

Let me set the stage for you (and forgive me if I go off on a tangent--I've had a lot of coffee today):  The day began in relative calm. Elsa and I took Rollie to school. Dropped him off without incident.  Elsa and I went to Target for some Icees, diapers and Holiday Season Overload. (Side note: if I were Thanksgiving, I'd be really pissed off right about now. Halloween costumes on clearance, candy on sale, and Christmas Trees going up where foam tombstones and skull-shaped fog machines used to be. Where the hell are the gravy boats and cornicopias? Where are people supposed to go for all their pilgrim garb and ceramic turkey figurines? If Thanksgiving were a person, it would be the Middle Child of the holidays. It would be the one to shave its head, sneak out to 7Seconds concerts, burn incense in its room and get in suspended for hurling ice cream sundaes at underclassmen. Christmas is lucky Thanksgiving doesn't sneak into its room in the dead of night and cut off all its hair.)

So after a little mother-daughter bonding (which included cleaning up half of a cherry Icee from the middle of the hair-care aisle), we went to pick up my sweet, darling Rollie. 

When I poke my head into Rollie's classroom, I don't even see him at first. His teacher notices me and ushers me in.

"Where's Rollie?" I ask.

She points to a corner of the room by a bookcase, where Rollie is seated with his back to the room.

Oh no.

"Rollie, you can come out now," his teacher says, "but why don't you tell your mommy why you were in Time Out?"

I kneel down to his level, but he won't look me in the eye. Gosh, if he ever wants a future in professional poker, he's gonna have to work on his tells big time.

"What did you do?" I ask. Several different ways. And I get nothing. Except a couple of I don't knows and one face-plant into my shirt.

Finally his teacher pulls me aside and says in her best ventriloquist impression, "He said Poopy Butt."

I almost start laughing, and immediately want to ask: So did he get in trouble for the Poopy or the Butt? In what context did he use it? Did he use the words consecutively? In a derogatory manner? Was he merely repeating someone else's phraseology? Ah, so many questions, so few Time Outs.

As we're leaving, I attempt to lecture Rollie about how it's not nice to hurt people's feelings by calling them names like Poopy Butt, but Rollie interrupts me.

"Momma, I wasn't calling Aiden a name, I was telling him a funny story."

"But Rollie, your teacher didn't know that."

"Momma, you said 'but.'"

"No, that's not the same as the Butt you said."

"Butt rhymes with But, Momma."

"....So it does."

Wow, so that went a little long. Guess I'll have to save the other fifteen things I've learned for another post (including the reason why I recently almost went Praying Mantis on Jeff). And this first lesson may not have made me want to cook and eat Rollie for dinner, but by the time Lesson Nine rolled around, every time I looked at my son I imagined his head as a personal pan pizza. 

Until next time, loyal readers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Holy Spit

Here's another one for you....

Today when I picked Rollie up from school, I peeked in the room to see him sitting on the floor amid an assortment of foam blocks.  He wasn't constructing anything with them, but just sort of rolling around in them like they were a bunch of dollar bills and he was Demi Moore.

His teacher spotted me and called out, "Rollie, your mom's here."

He paused mid-roll and grinned at me.  What an angel, I thought.  What teacher wouldn't find him to be just a complete joy and delight to have in class?

Then his teacher said, "Rollie, why don't you tell your mommy what happened today?"

I turned to my son, expecting him to start spinning tales of how he won a spelling bee with the word ostentatious, or that he constructed a Moses diorama with a real burning bush. Or that he at least followed the line leader out of the classroom without stopping to pick up and eat a piece of gum from the sidewalk.

But instead Rollie let out an Velociraptor-like screech and buried his head in a pile of brightly-colored bricks.

Confused, I glanced at his teacher. Maybe Rollie was just being modest, and she would regale me with stories of my son's genius.

"We had a little spitting incident," she said.

"Spitting incident?" Surely she must be mistaken. Surely she meant that some little snotty-nosed hooligan was spitting on my darling child out of pure jealousy. Surely you can't be serious. (I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.)

She shook her head, "It really wasn't a big deal, but he did have to go to Time Out, right Rollie?"

"Time Out?" I spoke the words as if Rollie has never ever in his forty-three months on this planet spent one second of it in such a place. As if the very idea of my son in Time Out was as incongruous as ...wait for it....wait for it....a stick figure in a Botticelli painting (sorry folks, it's been a long day.  That's the best I could do).

At this point Rollie seemed to know he could no longer hide beneath the blocks, and decided to try a different tactic. He ran up and flung his arms around my legs, planting a big juicy kiss on my hip bone.

"Rollie," I pulled away and looked into his wide-eyed face.  "Who were you spitting at?"

He put his finger up to his chin, as if trying to remember if he was even guilty of such a crime. Or perhaps trying to decide how to convince me that the spittee deserved the giant loogey Rollie delivered right on the cheek.

"Richard," his teacher said.  "But it's okay. He went to Time Out for a little while, and he apologized to Richard, so it's all good."

All good? All good? Rollie's a spitter.  God help me, I have a spitter. The teacher may as well have told me Rollie's been simultaneously eating paste, wetting his pants and playing with his wiener in public.

But it gets worse.

"Usually when I send Rollie to Time Out, he goes there no problem..." the teacher said.

My head started spinning. Usually? Like, is this a daily thing? Do they spit at each other like a class full of camels or is Rollie the only creepy germ-spreader of the lot? Is he a repeat offender? Is he already blazing a trail straight to juvy? First it's spitting at Richard, next it's pulling fire alarms and stealing lunch money? Should we stop saving for college and start saving for a good defense attorney?

"...but today he had a hard time listening..."

Oh. Dear.  I no longer possessed the ability to speak. All I could think about were the times when I try to send Rollie to Time Out on the couch and he collapses and flails and sometimes when I come back to check on his I find that he has removed all his clothes and is walking across the back of the couch like Carrie Strug on the balance beam.

I must have been several shades of horrified, because his teacher added, "I can usually count on Rollie to be my good listener, so I guess he's just having one of those days."

Ah, yes. A small glimmer of hope that maybe Rollie isn't quite ready for the Boys Ranch. Maybe he is just having one of those days. Whatever the hell that means.

In the meantime, I'm thinking of investing in one of these:

Dr. Lector was never put in Time Out for spitting on anyone.