Stories from October 2011

Meet Mrs. Hyde

Linda Kennard

For 28 days out of every month, I am calm, cool. Collected. Kid drops a glass on the tile floor, Ka-blam, CRASH, and as calm mom, I say, “Oh honey! Are you okay? Better come stand over here while I get these billions of tiny shards cleaned up!” That’s the kind of mom I’m talking about. Twenty-eight days, man, every month, that’s me. Cool. . . . But then there are those other two to three days. Kid drops a glass on the tile floor, and as freakthefrickout mom, I say, “What the hell? What were you thinking? Were you holding that glass or throwing it?!”

At the ripe ages of 12 and 17, my three kids have experienced the volatile version of me often enough to have learned a valuable lesson: proceed with caution. They handle me like a loaded gun. Gently. They approach me like a bomb squad drawing near an unattended package in the airport. Carefully.

Just yesterday morning, Clyde came up to me like he was moving in on a wounded animal, arms extended, palms raised. “Mom, it’s okay if you can’t do this,” he began. I raised my brow, and in response, he moved his hands up and down, the universal sign for “Please stay calm.”

“If this can’t work, no biggie,” he added. “But if you have time and it’s not a huge hassle and you’re out today somewhere, you know, like around the music store, could you get me a metronome?”

I eyed him suspiciously. “Why?”

“I’m supposed to have one for instrument check.”

“When’s instrument check?”

He knew the answer wasn’t good, so he slowly said, “tomorrow,” and then quickly added, “If you can’t get one, it’s my fault! Totally. I should have told you sooner. But if you can get one. . . .”

I muttered, “I’ll see.”

“That’d be great Mom! Thanks!” Hug!

No sooner did Clyde clear the premises, then Tanner showed up. Tanner was unconcerned with his minor report, so launched into it without a care: “I have choir rehearsal this Friday.”

What?!” My tone was unmistakably annoyed, so Tanner changed his tactics, his tone soothing, like he was talking to someone trapped under a wrecked car.

“It’s just an in-class thing. . . .”

“But I’m not here on Friday . . . ,” I whined.

“Mom. . . .”

“. . . I told you I wouldn’t be here . . . ,” I said, still whining.

“Mom. . . .”

“ . . . I’m never ever gone, so why does this thing have to be Friday when I’m not here?”

“Mom,” he said quietly, his voice velvet. “You don’t need to go to the rehearsal. The real concert is two weeks from now.” He smiled, hugged me, and checked: “Okay?” I nodded, pouty.

As unpredictable and horrid as my inner bitch is, she has served me well over the years: she keeps my kids sharp—and thankful. Every month, when that wicked witch is laid to rest, my kids are ever so grateful for the return of Linda the Good Witch, whose every lame attempt at kindness looks positively magical when compared to the horrors of her evil twin. So long live my Wicked Witch, may she continue to show her ugly face … but only sometimes.

H-A-Double L-O-W-Double E-N spells “Pain in the Neck”

Karrie McAllister

Many many years ago, someone somewhere dreamed up this whole idea of Halloween and trick or treat and costumes.  And somewhere that person is laughing at the cruel joke they unknowingly played on parents since that very day, because Halloween has becoming an all-consuming holiday and all I usually get out of it are a couple of lousy handfuls of the reject candy.

Traditionally costumes were as easy as throwing on a scary mask or cutting a couple of holes in an old white sheet.  You’d make them out of materials lying around the house.  But life goes on and at some point progressed into a multi-million dollar business that stresses me out starting early October.

When it comes to my children and their costumes, there are a few things to think of,—basically the who-what-where-when-why-how questions that got us all through journalism class in high school.

Who.  Who are they going to dress as?  This changes as often as they change their underwear.  (OK, actually more often than the underwear.  I’m being honest.)  It has to be  “unique” and of course, “totally awesome.”

What.  What are the odds of this costume being feasible?  In seventh grade I wanted to be a foot for Halloween.  (I’m not making this up.) (Read more…)

Potty Procrastination

Sarah Logan

Caveman turned three at the end of September. By the time Princess was this age, we had been rid of diapers for some time and only used pull-ups at night. Caveman, however, seems happy to be in a diaper and shows little more than a passing interest in the potty.

I’ve been to all sorts of parenting workshops, from positive reinforcement to practically no reinforcement at all (“don’t punish and reward your kids—that treats them like dogs!”). I’d say I fall somewhere in the middle. Or, more accurately, I fall into the “if it works, do it” category of parenting. When gentle suggestions and new superhero big boy underwear weren’t doing the trick, I thought I’d try a chart.

I was shocked. The moment I put the chart up, Caveman was into using the potty. All he got for his efforts was a sticker on the chart, but that sticker sure did make his day. Still, he only went if I asked him. I had a brilliant idea: why not give him a bigger reward when he fills in a row of stickers? While we were out shopping for an upcoming birthday party, I found two toys he really wanted and bought them as his rewards.

Let me tell you, Caveman really wanted those toys. (Read more…)

Good Dog

Linda Kennard

We saved our Golden Retriever from certain death months after C&Ts’ first birthday and weeks before Jay’s 6th. As Jay’s early surprise, our new reddish retriever was named by the soon-to-be birthday girl. Jay chose “Alice,” despite several suggestions that seemed better suited for a dog. I took years to realize what Jay already knew: that “Alice” aptly conjures images of a kind-hearted, gentle woman with endless patience. Our Alice is a soul like Nanny in Disney’s Peter Pan.

While we can’t be sure, we think that Alice is 14 years old. C&T spend a lot of time trying to calculate her estimated dog years as hypothetical human years. “She’s 98!” They claim. “Older than even Grandma was. . . .” C&T have no memory of life without Alice greeting them at the door, following them from room to room during rain storms, and sighing heavily when she plops down on the floor nearest the family. Jay has only a smattering of memories of life without Alice but a lifetime of memories with Alice. Jay remembers the Alice we brought home who, in her post-abused state, would not move from the blanket in the kitchen and ate only off of the floor. Jay remembers hearing Alice express new-found confidence, barking for the first time after one year with us.

My memories are littered with images of our big, smelly dog. I remember Alice standing in our backyard with a dozen baby quail running under her for comfort and shelter; she looked at the baby birds with confused patience then looked at us, questioning, but not moving, lest she hurt the babies. I see Alice charging out of the house and running enthusiastically for precisely one mile of every run, then my own irritation as I dragged her back home. And I recall Alice snuggling up against and resting her paw on our other canine rescue, April, as April lay dying.

Whatever her specific age, Alice’s years show. She is grey, arthritic, and saddled with lymphoma. Alice is so uncomfortable that begging for her survival would be cruel. She has already survived one miracle: when we came home from vacationing in Colorado this summer, Alice was on death’s doorstep. Within hours of our return she had improved and within days of loving care, she had returned nearly to her former state.

After her post-Colorado recovery, I jokingly told the kids that we should rename Alice, “Lazarus.” I was glad for the miracle but know that we will not witness another. Not in Alice. Our rescuing Alice twelve years ago was temporary, as temporary as our reviving her only months ago. She won’t always leave her hair stuck to the bottoms of our kitchen stools, or lap up her water as if on cue every time I step outside, or stink up a room after a special treat. All of that will end. But we will remember Alice as our sensitive fifty-pound want-to-be lap dog and as such, Alice will live forever.

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This Weeks Tip

You would think at our age that we wouldn’t have to worry about these things. But, as Kate will attest, even at *ahem* 27, untimely breakouts can (and will) happen. What to do? Apply an ice cube for 30 second. Then soak a cotton ball in eye drops and press it to the “spot” for 3 minutes. The theory is that the ice and drop combination will cause blood vessels below the surface to contract—leaving you looking, well, a little less like Rudolph.