Thursday, August 25, 2005

She's comin' around the corner, here she comes...

This morning, I'm off on the train to San Diego. Looking forward to seeing my dear friend, looking forward to hanging out with her, looking forward to the quiet time on the way.

What I'm perplexed by is my increasing reluctance to stepping away from the family - I've noticed more and more that I'm apprehensive when faced with opportunities to do independent activities. Not so much with the teaching, but about going away, leaving them behind to do something on my own. Hard to put into words what bothers me...worry that something will go wrong...concern that the children will tie my husband up and cause untold havoc in our neighborhood...but mostly, really, subtle, simmering fear. Manageable, now. I wonder if it will be manageable when I'm 50.

Should I stay home? Should I cancel?

Let me think. Let me listen to the music of my home.

No, I'm off. Train leaves at 10:30! See you soon!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Another Day in the Life

Argument heard from my office:

J [angry and defiant]: You can't get a cell phone if I can't get a cell phone.

A [matter of fact]: Daddy said I could get one.

J [more angry]: He did not! You can't get one! You're just a crybaby!

A [starting to cry]: Daddy said if we win the lottery, I could get one!

J [unmoved by the fact that the cell phone is mythical]: You'll never get a cell phone, I'm going to get it first!

The entire conversation deteriorated further, resulting in wrestling, tears, and a stay in their separate corners. Oy!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Coming Up for Air

Coming up for air to spit out the goings-on.

I'm fully entrenched in classes even though mentally I'm still on summer vacation. Today's lecture for Civil Procedure however told me I need to stop with the summer mindset.

Sassy's doing great, though. She's got her issues...she loves to nip at the kids shorts, pants, shoe-laces, as they run, as she chases them. She definitely sees them as fellow puppies - it's very funny, but something I hope tempers as she gets older. She's still learning to walk on a leash - wow does she pull! We were pleased though to see that she's got great stamina. She managed a short hike brilliantly, was happy to cross creeks, was happy to get a little muddy, was fine when we bathed her in our little plastic pool outside. I have to say, we're all totally in love with her and she's brought a much-needed sense of "gentleness" to the house. It's great for the kids when she lies on the blanket on the couch and they get to pet her. She slows them down a little.

A little.

There have been days I've said, "I cannot stand my children!" They fight, they demand, they sass us. D and I feel like we're battling the insurgents...every time we think we have them beat, they blow up another part of the house. Is that bad to compare my children to terrorists? I don't mean to demean the terrorists...I mean, the children, but honestly!

Thursday I plan on abandoning the kids to my poor overburdened husband when I take off to visit my dear friend in San Diego. YAY! I think I'm taking the train. The hotel's nearby. It'll be nice to just sit for a couple of hours and read. As opposed to dealing with traffic.

Well...I've more to say, but J's just come into the office and is playing the drums. I'm so glad he's being educated.

What? I can't hear you...I can't hear myself think! Bless his little Slipknotted heart!

Afterthought: Watched Six Feet Under - depressed the hell out of me. I was left overwhelmed by the concept of time-passage, reminded in some way of all those things my father agonized over right before his death, all the things he would miss, the things he's missed, the time that will pass. In the days after he died, I was most bothered by the idea that one day I would reach an age wherein he would have been gone more than he was alive in my life. The fast-forward sequences at the end of the program reminded me of that thought. They had this disturbing effect of showcasing the joy of life and minimizing it, pointing out how small we are in the larger sense of the world. We are but blips.

Criminy, no wonder I couldn't sleep last night!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sassy: Update

Sassy in a contemplative moment, at last!

By the way, only my children would fight over who gets to pick up the poop! Here's the morning's rundown which I heard through the open window of my bedroom:

M [running and screaming into the yard, poop bag in hand]: I want to pick up the poop!

A [running after her into the yard, poop bag in hand]: I want to pick up the poop! It's my job!

[M screeching wordlessly]

[A laughs triumphantly]

[M screeching]

[Children run back inside the house]

M [sobbing and walking towards me as A got to the poop first]: I wanted to pick up the pooooo! Mommy, I wanted to pick it up!

A useless discussion followed on turns at picking up poop (useless because so long as one wants to pick up poop, the other will want to also - the idea of lining up to pick up poop is beyond them). There are times as a parent that I must confess to my I.Q. having plummeted following the births of my children. Today was one of those times.

Hell's Frozen Over

My husband told me that hell would freeze over before he got another dog. Let me tell you, it’s freezing here in Suburbia, Los Angeles.

My middle son, A, has been asking for a dog since my brother brought home his fit-in-a-teacup Chihuahua at Christmas. My daughter wanted one, too. J was a little hesitant since he’s allergic to cats and certain kinds of dogs. We’d had one for a long while before M was born – 11 years long I had her, in fact. My Abby, a Scottish terrier, predated my husband. He’d never had a pet and eventually learned to love her but when she went to the great grassy field beyond the rainbow he swore we’d never own another dog. Too expensive, he said, too sad when it’s time to go separate ways.

He kinds-sorta relented, however, at the repeated sight of a nurturing A with my brother’s dog. Couldn’t resist at least a consideration of bringing some of that love home.

So on Thursday, A and I stopped by on a lark at our local Humane Society. We wandered up and down the aisles, looked at all the dogs – A liking in particular a short, fat guy with beyond-hope teeth that caused his lip to rise. But he had bad fly strike (a new term I learned for awful, open sores that develop when flies eat the skin away) and was too old (ten years). We did take note though of a nice sized miniature pinscher – she was sweet, accepting A’s tender nose-touches, quiet. She reminded me a large Chihuahua, just the sort of dog A had been hoping for. I saw she was three years old. There was a similar dog about a year old except he was really small. Much too small to manage the over-affection M would most likely heap upon him. We checked out some others, a Benji-type terrier, a large Dennis-the-Menace terrier, a hound puppy with the best floppy ears. We filled out the requisite forms and were given a time to return, the next morning at nine a.m. sharp.

The three-year old pinscher was the one we’d be meeting. My husband started downing the Tums when I told him of the appointment. One thing is looking at dogs, another thing is adopting one.

“A dog…who’s going to pick up after it? Who’s going to pay for it? The clutter we have! She’s going to get into everything! The trash, your papers, your books! My shoes! And what about peeing in the house? Oh! And boarding her…how are we going to leave at a moment’s notice for the weekend?”

“What weekend?”

“The weekends that we do that!”

“What weekends?”

“You’re so mean to me!”

So…7:30 a.m. rolls around the next morning and I’m the one lying in bed, positively petrified. I’d read about pinschers on the internet, I read that the breed isn’t so hot for kids. That they’re hard to housebreak, that they’re curious and owners need to baby proof.

“Oh no…I can’t do it,” I said.

“Oh right…get out of bed, we’re going down there. You told the kids, they want the dog. Even J wants the damn dog.”

“I had dreams all night about this…the trash, peeing large puddles on our carpet. Although oddly it wasn’t my house now, it was my house with my parents. The one in Pasadena.”

“It’s a sign that we shouldn’t get a dog. Stay in bed.”

“No, no, you’re right, the kids want it, they’ll be heartbroken if we let them sleep past the nine appointment. No, we have to go.”


Off we went – a half hour ride, facing no traffic. A sheer miracle if you know the 210 freeway. We got there in time and walked into the pound. A dragged all of us to the right cage belonging to our potential dog – the quiet one, the sweet one – and there she was, barking up a storm in her little cell. The kids were thrilled but D and I sort of swallowed hard and walked around the place in hopes for an alternative. The terrier I thought I liked growled like a madwoman at D, to which I responded nastily, “She senses your dislike of dogs.”

“You’re so mean to me.”

“Proof’s in the pudding, buddy boy.”

At which point I walked up to this sweet-looking Benji-dog to prove my love of all creatures small and large – she growled at me, baring her teeth.

“All right, all right, this one’s out.”

We proceeded to knock off our list of potentials pretty much every dog in the place except the barking fool in cage P12. She barked, she slid her slick body against A’s hand in the cage, she offered up her soulful black eyes and wagged her tail. Her ears flopped. She barked again and twisted and hopped up and down like a kangaroo.

“Oh man,” I said.

The adoptions clerk came to us, leash in hand, and opened the cell. The pinscher was all over the place, the leash finally clicking.

“Lordy,” I said as the clerk handed me the leash, the dog pulling at me in a billion directions. The kids shrieked with pure joy, J commenting to me, “I think she’s the one, Mom, the perfect dog.”

“Criminy,” I said. “This one needs some training.”

M was delirious with giggles, hopping as much as the dog was. We all got into the clerk’s office. The dog sniffed all over the place, constantly moving, at last scarfing scoobie snacks the clerk gave her. She was cute, I admitted, when she made her way to me. I held her little face and she looked at me, licking my chin, her little body still for that moment. She wandered to D and nuzzled him. She let the kids pick her up and she didn’t growl or complain or nip despite her legs hanging down unnaturally. The clerk stared off into space.

She and I chatted a little – there wasn’t much information. The pinscher was a stray, picked up on the ruined streets of Pasadena – god only knows what she was doing to support herself, the poor girl. She passed her social tests with flying colors, though.

“Is she housebroken?” I asked.

The clerk shrugged, shaking her head, her little black bangs wiggling, “No idea.”

I could tell the pinscher had no real basic training – she didn’t respond to sit or stay, she wouldn’t walk on the leash in any respectable manner.

The kids loved her, of course. She seemed tolerant, patient with their attention. Capable of affection. All a good sign. D sighed and rubbed his face as the dog slid under the desk to the clerk, M hanging onto the leash and going under the desk, too.

“What do you think?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes and shivered, the kids repeatedly singing out, “Are we going to keep her? Are we taking her home? Are we getting her?”

The clerk offered us time, until noon to decide (clearly the little one had no one else waiting – no other takers on the premises – a good dose of euthanasia was most likely waiting for her), walking out with the dog, us in tow. She put her back into the cell to await our decision. The kids gathered around her, the dog barked a little. The terrier across the way growled like a fiend.

Only a few minutes passed before we found the clerk and told her, yes. The walk to the car was crazy, the ride home was crazier (the dog was positively nuts). We made our way straight to our vet and got her a rabies shot and review. The vet told us our little dog was nowhere near three – she’s a year old, still a puppy in her mind even if her body’s full grown at near 14 pounds. No fleas, great teeth.

So now…we have Sassy, a one-year old black and brown miniature pinscher (a “minpin,” or “min pin” in dog circles). After nearly 24 hours with the girl, we cannot believe our luck – she’s housebroken, she’s smart (she’s picking up some basic commands), she doesn’t disturb any of our “stuff”, and she’s great with the kids, playing along with them. Letting them love her and get to know her. She’s in constant motion but not hyper like she was when we first took her home. I think she’s a keeper.

So…meet Sassy…no…meet her now…no…wait…there she goes…oops!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Attention Deficit Disorder

I must have A.D.D. I'm sitting here at my desk with the sole intention of preparing for classes next week (after a week of not being able to get to my computer thanks to my being essentially locked out of my office by my older son), but I'm not working on that. I'm reading blogs that I've neglected and writing my own.

Sad about Peter Jennings, isn't it? I'm reminded a bit of my father because we used to always watch the Evening News over dinner.

Speaking of dinner, I've no idea what to cook tonight.

Where was I? Oh yes, several things have been on my mind. Like television. As in the death of Nate on Six Feet Under and the end of Queer as Folk. Once again, I'm faced with my now-getting-ridiculous hatred of endings, separation. I practically sobbed when the creators killed their main character in SFU and cried all through this last episode surrounding the funeral. I'm extremely sorry to see QAF go especially in this current day of anti-gay sentiment. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy does NOT cut the mustard.

Don't say it, I'm a complete fool for fiction, I know. I won't argue the point. I truly enjoy the ongoing story - love the characters, the plots, the escapism, the reflection. Sadly, there is no comparable drama on the air right now. There isn't any dramatic series as focused on interpersonal relationships as those two have been. There's lots of murder going on now, lots of reality crap, lots of sitcoms and news programs...but the complex adult family drama? If there is one and I'm not aware, please enlighten me.

Moving a bit an itch on my belly button. I have an innie. My sister's an outtie. I think the spelling's wrong on those. Wait, I need a coke. Make it a Diet Coke...I've gained another five pounds over the summer, damn it. Too much lying about. Oops...M needs me to fiddle with Eye Toy on the playstation. Be back.


What bothered me about the death of Nate was the sense of the incomplete life. The character constantly struggled to be happy, to reach a state of personal peace, and he never got there other than through death. Both my parents chased similar states throughout their lives and were about as successful as the character of Nate. Both died...incomplete. I vowed at each death to do more to satisfy my own personal goals...and here I am, feeling incomplete. Undone. If I die tomorrow or a year from now or even five, what then?

What is it I'm trying to accomplish, really (other than how to stretch this last week of summer into a month - scanning my girlfriend's Civ Pro notes will be a help)?

This past weekend brought up the same query (the above query about my accomplishments, not the query as to how to stretch out my week) as I attended with D his high school reunion. He's quite a bit older than me, so don't fall over when I say it was his forty-year reunion. We were teased mercilessly because my husband was the only one there with a four-year old child that wasn't his grandchild. While he chatted with everyone, I felt like I was in a bit of a time warp. Next door to us was Class of 1985 reunion, only a few years off my '82. When I walked out to call our babysitter, I could hear on one side the music of Berlin and on the other, the music of the Beach Boys. At my huband's reunion, there was a table with the names of people who passed on, their high school pictures, faces ready to battle the world. How fast it all goes! How little time we have to figure out what we want, get out there and get it done!

I'm frustrated with the fuzziness of my job...a writer? A teacher? A mother? Is a little of everything okay with me? Will I end tomorrow, sorry?

Today, I had lunch with my sister-in-law at her Christian Women's Club. I'm always happy to go to be with her, but can only take it in small doses because of the testimonials. The message is always the same: Ask Jesus into your life and you will be saved from awful things. The speakers mean this quite literally. God will put clothes on your back, save you from car accidents, burglars, failed businesses. I always, always, feel the compulsion to bite my tongue during these statements, I always want to argue (let's go for the obvious...were there NO Christian individuals who died tragically in 9-11? Nobody who'd let Jesus into their life and begged for their lives to be saved? What about the millions who die each year from disease who are Christian?). I'm just floored by the silliness of literal beliefs.

Oh nooo...the drums. I must move them. Out...out...

I've just handed off those Civil Procedure notes to D - forget scanning. Go to the copy place down the street. I'll give you a big hug and a kiss!

Back to the Christian Lunch. I chose (instead of biting my tongue, one that has strawberry tendencies, that is, it gets splotchy when I eat high-acidic foods, oddly enough making the picture of me sticking my tongue out, sort of a risky one) to listen to the speaker and apply the theory of "positive thinking" or "light" to her message. In the end, I saw that the idea of "Christ" can be the same as "letting peace into one's heart." To free oneself from stresses (whether they are serious childhood trauma or the temporary stress of children demanding too much) can lead to better circumstances, to more healthful living. Through voluntary willingness to let difficulties go, to accept difficulties as a fact in life, to choose joy over sadness, one can reach a state of peace.

In listening to the speaker, I believe such a goal can be reached through prayer, through tapping the meridian points, through meditation. Buddhism has comparable precepts, the idea of zen, the idea of accepting suffering as part of life in order to focus on happiness and joy (also part of life) as a means to ultimate peace.

I enjoyed the lunch, enjoyed as always the company of my sister-in-law, MW. I'd decided to accept my suffering and be at peace rather than bite my tongue.

Now, now, I must go back to work. After I read some more blogs. After I play around with my music. The more I write of work, here, the sleepier I'm getting. Perhaps I'll take a nap...that is, if the kids will leave me alone for an hour or so. Now that I mention it, the last thing I'm thinking of as I draw to a close, is how much I'd like to spend a weekend alone. I haven't felt this way in a long, long time. I think it was before my mother died. How nice to not be asked of anything for a few days.

Breathing in...breathing in...pretend M and A are not fighting over the playstation...what was I writing about to start with? I can't even remember. I think I'll buy tickets to the King Tut Exhibit today. Ouch, criminy, I just banged my elbow on the desk...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The RV Experience

... ended up being a lot of fun. You must understand, I've never done it before. My parents were hotel people and so is D. I never even considered this as a viable option. However, now with my first weekend under my belt, at the risk of stating the obvious, I'm completely behind the "RV" lifestyle as a great alternative to the traditional hotel-trip for the family vacation.

Certainly, the experience was not without wrinkles. For instance, we spent a lot of time tending to the children. They seemed to always be in a state of need: towels, foods, chairs, bikes, scraped knees, suntan lotion, snacks, money. D and I are used to high-maintenance kids, my brother BB and brother-in-law DH however are not. So there was a bit of griping amongst some of the parents involved ("Just go and ride! Ride with the wind! Far, far away down the road! Just keep an eye out for the little ones!")

Another wrinkle is that we seemed to work a little harder than on a hotel-trip, in the sense that packing a rented RV is quite the job. So much to take that you don't take when going to a hotel (primarily, your "stuff"). There was also a lot of fiddling with buttons and doo-dads to make everything run smoothly. More time at the campsite and we'd have had to worry about gas and propane and black water and grey water...etc. Craziness. There was lots of fiddling to be done with awning, with putting up (and the inevitable taking down) the hanging net-thingie to make a closed porch using the awning. There were leveling issues...using jacks and blocks to make the RV level (so your coffee cup doesn't slide off the table and into your lap or your kid's lap).

On the other hand, in a hotel, leaving the room to go bike riding, to go to the beach, to go anywhere, is a formal affair. You need to get your things, you need to get the kids, you need to leave the room and head down the elevator, all the while knowing you'll not be in the room for quite some time. In an RV park, the kids could ride up and down the rows in a pack while the parents drank beer at the campsite. Nothing to gather, nothing to do! Just...ride like the wind, far, far away down the road!

Likewise in a hotel, you don't usually pack things that make you comfortable in your everyday life such as your own coffee in your own coffeemaker, your fave snacks, your music, your pillow. With an RV, you get to bring your "stuff"!

Cooking also calls for more work that isn't present on the hotel-trip. Not so fun for the parents necessarily (although the BBQ with all of us grilling on our portable grills was a blast) but wonderful for the kids (no ordering of expensive, overly french-fried kids' meals that usually aren't eaten anyway). They get to eat what you want them to eat being packed it.

Sleeping was fine - the kids had their sleeping bags and were fine in the various cubbies in the RV. D and I had a queen-sized bed in the back.

Overall, we came home very interested in doing it again. I was surprised that kicking back in a park full of other RV's and their respective occupants (a mere few feet away from us) was actually enjoyable. Definitely next summer we'll do it for a longer period of time. The trick is to find a good spot, a good campsite that's clean, that's got stuff to do for the kids (places to go), that has bike paths and hook-ups. Yeah...a great option.

In the meantime, I'm gearing up to start school in less than two weeks. I've watched my summer come and go and I cannot describe how reluctant I am to end the season. I wanted to do more with my time, I'm sad to see the time speed away. Over the weekend, I took with me, I keep with me now, a memory of my near-twelve J sitting on the bunk over the cab in the RV. He had earphones on, the cd player played anti-parent, god-awful speed metal, and his head nodded wildly, hair and all moving with the beat, pure teenager. His gangly legs below though swung back and forth, one foot one way, the other foot the other way, opposing directions, the movement a vestige of his toddler-hood. How he'd sit on a dining room chair and swing little legs too short to touch the floor while he ate and chatted with us, our hanging on his every word, or when he'd sit on a countertop or the edge of a gym at a park, reaching his arms out for me to pick him up and bring him down to earth once more.

With this picture of my changing child firmly in my heart, I feel time sliding away like salt water through my fingers.