Thursday, October 30, 2008

Man's best friend

Zeus is our firstborn. We acquired the half German Shepherd, half Husky puppy three years before we got married. Zeus has been with us through the good times and the bad and even though he is approaching 12 years of age, which is 84 to you and me, he still has a lot of puppy in him. Unfortunately, the puppy in him was the neighbor's LossaPoo or Cockaopso - I warned them!!
Zeus has suffered immeasurable amounts of humiliation at the hands of myself when I went through a phase where I wanted to do a calendar of dogs dressed up as historical figures and I put a tiara, clip-on rhinestone earrings and a fur stole on Zeus and took his picture as the reigning queen of England and at the hands of my son. Zeus has been Floamed, ridden like a horse, forced to be the bad guy, been made to lay still and be the mountains when Kyser needed terrain to run his Hot Wheels over, and once Zeus was colored green when Kyser found my stash of Sharpies.
Kyser so wants Zeus to be his buddy. But as Zeus ages, he doesn't want to have anything to do with anything that moves that fast, makes that much noise, and has the potential to cause as much destruction as Kyser. Kyser has come up with a solution to this problem and that solution has a first name that's O-s-c-a-r and a second name that's M-a-y-e-r. You've heard the old joke about a child being so ugly you have to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dog to play with him? Kyser has figured out how to get the same results with a hot dog.
It took me a while to catch on. I noticed that Zeus was spending an awful lot of time in Kyser's bedroom and in all honesty, it warmed the cockles of my heart. Kyser had watched "Ol' Yeller" with his Papa over the summer and I would hear his sweet little voice singing the theme song to Zeus in his bedroom and there was no snarling or biting from Zeus or Kyser for that matter, so I just chocked it up to the innate ability of dogs to realize when a child has reached a certain psychological threshold of maturity.
It was a crisp Saturday morning when I finally figured it out. We were planning a weiner roast that night and I had stocked up on weiners earlier in the week. I opened the refrigerator to get some milk for my Major Crisp (the generic version of Captain Crunch) when I noticed a distinct lack of weiners. It was then that I heard the sweet refrain from Kyser's room..."Yeller, come back Yeller..." Then I heard the trademark gnashing of teeth that means Zeus has gotten ahold of people food and is too excited to actually chew.
I peeked around the corner to see Kyser reaching into one of his toy drawers and pulling out a hot dog. Zeus sat obediently waiting with those strings of drool hanging precariously close to a basket of clean laundry. Kyser got out the hot dog and asked Zeus a question: Zeus, am I your best friend?
Then Kyser took that hot dog and moved it up and down in sweeping gestures so that it looked like Zeus was nodding yes to the question Kyser had just asked.
Several things went through my head at that point: Where did Kyser get the idea to do that? How many hot dogs has Kyser given to the Zeus? Is it just hot dogs? Has Kyser ever been bitten? Could this explain the recent onset of noxious gas that had been plaguing Zeus and causing us to have to sleep with the windows open even in the cold weather? But the number one question, the question that really hit me upside the head was this: How long had those hot dogs been in that drawer?
I cleared my throat and Zeus immediately laid down with his ears pinned to the top of his head. So did Kyser. He looked at me and then looked at the hot dog in his hand and didn't say anything. I could see the wheels turning in his mind. I could see him trying to figure out how to get out of the current predicament he found himself in. "Hey Mom! Didn't see you there." Kyser was trying to be matter of fact, even though he still had the hot dog in his hand and Zeus was following its every movement. He stood looking at me, smiling and it was just too much for Zeus. He raised up, reached gingerly over to the hot dog with his white snout and in one swift smooth movement slid it out of Kyser's hand and devoured it in one gulp. "Did you know Zeus really like hot dogs?"
Turns out, Kyser had his own little All-You-Can-Eat Buffet happening in his room. He showed me where he kept the ham, the oreos, the cheese slices and the crackers. After we rounded up all the food and sprayed everything down with Lysol and bleach water, I explained to Kyser that maybe we shouldn't keep feeding Zeus under the table, so to speak. He really didn't understand why, and I explained to him that we had to make sure Zeus understood that he had to eat his food. Kyser didn't think this was fair.
But today, he found out the hard way. After receiving a huge bag of his favorite candy for Halloween from his great aunts, he was really looking forward to coming home from school today and having a piece. However, when we got home we discovered that Zeus had helped himself while we were gone. He had eaten an entire bag of Reese's Peanut Butter cups. The wrappers were scattered throughout the house, but most of them were in Kyser's bedroom, where Zeus was used to being treated. Zeus' white face was covered with chocolate splotches and there were candy wrappers stuck to his feet.
"Zeus!" Kyser admonished. "How could you do this? How could you?" Kyser was in shock that he had been so brutally rebuffed by man's best friend. Zeus just looked at him and walked to the refrigerator and sat down, his eyes full of expectaion. Kyser wandered into his bedroom and I could hear him sniffling so I went in there.
"Mom, did I ruin Zeus?" I assured him that he didn't. He paused for a moment and then crossed his arms in disgust. "Zeus was never my friend. He was just using me for your groceries."
Lesson learned.

Monday, October 20, 2008


My sweet little angelic red head...the all-American boy...such a cherubic face...such a sweet little voice...then there is the Wal-Mart Incident of October 2008.

Other events in history could be compared:

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The Bay of Pigs Invasion


The Los Angeles Riots

But none will measure up in the area of sheer terror to this: The Wal-Mart Incident of October 2008.

My sweet little baby boy threw down like an American Gladiator on crack in the middle of Wal-Mart. This is the stuff that legends are made of. Clerks and cashiers of the future will be warned of this around campfires. The escaped convict with the hook, death by pop rocks and soda and the night the red-headed six year old's head rotated in the seasonal aisle of the Mexico Wal-Mart SuperCenter.

It took me by surprise. I just kind of stood there trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my child had, with the speed and eptitude of a menopausal woman, gone from normal to possessed in a matter of seconds...over a $3.50 foam sword.

Perhaps it is my life experience (translation: years and years and YEARS of being alive) that made me stop and question why he would lose his freakin' mind over a $3.50 foam sword. A $500 Betseyville purse, yes; a $600 pair of leather riding boots, yes; a 400 gigabyte iPOD, absolutely especially if it was neon green. But a foam sword? Really? No, REALLY????

I contemplated my options as my son's head was now in full-blown rotation and several elderly people were speed dialing either their priests or the police and ducking for cover from the inevitable pea soup projectile they feared might be coming their way. He was howling and crying, screaming and doing that dancy thing kids do when they throw fits - you know the one that kind of looks like a cross between the Maniac Flashdance dance and the flappy part of the Chicken Dance. I got down close to him and tried to speak softly and quietly, hoping that the peace just oozing out of my pores would glomp onto him.

Here's a thought: you know how when a chicken or a duck or a goose are getting ready to blow a gasket they get all puffy and fluff their feathers up? When they do that, you know not to get too close, much less get down in their face and talk softly. So why in the good Lord's name would you do that to a child who has teeth and a brain that functions much like the infamous OPERATION game?

By the time I got my face close enough to his to speak he was just a portable glob of snot, tears, and screamy stuff and there was no way he was going to listen to a spaceship full of shiny SpongeBob look alikes wearing Batman capes made out of chocolate, much less me. That's when I made the decision to just exit the store with what little dignity and credibility that I had. WRONG! The little darling started screaming "Help me! Oh please help me! Please don't hurt me, Mama. I'm sorry. Someone please, it's going to hurt."

There's no way to recover from that. There is nothing dignified that can be done at that point. You simply have to bite the bullet, hope that no one calls the police or the Division of Family Services, hoist that screaming, crying, sweaty, twisty glob of snot and whine over one shoulder and carry him out of the store.

And that is what I did. He screamed all the way to the car. He screamed while I put him in the car. He only stopped screaming when I hit the highway and rolled the windows down so that the brisk evening air shocked him silent for a moment. I put the windows up and didn't say anything. Then Kyser quietly said, "Wow Mom, I went crazy back there, huh? Sorry about that." That was all it took for me to start laughing. And to realize that what felt like an eternity of humiliation at the hands of someone who eats his own boogers was really just about three minutes in reality. He lost privileges for the night and got a whack on the hiney; I lost my mind for a few seconds and got a shot of whiskey after he went to bed.

And I got something else out of the whole situation and I would like to say it was something deep and profound, a life lesson as it were. But in all actuality what I learned was that sometimes despite what we all like to preach to one another and tell our parents, sometimes to give in is mightier than the foam sword.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pain and Miracles

Trying to figure this out because I can't wrap my mind around it. I cannot figure out what I did that God should smile on me with such favor.
Today I went to funeral for a baby that was born premature.
My baby was born premature.
Little Anthony was born three months premature.
My baby was born three months premature.
Little Anthony was loved and wanted.
My baby was loved and wanted.
Little Anthony didn't make it.
My baby did.
To be in a room with a casket holding a child is a horrible, horrible thing. To be in a room with a casket holding a child whose every breath was a struggle is undescribable. To look on that child and see the unbelievable resemblence to your own is a revelation that levels your heart. The same tiny nose, the same perfectly formed hands, the minute puckered lips, preemies are kind of a species within a species, physical resemblances but no two are truly alike.
When my son came three months early, it never occurred to me that he wouldn't live. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't get to hold his tired six-year-old face in my hands on a cold October night and kiss his upturned nose.
It occurred to me today, for the first time in six years.
Little Anthony was a fighter, but I believe that our God is a jealous God, and I believe that there was a sweetness in Anthony that God and heaven couldn't do without. Not that He made a mistake...I believe it's more like a parent who sends their child to summer camp, looking forward to the quiet, and then three days later finds themselves inventing reasons to bring them home.
Heaven wasn't quite the same, maybe, until Anthony went home.
Where is the justice in that for the people left on earth? But then again I wonder, where is it ever written that we are to expect justice? No, it isn't fair. Yes, it is painful. But the joy surrounding that little baby boy, who never spoke a word, never performed a deed, that joy will last forever - that joy is immortal. So is that the trade off that we need to seek out? Do we need to stop looking for the justice and just start accepting the joy, even the tiny little pieces of it that seem to come too late and are gone too soon?
I wish I knew the answer. I tried to find it all day today. I tried to find it as I watched the sun bounce off the red hair of my little miracle. I tried to find it as I watched that same sun illuminate the tears on the faces of the those who loved Little Anthony.
I didn't find it. I didn't find the justice. And I am struggling to find the joy. But the difference is that the joy will be so much easier to find than the justice.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

You know you're grown up when crabs aren't innocent...

So Kyser has been desperately begging for a pet for the last three years. We got him some fish which committed suicide. We got him a cute little fuzzy puppy that grew into Sasquatch with an anger management problem. So I did a little research on low maintenance, hard to kill pets that can withstand years without any kind of attention. Turns out, hermit crabs are relatively low-maintenance...
As luck would have it, a friend passed along to us a little Hermit Crab Habitat (I call it a Hermitat) with sand, shells and a little climbing cave. So off we went up to the pet store to seek out the hermit crab for the Hermitat.
Kyser was thrilled, of course. All he knows of pets at this point is that every time a toilet flushes a gold fish gets its wings AND the very important difference between a playful nip and a nothing-but-teeth attack!
The pet store is always fun. Puppies, guppies and yuppies, you know. And this is where for me, it got kind of dicey.
When you are a child, crabs are, well little sea creatures that walk sideways, pinch, and sing in Disney musicals. Then you grow up, read a couple of bathroom walls and pamphlets from planned parenthood and the innocence is gone. So while Kyser was fascinated by the little sea creatures, and soaked up every word the pet store lady told us, I just kept trying to keep a straight face through phrases like:
  • Crabs like to have company. They are very social.
  • You need to keep your crabs moist.
  • If you've never had crabs before I'll give you a pamphlet that will walk you through it.
  • Crabs are low maintenance and they're pretty hard to kill off. When they start smelling bad that is when you know something has gone wrong.

So after practically biting through my lips to keep from smiling, we left the pet store, Kyser just beaming as he held his new little pals (Mr. Krabs and Norville). We walked out into the bright morning sunshine where Kyser proudly and loudly proclaimed at the top of his lungs:

"Mama, I can't believe you gave me crabs! Thanks so much for the crabs, Mom. These are the best crabs anyone has ever given me."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

How can you tell a girl cow from a boy cow?

Okay, so when I started this blog I promised I would not be one of those people that writes about how cute their kids are all the time...I mean, why write about it when it is a concrete, beyond-reproach principle of fact, right? But I just had to share this because this is such a reflection on me. That might be good, but probably not:
So Kyser and I go to the second hand store yesterday to do some scrounging around for something fun to do something fun with. That's the best part about Saturdays, don't you think? The possibility that adventure could be right around the next corner....
So we're milling around trying to talk ourselves out of buying a salad shooter to make mud pies with and a dot matrix computer printer just because they're obsolete and we come across this Picasso cubist cow. Seriously, this cow, which has kind of a primitive farmhouse feel to it is made out of some kind of box with a slit cut in the top painted white with black splotches and it has a head that makes it look like it suffered some kind of whiplash in a serious milking accident. Kyser and I just kind of stood there for a minute looking at it and out of the blue, Kyser says: "That cow kind of gives me the creeps." I agreed and then asked him if he thought it was a girl cow or a boy cow. He looked up at me like I was as dumb as a box of rocks and said with a great degree of certainty "It's a girl cow." I asked him how he could tell. He pointed to the poor paint job on the odd little bovine and said pointing to the oddly shaped hooves: "Duh mom, she's wearing shoes."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Katie Couric is no longer cute

Those were simpler times: Matt and Katie having coffee on the couch as all of New York pressed against their back window.
Times have changed.
Katie is now a journalist.
How do we know that she is a journalist NOW as opposed to back THEN?
1) She doesn't wear regular clothes anymore...seriously, how many items of clothing can be made from one bolt of black and white pinstripe fabric? What happened to perky little sweater sets and big flower pins????
2) She's mean to EVERYBODY!!! Seriously, it's not just Sarah Palin. And I think that she wasn't mean to Sarah Palin because she's a left wing east coast snob, I think she might be jealous of Palin's good hair and makeup which looks more journalistic than her own. So far, I have not seen Sarah bustin' the frosty lipstick, unlike Katie whose lips are now officially nighttime landing strips for Southwest Airline redeyes. After the VP debate (Sarah did a great job, doggone it!) tonight, she was downright nasty to Claire McCaskill, and Claire didn't do a thing to her.
3) Her hair isn't any particular color. That's a hallmark of female newsanchors, I think. Jane Pauley didn't really have a hair color, Barbara Walters doesn't have a hair color, and now Katie doesn't either...SHE HAS MADE IT! Seriously, her hair isn't brown or blonde or's kind of taupe.
Katie Couric is a perfect example of what happens to women who scramble to play by rules they didn't write. Having been in the journalism biz for awhile, I find it humorous when women talk about getting a hardcore journalism job. "Real journalism" they call it.
Is there such a thing anymore?
I'd ask Katie Couric, but I'm afraid she'd yell at me and try to steal my pastel cardigan...