Saturday, March 31, 2007

so long, sweet friend

Well, it's done. Sweet Otis, you're gone. You were a good dog. You were quirky, a scaredy-cat, sometimes stubborn, but always gentle, always wagging your tail at everyone who spoke to you, and most of the time even to those who didn't. You could always be counted on to greet us at the door when we came home. The first thing you thought anyone should do was let you outside as soon as they came home, even if you had just come inside fifteen seconds earlier. You still insisted!

The summer we first got you, we kept you in the kennel because we were NOT going to get attached. You weren't going to be our dog, remember? But you hated it in there. In fact, when you were out in the kennel, at night you would cry and howl at us, and it sounded like someone was torturing you. I think you were starved for attention. When someone showed their face anywhere in the yard where you could see them, you would bounce like you were on a pogo stick . . . boingy . . . boingy . . . boingy, until they went away. You would stop and stare after them, as if to say, "What?? That wasn't good enough?"

But when fall came, and it started to get cold, I was the one who gave in to your sad puppy eyes. I started having a severe case of puppy eyes myself when I thought about you out in the cold, and before you knew what was what, you were suddenly an inside dog, sleeping on the couch, with one of the kids, or at the foot of our bed. Funny how that happens, isn't it?

We will always tell the story about the sneaky way you stole Phyl's covers one cold January night when you thought he was sleeping. After a couple of tentative tugs with no reaction, his covers suddenly disappeared with one "swoosh!" and when he looked on the floor, there you were curled up with your eyes shut tight, with the blanket wrapped around you already!

You always wagged your tail at the cats, too, even though you were scared to death of Tucker. Sometimes you bounced on him, and since he holds a grudge, he would often come after you and try to bite you on the leg or swat at you with his paw as you went by. So you usually tried to give the cats a wide berth. A few times we found you letting one of them cuddle up to you, though, and we were always amazed.


We will always laugh about the way you always answered the question, "Outside?" with your bouncy, enthusiastic "Yes!" I remember one day Liss decided to see how many times she could get you to go outside, because every time someone said that magic word, you started to bounce, and out you would go. I think you went outside forty-six times in a row that day; it lasted until she got tired of asking. I knew you weren't feeling very good lately because you only went out when you really needed to, and no matter how excited we got about it, you weren't very bouncy.

And from now on, when there is thunder and lightning outside, we will remember that during thunderstorms, you used to either try to stuff yourself under the bed (and only your head would fit--the rest of you would stick out from under the bed), or you would try to climb up into someone's lap as if you wanted to climb right inside to hide till the storm was over.

We will always wonder why you got so hyper when the scent of skunk would drift into the house from somewhere outside. You would race up and down the hall, and if it was the middle of the night, you would bark and bark until someone let you into the bedroom to sleep there. Maybe the smell triggered bad memories; I don't know.

You were always afraid you were missing out on something, whether it was attention, food, or just something interesting going on. You always wanted to be where people were. You never liked to be cooped up away from everyone else, whether it was out in the kennel when we first got you, or closed in the bedroom when there were little kids over. You hated that. You would bark and bark, just so someone would let you out.

You were one smart cookie, Otis. We sometimes thought you were dumb as a box of rocks, but in retrospect, you knew exactly how to get what you wanted. We'll miss you, buddy, with your bouncy ways and your happy tail. Au revoir.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

it's time, it's time

Warning: Graphic content ahead.

It's time up for poor Otis. The bump is getting much worse, and quickly. It's now all red, angry, bloody, and oozy underneath the rough, dry, bumpy surface. It is bugging him so much that he scratches at it all the time. He scratched off some of the top layer, and it looks so bad. I'm feeling so bad for him. He has a big spot on one of his eyes. With reluctance, I've made his final vet appointment. My chest hurts. I'm so sad. No more animals. I don't like it. I'm just trying not to think about it, which is why I've tried not to write about it.

I can't afford to get it removed and checked, much less pay for treatment if he has cancer. I've accepted it. But I don't like it one bit.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

a play date for mom!

When life seems routine, break out of it! Do something different, like buy pink shoes because it is spring, or completely switch up your schedule for the day. It's very refreshing.

I have now reached the ultimate in dorkiness, or so my kids think. I went on a play date with my twin. The hardest part for them to understand is that we were going to be cleaning, and we were looking forward to it! Do you remember when you were a kid, and it was always more fun to help one of your friends clean their room than it was to clean your own? And your mom could never figure that out? Well, things have not changed. It's still way more fun to clean at someone else's house!

So plan a play date! And then, when you come home, if you are very lucky indeed, like I was today, your honey will have bought you a fresh bouquet of tulips, something yummy like mango tea (in bulk), and lavender lotion. Just because. And he will have done the dishes while you are gone. Imagine that! I am so spoiled.

You know, God is so good. If I can just let go of trying to fix and manage everything, just peel my white-knuckled fingers away from the control button, God can place amazing things in my life. I never imagined that life could be so good as to have a man who not only understands that women need time together sometimes, but who even prepares a wonderful surprise and has it waiting for me when I get back home. Words cannot express my satisfaction! Mmm m-m-m.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

a croc by any other name...

I am a shoe fanatic. I love looking at them, I love to buy them, and I especially love wearing them. My criteria have changed, however. I used to take any shoes that I could get my feet into that I thought were cute. Now, they HAVE to be comfortable. I'd like to be a typical librarian person when I'm old, wearing those oh, so sensible shoes to work every day of the week. BUT, they will be cute.

My latest obsessions are Crocs. These are the lovely, soft, light-as-a-feather clogs that are made out of a material called PCCR. Supposedly it eliminates odor and discourages your feet from sweating. So their website says. (I wonder how they discourage my feet from sweating...do they threaten them with a fungus?) Nonetheless, they are extremely comfy. And they fall into the same category as a Volkswagen Bug: they're so homely that they're adorably cute. I have a beige (knock-off) pair that I have worn so often that I have nearly worn holes through the soles. Their website says: Crocodiles are tough and strong, with no natural predators and are as comfortable on land as they are in the water. With this in mind, then the shoe company's owners thought Crocs was a pretty apt title for such an amazing bit of footwear.

An amazing bit of footwear." It's not the greatest marketing line, but I'm still impressed with the shoes. Impressed enough that I am going to check out the many colors of Crocs available at a nearby sporting goods store, a type of store that I usually try to avoid like the plague. This sporting goods store has them on sale. I like to shop, but there are a few types of stores I go out of my way to stay away from: sporting goods stores, hardware stores, the tool section at Sears, and big home improvement stores like Lowe's or Home Depot. I develop a peevish attitude the minute we walk into those stores. "Are we done, yet? Can we go home already?" "Do you have to look at those? We're probably not going to buy any of them today, anyway." I go from zero to whiny in sixty seconds.

Now I am the person who can shop for an hour for a fun office supply item like a rubber FAX stamp (just like my twin! LOL), and I will spend another hour debating and deciding which is the best choice. I won't even notice that I've been shopping so long that my children have passed out on the benches waiting for me to finish.

So, it should be interesting to combine a trip to the sporting goods store (yuk) with a trip to look at shoes (oh, the very best!) I think there will be a war where I'll be fighting off a contentious attitude, yet be totally intrigued. It could be a long standoff. Maybe it will all be too much for me, and I'll be the one passed out on the bench, with two pair of Crocs on my lap and a smile on my face!

Aren't they beee-yew-tiful??!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

making pulla (or booollah, as the case may be)

I asked my honey if I could share this story, and he didn't care. He has taken to bread-baking, and the loaves he created this week were to die for, let me tell you! He is a perfectionist, and if at some time during the process, the concoction doesn't meet his standards, he scraps the whole works and starts again.

Well, he decided he wants to try baking some Finnish coffeebread, and he found a recipe for Pulla in the cookbook he has. This is a typical Finnish coffee bread that my mom called Nisua. It is a sweet bread that is flavored with cardamom. If you've never had it, make friends with a Finn, and perhaps you can coax a piece from them. It's delicious. Or you could just hop skippety jump over to Wuollet's Bakery and buy some from them. Theirs is to die for.

Being that I'm of Finnish descent and spoke Finnish when I was young, he asked me how you say pulla. Pulla is a fairly simple word, as Finnish words go, but it's a little tricky because the "p" is not pronounced like an English "p". It's more of a combination of a "b" and a "p" sound. A hard b, or a soft p, if you will. And the u is not a short "u" sound like in the word under, or a long "u" sound like in the word June. It is a shorter sound, more like the sound in the word "book".

Well, I tried to describe that when I was telling him how to say it, and he was coming up with every possible combination of those sounds. Poola. Bulla. Pooooooolla. Bla. Blooooah. We were laughing hysterically. I wish I had it on video when he stuck his finger in his mouth and tried to say it again, just in case that helped. He tried to tell me that in order to speak Finnish properly and pronounce the words right, you need your mouth full before you speak. I almost fell off my chair, I was laughing so hard. What a riot!

I tried to console him by telling him that at least he wasn't trying to make Karjalan Piirakkat (as I rolled my "r"s enthusiastically). I got a blank stare, and then, yet another version: "boooollah." I hesitated before encouraging him to try to say it once again.

His final comment: "Never mind. I think I'll make walnut bread."

P.S. He woke up this morning, and with a little smile on his face, he asked me, "Boolla?" He is so adorable!

Monday, March 19, 2007

poser hugs

What is it about becoming teenagers that makes girls turn into alien creatures? Here is the latest thing with my girls: they love to tease me about giving me a hug before they go to bed. I pursue them with great fervor to get my hugs from them, but they, on the other hand, have taken to giving me these poser hugs. You know what that is...a hug that tries to look like the real thing, but is only a poor imitation. They flop their arms limply around me, and lightly pat me on the back, or let their arms fall to their sides while I'm giving them a gleeful squeeze.

I have the perfect solution, though. I simply ignore their "poser-iness" and become even more enthusiastic. I give them every opportunity to come up with the real-deal while I foolishly chase them around the house hysterically demanding my due: a hug. It's great fun, and I just look at it as one more opportunity for them to realize how much I love them!

Looking on the bright side, if they continue to mess with me, I can simply fall back on the age-old tool of parents everywhere: threaten to chase them down and hug them in front of their friends instead. I'm shameless!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

garden dreamin'

(It's almost impossible to get any writing done today.)
March always makes me look forward to my garden coming up. I know it's early, because we almost always get dumped on at the end of the month with a ton of snow.
(The little dog is barking at me. He wants to go outside.)
I looked through some garden catalogs today and practically drooled over the immaculate pictures of the oh-so-perfect flowers.
(The little dog wants in. The big dog wants out. I feel like a greeter. Hello, goodbye, hello again.)
The Christmas Roses always entice me. The blossoms are spectacular, and apparently they can be grown in virtually any state. How versatile!
(The big dog is barking outside...he wants in.)
I didn't realize they came in so many colors.
(The little dog is scratching at his empty food dish. The girls disappeared into their room. I guess I get to feed him. The big dog was hovering over him. I made him lay on the couch to wait for his turn to eat.)
The Christmas Roses (hellebores) are early bloomers. Earlier than early spring. More like late winter. I only have a few flowers that bloom in the early spring. There are puschkinias, crocuses, and some early blooming tulips. I wonder what they look like the rest of the year. I'm thinking of buying some this year.
(Now the little dog is done eating and the big dog wants food.)
(My child is shouting for me... ...she wants me to wake her up early in the morning. Ha! The only thing that happens is that I get up earlier than normal, and she stays sleeping until her normal time because she keeps going back to sleep.)
(My other child came out to sit and talk to me. I think the only time people want to talk to me is when I am on the computer. He reminded me that we have to leave an hour early in the morning.)
(The cat keeps jumping up on the desk. I grabbed the squirt bottle to fend him off. I knocked over my bottle of Diet Pepsi. The animals all ran in the other room when I shouted.)
Back to the keyboard. Where was I? Hellebores.
(Oh great. The big dog drank half the bowl of water and is barking at the door. I think he is going to throw up. Outside with him.)
(The little dog is barking at the bedroom door--he's ready for bed. In comes the big dog. Forget it. I'm going to brush my teeth and I'm going to bed to dream of hellebores.)
Good night.

augie the trickster

We were sitting in the living room last night, finishing watching American Idol...Dee, the X-boy, me and the big dog Otis were all on the couch. The little dog, Augie, kept trying to jump up on my lap. He finally got up there through sheer determination, and he started licking my face. He never does that unless he desperately wants water, or he's ready to do the potty dance by the door.

So, of course, I asked him the question: Do you have to go outside?

Immediately, the big dog, Otis, jumped down from his corner of the couch and headed for the door, just like he always does when he hears those magic words. He started doing the bouncy dance. Oooh! Yes! Yes I have to go! Yes! Me! Yes! Me!

The little trickster immediately shot up on the couch where the big dog had been laying and curled up with a smirky little attitude. Oh, yeah. Who's in the comfy spot, now? He is such a stinker!

Speaking of American Idol, what's up with Sanjaya??! Who is his fan base? Are they tone deaf? Of course, he was in the bottom three, but I thought FOR SURE he would be gone! I didn't think Brandon deserved to go yet. I would have sent Sanjaya, then Haley, even though she was honest and cute about messing up the words. She has a nice voice, but doesn't have the nerves of steel I think you need to make it. And I was impressed with Blake Lewis' version of "You Keep Me Hangin' On." Neat contemporary flavor. I'd love to see him get to the top three, but I'm betting (hoping) Malinda and Lakisha are left when it gets down to the top two. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

grand intentions are not enough

Oh, goodness. I would never put pictures of my desk out in the public view (or the inside of any part of my house, for that matter), but I checked out a book about clutter that is published by the Clean Sweep show, and I swear, they've been in my house when I wasn't looking! Ouch! It looks way worse when you see it in a book! Oh, wait! That just means there are more people like me. Oh, poor them.

I've just realized today...grand intentions and clean sweeps count for naught in the big scheme of things!

The real magic is in the everyday follow-through. What fun is that, can I ask? Two (or was it three) measly weeks ago when I had a four-day weekend, I cleaned the living room and dining room, reorganized the area by the front door, cleaned off the desk, and it looked wonderful! I adapted a tip from sunnyspot and even started a new box for the daily mail so it could be sorted from there. At least the mail would all get put in one central place, right? Did that happen? Oh, my, my! Definitely NOT!

I just cleaned out the new mail box, and there was a whole lot more than just mail in there. I found a hand towel, some scrapbook paper, a NewHome Tour magazine, receipts to be filed, a Pachinko game manual (for my son, who came and left three days ago), a cookbook, an antique scarf and handkerchief, two living wills waiting to be filled out (I got them four years ago), a used check register from last September, a daily devotion book, two CDs, and finally, a small pile of mail in the bottom of the box! Ai-yi-yi!

I'm afraid to ask where the mail has gone between the time the last pile was put in there and today. What is up with that? And where did this stuff come from? This box was empty three weeks ago!!! It's kind of like the stuff that gets washed up on the shore when the tide comes in!

(Wowza! I almost burned dinner because I got sidetracked writing here! A near miss! And I only got on the computer to find a recipe. Talk about going off on a tangent.)

Clean sweeps offer temporary victory, but I have to do the daily nitty-gritty pick up, which I hate! It seems so small and meaningless. It's BORING!!! But the peace of mind that goes along with it is just as proportionately amazing. One of life's little ironies, I guess.

So I'm going to try an experiment. Habits are built, not born, so I'm going to give it the old one-two. I'm planning another clean sweep for this weekend. I am going to budget some time each day at the end of the day after that just to pick up and put away the flotsam and jetsam that mysteriously piles up on every single horizontal surface in my house. Fifteen minutes, max, each night. I'm going to commit to this for three weeks. You can build a habit in three weeks, so they say.

We'll see. I guess if I can brush my teeth every single night without fail, I can pick up a few misplaced frim-frams and toss them in the appropriate bedroom for their owners to put away. (Okay, if my black hole starts growing again, I'll know that the mess-maker is me! But if it is, oh, shoot! Then I won't be able to blame anyone else for my mess.) Groan...

Then again, a dumpster, come spring, is looking pretty good!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

the backseat-driving babe

There's a backseat-driving babe in me! She popped out yesterday on the way home from work. In fact, she seems to make these appearances on a regular basis. I think that she believes she is a better driver than most people she rides with, but she doesn't want anyone to know that she feels that way!

It was pretty obvious yesterday. My honey was driving me home after work (since we're down to one car, he is doing a lot of running), and we were coming up to a stoplight. I looked ahead and saw the bumper-to-bumper traffic, and my first thought was that we should turn left since the arrow was green, and we could then avoid all the traffic. Bam! Out popped the backseat-driving babe, pointing directions, and spitting out orders before she even finished her swallow of water!

I realized how it must have sounded when my honey looked at me with his eyes wide open with amazement. I reeled the little traffic tyrant back inside. "Down, girl!" I thought. I had to admit to him what he already must know: that doggone backseat-driver babe needs an attitude adjustment. She needs to let the driver drive and have some faith that it will all be okay. So what if a making a particular left turn or taking another street would get us there faster. If it takes a little longer to get there, isn't the decreased stress and the improved relationship worth it?

Isn't that the way it often is? We think that we have the answers for everyone else's problems. The truth is that each person needs to find them for him or herself. My solutions for another's situation do not always take into account their feelings, needs, or experiences. I want to give them a quick fix, so I don't have to experience the uncertainty of waiting for them to process their experiences.

But I know that the decisions we make out of a gut-level knowing are the ones that will stick. If I make a particular decision just to make one person happy, the decision is always subject to change if someone else is unhappy with it. If I make a decision based on unquestionable truth that I am sure of, I am so much more likely to stick with that decision because I have confidence in it. So if that little traffic tyrant in me simply allows these drivers to learn from the decisions they make, they will ultimately become better drivers, and ms. backseat-driver babe can relax and enjoy the ride.

Monday, March 12, 2007

babies, babies, babies

It was a weekend full of babies--how fun!

First on the agenda was a baby shower on Saturday for one of the new grandbabies. I stress out so much when I help host these, that I always say, "Never again!" Yet somehow, there I was again. But it worked out fine, and now it's over! Little man has gained almost two pounds in the last 6 weeks or so, and he is growing like a weed.

Last night I got to see the other new grandbaby for the first time in person, and she is adorable. So petite and dainty, and she was gooing and cooing at me to beat the band. Oh, my goodness, I fell in love all over again.

What is it about babies that makes us so mushy over them? I think it could be the potential and the possibilities that they hold. In them is the promise of the future. Maybe it's their innocence. Or maybe it's just because they are so darn cute! And when they are brand new, they just cuddle, eat and sleep. (Don't write to me and tell me they cry--I have deleted those memories out of my hard drive!) You see, Gramma gets to hold them and spoil them, and it's pure enjoyment. The work on my end is minimal, and the pleasure is maximized.

I paid my dues already in the mother's club. I'm cashing in on the dividends in the gramma's club.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

it's a virus (we don't know what it is)

We have had the creeping crud going through our house over the last few weeks, otherwise known as a virus. It starts with a vague burning in the throat, and moves to a plugged nose, plugged ears, and suddenly, a sneak attack by a fever follows all of those lovely symptoms. It started with the boys a couple of weeks ago, eventually crawled across the hall to the girls' room, and I swear, it leaped to the ceiling, made its way into our room to do a surprise ambush, dropping down on my unsuspecting head as I slept. I think I went through a whole bottle of hand sanitizer gel--doorknobs, sink handles, phones, computer mouse and keyboard, you name it. I don't know if it helped, or if it just postponed the misery.

We had one of the kids in to the doctor, and the only answer we got: it's a virus. We're pretty sure that this is the standard answer when the doctor doesn't know what it is. Okay, I can understand that they don't want to prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily, but I don't remember all these viruses going around when the kids were little. If they were sick, it was strep, or ear infections, or bronchitis, and they could give us something for it.

Now, if I get sick, I pretend I'm at the doctor, and I have this little conversation with myself: Okay, let's see your ears. Nope, clear. How about your throat? Oh, it's a little red. We'll swab it. Check your nose? Oh, plugged a little. Does this hurt? Does that hurt? No? Well, you have a ... yes, you guessed it! A virus. Drink lots of fluids. Get some rest. Take ibuprofen or Tylenol for comfort. Hmmm... I'll just stay home. Just saved myself a $25 copay.

My poor honey was the most recent victim, even though he valiantly practiced good handwashing, and dosed himself with vitamins. But now he has tripped and fallen, and the virus was there waiting for him. He is resting today, not very comfortably, probably muttering under his breath. He does not make a good invalid. I hate winter. You can't open up the windows to get fresh air unless you want to freeze, or pay an astronomical heating bill. So it feels like those germs just circulate, moving from one person to another.

It's a good thing that Erica's didn't last as long...she is just getting over something, whether it was this virus or a different one, but she was only home two days. Otherwise she would have had to miss the spelling bee semifinals downtown today. I always wanted to be in a spelling bee, but either they didn't have them at my schools, or I just was oblivious. (Hmmm, second choice is a good possibility. :D ) I always read about them in stories when I was a kid, and they sounded like so much fun. I'm sure some of my kids are rolling their eyes right now. See? Once a word geek, always a word geek.

This reminds me of a great movie that just came out recently...have you seen Akeela and the Bee? Great story about a girl who is has a gift for words, but has a bit of an attitude. She gets into a spelling bee, but I won't tell you more than that. It reminds me of American Idol...there's the whole competition thing, you're just rooting for her to win, but it's never certain until the end, you know?

Speaking of American Idol, I think the contest is a bit lopsided this year--the girls will be in it to the end, but I don't see any of the guys that really wow me. Maybe the beat box guy will be good. But the girls! They have the wowza factor! I think it'll come down to Lakisha and Malinda. I just cracked up laughing at Simon's comment to Malinda last night. He says, "You little tiger!" in his nice Brit accent. It was hilarious! You're not laughing? Okay, maybe you had to see it. If you're not an Idol fan, all I can say is, you should be!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

half empty or half full? or how to discourage insurance salesmen

Oh, how lovely. The other car broke down today. It seems like ever since we have gotten our tax return, everything we own has broken down or needed to be fixed. Our tax return has dwindled down to nothing. Okay, so do we look at this as a punishment? -- "Every time we have money set aside, we end up having to spend it on things that break. We're jinxed!" Or, do we look at it from the perspective of, "Every time things break down, we have the money to fix them. It's great!" Is the glass half empty, or is it half full? It's all in the perspective, isn't it?

This flurry of repairs and replacements includes fixing our van, to the tune of several hundred dollars. The green car needed tires. Another $500. The dryer had to be replaced with a brand new one because the old one had developed this bad habit of scorching our favorite clothes. $400. Socks and anything with a string on it were the worst. They would get caught between the drum and the outside of the dryer, and just stay stuck in there, toasting to an unlovely shade of dark brown. Most of the time, a small hole would burn into the fabric of whatever was stuck in there. I had visions of the dryer starting on fire like the last one did. No kidding. We had to shut the power off and have the boys quickly slide it out the side door. Once it was disconnected from the electricity, it stopped smoldering. That was a close call.

I think this house is just an accident-prone zone. So many crazy things have happened here. I still laugh when I remember a summer day when the kids were little...some insurance salesmen came to the house. I was sitting outside with the kids, and they sat down to try to sell me some accident insurance of some sort. They were talking away, just bla-bla-bla, and one of the kids fell down and skinned his knee wide open, so I had to take a break from talking for a bit to patch up the child. I went back to talking to them, and another one of the kids fell off their bike. Another break, this time for ice packs and a washcloth.

We kept talking. The back door burst open suddenly and one of the kids shouted that the microwave was on fire--something had exploded in there. I had to excuse myself once again. When I came back outside, they had packed up their things, and they beat a hasty retreat out of the driveway. We hadn't even gotten around to discussing my black hole and the missing animal situation of the day. I think they had reconsidered their offer! That'll teach them to mess with impending disaster.

Monday, March 5, 2007

the Otis saga continues

We took poor Otis to the vet. They looked at his teeth, his eye, and the bump on his nose. The vet took a cell sample of the bump--it was very unsettling. She used a fine syringe, poked it right into the bump (massive cringe on my part), and sucked up some cells in the syringe. It did not bleed, and she did not get any blood in the syringe either. Otis didn't even flinch. He just tried to back himself right underneath my chair. She took another one from the other side, and looked at the cells under the microscope.

She informed us that they were mass cells -- oh boy, I can't remember exactly -- of some sort, and could be malignant. Of course, they want almost $500 to cut it off and send it into the lab. $30 a minute for anesthesia, yikes! I'm starting to think that pet insurance sounds pretty good. I had a chance to get it once, but I thought, "Pahhh! What a racket!" So instead, we forked out over $100 Saturday to have them tell us that it could be malignant. Oh, and they clipped his insanely long nails, too. And if this is malignant, then they would need to go back over the incision and take off more skin and more tissue, for at least another $500, I'm sure. Oh, and he has gingivitis and tartar buildup, but they can take care of that for a mere $220. No sweat. All of this, for our free dog. I think when it comes to animals, free is never really free.

Like the time we got our two cats, Franklin and Tucker, for free from our daughter's co-worker, and within weeks, Tucker had broken his leg trying to jump up after a toy one of the kids was holding. That was not cheap, by any means. He had to have a cast put on, and we were supposed to keep him quiet. Yeah, right. That's like keeping a two-year-old quiet. That cat would go charging through the house, just swinging his cast out to the side as he ran. If you were standing nearby, you stood there at your own risk. I was whacked in the ankle more than once as he raced by with Franklin hot on his heels, galumping along like a whole herd of horses. Quiet, my eye.

So anyway, back to Otis...I think we will have to save up the money and hope it doesn't get worse before then, because I don't think amateur surgery with a razor knife really would cut it (no pun intended!) -- it is a difficult situation. If it is cancer, it could be in his organs already. I know that we need to take care of our animals. We do our best. I just feel bad for him. It's always poor, poor Otis. He has such a great attitude most of the time. Why is it always poor Otis?

Friday, March 2, 2007

how to survive a snow day

Today was an honest-to-goodness snow day. I found out yesterday already that my work was closed, the kids' schools were closed, and everyone would be home almost all day. Normally, I imagine that I would love to be at home again, instead of working full time as I do now, so I was anticipating this day with excitement.

I could bake lovely things for the children, be there to listen to their stories about their friends, watch them outside as they played together in the snow, have supper ready when they came back inside, stomping the wet snow off themselves as they came in the door. In my mind, the children would take their wet clothes, run them back to the dryer, toss them in, and then go back and put their clothes away when they are dry. They would play board games together while dinner was cooking and their clothes were drying. And they would accomplish this without fighting and bickering with each other.

Oohhhh, what fantasies a feeble mind can weave! It was so far from reality. Somehow I forgot that the kids are not in elementary school anymore, and they are much more interested in stirring the pot and teasing each other than they are in playing in the snow. It was like a whole new experience, let me tell you.

So. I have five snow day survival tips for mothers with older children.

1. Plan ahead. Have barricades prepared for yourself that can hold the bedroom door shut in case you need to retreat.

2. Divide and conquer. Enlist your spouse's help, and stick together! You are outnumbered. Your children will naturally back each other up if one of them is heckling you. As parents you need to do the same. Parent Power is the key!

3. Distribute the jobs that you normally do to the children as soon as they become rambunctious. They will beat a swift retreat for the nearest room behind a door to avoid further repercussions.

4. Begin asking pointed questions about their homework, the condition of their rooms, and if they have bathed and groomed themselves recently. Ask to inspect the quality of their flossing, try to check their ears for excess wax, and try to do it with a straight face. I can never make it past this point without cracking up hysterically, but of course that works in my favor. They think I am crazy and they begin avoiding me until I get over it. If all of that fails to send them running, bring out the camera and excitedly begin taking multiple candid shots of them for your latest scrapbook page on your Snow Day!

5. As a last resort, send your spouse out quietly to start the car and warm it up, and after a few minutes, grab your shoes and coat and RUN! Head for the nearest Dunn Bros and relax with a freshly made latté. Leave all the cell phones at home, and enjoy the one small bit of peace and quiet you will get that day.

It's the end of the day. Things have settled down, and I really do love my kids. The driveway is clear once again, thanks to the boys. I'm going to settle down and get trounced in a nice game of cribbage.

Snow, sweet snow. It will probably be next year before we get to enjoy a snow day like this again. Whew!