Life is sweet when you’re coming unglued

I am looking out my window at a dust bunny colored sky and craving soup instead of exercise.  Potato soup to be exact- made with real bacon and butter.

It has been a little over a month since I had surgery to repair a “ventral” hernia – doc speak for some of your innards poking their way through weak spots in your abdominal wall.  

To repair mine they made a two-inch slice vertically over my belly button, stuffed my escaping viscera back inside and closed me up.  The surgeon instructed me not to lift anything heavier than a phonebook for six weeks. After that I could  exercise as strenuously as I please. The problem is that I am nearing the six-week mark and the only thing that pleases me is taking it easy for a little while longer.

I’ve enjoyed having an excuse to do the light lifting around here. Besides, instead of stitches, my surgeon used glue to put me back together. Coming unglued is something that happens to me daily in Boy Town, but now that it might come with a visual, I use it to my advantage.  It’s been much easier to get the kids’ attention with disembowelment on the line – you just have to know how to tweak the drama.  A little grimace hear and there and one of the boys insists on carrying the laundry hamper downstairs. With a carefully placed hand over my midsection, I bend to pick up a wet towel from the bathroom floor and another of my brood rushes to hang it up for me.  Bracing against the kitchen counter with both hands,  I ask meekly if  they have finished their homework and I get a “Yes Ma’am.”  Life has been pretty sweet.

The problem is my midriff has relaxed quite a bit too – right over the top of my jeans.  I don’t know the extent of the damage in pounds, but  I’d say it’s easily a baker’s dozen. And then there’s the dust and dog hair issue – the devil’s in the details. While the males that surround me have been helpful and agreeable, they don’t give a whit about the flying filth and filaments. Not so for me – I wield sticky lint removers and vacuum attachments with the persistence and skill of the last Samurai.

Perhaps  I will  start slowly – in the face of a thousand dog hairs I could focus on one baseboard.  Maybe tomorrow I could tackle the smutchy ceiling fans, and the furry heating ducts. And once I’ve made the house fit for man (not beast) again I can summon the courage to get my expanding bod back to the gym.

But first, I really need to make some soup.

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The Boom List – Trudy’s Favorite Things

5. Regretsy.com – If you like a good bit of sarcasm as well as funny parodies then you will love this website which is a spoof on Etsy.com, a website dedicated to the craftastic folks who like to buy and sell their handmade items.  At Regretsy, they come up with creatively crafty items that no one will buy, but will bust a gut reading about – such as this handmade matchbox spoof on “Charlotte’s Web” that reads “Charlotte’s Evil Twin” – the web message the evil twin has spun reads “Pork 49 cents a pound.”  But this was not as hilarious as a posting about vulvacrafts – priceless!

  

 

4. The Bissell Proheat Select Pet 2X – When you live with 4 dwarves on acid and a crackhead blunderhound, this thing comes in handy! Let’s say your ready to crawl in bed with a good book and a nice glass of Pinot Noir after a tough day of muttering under your breath. But your freshly bathed preschooler, upon seeing the pretty glass of  “juice” decides to climb the nightstand to investigate. It’s all over before you try to read the same chapter you tried to read last night . . . or is it? This thing is a lifesaver! One minute to heat up and three minutes later – no vino stain. Of course, if you cry too hard while you are cleaning your eyes will be too swollen to do any reading, but you will have enough energy left to get yourself a fresh glass of wine. And when you wake to find a mess of Blunderhound poo (induced by the Hickory Farms summer sausage stick the goat-dog gobbled up with the paper still on it) just take a deep breath, get those yellow rubber gloves you swore you would never wear and let the cleaning fun begin!!  Bissell Proheat Select Pet 2X, I love you!

3. Trudy’s Sock Sack – If you hate socks as much as I do, this could be a great way to find the love again.  I have taken to stuffing socks in a little gizmo I bought once-upon-a-time at a dollar store.  Sock-like in appearance, it was originally intended for storing plastic grocery bags. It has an elastic opening at both ends and a fabric loop at the top. I recently found some again at the grocery store, made by Brawny and strangely enough, called the SacSoc! I now have one for each kid and hang them on  door hooks. Prior to my genius idea, when time allowed I would sort the socks and dutifully stuff the children’s designated drawers with them, but more often than not it was a pair-at-your -own-risk-two-basket method, one basket for dark socks, one for white. It wasn’t a bad method, but with the new one my kids actually wear matching socks now, so that is a bonus!

2. Green Smoke – the electric cigarette! A friend of mine purchased one for his mother for Christmas – I thought he was pulling my leg and had to google it! The environmentally friendly advertising ploy kills me! I think it would make a nice gift for the smokers in your life – they get the nicotine hit without the bad benefits that come from a real cigarette – no chemicals, no tar supposedly. And they come with little battery chargers! They claim you can use these in restaurants since there is no real smoke! I’d like a video of someone explaining that to a waiter. I hope they try it on St. Paddy’s Day, then they can order a green beer to go with their smoke! If anyone one actually tries one of these things please post a full report!

1. Taking the Law Into Your Own Womb – In the state of Utah gays cannot legally marry and unmarried couples cannot adopt, i.e. gay couples cannot adopt. Apparently this rubs one Utah legislator the wrong way. Rep. Christine Johnson (D-Salt Lake City), perhaps knowing how slowly this state’s laws catch up with the rest of the country, has taken a rather vigilante approach. She announced this week that she is currently carrying a baby for two Salt Lake City men who were legally married in another state. She is already 4 months pregnant. She decided to become a surrogate for her friends and is accepting no compensation outside of the medical bills. She said, “I can very much empathize with their desire to become parents and share their lives with and open their hearts to a child. I’m immeasurably grateful to be a mother. Gender or sexual orientation is less important than children being welcomed into a supportive, loving home. This child is going to have an amazing life.” I must say, Rep. Johnson, you may go down in Utah history as the most innovative lawmaker this state has ever known, you go girl!

Happy accidents and the Zen Little Terrapin

Every now and then, perhaps when you need it most, something amazing and unexpected happens. I am not sure if this is coincidence, synchronicity, serendipity or a gift from the Divine.

I nearly stumbled over my happy accident letting the dog out this past Saturday. Olive the goat-hound was circling something on our riverbank.  I,  poised with coffee in hand, was waiting to see her stop, drop and roll – standard procedure when something delightfully smelly and dead is in her midst. But, she only sniffed and stared.

May 2009 043What she was sniffing and staring at confounded me at first – I thought it was  a rock, until I saw two eyes staring back at me.  Our dear little crackhead (a term of endearment for our pup) had directed my attention to a turtle momma laying eggs in a nice stretch of mushroom blend mulch, smack dab in the middle of the spot I had pegged for a wagon full of day-lilies. She was about a foot in diameter, and sporting a nice wig of dirt.  Her paddle like front feet were anchored in the soil and her back feet straddling a hole. Her entire being was completely absorbed in the task at hand. She seemed serene and certainly paid no attention to us. Why, with me and my camera and Olive and her barking and sniffing, you would have thought she would have become distracted but she was in the zone, a very zen little terrapin.

After each and every egg, she very gently tucked them into their little dirt bed. I, taking on the self-appointed role of turtle Douala, watched her lay another seven eggs, while keeping the dog and my toddler at a safe distance. I had the strangest urge to offer her ice chips, but decided to give her my glowing praise and verbal encouragement instead, all the while knowing it was equally unnecessary. And, when she had strained the very last egg from her tiny body, I watched with sympathetic exhaustion as she ever so carefully covered her nest with dirt and lumbered her way back to the water and disappeared into the tidal grass.  What a leap of faith that departure must have been considering the neurotic voyeurs standing so close to her helpless baking brood.  But she never looked back, not even when my 3-year-old yelled “Goodbye turtle – see you later.” 

 From my limited, amatuer research on the topic it will be late July or early August before the shellback pack makes an appearance and that’s if they survive undisturbed by the resident racoons, foxes, muskrats and a certain blunderhound in the area.  But, if we are very, very lucky, if the planets are aligned just so, if our goat-dog has her nostrils pointed in the right direction, perhaps we will get to witness another miracle of happenstance . . . stay tuned!

When life hands you a rusty-spoon day, call for help!

Simpler times - ah life!

Simpler times - ah life!

I have from time to time, rated particularly challenging days with my all-boy progeny as “rusty spoon” days.
These are the days when I report to my husband that if time travel were possible I would head back to the early 90s and tear out my ovaries with a rusty spoon.  I tend to dabble in metaphorical sadism when I am at my worst. And obviously, with time travel an impossibility, there is no need to worry that I will be castrating myself with rundown flatware any time soon. Also, this kind of hyperbole has great shock value – it gets my feelings across in a graphic, attention-grabbing way, that my husband can read as clearly as a red-flag at the beach when the currents are too high for one’s personal safety.
Obviously, it’s a cry for help.  I realize this kind of black humor is frowned upon by decent mothers and would-be mothers everywhere, but then they are not in my boat, nor am I in theirs so, I will leave them to come up with their own metaphors for crying “Uncle”.
These women would also find no solace or humor in the saying “mothers of teenagers know why animals eat their young.” But, yesterday, I considered this as a possible tattoo with only slightly less seriousness than my H.G. Wells-inspired spoon surgery.
It started when I went off my nut about the condition of the family room and began threatening removal of any and all fun possibilities in technicolor language until said mess was cleaned up.  It finished with my dear teen digging in his belligerent heels to the injustice of it all and flipping me a certain gesture that I can say with all honesty I never imagined in my wildest dreams would be intended for me. I’m not naive, I expected the gesture would be exercised at some point in his adolescence, like when the first mad driver cut him off in traffic. But, not when the first mad mother asks him to pick up a few dishes and socks. I was so shocked I actually called my husband at work – which is the equivalent of “Now you’ve done it” around here. He‘s like my fire extinguisher – “break glass only in an emergency“.  My husband is a passionate *cough* if not volatile devotee of RESPECT. Perhaps it’s the Navy man in him, but calling Dad, is not done lightly. I am a very independent person. I pride myself on managing home, hearth and unruly boy brood with a minimum of whining. Mostly because reaching the Navigator on an aircraft carrier is a lot like trying to order pizza online – it’s such a huge hassle you can’t even remember why you wanted to do it in the first place. Sometimes this is a good thing, I hang up out of frustration with something new to be pissed about.
Another first of my rusty spoon day- my dear teen got to hear me get in touch with a phrase I vowed never to say to my own kids, “Just wait ‘til your father gets home.” 
I guess it was a day of firsts for us. And, like all adventures in parenting, we both learned something.  I hope that my son learned there are some lines you shouldn’t cross, (that is a direct quote from his Dad) and that paying the piper is more expensive than listening to her pipe, and lastly, waiting until your father comes home is a long and uneasy wait.
I learned that my little boy is not such a little boy anymore, and that tirades aside, respect will have to be a two-way street if I want to get through these coming years.  I will have to take a page from my husband’s book as well – talk less and act more.
Also, I am going to try giving more responsibility to the irresponsible  and see how that goes.  My eldest has the “Tom Sawyer trick” to doing chores – if done badly enough perhaps someone else will step in and do them. And, I hate to say it, it has worked in the past.  I am also going to stick to my guns when it comes to the consequences. I have trouble staying the course when my children are unhappy, and unfortunately they know this. As my husband says, they play me.
 I have to remind myself that while I can’t always give them everything they want, I do give them everything they need. I have to remind myself that while my teen may hate me from time to time I can love him enough to make up the difference. And loving him doesn’t mean loving his behavior.  In a past argument he accused me of only caring about his future, and I am guilty as charged. I need to stay focused on what he can do today.  I’m sure I can step back a bit, but I will not step away.
While having two D’s on his report card “is still passing” and that’s hunky dory with him, the consequences that loom are summer school and 3 months of restriction. While he believes homework is just busy work and “beneath him” so too will be my extraneous housework, chores and chauffeur duties. While I may have to watch him flush away some opportunities and close some doors that could have been open to him, I will love him enough to let him make his own mistakes and be a soft place to land when he falls.
And should adolescence rear it’s ugly head again as it most likely will in the near future (my middle son turns 13 in two weeks!), I will try to remember that while standing knee-deep in the flow of life, sometimes all you can do is roll up your pants and call a plumber.

For the Love of Olive, Zach’s “Best Friend”

Olive Puppypants

Olive Puppypants

I had this idea months ago after reading a book about dogs and autism that what my kid really needed was pet therapy. The book had an adorable picture of an autistic kid clumsily hugging a dog. I wanted Zach to be that kid. I wanted him to have a big sloppy pooch to hug. I wanted a dog that would follow him around like Nana in Peter Pan. Or wait patiently by the front door when Zach came home on the short bus. A dog that would comfort him after a long day of being such a strange duck in such a typical world.

The benefits for him were endless- more empathy, a connection to something outside himself, a sense of responsibility, the joy of a non-judgemental companion, a friend!  The “friend” thing was what got me. It was the one thing Zach didn’t have.  Although he counts just about everyone as his “best friend”, from his teacher, Ms. Caitlin, to his brothers’ playmates, to his parents. We are all his “best friends.”  But a boy with a dog, oh, that sounded so good for him!

My search started with the internet, what were the best breeds for kids? What was better for a child with behavior issues, a grown dog or a puppy? I had it all planned out and decided to hit the local shelters. I found a lab mix that had been given up due to “financial hardship.” The dog’s backstory was heartbreaking. The family had a disabled daughter who was confined to a wheelchair, the father had lost his job, they had to move, their new place didn’t allow pets. It sounded great, at least for us. We brought the dog home on a Sunday afternoon. Zach was giggly and excited and in love with this dog. His love was unrequited though. This dog was skittish, hated to be hugged and more importantly, hated Zach. It didn’t wait by the door, it didn’t romp around the yard with him, it didn’t lick his face in greeting, or any of the other warm-and-fuzzy things I had imagined.

Instead, it growled when Zach tried to pet him, or hid whenever he approached. He didn’t react well to a child who was a vigorous petter, an enthusiastic hugger who had daily temper tantrums, unpredictable impulses and wielded a plastic light saber half the day. 

Our trial ended when the dog nipped at Zach’s cheek just a few days after we brought the dog home. So much for a best friend.  We returned the pooch to the shelter ( a no-kill shelter) and vowed to try again. I felt such a sense of failure – another avenue ventured for Zach and another dead-end. I would have given up on the whole idea, but Zach’s brothers wouldn’t. So we decided to give the idea a second chance.

A few months later we brought home a 10-week old puppy. Her mama was a bloodhound and her daddy was a lab. It sounded like a Johnny Cash song, which felt like good karma. She was jet black and had a strange baggy little face and a pointy knot on the top of her head.  Her coat shined like a race horse and her eyelids had the beginnings of a hound droop. The boys adored her at first sight.  They named her Olive.

Olive is 7-months old now. She weighs 60 plus and is still growing. She is not the dog I dreamt of for my son. But like most everything in life, I am learning to take the bitter with the sweet. Olive slobbers viscous amounts of stringy saliva whenever she is excited. (Zachy says “that’s disgusting.”) She slobbers bucketfulls whenever we take her in the car and vomits once we’re in motion. She is a loud barker and likes to howl. She is a messy eater and chews up things like a goat on crack. She hides treats in the sofa cushions. And housebreaking is an ongoing battle. She also has hideous gas –  it is musky, skunky and deadly. And it seems to happen most frequently on family movie night.

But then there is the sweet side. Her ears are long and droopy and feel like velvet in your hand. She gives clumsy kisses and loves clumsy hugs. She tolerates plastic light sabers and doesn’t bat at eye at daily temper tantrums, even mine. And, she even waits by the door for the short bus. 

She leans against my legs when I do the dishes, curls up next to me when I knit and lets me put my cold feet underneath her warm body when I am typing on this computer. She likes to look out the windows on her hind legs and has learned to sing for treats, especially hot dogs. She can jump through a hula hoop and she likes our cats. She is gentle with the baby and will retrieve anything the older boys throw for her, including empty milk jugs.

This furry wild child has given me just what I wanted for Zach and what I didn’t know I needed for me. She’s my best friend too.