Mother of the Year
Yesterday, I went on a field trip with my daughter’s class as a chaperone. I was reminded, yet again, of why I became a veterinarian. The teacher is an angel on earth and I do not, for one second, think I could do what she does.
I watched one nine year old dissolve into an inconsolable heap of tears because she lost during a game of Red Rover. I watched another child, who was walking barefoot on the park grass, get called over by her mother and told to apply hand sanitizer to her feet at once. At least 3 boys came near to destroying some ancient archaeological artifact or another. It was chaos.
On the way home, my daughter showed me a poem she had written for school. Apparently part of the grading involved being critiqued by a classmate (blue). And my daughter, being MY daughter after all, had to have the last word.
And dangit, I want to cry but I also laughed my head off because I KNOW she wrote that response with the exact same eye-rolly sigh that I use. SO my kid, in so many ways.
Being a mother to humans is a confusing and often frightening endeavor that often leaves me feeling either inadequate, elated, or exhausted. It’s a sine curve with an amplitude of a million, which is why on Mothers Day so many of us buy a flower arrangement with the vague disquieting sense of guilt that “this doesn’t even begin to cover it.”
Being a pet mom is so much simpler, at least the way I do it. They eat, they go outside, we hang out, no one gets called by the principal. They are a stabilizing force in a world that’s always trying to destabilize you. I came home after that exhausting day, collapsed (barefoot) on the lawn, and let Brody console me with doggy kisses (with his probably gross tongue.) It’s a little more straightforward: Hi, I love you, yep. And for that, I am so grateful. I’m grateful for both experiences, actually; each so different and it makes me appreciate the other all the more.
They love us in their own special way.
May your highs be every higher and your lows, well, not so bad, and through it all a pet to call your own and make you glad.
-Old Irish Proverb I just made up
Up and Away, by the amazing Brittney Lee
May moms of all shapes, sizes and types have a wonderful Mother’s Day!
After several months of leading the kids around our new and blessedly quiet neighborhood hoping to find some children running about, the spring temperatures have brought them out of hiding like little hibernating bears. We have both two little girls and a little boy within the block, and now the kids self-eject from the house as soon as their little feet can take them in the morning to go bike riding. As an added bonus, the little girls have a 12 week old Golden Retriever who comes by on his walks and visits us.
I like the springtime temperatures as well. It’s gotten Brody and I out of our own winter hibernation and back on a “great outdoors routine,” exploring the trails that run around and behind the neighborhood. We saw a deer bound by on the trail last week. It was beautiful.
There was even a muddy creek to wallow in. Life is good.
Several days after that last hike, the girls were over and playing with my kids and with Brody. The younger one was petting Brody and said, “What’s this bump?”
I knew before I even looked.
Ticks are sporadic in San Diego, and the only other time I ever found one on Brody was last spring, when we were also hiking in a backcountry-ish area. He went on tick prevention while we were hiking that area, then when we stopped heading that way, I went back to Trifexis (which is an oral flea and heartworm preventive and works just great for what I needed.)
I always do a once-over after hikes to look for parasites or foxtails or any of the sorts of things that can annoy a Golden, but Brody is hairy and rather than just put on tick preventive like I should have, I figured that so long as I wasn’t seeing anything, I might as well finish off the product I was using.
Grasses, check, deer, check. Bad vet who should know better, check.
And of course- OF COURSE- it would be the neighbor kid who found it.
A part of my brain whispered to me, “lie. Say it’s a sebaceous adenoma. She’s six, what does she know?” but I figured it could be a teaching moment, so I told the truth. What a sucker. The news of course sent the girls screaming with hands waving in the air in the way only little girls can do, this despite my calm reassurances that they would be just fine and so would Brody. I removed the tick, confirmed no others were present, had the kids wash their hands, and figured that was that.
I left Brody in the backyard away from the kids while I stood in front of a ceiling high stack of as of yet unpacked boxes, cursing myself for not labelling “OVERFLOW ECTOPARASITE TREATMENT MEDS” in large block letters. Eventually I found it, a box with at least a six month supply of myriad tubes and collars for just such an occasion. Tick meds in hand, I went to plunk it on Brody.
When I came back into the living room, I found my daughter giving the wide eyed neighbor kids a lecture about ticks using all the dramatic tricks she learned in theater. She was projecting. She was using her hands to illustrate their arachnid ways. She was telling them, with great relish, about the one other time Brody had a tick last year and how traumatized she was by the whole experience.
In short, she just ensured the entire neighborhood would now know us as the Nasty Tick People.
I sat at home mortified for the next day, and when the girls came by with their dog, they stood apologetically by the front door and said my kids could come for a walk with them but Brody could not, so their dog wouldn’t get ticks.
“Is he on meds?” I asked of the now 13 week old pup.
“No,” they said. “He’s too young.”
I bit my tongue, knowing full well that when their dog goes for a walk down the very same trail we walk and ends up with a tick, because that’s usually how it happens, we’re going to shoulder the blame for it. In a flash, I saw my new life flash before my eyes. Denied a contribution to the PTA bake sale. Well coiffed blond women scooting their chairs so very slightly off to the left when I sit down next to them. Neighbors squealing in horror and crossing over to the other side of the street when we run by.
My husband thinks I should talk to the other mom.
I have not met this neighbor. I have no idea if she’s the shake it off kind of person or the kind who would tell me “It’s fine, don’t worry,” with a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. I decided it was best to take the ‘ignore it and just tell the kids to tell her Brody’s on meds’ approach.
“Did you talk to the mom and tell her you’re a vet?” my husband asked.
“Somehow,” I said, “I don’t think that will improve the situation.” Do I want to be the Gross Tick Neighbor or the Bad Vet Neighbor? Don’t answer that.
Ah well. Onward and upward. Lesson 1: Moving on to topical flea and tick preventive in the new casa. Lesson 2: Gave me a good opportunity to talk to my daughter about “stories not to share on the first day at the new school.”
In other news, the little girls came by today with their puppy, bearing the tell-tale greasy spot of a recent ectoparasite treatment. My methods of getting people to get up to date on treatment may be unconventional, but they are very, very effective.
-With love, the Nasty Tick Lady
Raising kids is a lot like raising dogs. There’s a lot of responsibility, a lot of poop, ridiculous amounts of cleaning, and no small amount of frustration. Regardless, the benefits far outweigh the costs, and with a little consistency and training, it’s all good. Training being the key component.
My son likes Legos and chihuahuas, two things I kind of like but wouldn’t really say are my “thing”. He is his own kid. I realized he was fascinated with mechanical devices more than biological creatures, so I built enough mystique around the Keurig: “oh no, it’s MUCH TOO HARD for a kid to work” etc etc until he insisted- insisted!- that I teach him how to use it, and now he delivers me coffee every morning.
My daughter likes Barbies and Golden retrievers, which, for those of you who know me, you will know must be genetic. So when she came home with an assignment to “write a presentation on the ‘How To’ topic of your choice,” she announced she wanted to do it about dogs.
“What are you going to instruct your class in?” I asked.
“How to groom a dog,” she said.
So she sat down and typed up her outline. “Get the dog wet, shampoo the dog, dry the dog” and so on and so forth.
I looked at the presentation software they were supposed to use.
“Did you know you can put pictures in here?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “That wasn’t part of the assignment.”
“But you want to go ABOVE and BEYOND, right?” I asked. “I mean, you want to knock this out of the park! Right?”
“Oh!” she said. “I do. Absolutely.” She paused. “But I don’t have any pictures of me grooming Brody.”
I paused, looked at the ceiling as if deep in thought, and then said, well, if this is really important to you, I bet I could find a camera.
And that is how I conned my kid into not only washing Brody, but blow drying him, brushing him out, cleaning up, and thanking me for the opportunity.
Maybe I can pay the teacher off to repeat this assignment once a month through the end of the school year.
As you may or may not recall, we’ve had our house on the market for a while. It has been a horrible experience, if I’m being honest, and it’s turning me into an unpleasant person. The last five months of constant chasing around after two kids and two dogs, keeping an immaculate house for strangers to paw through at whim before dismissively walking away, has taken its toll. We’ve decided that this is the last week, and after that we’re taking a break and pulling the place off the market until after the new year.
The first couple of months were ok. I kept the place at high levels of show readiness. I’d whisk the dogs away to Grandma’s, the house would be swept bare of every hint of a pet, and I’d carefully scour the backyard, every last inch, for wayward dog piles. Now, though, I’m kind of over it. I leave the dogs at the house for the realtor to deal with if I have somewhere else to be, the counters may have some papers on it, and I stopped carefully rotating my Caldrea diffusers and setting the radio to just the right level of smooth jazz.
Now, no music for you! Smell my burnt toast from this morning! If the toilet seat isn’t down, oh well! And if someone isn’t watching themselves and tromps through the grass without paying attention, I can’t be held responsible for what they might find. I’m D-O-N-E.
I do have some reservations about leaving the dogs in the house, but after this many months, sometimes it just can’t be helped. I live in constant fear of the realtor walking in with an interested party to find a shredded bag of kale chips ground into the entryway, or a steaming pile of vomit on the area rug, or Koa standing on the couch with all the cushions on the floor, howling plaintively at the window as she tends to do when her separation anxiety gets bad. As far as I know, it hasn’t happened yet, but those things all did happen to ME, all approximately 10 minutes before people were scheduled to arrive, and it makes me stabby.
This weekend, as we announced that this was the last week we’d let the house be shown, I had to prepare once again for someone to stroll though and not have anything come of it, a perpetual Open House for people “just wondering what the market was like in our area but not actively looking right now.” I walked back in the house after they left, annoyed that the people didn’t share this tidbit until after they wasted my time doing things I hate, like vacuuming- only to be greeted by the horrible and unmistakable scent of anal glands in the front hallway. Now, if you don’t know this smell, consider yourself lucky. It’s kind of like putrescent broccoli mixed with a pork chop left out in the sun for two days, then soaked in yogurt and left to mold in a dungheap.
We left our own aromatherapy oils out in the foyer, Mom! You're welcome!
Ugh, I thought, looking around. The dogs were sitting there, looking happy as can be. Nothing was shredded. But someone, somewhere in the last 45 minutes, had let loose. I hoped against hope that perhaps this happened after the people left, a reaction of sadness to saying goodbye to the realtor they have gotten to know so very well this past 150 days of inertia. I knelt down to the floor and looked for telltale signs of the offending substance.
I saw a small smear of liquid on the floor, a tiny glistening streak of what might be drool, might be water, might be anal gland goo. I grabbed a paper towel and went to dab it up. Yup. Anal glands on the hardwood. Then, as Koa stood there wagging her tail proudly, I saw it- a smelly footprint, men’s size 10 or so, outlined on the floor in the same offensive substance. Perhaps it is unkind of me that I laughed a little when I saw it, but like I said, they didn’t even show up with any intention of making an offer, and I wasted 45 minutes of my day so they could come in and disrupt my life. Serves them right that they now have a long and inexorable reminder of our happy little abode.
The thought of them going back to the car and stepping onto their car mats with their fouled shoe on this, a 98 degree weekend, was enough to make the cleanup process in the aftermath totally worth it.
I think I could have been very happy as a biologist. It was the direction in which I was headed, though always with the intent of turning my bachelors degree in biology into a professional degree. I chose to ignore the fact that I really loved biology as its own pursuit, fascinated with taxonomy and utterly enchanted with the concept of sitting on a smelly pile of rocks in a harbor by Marina del Rey counting mussels. I understood this, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, trying to get a grasp not only on the beauty of nature but how our interactions were screwing with it. Rule number one: You never eat shellfish from a harbor in Southern California.
I loved it so much I ended up with an emphasis in marine biology, not because I set out for that but because I loved Roy Houston’s classes so much I took every one he offered, even choking down my lifelong fear of submersion in order to get a PADI dive certification in order to study marine life even that much more closely. Science, man, it rocks.
I think I was about seven when I knew science was my thing. I remember very little about the specifics of the matter other than someone who knew what they were doing, someone who was enthusiastic about it, introduced me to it at the right time and it was all over from that point. I had a dog eared copy of Charlie Brown’s Super Book of Questions and Answers which I would read over and over until the pages were dog eared, slamming the book with a satisfying squeal every time the book opened to the spider page and memorizing the facts about the amount of blood in a human body.
I remember this vividly, the thrill of finding that thing that you love, of devouring it and taking it with you, that need, that drive to understand more. I don’t know who first lit that fire, but to them I owe so much. I want to be that same person to my children, to help them find that tinder that sets them aglow.
They start school tomorrow, a new charter school in the area. I was and am nervous about doing something so abrupt, but such was the level of my despair at the state of public schools in our area. I told myself for three years I was overreacting and that every overprotective parent had the same reaction until I couldn’t lie any longer, until I heard teachers themselves talking in hushed tones about they, too, had sent their own children elsewhere, dejected at what they were unable to do with the limited means they were handed.
With this new school comes the heady responsibility of huge levels of parental involvement the likes of which I have never seen, and also the freedom to spend more time out in the world doing things that might, you know, interest them. Until I looked, I just never knew about all the options there were out there for kids to get involved with the community. Of course, me being me, I’ve spent a good 100% of my time looking up things I would have found interesting as a kid, but I figure that’s as good a place to start as any. I spent years barking up the wrong tree, sending them to soccer classes and dance school and things I didn’t like, and neither did they.
But this week, I found a lonely little flyer tacked up at the local Starbucks announcing a ranger-led reptile hike through a local preserve. So we went, my kids and I, and to my delight discovered a large contingent of USGS herpetologists (who knew the USGS did wildlife surveillance? I thought of them at the earthquake gurus), state park rangers, and local private reserve educators, all come together in the hopes that some members of the general public might be interested in learning about local reptiles.
We spent the first hour fanning ourselves under a tarp by a trailer as examples of various snakes were brought out to the group:
A lovely rosy boa, grey and pewter and docile;
A glossy snake, smooth as glass beneath our fingers;
A gopher snake (I think?) or some other such non-rattle snake that would, nonetheless, give me a minor coronary were I to encounter it at close range;
A king snake, confirmation that the visitor on our front porch was, in fact, this non venomous benevolent reptilian neighbor.
Then we headed out for a short hike, one kept brief by the exceptional heat that day. One of our guides, the kind who makes a living off of spotting such well camouflaged beasties, managed to spot this teensy horned lizard right in the middle of our path and scooped him up before we unwittingly tromped him. My camera couldn’t even pick him up to focus on him, so slight was he, no bigger than my thumb and able to blend in seamlessly to the desert brush.
By the end of the hike, I found myself separated from the main part of the group and with an older gentleman, who seemed to have an exceptionally deep understanding of local flora and fauna. He rubbed his fingers on a local plant and held it out for the kids to smell, telling them about the uses of its anise scented leaves. He pointed out woodpeckers and poison oak. Turns out he is an educator at a local estuary, and told me all about the programs they offer free of charge to kids through the national parks service.
“You can be a junior ranger,” he said to my daughter, who has to this point turned down junior lifeguard, junior ballet, and junior tennis. “We spend Saturdays in the marsh, counting herons, or maybe digging up clams by the beach. Some days we just wade through the rushes looking for fish.”
She nodded politely, and my son squatted with a bored look by the side of the trail. Well, at least I tried.
After the kind man took his leave, my son waved me over. “Look,” he said, pointing to nothing in particular. “I think I see more lizards over there. I’m just going to watch a little more,” and he resumed his look, not of boredom but intense concentration.
My daughter tugged on my sleeve. “Can I be a junior ranger this week?” she asked. “Please?”
The best learning always takes place outside the confines of the classroom walls, doesn’t it? Maybe the apple doesn’t fall as far from the tree as I thought.
I opened Facebook on Mother’s Day morning, shortly after my chubby fingered kiddos brought me (and Brody) toast and eggs in bed, and saw this oft-repeated quote:
“A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
And I sighed. I really don’t like that quote.
It’s like what we talked about on Friday all over again. Hey, unless you’re cutting off your limbs and giving away all your pie and raising free range human children in a yurt, YOU AREN’T A REAL MOTHER.
Sure, it seems like a nice sentiment on the surface, but underneath it reeks of that judgy, who’s the most sacrife-y woman out there kind of martyrdom. And what kind of pie are we talking about here? Because if it’s berry pie, I will gladly say, “I never did care for pie,” and it would be true. But if it’s a banana cream pie, and I’m sitting there with my kids and my husband and some other person, I would cut a sliver off each of those four pieces and make me a Franken-slice. Because I like banana cream pie, and I would want some too. And there is nothing wrong with my solution, which leaves no one in the corner without any pie.
My sister and I were raised without any sort of qualifications on our growth, without any assumptions that gender would figure into our career choices. I wanted to be at various times a palaeontologist, an astronaut, a Blue Angel, the next great American author, and a neurosurgeon. It never occurred to me that I might one day have to negotiate the minefield of family and career, and that my choices about one might influence the other. And yet it has.
I know that some women have managed to figure it out, how to have it all. I envy them that. For me, family and career has been like a downhill slalom, weaving back and forth across the slope, putting my weight on the left leg, then on the right, trying to slow my descent enough so that I don’t fall and break my neck, trying to make it through all the gates; now school plays, now continuing education conferences, making toxic matchboxes, keeping the dogs in good health. I have given up trying to do one thing perfectly in favor of doing lots of things pretty well, and that is how life seems to go for people (men and women alike) who spend a portion of their lives in a caretaker position.
There were a lot of cool things I thought about doing as a veterinarian. I wanted to be a radiologist, or a dermatologist. Instead, I decided to dial back on work to focus on the kids a little more, and once they grew old enough for me to seriously wonder if that was something I still wanted to pursue, knowing what that would mean for the family, the answer was no. Instead, I dusted off that old rarely-used corner of my brain that delighted in writing, and worked on that. I’d say that worked out pretty well.
I have no regrets about the decisions I’ve made, no resentments. But one of the most important things I’ve learned while figuring all of this out is that we are allowed to take care of ourselves every once in a while. It’s not selfish to want to do that. Sometimes it seems like you can’t win; if an exhausted new mom goes out in sweats and greasy hair, she’s mocked as a slob, but if she decides to take time to herself to work out or go get her hair done, then she’s self centered, because of course all real moms know you should never put yourself first, not once or ever. And apparently, you aren’t allowed to ask if one might share a treat, either.
My husband did not really want me to go to Africa (I leave one month from today!) The timing is terrible. I will miss my kids’ last day of school since they inexplicably added three days to the end of the school year just a month ago, we’re in the middle of selling the house, and I just realized I will also be gone for Father’s Day. Yup. Bad, bad, bad mom. I am taking off and missing all of those things because I’ve wanted to do a trip with World Vets for years, and the opportunity presented itself. And once my husband realized just how excited I was to get to do this, he was happy for me too.
Kids are half a world away and I manage to work up a small smile. We all survived.
I suppose I could have just not gone. That is what a real mom would do, right? Sacrifice. Or would a real mother teach her kids that you should take a leap of faith every now and then and go do something really extraordinary? Ten years from now, will my daughter be emulating a woman who consistently choked down everything important to her, or one who said, ‘I’m going to go climb a mountain and then go hang out with some Maasai and some donkeys, because I worked really hard for years and years and I want to do something meaningful, and you will hang out with Dad and be just dandy.’
I really don’t feel horrible about it. I just spent five hours making a birthday party invitation for my son in Photoshop in between shuttling my daughter back and forth to play practice for the last month. I spend the other 50 or so weeks of the year staring at the empty pie plate of my free time, so this one time I am taking a slice for myself, taking it into the corner, and savoring every mother-loving bite.
A few days ago, my friend Dorian at Catster pointed out a rather mean-spirited post over at Huffington Post entitled, “Pet Parents are NOT Moms.” I am trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt here; maybe she intended it to be sort of tongue in cheek. She starts by pointing out all the sometimes over the top things we do in the name of love- and I get that, been there, bought the membership card- but the overall tone of the post just skewed off left and went straight to mean. And that just rubs me the wrong way.
I don’t know if Susan Maushart requires one to provide their credentials before pontificating on motherhood, but just to be sure, yes, I have human kids as well as some furry ones. I still refer to myself as Brody’s mom. I like that better than owner, though that works too. I go back and forth. I guess that makes me a monkey (though I would prefer to be referred to as a great ape.)
I need to make one thing clear: We all know that pets are not small humans in fur. They are, in fact, dogs, or cats, or ferrets or whatever. We relate to them differently than we do humans. I have yet to meet one person, and I’ve met a lot of people, who seem unclear on that distinction. Even the ones who dress them up because it makes them happy- yes, even those people know that it is an animal in a dress and not a human. So what? It’s not hurting you. The day I see one of those people wheeling the said dress-wearing cat into the pediatrician’s office for an MMR, then we’ll talk. Who cares if someone relates to their pet in a maternal way and wants to call them their kid?
Maushart’s main reason, as far as I can tell, for objecting to calling pets kids is “you and I both know that pets are stupid.” Is that the only criterion? Because I have to tell you, and this is confidential, but I’ve met a lot of stupid kids too, the kind who show up with peanuts lodged in their nostrils or pencils shoved through their eardrums because they want to know what lead sounds like. If I were to fall unconscious on a railroad track, for instance, this is the only eight year old I want by my side.
The author with her eldest, who will never ask to borrow the car or wonder why the other kids get more posts on the blog.
So who anointed Maushart Grand Vizier of the Ministry of Motherhood anyway? And what are the membership requirements exactly? Is it as strict as, “you must have birthed a human child from your own loins, and the child must then be smart, and raised on organic produce after you’ve nursed him for four years“? Oh yes, those moms are a blast to be around.
Motherhood is not a black and white concept. It just isn’t. I’ve spoken with adoptive mothers, who have shed tears when their child was asked who their “real” mom was. I’ve hugged women who have wept after a miscarriage and been told, “Well, you don’t get to celebrate Mother’s Day, you’re not a mother.” That hurts. It hurts because they felt that bond, regardless of whether or not you were empathetic enough to acknowledge it.
Some people, like me, have pets and kids. Some have pets instead of kids, because they don’t want them, haven’t gotten around to it, or maybe they can’t. I had clients once who were unable to have children of their own. They shared this freely when they brought in their Akita Bonnie, and laughed as they told me, “Bonnie’s our only child.” And was she ever.
Bonnie was involved in an accident. I have never seen two people so devastated. For a month, she was in the hospital, and for a month, her mother came in. I watched as she rotated her to keep her lungs inflated, massaged her legs to keep the musculature from contracting, listened to her whisper in her ear as she stroked her fur in order to get a happy thump of the tail. Every day she came in, and nursed Bonnie.
And when she unfortunately died, I leaned over Bonnie’s mom as her head was buried in her motionless chest, put a hand on her shoulder, and whispered, “Calm down. It’s not like you’re a real mom.”
Oh wait. I didn’t. Because I’m not that cruel. Couch it however you want in smug rolly-eyed condescending cheekiness, that post was mean.
So wear your Mom badge proud, moms of the world, and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, pity them. Because one day their kid will roll their eyes at them and tell them they hate them and do all sorts of other pleasant human-child behaviors, while yours will lick you on the face and pull your body off the railroad tracks. And have a happy Mother’s Day!
My daughter has joined the local youth theater’s production of Annie. As a seven year old, one of the youngest in the cast, her role is to stand in the back and look cute. This is good. A good intro to theater.
While I was gone, my husband got to attend the parent meeting. We learned that there is no sliding scale of parental volunteer requirements based on the number of lines in the play, so the parent of the silent kid picking his nose in the back has to do just as much as the parent of the lead. Which is fine, but hoo boy, I’m bad enough juggling commitments as it is. As the mother of a cast member, my job is to paint sets, sew costumes, take pictures, sell tickets, attend rehearsals, and man concessions, and probably a few more things I forgot.
So now I’m trying to be sneaky and figure out alternate ways to get in my mandatory 20 volunteer hours. I’ve already volunteered my husband to do candid photography from rehearsals. Why not. He just treated himself to a new camera. I’m thinking of offering to help out with their social media, because let’s face it, given the choice between that and sewing, I think we all would be happier for it.
My friend, who is quite involved in this theater, asked me if I knew any dogs that might be available to play Sandy. I was impressed with their dedication to bring a real dog into the mix, because shoot, those FurReal dogs would be a heck of a lot easier to deal with, would not pee on Ms. Hannigan, run into the audience, or pull Annie’s wig off her head mid-song like a bad reunion episode of Real Housewives of East County.
I noticed she did not ask if my dog would be available, but that is because she’s met my dog. I don’t know of any highly trained scruffy terrier mixes at the moment, but when they find one, I am pleased to offer my volunteer services as Official Show Vet. They need one of those, surely.
Normally I take the weekends as a time to unwind, refresh my brain, and get ready for the next week. Usually this is a doable thing. But, sometimes things get kind of nutty, and in those times there’s not much to be done except deal with it and let all the other things you’re supposed to do- like blog- fall by the wayside.
My husband left on Friday for a weeklong business trip overseas. It happens, that’s part of his job description. But it certainly provides for certain, shall we say, logistical difficulties when that weekend happens to be the same weekend as the annual Father-Daughter dance at school. Fortunately we have grandfathers who are happy to step in, and all is well.
I thought that would be the biggest challenge of the weekend, until I woke up yesterday to my son- who has been sick for close to a week with a nasty cold- holding his ears and screaming in pain. Being the typical health care provider that I am, I had to resist my normal inclination to say “If nothing’s falling off, you’re fine, here’s some Motrin” and actually consider that maybe he was really sick. Being without an otoscope at home, I had to suck it up and try to figure out where the nearest Urgent Care facility was and just how I was going to juggle that trip in to the day.
Which was fine, until same sick child looked up from his tear filled fingers to point at the water dripping from the ceiling, which unfortunately was not from anyone’s tears, but from what appears to be leak number 8,465 we’ve had in this horrid house. And I just did NOT have time for it, so I shoved a bucket under the faucet that is likely the source and crossed my fingers, and left the house. (more…)
I like spending time with my family. We do crafty things, because they’re fun and everyone enjoys them. One of our traditions, started back when my daughter was in kindergarten, is to make little Valentine’s Day trinket boxes to send to school on Valentine’s Day- a craft I found on the Martha Stewart website and immediately fell in love with. It’s a cute craft- you take empty matchboxes, cover them with scrapbook paper and ribbons, and fill them with conversation hearts. It’s simple, sweet, and it’s always gone over well.
Until this year.
Last Friday, as I was at home recovering from the jetlag of my Westminster trip, I was interrupted in my reverie by a phone call from the school principal, who called to let me know that she had received “multiple complaints” about my little craft. My immediate thought was, oh no, the kids forgot to remove the matches from some of the boxes, but that wasn’t it. Some parents were just mortified that I used matchboxes for a craft. The principal patiently explained, in the same tone one might explain to a kindergartner why gargling with Drano is a bad idea, about the dangers of sulfur residue. Then she said the part that really killed me: “You need to think about the message you are sending here.”
The message I had sent, or so I thought, was, “I care enough about your kids to spend a day running around gathering supplies to make a cute and time consuming re-purposing project.” But people being the contrary types who like to assume the worst read something else into it, what, I don’t know exactly. “Hey kids, pyromania is fun!” “Crack is cool!” Empty matchboxes are the gateway craft, y’all. (more…)
One of the reasons many vets give for choosing their profession is, “I like animals better than people.” It’s not a good reason, mind you, and those with misanthropic tendencies learn to cover it up pretty quickly or else have a rotten career, but I will tell you from experience that well, it’s true.
I’ve been working on it. I actually get along pretty well with people, as far as I can tell. But every once in a while I experience one of those penultimate human experiences that I’m supposed to relish, and all I can do is run away screaming and bury my face in the dog and not want to talk to another person for at least eight hours, possibly ten. I had one of those this week.
In an attempt to raise a good citizen, I enrolled my daughter in Girl Scouts. I did it when I was a kid. I tried to find my picture of me in my Brownies uniform to prove it, but I think it’s in the storage facility somewhere, at least that is my excuse. Anyway, as far as I could recall, it was fun: we made some ribbon barrettes, colored, got to wear those badass brown sashes to school and strut around every Tuesday, and I think one time I sold some Thin Mints. It was low key.
And I look around at the second graders these days dressing like Miley Cyrus and singing all the words to “I’m Sexy and I Know It”, and I realized something with horror: I’m apparently an old school prude. And I’m really not, but compared to what’s out there, I kind of am. And I had two main choices for after school activities for my daughter: Girl Scouts or the local dance studio, and if you saw what the eight year olds were wearing at the last recital you would understand why I went with the scouts.
Because the Scouts are the answer to all the things we bemoan about being a woman today, right? It’s about teamwork and solidarity. It’s about empowerment. Equality. Buoying your fellow woman instead of throwing her under the bus. Girl power and all of that, embrace your brain, etc.
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been particularly sensitive to depictions of violence against animals. My mother learned early on that I couldn’t handle Tom and Jerry, the Roadrunner cartoons, or Sylvester and Tweety. “But he’s a carnivore!” I would cry sympathetically. “He’s just hungry! Turn on the Snorks, Mom.” And that holds to this day.
But apparently I was much less bothered by anything involving humans wailing on each other. Shortly after graduating vet school, my husband bought an XBox. After four long years of labor and toil, I needed a little decompression, and one day I turned on a game called Morrowind. For several months, I would grab my longsword, beat other characters over the head, and steal all their stuff. I was heady with my virtual strength, pillaging and intimidating my way through the lands. It was fantastic. (more…)