Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tub full of trouble

When G was two, she had a bath every night before bed. She'd splash around happily while I washed her, and then she'd get out all clean and soapy-smelling and let me wrap her in a hooded towel before putting on her fuzzy pink footie PJs. She loved bathtime, and so did I.

Fast-forward five years, and bathing is one of the most contentious issues here in the Fortress o' Fights. I think G should take a shower at least every other day and wash her hair at least twice a week. She thinks she should get into a tub with half a bottle of bubble bath and a lot of Polly Pockets in it once every ten days or so, play for an hour, flood the bathroom floor and still be dry above the shoulders when she gets out. You might say we have philosophical differences on the subject. You might also say it's driving me batshit insane.

I swear I do everything I can to make it a less traumatic experience for both of us. I try to give her plenty of warning before a bath/shower. I announce "Time to get undressed" as cheerfully as I can. I offer to let her bring a reasonable number of toys in with her. And the next thing I know, she's screaming, running away, slamming her bedroom door in my face and leaning on it so I can't get in.

I really don't see why it has to be such a huge deal. It wouldn't be a huge deal if she'd just get in the frigging shower and wash like a normal person. I keep telling her, "Look, G, all you have to do is get wet, soap your hair, soap your body, and rinse. If you do that, you can be out of here in 15 minutes, maybe less. If you have a fit, it's going to take forever." My logic falls on deaf ears every time ... or maybe she just can't hear me over the screams. Argh! How much longer until this phase ends?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Parting shot

I recently opened iPhoto for the first time in months and discovered this, the last picture I ever took of P. It was taken at a barbecue on Father's Day, two weeks before he died. I like it because it shows P doing something he loved to do, but it makes me sad because he's turned away from the camera, as if he's already saying goodbye.

I have his guitars in my bedroom closet, all three of them. I wish I could hear him play them again. I wish I knew how to play them myself. Maybe G will learn, one day. He'd like that.

Monday, September 25, 2006

You're not a real mother until ...

... you've been the author of your child's total public mortification.

This afternoon I dragged G out, over her protests ("I don't want any new clothes!") to go shopping. ("Well, you need them, so get in the car!") We were going to one of the huge outdoor shopping centers that are so popular around here -- the kind where you don't just shop, you have an experience -- and I thought I had an enticing offer for her: we'd go in a store, then ride the Ferris wheel, then go in a store, then have ice cream, then go in a store, etc. She wasn't impressed, but she went along.

So, at our third stop, she spotted a pair of black cowgirl boots she loved. We were attempting to read the tags to find her size, but they were all confusingly marked with "2Y" and 3Y" instead of actual sizes. And then we had this exchange:

Me: I don't get it. I would think 3Y meant "three years," but these are way too big for a three-year-old.
G: Maybe it stands for "three 'yeee-haws.'"

It struck me as hysterically funny, as not-that-funny things sometimes do, and I nearly fell backward into a rack of marked-down summer clothes as I tried to contain myself. I was dying of mirth; G was dying of embarrassment. She put her hands over my mouth to stop me making a scene, and when that didn't work, she whipped off the snazzy little Audrey Hepburn-esque neck scarf she was wearing and attempted to tie it around the bottom half of my face. This was even funnier. I was all but on the floor, my stomach aching, my eyes full of tears, while G looked around with a desperate expression that said Oh, please don't let anyone I know be in this store! I'm sure it was just the first of many mother-related humiliations to come.

In other weird kid news, last night G made a large sign that says:

Lost: Giant Carrot

Goes by the name of Philip.

If you find him call [our phone no.]

She drew a big orange carrot on it and stuck it to the wall behind the sofa. I can't look at it without giggling. Philip the Carrot! Hee!

I promise I have not been drinking. It was just a funny weekend.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The doldrums: six forty-five a.m.

G: I'm boooooooored.
Me: Go get dressed, draw, read a book, play with toys, watch TV, bother the cat.
G: I don't want to do any of that.
Me: I've got bad news for you, G. Big kids and grownups are responsible for their own entertainment.
G: I don't want to be responsible for my own entertainment.
Me: Ah, I see. You'd like me to wear a red clown nose and put my pants on backward and walk around on my hands to amuse you. You'd like me to dance up and down and sing and skip to lighten the burden of your ennui.
G (half laughing, half mad): Yes!
Me: Too bad. Go get dressed.

I know it sounds mean, but it's for her own good. I was an only child until I was almost nine, and the self-entertaining skills I learned then are still with me today. If I'm left on my own to do what I like, I'm never bored. (Long Friday-afternoon meetings and days at jury duty are another story.) She'll thank me for it twenty years from now, I swear!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's a cat's life

Hey, lady, some of us are trying to sleep here.

Well, if you absolutely insist on taking my picture ... how about some kitty p0rn?


When you're still awake, and even your supposedly nocturnal pet is crashed out on the couch, you know you've got a problem.

At least now I have time to finish the laundry and pack G's lunch for tomorrow.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

This fragile bond

Unlike the rest of the family, I very rarely visit P's niche at the cemetery. I've been two or three times since the interment, but it isn't a meaningful place for me. I don't feel any closer to him there. If anything, I feel less close than I do at other times and in other places. P's ashes may be there in the wall, but he -- the real he -- is not. Nothing there has anything to do with P as I knew him, P who could draw and play the guitar, who collected comics and once wanted to grow up to be Steve Austin.

I felt the same way about his body and the coffin during the long, long viewing and funeral process. Other people wanted to touch him in the coffin and to caress the wood of the lid after it was closed, and I understood that desire on an intellectual level, but I didn't share it. I did touch him once or twice, to be sure, and it only confirmed what I already felt. The body was his, but it wasn't him. I'd known since the moment I found him that he wasn't inside that body anymore, and I had no sense that he was anywhere near it, either: not around the coffin or in the viewing room or even in the funeral home.

It seemed particularly inappropriate to think that P of all people would linger around his body, because in life he hadn't liked it very much. He loathed his physical limitations, his thinness, his clubbed fingers, his surgical scars, the lump of his pacemaker. He always felt ugly, even though he wasn't, and went overboard with grooming and dressing nicely in an attempt to compensate. I can only suppose that feeling the way he did about his body, he never looked back once he was free of it. He wanted to be free of it. He told me so himself, the night before he died, and whatever he may or may not have known about what was coming, he absolutely meant what he said.

So I rarely go to the cemetery, but that doesn't mean I don't think of P. I think of him every day, all the time. So many things remind me of him: of some favorite phrase or joke or moment we spent together. And knowing P the way I did, I think that would mean more to him than a weekly pilgrimage to a niche in a concrete wall. When he was alive, he didn't visit graves or lay down flowers for people who had died, but he always, always remembered them. His only fear about dying himself was that he'd somehow lose his memories of me and G -- "I don't want to forget you," he said. And he wouldn't want to be forgotten.

You can rest easy, P. I remember.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Dear Cat,

Would it be too much trouble for you to visit the litter box and take your massive daily dump before 2:00 in the morning? I don't mind scooping the box (much), but I do mind waking up in a bedroom filled with a miasma of cat excrement. I mean, really. I don't know how the smell gets up the stairs, but it does, so please try to confine your poopage to the pre-midnight hours.


The Janitor


Dear Kid,

I think you have a skewed definition of the word "mean." It is not "mean" of me to insist that you take a shower and brush your teeth before bed. It is also not "mean" of me to tell you that slippery-soled party shoes, two sizes too small, are not appropriate footwear for school -- no matter how sparkly they are and how well they go with your dress. For examples of what "mean" actually is, I refer you to such classic tales as Oliver Twist, Cinderella, Harry Potter, and the collected works of V.C. Andrews. Perhaps these stories will help you understand that even if you're tired of chocolate Teddy Grahams, finding them in your lunch box for the third day in a row does not constitute an act of child abuse.


Your Mother


Dear Universe,

What are you trying to do to me? Stop it!


A Small, Insignificant Speck

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

That Which Must Not Be Named

Tomorrow is G's first day of second grade, and she is not pleased. All day today, she kept begging me not to talk about it, which led to conversations like this one in the snack aisle at the grocery store:

Me: Hypothetically speaking, if I had to pack a lunch for you for no particular reason, would you want pretzels or cheese crackers in it?
G: Aaaaargh! I said not to talk about it!
Me: Yes, well?
G: Pretzels, I guess.

She's always enjoyed school, so I'm not entirely sure where this resistance is coming from. I think it's partly to do with P, because when I asked if she was worried that people would ask her about Daddy, she said yes. (He volunteered last year and was well known on campus.) I reassured her that I already told her teacher and the people who work in the office, and that seemed to make her feel a bit better. Hopefully I'll be able to get her out the door in the morning with a minimum amount of drama.

In other news, Catherine has just played that classic cat game known as "Sudden Demonic Possession," a.k.a. "Run Around the House After Midnight Like a Crazy Thing," and is stretched out in the middle of the living-room floor looking exhausted. If only I were that easily entertained.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The feline life

Dry cat food is so bland and harmless-looking. But as those little nuggets rattle into the cat's dish like cereal into a bowl, you look at them and have to wonder: What happens inside the cat to turn such inocuous stuff into a substance so foul you need a hazmat suit and an oxygen mask to handle it?

It's a real mystery.

Aside from the litter box, we're enjoying Catherine, and Catherine seems to be adjusting nicely. After a few hours under the furniture, she came out, ate, drank, washed, and settled down on G's bed with us, purring, for the bedtime reading hour. She's a very friendly little thing and wants to be right next to me all the time, preferably being petted. She's so well socialized that I'm surprised she was a stray, although I guess it's possible that she was someone's pet and they dumped her when she got pregnant. (Punk teenage cat-boyfriend: "Well, what do you want me to do about it? How do I know they're MY kittens?) We do need to get her a scratching post today, though. I can hear the telltale sound of claws in the couch right now. Bad kitty!

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Meet the newest member of the family:

After all the prospective names G came up with, when the moment of truth arrived, she decided that she wanted to call her cat just plain "Cat." I said I'd no more name a cat "Cat" than I would have named G "Girl," but we could name her Catherine and call her Cat for short. So, this is Catherine. She's about a year old and was rescued from a parking lot with her four newborn kittens, all of whom went to new homes last week. Catherine herself came home with us this afternoon, and has spent most of her first two hours with us hiding under various pieces of furniture in the time-honored cat tradition. In fact, she's under one of the couches right now, sitting stubbornly while G calls to her in dulcet tones and tries to lure her out with toys and food. I told G not to worry, that in a day or two she'll be tripping over her every time she turns around!