Sunday, September 30, 2007

My weekend, let me show you it

This is going to be one of those dull "life" entries, so bail out now if that sort of thing bores you ...

On Saturday morning, we went to the annual children's book festival, which is really like a small fair minus the rides and plus lots of books. G got her hair sprayed bright green and yellow; we watched a demonstration with local wild animals; she listened to a storyteller for a bit; and we bought some books, including The Fabulous Story of Fashion, which is actually about clothing through history and is much more educational than it sounds. G had an excellent time and cheerfully agreed to spend her own money on everything she wanted other than the books -- she even paid a buck for me to get three minutes in a massage chair.

After a couple of hours, we left the festival and went to the mall. This is rare, as I'm not a big mall person, but G has no long-sleeved shirts and I knew there was a sale at G*p Kids, so we went. We shopped -- she scored a skirt, four shirts and a scarf -- had lunch in the food court, and then finished up by visiting the play area, where she had a good time despite looking like Gulliver among the Lilliputians.

On a side note, I sometimes see other parents giving me the Glare o' Doom when I let G play in those places, and I know I would have done the same thing when G was a toddler and I was scared of big, rough kids with stompy feet. But it isn't G's fault that she's the size she is: she may be as tall as an 11-year-old and often mistaken for one, but she's only eight, and she already spends a lot of time being disappointed when clothes and rides and other things that are appropriate to her age are too small for her. (She just got a DVD that came with a bracelet, and she couldn't wear it because it was sized for a child and her wrist is as big as mine.) If she still has fun playing in a mall playground, I'm not going to tell her she can't, as long as she's careful around the smaller kids. Which she is.

So after all the shopping and festival-ing yesterday, we were lazy this morning. We made blueberry muffins for breakfast and managed to eat the entire tin of them between us (they were small, I swear) and didn't really get dressed until noon. Once we were finally ready for the day, we picked up food for lunch and took it to the park to eat, and then G spent about an hour playing on the equipment and climbing "her" tree, which she's decided is the Faraway Tree, from the Enid Blyton book of the same name. Afterward, we came home and made some fall/Halloween decorations for the inside of our front door, and here they are:



I was thinking, both yesterday at the book festival and today while I was cutting out paper leaves, that G and I have both come a long way since this time last year. When we went to the same festival last year, P had been dead for just under three months, and we'd been living in this place for about three or four weeks. G, normally a well-behaved kid, was reacting to all the chaos by being whiny, argumentative and impossible to deal with, and as for me, I felt certifiably insane more often than not. I couldn't take pleasure in anything, whether it was a festival or a walk in the park, and the thought of the upcoming holidays didn't make me want to decorate; it made me want to find a rock and hide under it.

Now, a year later, I may still be far from happy -- I actually don't expect ever to be happy again in the way I used to be -- but I've achieved some sort of equilibrium, and no longer feel as if I'm phoning everything in from another planet. At the very least, I'm capable of enjoying a nice, peaceful weekend with G. That's progress, and I'll take it gladly.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Catherine vs. the Evil Noise

Catherine is a very quiet cat. Pretty much the only time she ever meows is when she's "captured" a toy and is bringing it to me like prey: I hear a series of meows, getting closer, and then she comes round the corner or down the stairs with a jingle ball or catnip mouse in her mouth, drops it near me, and purrs and head-butts me while I praise her.

So at 2:00 this morning, the smoke alarm in our upstairs hallway started making that intermittent beep that smoke alarms make when they need new batteries. It woke up G, who appeared in my room to complain that "there's a noise and I can't sleep." It also really bothered Catherine, who spent the next several hours prowling the hallway, monitoring the situation. And now that it's stopped, Catherine seems to think she's singlehandedly responsible for having defeated it. I keep hearing the loud "prey presentation" meow from the hallway, and when I go out there, she's sitting directly under the smoke alarm, looking up at it as if to say, "I've got you cornered!" Then when she sees me, she runs over, purring and wanting to be petted.

I wish I knew what was going on in her furry little brain!

Also, just for kicks, here's Catherine babysitting some of G's Polly Pockets:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How to know your oven is hot enough

When you open the oven door to check on what you're baking, and the blast of heat melts your mascara in a flash and glues your eyelids together, it's probably ready.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Poop Watch 2007: The Perfect Poop

Natasha (hi, Natasha!) reminded me that I hadn't posted the conclusion to last weekend's thread-eating saga. So, here it is:

When last we spoke, the vet had just advised me to give Malcolm a laxative to get things moving, as it were. Frankly, the idea of a cat laxative made me turn green, so I decided to wait instead.

So I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After a few hours, the piece of thread that had been hanging out disappeared, but didn't appear in the litter box. This was a mystery. Had he pulled it out with his teeth while grooming? Had it been sucked back up by reverse peristalsis? Why was I so obsessed with the functioning of a cat's sphincter?

I waited some more, and kept checking for signs of thread. I had to do it when G wasn't around -- she was already worried enough as it was -- so every time she left the room, I lifted up his tail for a quick peek.

Finally, at 4:30 the following afternoon, I looked in the litter box, and there it was: that stupid red thread. Morbid curiosity made me put on a pair of gloves and disentangle it from what it was, uh, stuck in, and it turned out to be at least a foot and a half long. Not only that, it had been totally unchanged by its passage through the cat; I could have washed it off and used it to sew on a button. (I didn't.) When I went looking for the thread-eater to make sure he was all right, I found him lounging on G's bed, purring and cleaning his paws, totally oblivious to all the drama he'd caused.

I'm not sure if there's a moral to this story, except possibly that you don't always get a prize when you pull a string. :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Riddle me this

How is it that I can lose three pounds in seven days of strict dieting, and then gain it all back in one day of normal, not-especially-indulgent eating?

Is this not a mathematical impossibility? If 3,500 calories = one pound, then I would have had to consume 10,500 calories, in addition to the 1,000 or so calories required to sustain my life, to gain those three pounds back. I like to think I would have noticed myself eating 10,500 extra calories in one day. For example, if I'd singlehandedly eaten one of these:



Well, I don't think that could have escaped my attention, not least because I would have wanted to smoke a cigarette and cuddle with the empty plate afterward. It would have been that good.

Anyway, the point here is that I didn't eat an entire Black Forest cake. I didn't eat anything untoward at all. You can't tell me it was the extra handful of sugar-snap peas that put those three pounds back on the scale. But there they are, and here I am, once again unable to zip up my pants without lying down on the bed.

I am not pleased. Not pleased at all.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yes, your majesty

This morning we went out and bought G's Halloween costume.

Since then, I have been playing hostess to Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.

Cleopatra isn't a bad Queen, but she's a bit imperious and sadly ignorant of the things of modern life. She has consented to partake of the foreign delicacy we call "ramen," and since I'm unfortunately short on dancing girls and musicians to entertain her during her repast, she's making do with an episode of the Backyardigans. It's raining today, and she just looked out the window and commented, "Ah, this must be the wet season."

Lucky for her we don't live too close to the banks of the Nile.

Another day, another life lesson

G and I are discussing the upcoming school photos, and I tell her that she absolutely has to let me do something to tame her hair for the occasion. She fires back that she doesn't want to have a hairstyle because someone might laugh at it.

Me: So what? If someone really wants to laugh at you, they'll find something to laugh at no matter what you do, so you might as well do what you want. I mean, I could laugh at those people over there for turning the sprinklers on in their yard if I felt like it.

G: But that's not funny.

Me: My point exactly. Most of the time when kids laugh at each other for something, like wearing glasses for example, it's because they want to be mean, not because it's funny.

G (indignant): Wearing glasses isn't funny at all! S wears glasses and she's my friend.

Me: Right. She needs them to see. There's nothing funny about that.

G: Well, if anyone ever laughed at her, I'd tower over them [note: G is very tall and has at least half a head on your average third-grader] and I'd say "Leave my friend alone!" And I'd be like a giant cat and they'd be like scared little mice.

Me: In that case, kitty, you have nothing to worry about if I do something with your crazy messy hair for picture day.

G: I guess not.

Whew. On balance, I'd say parenting was easier when all I had to do was change diapers and stop her from eating dirt ... this logic stuff is exhausting!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Vital as breathing

Since P died, I've fallen into a bad habit of letting G turn on the television when we get home and leave it on all evening. I do it because it keeps her occupied while I cook dinner and get stuff done around the house, but it really just starts a cascade of problems with homework and bathing and bedtime. She ends up going to bed too late, and then I can't get her out of bed in the morning and she's late to school. It's not quite three weeks into the year, and she's been late four times, which means that any day now I'm going to get a letter from the school scolding me about it. And I already have enough stress in my life without that, thanks very much.

So yesterday morning, as we were on the way to school (late), I told her that obviously she's not getting enough sleep, so from now on, every time I can't get her up in the morning, she will come home that night and eat, do homework, take a shower and go straight to bed -- no TV. It didn't seem to bother her at the time, but when we got home last night and she realized that I actually meant it, she had a FIT.

G: Can't I even watch one thing?
Me: No.
G: Not even one short show?
Me: No.
G (starts to cry): But I have a natural instinct to watch TV!
Me (turning away so she can't see me snorting at that): Sorry. I said no TV, so no TV.
G: I can't eat without TV! I can't LIVE without TV!
Me: You'll be fine.
G: (sobbing) If you won't let me watch TV, then I won't eat dinner.
Me: Well, that's your choice, but you sure are going to be sad and hungry while I eat this delicious spaghetti.
G: I might starve to death!
Me: Actually, it takes about two weeks of not eating to starve to death. Do you want sprinkle cheese on yours?
G (sullenly): Yes please.

She complained off and on for a while after that, but she did her homework and took a shower and was reading in bed by 8 p.m. And this morning she got up with no fuss and made it to school on time. I think I may have won a battle there.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Adventures of Stickman, or Vanessa Can't Draw

While talking to a friend a week or so ago, I suddenly remembered the series of stories I made up when I was teaching G to read word endings and vowel/consonant blends. They all starred a character called Stickman (original, I know) and grew to feature an entire stick-figure cast, including Stick Woman, Stick Boy, Stick Girl, and Stick Dog, who bore a strong resemblance to Zero from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I thought I'd scanned some of them, and a quick poke through my photo album revealed that I had. So I'm going to share one here, if only to amuse you all with my incredibly poor drawing skills:













You'll notice that the stick family is vegetarian, like us. Propaganda? Maybe, but hey, my fictional universe, my rules!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Poop Watch 2007

The other night around 2 a.m., I caught Malcolm trying to eat a long piece of thread off a quilt stored under my bed. I got it away from him, but thought I saw another piece dangling from his mouth. So I chased after him to get a better look, and he ran under G's bed and hid. Hoping that I'd been seeing things, or if not, that he'd just chew it for a while and spit it out, I let him go.

Fast-forward to this morning, when G banged on the bathroom door while I was in the shower to report, "Mommmmm, there's a string hanging out of Malcolm's butt!"

Oh God.

I put on a towel and checked, and yep, it was that good old red thread, with about two inches of it dangling from his backside. I gave it a very gentle pull and another inch slid out, but that was it. Then I paged the vet and had a rather embarrassing conversation ("Hello? Yes, there's a thread hanging out of my cat's ass.") and he told me that my best option, seeing as the cat is eating and running around and acting normal, is to wait and see if it comes out the next time he visits the litter box. He also suggested that I might want to give him a laxative, which sounds like a recipe for disaster, but I'm considering it.

For an alley cat I got for free, Malcolm is shaping up to be a very expensive pet. We've had him for 10 months, and in that time he's chewed through $560 worth of laptop cords (a habit he seems to have given up, thank goodness), banged up his eye and needed $200 worth of treatment and medication, and now, if this thread doesn't magically emerge on a tidal wave of poo, he'll be back at the vet for who knows what kind of high-tech thread-removing procedure. I've really got to revisit that pet insurance I was looking at a couple of months ago.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Life in fast-forward

Sometime during the course of this week, I realized how incredibly, overwhelmingly tired I am. It's not even physical fatigue, though I've had awful insomnia lately and could certainly use a good night's sleep. It's just that the summer was so stressful, what with childcare problems and money problems and the anniversary of P's death and all the rest of it, that I'm all worn out and used up. Bottom of the barrel. Needle on empty. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

On top of that, I've been feeling old -- not in a "Woe, I'm not a teenager anymore" way, but in a weary way. I'll be 36 in a couple of months, and I feel as if I've already lived an entire lifetime: at an age when some people are just starting to think about getting married and having babies, I've already had a complete marriage from beginning to end, and when G turns 9 in January, I'll be halfway through my child-raising years. I feel practically old enough to retire. What am I supposed to do about that?

I really, really need some rest.

The last time I did sleep well, a few weeks ago now, I had the most vivid dream about P. I saw him, said something like "Oh, you've come for a visit," and went over to hug him, and when I did that, I put my face in his neck and sniffed him. For as long as I knew him, he had this fantastic scent that seemed to come right out of his skin -- it was a bit like freshly baked bread and always made me think of good things to eat -- and I could actually smell it in the dream. I don't think I've ever dreamt of a scent before, but there it was. Strange, but also wonderful in a way.

More conversations with G

G: Did you know that wolves can have from one to 11 puppies at a time?
Me: Wow. I'll bet the mother wolf would be really tired looking after 11 puppies.
G: Yeah, she'd be all, "Down, Skippy! Down! Amanda -- no!"
Me: Would wolf cubs be called Skippy and Amanda?
G: Maybe.
---

G (trying and failing to get out of the car while carrying a backpack, a book, a magazine, a handful of toys and a drink): I have too much stuff!
Me: I know. It's the sad dilemma of the modern child.
G: Mommmm. HELP me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Defeated by logistics

It's midnight, and I haven't had any dinner. This is because I didn't have any lunch either, so when G and I were driving home from the supermarket after work, I was starving and ate a piece of the French bread we'd just bought. (You pretty much have to have least one piece of French bread before G gets to it, because she only likes the soft insides and will neatly eviscerate the entire loaf when no one is looking, so when you go to have some there will be nothing but a sad old hollowed-out crust.) Since I was full of bread, I didn't want any dinner at dinnertime, and then I accidentally fell asleep on the sofa while G was doing her homework, and when I woke up, it was time to put her to bed. By the time she was all bathed and tooth-brushed and read to and asleep, it was 10:30, and now here I am, wondering whether I should bother to make myself some food at this hour, or just go to bed and eat in the morning.

Life is so complicated.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

At least she's got standards

So G is perusing the selection of potential Halloween costumes at her favorite Web site, Costume Supercenter. She's scrolling through the witch outfits when I hear this:

G: Oooh, how about this one? No ... wait. It's too skanky. Never mind.

I don't know whether I should be embarrassed that she knows what "skanky" means (a word she learned from me, as I've used it in the past to describe the forbidden Bratz dolls) or proud that she recognizes inappropriate attire and doesn't want to wear it (she was right; it was skanky).

I love having a girl, but man, these fashion issues are unsettling!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Quick update

1. G started third grade on Tuesday. She's thrilled to be back with her friends and excited about some of the things they'll be learning this year, but she's less than enthused about doing homework again. Last night, while staring down at her half-finished math paper, she muttered "I wish someone would just come and do this for me," which funnily enough is the way I feel about most of the work I have to do.

2. It's been nine weeks since G got her ears pierced, but we haven't been able to take the starter earrings out because both piercings are infected. I've been drowning them in peroxide all week, and they've improved, but the left one still looks so funky that I made an appointment for her doctor to check it out tomorrow. I probably wouldn't have, but I made the mistake of Googling some (frankly disgusting) pictures of piercings gone wrong, and now I'm paranoid. Also, I'm bemused by some of the body parts people choose to pierce. Ears, noses and navels I can understand, but why would you want a two-inch steel bar through the nape of your neck? It boggles the mind.

3. I finally wrote to the insurance company to remove the car I don't own anymore from my policy, and while I was at it, I requested to have P removed as an authorized driver. You would think that after 14 months, those moments wouldn't sting anymore, but they still do. To add insult to injury, my premium went down a grand total of ... wait for it ... $7 a month. I hope they haven't decided to start billing me as "single," or worse yet, "divorced." I hate that. I am not single OR divorced.

4. Even though I don't like T-shirts, I would happily wear any of these: Cinco de Mayo, Faux Paw, Recipe For Disaster, Missouri Loves Company.

5. Fridays are pizza days at G's school, which means I don't have to pack a lunch tonight. Yay! But, I have no cash and will have to send her off with a Baggie full of change to pay for her pizza. Boo.

Wow, this was a really boring post. Sorry about that.