Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ghosts of Christmas past, present, future

Lap, lap, lap …

"The cat is drinking out of the tree water again," shouts Ittybit in mock exasperation.

"CAT! Dinking! War! Gan," yells her tiny echo.

It is kitty’s first Christmas, and because of this each day when I get home I take the low-hung ornaments from the floor and position them higher on our evergreen.

"Trees like to share," I say, thanking a higher power for the fact that I haven’t come home to find the Frasier fir upended, ornaments smashed and littered like landmines in the family room.

It is enough work to wrestle the thing into its stand and a straight position. Having to secure it in place with fishing line and duct tape would just dampen the joy of the season.

"Lap, lap, lap."

Our dear, old, incontinent dog, who has been selectively feigning deafness for the past 15 years, perks up.

She loves the cat.

I shouldn’t tell you this, because it goes against the natural order of her sensibilities as a life-long dog’s dog, but she REALLY loves the cat.

She would knock the kids over to protect the little black feline.

She also loves cat toys and cat food and all manner of cat antics that are surprisingly fun to watch.

Ok … watching the cat all hunkered down in front of the cabinet of the kitchen sink waiting for mice to emerge is similar to watching paint dry, but the other things … the misjudging distances as the feline flies across the room, from one ledge and *almost* to another, makes the dog giggle just a tiny bit. I can tell.

It’s also a hoot when the furry little beast ping-pongs off the window in a failed attempt to catch a bird in the yard.

Not that I’m laughing.

It’s hard to laugh when I look at the old girl these days.

Not long after we decorated the tree, her hind legs gave up their efforts to make the nightly trek upstairs.

Her incessant barking, however, let us know she was hostile and that she considered these appendages traitors. I know she’s feeling her age, and that this very well may be her last Christmas with us.

My eyes sting just typing that out.

This is a dog, you see, that exemplifies my life. She wasn’t the cutest in the litter. She wasn’t particularly friendly or social. But she was sensitive and loyal. And smart.

She could open doors, steal food without jingling her collar, she always figured things out.

She never really seemed like a dog so much as an annoying little brother who had diabolical plans for your best toys … And who always made it up to you.

"Lap, lap, lap."

In a flash, the dog is on her feet and chasing the cat from under the tree. Around the dining table they go. The dog as fast as she can, the cat slower than usual. Soon the dog has the cat pinned — neck to floor — in the living room. An imaginary referee counts to 10, and she releases the now soggy cat.

There’s no barking, no hissing, no hard feelings.

In a few minutes, when I look at the tree, the two of them are laying underneath it, looking up.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lions and tires and kitten hats, oh my

The phone rang at 6 a.m.

I bolted upright in bed and immediately thought of Olympia Dukakis.

"Who’s Dead?" I growled in my best Brooklyneese.


Turns out the school day was killed by six inches of snow.

When I was a little kid, a person had to listen to the radio for what seemed like hours before they knew for sure whether they’d have to get out of their pajamas and slog to the bus.

"I think they closed the school … but there was static around the Es … I have to listen as it loops around again."

Television stations got into the school closing game when I was a tweenager, and we fixed our eyes on the ticker that traveled across the bottom of the screen as the names of the districts whizzed past faster than credits on a Disney animated movie.

It occurs to me that the death of this particular school day harbors another tiny demise: My kid will probably never bound into my room whooping and hollering that school is cancelled (YIPPEE!!).

I’ll be telling her about her time off once I get my breathing in check after the shock of a pre-dawn phone call.

It also occurs to me that being an adult on the first snow day of the season is about as fun as shoveling heavy, wet snow uphill in bare feet.

Not only do you have to dig yourself out and get to work, but now you have to get a sitter, fight your way through snow drifts the school bus wouldn’t risk AND then wait in long lines to get your winter tires changed over with the others who had bet Climate Change would make that little chore obsolete this year.

While the kids are eating snow off the car (DON’T EAT SNOW OFF THE CAR) you stand there with your snow brush dusting the windshield off into your shoes.

You think you should maybe wear boots, but then you’d just have to go back in the house.

"GO BACK AND GET YOUR BOOTS" your mom-voice chastises you. But as an adult, you ignore it.

Your kids however, look a few feet up from the footwear and wonder at what’s not on your cranium.

"Mommy? Where’s your hat?"

"Oh … I don’t know. … No time for that now. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go."

She hands you a black, fleece hat with pink ears and tells you can wear it. She’s got an extra one.

You thank her and take it, putting it into your pocket "for later," you tell her.

It will be alright. You’ll get the snows, you’ll have greater traction. It will be warm in the car and you will just go from there into a warm building. Everything will be fine.

Your car tire won’t blow out on the highway right after you get the tires changed.

You won’t be stuck by the side of an interstate in foot-high drifts as you wait for your husband to come and rescue you your Knight in Carhart coverall armor.

No. That NEVER happens.

But as you are standing by the side of that road with snow seeping into your shoes, you can be assured that when the police cruiser arrives to make sure your are OK (and that you have assistance on the way) you may not have the proper footwear but you will have a stylish hat.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In sibling rivalry, batteries always included

I don’t care what implements of torture you use — squeaky mice, feather ticklers, New Bark Times — no one is going to get me to buy Christmas presents for our pooch.

Likewise, I will not cave to the pressure of pet parenthood and procure Chi-chi-chi-chia Cat Grass as a yuletide gift for our resident kitten, either.

Ok. Ok. So I bought her a holiday costume that will make our furry Felion look like a tiny reindeer (should she retract her claws long enough for me to Velcro the thing around her noggin and snap a picture) but that’s really a present for me. I draw the line at presents for pets.

Not when the pair we harbor will have spent the majority of the month of December ransacking the house, toppling the tree and unwrapping the presents they find underneath.


Sure, pets are an important part of our household, but I’m not showing my love for them by hanging a tiny red mittens or faux fur green paws next to the kids’ stockings and filling them with raw hide and catnip mice. It’s just too dangerous. One might end up mixing human and animal treats.

I kid you not, there are dog treats out there dressed up as chocolates and gingerbread people that would fool any dedicated sweet tooth.

Don't believe me? Check out and get a load of their "Wolfhound Clusters."

I am the grinch. I know.

My sister, on the other hand, is the kind-hearted animal lover who, as Santa Claws, has been known to wake up early on Christmas morning and brave icy temperatures just to bring horses at her favorite riding stable a few Christmas carrots. Not to mention shelling out big bucks to bring our dog a raw hide bone that would choke a brontosaurus.

She would also be the one who is genetically programmed to seek out and purchase the most annoying toys for the non-furry creatures in our household for whom she plays Auntie Claus. Since she has no children of her own she has the advantage of ineffective retaliation.

I'd especially like to thank her for the sweet little cheer leading doll that mechanically bleats out something I can't quite understand but think may be a little “blue,” if you know what I mean.

I don't know.

I DO know, however, that as The ParentTM, not to mention Younger Sister, it is my job to complain bitterly about the gifts and to try and persuade her to seek out educational toys. ... Quiet, non-messy educational toys.

You know. ... To make my life easier.

Of course I roll my eyes a little when I see the full-sized keyboard, complete with disco, hip-hop and a-tonal jazz presets.

You would, too, if for the next six months or until the batteries prematurely stop working (or inexplicably disappear all together) the only noise you hear will be wafting out from the toy synthesizer.

She never fails. As the kids unwrap the precious contraband, I can see on my sister's face that she's thinking the same thing.

All season long she plots. All season long I ponder what she's plotting.

But all that's on the outside. On the inside I'm thinking ... I would have bought that nightmare of a gift, too, if I were Auntie Claus.

We all have our roles to play. Mine, until the sun shines on our Christmas morning, anyway, will be practicing my game face for what she'll come up with next. I'm pretty sure I'm ready.

But if the gift du jour turns out to be a pipe organ for cats that plays 'Who Let The Dog's Out," she's toast next year.

I may even have to offer her a delightful little truffle, strangely named "Wolfhound Clusters."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sleeping, awakening through the night

I vaguely remember the last time I slept through the night.

It was the last Saturday in November.

It was a fluke made possible by a stomach bug and my husband’s pity.

Prior to that, the last time I recall sleeping six consecutive hours was a few weeks before The Champ was born.

Lately my state of sleep deprivation has been so horrible, I've actually begun to miss the real baby baby-days of maternity leave. Back then naps just seemed constant and an appropriate amount of sleep could be achieved by collecting it throughout a 24-hour cycle.

The night routine these days, however, goes something like this:

6 p.m. Dinner.

7 p.m. Bath. Act out a pre-apocalyptic version of Waterworld using two wooden salad bowl "boats" and three bendy straws. Brush Teeth. Dress for bed. (No one is really sure which chore is done in which order as most of the time pajamas are wet).

8 p.m. Reading.

8:30 p.m.

8:30 until ?
Mom (sometimes dad) sleeps in toddler bed until sleep sets in. Could be five minutes could be an hour and five minutes. It's a crapshoot.

10 p.m.
(regardless of when child fell asleep) Parent will unpretzel them self from the sleep position made famous by a sloth in the Movie Ice Age, and tiptoe downstairs to finish one of 3,000 ordinary household chores that have piled up.

10 p.m. and two seconds
Itty-bitty will awake and ask for water ... or why the parent trying to sneak away down the stairs didn't stop in and say a final "good night."

10:30 p.m. Parent who may (or may not) have finished washing the dishes will tiptoe back upstairs and go to bed.

10:35 p.m. Dog will bark at the bottom of the stairs until one of two adult humans gets out of bed and shows the dog that the gate HAS, in fact, been left open.

11 p.m. Dog will finally settle down after walking around the second floor, looking for toilets to drink out of and food to eat.

11:05 p.m. Dog will bolt up for no reason and run to the other side of the room.

11:30 p.m. Dog will resettle.

Between midnight and 1 a.m.
The Champ will wake up and start crying. He will not be consoled.

1:15 a.m. The parent who tried to get him back to sleep will bring him to bed.

1:30 a.m. The Champ will sleep.

2 a.m., 2:30 a.m., 2:45 a.m., 3 a.m., 3:15 a.m.
The Champ will want to nurse.

On alternating days of the week, which might potentially line up with the tides of the moon, the dog will become incontinent and require the work of a Haz-Mat team during the above-mentioned hours as well. (Last night was one such occasion. I'll spare you the details*.)

*You are welcome.*

4 a.m. The cat will crawl into the mom's hair and lay down.

4:01 a.m. through 5:30 a.m. Mom will try to get the cat to sleep on the dad while simultaneously trying to get The Champ to fall asleep.

She will lose.

5:30 a.m. through 6 a.m. The boy will want to nurse.

6:30 a.m. until 7 a.m. The non-sleeping boy will want to sleep.

7 a.m. The mother - who no longer understands herself when she speaks — will get up, untangle the cat from her hair and try to take a shower.

7:05 a.m. The hot shower and warm suds will make the mother feel somewhat human again. She may even sing.

7:08 a.m.
Ittybit — all tousle-haired and unintending – will sneak into the bathroom and sit quietly on the commode. She will say 'Good morning, mommy' and then will flush the toilet. Singing will stop.

And thus begins another day.