Tag Archives: daughters

He wishes I were his ninja girlfriend.


Ah. If only I were available; and if only he were HIM, which he’s not, since HE is not HERE, and HE … well, that’s another blog post, and frankly, none of your beeswax, anyway.

Still. It was nice – I think – being called a ninja.

Considering when I met him, I was shouting: “You suck!” at him.

I had an excuse. The house in which I live here in California is a virtual palace: in addition to all the black leather furniture, the stone floors, the decks festooning every outdoor wall, and the pool house – which houses, ha-ha, not only an in-ground pool and Jacuzzi, but also a pool table – AND an arcade, an air hockey table, a fuzball table, and other fun-fun-fun activities…

… but also the crappiest television service I’ve ever endured.

This would NOT be so terrible if I did not have two daughters, 13, and 10, who live with me in tranquil nowhere, and when they are bored, expecting me to be “Julie McCoy, their cruise director,” because apparently horses to ride, miniature horses to visit, three and half-acres (with a pond) to stroll around on, and the aforementioned Pool House of Joy are not QUITE as entertaining as, say, iCarly, or SpongeBob.

So there were actually two gentlemen – and gentlemen they were, indeed, to suffer such abuse at the hands of a tiny, leather-clad loudmouth, when all they really did was politely inquire:

“Excuse me: may we ask what service you use for your TV?”

Which triggered extreme wrath indeed, and the following blast, when I spotted their spiffy little “DirectTV” shirts.

“I have DirectTV, and you SUCK,” I said.

Loudly.

Maybe, kinda, too loudly.

To their credit, they were shocked and dismayed, instead of outraged and defensive, which, also frankly, (apparently Today’s Word Of The Day) would have been MY reaction.

The tall, blonde DirectTV guy, about six feet, six inches tall – putting him at about a foot and a half taller than myself,  bent slightly over me apologetically, with a dash of defensiveness.

“Well,” he said, “all you had to do was call 1-800-DIRECTTV.”

Still enraged, I stared back, eye to, well, chest. “How would I KNOW that? Is it on the screen, at night, when it would be a smart time to LET me know? When I might be inclined to order? Like I said. You SUCK.”

His babyface fell.  “You can call them right NOW,” Blonde Jock suggested helpfully.

“YOU call,” I dared him, crossing my arms over my chest.

Charmingly, he took my dare.

“I will,” he said, pulling out his flip phone.

And he DID.

(Later, the ex-footballer confessed, after we became Lifelong Friends For Five Minutes, he’d always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance. “Good choice,” I advised him, “You’ll get laid for the rest of your life.”)

Between the two of them, we got my service upgraded to the next level, easily and quickly. The only potential glitch was the customer service phone rep was Southern, and started out a little brusque, but that was easily dispatched when I laid on the Georgia sugar: that is, calling him “sir” (he was obviously older than I was) and deliberately mentioning my other home in Rocky Plains.

Amazing how things go smoother south of the Mason-Dixon line when you’re “from around there.”

It WAS funny watching the DirectTV Duo listen to me switch up accents quicker – and way better – than Angelina Jolie or Meryl Streep.

By now, we were all great friends; I’d pulled out my iPhone with the graffiti cover for admiration, as well as my ever-present Leatherman, for further admiration. (Blonde Jock is planning to get the iPhone soon, as was intrigued with my mirrored privacy cover.)

And, of course, anyone with a penis is always intrigued by a genuine Leatherman.

(If you don’t know what the Leatherman tool is, http://www.leatherman.com/)

ANYWAY…

After show and tell, the conversation turned to the fact I’d just been run over by a truck, which was true.

“So, you’re like, a ninja,” said one of them, in an impressed whisper.

Ninja? Aren’t ALL moms?

“I wish you were MY girlfriend,” he said, in a sort of awestruck tone. “Or that you could train my NEXT girlfriend.”

Thinking this would be a good time for me to mount my white steed Silver and “Hi-Ho” off into the sunset, since any time any conversation veers even remotely into the territory of “can I have your number?” or “girlfriend” or even “what’s your name?” I tend to get a bit skittish, I laughed and said there was fudge calling me at the front of the store (which indeed there was) and waved good-bye – where, in fact, the sistah selling the chocolate pound of wonder and delight even walked me to the very front of the line. How cool is that?

Ninja?

Nah. Just a woman, following the Secret, Closely-Guarded Girl Manual.

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Love, Loss and Luck in Gotham City.


batsignalEvening in Gotham City.

No crime spree that we know of yet, but you can never call it quiet in this section of town. Darkish, yes, because here in the Batcave we’re half-underground: enough to let the daylight in, but once yon sun calls it quits, there’s no doubt about it: darkness rises.

Smoke rises, too, and all but one of us does, so the two windows – screenless, natch – are open a crack, whether the weather, so bring thou a sweater (or grab one of the skull-adorned hoodies tossed all over the place) and so, too, the studio tends to have a few more visitors: of the genus Insecta.

Tonight we tried to get Takeshi to summon his Japanese Ninja Warrior Side and decimate a 3-inch Something that strongly resembled a Flying Dragon, but he was deeply involved in summoning his Japanese Zen Peaceful Monk Side, instead.

Also, Takeshi has a new laptop, and the password to my wireless network, so there’s a strong possibility that he was summoning his Japanese Pokémon Cheat Hack side, too. I didn’t look, so I can’t say for sure. As the Zen parable, “The Farmer’s Luck” goes: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

Aris and Psycho Cherry are currently sharing a MacBook, and were therefore IM-ing and DJ-ing at the same time, which was terrific for me, since when they AREN’T here, I’m usually too focused on what I’m doing to remember even to launch my iTunes, despite the icon in the dock of my own MacBookPro staring me right smack in the face.

Really.

No, really.

That peppy little CD with the blue music notes on it, just leers at me, going: “Uh, hello? Musician? Tunes?” Then shakes its digital little head at me, as if I am hopeless.

But when Aris and Psycho Cherry are here, the ambiance changes radically from a simple one-human digital sweatshop to a working party of discussion and delight. My daughters – who refer reverently to my posse as “The Cool People” – love it. Everyone gets magically fed, watered, intellectually stimulated, and entertained.

Those who grace my studio cherish my daughters, too, as mutually as my daughters cherish them: this past week, when my youngest’s much-beloved, much-too-young cat died suddenly, my daughter overheard them laughing in the Batcave as she and I were upstairs, preparing for the backyard funeral.

“Tell them they don’t have to come,” my 10-year-old said, fighting the most recent round of tears. “They sound so happy. I don’t want to make them come to a sad funeral.”

At that point, my own throat started to close.

Of my two daughters, the oldest, would throw herself in front of a train for you if ever you needed it, but from her manner, her bearing and her Dorothy Parker wit, you’d never know it.

My youngest? Her devastating but selfish charm would allow her to skip lightly over your bleeding body and make you want to thank her for it.

Ergo, lump in my throat.

Down with message went I to Batcave.

Up I returned: No way. All for one, one for all.

The ragged gypsy band of us lined up at the back fence grave, my youngest as “chief mourner,” asking only for a moment of silence in Toufou’s honor.

We all took turns trying to console the little one, especially Aris and myself, who have each suffered private losses recently; losses the little one could not yet understand, yet still our freshly-wounded hearts bled for her, our own scars only just beginning to form.

We resonated like tuning forks for her, grief upon grief, vibrations that we knew would lessen with time. Could the little one be made to understand? That time, and thankfulness, were all that ever help, in the end?

Time.

And gratitude.

“Gratitude?” My youngest was totally confused.

“Look around you,” I whispered into her silken, golden brown hair, as she wept into my lap. “Look at all the people who love you. Be thankful, even though right now you can’t be happy.”

“But I want Toufou,” she protested.

“You’ll have Toufou as long as you love and remember her,” I said.

“I can’t see her. I can’t talk to her. I can’t touch her. It’s not enough,” she said.

“Not now,” I said. “But eventually, it will be.”

It will have to be, I thought, my own heart quickening a bit.

“Eventually doesn’t come soon enough.”

“It never does, darling,” I said, “but that’s what Gotham City is here for.”

We fell asleep together for the next few nights on the futon in the Batcave, hanging on to each other, each, alternately mourning, alternately celebrating, the love of each other, basking in the glory of our friendships, the sunshine, the comfort of darkness, and the hope of time.

 

 

The Farmer’s Luck

A Zen Parable

Once there was a farmer whose horse ran away.

All the village came to him: “What terrible luck!” they said.

The farmer calmly said: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

The next day, the horse returned — with another horse.

All the village came to him: “What wonderful luck!” they said.

The farmer calmly said: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

The farmer’s son tried to ride the second horse — and broke his leg.

All the village came to him: “What terrible luck!” they said.

The farmer calmly said: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

The country was at war, and the next day, the army came to collect young men to fight: all but the farmer’s son — whose leg was broken.

All the village came to him: “What wonderful luck!” they said.

The farmer calmly said: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

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The REAL serpent in the garden


 

C'mon, you know you want to.

C'mon, you know you want to.

So the holidays are (sort of) over, and my 12-year-old and I are the only ones up and around, clunking about, kicking around holiday debris, enjoying some quality(?) time together, here, on this Saturday morning, around 10-ish, after Christmas.

 

I’m losing a little bit of patience, however, because I kind of thought we were past the baby-talk stage. Never did I talk to my kids in baby talk. I wanted them to learn to actually say “bottle,” not “bah-bah,” so that’s what I would say to them.

Therefore, they learned to speak, not babble, except for my youngest, who persisted in calling her older sister “Bluh-luh” for the longest time – a sound which doesn’t remotely resemble her true name, which begins with a vowel. Still, it helped – and I felt far less like a fool as I chatted endlessly and hopefully at strollers with belted-in droolers. Yeah, I’m really not a baby person. I just had them, and as I tell them both, I like them better and better the older they get.

I take my duty seriously, though, to teach them. Them, at least – not the whole world. The rest of the world, I simply catalog as stupid, smart or somewhere in between, and I tolerate both with equanimity and relative good humor. The stupid make good fodder for this blog. The smart entertain and teach me – though as I often remind my kids, anyone, however stupid, can teach you something.

Today, however, I felt obligated to teach my 12-year-old.

“Mom, where does ‘I’m not my brother’s keeper’ come from?”

Aghast at my own failing to instill any kind of background in the study of religion, however comparative, I was momentarily speechless. Doesn’t EVERYONE know that? Doesn’t everyone somehow assimilate the story of Cain and Abel?

Apparently not.

Having yanked the poor child out of religious education after she attempted to throw herself from a moving car, rather than endure the misery of Roman Catholic Confession, I realized my child was suffering from large gaps in her education.

“Honey, I’ll tell you what one of my favorite professors in college told me. No educated person has NOT read the entire Bible.”

“WHAT?” she gasped. “The whole THING?”

“Not at a single sitting, goof,” I laughed. “But fear not. It’s just a clump of small books, strung together. You don’t even have to read it in order.”

“Moooom…”

I turned stern. “It’s shorter than ‘Twilight.’ ”  Then I softened. “Come on. I’ll read some to you.”

We read the story of Cain and Abel, and then, for background, we started on the Creation story, which led to some trouble before I even cracked the first “Let there be light.”

I began to mutter something about “Creationists” equaling “lunatics,” forgetting completely that I was talking to someone I’d indoctrinated to have tolerance for all beliefs.

My lack of kindness for folks who ignore the colossal body of fossil records and massive scientific evidence in favor of a version of an earth being created that has trees springing up “bing-bing-bing” in a day really pissed her off.

That is, until I started reading it.

“Wait, Mom – a dome? God created the sky as a dome? So, what is that saying about the earth?”

“That it’s FLAT, honey.”

“So, how big is it supposed to be? And what’s beyond the dome?”

I pointed to the first paragraph. “The abyss, honey.”

We went on.

“A basin? Wait, Mom – the sea is a basin? Like a big bowl?”

I nodded.

“Wait, Mom – sea monsters?”

I nodded.

“Wait, Mom – Adam named all the animals? What, in English?”

“Well, no, wait, I don’t know. Maybe Aramaic.”

“What’s Aramaic?”

“An ancient language.”

She did get excited when the geography part started – when the river in Eden is described, and the Tigris and Euphrates are named. (She’s good at geography.)

The temptation of Eve, however, was unsettling. You see, a lot of misconceptions abound regarding that little tale – but if you read the book, as we did this morning, you learn a lot about who the snake really is.

Sure, it’s Eve who does the talking with the serpent – but it says right there in the book, Adam is with her the whole time. Does he speak up? Say anything like: “Eve – babe – is this really the best idea? Didn’t God say cheese it on that tree?” Does Adam step in front of her and say, “No thanks, leave my wife alone?”

No. The wuss does nothing except grab the apple and munch when it’s his turn.

It gets worse. When God, like an angry dad, comes strolling through the garden, where Adam and Eve are hiding behind a plant (literally), and says: “Hey! You kids, get out here. Who told you that you were naked?”

(At which point my daughter inserted: “Our EYES.”)

Adam, the rat, the snitch, the stoolie, the coward, puts his weak-ass little hand on his wife’s back and shoves her right under the bus. “SHE did it. She ate the apple, and SHE gave it to ME.”

So the Old Testament God, who is, if you notice, a rather moody thing, short-tempered and VERY big on vengeance, doles out THIS punishment:

You: woman – childbirth is going to SUCK.

You: man – no more plucking from the trees. Now you have to sweat and farm.

You: serpent – crawl on your belly, and everyone is going to hate you.

And He locks up the garden of Eden – because there’s one tree left He wants to make sure NOBODY gets a hold of: the Tree of Life. Eat that, and you’ll live forever.

God puts a revolving fiery sword and a band of cherubim at the gate. Nice. Keep in mind, when you hear cherubim, don’t think sweet little cherubs. Every single time an angel appears in sacred texts, the first thing they say isn’t what you see on the Lifetime Channel: “Hey, let me solve your problems.”

It’s: “Be not afraid.”

You think Twilight vampires are scary, exciting reading? Try the Bible. Whether you’re a believer or not, it’s a real page turner, that’s for sure.

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Blue hair. Big deal.


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Anita Renfroe makes every mother feel normal, and for that, I am absurdly grateful. Her Mom Song, featuring lyrics she’s written, set to the William Tell Overture, is racing around the world via the Internet and YouTube now, with over a million viewers and counting.

When my nine-year-old brought a box of blue hair dye to me in Rite-Aid, I took it from her, looked skeptically at the box, and handed it back to her.

“Put this right back where you found it, darling,” I said. Reaching for the box next to it, I explained: “Your hair is much too dark for this to work. You need to bleach your hair out first. Otherwise the blue won’t show.”

I consider myself a – mostly – typical mother. But later, strolling down 82nd St., she attracted attention. One little girl pointed, and stage whispered, “Mama, that girl has blue hair.

I began to wonder. Who pays attention to anything in New York City?

Blue hair. Big deal. My older daughter, at eleven, sports a rather unnatural shade of red. I’ve been letting them create their own personas since they were old enough to want their own looks.

My nine-year-old still can’t quite match her clothes reliably. Any blue in her closet: print, plaid, Pucci – combines with any other. It’s truly dazzling, but delightful.

It works: she’s always had to beat back the admirers. Not one kid in her class razzed her for the blue do, either.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it occurs to me: there’s no autopilot, but like pregnancy, despite attempts at control, this is a natural process, ongoing before we hopped into the generational stream, continuing long after we jump out.

Take pregnancy: you certainly can’t ignore it. Eat right, keep in shape (wait, hang on, that’s kind of funny), lay off alcohol and caffeine, sleep when you can (until the last furlough when sleep is impossible, because of the torpedo trying to fight its way out), and obsess over your stack of gestational books. (“What To Expect When You’re Carting Around 25 Pounds of A Kicking Stranger.”)

Still, pregnancy marches on; nature takes its course. The laissez-faire pregnant people seem to do just as well as the uptight ones do. Honestly, babies are lucky we’re not in charge of the whole complicated mess.

Same with mothering. We’re sort of wired for it. Anita Renfroe is a writer and comedian – certainly not your average mom – and yet her lyrics resonate with every living mother on the planet, typical or not.

My kids’ dad looked at me last night when I said: “I’m a typical mom,” as though I’d said: “I’m an anteater,” with an indulgent look over the top of his eyeglasses.

“Um,” he started, flailing for tact, “ya think? No.”

Having sworn a vow to avoid “Because I say so,” I have gone to near-ridiculous lengths to explain things to my kids, and to allow them freedom of choice whenever possible. Don’t want the cough medicine? Okay, cough all night. Don’t want the Tylenol? Unless your fever’s out of control, okay – suffer.

But when one of them had pneumonia, and needed antibiotics, I accessed the Internet, a medical encyclopedia and a small sketchbook to show her exactly how the lungs, the alveoli and the bronchioles were filling up with fluid and she would drown in her own mucus if she didn’t cave in and swallow the tasty bubble gum liquid.

Still, I say – more frequently than I care to admit, but hey, if Anita Renfroe can do it, then so can I: “Because I said so, that’s why.”

I have also said: “If Alexis/Rachel/Sierra jumped off the Empire State Building, would you?”

Of course, the response was: “Was she bungee-jumping? Then maybe.”

I have said: “Pick up this pigsty.”

“Don’t give me that face.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to?”

“I said no.”

“Do you know how lucky you are?”

“No one appreciates a darn thing I do around here.”

“Try cleaning toilets, then get back to me about how tough you have it.”

“Of course I’m not your friend. I’m your mother. That’s better.”

“No, you can’t call me Elizabeth.”

I have had that shuddering experience of hearing my own mother’s words come out of my mouth; words I never thought I’d say.

Once, my friend saw me beating potatoes with an electric beater. “No masher?” she said. I showed her my bent masher; she laughed, and exited the kitchen, wine glass in hand.

My mother came into the kitchen next. “Beaters?” she asked, innocently. My entire body stiffened.

“What’s wrong with beaters?” I asked defensively.

Years later, my older daughter, having just learned to scramble eggs, was at the stove.

“You know, you might have better luck with a different spatula,” I suggested.

“What’s wrong with this spatula?” she asked, defensively.

I flashed back to my own mother, and thought of all the words flowing in the generational stream, of the power a mother has over a daughter. Those words we have wired into us, that we pass onto our daughters and sons have enormous power – to hurt, to heal; to encourage or to dismay.

“You know what?” I backpedaled. “Actually, you’re doing great. They smell good – would you mind making some for me?”

She brightened up. “Sure,” she said, with the same excitement you save for a question like, “Want to go to Great Adventure?”

Best breakfast I ever ate. Full of love, life, and the history of a hundred thousand mothers and children.

Thanks, Anita Renfroe, for telling us that story in less than three minutes.

View this delightful video:

The Mom Song.

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Embarrassment? I’m Bulletproof.


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Elizabeth Williams Bushey in concertI’m a grownup. That means I can eat frosting right out of the can if I want to. (Yes, I said the CAN. Is there anyone who still makes homemade frosting? Okay, then, you probably aren’t a parent with a job. And if you ARE a parent with a job, and you still make homemade frosting, and get everything else done you’re supposed to do, then you must be my very nice, but gobmackingly perfect sister. Please forward a package of your frosting in one of your gazillion extra organizing tubs.)

I have a vehicle. I can drive to the mall anytime I please. I’ve got a cell phone, too, complete with a butterfly charm from the Icing at the Galleria. How cool am I? I have a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, and I rock with it. I even perform onstage. With a real wireless headset mike. (Testing. 1, 2, 3…) I am SOOOO AWESOME.

Oh, wait, I forgot – I’m the Dork of the Universe.

I’m someone’s mom.

Please do NOT TALK TO MY FRIENDS, MOM.

Please do NOT KISS ME, MOM.

Please DO NOT EMBARRASS ME, MOM.

Now: I, my own self, am nearly impossible to embarrass, being a rather outspoken, outgoing sort. (Anyone who sings in public doesn’t exactly have a low embarrassment threshold.) But one does have to remember what it’s like to NOT be a grownup.

We were in McDonald’s, happily enjoying our happy meals.

“Mom!” Urgency crept into my daughters’ voices – an alarm so deep I wondered for a moment if an armed gunman had entered the establishment.

I bent my head, the better to hear their agonized whispers.

“Ourfriendfromschooljustwalkedin. PLEASE DON’T EMBARRASS US.”

Okay. I don’t mind being considered a dork by my kids, even though in reality, I’m fairly cool. They’re supposed to think I’m a dork. I’m the one teaching them right from wrong, sending them to bed, etc. If they DID think I was cool, I’d be messing up.

But there I was, sitting quietly in McDonalds – a restaurant I don’t even like all that much – minding my business, not doing any of the things they generally hate, like talking to their teachers, or their friends’ parents, or performing.

I’ll admit my baser instincts got the better of me. C’mon, we all – a little bit – hate it that our kids don’t know how cool we really are, don’t we? Don’t we all wish, deep down in our black hearts, that our kids could have seen just how awesome we really are?

“You would have WANTED to be my friend when I was your age!”

Isn’t that sometimes what you want to shout? “You would have thought I was cool THEN!”

So, more than a little peeved about accusations before actions, I stood up.

“You mean, embarrass you by doing something like… dancing to no music at all?”

I began to dance. Slowly, deliberately… embarrassingly.

“Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, Mom, pleasepleaseplease sit down, I’m begging you!”

“Something like this? Is THIS what you’re afraid I might do? Or maybe…”

“MOM!”

I sat down with a smirk. “Eat your dinner. She didn’t see.” She didn’t. Naturally I was watching. I DO take care not to embarrass them. Whenever possible.

I do recall that feeling when you’re a kid. Grownups realize everyone else in the universe is so wrapped up in themselves that they’re not paying anywhere NEAR the amount of attention you once thought they were. But kids are still the center of their own universes – the heroes of their own movies, and everyone else is a cameo player.

Extreme self-consciousness is so vivid, so much a part of your life, that any hair out of place, any fold in the cloth of your shirt, any label that’s not up-to-the-minute current makes you feel like a pariah.

You know you’re a real grownup when you realize the “pariahs” – the ones who dance to their own music – are who make the world so very, very interesting.

Kids love McDonald’s because it’s predictable; it’s always exactly the same chicken nuggets, precisely four, precisely cookie-cuttered into the same eerie, unnatural shape.

We grow when we peek beyond the predictable, to investigate: who that is dancing around the corner?

Look: no, really. Look.

(photo credit: © 2006 Tom Bushey)

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Gonna Stomp Me Some Kittens, Right Soon.


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kittenOne of our cats, Louie, is not a boy cat. We know this because kittens sprouted on her teats six weeks ago, to my horror and the girls’ joy.

Louie now sports the moniker “Lulu.”

It all began in a semi-nasty puddle on my old wedding dress, which I’ll admit was no actual tragedy. Unlike some anal-retentive brides, I’d never gone to great – or any – lengths to preserve what had once, in my lily-of-the-valley childhood insanity, been the biggest dress in the room.

It wasn’t even hanging up, to tell you the truth. One thing Lu knows, though, is the importance of comfort. Silk fluffiness? She’s all over it, literally – at least until she got sick of her claws catching in the tulle. As a matter of fact, that was just how I felt that day. Except I could kick off my heels and be the barefoot bride, scandalizing my family.

Lu, not caring about scandalizing anyone, simply snuggled up and oozed all over the thing.

Still – like I said: no tragedy. I’m ludicrously small, at five-foot, one inches tall, a size six on my fat days. Everyone is bigger than I am. Strangely, even as an adult, nodding acquaintances are often seized by the extremely annoying urge to lift me up in the air. Formal announcement: this is only fun for me when Peter does it. Otherwise, it is officially creepy.

My daughters? Not only are people bold enough to take me in their meaty paws and bench me, they are also bold enough to say things like: “Holy cow, they don’t look a thing like you. Does that bother you?”

As if I would burst into tears and unload right there to them if it did, which of course, it doesn’t. Neither of them look anything like me, nor do they look anything like each other. The three of us, together, look like the random assembly of pieces you use when you lose the top hat, the racecar and the other metal game bits in Monopoly and have to make do with whatever’s lying around. We like that about us. Variety.

The one thing they DO have in common, that they DON’T have in common with me is that they’re tall. They’re built like their dad’s side of the family. Even their maternal grandmother is five-ten. My eleven-year-old is already a few inches taller than I am. My nine-year-old is catching up. So the prospect of either one of them ever wearing the aforementioned wedding dress is laughable. Almost as laughable as the idea of those sleeves ever coming back into style.

The best they’d get out of it would be a sentimental hanky scrap. So we’re still fine; there must be an ooze-free section left.

Amongst the ooze, though, slept how many? Three, four, oh, no! Five, count ’em, five! Five kittens. I’d never seen kittens this new; uglier creatures – besides my own newborns – I’d never seen.

Newborns are hideous; there’s a reason the body floods a new mother with hormones that make her go giddy-stupid with love. They’re covered with something that looks like ricotta cheese. They’ve just gone through the equivalent of a pasta maker, which is not the best look for a creature whose skull is still soft. Their skin has not yet settled on which color it wants to be, so it’s still experimenting with the cooler shades of the color wheel, like purple and blue. Their eyes are squeezed shut, giving them an angry-looking grimace, and they’re usually crying.

Nevertheless, biologists have determined – I know this, because my kids are addicted to the Discovery Channel – that we are wired to find all this overwhelmingly, compellingly adorable.

Even satirists. The three of us, as different as we are, in looks, in build, in temperament, all responded exactly the same way: “AAAWWWW….”

The little things got cuter every day, stupid things. Two of them had the nerve, even, to be long-haired cats, to weaken our knees, although to my enormous relief, the really beautiful black and brown one is a nasty son of a gun.

“We can’t keep them.”

“But-“

“We cannot keep them.”

“But-“

“We already have three cats…”

“But-“

“One large dog…”

“But-“

“Two ferrets…”

“Nobody likes the ferrets.”

“Then let’s get rid of the ferrets!” I suggested happily.

“But-“

“Okay, then someone ELSE change the cat pan,” I suggested happily.

“But-“

“We are NOT keeping them.”

“But-“

“Okay, maybe ONE.”

“YAY!”

Since then, the kittens have grown – and grown. Still incredibly cute, but it makes them look hilarious when they’re not quite done nursing, but Lu’s had quite enough, thanks. They hang by her nipples, dragging along the floor. Lulu gets up, nonchalantly striding away as if she barely notices she’s got five other cats a third her size dangling there.

They eventually give up and dart for the kitten chow. Although Tucker Dog, who seriously thinks he IS a cat, has a serious taste for seafood, so the cat food doesn’t last long on the floor. The dog food languishes in the bowl, but the cat food? Forget it. They all compete for it. You’d think Tucker would win, seeing as how he outweighs even the adult cats seven to one – but he’s terrified of the geriatric cats, who treat him like the dorky kid in school, and won’t let him eat lunch at the cool table.

Even the kittens swagger around Tucker, who dotes on them like a massive, slobbering uncle. He even babysits for Lulu – Heaven only knows how they worked this out – and herds the kittens into the dining room, watching them like the part Shepherd he is, while Lulu naps upstairs, blissfully ignoring her offspring.

It’s quite a sight, watching a giant black dog, the pressure and anxiety clear on his face, kittens in his mouth, setting this one here, running after that one…

Tucker is tuckered out by the end of the day.

But that’s not why I’m ready to stomp the kittens. Heck – whatever Lu and Tuck have worked out between them, it’s none of my business.

Although technically my “bedroom” is upstairs, it’s currently in a state of utter disaster. I started “renovating” it (see my other blog, The Cool Tool Girl) and so I am currently sleeping in my studio on the futon, which turns into a very comfortable double bed.

Cats – and kittens – are nocturnal animals. So while they rest adorably in laundry baskets and on couch pillows during the day, charming the pants off of all who gaze with eyes a-watering, at night, while I am desperately attempting to get some much-needed shut-eye, they gallop through the house like a team of Budweiser Clydesdales.

This part is not a joke. You simply would not believe how much freakin’ noise a set of five kittens makes on a one-hundred-year-old hardwood floor from underneath.

You would think they were all wearing tiny engineer boots, or Doc Martens or something.

Either way, it’s a struggle each night to remain in bed, and not to stumble up the staircase in my own engineer boots, flick the lights on and start stomping out the noise.

Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat!

Ah. Blessed silence.

Clean up this mess in the morning.

Saves me a trip to the shelter.

Oh, wait – take back one thump. Meow… Splat! We’re keeping one of the longhairs. Since Anne wanted a name in French, we’re calling it “Touffu.” Means “fluffy.”

Lucky Fluffy.

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Crime and Punishment. Not.


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CandyMy oldest daughter asked me: How come we don’t get punished?

I answered honestly. “Consequences make a lot more sense. Spill the milk; clean it up. You’re fresh-mouthed and bratty? You’re tired. Early bedtime.”

Now, I confess to stretching the bedtime thing a bit thin.

“Problem with chores? You must be tired. Get some rest.”

“Can’t seem to find your manners? Look for them under your bed. Good night.”

“You don’t like my cooking? Good night.”

Okay, maybe not that last. But seriously, it makes more sense to me to sit down with them and figure out where they went wrong than it does to send them to their room and let them stew, hating me and feeling persecuted.

We have a dog, Tucker. Great dog. I’m very attached to him, in fact, and he’s attached to me. As in, at the hip. Literally. He’s a German Shepherd Dog mix, which means he’s smart, obedient, and sort of a one-woman-man type of creature. Devoted. But still a dog, meaning that he tends to forget he occupies space.

Therefore other creatures in the universe who might want to get close to me – for instance, creatures to whom I gave birth – often find themselves needing to wrestle their way around a seventy-pound lump of fur who thinks he’s a twelve-pound lap cat.

My youngest started behaving weirdly. Ordinarily a very good kid, she was now Trouble. As in, Setting the Kitchen Table on Fire, Trouble. (This is true: I have the seven-inch burn mark to prove it.)

One day I heard whimpering.

“Who locked Tucker in the other bedroom?” I asked when I came downstairs. Tucker, of course, being, as I mentioned, a dog, was already licking her face.

Tucker Dog’s thought processes go something like this:

What a narrow escape! I am SO glad to be out of that room and back with everybody else. I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you!

The youngest’s stony, I-can’t-hear-you, I-feel-horrible, why-won’t-this-dog-stop-forgiving-me stare gave her away.

“You know, darling,” I said, sitting down quietly next to her, “if the house was on fire, and I had a choice between saving you or Tucker, you know what I would do?”

“Yeah,” she said sullenly.

“I would save YOU,” I said.

“You would?” She was clearly surprised.

“Sure. I love Tucker a lot. He’s a great dog. But there are a zillion dogs out there, and I can always get another dog. I can never, ever get another you.”

She threw her arms around me. That was it, all right. Trouble was over. I’d have to do this again, and again, I knew. But this was it.

“Listen, though, kiddo. Next time you’re mad at me, be mad at ME. Don’t take it out on innocent Tuck. That’s a bad road to go down, if you know what I mean. I don’t want to have to go back to the shelter and have to find one of those dogs with a spiked collar that will swallow you in one bite, you know.”

She got a little stony again.

“It’s a JOKE.”

She relaxed.

“Two bites, at least.”

Tuck sealed it with even more forgiving slobber.

That’s what it’s really all about: dealing with the crime, not meting out the punishment. After all, what’s our goal, anyway? If they stray or stumble, help them up off their knees, and guide them the few baby steps they’ve taken back to the right road, before they get too far into the dark woods.

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