Monthly Archives: May 2011

Garage Sale Grump

First, I want to say that it took me three days to write a post that would normally take me 20 minutes or so, because of THE PUPPY. It’s just like having a newborn again, except it’s completely different. My human newborns didn’t bite me with tiny razor-sharp teeth, nor did they bark, dump their water bowls over, or chase the cat. Yesterday, Benjamin said, “Can we get some more puppies?” and immediately, in perfect unison, The Daddy and I issued a firm NO.

Despite the rambunctious streak, she’s very sweet and amazingly cute. See?


The other big thing going on is that we have a closing date on our new house. In July! Which means we’re moving! And we need to get serious about it. We definitely don’t want to take everything with us, so I’ve finally decided to have a garage sale. For real.

I say “for real” because I claim to be planning a garage sale every single spring. Someone will say to me, “I’m having a garage sale next week,” and I invariably reply, “Oh! I’m going to have a garage sale this summer too!” And then I spend some time explaining how I say the same thing every year, but THIS year is going to be different. THIS will be the year I actually DO it. But have I ever done it?


And here’s the reason: I am completely stymied when I start thinking about the logistics of the whole thing. It’s not the location – no siree, I currently live on the corner of an extremely busy 4-lane street. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people will see my garage sale without any advertising or signage at all. Nor am I worried about placing ads or collecting money or talking to strangers or fighting off the pushy early birds. I’m not even really worried about pricing, because pricing can and will change throughout the weekend, based upon what it is, what time it is, and if they are genuinely nice when they ask me for a lower price.

What I’m worried about is organization. Displaying things. I don’t want to put stuff on the ground on blankets because nothing annoys me more than to go to a garage sale and spend my time looking at the ground. So I need tables, or some other manner of raised flat surface. I don’t have a surplus of tables in my house, so then I think, “Okay, I’ll rent some.” And then I look into that and realize the cost will take a major bite out of my profits. Without fail, someone responds to this complaint with something like, “Get creative! Put old doors on saw horses. Hang things on a ladder. Put a piece of wood on a barrel and use that as a table!”

I want to kick the people who say that to me right in their well-meaning shins, because if I was creative I wouldn’t be suffering this mental organization disorder, and plus, who has a collection of barrels just lying around? Whatever would I have bought in barrel form? What are all you people buying in barrels, for heaven’s sake? Wine? Whiskey? Monkeys? Laughs?  And after the monkeys have climbed out and are swinging from your curtains, where are you storing the empty barrels? I can’t even think of anything I would need an entire barrel of, other than maybe chocolate. Or patience.

So you can see my dilemma. My brain gets overwhelmed by hellish visions of being up all night, feverishly constructing complicated, multi-tiered displays out of ladders and fishing line and saw horses and BARRELS and duct tape, and then I just call the whole thing off. Who needs that kind of stress?

Anyway – off to Costco to buy a barrel of laughs for my garage sale. If you have a barrel at your house, I seriously want to know the following things: 1) what came in it (beer doesn’t count…we’re not in college anymore), 2) where you got it,  3) if it’s ever come in handy, and 4) where you store it. And if I can borrow it.

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Doodle Oodle Oodle

As I mentioned, Benjamin had a hard time after all of the Trouble with Rex and his subsequent return to the animal shelter.  The Daddy and I decided that perhaps a puppy (a girl puppy) was a better idea, one that we could train from the start, with the goal of avoiding any Rexist repeats.

So we started deliberating over what kind of puppy to get. I took a cursory look around in the paper and online, but didn’t see anything that struck me. Bulldog? Too snorty. King Charles Spaniel? Cute, but too fussy. Boston terriers? Too Boston terrier-y. Golden retrievers? I love them, but they all seemed to be ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Then my dad sent me an email that said something along the lines of, “I have a friend who has a Labradoodle, and it seems to be a good dog and it doesn’t shed much.”

This whiz-banged my memory back to an article I’d read a few years ago on the trend towards the designer dog breeds called “doodles,” meaning one breed mixed with a Poodle. Breeders are frequently mixing Labrador Retrievers with Poodles (Labradoodles) or Golden Retrievers with Poodles (Goldendoodles).  There are several benefits to these mixes, including dogs that don’t shed much, are low allergen producers, and have temperaments appropriate for family life or human assistance (therapy dogs or guide dogs). I seem to remember that the original Labradoodle was bred to be a guide dog for a woman whose husband was terribly allergic to dogs.

A quick Google search yielded a breeder with Labradoodle puppies ready for homes in a town 2 hours away. Better yet, she had a girl puppy. Even better still, the pups had already been exposed to the abuses charms of 2-year-old children, as she herself had a 2-year-old boy who loved to play with the puppies.

After some more research, we decided the Labradoodle was for us and scheduled to pick up the girl puppy that Saturday. We didn’t tell the kids; we simply told them we were going on a surprise adventure. Benjamin was confused when, after exhaustive questioning, I confirmed that the adventure wouldn’t include a museum, science center, or dinosaurs. I’m sure in his mind, he was thinking, “What other kind of freakin’ adventure is there?”

So now…drum roll…I’m pleased to present….Maya!


After the brief honeymoon period in which it seemed like she was the most perfect puppy ever, we entered a more typical and sobering phase of nipping, chewing, jumping, and general naughtiness. For example, when a frightened 2-year-old runs away screaming from a nippy puppy, the puppy doesn’t think, “Uh-oh…I shouldn’t continue on this path. The child is scared.” 

Nope. Here’s what the puppy thinks:

“Yay! The small pink human-shaped thing wants to play with me! First, I’ll jump on top of her play-growling, and she’ll enjoy that so much that she’ll fall on me and smack me with her oddly shaped paws, and then we’ll nibble on each other for a while! It’ll be so great! And then I’ll tug on her hair and she’ll chew my ears! And everyone will be proud of me and I’ll get treats treats treats treats TREATS!!!!”

Despite the obvious communication difficulties, it’s clear that she’s sweet and very trainable, or perhaps we are, and I predict that she’s going to be a really great dog.

And if you made it all the way to the end of this post, here’s a video that made me laugh of a Labradoodle named Figaro who sings (attempts to drown out?) his owner’s horn playing.  Whoever made this video shot it at a weird angle, but I DO  appreciate seeing that his carpet is obviously free of dog hair, probably thanks to his non-shedding Doodle.

The 10 Laws of Chocolate

“I threw away the rest of the Easter candy.”


“The Easter candy that was left over – I threw it away.”

“You mean the chocolate?”

“Yeah, the bag that was in the dining room. I threw it out.”

<horrified face> “But there was chocolate in there!”

“Uh-huh. I was sick of the kids asking me about it every day.”

(I will admit – this part about the harrassing children made perfect sense to me.)

“But it was….chocolate! Can you get it back?”

“Um…no? I threw it away, like in the trash.”

“Was it sealed up well in a plastic bag? Have they collected the trash already?”

“Yes, they picked it up already. It’s gone.”

That’s right, people, I considered digging through the trash. I most likely would not have followed through with an actual dumpster dive; the point is, it was an initial gut reaction to horrifying news.

Chocolate is practically a holy substance, rife with magical powers. In my mind, there are several important rules regarding the care, keeping and consumption of chocolate. Chocolate may be:

1. Hoarded
2. Coveted
3. Hidden where others won’t find it
4. Cherished
5. Resisted
6. Given or received as a gift
7. Used as a bartering or bribing tool (i.e., if you stop torturing your sister, you may have some chocolate)
8. Taken medicinally to cure bad feelings
9. Given a starring role in any and all household baking
10. And finally, most obviously, EATEN.

But it should never, ever be thrown away, unless it’s been proven without a doubt to have been tainted by some kind of poison. And even then, only if the poison is known to induce death. If it’s only going to, say, potentially paralyze one of my legs for a few hours, or cause a few patches of my hair to fall out…well, I guess it would depend on the quality of the chocolate. If it was the really good stuff? I’d probably decide that a temporary case of balding paralysis was completely worth it.


Art Wrecko

So I get these LivingSocial emails every day, offering me deals on stuff that I probably wouldn’t normally buy. The deals are usually really good, like “pay $20 and get $4,000 to spend at!” I try not to get sucked in to the excitement of it all, but it’s really hard not to.

A recent email offered 50% off art classes at a local studio. A good deal, to be sure, but I saw it and laughed out loud. Do you sense a story coming on? I sure do!

Way back in the dark ages, meaning before kids, I decided to take an art class. After grade school, instruction in the visual arts was a gaping hole in my education. I was a musician and only did musical things. While my non-musical friends went off to Drawing I, I went to band or choir. When they went to Drawing II, I went to band or choir. When they went to Painting, I went to band or choir. When they went to Alternative Mediums: Trash,  I went to band. Or choir.

I’d always regretted my lack of art instruction, and then around 2003, I saw some adult art classes listed in a catalog from the local recreation & education organization. I eagerly signed up for “Introduction to Drawing and Painting” and then waited impatiently for the class to start. I was POSITIVE there was a frustrated artist inside just waiting to get out. I was a fantastic doodler; how could that not translate into artistic greatness? My doodles generally consisted of women’s eyes and various types of leaves (fern, oak, maple), but I was sure that I was capable of so much more.

The class finally started. It was taught by a sweet elderly gentleman named Robert. He taught a cartooning class to adolescents right before the adult flunky class. I was heartened on the first day to see him speaking encouragingly to his young cartooning students as they packed up their projects and belongings. “You really nailed that bird’s facial expression!” he said to one boy, patting him on the shoulder. “With a little more work next week, that mouse is really going to be perfect,” he said to another.

The first day, we worked on drawing some simple forms. Simple for some people, I should say. The perfectionist next to me with the steady hand drew her cup and bowl with exacting precision, while my cup and bowl looked more like an urn next to a beach ball. Robert tried to help, but I couldn’t even carry out the simplest of  his suggested revisions with anything even approaching accuracy. Undeterred, I came back week after week, optimistic that this time, it was all going to come together.

It didn’t.

My drawings looked like they’d been done by a 6-year-old. While Robert was duly impressed by my prowess with creepy disembodied eyeballs and tree-less leaves, I seemed incapable of much else. I found watercolors to be impossible to control. I thought acrylics would be easier, but I was wrong. The only bit of “success” I had was with pastels.  One Saturday morning, I managed to scrawl a comparably spectacular lily on a blue background. Robert even uttered, “Hooray!” and gave me a congratulatory pat. I was so excited that I had produced something recognizable that I went out and got an acrylic frame and thought I might hang it on an actual wall. But when I started holding it up in potential hanging spots in the house, I realized that I really didn’t want to look at that thing every day. I tried to blame the walls first, then the rooms, but in the end, it was the picture that was the problem.

Never one to be discouraged, I signed up for a second 6-week session of the class once the first session ended. When he saw me walk in on the first day, I caught the look of exhaustion mixed with acid indigestion and anxiety that washed over poor Robert’s face. To his credit, he made a speedy recovery and was able to greet me cheerily. Maybe he hoped, as I did, that I would do better the second time. But I didn’t.

My artistic disability was kept secret until recently, when Benjamin started wanting us to draw dinosaurs all the time. I would try pretty hard; I’d say, “Bring me the figurine of the dinosaur you want me to draw, and I’ll give it a shot.” When I was finished, I’d proudly present my work to the boy. “There! What do you think?” He’d say, “Mama, the T. Rex didn’t have wings,” or “Mama, a Diplodocus had FOUR legs, not three.” I’d respond, “Those aren’t wings, that’s his knee!” or “There ARE four legs, see?” Eventually he’d sigh heavily and say, “I’ll just ask Daddy to draw it later.”

At first it made me feel bad, but now I realize my incompetence has bought me hours of time that otherwise would’ve been spent drawing frills and horns on a Triceratops.

Once in a blue moon, mediocrity really pays off.



“Mama, I miss Rex.”

“I know you do. I’m really sorry we couldn’t keep him.”

“But he was such a good dog!”

“He will eventually be a good dog.  But until he turned into a good dog, he was going to be too rough for our family, and we couldn’t get him to listen. Weren’t you a little scared when he knocked you down?”

“Well…I was very brave.”

“Yes, you were very, very brave. But not scared?”

“I was a little scared.”

“Yeah, I thought so.”

“But Mama, he listened to me and Daddy. And not you and Ellie. Because Daddy and me are boys, and you and Ellie are girls, and dogs don’t listen to you. Because you’re girls.”

Two thoughts:

1) I’m so glad I know the reason now! There are so many times that I think I am speaking out loud – I can hear myself talking, I can put my hand out in front of my mouth and feel air moving – but no adjacent ears are receiving the sound waves. It’s because I’m a girl.

2) My kid is turning into quite the little sexist. This + his recent pronouncement that BOYS ONLY will be invited to his 5th birthday party + his insistence that he not be subjected to “girl things” = a distinct potential for developing into a club-swinging, knuckle-dragging brute. Or he’s just a normal 5-year-old boy going through the gender identification process.

I’d talk to him about it, but unfortunately he CAN’T HEAR ME. *sigh*

The Trouble With Rex

Several months ago, we lost our 13-year-old Border Collie to cancer. It’s never easy to lose a furry member of the family, and this time we had to try to explain death to Benjamin. When Simon the cat died a few years back, Benjamin was only 2, and we didn’t think he could possibly understand. So our explanation for the cat’s sudden absence was, “He went to visit friends!” But now he’s 4, so we did our best to discuss her death in a way he could grasp. And once he wrapped his little brain around the fact that the dog had died and wasn’t coming back, he said, “That’s what happened to Simon, too, ISN’T IT?!”


As the grieving process moved on, we started to feel like we were ready to have a dog in our family again. We took several exploratory trips to the Humane Society to see what was what, and what’s what is that all the dogs at our local shelter were Pit Bulls.

I know there are all kinds of Pit Bull cheerleaders out there who say they are wonderful family dogs with sunshiny temperaments, their reputation is unfair, prejudice is cruel, etc. But with two little kids, I just can’t take the chance that I adopt the one dog that is going to rip Ellie’s arm off for a midafternoon snack.  What my brain has come up with on the subject is this: I’ve had hunting dogs and a herding dog. None of these dogs were expected to hunt or herd, but they did it anyway. They naturally did the things they were bred to do, and Pit Bulls are bred to fight and kill. I’m sure I’m wrong, but I’d rather be wrong than risk being right.

Anyway, hopeful people that we are, we made one final trip to the Humane Society on Sunday. And WAH-LAH, there he was…a gorgeous yellow lab mix named Rex. Everyone who walked by his cage stopped to make some sort of enthusiastic exclamation.

“Oh, what a beautiful dog!”
“Now, that’s a dog.”
“Son, this is what you call a real American dog.” (Notably, this was uttered by a man with a thick Irish accent.)

We asked to play with Rex and they let us take him outside. Then we played with him inside. I liked the way he behaved with the kids. Then we tested his ability to tolerate a cat, which went well after a brief hissy-spitty-growly introductory period. Everyone on staff at the shelter said some version of, “Oh, that’s such a great dog!”

He was gorgeous, fun, widely loved and adored…how could we go wrong?

We decided to take him home and make him part of our lives after a brief family meeting in the reception area over popcorn and M&Ms. After an exhaustive adoption process, during which my brain melted into a quivering mass of gelatinous glop, we gleefully left the shelter with our new family member.

He did a great job in the car on the way home. I’ll give him that.

At the house, we kept him on a leash for the first hour or so. We walked him around the neighborhood. We introduced him to the yard. We walked him around the house on the leash. He met the cat, and they both did very well. “Fantastic!” I thought. “This is going to be great!”

Then I let him off the leash in the family room, which I blocked off from the kitchen with a baby gate. “Better not to overwhelm him,” I thought.

I assumed that the first thing he’d do was eat, but instead, he chose a different path, a bad path, a path that would change everything. Instead of eating the bowl of food I offered, he looked away, watched Ellie intently for a moment,  then chased her down and was…well, he was…inappropriate, if you know what I mean. Inappropriate in a very rude, mannerless, boy-dog kind of way.

Ellie was horrified and startled, and thankfully I was right there to snatch her up and away from the…inappropriateness.

Next he targeted Benjamin in the yard, knocking him over in the process. Then it was me. THEN it was The Daddy, which was followed immediately by a display of lunging and menacing barking at the lawn guy and later, our neighbor.

The Daddy said, “I don’t think this is working out.”

I said, “I WANT A GIRL DOG.”

So, three hours after his joyful homecoming, Rex went back to the shelter. The staff was very kind about it, agreeing that we couldn’t have that kind of behavior with little kids around.

We felt really bad. Benjamin felt really bad. We felt really bad for Benjamin, who had been so excited to have a dog again, especially one named after his favorite dinosaur.

Ellie didn’t care at all, perhaps because she was the first of Rex’s victims. At dinner, she asked, “Where’s Wex?” The Daddy replied, “Rex had to go home.” She looked at him, smiled sweetly, and said “Okay, Daddy!” And she’s right, it is okay, because handsome Rex will eventually find a home, and we will eventually find the right dog to complete our nutty little family. The right GIRL DOG, that is.