Tag Archives: Parenting

Hoochie Mama Princess Party

Smack between Christmas and the New Year is Ellie’s birthday. When I was pregnant with her and realized when she was likely to be born, I knew it would be trouble. Holiday-time birthdays are always eclipsed by someone else’s birthday (I’m looking at you, JESUS).  It didn’t really matter when she was a baby, or even last year when she turned 2, but I suspect age 3 is when they start keeping a mental record of the ways that you’ve failed them. This year, I had to produce A PARTY.

There were a fair amount of mental gymnastics involved. For example, the gifts. What would be for Christmas, and what would be for her birthday? Here was my detailed, insightful approach: I bought a bunch of stuff for her and decided that I would figure it out at the last minute.

But then on Christmas Eve (the last minute!), I realized that if I didn’t put everything I had for her under the tree, the Scales of Christmas Gift Justice would be tipped wildly in Benjamin’s favor. A disgustingly luxurious first world problem, I know. Nonetheless, I couldn’t let it happen, so all the gifts went under the tree and I shopped for birthday gifts after Christmas. There were lots of deals (yay!) on crap that nobody else wanted either (boo).

Next, I went to order the cake, which was great because I knew exactly what to get: The Barbie Princess Cake. I take her grocery shopping with me nearly every Sunday, and each time we have to go to the bakery counter to look at it. I’m sure you’ve seen a version at your local bakery – it’s a Barbie sticking out of a huge skirt-shaped cake. This bakery decorates the skirt area with a cascading spray of delicate pink buttercream roses. For the last several months, she has squealed over it regularly. “Oh MAMA! Wook at da bootifoh pwincess! I have it on my birfday???”

After briefly considering the possibility of making the cake myself, I went to the bakery to order it. Right before I walked away, I thought to ask,

“How many people does the cake serve?”

The bakery attendant referred the question to the stern-faced cake decorator, who replied tersely, “No one knows.”

“What do you mean,  no one knows?”

“Because of the shape of the skirt and the many layers of cake, it’s impossible to say.”

“Surely you must have a general idea?”

“No, there’s no way to say.”

I stared at him dumbly. I considered discussing this with a manager, or attempting to perform a complex mathematical equation, but instead I  just gave up and ordered a dozen pink cupcakes too, in case the voluminous cake skirt was heavy on architecture and light on actual cake.

When the day came, Ellie was wide-eyed and thrilled with everything. My little girl loved it all – the decorations, the food, the party guests, the presents, and ohmygoodness – THE CAKE. It was as delicious as it was beautiful.

Everything seemed so innocently pink and royally wholesome, the doll posing demurely in her cake like a blonde Kate Middleton…

until I released Princess Barbie from her cake-and-buttercream prison. And then several of the party guests, including myself, started to giggle after a brief, stunned moment of silence. Because this was no Princess Barbie after all…this was Princess HOOCHIE MAMA Barbie:

(Special self-congratulatory note: I arranged those flowers. All by myself!)

As you can see, although the picture doesn’t even do it justice, her outfit is something one might wear on their way to work as a “hostess” in a “club,” perhaps a club designated for “gentlemen” somewhere near “the airport.” In real life, the dress is even shorter than the picture makes it appear. It is more like something that someone (not me) might wear as a SHIRT. And it’s made out of shiny plastic, which makes sense because you could just wipe the cake off of it and all, but STILL.

And then, the shoes:

When we saw the shoes, the giggles turned into gales of laughter, which brought The Daddy over to see what our problem might be. Ellie came too, and said, “Oooohhhh, she has a pwetty dwess on!”  Which made us laugh even more.

When I put Ellie to bed that night, she snuggled into me and thanked me for her party. I asked her what her favorite part was, and she said it was her cake. I felt so very happy to be able to make her 3-year-old birthday dream come true.

As for Hoochie Mama, she’ll be undergoing intensive psychoanalysis to deal with her daddy issues and her propensity for exhibitionism. I’ll keep you posted!

Say what? Booty butt.

It all started with Benjamin, sometime last winter. One day, he brought home a fun new word from preschool: BOOTY.

Until that fateful day, booty had not been a standard word in our house. In fact, the rump isn’t something we discuss overly much. “Move your buns,” someone might say. Or “Sit on your bum! It’s dangerous to stand in the tub.”

This is how it all started: Benjamin, a born dancer, goes through phases where he loves to get his groove on. During other periods, you can’t get him to dance AT ALL, not so much as a stray head bob,  or even a finger snap. But recently, he was dancing all the time to the Fresh Beat Band (a kids’ TV show, for those of you not subjected to such things). It’s a little irritating, sure, but it allowed me to make dinner in peace. I’d put it on and he and Ellie would dance and dance, and that part was fun to watch, indeed, in large part because Ellie’s dancing is reminiscent of an injured Clydesdale on heavy narcotics.

So one day they’re dancing, and Benjamin says, “Mama, look at my booty! I’m doin’ the booty dance!” Ellie starts mimicking him, saying, “Booty, Mama, booty! Shakin’ booty! BOOTY BUTT!” Benjamin starts laughing at her, repeating, “Booty butt! Booty butt! I’m shakin’ my boooooty butt!” Soon they’re laughing so hard that they’ve collapsed on the floor, swept away by the kind of hysterics in which you can’t catch your breath, and your stomach muscles get all prickly and weak forcing you to roll on the floor and flail your limbs. (We should all do that more often, no?)

And then, because it was such a funny little scene, I made a big mistake: I laughed too.

Ellie loves nothing more than to make someone laugh. If you laugh at her for something she does or says, you can be sure that she will repeat it ad nauseam. Even at 2 1/2, she  understands that if she’s going to  continue to make someone laugh over the same thing, she needs to add a new twist every so often to make it novel.

The first thing she did was to start saying, “Oh no! I hurt my booty butt!” when she fell down.

When the laughs stopped coming for that, she changed it up. “Mama! I hurt my booty butt! And my booty knee. And look! My booty toe.”

Then: “I ate my booty dinner.”

“Read me this booty book?”

“Good night, Booty Mama!”

*sigh* All I could do was hope that particular nickname didn’t catch on.

Eventually, when the use of the word moved from occasional and funny to constant and irritating, we banned the use of it altogether. Anyone who said booty got an instant time out. It worked for a few days, maybe even a week. We were booty-free for some reasonable time period…and then suddenly it was back. And because it was unexpected when she finally did say it, I LAUGHED again. Because I am essentially immature and lacking in self-control.

In the end, we just gave in and now we all say it. It’s become something of a family joke, and as usually happens when you take the stigma away from something, it’s slowly fading away. “Do you want some booty soup?” I might ask, and she’ll reply, “Mama, it not booty soup. It just SOUP.”

Music to my booty ears.

I’m quite sure it’s not entirely over, though, especially when she finds a new audience. School, for example. I can just hear the conversation at our first teacher conference. “Elise is very bright and awfully funny, but…I have some concerns.”

And I’ll just nod sympathetically and say,  “I already know what you’re going to say, but try not to worry about it, Mrs. Booty Butt. It’s just a booty phase.  Any other relevant concerns, Booty Mama?”

500 Miles to Heaven

Well, hello! I’ve been quiet, I know, but I was on vacation. And then when we got back home, my brain was on the slow setting for at least another week and a half.

Our vacations are typically spent at my parents’ place on Lake Superior. They live in the same state as we do, and yet their place is 500 miles away. 500 miles! In the same state! I’m sure that sounds like loony talk to you east coast people, who can drive through 5 states in 20 minutes. But if you look at a map of Michigan, it will make sense. Michigan is two long gobs of land surrounded by water…not a shortcut to be had. See, look how crazy Michigan is:

We drive from almost the furthest southeastern point on the map (near Detroit) to the furthest location northwesterly (is that a word?) in the fingerlike projection east of Minnesota. So, the northwesterly fingerlike thingy. You see what I mean, right?

Crazier still is making that drive with two little kids and a 6-month old puppy. Before we left, I thought, “Oh, it’ll be fine.. Benjamin’s gained so much maturity since last time, and Ellie…well, at least she’s not a baby anymore.”

Ummmmmmmm. Well.

GAZILLION HOUR FAMILY CAR TRIP LOG:

7:00 a.m. Already several hours behind schedule. Ellie, normally the early chirpy bird in the family, refuses to get up. She actually says, “Mama, you be quiet now so I can sleeeeeeeeeeeep.”

7:30 a.m. Car almost loaded. Children jump around, excited. Puppy goes on one last walk before interminable confinement.

7:45 a.m. Tim Horton’s drive-through. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. COFFEE.

8:00 a.m. Takeoff! Estimated time of arrival – 6:00 p.m.

8:30 a.m. Benjamin asks how much longer it’s going to be before we get there.

9:00 a.m. I had wanted to save movies for later when things got desperate. As it turns out, we’re already desperate at the end of hour one. I put in the movie Rio.

9:30 a.m. Children quiet, dog crying. Bathroom break!

10:00 a.m. Road trip bliss. Silence from the back. I’m even reading a grown-up book.

10:15 a.m. Movie concludes. Whining begins. Ellie’s diaper has soaked through; The Daddy pulls over.

10:30 a.m.  Back on the road.

10:45 a.m. Children want to see Rio again.

12:30 p.m. We stop at our favorite drive-in restaurant for lunch. Amazingly, Ellie has wet through ANOTHER diaper? Also, only one surly waitress has been assigned to carside service. She ignores us, and then ignores us some more. Finally, a woman in the car next to us takes pity. When the waitress comes to take their order, she points to us and says, “Uhhh, they’ve been here for a long time, much longer than we have.” She sullenly takes our order. When she finally brings the food, she delivers it on one of those window-hangy trays, even though I had told her that we’d need it to go since we’d been there so long (an hour!). I’m afraid of her, but I muster the courage to ask her to bag it up for us. She is furious. I give her a big tip so she doesn’t slash our tires on the sly before we can peel out of there.

1:45 p.m. Finally eating food. No picnic tables available, so we set up lunch on a blanket in the grass. It’s fun! It’s so much fun, in fact, that both children, overstimulated by the wonders of nature, ignore their lunches completely.  I plead and admonish, but no one listens. The Daddy walks Maya in large circles around the park, trying to eat as she alternately sniffs and lunges. Poor guy.

2:15 p.m. Back on the road. Benjamin asks, “How much longer?” and “Can we watch Rio again?” I start listing all of the other movies I brought, but each selection is denied. I tell them we need a break from Rio for a little while and they should just watch the scenery go by, or maybe read a book. Benjamin reminds me that Ellie can’t read, so I suggest that he read to her. He chooses to watch the scenery. Ellie whines.

2:30 p.m. Both children are hungry and whiny. Surprise! I mention that they should’ve eaten lunch, and pass out snacks and juice boxes.

3:00 p.m. Ellie’s whining finally flips my overload switch. I yell at her to quit it already, which makes her cry. The crying is louder and screechier than the whining. The Daddy is wowed by my superior parenting skills.

3:15 p.m. You guessed it….Rio.

3:45 p.m. And more whining.

4:00 p.m. Can’t anyone just take a NAP? We stop to walk the dog again. I get some “coffee” (brown aquarium water?) at a gas station.

5:30 p.m. We stop at Wendy’s so the kids can get out of the car for a while. The Daddy is once again stuck with the dog, although I am beginning to feel jealous of dog duty. We try to order some food, since lunch was so poorly received. Ellie wants chicken; Benjamin wants nothing. Then he wants a cheeseburger. No, he doesn’t. Yes, he does. No. Yes? Oh wait – no. We get to the table, and it turns out that what he really wants is chicken. What I really want is a lobotomy. And ear plugs.

6:00 p.m. Getting closer. I talk the kids into watching Curious George, which is even more audibly irritating than Rio. Ellie says her “bums hurts” and Benjamin says, “Mine too!”

7:00 p.m. Getting closer.

7:30 p.m. Yesssssssss!

So there you have it – only eleven and a half hours. What am I complaining about?

Despite the pain of getting there, the rewards make it all worthwhile. Time spent with my parents is priceless, and they don’t get to see the kids enough. The beauty of the place is breathtaking, and what could be better than having a private place to play and swim, right in your own back yard?

It is simply heaven.

The Scream Queen

The Daddy worked this weekend, so I was essentially a single parent. Single parents everywhere, I tip my hat to you. YOU ARE HARDCORE. When it was just Benjamin it wasn’t so bad, but Ellie’s flair for the dramatic and the natural histrionics that accompany age 2 made me want to  move to another country – by myself, please. I got so angry once about the incessant arguing and defiance that I sent myself to time out, and then I sent everyone to their rooms so the dog and I could have a few moments to regroup. It didn’t really work though, because they just continued their argument upstairs, loudly enough so I could hear every word. Next: an unidentified crash, followed by crying, followed by Benjamin yelling, “I told you not to touch that!”

The dog sat close to me, leaning in as if to soothe both of us. I murmured apologies into her ear for bringing her in to such a chaotic family. Poor thing.

The whole weekend wasn’t like that, thankfully (right now, for example, they’re sleeping like angels). Earlier today, I took them to their very first stage play, a local production of Pipi Longstocking. It was a bit of a risk, taking Ellie there; I knew Benjamin would do fine, but 2-year-olds aren’t known for their attention spans, or their ability to understand why they can’t talk loudly wherever and whenever the mood strikes them. In the car on the way there, I explained what a theater was and how we should behave during the play. We practiced whispering. She assured me that she would be quiet. “I pwomise, Mama!”

Amazingly, we made it all the way to intermission with no problems whatsoever! I was so proud. They really seemed to enjoy it, too. When intermission started, though, Benjamin said,

“I really like this, Mama, but I’m ready to go home now.”

“Don’t you want to know how it ends?”

“No, I don’t. I just want to go home.”

Given how well things had gone, I decided that leaving on a high note wasn’t such a bad thing. I said sure, we could leave now.

Error #1: But INSTEAD of going home, instead of listening to the poor boy, I convinced him that it would be fun to go to a nearby furniture store to quickly pick up a pair of lamps I had ordered.

(When will I ever learn?)

We got to the store and it was packed with people. They were having some kind of big sale, seemingly attended by everyone in town. I had called ahead so that the lamps would be ready when we got there. Ellie wanted to ride in one of the courtesy strollers they offer at the door, so I let her. We chose one and started towards the customer service desk at the back of the store.

Error #2: Then I decided we should quickly check out the clearance center for bar stools.

At that moment, Ellie decided she no longer wanted to ride in the stroller; instead, she wanted her doll to ride in it. In the following moment, I decided I should look for bar stools another day, and we’d just get the lamps and head out of there.

Very rapidly, the situation deteriorated. I can’t even describe to you how it happened. All I know is that I told her we were leaving, and suddenly she was screaming – and I do mean screaming. It was screaming worthy of a horror movie, and it ricocheted off the walls of the jam-packed furniture megastore. She screamed and sobbed and screamed some more. It was like a dramatization of a child’s meltdown in a movie. I’ve never seen anything like it from either of my children. My best guess is that she had held so much inside during her stint at Pipi Longstocking that it all just had to come tumbling out. Of her mouth. Loudly.

At first, Benjamin and I just stood there and stared dumbly at her, unsure of what to do. Finally, I calmly said, “We’re leaving now.” I took Benjamin’s hand and started to walk away. She called my bluff and didn’t follow. Benjamin, a better parent than I am,  started tugging at me. “We can’t leave her here, Mama! Go get her!”

So we walked back to her. I put her screaming little self back in the stroller and went to the desk to pick up the lamps. On the way, I started laughing. Benjamin started laughing too, because I was. By the time we got to the desk, we were laughing so hard that we could barely talk, while Ellie continued her screamfest.

A masochistic employee offered to carry the lamps for me, since I obviously had my hands full. As we began our bizarre trip back to the front of the store, people glared and stared at us disapprovingly, moving carefully out of our way.  Ellie, in the lead, continued to scream inconsolably in her stroller; Benjamin and I followed, laughing maniacally; the store employee brought up the rear and attempted to set himself apart from our strange, cacophonous parade.

As soon as we got outside, she stopped instantly, like someone flipped a switch. I guess when your captive audience of around a hundred shoppers disappears, so does the motivation for your Oscar-worthy performance.

“We go home, now, Mama?”

“Yes, Meryl Streep. We go home now.”

Five Is a Magic Number

On Thursday, my favorite Benjamin in the whole wide world turned five.

He’d been waiting impatiently for this day, counting down the months, the weeks, the days, the hours. I’m not sure what magical thing he thought would occur when he turned five, but whatever it was, it seemed very, very important to arrive at the day and revel in it.

The night before, he had told me how he’d like his day to go, and we followed as closely to his recommended schedule as we could:

6:00 a.m.: Begins the arduous chore of getting the rest of the family to vacate their beds. Family is reluctant.

6:30 a.m.: Enthusiastically opens presents with bleary-eyed family. Attempts to ride awesome new Transformer bike around tiny dining room. Amazingly, nothing ends up broken or damaged, other than Mama’s nerves.

6:45 a.m.: The Daddy struggles to free the Sentinel Prime transformer from his high-security packaging, valiantly battling tie-downs with dull kitchen shears. Benjamin declares that this is “the best birthday ever.”

7:00 a.m.: Ellie starts sobbing that she doesn’t have any princess presents for “her” birthday. Any and all attempts to explain that her birthday isn’t until December are met with pouty indignation and intermittent heaving sobs. Benjamin’s repeated reminders of the proprietary nature of the day do nothing to soothe her egocentric crisis.

8:00 a.m.: Breakfast at IHOP! Ellie spills coffee cream all over her and Mama. Ben eats his entire breakfast plus 30% of everyone else’s breakfast. The kids aren’t producing more than an average level of mayhem in the categories of volume or activity, so I ignore the foul looks from the elderly couple at a nearby table. Or maybe that’s just how their faces have frozen after years of sour moods? I make a mental note to perform hourly checks of my own facial expression status to avoid ending up this way.

10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.: Time at Grandma’s to avoid boring parental errands.

2:15 p.m.: The Daddy takes Benjamin to see the new Transformers movie.
Mama attempts to renew plates at DMV, but is turned away due to statewide computer failure. Simultaneously thrilled and disappointed.

4:30: Mama and Benjamin pick up the cake!

5:30: First (outside) ride on bike. Benjamin is gleeful. Unfortunately the glee causes the listening section of the brain to shut down completely, resulting in an unfortunate crash.

5:45: Back on the bike.

6:30: BLTs for dinner (Benjamin’s favorite), followed by the SUPERDUPERAMAZING TRANSFORMERS CAKE!

MMMM...CAKE!

FYI, the blue and black frosting looked really cool, but tasted like battery acid mixed with rat poop. Not that I’ve ever tasted that combination, or even one of the components by itself, but you got the picture, right? HORRIBLE. But Benjamin loved it, and that’s the important thing.

The funniest things he said:

“So I’m five now. Why isn’t my voice lower?”

and

“When I blew out my candle, I wished for always having a loving family.”

“Oh, Benjamin, that’s so sweet! I love that wish. And you will always have that – we love you so much, and we always will.”

“AND THEN I wished for all the Transformers in the world!”

At least he knew which wish to tell me first. That’s a clear sign he’s developing the kind of emotional manipulation skills that he’ll need to survive in the world.

I couldn’t be more proud of my sweet, sweet five-year-old boy.

UNSTOPPABLE, JUST LIKE TIME AND OPTIMUS PRIME

Friday Morning in Four Parts

I.

6:15 a.m. My eyes haven’t even opened yet. I can sense daylight through my eyelids, but I am not yet remotely interested in what time it is. Benjamin is lying next to me. I’m pretty sure he’s sleeping, but then he says,

“Mama, Grandma told me that saying ‘What the…?‘ is fine. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

Here we go again. Keeping my eyes closed, I say,

“Grandma probably doesn’t know the end of that sentence, so she would think it’s fine. But it’s not okay for you to say, because plenty of people DO know how to finish that sentence, and you’re too little to be saying it.”

“I’m listening to Grandma because she’s right.”

“No, I’d like you to listen to me because I’m your mother and I said so.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

I’d type out the rest of the conversation, but it’s irritating and redundant.

Notably, not even an hour later, Ellie peers into her cereal bowl and says, “What the…?”

II.

8:30 a.m. Benjamin and I are in the car, idling in the drive-through line at Tim Horton’s. He’s playing with his show-and-tell item, a skeleton of a Quetzalcoatlus, and is right in the middle of explaining why he needs a chocolate chip cookie. At that moment, out of nowhere, BAM! The lady behind us slams into my rear bumper.

Benjamin probably said, “What the…?” but I didn’t hear it. I pull into a parking space and exit the car. The perpetrator does the same, meeting me between the vehicles to inspect the damage.

I throw my hands up in the air, incredulous. “What was that?” I ask.

She looks at me sadly. “I’m so sorry,” she says. “I don’t know why I did that. I don’t know how it happened.”

My heart rate slows. Who really does know why, when they do something like that? It wasn’t like she did it on purpose. I look at her car and notice a little boy, much like my own, sitting in the back seat. I look for damage and there is very little. “Well, I’ve done plenty of things I can’t explain too.” She smiles. I reach out, give her arm a little squeeze, and suggest we just get back in our cars and get some coffee.

I slide back into my seat. Benjamin says, “Why did she do that to us?”

“She says she doesn’t know.”

“Oh. Well, she almost broke my Quetzalcoatlus skeleton.”

“Boy, that would’ve really stunk.”

“You’re right, Mama, it really would’ve.”

He said I was right about something!

III.

8:40 a.m. I finally make it to the window at Tim Horton’s. Everything about my order is correct, except the part where they downsized my coffee, ensuring that I won’t attain the appropriate caffeine dosage required to fully start the engine on my higher-level brain functions.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo!

I mention this to the drive-through lady, and she is plainly uninterested in correcting the problem. “Oh,” she says, “that’s the size they charged you for. Sorry!” Then she adds, “Figures. Goes right along with how the rest of my morning is going!”

IV.

8:55 a.m. Benjamin and I arrive at his preschool. He hands me his Quetzalcoatlus skeleton model and says, “Here, Mama. Hide this behind your back so I can surprise my friends with it. My back isn’t big enough to hide it behind because I’m only little.”

(In case you’re wondering by now, a Quetzalcoatlus is a type of flying dinosaur. And I would be remiss if I didn’t explain that flying dinosaurs are actually called Pterosaurs, as Benjamin announces to anyone who will listen.)

I take the skeleton as he’s climbing out of the car. When I move my arm behind my back to hide it, I feel one of its wings catch on my shirt and then OMG the whole thing just collapses into a million pieces, spread out all over the parking space next to us. OK, so maybe it was only 10-ish pieces, but still, we’d been through so much already this morning, and now THIS.

Benjamin starts to panic. “Mama, all the pieces! They’re all over! We have to pick them up and put it back together! Hurry! Mama! Mama! Mama, mama, mama!”

We scramble to pick up all the pieces before another car comes to park in the space. The problem is, I don’t know how many pieces we should have, because I didn’t put the wretched thing splendid specimen together.

I dump what we’ve got into his booster seat and set about recreating it. After a few false starts, it goes together pretty easily. Benjamin thinks I’m a heroic genius.

“Thanks Mama! You did it! I can’t wait to show it to my friends!”

I tell him I’m not going to try to hide it behind my back again, and he sees the wisdom. We walk into his school, and as soon as his friends see the skeleton, they go bananas. He beams from ear to ear.

On my way out, one of the little girls in his class stops me to say,

“Hey, Benjamin’s Mama, you look really pretty today!”

I smile at her, thank her, and give her all the cash in my purse. No, I didn’t. But who could’ve blamed me?

QUETZALCOATLUS DETESTED FENDER BENDERS

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?!”

Busted.

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.

NAUGHTY

Preschool Iron Man

“Mama, what does being strong mean?”

“It means that you are healthy and that your muscles can do a lot of work.”

“Am I strong?”

“I think you’re very strong for a boy your age. Why are you thinking about being strong?”

“I don’t know. If I can lift up the gime, does that make me strong?”

“What’s a gime?”

“You know, the gime, that people do for exercises.”

“No, I don’t know what a gime is.”

“How can boys get even stronger?”

“Well, you have to eat good foods, and get lots of sleep, and play a lot.”

“What are good foods?”

“You know…things like fruits and vegetables and all the stuff Mama always wants you to eat.”

“Oh. I like to eat chocolate. Is that a good food?”

“Not really. But you can have a little bit, as long as you eat your good stuff first.”

“Then I can lift up the gime?”

“I still don’t know what a gime is.”

“You spell it g-y-m, Mama. The gime.”

“OH! I think you mean gym.”

“No, I mean gime.”

(I think he actually means weights, but that’s an argument for a different day.)

“That’s not how you say it, buddy – it’s gym, like the name Jim, and if you could actually lift up a gym, then you really would be superduper strong.”

“I’m gonna say it gime.”

“Okay, but don’t be surprised if people tease you.”

“I WON’T!”

*sigh*

It occurred to me later that if he really did become superstrong, no one would tease him for saying gime. Would you bother to correct Mike Tyson if he told you he just got back from the gime?

Me neither.

The Forbidden Keychain of Mystery

Scene: Yesterday morning. I’m driving the car, the children are strapped in their car seats.

Background: Benjamin, 4, is holding a Transformer and a combination keychain/flashlight/photo frame that contains a picture of himself with The Daddy and Thomas the Tank Engine. Ellie, 2, is holding her doll and a pink metal princess purse. They are poster children for gender stereotypes.

(Yes, I did say metal princess purse – you read that right. Someone decided it would be a great idea to make metal purses with pretty beaded handles. The cacophony created by 5 crayons and a block in a metal purse really makes your brains curdle. Way to go, Disney Princess purse designers.)

Crisis: Ellie, suddenly realizing that Benjamin is holding the Forbidden Keychain of Mystery, decides she wants it RIGHTTHISINSTANT.

“Benjamin, I can hold the keythain?”

“No, Ellie! It’s MINE!”

“Pweeze?”

“No!”

“Mama, Benjamin not share wiff me!”

*repeat* *repeat* *repeat*

I’ve been trying to let them fight their own battles more often, watching from the sidelines like a frustrated referee. I drove along silently for some time, but as usual, the whining eventually got to me. I’m not proud to say that I tried a little guilt on Benjamin to see if he would let her look at it, however briefly.

“Ellie, I guess it’s as good a time as any to realize that sometimes people just won’t share things with their little sister, even when it’s the nicest, kindest thing to do.”

Benjamin replied, “Yeah, mama, that’s right – people like ME!”

Lessons Learned:

Benjamin: I feel validated. Mama really understands me and is okay with my possessive behavior.

Ellie: Benjamin is selfish, and Mama is ineffective. I should just pout some more.

Me: The four-year-old has outsmarted me once again. Passive aggressive discipline doesn’t work, at least on the boy. Do I have time to stop for coffee?

LOVE ALWAYS WINS