04 Jan

Shave and a Haircut

Sometimes, in an effort to save money, we take on things we have no business messing around with – things best left to trained professionals. We put on our practical “do it yourself” hats and say stupid, fate-tempting things like “How hard could it be?” And then we find out.

When temperatures hit 90 degrees last week, I told Tom we’d have to make an appointment to get our dogs, Holly and E.J., shaved for the summer, as we do every year around this time. He agreed, hesitantly, because he knew the trip to the doggie salon for two large dogs usually runs around $150.

But there was no question it needed to be done, especially for Holly, who has more fur than your average polar bear. Thirteen years ago, we adopted her as a puppy from a local shelter. All we knew about her was that she was a sweet, tiny, blonde ball of soft fur. The people at the shelter told us she was a Newfoundland breed, and we smiled and said that sounded nice because, at the time, we had no idea that Newfoundland puppies grow up to be roughly the size of a Volkswagen.

When I took her to the veterinarian for shots, I stroked her soft fur and explained to the vet that she was a Newfoundland puppy we’d just adopted. An older man who’d seen his share of puppies, the vet chuckled and told me I didn’t adopt a Newfoundland dog. “Well, then what kind of dog is she?” I asked.

“A little yellow dog,” he replied, making it clear she was simply a mixed breed true to her pound-puppy heritage.

As our little yellow dog grew up, we were relieved that she didn’t get enormous. The vet was right about her mixed breed status, but I believe she must have a Newfoundland somewhere in her gene pool because her fur is impossibly thick and starts shooting out of her skin in huge tufts of wispy hair about this time of year. If we didn’t shave her in this heat and humidity, she’d probably self-combust.

So Tom decided to solve two problems with one trip to Wal-Mart. He came home with a forty-dollar set of electric dog clippers, which he said would allow us to shave the dogs and keep more than a hundred dollars in our pocket. Brilliant plan, right?

The electric clippers came with an instructional video on how to trim your dog’s hair. We watched the first five minutes of the video but then turned it off because the script sounded like it had been written for idiots. It talked about how the “proper use of this excellent grooming tool could even improve our dog’s self-esteem.” Jeesh! We didn’t have time to hear about dog psychology. We were ready to get the job done.

So we set up lawn chairs in the garage and brought in Holly, assuring her it wouldn’t hurt a bit. And we didn’t physically hurt her during the hour-long shaving debacle, but, if the poor thing sees her reflection in a rain puddle anytime soon, her self-esteem will go right into the toilet. She looks – how should I say it – rough. Real rough. It turns out that shaving a dog is not nearly as easy as it looks on the instructional video.

On the bright side, there are a few areas of her hair I’m proud of – smooth, wide swaths of short hair that look almost like a professional’s work. The problem is that those few smooth spots are surrounded by clumps and lumps we couldn’t quite get to as well as naked divots where we were a tad too aggressive with the clippers. In short, she looks like she was shaved by a hay thrasher. A frustrated, misguided hay thrasher who did not watch the instructional video.

We didn’t finish the haircut completely. After more than an hour of shaving, we knew Holly was tired of our amateur grooming efforts and we were exhausted and covered in enough dog hair to create an additional dog. The dog’s legs were still kind of shaggy but we’d managed to get the bulky hair off her body.

Before the haircut, she weighed about 70 pounds. She must be considerably lighter now, though, since it seems like we shaved off at least 15 pounds of hair – most of which is still rolling around the floor of our garage like Texas tumbleweeds.

We were too tired to tackle shaving the second dog that same weekend, so we’re putting it off until next Saturday. But after the second dog sees the job we did on the first, there’s a good chance he might run away before the weekend. Who could blame him? I hope he gets a professional haircut before he comes back home.

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03 Jan

Sock It To Me

There’s an old TV commercial for Tootsie Pops featuring a cartoon boy who poses this question to wise Mr. Owl: “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” The owl replies “Let’s find out,” as he takes the little boy’s Tootsie Pop and begins licking and counting aloud.

At my house, there’s a similar experiment underway. Adam and Jack are on a quest to find out how many socks it takes to make their mother insane. Last night, they came dangerously close to witnessing a full-blown trip to Crazytown.

I know it shouldn’t bother me this much. They’re socks – not landmines. But what started as a pet peeve grew into a frustration and has now morphed into a trigger. For some moms, it’s dirty dishes left behind on the counter or globs of toothpaste cemented onto the bathroom sink. But every mama has something that drives her a little nuts, and, for me, it’s the socks.

Since they were toddlers, I’ve always been able to track the boys by following a trail of socks. At the end of the trail, I’d find two barefoot brothers oblivious to why I might be irritated. I figured the best way to teach them was to make them pick up their own socks and put them in the hamper. I was sure they’d eventually learn that it’s easier to put the socks in the hamper before I started to hassle them about it.

But we’ve been doing this forced march to the hamper for YEARS now. And yet, still, I find socks. Everywhere. Inside-out, balled-up socks – in the kitchen, by the front door, in the hallway, under tables, under bed covers. The endless repetition of “Put your socks in the hamper!” has nearly driven me mad.

Last night, after I’d spent the better part of the day getting the house in order, I walked into the living room to watch TV with the kids. As I began to sit down, I stopped short. There, in the very spot I was about to sit, were two discarded socks – the same two socks that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

“WHO left their socks here?” I yelled at the boys as I pointed toward the offending footwear. My tone and volume told them this was serious.

“They’re HIS!” they both said in unison, each brother pointing at the other.

“How many times do I have to say the exact same thing?” I yelled, continuing my rant. “What part of ‘Put your socks away’ do you NOT understand? Do you think I was put on this Earth to pick up socks every single day of my life? Do you? Well, I wasn’t!”

They both stood there stunned, shocked that socks could have triggered such a maternal meltdown. They’d accidentally opened a big ol’ can of crazy and desperately wanted to stuff it back in.

“You guys better get these socks out of my sight and into the hamper in the next 10 seconds or you do NOT want to know what’ll happen,” I threatened.

Honestly, even I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew none of us wanted to see things get uglier. In less than a second, they’d each grabbed a sock and sprinted upstairs toward the hamper and away from the nuclear reactor that was once their mother.

So how many strewn-around socks does it take to make your mother crazy? I’m not sure. But I do know this. You don’t want to find out.

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02 Jan

Today I Laid an Egg

Parenthood is not a glamorous sport. Often it can be downright humbling. Some days, it sneaks a toe over the line into “humiliating.” Last Sunday was one of those days.

We got up early with a mission – get ourselves and the two boys dressed and ready for church. We’d been shamefully absent from Sunday services in the few months since the new baby arrived, and we vowed to do better.

So after breakfast and diaper changes, Tom dressed 2-year-old Adam while I dressed the baby. Then I packed his diaper bag with extra changes of clothes for both kids, so I’d be prepared for a leaky diaper or spilled drink. After all, a smart mother has to plan ahead for mishaps.

Then I began searching for something to wear. I hadn’t worn anything but stretchy pants and t-shirts since Jack was born, so I had to dig way back into the guest room closet to find the light beige, dressy pants I’d worn more than a year earlier. I found them and put them on, praying they’d fit again. I had to suck in hard and remove a couple ribs, but I got them buttoned. Then I chose a silk, button-up shirt and emerged from the closet looking more put together than I had in a long time – nice clothes, wrinkle and spit-up free.

Church was great, and neither kid cried. Afterward, we headed to a nice restaurant to meet friends for lunch. Once we parked, I climbed into the backseat, brushed aside several toddler toys, and sat between the two carseats to feed the baby.

Once Jack was fed, burped and back in his infant seat, we all got out and headed for the restaurant door. I led the way with Adam, and Tom followed behind carrying the baby. Our friends hadn’t arrived yet, so we asked for a large table to accommodate four adults and two kids. The hostess led us all the way through the large, crowded restaurant and finally stopped at a booth near the back.

I was just about to sit down when a waitress leaned over to me and said in a hushed voice, “Ma’am, you’ve got something hanging off your behind. I think it may be Silly Putty.”

I reached behind me and, to my horror, felt a melted, gooey mess as well as half of the Silly Putty egg that the goo had come out of. Even worse, it was blue Silly Putty on light beige pants. It practically screamed for attention.

It was one of those moments when you wish for the Earth to instantly open up and swallow you whole. I had just traipsed through one of the nicest restaurants in town in front of a capacity crowd with a blue gob of Silly Putty and a plastic egg dangling from my butt.

If only we’d been at McDonald’s or Chuck E. Cheese, it wouldn’t have been nearly as embarrassing. At those kinds of places, it’s not all that uncommon to see an oblivious mother with random objects stuck to her butt. But this was no McDonald’s. This was the kind of place where the napkins are linen and the patrons don’t wear Silly Putty.

I tried in vain to scrape off the melted putty, but it was no use. If my butt had been a car, it was totaled. A complete loss. Inside the diaper bag were extra clothes for the kids, but there was nothing for me. I hadn’t anticipated being the one wearing the mess. After lunch, during the long walk out of the restaurant, I held the diaper bag over my behind and ordered Tom to follow close behind.

On the drive home, I berated him for not noticing the blue egg on my butt before the waitress spotted it. “I was carrying the baby,” he said. “How was I supposed to know I should be looking for an egg hanging from your rear?”

I fired back, saying, “I bet you would’ve noticed if Jennifer Lopez walked in front of you with a Silly Putty egg on her butt!”

“Maybe so,” he teased, “but then again I don’t see her butt every day.”

Needless to say, this was not the right response. (Note to husbands everywhere: When your wife has just been seen in public with blue goo and a plastic egg on her butt, do not say anything which might imply that hers is also an old, familiar butt.)

Despite my humiliation, I did learn a few things that might prevent this type of social tragedy in the future.

No. 1: Never let your kid play with Silly Putty in the car.

No. 2: Check your rear before walking through a fancy restaurant.

No. 3: Pack some mishap clothes of your own.

You never know when you might be the one who accidentally lays an egg.

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01 Jan

Out, Out Damn Spot

Most men don’t fully understand this, but sometimes a woman walks into a room in her house and knows, with certainty, that something has GOT to change. It happened to me when I walked into the guest room and realized I was sick of the varying degrees of beige in there. It felt dull, lifeless.

So I chose a color, and Tom painted the room a cool, airy blue that I love. But repainting triggered a chain of redecorating events. The old bedspread didn’t go with the new blue, so I switched it out with one that does. Then the peeling finish on the nightstands screamed for attention.

I started repainting the nightstands after Tom left for a business trip. My parents had come for a visit that weekend, and I recruited my dad for a little father-daughter painting project. We spread out a paint tarp in the garage and began the long sanding process. Once the hard part was done, we used spray paint to speed up the job.

Nearly drunk on paint fumes, I suggested we move the nightstands onto the driveway to do the second coat of paint in the open air. It wasn’t until I started spraying the nightstand’s legs that I realized we hadn’t moved the tarp.

“Uh oh,” I said. “I just painted the driveway.”

“Oh well,” Dad said. “It’ll wear off.”

I agreed and went right on spraying until the nightstands were a beautiful glossy white. I couldn’t wait to show the paint job to Tom when he came home. About 10 seconds after he returned home and hugged me and the kids, he asked, “Why are there white spots on the driveway?”

“I repainted those old nightstands. Want to see them?” I asked.

“And you painted on the driveway without the tarp?” he asked, completely ignoring the bigger fact that I’d painted two nightstands.

“Well, yeah, but it’s just the driveway, so it’ll wear off in time,” I said.

“You’ve gotta get those spots off. It’s going to drive me crazy,” he said.

I agreed to the spot removal just to appease him and then promptly filed it away at the bottom of my “to do” list, knowing the likelihood of me getting around to doing it was somewhere between “remote chance” and “never gonna happen.”

Fast forward one week, and the subject of spots suddenly resurfaced again:

“You know, I asked you a week ago to clean those paint spots off the driveway, and you still haven’t done it,” he said, perturbed.

“Tom, it’s the DRIVEWAY. Why does this bother you so much?” I asked, wondering if the spots had, indeed, driven him crazy.

“They just do! And don’t act like you don’t have weird things that drive you crazy because you do,” he fired back.

I scanned my list of personal quirks, trying to think of something as seemingly trivial as the spots-on-the-driveway issue. Couldn’t come up with a single one.

“Okay, so what do I get all worked up about that seems ridiculous to you?” I asked, certain he wouldn’t be able to think of anything.

“One word,” he said. “Countertops.”


He had me there, and I knew it. I do come a little unhinged when he leaves things out on the counter and then walks out of the room without putting them away. For me, clean counter space equals a clean mind. Clutter makes me edgy. But I felt certain I could defend my position, so I foolishly pressed forward.

“But you have an English muffin every morning and then leave the kitchen even though your butter knife, jelly jar and crumbs are still RIGHT THERE on the counter!” I said.

“Did it ever occur to you that I might want ANOTHER English muffin so I’m leaving that stuff out on purpose?” he said. “I can’t even set a drink down on the counter without you whisking it into the refrigerator when I turn my back.”

“Well, that’s just crazy,” I said, a little flustered and painfully aware that he’d proven his point.

The discussion ended soon after because neither of us could deny our own sore spots. And, ironically enough, his sore spot is an actual spot – on the driveway.

So today, because I took a vow years ago to love and cherish his sanity, I will attempt to remove white paint spots from the driveway. But, if I come inside after restoring the purity of his precious pavement and find a jelly-smeared butter knife on my kitchen counter, I may just have to use it on him.

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