Merry Christmas from Oregon

What a terrible time to get sick.

There was so much I wanted to do with the boys today.  It’s Christmas eve, and I’m a huge Christmas fanatic.  It’s not just my belief in God, either.  I like the colors, I like the twinkly lights, I like the way Christmas trees smell, I like the comfort food, I like the happiness, I like the cold weather….

I just plain like Christmas.

At first I thought I was just feeling lazy, so I tried to perk myself up by getting dressed up and putting on a full face of makeup…. but by mid afternoon I had to be honest with myself.  My throat hurt.  My bones hurt.  I felt like I was swimming through a fog, a haze of weak malaise.

Ugh.  Sick.

The Bean was my hero all day long – it was his first day of vacation, and instead of relaxing he took point with the boys all day.

And oh, oh what boys they were.  It’s as if they could scent weakness on me, and little predators they decided to go on the attack using their favorite weapon:  spastic hyperactivity.

They ran.  They wrestled.  They squealed.  They screamed.  They laughed.  They fought.  They laughed again.  They vaulted off of furniture, the walls, each other, the dog, our sanity……

The Bean was my hero today – not only did he encourage me to sprawl on the couch and ignore the kids, he scrubbed the entire kitchen, did about five loads of laundry, and vacuumed.

Sometimes, I swear, that man is the sexiest man on earth.

Initially we were planning on spending the morning with Caspian, the afternoon with friends, the evening at a candlelit service, then coming home and baking cookies for Santa.

Instead we did none of the above.  We did let the dogs run up at the school, so there was that.

Sunny and t-shirt weather…. really, Oregon?  On Christmas Eve?

I can feel the puppies moving, so I know she’s pregnant, but really.  Least pregnant-looking-dog EVER.

For the record, my dogs are gorgeous.  GORGEOUS.

Although some of them have more drive than practicality. It’s okay, Artemis.  We love you.

By 7 tonight both Bean and I were reaching the end of our rope with our boys.  They’d sucked every ounce of Christmas spirit out of us, along with every ounce of patience.  They’d skipped naps, been running for hours straight, and in our attempt to physically exhaust them we had only exhausted ourselves.

I tried talking them into letting us put cheese puffs in a bowl for Santa instead of cookies, but they weren’t buying it.  We finally compromised with a piece of cake my unbelievably talented neighbor baked for us.  I don’t remember what kind if it is called – it’s gluten free vanilla coconut cheese cake something-or-other and it tastes like sunshine and angels singing

Whatever it is, “Santa” can’t wait to eat it, even though she… err, he would have been happy with a bowl of cheese puffs, too.

Earlier in the day the DragonMonkey had been very concerned about leaving the milk out for Santa.

“Does Santa like rotten milk?”

“What?  No.  Nobody likes rotten milk.”

“But are we going to give him milk and cookies?”

“If you want to put out milk and cookies tonight, we can.  We can make the cookies together and decorate them this afternoon.”  (This was back when I just thought I was having a lazy morning.)

“But if we put out the milk too soon it will not be fresh, and it will taste rotten.  And if Santa tastes the rotten milk, he will vomit, and he will not leave any presents.”

Welcome to the House of Bean, where Santa enjoys cheese puffs, eats gluten-free cake, and then vomits all over the living room.

Huh.  Now that I think about it, that whole scenario sounds depressingly normal.  That version of Santa would fit right in around here.

Anyways, we finally compromised and left Santa a note that the milk was in the fridge.  Considering the day both boys had, I decided to offer them one last chance to plead their remorse in the note.  The spoke and I wrote, transcribing their words exactly, word-for-word.  I had to ask them to pause from time to time, but I really did write it down exactly as it came out of their mouth.

Here was what DragonMonkey had to say:

“Dear Santa, 

Milk is in the fridge.  I hope, if you let me, I could probably find you another day.  If you have a remote control race car, please give it to me – if you have it in your bag. There’s a slice of cake for you on the counter, and there’s some cookies right by our coffee maker, if you want some.”

Before I could protest about DragonMonkey trying to give away MY cookies to Santa without even asking, the Bean walked into the kitchen with Coyote (aka Little Kitty) in his arms and made a joke about Santa leaving something for the kitty under the tree.  DragonMonkey overheard him, and the note took on a much darker note.

“If you have mice in your sled, please bring in the mice catcher and then leave it out for Little Kitty and rub it up (he meant wrap) with tape and a rubber band….if you have it in your sled. 

Love,DragonMonkey (and I’m six years old!)

Next it was the Squid’s turn.  After three years of being mellow and sweet and wonderful, he is approaching four with all the finesse of a bus slamming into a brick wall at top speeds.  To be honest, if I felt even marginally healthier and if I knew of a store that was still open, I would go get some charcoal briquettes at the store and give him “coal” for Christmas.  He more than deserves it.

“Squid, it’s your turn to leave a note for Santa.  You’ve been very naughty all day – do you have anything you want to tell Santa?”

Here is what he had to say to plead his case:

“Dear Santa, 

I want a remote control train, and a remote control dump truck….”

At this point I cut in.  “Squid, you’re not supposed to be asking for stuff!  This is the last thing Santa will read before he leaves gifts here – IF he leaves gifts here. Is there anything you want to say, considering how horrible you behaved all day wrong?  That’s what this note is about.”

Dutifully reminded, he continued on:

“A remote control… two tractors!  Only one…. actually.. three!  Or four!  1, 2, 3, or four, or five!  or six!  And Sketcher shoes that run real fast, just like this!”

And then he took off, clomping and skittering around the house at full speed, showing just how fast a Squid with brand-new Sketcher shoes would run.

“Squid! Get back here!  You need to finish your note!”

And so he did:

“Love, DragonMonkey.  Cuz I’m DragonMonkey.  Yes I am!”

Sigh.  I tell him to plead his case and he asks for more presents and ends it with a lie.

Coal.  I’m telling you, that kid deserves coal!

On the other hand – I’d like to point out how eloquent DragonMonkey has become.  For all you moms  out there worrying about delayed speech and all that – keep in mind that the Dragonmonkey didn’t speak intelligibly until he was almost four, and now he’s able to use nearly-perfect grammar when instructing Santa how to rubber band wrapping paper over live mice so our cat has something to torture on Christmas morning.  Isn’t that sweet of him?

As for us….

The boys are finally asleep in their beds, we have Country Christmas music playing on iHeart radio, the Bean is nearly finished wrapping gifts, and I think I’m gonna turn off the computer and just enjoy the warmth of my Oregon home.  Maybe I’ll talk the Bean into putting down the scissors and sitting out on the porch while we listen to the rain fall on the porch roof.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

 I call this photo:  The four Christmas elves: Happy, Dopey, I DON’T WANNA and TakeThePicAlready


Foster Fail – Update On Our New Dog

The new dog is awesome.

I was supposed to pick her up the evening of my November 6th post, but….

Sigh.  Craigslisters.

I’ve actually had awesome luck with Craigslist people since moving to Oregon – on a whole, they’re much more reliable than California Craigslisters, so I guess I was overdue.  I was supposed to hit “publish” on that blog post, and then text for the address and head out. I even got someone to cover for me so I could leave work early, hired a babysitter, and….

And then the lady who was going to meet me couldn’t find a ride.  Apparently she needed a ride to go get the dog from her friend’s place – I couldn’t go get the dog without her.

I couldn’t tell if Ms. Craigslister was discreetly asking me to pick her up, but yeah.

No, I prefer to remain un-mugged, with my throat un-slit, thank you very much.

By 7pm that night  I told her it might be best for us to do it another day.  I didn’t get a response from her until the evening of the next day, when I got a text saying hey, she’d found a ride, and could I head out to meet her?

I admit it – I ignored the text.  It wasn’t very mature, but I was annoyed.  I’d taken time off of work the day before and was making up for it by working late.  I had a talk I was going  to give at the library the next day and needed to prepare, I needed to go grocery shopping, and didn’t feel like dealing with Portland traffic with no warning.  I felt bad, as there was a dog in need, but…. but I was just so overwhelmed.

I asked her if we could do it on Saturday…. and once again I received no response until Saturday evening.  Look, for the record, if we ever need to meet up I should probably let you know I am not a night person.  By the time six pm hits I’m counting down the hours till baby bedtime and sweet, sweet, silence.  I’m up for any adventures in the morning.  Do you wanna explore a volcano at 7 in the morning?  SURE!  Wanna go hanggliding at dawn?  AWESOME!  Wanna paint a three story house?  LET ME GET MY DROP CLOTH!

By eight in the evening the only thing I’m good for is shooting people nasty looks and muttering “Get off my lawn” at stupidly cheerful night people.

I texted her back and suggested Sunday – she agreed.  I asked where we should meet up, and she quit responding.

I waited another couple of hours and followed up – where were we meeting?

She gave me a city.

I asked for more specifics.

She gave me the name of a giant street that was an hour’s drive away and spanned the length of the entire city.

I asked for a little more detailed location – she gave me a generic cross street in the middle of the city.

I texted back.  “Are we meeting on the corner?  In the street?  In a building?  At a house?  Who am I meeting – you?  Your friend with the dog?  Can I get a little more info?”

She ignored it.

I asked again for more information on Sunday morning.  Finally I received:

“There’s a McDonald’s there.”

And you know what?  McDonald’s was perfect – because at that point there was no way in heck I was gonna meet anybody at a residence.  I also asked her who all was going to be there at the meeting – her?  The dog’s owner?

 She ignored that, too.

Before I left I downloaded an app that showed my real-time location and shared it with The Bean and wrote down, just in case.  Call me paranoid, but I used to answer 911 phone calls…. and there is some really not-nice Craigslist stuff that goes down from time to time.

When I arrived I made sure to park half a mile away in a busy parking lot – I didn’t want them knowing what kind of car I drove or what my license plate was. It may have seemed like overkill, but if it weren’t for the fact there was a starving dog involved I would have cancelled the whole transaction a long time before.  I do not trust strangers who are deliberately vague with details when I am driving to meet them.

I walked through unfamiliar city to the world’s most hidden McDonald’s – if it weren’t for my phone’s GPS, I never would have found it.  I arrived about 10 minutes early and texted for the third time – “How will I recognize you?  Are you walking?  In a car?”

“C u soon”

(Yes, I’m currently obsessed with expressing myself in .gifs.  Whatever.   Just enjoy the majesty.

By this point I was really weirded out and decided to turn my phone on silent and wait inside the McDonald’s.  If I didn’t like the look of the people I was going to ignore them when they showed up and pretend to be just another person eating my fries.

About 15 minutes past our agreed meetup time I saw my phone ringing was ringing.  I looked out the window and felt a wave of relief –  two nice, generic, skinny Portlandia chicks who I could totally take in a fight unless they knew kung fu.  PHEW.

I went out and waved them down.  They parked the car and as soon as Ms. Cragislister opened the car door, a wiry little shepherd mix bounded out of it.  She was mostly shepherd, with a square body, overly-long radar ears, a beautiful thick coat, and as soon as she saw me she danced straight towards me, crshing into my lower legs in one of those I’m-half-on-my-back/half-sitting/please-pet-my belly moves. She looked up at me with big, sweet eyes, and my heart melted.

I scratched her belly while she wagged her tail between her eyes, and raised my eyes to Ms. Cragislister.  “Hey, I’m glad to see you’re a chick – I was beginning to get nervous at the way you were avoiding answering questions directly.  I was worried you might be Jeffrey Dahmer when you didn’t text back.”

“I had to hold the dog.”  She didn’t return my smile.

I looked at the totally calm, off-leash dog leaning against my legs and had to wonder.

The dog had no leash, but I’d planned ahead and brought a choke collar and leash. I figured that going on a walk before the drive home would give her a chance to get to know me and also give me a chance to assess her.

I slipped the collar over her head, and as I did she sat at my feet politely, looking up at me with big, liquid, “Please be nice” eyes.

Ms. Craigslist started to get back into her car, so I called out.

“So, any ideas how old she is?  Does she have a name?”

“They called her Dixie, but you can call her whatever.  I think she’s under two.”

They started to close the door, so I spoke quickly.  “You said shepherd mix, and I see shepherd… any idea what the other half is?”

“Her mom was a shepherd – they said purebred.  They said the dad was maybe coyote.”

And then they got in the car.  I tried to ask a few more questions before they left,  but they seemed to be in a hurry so I let them drive off.

I started walking back to my car – and realized I didn’t even need a leash.  She was heeling perfectly. Good dog.  Very good dog.

Despite me letting her sniff multiple grassy spots she waited until we were in the middle of the world’s loooongest crosswalk with the world’s shooooortest red light before going poo.  I’d brought a baggie to pick up any mess on our walk, but the flashing red hand had already gone to solid, and I could tell the light was about to change even though I was only halfway through the intersection. I hunched my shoulders beneath the stares of a bazillion drivers as I literally dragged the skinny, still-pooping dog behind me, leaving a nice little trail of tootsie rolls behind us.


She loaded up like a champ and sat in the passenger seat, alternating between staring out the window with a resigned air and shooting me worried glances.

Depressed and bewildered

Please.  Please be kind to me.  Please. 

She was so much prettier than I expected.

I guess it’s time for a confession:  I usually adopt pretty animals, or animals so ugly they’re personable.

It’s not very kind to the plain-jane pets, but in the back of my mind I’m always worried about what will happen if I run out of money, or if I have to suddenly join Witness Protection and my dogs end up in the pound, or if my kids develop a sudden-onset animal allergy and I have to sell all of them.

It’s like, even as I’m assessing a pet, in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, “If this doesn’t work out, would my ad linger on Craigslist for minutes or months?”

This was the first time I’d ever agreed to go rescue a dog sight-unseen, and I thought I was being very magnanimous by agreeing before I even saw a picture. Don’t get me wrong –  I’ve fostered for adoption agencies before, but those places come with a “holy crap, take this animal back!” kind of built in.

Anyways, we drove home, I just kept shooting her incredulous glances. I just couldn’t believe this dog was for real.  She was sweet.  She was kind.  She was pretty.  She was obedient, and had the personality I just absolutely LOVE – sensitive enough to bond, but not super needy or pushy.  If I’d custom-ordered her on the “dominance scale” chart, she couldn’t have been more perfect – submissive, but not cringey.  She was smart but not super intelligent (those of you who had the “joy” of owning an intelligent dog know exactly what I’m talking about!)

These may not be traits everyone likes, but they are the kind of traits that I really mesh well with.  Plus – I’m a shepherd fanatic.  I got a lab because that was the kind of dog my boys needed, and she’s gorgeous and awesome and everything I’d hoped for – but I have and will always love shepherds, especially shepherds with a sable coat.

The drive home was only an hour long, but even so, as I ran fingers through her thick, dull coat, sighing as my hands hit rib bones and hip bones, and realized:  Dude.  I think I’m about to be a big, fat, foster FAIL.  It was like I’d custom-ordered a dog and she was delivered by Craigslist.

The meeting between her and Artemis went okay – we took both dogs to the nearby track and just walked them until eventually we were walking around with both dogs completely ignoring each other.  Artemis was in a completely spastic, hyper mood so the new dog was understandably overwhelmed – I let them sniff a bit and play just a little bit off-leash, but mostly limited their interaction.  I felt like it would be better to keep them separated than have the first meeting go badly – and since I hadn’t jogged Artemis or played fetch in two days (Bad me. Bad), it was a recipe for failure.

I gave Artemis rawhide bone and put her in my bedroom, and let Sudo loose in the house.

She went immediately to our giant pot of water (Artemis is the world’s MESSIEST drinker, and it cuts the water dripping down by half) and began drinking.

And drinking.

And drinking.

And drinking.

And drinking.

And drinking.

And drinking.

Dehydrated dog.  Just add copious water.
I finally got nervous about electrolyte imbalance so I picked it up and only allowed her access about once an hour.  Each time I did she drank an absolutely insane amount – poor thing.

She has a beautiful, thick coat so her thinness didn’t really show in photos very well, much in the same way a thick winter coat will hide a too-thin horse’s condition.  She was thin, though, and oooooh, how she smelled.  It wasn’t her fur – it was her breath, or her skin, or all of the above.  Someone on Facebook brought up the fact that it was the smell of ketones as her body was in starvation mode, and it made sense.  I’m still frustrated I didn’t pick her up and weigh her when I got her.   Ms. Cragislister had texted “She’s about 35-40 pounds but she should be more like 50 or 60 pounds.” It’s tough to say,  but I think she was right – I do think she was around 35-40 pounds when she arrived.

I wanted to avoid upsetting her system or refeeding syndrome, so I didn’t do anything crazy – I tried to gauge what a dog her size should eat, and then I halved that and fed that several times a day for the first day or so.  From there I gradually increased the amount every day until she was eating slightly more than I thought a 50-60 pound dog should eat.  I didn’t want to put weight on her too fast – it seemed like it would be healthier on her metabolism to have her slowly put the weight back on rather than plumping her up all at once.  
She didn’t respond to the name she came with, and I’ve never been one who has issues renaming an animals, so it didn’t take us long to come up with a new name.

I kind of wish we’d waited a couple of days longer – about five days after we named her I stumbled across “Keeper” and I realized it fit her perfectly….

But by then we were already set on Sudo.   I have to admit, the name still makes me laugh.  (It’s a computer Linux command  – when you use it, it kind of forces your computer to accept your command, no matter what.  “No barking.  No barking.  Sigh.  Sudo, no barking.  Thank you.”)

It took the boys awhile to figure out her name – they called her Noodle or Poodle for almost a week – and to be honest, I still refer to her as Sudo the Noodle.

And I know I’m a total foster fail… but, I mean… look.  Could you resist her?

Anyways, it’s been a lot of fun watching Sudo fatten up and learn how to have fun. 

Day 2:  “May I?  Really? May I really go play?”

It’s also been fun fattening her up.

I’m a huge fan of Royal Canin dog food- when we bought Artemis I went to this super posh, super knowledgeable pet store that I trusted and asked them to pick me out the best puppy food they could recommend.

They said a bunch of words I didn’t listen to, and I walked out the store with ridiculously expensive bag of dog food: Royal Canin Labrador puppy something-or-other.  I figured I’d feed her the awesome food the first month or two, and then wean off to something more affordable.

Only, even after she shed her puppy coat she still had the softest, shiniest coat of any Labrador I’d ever come across.  Sad as it is to say, I’m such a  cheapskate that I would have changed anyways, but….

Artemis never smells.


To put that into context, I don’t give my dogs baths.  Ever.  I also don’t brush them.  I know, I know.  I suck.

It’s not that I don’t clean them off.  Of course I do!  When Artemis gets muddy or filthy, like any good dog owner  I drive her down to the river and I throw the ball into the river a couple of times and let her swim around to her heart’s content.

By the time she’s done she’s no longer muddy.  See?  I’m not being a bad owner, I’m just being efficient, and letting her scrub herself.  It’s a positive trait.

When I think she’s clean enough I then throw the ball a couple of times on dry land so she runs most of the “wet” off, and I bring her home.

I put her in her kennel so she doesn’t make my couch wet, and in an hour or so I let her out.

When I do that… SHE. DOESN’T. SMELL. LIKE. WET. DOG.  I mean, there’s still a slight scent in her kennel, but usually the smell of wet dog has a way of just working its way throughout an entire house.

I used to think it was a magical ability she had – like, if you buy a super expensive purebred puppy they won’t smell bad like those plebian rescue dogs (it’s a joke, people)…

But then we had a couple of months where money was super tight and we had to switch Artemis from Royal Canin to Ol’ Roy (fifty pounds for $19.98.  Thanks, Walmart!)

After about a month on the food I noticed I was having to vacuum twice as often.

After two months on the food she got muddy, so I took her to the river to swim…. and my car smelled like wet dog for the rest of the day.  Let’s not even talk about what my bedroom smelled like after she’d been in her kennel drying off.

Anyways, there’s your free advertising, Royal Canin.  I don’t endorse stuff much, but I really like your product.

Okay, Royal Canin people, you can stop reading now.

(Cough, cough, discreet cough:  I’m not gonna say that their dog food is unbelievably expensive, because it would be super rude of me to do that…. but, yeah.  It kind of is.  It’s worth it, but… yeah. It’s pretty pricey.  For cheapskates like me who can only afford to pamper their pets on the “good” months, I recommend stretching it out on the “bad” months by adding rice and sweet potato to each meal. It probably ruins the scientific perfection of it, or whatever, but their food is so protein-dense that I figure it’s probably healthier than switching back to Ol’ Roy. Cough)

Anyways, here’s a photo of Sudo when I got her vs. and a photo from yesterday.  I suppose I should be all fancy photo blogger and take a better, less-blurry “after” picture, but then I’d have to stand up, and I’m feeling really lazy today.
Before (Day 1) and After (Yesterday, day 42 )

Anyways, part of the reason I haven’t updated on her is because I’ve been sitting around waiting to figure out what she’s *really* like.  I mean, sure she was perfect when I got her, but I wanted to report on her *reaaaaal* personality.

“She’d probably like kids” Ms. Craigslist said.  She was right. 

Except… it’s been six weeks now, and yeah.  Sorry.  I just happen to have stumbled across the perfect dog.  I wish it were possible to clone her and hand her perfection out to everyone.

….aaaand then I was petting her the day before yesterday and I realized – sigh.  I just might be able to.

I was looking at her the other day, trying to place what her other “half” might be.  She has long, thin legs and a coyote-way of moving, but I’ve met half coyote dogs before, and she definitely wasn’t half coyote.

At first I suspected Australian cattle dog based on the squareness of her head and a certain squareness to her muzzle, but as she gained weight I realized that was just combo of dehydration and hunger making her head appear so large and square.

Catahoula?  Dobie?  Who knows?

I’ve taken to introducing her as a German shepherd/hound dog.  When she barks there’s a distinctive “baying” undernote to it, and based on her facial markings I’ve heard “hound” suggested quite a few times, so I’ve just decided to roll with it.

Besides – she’s still a bit ribby, but she has absolutely no underline:

That’s okay, we love her anyways even if she doesn’t have a Scarlett O’Hara waist.  I tell her that, too.  I even said it to her last night.    “Poor little girl – it’s okay.  I love you even if you don’t have a tiny waist.”  Sudo, quite willing to believe I’d love her no matter what, flopped down on her back, tail wagging as she invited a belly scratch.

“You’re so pretty we don’t mind at all that you’re all thick and square and matronly, do we?  Do we, ugly little girl?”  (Shut up.  You baby talk your dogs your way, I’ll baby talk my dogs my way.)

Sudo opened her mouth and smiled at me, tail wagging softly as she enjoyed a good belly scratch….. and as I scratched I realized I kept bumping into her teats – something that didn’t used to happen.

I stopped scratching, and Sudo rolled over into her favorite resting sphinx position.

“Oh, phew.  Okay.  For a second there you looked kind of…. oh, nevermind. Who’s a good dog?  You want a belly rub?  Roll on over and….”

Double uh-oh. 

It was like one of those photos that change when you move your head from side to side. – from above she looked normal.   From underneath or the side….  Well, she looked pregnant.  I guess I wasn’t completely surprised, because I could tell she was coming out of season when I brought her home.  If I’d thought she could have handled the stress of a big surgery I might have gone to the next day to get her spayed, but she was so skinny I’ve been waiting until she’s nice and healthy – probably some time in mid January.

Only…. only I really, really, REALLY did not remember her teats standing out that much.  I stopped in my scratching reached down and tested one – and was more than a little dismayed at what came out.

Hey, 26 year old Becky, in seven years you will be, married, have two kids, and be sitting in your Oregon living room squeezing dog nipples and forcing people to look at the gross stuff that comes out. Oh, yeah.  That’s right. You’re still the life of the party, man.   But at least one thing is cool: you’ve matured enough to realize that you should  probably hide close-up photos of discharge coming out of your dog’s nipples so readers don’t have to explain themselves to anyone passing by who happens to glance at the computer screen.   See?  People can change.  Go you.  

Click to see my dog’s hairy nipples

  Click to see gross stuff coming out of my dog’s hair nipples. Also, for the record, I am very concerned what that last sentence is going to do in terms of the search terms people use to find my blog

So… yeah.   I’m not going to say she’s absolutely 100% pregnant – I would need x-rays for that,  but I’m pretty sure I feel puppies rolling around, and she’s got big bewbs that leak stuff, and…

And there was this whole other thing I had written here about stuff I learned from this possible dog pregnancy, but once I was done writing it I realized it was kind of off-topic, and besides, I had actually created the LONGEST POST IN THE HISTORY OF THE ENTIRE WORLD, so I cut it and I’ll post it in a day or two.

Anyways – we’ll see.  I’ve owned Sudo for 43 days.  It’s hard to say, but she could have been a week to two weeks pregnant when I got her.  Of course, she could have been only two days pregnant.  She also could not be pregnant at all, because I brought her in for any X-rays.

Irregardless, I think it’s safe to assume she was about a week pregnant when I picked her up… which means she’s about 50 days pregnant.  Dogs whelp between 56-65 days (63 days is average), so… so we’ll see. I borrowed a blue plastic kids’ pool and set up a whelping area in my closet, and got all sorts of supplies just in case…. so, we’ll see.

Also, I used irregardless just to annoy my grammar nazi friends.  Hah.  Made you cringe.

We Need A Cuss Jar

“Mommy, can I get an ice cream from McDonald’s?”

Ever since I started carrying gluten-free ice cream cones in the back of my car, the DragonMonkey has been obsessed with the dollar soft serve ice creams from McDonald’s.  I can’t say I blame him – he’s been eating it out of a cup for so many years that using a cone is almost more of a treat than the ice cream itself.

Unfortunately, we were late.  We had places to go, and besides – I didn’t feel like stopping.  “Sorry, kid.  No ice cream today.”

He sighed – a resigned, almost adult sound that drifted from the backseat.  “Damnit.” He said it under his breath,  in a soft, quiet little voice…. just not quiet enough.

My head whipped around so fast I heard my neck crack.  “WHAT?  WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?”

The DragonMonkey hunched down beneath my gaze, trying to fold in on himself.  This wasn’t the first time we’d talked about “bad words”.  It would be nice to blame his newfound appreciation for cussing on the kindergarten riffraff at school…. but since I’ve already had one very embarrassing talk with his teachers about the DragonMonkey’s potty mouth, I’m coming to the realization that my son might very well be the riffraff.

So, we’ve been cleaning up our language as of late… although, apparently, not enough.  Hunching his shoulders, the DragonMonkey lowered his head, his hair sliding forward over his eyes in an effort to hide himself from my angry glare.  Effective though it might be, I realized I probably shouldn’t be shooting my glare-of-death towards the backseat while I was driving the car, so I turned back to face road.

“Young man, we do NOT use language like that, do you hear me?”

He opened his mouth to apologize, already nodding, when he was interrupted by the Squid.

“What’d you say?  What’d you say?  Mama, what’d he say?” Apparently the Squid needed to know the exact bad word that had been said so he could avoid saying it.

If that doesn’t make sense to you, then you’re probably not three years old.

“Squid, it’s not important.”

“Which bad word?  Which bad word you say, DragonMonkey?”  Squid was not about to be deterred. Someone had said a bad word, and by golly, he was gonna get to the bottom of the mystery.

“Squid, it doesn’t matter what word your brother said, only that it was a very, very, very bad word-“

“NUH-UH!” the DragonMonkey interrupted.  “I didn’t say a very, very, very bad word, I only said ‘damnit’.”

Ah, yes.  My kindergartener knows how to rank foul language.  Awesome.  I am a totally awesome mom.


“What?  What you say?  What word was it?”  Squid asked again, raising his voice to be heard over me.  He needed to know.  For… for science.


“I said ‘damnit’,” supplied my six year old.  He’s helpful like that.


“I didn’t say it again!  I was just telling Squid that I said ‘damnit’ cuz he asked.”


“No, Mama,” said the ever-helpful Squid, rising to the defense of his brother.  “He just say ‘damnit’ to me, not a bad word damnit.”

“DAMNI— I mean, darn it boys, would you guys quit saying damn it?”

Cuss jar.

Bean, we really, really, really need to get that cuss jar going.


I lean back against the walls, trapping my hands behind me at the small of my back so I can hide the restless tapping of my fingers.

It seems the health care team is in the middle of something with Wayne no matter what time of day I come- bathing, changing, moving him into his chair, trimming nails…..

It’s a good sign, I guess.  I remind myself it’s a good sign.  A nursing home that takes care of its patients is a very good thing.

Still.  His room is so small I feel awkward just standing there waiting, so I generally excuse myself and wait in the hall.  It feels better than just staring at them while they train the constantly-new staff.

High turnover rate probably isn’t a good thing.

I shake my head, pushing the thought out of my head.  It’s not my place to say anything.  I’m the help – or rather, was the help.  I suppose I’m just a friend now, since my last day working for the family was last Tuesday.  I guess I don’t really need to be visiting when Wayne calls my phone late at night, but I can’t help myself.

Six months, nine hour shifts, sometimes as much as forty hours a week with Wayne… how can you suddenly shut it off when you’re no longer paid to care?

You can’t, which is why I am here, tapping out my hidden sorrow against a freshly-painted wall.

One of the residents approaches me in a wheelchair.   The hallways are a slowly busy place, although the residents foot-pedal their wheelchairs on their circuitous routes at such a glacial pace that it’s not hard to avoid the traffic jams. I tense as she wheels closer, preparing to step out of her way as she drifts from barely moving to not moving.  Eventually it becomes obvious she’s stopped, so I relax again, fingers still tapping quietly.

From the way her watery brown eyes glance around I’m not sure she’s aware where she is, much less why she’s stopped.  I wait for her to move her eyes to mine, then smile and nod.  It’s a fake smile – all tight lips and no teeth, but it’s better than nothing.  I hate small talk and the fake social niceties that make the world go around, but for them, for these lost, forgotten founts of wisdom, I make the effort.
It feels like the least I can do.

“Hello,” I say, and nod again.

Her eyes focus in on mine, and her brows pull together.  “Why?”  She pauses, then asks again in a voice laced with pain.  “Why?”

My heart sinks.  It’s her.  It’s the “Why” woman.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped making my night visits to Wayne, even though it was really the best time for both of us.  He was always more alert at night, and by 8 my kids are sleeping in their beds so I don’t feel pressed for time.  It was working out surprisingly well for us – I would bring him a coffee, and the two of us would talk as I decompressed from my day, sharing stories until he tired .  Sometimes I rub talc onto his back – being bedridden makes the skin so itchy, and it has always relaxed him.

I didn’t mind the late bed time or shortened sleep.  I didn’t even mind the howl of the “Help” man from the end of the corridor.  Help Man never sounded like he needed help – he just sounded argumentative. The few times I’d peeked in on him he’d been perfectly fine, just angry.  He probably had his reasons, but there’s only so many concerns I can shoulder at once.

But the “Why” woman.  The “Why” woman tore at my heart.


It was a quavering, hopeless sound, and the implications ripped at me until I felt raw and bloody.  When she would start up I would excuse myself and go home after only 10 minutes of visiting with Wayne.   I couldn’t take it any longer than that.

Evenings were easier for my schedule.  They were easier… but they were hard, so hard I stopped visiting at night.  And yet, despite my careful planning, there she is in front of me, gaze boring into mine.


“Hi.  I’m Becky,” I say, trying to change the subject, and this time I try a little harder with my fake smile.

She waits, eyes looking into mine.  I break first, my gaze skittering off to the side as I fake the need to look around the corner, chasing after an interesting sound that doesn’t exist.

She pulls me back with her despair.  “Why?”

A million answers come to mind, all of them truthful….. none of them kind, none of them helpful.  I should be able to do this. I’ve worked with the elderly for years.  If you have your defenses in place you can sing a song of conversation, tripping lightly from sadness to a happiness, although the joy is usually too-soon forgotten.  All you need to do is redirect the conversational stream.  It’s a dance I’m skilled at, but today… today I’ve forgotten my props, and all I have left is raw honesty.

“I don’t know.”

She shakes her head, not surprised.  The silence falls between us.  I want to flee, but I promised Wayne I’d wait and return, and it seems rude to run away.

Besides, if she has the strength for her reality then I should be able to handle it for longer than thirty seconds, right?


The silence stretches between us, and I can feel her growing restless with the need to ask again, so I try to redirect her.

“That is the most beautiful ring,” I say, motioning at her hands.  It is, too – a deceptively simple double band of silver that twists on itself, reminiscent of the infinity symbol.

She stares at it, thumb twisting the band.

“It’s amazing.  Where did you get it?”

She looks up at me, and I can see her mouth open, ready to ask again, so I cut her off.  It’s rude, I know, but maybe she’ll just think I have no class.

“Of course, maybe it’s just your hands.  I’m starting to wish I brought gloves,” I say with forced cheer, looking down at my cracked nails, the horse dirt shining from under each nail – brown rings of courage lent to me from Caspian that very afternoon.  “My hands are a mess, but yours are gorgeous.  Did you get a manicure?  Your nails are gorgeous.”

She looks down at her hands, at the paper-soft skin with soft wrinkles.  Her well-shaped nails with their fresh red nail polish seem out of place in a home where “a night out” means scooting yourself with your heels through fluorescent hallways to watch tv in the common room instead of by yourself.

“Well, I think I’m going to go check on my friend.  Have a great afternoon!”  I flash another bright, too-fake smile and turn away.  I know they won’t be done with Wayne for another few minutes, but I’m hoping in vain to for enough space between us so I don’t have to hear her soft, hopeless voice when it calls out again.