When Warthogs Fly

DragonMonkey is dyiiiiiing for a tablet.  His one friend has a tablet.  His other friend has a tablet.  His other, other, other friend has a tablet.  Can’t he have a tablet, too?

Son, you’re in kindergarten.  You’re getting matchbox cars and firetrucks for birthdays and Christmases.  If we start you out on little miniature iPads now, we’ll have to upgrade to weird stuff like hookers and cocaine by the time you’re in your teens, in order to “top” last year’s gift.

The DragonMonkey is not amused, in case you were curious.

Anyways, my parents were over at my house watching the SuperBowl game last night, and as such they brought the Holy Grail… or rather, their tablets.  The DragonMonkey happily buried himself in a sea of blinking computer lights and downloaded airplane game apps for several hours while we watched a quiet, practically child-free Superbowl game.

Video games suck in the DragonMonkey like nothing else – he’ll hone in on them with a ferocious intensity and only emerge to notice the world around him from to time, like a swimmer surfacing to breathe.  It’s a little like me and books, so I can’t say I don’t understand.

Last night he emerged briefly during this commercial:

If you haven’t seen it, you really need to watch it for this next part to make sense.

Anyways, the sound of the pig rocketing out of the barn drew DragonMonkey’s attention, and he eyeballed it dubiously.

“What even is that?  A… a cow?  A…. a warthog?”  He shook his head with absolute disgust, rolling his eyes in disdain before slipping back into his video game coma.  “That kid shouldn’t do that to his dog.  That’s not nice.”

Sure, son.  We’ll buy you a tablet.  And a Nintendo DS and heck, why not an XBox One to go with our PS3?  You don’t need any more actual life experience.

On a side note, does anyone know when the county fair is coming to town?  I want to go show my son the non-flying warthogs.

Starter Stories: Less Is More

Back in my early 20s I used to deliver pizza for Domino’s, and one of my favorite parts about it (aside from the free mistake pizzas and the great tips) was getting the chance to peek into people’s living rooms.

Look, I’m just being honest here.  I’m a nosy, nosy person.  I’m usually discreet, but I find people watching (and, I guess, living room watching) endlessly fascinating.

Anyways, there’s a company based out of New York called Urban Compass – it’s a real estate platform which helps you find a place to rent, based on your personal tastes.

You know how you go on Craigslist and start searching for apartments in your budget, and then you Google the address, and then maybe use Street View to figure out what kind of area it’s in?  And then you might narrow it down, but you still have to kind of drive around and get a feel for the area and waste a bunch of gas money trying to figure out if it’s a good fit for you?

Well, it’s like that, only someone else is doing all the annoying work.

Anyways, they’re doing this thing right now called Starter Stories where people are sharing stories about their starter home – either their first home or the home that gave them a fresh start, and all the trials and tribulations and joys that go into renovating and decorating and whatnot.

All of this to say- dude.  It’s like my old Domino’s job – I get to gawk at people’s living rooms and it’s not even illegal.  

Score.

Anyways, after spending waaaaaaay too long looking up other people’s stories I decided I wanted to participate too. This was gonna be so much fun!  I could spend a couple of days scrubbing the house till it shined, and then I would use the “good” camera to take the prettiest “after” pictures. 

Ooooh, maybe I could even create little side-by-side before-and-after photos!  I could use Photoshop to draw out the future projects so people could understand, and, and, and, and….

…and then The Plague hit our household. It’s been nine days since the first of us succumbed to the flu, but we’re still shuffling around in old robes and stained slippers and unwashed hair.

Welcome to the House of Bean, where we are definitely not bringing sexy back.

The problem with nine days of sickness is it looks like a tornado ripped through here, and I don’t have any energy to begin cleaning up the devastation.  In fact, as I look around my house right now I realize… you know, the only project I have in mind to accomplish at any point in the foreseeable future is cleaning up the cat vomit in the laundry room. 
Before I go any further, I’d like to clear my good name.  Please don’t imagine I have spent the last few days looking at a pile of cat vomit every time I had to go in the laundry room.  That’s gross.  Even I have standards.

No, when I first saw the new pile of kitty puke I was so overwhelmed at the thought of one more chore on top of caring for a houseful of sick people that I nearly burst into tears.  I realized I just couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t handle one more thing….. so I grabbed a Tupperware bowl from the kitchen sink and plopped it upside-down over the pile of puke.

I mean, everyone knows that if you can’t see the vomit, it doesn’t actually exist, right? 

So, yeah.  I sat down to write a post about all the tribulations of renovating my house, and how I feel like this home is kind of a piece of me, and I was trying to create some kind of collage of my delightful, Pinterest-worthy house and all the projects we were doing …. 

And the only real thing on my household project list was cleaning up cat vomit.  Well, that and maybe throwing away the Tupperware bowl instead of washing it, because, I mean, EWW.

Martha Stewart, I am not.

The thing is, sick or not, unattended piles of cat vomit or not, I really do love my home.  It’s a quirky little place – and I still find myself kind of in awe that I’m an homeowner.  There’s something so deliciously grown-up feeling about inviting people to spend the night in our guest bedroom.  It makes me feel… I dunno.  Mature.  Responsible.  The kind of person you’d trust to water your plants when you go on vacation.

Note:  Please don’t hire me to kill your plants.


I love my house, and I understand how lucky I am to own my own home, especially in this economy.  So when I talk about stuff I want to change, please understand I’m not complaining.  I am lucky, I am blessed, and my life is amazing.

It’s just… my home was built in 1916.  That means it’s nearly 100 years old, and over the course of a hundred years, a lot of people have left their mark on it… and unfortunately, not all of the marks were for the better.

For instance:  There are four bedrooms upstairs.  FOUR.   Let that sink in for a moment.Okay, well, technically it’s three bedrooms, since the largest room doesn’t have a closet and can only be counted as a “bonus room” – but still.  There are FOUR BEDROOMS UPSTAIRS.

Why?  

WHY DID SOMEONE DECIDE TO CUT THE DOWNSTAIRS LIVING ROOM IN HALF TO CREATE A FIFTH BEDROOM DOWNSTAIRS?  

I mean, I guess I kind of understand.  All the bathrooms are downstairs, so if they wanted to flip the house quickly, being able to advertise the house as having a “master suite with a walk-in closet” made a lot of sense….

But still.  There are FOUR BEDROOMS UPSTAIRS, and now there is a fifth bedroom downstairs and only one tiny, itty-bitty living room downstairs.  

All of the bedrooms upstairs are pretty small, especially because of the sloped ceiling from the A-frame roof.  Sloped ceilings are gorgeous and cozy in photos, but they make furnishing a room really irritating.  You can’t have tall dressers, or big pictures on the walls, or even beds in the corner. 
Well, okay, you can put beds in the corner… specifically because it keeps kids from jumping on their beds.  Short ceilings aren’t all that bad.

I don’t have a lot of before pics of the upstairs bedroom – only the ones we got off the sale ad.  I’m sure they were going for “neutral” colors, but flesh-colored walls and flesh-colored ceilings made me hear “It puts the lotion on its skin” every time I went upstairs, so I repainted as soon as we moved in.




By doing a two-tone look on the walls made it seem bigger, especially with the little doorway thingie.  (You like my technical terms?) In reality, the ceiling is so short my three year old can’t stand up on his bed without ducking.  



We are planning on buying the boys a short little Ikea bunk bed – once we do that I plan on redecorating their room with some kind of a theme.

In other words, it’s a Hobbit House.  We have second story full of tiny, cozy little hobbit caves, which sounds adorable, only nobody ever uses any of those Hobbit caves.  I mean, the kids do sleep in their bedroom, and occasionally we have an overnight guest, but still.  We have all of this square footage that sits empty, and some days it frustrates me.    

I even tried creating a little theater-style seating in the bonus room, hoping we could turn it into a “media room” where people would lounge and hang out and play video games, but to no avail.   I’m the only one who ever uses it.

On the other hand… checkout my kickass homemade theater seating.  I was originally going to paint the bottom white and line plywood in the little holes so we could use them as little pockets to stash stuff….. but I’ve changed my mind.  Instead, I’m going to cover the bottom with carpet so they look built-in.  The cushions are just old futons I got from garage sales and friends, and the sheets and pillows I grabbed at GoodWill.  Eventually I’m going to sew the sheets as covers, rather than just tucking them, and it’ll look super fancy….

But man, I hate sewing almost more than I hate laundry.







I don’t know about you, but I think I rock.  Who kicks butt decorating her house on her monthly budget of $0?

I do, that’s who.

Anyways, I’d say 85% of our time is spent in itty-bitty living room, the other 10% is spent in the kitchen, and people only venture upstairs when it’s to sleep. I’ve pretty much given up trying to lure us upstairs, although… I dunno.  Maybe I could lay some Reese’s Pieces up the staircase and lure us up?  I mean, what’s the point of having a second story if nobody uses it?

Also, I’m pretty sure that last sentence is the most stuck-up, #FirstWorldProblems sentence I’ve ever written in my entire life.  The next thing you’ll know, I’m going to be flapping my hands about how uncomfortable my money mattress is, or how the help doesn’t prepare my nightly filet mignon to my standards.

It’s just…. Dude.  WHY DID THEY CUT MY LIVING ROOM IN HALF TO MAKE A FIFTH BEDROOM?   I WANT MY LIVING ROOM BACK.  Don’t  get me wrong, my bedroom is lovely.  It has gorgeous hardwood floors, and tons of floor space, and a giant walk-in closet, and a lovely attached full bath.

From a seller’s perspective, it was a brilliant move. 

From a practical perspective?  Unless one of us eats bad sushi, or has some other stomach bug which makes us grateful to have a bathroom only a few steps away…. I daydream almost daily about tearing that wall down and reclaiming that space.

I mean, think about it:  how much time you really spend in a bedroom, unless you’re a depressed teenager?  The answer is:  not much at all, unless you’re asleep or, uh… you know.  “Folding Laundry” with the hubby.   I dream almost daily about going all Fried Green Tomatoes on that wall.

Confession:  I’ll never actually do it.  I mean, like the idea of crazy renovation like that, but it just seems like so much work – and who wants to work that hard on a house when there are so many horses to ride, or new cities to visit, or books to read?   I mean, wasn’t the whole point of moving to a small town in the Pacific Northwest to, you know, actually GET OUTSIDE?

I sure didn’t move to St. Helens – a small town outside of Portland – so I could spend my time decorating and redecorating and re-redecorating my living room.  We moved here because – well, because it’s GORGEOUS.


















St. Helens is a small town, full of friendly people, has an amazing laid-back vibe, and there are tons of fun little hole-in-the-wall businesses and gorgeous trails to explore.  If my living room feels too small – I dunno.  Maybe I it’s a sign I need to spend less time in it.

Now, I don’t want to make it seem like I’m against doing big projects on the house, or that renovation projects are bad.  I’m all for buying a house that needs a little work.  I fact, I have to say that some of the best money we’ve ever spent was the $1,000 we spent on our chain link fence.

Before

After: caged children are infinitely preferable to free-range children
One of the neat things about installing our fence is that I’ve met more than one person who admitted they thought about buying our house when it was still on the market, but ultimately passed on it because it didn’t “have a yard”.

Best.  Money. Spent.  EVER.

Also, best front yard.  EVER.
Narnia.  I live in Narnia.  Well, Narnia in the spring/summer, and a mudhole in the winter, but who cares?  It’s Narnia some of the year!

  

We have lots of plans for our house, and if I had an unlimited budget and the energy of a six year old, we’d probably have them all done by now.  After all, we’re going on three years living in this house.   The reality is, though, we don’t have an unlimited budget, nor do we have endless energy, so we have had to figure out which projects and purchases mean the most to us.

Would our living room look a million times more spacious with that gorgeous, soft grey, “L” shaped sectional I saw over at Fred Meyers?  Absolutely.

Would I end up eating my children or skinning my dogs when they inevitably tramped mud or spilled apple juice on it?  Absolutely.

So, fancy furniture will have to wait.  It’s not worth the headache, you know?

I am, however, a big fan of painting.  It’s amazing how much new paint can really change the feel of a room.  I especially love bright, happy colors.  Orange.  Red.  Yellow.  Maroon.  Teal.  The brighter they are, the happier they are.

The Bean?  The Bean’s more of a black/white, and occasionally a nice, muted grey kind of a guy.

Sometimes I feel like we’re literally living out Fool Rush In.  Have you seen that movie?  You know the scene when Salma Hayek’s family comes and paints their boring, dull, ugly house all those happy colors for a wedding present?

This scene doesn’t have the right effect on me.  I think the colors they chose for the house are goooooooorgeous.  Cognitively I understand I’m supposed to dislike the paint job, but my heart? My heart is in looooove.

This used to be a point of contention between The Bean and I, but somewhere  along the way we figured out the perfect compromise between The Bean’s fascination with boring colors and my fascination with gaudy colors.  The Bean gets to pick the nice, mellow paint colors, and after we’ve made our house all boring neutral looking, I get to splatter the walls with happiness.

     

And honestly?  It looks a million times better this way.  I’m no interior design expert, but one thing I have learned is that bright things look less garish on sedately-painted walls.

Speaking of paint, I’m going to repaint the whole downstairs.  The current paint colors aren’t that bad, although the ceiling is painted a lovely “1980s smoke-stained yellow”.  One of the previous owners did start painting the ceiling white, and it looks great…. But I guess they got bored halfway through the project and gave up.

Of course, I can sympathize.

That painters tape has been on that wall for four months now.  I swear I”m going to finish painting the bottom half a nice shiny white by 2016.  For realsies. Also, fiiiiiine, Bean.  You were right.  I know I said I hated blue…. but you’re right.  It really does make our bedroom look bright and pretty.
  

I’ve mentioned before, but I’m horrible at choosing paint colors, so I’ve pretty much abdicated that responsibility up to The Bean.  My only requirements are:

  1. It must be at least a shade or two brighter than the “flesh” colors that our house came with.  It really makes a difference on those grey, rainy days.
  2. It must be a scrubbable paint.  Whoever painted before us put flat paint on un-textured walls…. which means I can’t give my boys damp sponges and order them to scrub walls as punishment for bad behavior.  Washing the walls is my favorite punishment for bad behavior – it’s as boring as standing in the corner, but it actually accomplishes something useful.
Our new downstairs colors: Sedate, calming, flowing  
I can’t wait to ruin them by hanging something delightfully tacky on the walls. 

I plan on attacking the downstairs with our new paint scheme some time in February. I actually put the project off last summer because I knew that by February I’m usually hungry for something bright and cheerful to look forward to, so a painting project will give me something to occupy my time while I wait around for longer days, warmer weather, and less mud.

In addition to the tiny projects we’re doing to make our house nicer, we usually have one or two “big” projects we try to get done each year.  The first of this year’s “big” projects was accomplished over Christmas break… which, I guess, technically makes it last year’s project, but whatever.

We finally, FINALLY, ripped out the totally useless built-in…. uh….display case? Floating shelves?  Weird bookshelf area?  I have no idea what it actually was designed for – all I know is that the shelves didn’t fit books, they didn’t fit dishes, and  I constantly bumped my head on them.

Before (from listing photos)
During


After – it looks a bazillion times bigger.  We’ll eventually pull out the top most shelves, but I don’t feel like trying to match ceiling texture quite yet, so this is my compromise.

This house actually has less storage than my first studio apartment, so it may seem odd to remove shelves, but the Bean Family motto for 2015 is:

Less Is More

I mean it.  We are really trying to live that this year.  For instance:  You know how I’m always complaining about how much I hate doing laundry?  

Well… this year I did something about it.

I have a drawer of undergarments, a drawer of pajamas, and a small box of exercise clothes, and THAT IS IT.  Also, you’re totally impressed by my photoshop skills, aren’t you?

Do you have any idea how freeing it is to get rid of almost all your clothes?   I mean, I’m not exactly a fashionista, so why did I have a closet full of clothes?  How many different variations of slovenly did I really need taking up space?  And even if I do fit into my “skinny” clothes again…. if I really lose all that weight, doesn’t that merit new clothes, and not clothes from half a decade ago?

My closet wasn’t the only place I purged.  DragonMonkey is six years old.  Squid is three years old.   Did they really need 417 different types of t-shirts?

The answer is no.  No, they did not.

What’s that, boys? You’re out of clothes to wear? 
Well, let Mama do ALL OF THE LAUNDRY in one afternoon.

I don’t know when exactly when my new mindset clicked, but it did.  Maybe it wasn’t that our house didn’t have enough storage.  Maybe it was just that we had too much stuff.  We are not a fancy family, hosting fancy dinner parties and scouring interior design magazines. I mean, there is literally a pile of cat puke under a tupperware bowl in my laundry room.  Fancy is not who I am, or who I strive to be, so how much crap do I really need?

So…. instead of renovating this house to fit my dreams, I think I’m kind of renovating my dreams to fit this house.  It’s not that I’m giving up anything – I’m just altering the landscape as I remember the whole reason we chose St. Helens in the first place.  If clutter-free is important to me, maybe I don’t need to dream of a house with better storage and better closets.  Maybe I just need to get rid of some crap.

In addition to getting rid of clutter, I’m trying to figure out how to make everything in my life actually useful.  For instance: my upstairs office is everything I dreamed it would be – clean, quiet, peaceful:
The walls are not as yellow as they show on the right – 
my cell phone’s panorama mode and I are NOT friends
But if I never write in it because I don’t actually like sitting at a desk and the chair hurts my bum, what’s the point?  Who cares if a room looks “nice” if you never actually use it?

So sometime this summer I’ll be selling the desk and will be scouting garage sales for an “ugly” but infinitely comfortable recliner.  Maybe I’ll even find one of those fake fireplace heaters or, daydream of daydreams…. a LoveSac.  I had to sell my LoveSac when we moved here because it took up too much space in the moving van, and I’m still sad about it.

I actually would have already redecorated my office, but it’s off-season for decorating.  Garage sales are seasonal (due to the rain) here in the Pacific Northwest, and because of the lack of competition people on Craigslist charge exorbitant amounts for used furniture.   If you think I’m exaggerating, go check it out.  I once saw the world’s UGLIEST used sofa going for $900 just because it was “vintage”.

People – old and ugly does not mean it’s vintage.  

You know, if I had the time and energy, I’d spend all summer picking up cheap furniture from garage sales, all fall/early winter painting,  refurbishing,  and reupholstering, and then make a pretty decent profit selling stuff on Craigslist during late winter/early spring, when prices are at their highest.

Buuuuuuut……I know I’m never going to do that.  I don’t have the energy for the stuff I already have on my to-do list, and there are already SO MANY PROJECTS we still want to do – amazing projects which will make living here a million times cooler.
We are going to punch a hole through the useless area at the foot of the stairs and frame in part of the laundry room and create a walk-in “L” shaped pantry.

My imaginary Pinterest pantry is sexier than your imaginary Pinterest pantry.

The fridge is currently just sitting in the laundry room – fridges are much bigger than you think, and it’s the only place it really fits (one of the joys of a century-old house.)  

Inside the pantry we are going to punch a hole in the wall so the back half of the fridge can sit in the pantry, while the front half can be easily accessible through the toy/breakfast nook area.  That’s where they had the fridge when we bought the house, but it was so big it made the entire room unusable.  Besides, it stuck out, and eventually it was like looking at someone who has a giant whitehead  – all I could see was that giant pimple, err, fridge sticking out, so I eventually moved it to the laundry room. 

It’s a nicer view from the living room: but I am really looking forward to not having to walk into the back of the house every time I want to get the milk.

Speaking of breakfast nooks, I can’t WAIT to build a breakfast nook instead of the catch-all playroom for the boys:

We also want to tear down the looks-only plaster wall (where we just tore down that bookcase thingie) and replace the useless under-stairs-Harry-Potter closet with  a little reading area by the kitchen.

We want to rip out the entire kitchen  and replace it with USEFUL cabinets. I’m really looking forward to this, because when we do it we’re going to create a little drop-down barstool eating area….. and that space can then used as part of the living room.

We also want to put laminate down instead of the old-style wood flooring.  The idea of having 1916 flooring is just so much cooler than it actually is.  Not only is it painted over with funky-looking paint which would cost thousands upon thousands to strip and refinish, it has so many cracks and holes that whenever you spill water in the kitchen, it actually drips through all the way down to  the basement floor beneath it.

We want to build a deck in our giant, “useless” backyard.

Pretty to look at, but with the rocks, and the steep hillside, and the drop-off, 
nobody ever goes out there.


And on that deck there will be a with a REAL fire pit area we can enjoy during the rainy season most of the year.

Like this… only more roof and less expensive-looking, unless we win the lotto

We want to frame in and de-horrify the serial killer’s lab which passes for our basement. 

I think we can all agree that all it’s missing is some plastic sheeting and some Dexter

With short ceilings (only 7 feet) it will never be totally inviting, but we can at least make it functional.  I want to line the walls with storage cabinets, and maybe hang a punching bag and get some workout equipment.   

We’re also planning on framing-in and creating a downstairs office for The Bean, although how he’s going to get any accounting work done with us galloping around overhead, I have no idea.

We want to repaint the porch floor.

We want to stain and epoxy the basement floor. 

We want to repaint the house trim, and put window boxes under the windows, and, and and…

We want to… We want to… We want to….

We want to have Friday night movie nights with our boys.

We want summer camping trips. 

We want to visit the coast, and bring chicken soup to sick friends, and teach the boys how to swim, and take the dogs on long hikes in the Oregon forests.  We want to ride horses, and fly kites.

We want to buy an old car and fix it up in our basement and sell it for money.

We want to enjoy this house as a home which brings us joy, instead of letting it become a never-ending series of DIY projects that leave me exhausted and snapping at my children. 

So…. We take it one small project  at a time.  So what if we’re roasting marshmallows in an asymmetrical hole I dug in the ground with a shovel, rather than the gorgeous fireplace on the deck of my dreams?  We’re roasting marshmallows, and we’re inviting friends over, and we’re making memories. 

And maybe it feels like forever before I’ll ever have my dream pantry, but when a friend needed a place to stay this past summer, I was able to open my home and give her a place to crash.

And you know what?   If another friend knocked on my door this evening and wanted to stay the night, my home would be open to them, too, cat vomit and all.   

I think that’s my favorite part of all about owning my own home – it’s being able to share, and give back to others, even if my home or my life isn’t perfect.  And maybe I’m not as carefree and adventurous as I was in my youth, but there’s something nice about being stable enough to help support others when they need a hand.

It’s probably going to take us years before we finish all of the projects we’re dreaming about.  Heck, maybe we’ll never get it done… but that’s okay.  I don’t want to put real-life on hold, even if it does mean pushing back the dream of a perfect living room.  Besides, even if this place isn’t the perfect house, it’s still a home. My home.  And that makes it perfect to me.

But seriously, I can’t wait until the downstairs is freshly painted so I can enjoy the sight of my kids scrubbing walls. 


What Happens When a Mom Takes a "Sick Day"

The Bean stepped out of the bedroom in his business clothes, expensive wool coat fitting neatly over tailored pants and crisp, laundered shirt.

He didn’t look good – he looked gooooooood.

Me?  I looked…. awake.  Yes, awake.  That was about the highest compliment that could be applied to me.  I’d stayed up too late and been woken up several times during the night, so I had huge rings under my eyes and my hair was… well, let’s just say I wasn’t going to be doing a Pantene Pro-V commercial any time soon.

It was partially my fault – instead of getting up when The Bean started his morning shower I’d lingered in bed, trying to trade coffee-before-children for a few more minutes of sleep…. but that dream was soon broken by the sound of raised voices, fighting, and angry child-hooves clomping down the stairs.

It’s my pillow.  Leave it alone.  Don’t touch me!  Go away.  DON’T TOUCH ME.  I’m gonna hit you, you… you, baby.  DON’T CALL ME BABY.  You’re a BABY!  DOOOOON’T!!…. 

Crap.  They hadn’t even made it down the stairs yet and I could already tell it was a Changeling Morning.

I hated Changeling Mornings.  Usually the boys woke up in decent moods, but it was obvious to anyone with ears that last night faeries had snuck into my house and stolen my boys,  replacing them with angry, hateful, demon changeling children.  It wasn’t the first time it had happened, and I knew from experience it would take all morning and after naps before I managed to wrestle my well-behaved children back from Fairyland.

Look, maybe I don’t actually believe that…. but sometimes it’s just easier to lie to yourself.  The boys I’d kissed goodnight had been cute, sweet, and well-behaved.

The creatures that stomped down those stairs were NOT cute, or sweet, and they were definitely not anything I wanted to take credit for raising.  It seemed fair to blame the faeries.  Stupid faeries.

Although Squid and DragonMonkey are normally best of friends, by the time they made it to the bottom of the stairs I had to meet them in the kitchen and physically separate them to prevent bloodshed.

It only went downhill from there.

They didn’t like each other, they didn’t like the cartoons that were on TV, they didn’t like the breakfast I served and refused to eat it.  They didn’t like the fact I reminded them I wasn’t a short order cook and that it was eggs or “nothing”, and honestly, “nothing” was easier to wash up after, so I didn’t mind at all if that’s what they wanted.

They didn’t like the way their brother’s foot was on THEIR side of the couch.  They didn’t like the way the cat got up and left the room and refused to sit on their laps.  They didn’t like the way the milk tasted.  They didn’t like the way the orange juice spilled on the table.  They didn’t like the way I was ignoring them and fiddling with the coffee maker.  And by golly, their brother’s foot was STILL on their side of the couch, and they DEFINITELY didn’t like that!

By the time The Bean walked out of the bedroom with his Calvin Klein dress shirt, ironed pants and fancy cologne… well, even though it’d been less than 20 minutes, I was already a frazzled, sweaty, grumpy mess.

When I saw how good he looked and smelled, I lapsed – not for the first or even the last time –  into an internal argument.  I felt fat.  And gross.  Why hadn’t I set my alarm early enough to sneak in a shower before him?  Why hadn’t I bothered to put on cute pajamas last night?  If I was still going to be wearing pajamas by the time The Bean left for work, all freshly-showered and fancy-looking,  at the very least I should be in cute pajamas.  Nobody can feel good about themselves in grey, stretched-out Walmart sweat pants, complete with elastic on the ankles.  Couldn’t I have dragged my lazy behind out of bed five minutes earlier and tossed on jeans and maybe a bra?  It’s just jeans and a bra, Becky.  How long would it have taken you?

The Bean leaned in for a kiss, and I ducked it.  Gross. I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet *OR* had a sip of coffee.  There was no way I’m letting him anywhere near my mouth.  Forget coffee – I hadn’t even peed yet.  Such was the nature of Changeling Mornings.  Thank heaven’s they’re rare, or I’d be tempted to join the Merchant Marines and just send postcards, or something.

I glanced in desperation at the coffee maker, willing it to brew faster.  C’mon, baby.   Brew that coffee. Mama needs her fix.

The Bean grabbed the brown paper bag off the counter, peeking inside at the lunch I just finished making for him.  “So, what’s on the agenda today?”

“Huh?”  I glanced up, eyes half wild.   It’s 7:20 in the morning.  How can I feel so overwhelmed when it’s only 7:20 in the morning?  Aren’t mornings my happy time of day?

The Bean missed the crazed look in my eyes – he was too busy grabbing the coffee pot which had just finished brewing and pouring himself a nice, big to-go mug.  Briefly, I considered stabbing him.  Coffee thief.  I’d married a dirty, rotten, low-down, no-account coffee thief.

He passed the carafe over in my direction, oblivious to the fact I was trying to set fire to him with my eyeballs.  “What’s on the agenda for you guys today?  Are you and the boys just gonna hang out at the house, or are you doing anything?”

Even though I knew he didn’t mean it like my heart was interpreting, it didn’t matter.  I felt something snap inside me.  PING!  DANGER, WILL ROBINSON.  THERE GOES THE LAST REMAINING SHREDS OF BECKY’S SANITY.  DANGER.  DANGER.  “Yup.  We’re just gonna hang out, and do nothing, and be lazy all day today.”

The Bean is many things, but intuitive he is not.  “That sounds nice,” he said in a pleasant, distracted tone as he leaned in for a goodbye kiss.

“It’ll be totally relaxing,” I said, giving him my cheek and turning away before he could see that my smile had turned predatory.

Now, before I finish throwing The Bean totally under the bus (and then backing up before running over him again) – I don’t blame him for what his words did to my heart.  In fact, when he finally made it home from work that night, hours after the boys had gone to bed, I made a point of sitting down and having an honest discussion with him and explaining how his innocent questions in the morning were hurting my feelings.

“What are you guys going to do today?”
“Do you have anything planned, or are you just going to take it easy?”
“You guys gonna do anything today?”
“Got anything lined up on your schedule today?”

He meant those questions well – he was just making conversation as he headed out the door.  In fact,  as soon as he knew how it hurt me he apologized, told me how much he appreciated me, and hasn’t done it a single time since.

Still.

Some mornings I resent him his quiet accounting job, with his non-wrinkled clothes, sexy business outfit, and fresh-from-the-shower cleanliness.  And on that Changeling Day, when  he asked me what we were doing while I was frazzled and overwhelmed, and already out of patience, all I heard was, “Are you actually going to do something today, or are you going to sit around the house like Peg Bundy and eat bonbons?”

The older I get, the more I secretly want to be her.

I know that’s not how he meant it, but that’s how it felt, and as soon as the door shut behind him, I made a decision.

They say that moms don’t get vacation days…well, I was gonna take one anyways.  Yup.

It was 7:30 in the morning and I  was calling in “sick”.

We’ve all heard that joke about the dad coming home to the house in complete disarray, and then asking his wife, “What happened here today?”  She’s sitting in the bathtub, reading a book, and she answers, “You know how you come home every day from work and ask me what it is I do all day?  Well, today I didn’t do it.”

Well, ladies and gentleman: I did it.

I literally lived out one of the oldest Internet jokes I know.  And while the clean up as terrible…. it was ridiculously fun.  I’m not saying everyone should do this, but… DUDE.  EVERYONE SHOULD TRY THIS, at least one day out of your life.  It was actually good timing for it to happen, too.  I’d just finished cleaning the house the night before, so it’d been spotless when I’d gone to sleep.  It made for very lovely before-and-after pictures.

In the interest of honesty, I didn’t realize I was going to be letting my kids trash the house so I didn’t take the “before” pictures until two days later,  after we’d cleaned everything back up.  Still, you’ll just have to trust me – I’m not lying.  This is what the house looked like at 6:30 in the morning on the day I called in “sick”.  If anything, it was actually a little bit tidier.  (I’m tidy but very grubby person – I don’t care if there is three inches of grime on everything, provided there’s nothing sitting out on the counters.)

Now to explain the rules:  I didn’t encourage the boys to be bad, and I didn’t let them know I was taking the day off- that seemed like cheating. My goal was just to let them do whatever they wanted to do, within reason.

So…. I sat in a chair and played on the internet all day.  I read blogs. I worked on my story.  I tried to figure out Twitter.  I watched Marco Polo on Netflix and I reread a few of my favorite books.

What did the boys do?

Well… well, they did everything.  They jumped on the sofas.  They invented a game where they could leap off the kitchen table and into the living room.  They pretended to cook.  They watched whatever tv they they wanted, and they played as many video games as they wanted. In fact, they entertained themselves however they wanted.  They played “smash the eggshells” on the counter.  They played tag with the dogs, and had a lego fight and a pillow fight and…. and they thought it was the best day ever.  I let them eat whatever the heck they wanted, and I only intervened when it looked like there was going to be bloodshed or death.  Other than that, I let them police themselves.

As far as timing, they woke up at 6:30 in the morning,  I let them skip naps (at 3 and 6 they’re not napping very much anyways), and I stepped back into my parenting shoes at 7:30 in the evening to put them in pajamas, help them brush their teeth, and then sent them to bed so I could take pictures.

Anyways, without further ado, may I present to you:

What It Looks Like When a Mom Calls in “sick”:

Are you ready to explore my gorgeous, sparkly clean, Martha-Stewart-decorated home?  Well, lower your expectations.  
Anyways, let’s start in my bathroom – or rather, the kids’/guest bathroom.  It’s not very exciting, but it’s tidy, and provided I clean it once a week, it doesn’t smell like little boy pee tooooo much.

And this is what the bathroom looked like after me not touching it all day:

I wish I’d taken better pictures of the sink – it was covered in green toothpaste.  I mean, when you have to brush your teeth, there’s no better way to do it than to pour half the toothpaste down the sink, am I right?

Let’s continue on with the tour.

Once your back is to the bathroom, you are standing at the base of the stairs.

It’s a weird little area that serves no purpose – eventually I want to cut a hole in the wall and into the laundry room that’s behind it, and frame in an area to create a pantry… but that’s a project for another day… err, year.  Meanwhile, I found an Ikea Billy bookcase for $5 at a garage sale and lugged it home.  It used to be a food pantry but it was too cluttered-looking for my tastes so it became a makeshift linen closet (our home is big but it has almost zero storage.)

Anyways, as you can see, it’s not very tidy to begin with (ignore the cocoa stains on the wall… they’re not there… that’s just your imagination….), and it actually survived the rampage of the children fairly well.

If you stand in front of the bag on the floor with your back to the bathroom, you get a view of the kitchen:

And, the after:

I feel like I should say something about the quality of these pictures – originally, I never planned to post these pictures on the blog so I just snapped them with my cell phone and continued on.  My original plan was to write an email to the Bean, explaining why I was so hurt, and show him what the majority of my daily agenda consisted of so he could understand what a great big, horrible jerk he was….

But then I remembered I was an adult, and the Bean was an adult, and maybe I should just use my words.  And whodathunk, using my words actually worked.  Gasp.  Shock.

Anyways, if I’d known I was gonna use the pics in a post one day, I would have taken better photos. My bad.

Continuing on.

Left side of the kitchen:

(The little window sill area is filled with medicine bottles because that’s one of the times I intervened.  Sorry, children.  No hospital trips to go get your stomach pumped.  Not today.  I’m having a “sick” day.  Try again tomorrow.)
You can see the play room at the end of the kitchen exploded:
This is not as tidy as it was, but eh.  Close enough.
I kind of expected worse in the playroom – usually they dump out the drawers looking for stuff.   Also, to clear my good parenting name – I am not the one that picks up the toys.  I make the boys pick up their own dang toys…which, as far as I can tell from their traumatized reaction makes me the Queen of Darkness, but oh well.   I’ve been called worse things.  
 You know how it is- when you get the call to peel some bananas, well, 
you better answer that call and peel some bananas!
The right side of the kitchen (which divides the living room from the kitchen) fared the worst.  This is the one part of the house we’re pretty anal about keeping clean, because the second it gets dirty, the whole house looks dirty:
Isn’t it so peaceful, when it’s clean?
Kids can’t stand to see clean, peaceful counters.  It’s like waving a red flag at a bull.
Here’s what it looked like after one 8-hour shift of no parental intervention:
Here’s the before/after from another angle:

 Bad babies.  Very bad babies.

Here’s the little entryway to the kitchen:

I was originally planning on doing the pictures side-by-side like that, but I haven’t gotten anything set up on my new Mac yet (new as in brand-new-to-me), and fiddling with it on free picture collage programs was just making me grumpy.  Anyways, sorry for the weird angles.

Here’s the view from our kitchen table back to the kitchen:
Last, but not least, our little living room:

After

There were kid-droppings all over the rest of the house, but at that point I figured I had enough photographic evidence to make my point so I quit taking pictures.

Look, I’m not trying to idolize stay-at-home moms vs working moms, or moms vs dads, or working parent vs stay at home parent, or anything like that.  I’ve actually done both sides of the equation:  I worked 25-30 hours a week until the DragonMonkey was a year and a half, at which point I got a corporate job and went full time (45-50 hours a week) until we moved to Oregon…. at which point I “just” stayed home with the boys until last May…. at which point I started working again (I’ve since dropped down to only one job outside of the house – woohoo!)….

In other words – back and forth, back and forth.  I feel like I have a pretty good handle on both sides of the fence and the pros and cons of both lifestyles, at least how it pertains to me.

Which one’s harder?

Well, they both suck.  And rock.  I know it sounds like a cop-out, but it’s not.  Both sides of the equation have it REALLY hard – and I think it depends on your personality which you’ll find easier.   For me, I found being a “business office 50 hour/week mom” the most stressful.  When I was the Executive Assistant I had to plan in advance for anything – grocery store trips, doctor visits, playdates, etc – all of them had to be planned 2-3 days in advance, and I just suck at that sort of thing.

That said, while I was working outside of the home…. well, it definitely had its benefits.  It was quieter.  When I did work nobody ran along behind me and un-did it.  And the best part?  Nobody ever asked me what I did during the day.   Oh, sure, I was accountable to my boss, but I’m talking about friends and family.  I never once got dressed for work and as I headed out the door had someone say, “So, do you have any plans for the day, or are you just going to hang out?”

Unfortunately, as a stay-at-home mom…. I do get asked that question a lot.  I know people are just making small talk, but in the back of my mind I always feel like I need to be able to spit out an exhausting list of organic, brain-enhancing playdates and activities in order to feel like I’m “earning” the right to be a stay-at-home mom.

Don’t get me wrong –  I’m not saying that people should stop asking me what I’m up to.  I mean, who needs another “FIFTEEN THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER ASK STAY-AT-HOME-MOMS – #6 WILL SURPRISE YOU!” type of a list to remember?  I certainly don’t.

It’s just…. I feel like if I answered, “What are you guys up to, today?” with “I am going to accomplish absolutely nothing, all day long, and work very hard at it.  In fact, my Sisyphus-style failure will absolutely exhaust me.  If I slave all day the house will only be as clean as when the day started, and if I play all my parenting cards juuust right I will have made a microscopic, completely invisible movement in the direction of raising my boys to be kind, strong, men of integrity…. which sounds nice, but I wont’ be able to see it.  I’ll just be telling them the same 10 things over and over again, all day long.  Honestly, when you’re living day-to-day with kids it’s impossible to measure any progress.  So, today my goal is just to keep them from stepping on the dog and/or hurting each other’s feelings, or watching too much TV, or jumping on the sofa.  In other words, I’m not doing anything of value, whatsoever, because even though I’m exhausted at the end of each day it’s impossible to see progress when you have no perspective….

Wait!  Where are you going?  Come back!  I mean… I mean… I mean, uh….we’re going to the park! And then to the library tomorrow for a sensory activity.  Want to put your kid in the stroller and walk with us?”

Anyways, if you ever wanted to know what it is that stay-at-home parents do all day… well, now you know.  Sometimes it feels like 95% of our job is that we keep messes from happening.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…. the kitchen has exploded. Again.  I need to go clean it.  Again.

But that’s okay, and do you know why?

Because I’m not alone.  So, hi-five to all you other dads and moms out there, rolling your eyes to the heavens in frustration as you chase after another mess your kids just made.  I mean, not to go all Avatar/Na’vi on you, but I see you.  You’re doing a great job, and if you ever want to prove to someone “what you do with your day”, well, I let my kids destroy my house and took pictures of it, so you can refer them to this blog post to prove how hard you work all day long.

And I did it just for you.

Yeah, no.  I’m lying.  I did it because I was in a pissy mood and was being all passive-aggressive with my husband, and because once I started it I really enjoyed being lazy all day, but eh.  It sounds better if I say I did it for you, so let’s just pretend, okay?

2014 Year in Review – Facebook Status Style

January
  • One playdate, a thorough house straightening, three games of tags, two hours playing in the yard, and a skipped nap session, I’ve finally worn the boys down so they’re nice and quiet.

    No, I haven’t.  I threw them out in the yard because I’m exhausted.  How?  How is it possible to be hyperactive so many hours in a row, without a single break?  Do they have little secret bags of sugar stashed beneath their mattresses?  And why did my swimming pass have to expire this week?

  • Somewhere along the way Artemis got the idea she’s not allowed on the couch if we’re not home.  I have no idea why she decided that – we don’t care at all.  Nevertheless, she invented her own rule, and she always sleeps in her dog bed when we leave the house.

    I just walked in the door after JUST leaving (forgot something – no surprise), and as I walked up the front porch steps I saw something jump off the couch and dart at high-speed into the bedroom.  I walked into my house – no Artemis.  I passed a hand over the couch cushion – Yup.  Toasty warm.  I peeked in my bedroom, and Artemis was curled up on her dog bed, sound “asleep”.  As I entered the room she raised her head, opened her eyes slowly, blinked sleepily at me, yawned, and then curled back up to go back to “sleep, like the “good dog” that she is.

    Dude.  My dog’s a better Hollywood actor than most actors in Hollywood.

  • Heeeere, wallet, wallet, wallet.  C’meeeere, little wallet, wallet, wallet.  It’s okay.  Don’t be shy.  You can come out now.
  • “Knock, knock.”
    “Who’s there?”
    “Snowman.”
    “Snowman who?”
    “Snowman….PRIVACY POOP!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHA!  PRIVACY POOP! HAHAHAHAHAAHA!”

    Sigh.  We have reached the age of really, really, really inept joke creation.

  • “Oh, no!  OH, NO!  Very bad word!  Very, very, VERY bad word!”  The most generically boring cussing ever, courtesy of DragonMonkey.
  • “Why I have to dry my own self off with a towel after a shower?  Why I have to button my own pants?  Why I have to go get my own apple out of the fridge?  Mama, why I have to do *eeeeeverything*?”  DragonMonkey is rapidly becoming the poster child for the #FirstWorldProblems movement.

     

  • “Go put on pants, Squid.”
    “No.”
    “Excuse me, young man?”
    “No, thank you.”
    “No, wait… I mean… .  Go put on pants.”
    “Not need pants.”
    “Yes, you need pants.  People wear pants, Squid.  Go put some on.”
    “No.  Nobody not need ’em.  No pants.”
    Well, alrighty then.
  • I went to a kid’s party yesterday.  The other moms brought crustless organic spinach quiches, a variety of dairy and gluten-free cookies, organic plantain chips, kale and blueberry infused craisin salads……
    Me?  I brought day old cookies and a half-eaten bag of Frito’s.  One of these days I’m going to get my crap together.  One of these days……
  • I’d like to take a moment to thank my two beautiful children for their calm, beatific behavior at today’s PNER convention.  It made for a peaceful, relaxing Saturday.  Also, I’d like to thank both my overactive imagination and my ability to repress painful memories for helping me to get past the rough times.

February

  • “Can I marry someone?”
    “Uh, sure Squid. When you’re older.  Do you have anyone in mind?”
    “Yeah.  Mrs. Dawn’s babies.”
    “Mrs. Dawn with the three girls?  Which one?”
    “All of them.  Can I marry all of them?”
    “…..I’m not sure how having three wives is gonna work out for you, Squid.”
    “Maybe just two of them.  I just want two of them.”
    “Which two?”
    “Just the two of them.”
    “You just want to marry the twins?”
    “Yeah.”
    “Maybe we should put a pin in this idea, and revisit when you’re older.”
    “Okay.  Can I have some cheese puffs?”
    “Now that we can do.”
  • “DON’T GO PEE OUT THERE NAKED.  Squid, you don’t go pee naked.  Everyone see you.  What you were thinking ’bout, peeing in the front yard?”
    “Nuthin’.  DragonMonkey, I just pee.  Let me in.”
    Good morning from the Beans.
  • Today’s parenting goals have been lowered from “nurtured and instructed with love and patience” to “alive, and preferably not bleeding too much”.
  • “Heeeey!  Look, Mama!  I finded Captain America!”
    “Sweetie, that’s Jesus.”
    “This is JESUS?!”
    “Well, it’s a figurine of him.”
    “Oh.”
    And then……
    “I’m going to squish Jesus.  I’m going to squish Jesus with my trains.”
  • Your interesting fact for the day:  For every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 77 cents.  Except when women choose the same career path as men.  Then they make $1.05.
  • Sigh.  The kids renamed Artemis.  She’s now named “Sniffie”, and they become angry whenever we refer to her by her “old name”.  It’s been such a long day that I don’t even care.  Come here, Sniffie.  Let’s go change the boys into pajamas and pray they go to sleep like good little boys.

March

  • To be fair, “Whatever you do, don’t turn on the hose or get dirty” does sound an awful lot like “Wheee!  Do you know what makes mud?  Water does!  You should make lots of mud!  Frolic in it!  Hoo-ray!”
  • “WHAT IN THE HEL—I MEAN, HECK?  NO. NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT.  You do NOT pee in the basement.  I don’t…. I don’t even….WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU THINK IT’S OKAY TO PEE IN OUR BASEMENT?  are you freakin’ kidding me?  WHY?!”
    “Dada not pee in bafroom.  He pee outside all the time.”
    “I guarantee you, your father does not go piss in the basement when he has to take a leak.”
    “Piss?”
    “Don’t say that.  That’s a bad word.”
    “I not supposed to say ‘piss’?”
    “Squid, quit saying it!  Just…. DON’T EVER PEE IN THE BASEMENT, EVER AGAIN,
    OR SO HELP ME…. Just…. Just DON’T.

    Bean?  Is there something we should talk about?

  • Dear children,

    Please don’t stand on the front porch and scream “HI!  HI!  HIHIHIHIHIHI!” every time you see our neighbors.  We’re making a bad enough impression as it is – please give them their privacy and do not act like a pack of chihuahuas that bark every time they see a stranger.

    Your loving mother,
    “Ma”

  • “I cleaning my face.”
    “Awww.  That’s sweet.  I love you, Squid.  You’re a cute kid.”
    “I cleaning my face with spit.  See?”
    “Oh.  Oh, wow.  That’s really disgusting.  I take it back – you’re not cute at all. Please don’t touch me.”
  • The worst part about growing up is how rarely adults seem to carry around a guitar.  If someone had told me how rare sing-alongs were once you hit your 30s, I might have objected a little more strongly.

April

  • Dear Squid, I’m sorry. I hear the “moth-eaten, ragged home haircut” look is in.
  • Today is my sixth wedding anniversary.  The Bean came home early from work, and as I pulled into the driveway he walked on to the porch and smiled down at me.

    I ignored him, and slammed the door to my car a little too hard.

    “Are you okay?”

    I ignored him some more.

    “What’s wrong?”

    I made sure both boys had their backs to me as they ran to greet their dad, double-checked that they couldn’t see, and then, like the mature, sweet, loving mother that I am, I flipped off my beloved, sweet-tempered, totally well-behaved youngest son and stomped past everyone and went into the house…..where I found a dozen beautiful roses and a handwritten card with a note so sweet it made me cry.

    I’m sorry, Bean.  I promise I’ll do better next year.

  • Dontcha just hate Mondays?  Dontcha just hate Mondays where all you want to do is make some quesadillas for lunch, and while you’re distracted both of your boys pee all over the family dog?
    Yeah.  me too.
  • “Mama, you look just like a pwincess.”
    “Awww.  Awww, Squid, thank you.”
    “You look so pwetty.  Just like a pwincess.”
    “Awww, thank you!  Squid, that’s so sweet.  It makes me feel good.”
    “Except…. except you wearing gwasses.”
    “Uh, yes.  Yes, I am.”
    “Ewww. Pwincesses don’t wear gwasses.”
    “What do you mean, ‘ewww’?  Princesses can wear glasses if they need to.  There’s nothing wrong with glasses.”
    “Ewww.  Pwincesses NOT WEAR GWASSES.  You need to take your gwasses off.”
    “Squid, I can’t see without them.  My glasses stay on.”
    “You not look like a pwincess then.  Pwincesses not wear gwasses.”

    And then he gave a heavy, disappointed sigh as he wandered off, leaving me sitting there on the couch with my lukewarm coffee, unattractive glasses, and crushed ego.

  • Abracadabra.  ABRACADABRA.  ABRACAAAADAAAAABRAAAAAA.
    Accio healthy dinner?
    Sigh.  I’ve tried every pronunciation I can think of, with every magical flourish I’ve ever read of, and yet no matter how hard I try, Friday night dinner is not cooking itself on the stove.  Apparently it is NOT the thought that counts.

May

  • Heeeeere, wallet, wallet, wallet.  C’mere, little wallet.  Heeeeeere, recently-replaced-because-I-lost-the-other-one Visa card, Visa card, Visa card.  Also, heeeeere, car keys, car keys, car keys. Where’d you go, little car keys?
    Some days I really, really, REALLY hate my brain.
  • “I love…. I love to kiss girls.”  Things you are not ready to hear from your three year old.
  • Mosquitoes, my old nemesis.  We meet again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  Sigh.
  • “No, no, no – it’s a compliment.  I said your room DIDN’T smell like old people.  You know that smell… kind of stale?  And.. mediciney?  Yeah, yours doesn’t smell like that anymore, so you’re good.”
    This concludes today’s episode of “Things You’re Not Supposed To Say When You’re a Caregiver”… also known as, “Compliments That Backfired Horribly.”
  • “Ohhhhh, shit.”
    “WHAT?!  Did I just hear what I think I heard, Squid?”
    “No!!!  I not do it!”
    “Is that so?  If you didn’t do anything, then how do you know to deny something?”
    “…… I not do it!”
    “Did you just say something very bad, Squid?”
    “No!  I not do it! Grandma say shit!  Not me!”
  • Crunchy rice: it’s what for dinner!
  • Dear Caspian – I liked that toe, you clumsy oaf.

June

  • The Iron Giant, followed by The Land Before Time, and after that they said they want to watch “That one movie with the balloons and the dog that talks” – in other word, the one movie with the most heart-wrenching 8 minutes in movie history.  Dear DragonMonkey and Squid, do you want me to do anything all day besides cry? Love, your mother.
  • Today’s song of the day is apparently “I don’t have a penis now, a penis now, a penis now.  I don’t have a penis now, yeah, yeah, yeah“, sung in happy, joyful tones.

    It is weird, inappropriate and completely unsettling to hear, but I can’t seem to get them to quit.  They’re even mumbling it to themselves when they stand in the corner.

  • I’m 32 years old.  How much longer do I have to wait before someone comes out with a “Raise, train, ride, and race your own Tauntaun” game?
  • Microsoft Word spell check just tried to get me to switch out “your most recent investment” to “you’re most recent investment”.  I’m really, REALLY disturbed.
  • “You gonna wear your clothes like that?”
    “Uh, yeah, I’m almost ready to go.  Just give me a second, DragonMonkey.”
    “Yeah, but… you gonna wear your clothes like that?”
    “Well, uh, yeah.”
    “………”
    “Why?  Is something wrong?”
    “Well, I just hope…. I just hope nobody sees your clothes like that.”
    “Oh, for goodness sakes. ARE YOU SERIOUS?”
    “Well, I just hope they not laugh at you….”
    “What is wrong with this outfit?  And why would I care if people laugh at me?”
    “Well, I just hope nobody sees….sees your bra….”
    “FINE.  FINE, DRAGONMONKEY.  I WILL GO PUT ON A TANK TOP WITH THICKER STRAPS SO NOBODY SEES THE BRA STRAPS.”
    And then I stomped out of the room in a huff to go put on something more decent, and less bra-strap-showy, and as I grumbled under my breath, I thought….wait a second.  Aren’t I supposed to be the parent?

July

  • Dear mosquitoes of Oregon,

    According to the 2012 census there are 3.899 million people living in this glorious state.  Go suck on some of them for awhile.

    Love,
    The Dried-Out Husk Formerly Known As Becky

  • “What do you want to be when you grow up, DragonMonkey?”
    “I want to live with you.”
    “No, I mean… you can be anything!  A cowboy, a police officer, the president, an astronaut – well, maybe not an astronaut with the way the space program’s going, but still.  Anything.  What do you want to be?”
    “I want to live with you.”
    “No, DragonMonkey, that doesn’t count.  I mean, you just can’t sit there and have your life’s ambition be to sit on my sofa the rest of your life.  You can be a soldier, or a hunter, or a businessman, or a chef, or ride horses, or drive garbage trucks, or anything!  What do you want to be?”
    “I don’t wanna leave.  I just wanna stay here and live with you.”
    “No, no… when you’re older!  When you’re a man, like Dada.”
    “I just wanna stay with you.  I don’t wanna go.  I just live with you, okay Mama?”
    “Here, let’s ask your brother.  Squid?  What do you want to be when you grow up?”
    “A gawbage truck.”
    “See, DragonMoney?  See how it works?  Squid wants to grow up and drive a garbage truck.  That sounds like a fun thing to–“
    “No, Ma.  A GAWBAGE TRUCK.”
    “Wait, so you’re telling me you don’t want to drive them, you want to BE a garbage truck?”
    “Yes, Ma.”
    “Nevermind.  I give up.  You can grow up and be a giant metal truck and you can grow a goatee and lounge on my sofa and play video games.”
    “What’s a goatee?”
    “Nevermind.  I need more coffee.”
  • The truth is, you just can’t eat away your problems.  But, maaaaaan, today it is not for lack of trying.
  • It’s such a nice, cool day.  I think it would be lovely weather to forget I’m wearing a sweatshirt before I pick a fight with Caspian that involves me running up and down a giant hill in 92 degrees.
  • New favorite quote:  “Being home with kids all day is just the loneliest never-alone thing.  Like living in a cave filled with malfunctioning Teddy Ruxpins.”
  • The Bean loves his car more than anyone I’ve ever met.  He washes and details it weekly, even in the dead of winter.  Nobody is allowed to eat or drink in it.  The boys are only allowed in there in a dire emergency…

    Which is why I’m having such a hard time not laughing at him while he’s on the phone with our insurance company, trying to to explain to them that he needs a new bumper.  Why does he need a new bumper?  Well, because on the way home tonight a raccoon fell from the sky and landed on his car.  I mean, it’s terrible, Bean.  We’re so lucky.  It could have been so much worse, and I’m so glad you’re okay, and I know how much your car means to you. I’m so, so sorry.  But…. Dude.  Your car is getting pelted by airborne animals magically falling from the sky.  It’s a teensy bit funny.

August

  • I didn’t spill two glasses of water all over my stuff at the writer’s conference.  Nope.  Not me.  I just tripped and fell down the stairs while on my way to clean up after someone else spilled two glasses of water all over my stuff.
  • Phew! I don’t stink.  For a bit there I thought I was struggling with terrible B.O.  It’s just cat pee all over my shirt.  What a relief.
  • “No, I not need any underwear.  I just gonna let my penis dry out for a little bit.”  Well…..well, alrighty then.  I think I liked it better when they couldn’t talk.
  • “When I grow up, and I gonna be a man, I not gonna have any kids.”
    “Really?  Why not, DragonMonkey?”
    “Well, they too noisy, and they put their dirty hands everywhere, and you have to wash them.  They make a racket – a big, loud racket, and I not want them to be noisy and get my house all messed up.”
    “Where the heck did you learn the term ‘make a racket’?  Wait… that’s not important.  So you don’t want kids because they might be noisy and make a mess?  You want to grow up and be childfree?”
    “Yeah, when I grow up and be a man.”
    “DRAGONMONKEY, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more hypocritical statement in my life.  It’s, like, covered in layers and layers of hypocrisy.  It’s a hypocrisy lasagna.”
    “What, Mama?”
    “Nevermind. No.  I’ll accept and even admire childfree statements from anybody in this entire universe except for you.  After what you’re putting me through, you are not allowed to have any peace in our house.  You are going to grow up, get married, and have 14 children.  With food allergies.  And colic.  And oppositional defiant disorder.”
    “But I not want any little babies.  I just wanna grow up  with a quiet house. I gonna marry Vivianna, and we gonna have a quiet house.  A clean house.”
    “Nope.  Not allowed.”
  • Men’s boxers.  Borrowed dress pants.  A nursing tank top.  Why, yes, it is time for me to do laundry.  How can you tell?
  • September

  • One book survived the hard drive crash.  One did not.  That’s all the computer I can handle for one day.
  • Home at 10:15 pm. Back on the road at 4:30 am.  Friends don’t let friends become public accountants.
  • 7:30 in the morning and he has now reached the hysterical hiccup stage of crying…. because I won’t let him wear two popped collars to the second day of kindergarten.  Not only am I a failure as a parent (popped collars?  TWO OF THEM???), but it’s too early to start drinking.
  • “Mom?  Do cows have meat inside of them?”
    “Yes, it’s beef.  Like hamburgers.”
    “Do chickens have meat in them?”
    “Sweetie, you know that answer already.  Chickens are made out of chicken.”
    “Do people have meat in them?”
    “….look! I found some cookies! Want a cookie?”
  • “MOOOOOM!  DragonMonkey put his foot in my fan!”
    “He WHAT?”
    “No I didn’t, Squid.  I put my fingers in it.  HURRY, MOM!”
    “YOU PUT YOUR FINGERS IN THE FAN?!”
    “Yeah.  Come upstairs and look.”
    “Why?  Why would you do such a thing?”
    “Because he touched my fan.  And it’s HOT, so it’s MY FAN.  You should hurry.  I’m bleeding.”
    “…. you don’t sound like you’re bleeding.”
    “…..I’m not actually bleeding.”
    “Yeah, I didn’t think so.”
    “But it hurts.  HURRY, MOM.”
    “Well, I bet it hurts.  That’s kind of why we don’t put our fingers in fans.  You’re lucky the tip of it didn’t get chopped off.”
    “It does hurt.”
    “Well, I’m sure it does, but I’m not coming up there.  If you’re gonna be dumb enough to stick your fingers in a fan, that’s your problem.  I’m not climbing the stairs to your bedroom just because you’re dumb.  Close the door and go back to bed and don’t be dumb again.”
    “….okay, Mom.  G’night.”
    “Night, DragonMonkey.”
  • Trying to figure out Twitter is like sitting all alone at a table in the school cafeteria, mumbling to yourself.  I mean, not that I would know anything about that.  I was totally the cool kid in school.  Everyone idolized me and admired my fashion sense.  I swear.
  • DONE!  Beat every goal I had for the half marathon right out of the water, despite my iPod dying at mile five.  Not only did I cross the finish line, but I ran the entire time, and I came in at 3:15 when I originally hoped for 3:30.  The last three miles were the closest I’ve ever come to heat stroke, and everyone at the finish line was speaking…. Russian?  Wingdings?  They switched to English after I got the first five or six glasses of water in me.  Also, I didn’t cry from happiness like I normally do when I cross the finish line.  Nope.  Instead, I spent the first three miles crying from the beauty of it all.  Three. Miles. Of. Crying.  Races do weird things to me.

October

  • One pound of Tillamook mild cheddar cheese.  Seven Taco Bell hard shelled tacos.  One loaf of Udi’s gluten-free bread.  Two apples.  One stick of butter.  Artemis, I hope your stomach hurts you.  Bad.  And for the record, I threw away your tennis ball.  Take that.
  • Becky Bean:  Single-handedly making childfree citizens feel smugly content with their choices since 2008.
  • I’ve traded in the Santa Anas for the Pineapple Express…. and for the record, that is an absolutely ridiculous name for a weather thingie, and I find it hard to take people seriously when they drop it in regular conversation.
  • Listening to two 3 year olds have a conversation is even worse than being stuck behind the bar listening to two really drunk girls trying to convince each other that he didn’t deserve you, and you’re too good for him anyways.
  • Holy crap.  I just picked up the DragonMonkey from school, and all of a sudden he can read.  My not-very-good Friday just got awesome.
  • My parents took the boys for the evening so I planned a romantic night with The Bean. When the weather stole those plans we went out for dinner instead.  Now we are back at home.

    My makeup turned out just right, my hair is laying in shiny curls over my shoulder… I’m in my sexiest shirt and my best fitting jeans.  The lights are low, and I am lighting candles as the radio plays soft tunes from the 40s.  I approach the Bean, who looks up at me with hooded eyes.

    “You ready for this?” I speak low, barely above a whisper.  He nods at me, his eyes locked on mine.  “Take your shirt off,” I say.  The air between us is heated, steamy.  I hold my breath and look down at the man I married, and then I lean forward…..

    And try not to breathe as I smear gloppy Vick’s vapor rub all over his chest, the vaporizer on the floor between us fogging my glasses and overpowering the light perfume I applied earlier.  Eau de Menthol is the new “it” scent, right?

    Saturday night, 8pm, we’re not broke, no children, I’m not sleepy…. and the Bean has a bad cold.  Now I’m sitting on the edge of the tub, sulking.  DAGNABIT.

  • “Never touch a downed power line, even with a stick.”  Word-for-word from Channel Two news that they just flashed across the screen.  Hey, Oregonians?  I’m a little concerned they had to emphasize the “EVEN with a stick.”  C’mon.  We can do better than this.
  • Things that are edible:  Cinnamon rolls. Green curry.  Ice cream.  Tamales.  Misbehaving children.  Just sayin’.

November

  • If you need me I’m “gone ridin’ “.   ON THE BEACH.  REPEAT:  I’M ABOUT TO RIDE A  HORSE ON THE BEACH.  I lied yesterday.  Being an adult rocks.
  • You know how horses get all territorial and deliberately (however nonchalantly) pee on their hay, and then they can’t eat it, but man, they sure showed those other horses?  That’s what it’s like owning an immune system with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  You go, you bada@@ mofo.  You eat that knee.  Everyone’s totally going to respect you now.
  • Things that are difficult;  Counting your hair.  Organic Chemistry.  Summertime ultra-marathons in the desert.  Trying to fatten up a super skinny dog when your other dog is a black Labrador.
  • Anyone who doesn’t think that ADHD is a real thing has never sat bolt upright and thought, “CRAP, I have to give a speech tomorrow on writing – and not only did I completely forget to prepare, I have no idea where I even left my notes from that one conference.”  And then you think, “I should do this right now before I forget again.  Maybe my notes are in that notebook in my car?”  So you go to get your keys to unlock the car, except the normal keys have been lost for almost a week, and you’re stuck with that silly backup key that has no clip, so you keep having to stick it in your pocket…. Only when you go to get the key, it’s not there, but there is a giant wheel of Mexican cheese in your pocket.

    Have you been walking around town all morning with a giant unopened wheel of Queso Ranchero in your pocket?  Why, yes.  Yes, you have and now it’s getting warm and gross. Why is it even there?  I mean, obviously you put it there, but you have no memory of doing it.  You should put it in the fridge, but you wanted to make enchiladas today, and you need to double check that there’s salsa – crap, there isn’t.  You need to pick some up, except.  Double crap.  Where are those keys? You’ve been meaning to look for them, but you keep forgetting, and now you’re carting around your spare key, the one that only fits in your pocket and what the heck?  Why is there a giant package of cheese in your pocket?  That’s gross.

    That was 11:00 am.  It’s now 3pm.  I found an awesome estate sale with some really incredible stuff at great prices.  It was a bit embarrassing to reach into my jacket pocket for my debit card only to hand them cheese.  At least I found the Adderall pill I forgot to take tucked away in the lining of my other pocket, so I know I’m not suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s. I can’t decide if my memory is worse when I’m off my pills, because I’ve grown to rely on the chemical, or if it was always this bad and I didn’t know how good life could be.  I wish I’d broken down earlier in life and gotten help – who knew I could be s productive with the aid of a  tiny pill?  Seriously, though.  It’s 3pm and this cheese is gross.  I’m probably gonna have to toss it, except now my pocket feels kind of empty without the weight of it.  Also, I wish I knew where my keys were.

December

  • “Hey, Mommy?”
    “Yeah, DragonMonkey?”
    “Mommy, I love you.”
    “Aww, thank you, sweetie.  I love you, too.”
    “HEY, MOMMY?”
    “Shh, not so loud, Squid.  Yes?”
    “I love…. I love….. Mommy, I love candles.”
    “….Okay, that’s nice.”
    “Yeah, I can blow them out!  I love candles.”
  • On our way to cut down a Christmas tree.  We asked the boys what their favorite Christmas song was.  Their answer?  Halloween.  Halloween is their favorite Christmas song.
  • I unloaded the box of ornaments…and found a wadded up breast pump shield.  What the….? So I immediately put it in the tree as an ornament, but The Bean found it and made me take it down 😦
  • I wish it was a thing to say “I need a book” in the same exhausted tones of someone saying “I need a drink”, and instead of looking confused everyone would understand exactly what you meant and would murmur, “First chapter’s on me” in sympathetic tones as they handed you a five.  I really wish this was a thing, don’t you?”
  • Sometimes, when I’m feeling optimistic, I like to think of it not as a smoke alarm, but more of a gentle signal that it’s time to get creative and try a new recipe for dinner.
  • You know how it is – when you wake up from a deep sleep at 1 am with the sudden urge to play tag, and then vomit, and then a rousing game of hide-and-go-seek, and then a pillow fight and bite war before nodding off at 3 or 4 in the morning?  No?  You don’t?  You mean it’s just my kids?
  • Slet In Tow!  Slet In Tow! SLETIN WOT!  Sot Wi!
    I really wish the boys would quit rearranging the “Let It Snow” window clings. It’s feeling less like Christmas and more like we’re trying to speak Parseltongue.
  • No, sons.  We do not open up presents at 2:30 am.  Go to bed before Mama eats you AND your presents.
  • Watching my dogs express their affection for one another by licking each other’s eyeballs is slowly turning me into a cat person.

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.

I felt like I was wearing a scarlet letter, or that I had a giant neon sign flashing over my head.  “LOOK AT THIS UNHEALTHY, EXTREMELY SKINNY DOG.  THIS WOMAN IS A TERRIBLE DOG OWNER.  STARE AT THE SCUM OF HUMANITY WHO LETS HER SKINNY DOG CRAP WHEREVER IT WANTS AND DOESN’T EVEN BOTHER TO PICK IT UP.”

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.

Dude.  SHE.  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.

Uh-oh.
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.