Sunday, June 12, 2005

Bring your dancing shoes!

We've all learned a new dance step. It's called the Chihuahua Shuffle. It's where you shuffle your feet to avoid stepping on her when she prances around in front of you as if to say "where'we going!? Huh?! Huh!?"

And then there's the intermediate step - it's sort of a shuffle, lift, lunge. This is for when you think she's not there because you don't feel her with the shuffle step, so you lift your foot and then she comes out of nowhere and is standing RIGHT between where your foot is about to meet the floor, and then, of course, comes the lunge. Sometimes there are flailing hand movements that go with it.

Last but not least is the Tiny Terror Tango. Some prefer the Tiny Terror Tap Dance. These are both partner dances - the partner being 2.6 lbs. of pretend MONSTER! Her role is to look ferocious, growl, sweep in to bite as many toes as she can get during one move, and then swing to the left or right, grabbing hold of your pant's leg and pulling sideways, reminiscent of David taking on Goliath with his teeth instead of a slingshot. Her partner's job (that would be you), is simply to follow her lead, stepping and jumping, sometimes even twirling or doing a small pirouette, best if accompanied by a rhythmic "No! Rosie! No! Rosie! No! Rosie!" (can you feel the beat. Clap your hands.... No! clap Rosie! clap clap.. No! clap Rosie! clap clap .... do you have it?) It's obviously a much more complicated step, primarily because it's not always the same, but Rosie is an excellent teacher.

Rosie has also been learning some new solo dance and entertainment techniques. This evening she was working on her mime routine, the one where you pretend to run into the wall. She hasn't quite figured out that you're just supposed to PRETEND to run into the wall. But she's working on it. Earlier in the afternoon she grabbed onto a long bath towel as I was pinning it to the umbrella clothesline. I didn't know she was attached by her teeth and when I swirled the clothesline around 90 degrees, Rosie went sailing up into the air for about four feet before making a perfect two paw landing. And of course she's nearly perfected her boxing routine. She's also taking tumbling and clown lessons. I'm thinking of making her one of those little ruffly collars for her act. Or maybe I could just use a cloth covered hair band, it would be about the right size. Her dramatic acting, of course, has always been superb. Pssst, can you keep a secret? She's being seriously considered for the role of the adorable but pouty young drama queen in a well known day time soap opera. (I can't tell you which one because we're still in the middle of contract negotiations.)

She's also learned to "Sit". She wasn't sure this was really necessary. Her comments were "Sit? I mean, hasn't this one been done to death? It's an old trick. It's beneath me, really." I argued that one never knows what sort of demands will be made on an entertainer and better to have it in her repotraire and never need it then some day potentially lose a big role because she doesn't have any experience with it. (That and I bribed her with doggie treats.) Eventually I'd like to convince her that other "standard" tricks - like Stay, Lie Down, Come, Down - are equally valuable skills to have mastered.

Well, I better run. Our little Ziegfield girl needs her beauty rest and she can't get up on the bed without my help.

Late night encounter

Last night, er, early this morning, William was finished watching Saturday Night Life and I started closing up the house for the night. Got the snack dishes to the sink, the phone on the charger, the television off and cabinet closed, lights off, computer turned off... I shooed William and Kim to bed and scooped up Rosie to take her out to pee one last time before we crawled into bed.

I walked outside into my front yard, set Rosie down on the grass and told her "Go pee Rosie" as I stood over her a bit cold, a bit patient. Not a few seconds later, I hear a noise behind me. I turn to see a huge animal racing towards me, so close to me by the time my brain registered it, I could have reached out and touched him.


It was a pit pull. A large brindle pit bull who ran up to me in my fenced yard at 1am. After I screamed the dog turned tail and ran. Part of me realized that the dog hadn't been in attack mode. He looked more like a dog happy to find someone else awake at that hour. But I didn't realize that until afterwards. All I knew was a large animal was about to attack me in the dark. And Rosie. He could have gobbled up Rosie in one bite. I grabbed her up and ran in the house shaking.

The kids had heard me scream, but hadn't thought to come see WHY. I mean, what if I'd needed help? Sheesh!

I was afraid to go back out, so went off to bed without a potty break first. A few hours later I took her out in the backyard this time, armed with a pounding heart and a Curious George flashlight (his hat pops open and lights up). She was so confused she didn't pee. She managed to make it through until dawn.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The first day of summer

Yes, I know it's not officially the first day of summer. That's the summer solstice and doesn't arrive for about another week and a half. But for me, and for many families, today is the FIRST day of summer in every other way because it's the LASTday of school. You might think it's strange that a family who homeschools would take so much notice of a school event, but it does affect us. Suddenly the neighborhood changes, no one ELSE is getting up on a school routine. The crossing guard in front of our house (we live on a street that houses the junior high just a half block to the left of us, and 9/10ths of a mile to the right, the high school campus, plus a bussing route for an elementary) disappears. Hoards of noisy, restless children stop parading past our house twice a day. The car traffic and noise is cut in half. The buzzers that tell the angst ridden, hormonally poisoned pre-adolescents at the junior high when to get up from their seats, gather their packpacks, and change classes, stop drifting over the trees into our yard to be replaced by the crowd cheers of summer softball on the back campus playing fields. On a more personal level, William's friends show up at the door earlier in the day and stay later into the night. Everything suddenly seems less frantic. Maybe it isn't, really, but childhood memories of summer as an oasis are hard to erase even if they were probably always a fantasy.

This year I'm particularly excited about it because my niece Kim (who has been living with us) has had a really rigorous school routine through a charter school. We like the resource teacher we've been assigned to work with, but the school structure and required work is a boring, disconnected, inane, white water river of worksheets. More so in Kim's case, because in six weeks she's been trying to catch up and complete an entire high school semester's worth of work and credits. This is the reason we're even with the school program at all, so I can't complain, it's doing what we asked it to do, but it's been at the expense of a lot of time I would have found much better use for, both for myself and my neice.

But, all's well that ends well. And today is the deadline for turning in ALL her assignments. (except her driver's training test, which will happen next week) Today is THE END. She's been working pretty much nonstop the last two days to complete everything. Last night I went to bed while the light was on late into the night under her door. At three o'clock this afternoon we'll turn in a ream of papers and walk out the door free, women... er, one woman and one teenager.

William too, even though our approach to school is mostly not to have it, will consider this the last day of school for the year. He'll no longer be bound to the small amount of routine we hold him to (loosely and with frequent lapses in routine and rules). He's still got some self driven commitments, but those aren't the steady stream of sharpening pencils and study time that Kim has had to endure recently. His friends will be released from their public school captivity.

As for me, I gave myself my own deadline. It's somewhat vaguely assigned to either today or next Friday (which I thought earlier was the last day of school). I told myself when school ended, I was going to start "My New Life" (imagine trumpets sounding at the announcement), whether I was ready or not, whether my house was in order, decluttered, clean, dirty, or being invaded by aliens or not, whether I had my new lap top or not, whether my family encouraged me or grabbed my heals and whined and grumbled with their usual finesse. I would stop waiting for "everything to be in order" and officially hang up my full time mom apron. (Ironically, I've taken to wearing aprons again, which is something I did pre-motherhood). I'm certainly not going to stop being a mom, but I am going to start being a writer AND a mom. Or maybe a writer and an ar-teeest and a mom.

I've been pleased with myself so far. I forced myself to find time to go to a writer's group last week. I forced myself to go to a creative workshop this week. I've been THINKING of myself as deserved of this change. (ACK! I just realized I also FORGOT TO GO to my writer's group meeting last night!!!! Motherhood is an insidious Gollum-like creature despite it's fuzzy love image.) The only reason I haven't ordered my laptop is because I'm waiting for a chance to get to the big city (sometime next week I'm hoping) and try out a few keyboards for size first.

It doesn't feel like the last day of school yet. The kids haven't even risen from their quilt covered tombs yet today . (I'd have said beds but they have a tendency t o stay up all night and retire at dawn.) My head is filled with concerns that somehow everything won't be finished in time, something will be forgotten, missed, need to be redone. I'll feel a lot better after our school meeting this afternoon, after the sun sets on the day and no bureaucracy hounds have been heard baying in the distance. Then I'll feel like we've managed to leave the school year behind.

And then, ready or not summer, here we come.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I knew this would happen!

There were lots of reasons I didn't want a puppy, most of them having something to do with the work, mess and loss of freedom. But aside from all those practical reasons, I didn't want a puppy because it was one more thing to worry about. In a heartache sort of way. I've had enough practice at this "life" thing that I know things happen. Things get hurt. Sometimes they die. Plants die. Pets die. People die. I didn't want one one more thing in my life that I cared about, that could cause my heart to hurt.

I knew eventually I'd probably cave in and love the little critter. Sure enough, she's wormed her way into my heart. Even though she's a girly girl and a drama queen (made even more evident by the story to come) and has made the entire family give up their laps, sleep schedules, and ability to walk without using a chihuahua seeking shuffle. So now I have to worry about her. And it's scary worrying about something so small that she takes up less space in the world then a comma in the middle of a sentence in the middle of the complete works of Shakespeare. She's the size of a mosquito. She could be swatted out of existence with so little effort, how does one go about protecting something that fragile?

Yesterday was her appointment to get her second shots. She'd had her first set of puppy shots the day before we got her, and she was fine when we brought her home. The breeder didn't mention anything about her having a reaction to the shot. I actually thought to ask our vet yesterday, but when he had an emergency come in (foxtail) and people and puppies were backed up two layers deep in the waiting room, I rushed out without remembering.

She seemed fine when we got her home, but was so tuckered out by the excitement of the trip to the vet that she took a nap. I ran off to a quilt meeting about an hour later and by the time I got home Rosie had slept most of the the evening away and was starting to look a little shaky. We all settled in around a couple of DVD's and took turns holding her, watching the movie and keeping an eye on her. She went from "she doesn't seem very happy" to "something is definitely wrong" pretty quickly.

I checked the internet to see what was normal, what was dangerous. The wonders of modern technology, sometimes the internet can answer the most obscure question in less then a minute. And sometimes what seems like a straightforward, useful, everyone would want to know this information and someone must have posted it to a zillion websites, is as elusive as bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or those weapons of mass destruction Saddam supposedly had. GRRRRRR. I found lots of information on life threatening symptoms (basically anyphylactic shock), but only vague references to "some puppies do have reactions" or "some reactions are normal" without telling us just WHAT those symptoms were.

Halfway through movie #2, I realized I'd gone from being comfortable waiting 'til morning to knowing I needed to make a phone call. Only, who to call? I knew calling the local vet would lead me through a maze of answering services and/or recorded phone numbers, with stern warnings to use only in the case of an urgent emergency. (Isn't urgent emergency redundant?) WAS this an emergency? I didn't know. I'm usually capable. I'm usually knowledgable and self sufficient. Hell, I'd just dealt with my niece slicing the tip of her finger off with almost nonchalant doctoring. I didn't like not knowing if it this was an emergency. After letting my brain run around in circles for awhile, I decided to call my sister, who had the good sense (or the misfortune, your call) to become a vet and therefore capable of telling me if I had to race my shivering little peanut to some emergency vet clinic 100 miles away (like when my dog Maybel was bitten by a rattlesnake in the outback of San Diego county), or if was safe to watch and wait for the sun to rise. It was 2:30 am her time (Colorado to my California) when I called her.

She's truly a wonderful sister. She was gracious. Concerned. Coherent. She had some good suggestions. And a few bad ones, like "check her gums and tell me what color they are" - I tried and almost lost a finger. Or "do you have a rectal thermometer?" Uhm, she wasn't happy about me messing around with her mouth, how do you think she'd feel about me messing around with her other end? The good suggestions she offered were to stay up watching her (like I could sleep anyway with Rosie shaking and shivering and whining and wobbling!) and make sure she didn't get dehydrated. She wouldn't accept water. My sister had the brilliant (if obvious - it's amazing how hard it is for brain cells to talk to one another when under stress) idea of tempting her with something wet with flavor. And to call our vet in town if she got any worse.

I thanked my sister (aka the built in family vet) for being helpful in the middle of the night and then rummaged in the kitchen until I came up with a can of canned chicken that fortunately was as much broth as it was chicken (sneaky way to make more profit). I offered it to Rosie and she managed to perk up her ears and pick up her head for the first time all evening. She was still miserable, but clearly well enough to be excited about chicken, and now I knew she safely had some fluids in her, so we went off to bed.

But not to sleep. Actually, she wouldn't sleep with me. Usually she's wrapped around my neck all night (which makes me feel like some 40's movie queen stylishly, if mordidly, wearing her fox or mink stole), but tonight, even through her misery, she was thinking clearly enough to decide I was on her shit list. After all, I was the one who had taken her to that evil vet. I was the one that poked and prodded her and made her try to walk and eat when all she wanted was to be be allowed to curl up miserably and be left alone. I had the gall to try to see if her gums were pink! Even the chicken broth offering wasn't enough to forgive the indignities she'd suffered at my hands. So we slept with her tucked up against Jeff on one side of the bed, me safely on the other side of the bed, her watching me with that evil eye look that one only sees in teenagers and toddlers dealt bitter deals at the hands of their parents (like being forced to share a toy or not being allowed to go to the unchaperoned party that EVERYONE elses parents are letting them go to), me watching her and wondering how we'd all live without her if she didn't get better. Why is it that "kids" do all the worry making and "parents" do all the worrying? It is SO not fair.

This morning she was still a bit under the weather. My sister called to check on Rosie. I called the local vet to tell them what had happened. The info was added to her chart. They suggested trying a different kind of shot next time. My sister suggested a more limited round of shots.

I'm beginning to come to understand how much of a little princess she truly is. The other day, she tripped over the hose. Yes, you heard me right. She's so small, she TRIPPED over the hose. She tripped and immediately went into frenzied limping in circles, even a few roll overs, yelping piteously, flailing her obviously broken leg. Upset, I delicately scooped her up to offer comfort, and then carefully put her back down to see which leg was hurt, if she could put any weight on it at all, already adding up in my head the cost of a vet bill for a tiny plaster cast. The minute her paws touched the ground she whined, looked up at me with her oversized bug eyes watering in pain, fell over dramatically, and pleaded for me to pick her up again and then.... she heard a sound. Her radar dish ears went sideways. Aha! A cat! And off she ran to play, on four perfectly sturdy NON-injured legs!

Now it's afternoon and, except for continued tenderness at the injection site, she seems to be returning to her squirmy, busy self. Whew. Thank the gods and goddesses. And thankfully, I've been forgiven. In part because she feels better, in part because I shared my toast with her. Rosie LOVES toast. She insisted on taking her afternoon snooze in my lap, even though it means holding my feet up at an unnatural position in the computer chair to create enough lap even for tiny her, and hunching my arms up and over her to reach the keyboard. Sigh. The things we suffer for love.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


My grandson went home this morning, but he left me with a small something to remember him by - a cold germ. I feel like crap.

Blech. Now that I have less folks in the house so I can get to my own tasks, I don't feel up to much more then reading e-mail (which is too frustrating because my server and Yahoo are currently in the midst of a spat and keep refusing to talk to each other), reading a book (just finished a murder mystery this afternoon and the one bright spot in my day is I know what book I really want to get to next - the latest Southern Vampire book which finally, after a thousand years, came out in paperback. It actually came out in paperback a month or so ago but I bought it, brought it home, and forgot I had it every time I wanted to start a new book. I'm finally remembering it at the right time to start it, later tonight), or napping (which I've been doing all afternoon since finishing my mystery book).

Here's what I don't feel like doing:

I don't feel like entertainining children or getting them to do their chores or schoolwork. I don't feel like listening to my husband pontificate on the how to communicate with other people, which he's been doing in the background all afternoon, and since this is a classic case of a pot calling the kettle black, it's annoying the shit out of me. (can I swear in my blog? Are there rules?) I don't want to sew or cook or garden. (actually, I do want to sew or garden, I just don't have the energy for it.) I don't want to keep fixing my e-lists or checking my mail from the web. I don't want to put the dishes in the dishwasher. I don't want to clean up all the baby toys still strewn all over the living room rug.

What I AM going to do, as soon as I finish posting this, is go out, probably all by myself (unless my hubby asks to go with and then I'll probably say he can just so I can sit across the table and glare at him), to the Chinese restaurant across from the high school senior parking lot, and order soup (maybe won ton, maybe sweet and sour) and hope it helps my sore throat and cotton wadded sinuses. And maybe I'll feel a little melancholy, because taking my kids out for spicy soup when they were home and sick is a fondly remembered family tradition and I'm currently missing Joe a lot because I keep having roadblocks thrown in my way whenever I try to plan a visit to see him. I might as well throw it into the mix while I'm already feeling crappy physically. Or maybe I'll do something less depressing, like read a magazine or write a list called Things To Do with subtitles of Tonight, Tomorrow, This Week, This Month, This Year. Then when I get bored of my own company, I might go rent a movie so I don't have to communicate, badly or otherwise, with anyone tonight.

Sick Grouchy Laume

Friday, June 03, 2005

Why I haven't written

I haven't written in a few days. Why? Because I was descended on by family, that's why. I have come to think of these visits as being produced by the gods and goddesses, a sitcom titled "Be Careful What You Wish", because while I am blessed with my family, I am also burdened by them. They're all sitting around somewhere (the gods and goddesses that is, not my family) maybe up at Mt. Olympus or perhaps the local Pantheon Tavern, drinking wine, popping grapes (or if they're keeping up with the times, popping jalepeno poppers and nachos) and laughing at the antics of that wacky but lovable family, the Zekas'.

Not that I'd have it any other way, mind you. It's simply that I'm a bit rusty on the ability to juggle seven people all the while enjoying the sights and sounds of the circus. When the kids were younger, it came as naturally as breathing. I discovered somewhere along the way that immersing myself in the process, not fighting it, gave the most bountiful returns both to my family and myself. As each child grew up and took flight, as I stood on the edge of the nest with my heart trying to leap out of my chest and follow them, I was sure the empty spot they left behind would be hard to fill.

It wasn't. Well, okay, at first it was. I had to rewrite the concept of family to see us as a network rather then a nest. I had to learn to use the phone to tuck them all in instead of being able to bend over them in bed. I had to learn as well as they did that their decision making abilities worked pretty good out there in the real world and that when it didn't, they were as entitled to make their own mistakes as I was at their age. But learn I, we, did and as each kid went off to write their own stories, I found that I recovered my center a lot faster. Not because it was less poignant, certainly not because I loved each child less, but because I'd discovered that that empty hole wasn't left empty for long. There were other chapters of my own life to write, and I have discovered as much anticipation and pleasure in creating this stage of my life as I did the ones already ready for the memory books.

So, when the kids come back, and they do, they don't slip into the spaces they left behind. Instead, they come in and fill up the day to overflowing, crowding out the regular routines and schedules of those of us still here, the naturally occuring pauses and patterns we use to pace ourselve through the day.

It's usually the same process each time. First there's the excitement of their arrival, then the feelings of being overwhelmed with coordinating everyone. Often the kids come home in need of a "fill up" emotionally. Eventually everyone slows down or at least it starts to feels like it. I find I'm finding my groove, getting a rhythm, and relaxing into the new full house routines. Finally, the "family fix" filling up for everyone, both visiting and staying family, we all begin to realize that there's things to get back to - school, appointments, sleeping in one's own bed. Yet by the time goodbye's are looming I'm not sure whether I want help them pack or cajole them into just a few more hours, a few more days.

When the last kisses are kissed and waves are waved and I walk back into the house and shut the door, the house once again has a big empty hole, the vacuum of the kid's departures hissing loudly in my ears. Usually I launch into something "normal" - reading e-mail, working in the garden, going out for coffee with a friend - and in a few hours, the quiet is friendly and soothing once again. I like to think this is the way it should be - a healthy need to be together and an equally healthy need to be apart.

The gods sure do love to watch us zany characters dance though, don't they.