Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shopping for Halloween? Better hurry ... it's later than you think

Last year, I was taken by surprise. I went shopping for Halloween decorations in mid-October, only to be met by  bare shelves, a couple of sad-looking skeletons and a few assorted window clings.

Primarily, I saw a lot of Christmas angels and sparkling candy canes.

I'm sure I had the same look of outrage on my face as when I went out looking for snow pants in November and found shelves of T-shirts and ads for bikinis. But that's a different story.

So this year,I planned ahead. Far ahead.

I started trolling the craft aisles at Michael's and Hobby Lobby early this month, noticing when the back-to-school items disappeared and the spooky, creepy decorations appeared in full force.  I've been checking out the dollar stores and wandering the home decor areas at department stores.

I watched for those clearance flyers to start appearing, which they have, and although my husband thinks I'm crazy, I feel much more prepared to fill the goodie bags for the class Halloween party this year.

Sure it's early, but our yard is already starting to look a little festive, too.

Now if only I'm not too late to get a few pairs of snow pants.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Video camera holds instant appeal for junior filmmaker

My son is turning into a little Steven Spielberg.

 It's a talent I never expected from my formerly shy little boy.

It all started when I bought a little flipcam on sale. Silly me. I thought I'd learn to make  videos - maybe create some book trailers, you know, learn a few new tricks.

Instead, my son was instantly mesmerized. "Cooool," he said, holding it in his hot little hands. "Is this a video camera? Can I make videos? Like on YouTube?"

I was a little nonplussed. "Um, I guess," I said. "But it's mine," I added hurriedly, as he took it into his room. He nodded absently.

I think that was the last quality time I spent with my little camera.

Oh, sure - I've seen glimpses, usually when the boy is filming. His videos are primarily short stories involving the adventures of his Mario plushies, although sometimes our dog gets a cameo role. After he films them, he splices the scenes, courtesy of Windows Moviemaker, which his teen-age sister taught him to use.

Then he sets it up in high-def and uploads it to YouTube.

 He's 9. When I was 9, I think I had a really cool Malibu Barbie set and thought I was All That.

He's not alone, of course. His friends make their own videos, too  - post them, laugh about them, trade messages. They get together over the weekends sometimes and make more.

My son's videos are short, shaky. I'm afraid he'll get criticized online; people can be rude sometimes.

I told him that; he just shrugged.

"You just keep making movies," he told me. "You keep getting better."

So I wonder ... is that what Spielberg said?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Holiday weekend brings on thoughts of daunting fall schedule that lies ahead

It's a holiday weekend. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and I have the day off.

I should be ecstatic. Instead, I'm fighting the blues. It's silly, I know. But end-of-summer time always does this to me. I absolutely love summer. I love the sun on my face, I love my little flower garden, and I love the lazy, slower schedule.

Tomorrow, the kids go back to school. And that means it's back to packing lunches, helping with homework, volunteering in the classroom and balancing work, school and life. The thought - right now, in my quiet living room - nearly overwhelms me.

Yesterday, my husband gave me some advice: First, think about how great this summer was. He's right - it was terrific. I got some much-needed surgery out of the way (that's where I've been for the last few weeks, by the way), got a new book out, and had some fun getaways with the kids.

Then, he said, look at the future in small chunks of responsibility - a day, a week, a month. Then it won't seem so daunting.

He's right, of course. And I do love fall, with its snap of color and cooler temperatures. So yes, it'll soon be time to trade ice tea for hot cider, but maybe I can sneak in one more visit to the pool.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What am I afraid of? Kid, you don't know the half of it

We were in the car the other day, my son and I.

"Mom," he said. "What are you afraid of?"

What am I afraid of?  Ugh. He has no idea. Frankly, I wish I didn't, either.

I'm having surgery in a couple of days - I'm not a good patient. I have a very low pain tolerance. I'm pretty much afraid of doctors, afraid of hospitals, afraid of needles, afraid of blood, afraid of paper gowns that don't close correctly in back, afraid of just about everything except the anesthesiologist, whom I adore.

The fact that I actually gave birth to two children still gives people pause. My epithets, complaints and strange demands are likely still legendary at the maternity ward in Springfield, Mo.

But I look back at my son's beautiful, trusting eyes, and, somehow, I don't think this is the answer he's looking for.

"Um, snakes," I say. "I'm kind of afraid of snakes."

He smiled. "I'm a little afraid of heights," he told me, and sat back.

Sigh. Maybe as long as there's no snakes in the operating room, I'll be okay.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer vacation isn't just for kids - parents love it, too

My eyes flew open at 7 a.m. today, and I could feel the panic rising even before I sat up in bed. Okay, okay, I told myself. So we missed the bus. Not the end of the world. I'd get everyone up and going, fix a quick breakfast and ...

Oh, wait. No. I wasn't late, hadn't overslept. I hadn't missed the bus because the bus wasn't coming.

It was the first day of summer vacation. Finally! I sat back with a sigh of relief. But ... what a strange feeling, to have the morning to myself. It's so peaceful, so full of possibilities.

I could catch up on housework. I could read the paper, enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee on the deck. I could even get in some writing time before heading off to work. Summer vacation - even these brief morning hours - is wonderful, and not just for the kids.

But this morning, I confess, I simply went back to sleep. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Kindergartners Day brings on wave of nostalgia ... or is it more like envy?

Timmy the Timberwolf should have tipped me off.

Timmy is the mascot for our elementary school, and he was out the other morning at the front door of the school, smiling and waving in his furry costume. I was hurrying back to my car, wondering why the parking lot was so full and why parents were rushing in when I was rushing out. I noticed then that all the children coming in looked little, and all the parents looked harried.

It hit me then: It must be New Kindergartners Day.

As I stopped and watched, the nostalgia hit me like a wave. I remembered when my kids were that little. I remembered how excited I was to see the inside of the kindergarten room, how nervous I was to meet the teacher, how hopeful I was that she'd recognize all the qualities that made my child so special.

I wanted to stop these parents, the ones who looked so rushed and annoyed. I wanted to tell them to slow down, to enjoy this, to store it in their mind's eye so they could enjoy it later. In fact, I wished they were enjoying it now.

I wanted to remind them that even though it seems like these days - when your kids are silly and messy and constantly underfoot - last forever, they'll be gone in a heartbeat.

But I used to hate it when more experienced parents used to do that to me. I would stare at them through my bleary, sleep-deprived eyes and simply nod. "Yeah, right," I'd think, when they'd gush over my adorable children and tell me to savor these precious times. "Whatever."

I took the car seat out of my van last week. My son is just too big for it; he doesn't need it. By the way, he doesn't need to hold my hand any more on the way into school, either.

So maybe it wasn't nostalgia hitting me so hard that morning. Maybe it was envy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baseball field is no place for mother's intuition

A chilly rain was trickling down, and I was standing in the grass, watching as my son grabbed a bat and walked confidently to home plate. He'd been doing so well on his baseball league - I really had no reason to worry.

But suddenly, I was worried. Call it mother's intuition, call it a psychic flash. I saw in my mind's eye a baseball crashing into my little boy's face. It was so startling, I actually strode forward to the fence.

I was only a few seconds early.

I got there just in time to see it really happen. The pitcher threw wild. The baseball hit my son's batting helmet then bounced off his shoulder. Luckily, the helmet has a protective cage that descends down over the eyes and the face - and that's where the ball struck.

"No!" I shouted before I could help myself.

The coach ran over and patted his shoulder; my boy just shook it off and jogged to first base. He looked over and gave me a thumbs-up. I gave him a weak smile in return.

The baseball field is no place for mother's intuition. I was rattled for the rest of the game.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Trip to Indy Speedway provides bonding time for dad and son

Last Sunday was Mother's Day, and it was wonderful. But last Saturday was Father's Day - actually Father-Son Day, and it was pretty great, too.

That was the day my husband and son traveled down from our home in Michigan to Indianapolis for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's opening day. They watched the cars, ate a few track dogs, did a lot of walking and shopping and most importantly, spent a lot of time talking

The drivers were onsite, and my normally shy son ran here, there and everywhere gathering signatures in his autograph book from everyone - including his favorite driver, Will Power, who was nice enough to pose for a picture. It's one of my favorite photos - my boy looks absolutely thrilled.

It was the first time my little boy, an avid racing fan, had been to back to the track since seeing the televised fiery wreck in Las Vegas that killed Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon. I was glad he could go there with his dad and talk about it, glad they could spend the day together just hanging out and having fun.

Father-Son day is almost as good as Mother's Day. Almost.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spending special time with kids is worth every minute of a "Wallace and Gromit" marathon

My son is a boy's boy, a rough and tumble kid. He likes football, plays baseball, watches racing. He doesn't hold hands with mom much anymore, and he only says "I love you" at night.

So that's why I owe a big debt of gratitude to "Wallace and Gromit."

I don't know if you've seen this British series, but my kids love it. I think it's just okay - but I'll admit, it's growing on me.

There are "Wallace and Gromit" movies and "Wallace and Gromit" shorts, and they all revolve around the harrowing adventures of cheese-loving Wallace and his very intelligent dog Gromit.

There was a marathon of shows on the other night. My son came up to me as I wrote on the computer.

"Mom," he said. "Do you want to watch TV together in your room? 'Wallace and Gromit' is on!"

I couldn't jump out of my chair fast enough. We giggled, snacked and snuggled - me, the boy and about 20 Mario plushies - for hours. His sister, sometimes far too sophisticated for such things, even saw we were having a plushie party and joined in.

As my kids get older, these invitations don't come as often as they used to. I'll take as many as I can get. Even if I have to watch an entire "Wallace and Gromit" marathon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My mom role model: With bouncy curls and perfect pants, she's just like looking in a mirror. Yeah, kind of ...

I saw my mom role model today after I dropped my son off at school. She was walking in front of me in her cute little white capris and a matching spring jacket.

She had on those pert little socks that barely show above your tennis shoes, the ones that have the little balls that peek out from over the heels of your shoes.

I almost missed her; I was bent over, tucking my pants cuffs under because they were too long and I refused to wear heels. I didn't have on a cute spring jacket - I couldn't find one in the labyrinth that is our hall closet. In fact, I was wearing what my husband calls my "grandma sweater;" it was bequeathed to me years ago from a former cubicle mate who took pity on me when I, um, couldn't find a spring jacket.

My mom role model has bouncy curls and perfect makeup that she likely does not apply in the rear view mirror on the way to work.  A quick glance at her nails tells me that they are filed into nice ovals, that the thumb nail is not bitten to the quick from stress, and the other nails are not covered with weird white polish that was on sale for $5 at Sephora because, it turns out, it looks like White-Out.

My mom role model smiles at me when she walks by, and her teeth are white and shiny. She must not be a writer; she probably doesn't stay up late drinking lots of coffee and developing new plot lines.

I don't know her, per se. Well, okay, I don't know her at all.  But I bet we could be friends. As long as she doesn't have a twin. Because really, there's only so much perfection I can handle.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Through children's eyes, trip to the museum because almost as educational as the exhibit

The other day, we took the kids to the Henry Ford museum to see an exhibit on the Titanic. I couldn't wait - I've always been fascinated by the saga of the doomed ship: the heroism, the cowardice, all the events that had to coincide for the Titanic to meet her fate.

I didn't think the kids would get all of it, of course, but I knew at the very least there was an iceberg there - and I was betting they'd get a kick out of that. What I didn't count on was what they'd notice long before the doors to the exhibit even opened.

To get to the museum, we took a strip of highway I travel nearly every day to get to work. It's not pretty. It's bare and gritty, lined with vacant, weedy lots, run-down businesses and strip clubs.

It's a far cry from our peaceful, tree-lined subdivision. But I've seen the sights so often I don't even pay attention to them anymore.

But my kids did. "Who lives in those?" my daughter said, pointing to a dilapidated trailer court by the side of the road.

"Why are those there?" she wondered, pointing at old shopping carts at a deserted bus stop.

My daughter has always been kind-hearted. One time she went with me on a newspaper assignment to a food bank; she watched as the families lined up and loaded up their groceries. Still very young, she watched the kids clinging to their parents in the huge gymnasium.  Later, she asked me if she could learn to sew someday - maybe she could make teddy bears, she said, so that those kids could get one when they came in. "Everyone needs a teddy bear," she told me.

On the trip, she sat quietly in the back seat, watching the scenery. "This makes me sad," she said quietly, almost to herself.

It was sad - is sad. Sad, too, that I see it so often I'd almost stopped noticing it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Life is uncertain: Hug your kids, say 'I love you,' and make the most of the time you have

I have a friend who just found out a relative's cancer has returned. The diagnosis isn't good - the doctors have given him four months to live.

The news was just beginning to sink in . "Four months," she told me. "That's basically a summer. One summer, and he'll be gone."

I know what she's going through - somewhat. Sometimes the people we think we'll have around us forever disappear in a heartbeat. Nearly seven years ago, my beautiful, fun-loving sister laid down with a terrible headache; days later, she was dead from a stroke.

Life is so transient, isn't it? We think we'll have so much time - to hug those kids, to take that trip, to write that book, to get that great job. But you just never know.

My friend is at a loss; I hate to see it. But she has the right attitude.

"I bought a bag of jelly beans the other day," she told me. "I felt so silly - but he loves jelly beans. I thought, 'There's not much I can do, really, but be there ... and I just want to make sure he has all the little things around him he likes.'"

She's right, I thought.  There's no guarantees. We can just surround ourselves with the people and the things we love and make the most of the time we have.

Then we cross our fingers and say our prayers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Things you learn spending time with your teen-age daughter (Hint: watch your mouth)

You learn a few things when you go shopping with your teen-age daughter.

You learn that some of the most popular stores have incredibly loud music, really narrow aisles and lots of girls so skinny you could probably bench-press them.

You learn that the style of shorts that you wear on a regular basis is hopelessly uncool.

You learn that the one way to get your daughter to never, ever listen to a song again is to say that you heard it in Jazzercize.

And bizarrely, you learn that you're not allowed to say the word "panty." Go figure. Although it's plastered all over the windows of Victoria's Secret, if  it comes from your mouth, it's suddenly gross and inappropriate.

Instead, you must use the word "underwear." And even then, for goodness' sakes, use it sparingly and try not to talk really loud or make a scene. Don't even think about touching one of the bras.

But despite all that, you also learn that spending that one-on-one time with your daughter is an incredibly fun way to spend an afternoon. You know - as long as you watch your mouth.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring break? Already? You've got to be kidding!

My husband threw me for a loop with his question. "What do you want to do over spring break?" he asked.

Um, what? Spring break? He had to be kidding. I'm still packing away the last of the Christmas decor - just last week I found a stray box of hooks on a bookshelf.  Surely it can't be time to plan for a spring vacation already.

Besides, I still have the vacation pamphlets I picked up last spring - you know, the one  for bicycle rentals, the one for that expensive bed and breakfast inn.  By next spring break, I remember reasoning, I'll probably be so slim and fit we can all include bike riding and extensive hiking in our plans. And I'm sure I'll have saved up money over the year, so we can splurge and stay someplace nice.

Hmmm. Not so much.

Okay, so I know where the money went - it went to braces, bills and broken home appliances. And those fitness goals? I think it was nearly February before I broke down and ate frosting from the can.

But time? I could have sworn I had more of that.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Working (slowly) toward the power of positive thinking

What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner!" - Colette

I usually give up chocolate, or pop. One time, I think, I tried to give up coffee. But not this year.

I'm talking about Lent, of course. Lent, for me,  is a season of reflection, of spiritual housecleaning. I give up a little something, or try to add something meaningful to my life.

I'm not always successful - and in the past, my changes haven't mattered much. So this year, I'm trying something a little different. I'm trying to give up negative thinking.

It's easier said than done, believe me. It seems negativity is everywhere - or maybe I just attract it like a fly to honey. But I'm doing my best to push it away.  I'm reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, which is enlightening, and I'm hanging out with my kids ... they seem to have the right attitude.

It's an uphill battle - my old habits die hard. And I get impatient quickly. But I'll go slowly, see what I can do in 40 days. Every bit of change, I would think, is a good thing

Hey .... that's a positive thought right there, isn't it?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tae kwon do brings out mom's overprotective side

My little princess broke two wooden boards the other night - one with a palm strike, the other with a sidekick. The first board broke on the initial try. With the second board, it took her two kicks to break it.

It was part of her tae kwon do graduation to a higher belt. I sat in the audience, holding my breath. I wasn't feeling well, coming down with a cold or flu - likely whatever was being passed around at the local elementary - and I felt cranky and out of sorts.

I was afraid she'd break her hand, break her foot. I was wondering how smart I'd been, signing her up for this whole sport. I thought about when she was little, all the cute little dance outfits I'd bought her, the ones she refused to wear. I sighed.

Then the sparring part of the graduation began, where the students practice fight moves with others at their level. One girl got kicked in the mouth; a boy bent over double after a hit to the ribs. I could feel my anxiety rising. The hits were accidents, of course, but they happened nevertheless.

A particularly large student, one of the advanced ones, seemed very rough. "Would you let you daughter spar with him?" I hissed to my husband. "He looks like Goliath. No way is she ever sparring with him."

He shrugged. "If she was ready," he answered mildly.

After the graduation, my daughter was jubilant. She showed me her boards, re-enacted where her hand and foot landed on each one, told me how nervous she was beforehand and how she calmed herself down by counting.

"I'm saving these," she said, gloating over the broken wood. "I'm putting them in my room."

I looked at her, and my heart swelled with pride. I wondered then, about my earlier thoughts. Was I being sensible, or simply overprotective?  Only time will tell. It's a bridge I'm not looking forward to crossing.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vanity, thy name is Control-Top High-Top Tights

The dress was pretty - it was black and simple, with a flowing little skirt. It seemed I'd gotten lucky - I'd actually found a last-minute selection for a church Valentine's dance my husband and I were going to that night.

But looking critically into the dressing room mirror, I realized there was an ... issue. Yep, right there in the middle. Was that a little bit of, um, tummy? Well, that wouldn't do at all. But surely, there were ways to camouflage a little figure flaw, right?

Oh, are there ever. I had no idea what torturous controlling undergarments await those who have been avoiding the gym. Spanx, Assets, Control-Top High-Top Tights - frankly, I was lost. I had no idea what to choose.  Fingering a couple of the garments, I was doubtful. They were all expensive. And they didn't look terribly comfortable. They looked like they could be used to stop a speeding bullet, or protect against shark attacks.

After much deliberation - and much muttering at price tags - I  went with the Control-Top High-Top tights. Putting them on was crazy - I'm surprised I didn't dislocate a hip. And they went up, up, up - I'm glad the dress didn't have a plunging neckline.  I was supposed to dance in this? I felt like I was encased in rubber cement. And I was pretty certain they were on for the duration.

But in the name of vanity, I persevered. They did their job, and I did mine. I danced, I sat, stood and even ate dinner. And when I returned home, I took a deep, grateful breath and made a silent commitment to visit the gym just a little more often.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

When dad leaves, the house just isn't the same

My husband left on a business trip last week - out of pocket, out of reach, out of the country.

I didn't think it would be that big of a deal; I'm a big girl, after all. I know how to take care of myself. I didn't realize, however, that taking care of everything and everyone would be so overwhelming.

The kids. The shopping. The homework. The house. Work. Cat. Dog. Everything. Everything due and overdue, pending and marking time. I tried. I managed. I delegated. I had one meltdown that left my children in tears. By the end of the week, I was exhausted.

I think when you live with a person, day after day, see them nearly every hour, it's easy to take them for granted. You forget all they do, how much they mean to you, how empty the house seems when they're gone.

My husband is back now, and there's a semblance of normalcy returning. But I'll think twice before so casually waving him out the door again.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A lesson in humility for mom, from the ground up

The morning was hectic; we were running late. We had finally pulled into the parking lot of the elementary school when I looked down at my son's feet, clad in clunky snow boots.

"Your shoes are in your backpack, right?" I said.

"Ummmm," he answered. I sighed. He had forgotten them. Again. The shoes I had put right by the front door were probably still right there. Why couldn't he remember?!

"Sean!" I said sharply. "C'mon! You need to work on getting better organized. Now I'll have to go back and get them. That's going to make me late. That's not good."

He looked chagrined. "Okay," he said. "I'm sorry, mom."

He was silent. So was I. As we hurried toward the front door, I wondered if I went overboard in chastising him. After all, he was just a kid.  I didn't want to start his day like this.

"I love you, silly boy," I told him before he went inside. "I'll bring your shoes to the office. Just ... don't worry about it."

He smiled at me. "See ya," he said, and ran inside.

I went back home and retrieved the errant shoes - which were right where I thought - delivered them, then started driving to work. I'd gone about two blocks before I realized how cold my own feet were.

Startled, I looked down and realized I was still wearing my snow boots.

I'd forgotten my dress boots at home.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What beats technology? Don't Break The Ice, of course!

My kids love technology. They could stay online for hours, love playing x-box games, even create their own videos. It's just part of their culture - I get it.

Sometimes I have to actually push them outside to go play in the real world.

I like technology, too - but I'm not quite so enamored. In fact, I even walk a fine line with cell phones. I have one, of course, But I can't stand to see people walking down the hallway, bumping into walls with their heads buried in their screens, or lunch with someone constantly multi-tasking with their iPhone.

I know - hopelessly old-fashioned. So speaking of which, my husband and I were cleaning out a closet the other night when we came upon a box of board games. The kids were engaged in a Mario battle downstairs, so we decided to play a game of Yahtzee, just for fun.

Lured by the rattle of the dice, the kids wandered upstairs. The game held little appeal. But rifling through the game box, they found something else.

"What's this?" my son said, holding up a blue frame and some white cubes.

I looked at it. "Um ... I think it's 'Don't Break the Ice,'" I said. "We used to play it when you guys were really little."

If you don't remember that game, it's the one where you have little plastic hammers and try to hammer out little cubes without knocking down the main ice cube - which holds a little man.

I couldn't believe it - the kids were fascinated. My son even found a plastic shark to put under the cubes to add to the tension.

We played all night - and then the next afternoon.

Of all the things to push technology to second-place: mom, dad, kids and some fake ice.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bowser, Mario and why there's a castle in my living room

I have a castle in my living room. It's made from two cardboard boxes and multi-colored cardboard bricks . It belongs to Bowser - a fearsome, dragonesque character from the Mario games.

My son put it together one afternoon. He surrounded it with Mario trading cards, drew a few decorations on the front, then gathered up all his Mario plushies and set them around his creations. Some are Bowser's minions, out to do harm. Others are heroes on dangerous rescue missions.

I love to listen him play, to hear him make up his stories and do the different character voices. Of course, I'm not supposed to listen - if he sees me, he clams up, politely asks me what I need and then waits patiently until I leave the room.

Only it's my living room. So sometimes that's a bit of a problem. Because the living room is also the main room of the house.

So while I love having my son play pretend, I do occasionally wish his castle had been built elsewhere. The situation reminded me of another one, long ago.

When I was little, I used to love to play Barbies. I would make up grand storylines and set up major scenarios with my cast of motley characters - from Malibu Barbie to Prince Ken to Skipper. I'd do this, though, in my big sister's closet. I had to - she had the coolest closet with lots of space and two different shelf levels. Luckily, even as a teen-ager, my literary-minded sister understood.

"Okay," she told me. "But don't let it get too messy, and don't stay in there forever."

I didn't, of course. I put my Barbies away. And I know that far too soon, Bowser and his evil minions won't interest my son anymore. So for now, the living room is hs fortress. And that's okay.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"If you want to have a better dog, you need to be a better person"

"If you want to have a better dog, you need to be a better person."

I read that phrase awhile back in a Jon Katz book. Katz is an author and dog lover and when I read it, it seemed to make sense. It also seemed pretty easy, since we didn't own a dog at the time.

We adopted Copper from the local humane society. Well, I didn't adopt him. My kids did. They fell in love with his big brown eyes and his gangly limbs and his overenthusiastic confusion at his predicament.

Truthfully, I might have picked another pooch. But love can limit your choices.

Copper is just so big. He's three years old, over 50 pounds. He hadn't been neutered. He plays very rough, and it seems no one spent a lick of time leash training him.

Walking Copper strains our patience and our shoulders - he lunges at dogs, squirrels, old men getting their newspapers. We can't buy him treats - poor Mr. Whiskers sniffed at a new bone once and Copper picked him up and shook him like a rag doll. Luckily, the cat weighs a good 20 pounds and merely walked away with an injured dignity. And Copper loves, loves, loves garbage; last night he wolfed down half a baked potato. The other day he ate half a package of turkey bacon.

But Copper follows my son and daughter with gentle, adoring eyes. He sits, lays down and shakes hands on command. He snuggles beside me at night with his head on my legs, and warms my feet while I read.

In our back yard, he plays with such exuberance and happiness I wonder how anyone had the heart to abandon him in the first place. My  kids look at him like he's worth a million bucks.

I look at the leashes he's chewed through. I pick up the garbage on the floor. I wonder if he'll ever learn what we're trying to teach him. I wonder if the local seniors will ever forgive us for scaring the heck out of them on their daily walks. I wonder if Copper will ever calm down.

I wonder if I can become that better person I read so much about. And I hope it will all get easier.

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's the bedtime questions that are the toughest for mom

So my daughter asked me a question last night, and I've been thinking about it all day.

"What do you do when you have to be around people you don't like?" she asked me. It was late, and I was tucking her into bed. She likes to do this to me, my little princess does; she asks me questions about life and love and God right before bedtime, when any real creativity I've had has trundled off to sleepytime and all I'm really thinking about is crawling under the covers with a good book.

But she was serious. She wanted an answer. So I thought for a moment.

Now, I consider myself a pretty easygoing person. I mean, I like most people; I hope they like me. But sure, once in awhile I meet that person who just bugs the poop out of me. They're loud or rude or stupid or all three rolled up into one big obnoxious sandwich.  So what do you do? What can you do?

This is what I told her: I said I don't do anything about them. Because nothing will change them. And I can scream and rant and pull my hair out and they'll still be what they are and my day will be ruined. So I just try to change my reaction to them.  I take a deep breath. I try not to listen to them. I go for a walk. Then  I come back and I smile. Or ... I make a snarky little comment. (Hey, we're all human).

Try to be like a duck, I told her.  Let it all roll off you.  Then I scratched her back. She smiled and closed her eyes.

And again, I hoped I'd given the right answer.