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February, 2011

  1. Crappy Valentine’s Day

    February 20, 2011 by Wendy

    Valentine’s Day used to be my favorite holiday. Ever since I was little, I loved everything about it—the conversation hearts, giving and getting the tiny little cards folded over and sealed with a heart sticker, pink frosted cookies and the heart-shaped boxes of waxy chocolate pieces filled with orange or pink fluff.

    Then, as a married grown-up, it was fun to do cute little romantic things like have a picnic dinner in the living room or a hike in a pretty spot and give each other corny cards. (We always thought it was too mundane to go out to dinner at a nice restaurant just because everyone else was.) Whatever we did, it was always fun and romantic.

    And then we had kids.

    When they were babies and toddlers, it was just nuts and I don’t even remember what we did for Valentine’s Day. It got worse as soon as the twins hit school age.

    That’s when Valentine’s Day became a job. There were cards to write for the entire class (times two), class parties to plan and help out at, cutesy breakfasts to make, little treats to tuck in school lunches and special dinners to prepare.

    I remember when the twins were in kindergarten, we took a 10-day trip to Walt Disney World at the end of January. Knowing it would be Valentine’s Day when we got back, I had them work on their Valentines on the plane on the way there. All the flight attendants were so impressed, and kept coming by to comment on how cute the girls were, and what a great mom I was for having them work on them so early.

    I was pretty impressed with myself, too, having packed the class list, the two sets of cards, the pencils, stickers, etc.

    I don’t know what happened to that mom.

    Fast forward to seven years of Valentine’s Days later, with our third daughter now in kindergarten, and all I can say after this Valentine’s Day is:

    I suck.

    Maybe it’s the fact that Little Miss is the second go-around for me, or maybe it’s just that life has become too busy, but that mom on the plane who had it all together? She must’ve taken a solo vacation this year, ’cause she was nowhere to be found this year.

    Several weeks prior to the holiday this year, Little Miss’s teacher sent home a note instructing parents to help their child make a mailbox out of shoebox, and to not write individual names on the Valentines, so as to make delivery easier and more efficient during the class party.

    Knowing how difficult it is to prod a 5-year-old to write 26 Valentines, I intended to get an early start, buying the Valentines a full three weeks ahead of time.

    That doesn’t mean we wrote them out that early.

    No, we waited until the weekend before, during which there was a birthday party, double-header basketball games, grocery shopping and a bunch of other weekend tasks thrown in. By Sunday night, Mommy lost all her patience after the 149th time of telling Little Miss to stay at the table until all the Valentines were written. Plus, Little Miss liked the ones she picked so much that she wrote out six for herself, which meant now she didn’t have enough for everyone in the class so she had to borrow some from her sisters, but then we discovered those had Bible verses on them and because you never know if that will offend somebody these days, I had to run out to CVS to buy another box. (I would’ve let it go, but I had to run out anyway because we were out of Scotch tape, which we needed to tape the Valentine pencils and lollipops to the card.)

    Earlier in the week, Twin B helped Little Miss decorate her shoebox. The first-time mom of seven years ago might have looked in dismay at the crooked patches of pink construction paper, bubbled up from way too much glue, and the “Happy Birthday!” stickers and hand-drawn peace symbols on top of the box. But the practical mom who’s been there, done that, cringed just a little and thought, “Well it’s just going to get thrown away anyway, what’s the difference?”

    When I walked her into the classroom the next morning to help her carry in her box and Valentines, I saw the difference.

    The back table was already filled with boxes that I might buy at a fine stationery boutique if I ever had a need for such a box. There was the large round hatbox adorned with Marabou feathers and pink glitter, another box had the child’s name spelled out using cutout letters each mounted on a stick, another was covered in a scrapbook layout of photos of the child. And here was “ours:”



    Already feeling bad for my numerous “FOR THE LAST TIME, CAN WE PLEASE FINISH THESE VALENTINES BEFORE I REALLY FREAK OUT” outbursts, I felt even worse walking back to the car. “At least I put red bows in her hair today,” I thought to myself.

    I came home and told the Mr., describing in detail all the fancy boxes, and all the presents piling up on the teacher’s desk. (We gave her a giant Hershey’s kiss that said #1 Teacher, which I thought was nice until I saw the elaborately wrapped gifts, flowers, plants and chocolate-covered strawberries other kids were bringing in.)

    “So what?” said the Mr., who incidentally, had taken the day off to spend with me only to find out that I had to volunteer later that day at the class party. “There’s no value in that! Do you really wish you would’ve spent hours putting feathers and glitter and crap on a box, just so she can bring it home and throw it away?”

    Well, yes, I kind of do.

    I sulked about it for a while, vowing to do better next year. Later, we went back to the classroom for the party, where the teacher got annoyed because the other room moms and I didn’t know how to make a bouquet out of the pile of paper hearts, pipe cleaners, doilies and tissue paper she left out for us while she was in a meeting.

    Even my rocket scientist hubby–who came to the party, because, well, we were spending Valentine’s Day together— couldn’t figure it out, so there. Sheesh.

    The party was chaotic and stressful, the kids were all wound up and sugared up, and we were glad when it was over.


    Just as the bell was about to ring, and the kids were all lined up at the door holding their fancy mailboxes stuffed with Valentines, I noticed something in Little Miss’s cubby: The gallon-sized Ziploc bag full of all of her Valentines carefully taped to the pencils and lollipops sitting there, just the way I left it in the morning. They never got passed out. I wanted to cry. No, I did cry. In a mad scramble, we started handing them out to kids as they were filing out the door, stuffing them in as many hands, backpacks and boxes as we could. Some kids got two or three, some kids got none at all.

    All that prodding, all that erasing, all that taping, all that yelling. All for nothing.

    But then after we got home and I was emptying her backpack, I saw a pink foam heart stuck to a pink lace doily  peeking out of her folder.

    “Aww, did you make me a special Valentine?” I asked Little Miss. But then I turned it over:


    “I love you Cheerio!” it said in her kindergarten scrawl. Yup, it was for the dog.

    The dog—who, in the chaos of everyone coming home and sorting through all their cards and candy—somehow got a hold of the paper heart bouquet that Little Miss made. The complicated craft that we room moms apparently couldn’t figure out was now a pile of soggy, shredded tissue paper lying in the middle of the living room floor.

    I found this hilarious.

    Wanting to salvage what was left of our day, the Mr. suggested we all go on a long bike ride in the desert. I ran into a cactus and got a roofing-nail-sized thorn embedded into my thigh, but that bike ride turned out to be the highlight of my Valentine’s Day.

    When we got home, the Mr. threw some lovely tenderloin steaks on the grill, and by total accident, one of them came out into the perfect shape of a heart, which we enjoyed by candlelight as a family. So it turned out to be a pretty nice Valentine’s Day night.




    I got a bad stomachache from the rich meal, after spending all week eating only salads, turkey and fruit. But it didn’t end there.

    When I put the load of laundry I had just washed into the dryer, I discovered that I had washed the Mr.’s cellphone that must’ve been in his shorts pocket from the bike ride. It’s been nothing but a dead black screen ever since.

    And that was my crappy Valentine’s Day. If anyone sees that mom on the plane patiently helping her daughters make their Valentines, please tell her to get her sorry butt back home. Her family needs her.

  2. Our New Baby Boy!

    February 19, 2011 by Wendy

    Three weeks ago, the balance in our female-dominant household finally shifted with our new addition to the family:


    This is Cheerio, our new yellow Labrador retriever puppy. He was born on Dec. 9, 2010, and we were able to take him home when he was 8 weeks old. Little Miss named him when she was 3 years old. My parents had just gotten a chocolate Lab, and one day, Little Miss said, “Someday, I would like a “vanilla” Lab named Cheerio.” We all loved the name then, and it stuck with us ever since. And how perfect of a name not only for a cereal-colored dog, but also because he is an English Labrador, and the Brits say “cheerio” a lot.

    We have been dogless for the past three years, since our other dogs, Orion and April, both passed away after 12 and 14 years with us. We had been wanting another, but just like with children, we were waiting for the right time. And just like with children, there never really is a right time so you just jump in and do it. And that’s what we did.

    And it really is just like having another baby, but without the stretch marks (new ones, anyway) and the allowance of the “baby weight” excuse. Actually, it’s more like having a 1-year-old running around the house with no diaper on and putting everything in his mouth, and therefore, creating the need to never take your eyes off of him for one second. Once again, my days are structured around a naptime, playtime and mealtime schedule. And for the past three weeks, we have been sleep-deprived from getting up in the night with him and getting up for the day when he does at the crack-of-ridiculous.

    But man, is he cute! Like, Cottonelle puppy cute:


    So far, he’s so sweet and well-mannered (most of the time), that he let me place him on a package of toilet paper for this photo shoot. (There were treats involved, but still.) We have met and interacted with both of Cheerio’s parents, and we are hoping that he turns out as cool and gentle as they are.

    The week before we got him, we were in PetSmart stocking up on all the things he would need. At first, we were overwhelmed by how much the pets market has changed since we were pet owners. Suddenly, we apparently need orthopedic mattresses, car seats,  pricey organic food, a $75 Furminator hair brush, two aisles of vitamins and supplements, and the Martha Stewart collection of dog bowls, etc. What happened to good old Pedigree and Milk Bones? But even more overwhelming was the scene at the register:

    A 4-month-old yellow Lab, just like the one we were about to get, hopping around like a maniac while his owner was trying to slide her debit card into the machine while attempting to hold his frenetic leash.

    “Oh, girls, look!” I said. “Let’s go see him!” All five of us ran over to him and pet him, and he went all Marley on us. He immediately whizzed all over the Mr. and the floor and then rolled in it, knocked over Little Miss, and nearly choked himself to death while his owner was trying to restrain him. After talking with us for a while, she dragged him (no, really, dragged him) out the door, him choking and sputtering and hopping the whole time. When those double doors shut, we just stared at each other, wide-eyed and open-mouthed.

    “What. Was. That?” said the Mr.

    “What. Are. We. Thinking?” said I.

    Then the Mr. put his hands on my shoulders, saying, “Don’t worry, ours isn’t going to be like that, it’s the owner’s fault, look, she couldn’t even hold on to him and he had a harness on. She shouldn’t be using a harness! That just shows that the dog is in control, not the owner!”

    Yeah, OK, whatever. All I could see is pee and craziness.

    “That was nuts!” continued the Mr., and then began to imitate the dog, whizzing and all. “The dog was all,” he said, breaking into what looked exactly like someone having a grand mal seizure while spraying a fire hose of urine all over the place. The girls were quite amused. The workers who were cleaning up the whiz were not. They just stared at him.

    But so far, Cheerio does not seem to be  like the crazy PetSmart dog. He’s had his “Marley” moments, like stealing the hair brush and running away with it when I’m trying to do Little Miss’s hair for school and we’re already late. And then there’s yesterday morning, when I was blow-drying my hair and he took a flying leap from the bathtub deck to try to grab the cord.

    For the first two weeks, he was having some intestinal issues that had me Googling every parasitic disease a dog can get, and if it can be transferred to humans, etc. I’m pretty sure our vet office now knows me as the psycho who keeps coming in waving her snack-size Ziploc bag full o’ stool stample.

    “It’s negative for parasites,” they keep telling me, trying not to roll their eyes.

    Apparently, new-mommy panic has hit me once again.

    My mother-in-law will love that one. She hates when people personify their pets, and even worse, when they put her in the role of the puppy’s grandma.

    “I have never been, nor will I ever be, an animal’s mom or grandma,” I overheard her telling my mom, who was admiring the pictures of Cheerio on my phone, and saying, “Look at your granddog!”

    “I never gave birth to a dog, so how could a dog be my grandbaby?” she says.

    Of course, this just makes the Mr. and I want to refer to Cheerio as her “grandson” even more, and call her his “Nonna.”

    “Hey, it’s probably going to be the only blond grandson you’re going to get, so you might as well enjoy it,” I told her.

    And then a few days later, as I was telling her about my crazy busy day, she said, “Do you mean to tell me you left my grandson home alone all that time?”

    Ha ha. And she did say he was the cutest puppy she’s ever seen.

    Little Miss, on the other hand, has no problem with the personification. She calls him her “baby brother.”



    “Finally!” she said, “I’m not the shortest one in the family! I’m taller than my baby brother, right?”

    Yeah, for now. But wait until he’s the 90-100 pound dog he’s likely to be.

    The Mr. doesn’t love the personification either, but he knows that in a house full of girls, he doesn’t stand a chance. For now, he is letting us carry him around, cradle him like a baby and snuggle with him on the couch. (Right now, his only rule is that I not give the dog more affection than I give him. But come on, how can I not with that cute little puppy face?)



    During a recent cold snap, in which freeze warnings were issued, my girlfriend who absolutely loves dogs called and left a message just as the Mr. was leaving for work.

    “I was just calling to see how the baby did last night,” she said. “I bet his lil’ body was so cold, poor little baby,” she said, to which a crabby Mr. yelled at the machine: “HE’S NOT COLD! HE’S A DOG! HE’S FROM LABRADOR! HE’S WEARING A FUR COAT, FOR GOD’S SAKE!”

    Still, he’s pretty tolerant while we’re in these early training stages. And guess who we hear talking to him like he’s a human baby, and guess who we see carrying him around and wrapping him in his jacket on those cold nights?



    But as soon as Cheerio is 4 months old and has all his shots, that’s it. It’s time for him to get to work. The Mr. is training him to be his hunting partner. After all, that is what they are bred for, and partly why we selected the breed we did. And just like he was when the girls were in their baby stages, the Mr. is getting a little impatient for that 4-month mark.

    “I don’t see why I can’t take him out in the desert now!” he kept saying, even though the breeder advised us to keep him only in our own back yard, away from any other potential germ-carriers, both wild and domestic. Thankfully, the vet concurred at Cheerio’s last checkup, putting an end to that argument for a while.

    That’s why when the Mr. and I took him for a walk the other day, we took turns carrying him through the neighborhood. The Mr. grumbled the whole way: “This is ridiculous! We finally have a dog, and we can’t put him on the ground for a walk? No, because suddenly the neighborhood is teeming with parasites!” he ranted.

    “Well, it’s either that or he gets diarrhea again and I freak out and look up all these diseases on the Internet, and then YOU can spoon up the diarrhea into a Ziploc!” I say.

    I keep reminding him to stop rushing the puppy stage, just like I reminded him to stop rushing the baby and toddler stages. It’s going to go by so fast. It already is, as can be seen in these photos from when he was first born until now:


    One day old. This is possibly him with one of his sisters.


    Cheerio at about 5 weeks old, on the day we visited and picked him out of the litter.


    The ride home with our new baby.


    Cheerio, just last week, at 9 weeks old.

    He already weighs 14.5 pounds, and should gain about 2 pounds a week. We anticipate he’ll be a big dog.

    That’s our boy. Our big blond son.

    Finally, people might stop asking us when we’re going to try for a boy.

  3. “Not the really bad ‘S’ word”

    February 18, 2011 by Wendy


    Last week, Little Miss’s kindergarten class celebrated Arizona’s birthday. All the children were to dress up in their finest Western wear (because that’s how we all dress here in Aree-zona). We dug out some old boots from when the twins took horseback riding lessons, picked out her most Westernish dress and found a safari hat we got at Disney World that Poppy fashioned into a cowboy hat by curling and tying up the brim overnight. A little ghetto, but it worked.

    I don’t know if it was the outfit or what, but later that evening, Little Miss casually mentioned to one of her sisters that “Today, Peter called me and another girl the ‘S’ word, but not the really bad ‘S’ word,” she said, all wide-eyed and reassuringly. (The “really bad ‘S’ word” is stupid.)

    “Well what word did he say?” her sister asked. (This is the same boy she had a crush on in the beginning of the year, but she has moved on and there have been two others since.)

    “The ”S” word that all the singers say, like Ke$ha. Ke$ha says it all the time.” (This is what happens when you have a 5-year-old with middle-school sisters—forget cutesy sing-along songs; she listens to their music.)

    And then she spelled it out for us: “You know, S-E-K-S-I.”

    Ohhhh, that “S” word.

    I think I would’ve rather he called her S-T-U-P-I-D.

    Why in the world is a 5-year-old boy is saying this, and how in the world does my 5-year-old know it was kind of a not-so-nice thing to say? (Unless you’re my age, of course, then, bring it on!)

    The next day, I repeated the conversation to the teacher. She didn’t get it when I spelled it the same way Little Miss did. So I had to say it: “SEXY. He said she was SEXY.”

    “Ohhhhhhh,” she said. And then her expression changed from confusion to horror. And then she said something only a teacher would say:

    “Well at least she spelled it correctly phonetically, I guess I can be happy about that!”

    Yes, me, too.  Her father and I are thrilled.