Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We're back!

The cool mountain breezes of North Carolina whispered our names for the past week. 

Capped off with a family wedding at the end of the week, we enjoyed nine days of Wood family fun in Blowing Rock, despite having to travel 5 hours on a plane and many, many hours in a rental car to get it. 

I thought I'd get some blogging done in my downtime, but our wireless service was spotty at best.  I took that as a sign from God.  So instead, I finished one book and started another, a startling feat in my house of late. 

Composing some blog posts of all our experiences vacationing with these two Thomas kids is too taxing on my brain right now, so I'll have to leave you hanging until the Texas heat fries me back to life.

I did try to get some good pictures of the girls on our trip.  We took a few shots on the golf course before dinner one night.

This is what my babies look like when I delay a meal in favor of a picture:

Lesson learned. 

More to come...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Baxter Confessions

I should probably come clean about the cat.

I talk all the time about the precocious three-going-on-sixteen Aria Grace, or my astounding nine-month-old-about-to-walk baby Caroline, or about my patient, loving Chris, or my large, jubilant costume-wearing dogs.  They all give me a lot of material to blog about.  But since we're all friends here, it's now time to bring up...the cat.

The correct reaction here would be, You have a cat?

Yes.  We have a cat.

You know how I feel about the dogs.  I love the dogs, I adore them.  The cat?  Well...  I feed the cat.  I acknowledge the cat.  I accept the cat.  I even clean the litter on the days that Soledad - or, as she is known in our house, The Angel in Pink Sweatpants - is not here.  In other words, I provide for him a very comfortable life.

But do I love the cat?  Hmmm... complicated question.

If you are a cat lover, you should probably just stop reading now, because the glib, wry prose that follows could possibly, maybe, potentially be perceived by some as anti-cat.  And I would NEVER want to give you that impression.  So, please, cat-lovers.  Stop reading.  In fact, go on over to this here website and read a nice article about whether or not cats have souls:  All About Cats.  Get back to me on that.  And you can page down to the last paragraph of this post.

If you are not so crazy about cats, then have a seat in your ergonomic chair, and carry on.

Perhaps now, you need some back story.

Once upon a time, way long ago, waaaayyyyy BCs (Before Chris and Before Children), I was a lonely single girl working the night shift, and I decided I needed a companion to come home to.  So I went out and adopted my very first pet, a cat named Adam.  Well, technically, my first pet was a rabbit named Denver, but he's kind of Persona Non Grata in the Kappa house at Clemson, so let's just say, for the sake of this blog post, that Adam was my first pet.  He was very small and shy, didn't ever seek affection, and was pretty much unable to elicit any emotional response from people other than pity for how small and shy he was.  But, being the pick-up-wounded-animals type of soul that I am, I thought I could change Adam with a little love and a stable home, from Meek, Shy, Kitty into Fun-loving, Attention-seeking Kitty. 

I couldn't.

Adam spent 80% of his life cowering under my bed.

Next came Cooper.  Since Adam wasn't cutting the mustard in the welcoming me home department, I went out and adopted myself a nine-week-old yellow lab puppy named Cooper.  My devotion to Cooper is now blog-legend, and I'm a little sad to say, Adam fell down a notch on my pet-priority list.  I still loved him dearly, and sobbed my eyes out the day I had to put him down, but I know in my heart he is now in a better place than under my bed.  Rest in peace, my sweet Adam.

Around this time, a friend approached me and begged me to adopt her very large, very unhealthy cat, Baxter.  He doesn't have front claws, she said.  My fiance's dog will eat him, she said.  He needs to be in a more cat-friendly place, she said.  Know what she said after dropping him off at my house?  SUCKAS! 

Oh, I kid.  I have no hard evidence about that last part.

Upon adoption day, Baxter tipped the scales at twenty-nine pounds, and I admit, I agreed to adopt him on the unspoken assumption that thyroid problems or diabetes would get the better of him before the fur had a chance to settle at our house.  But noooooo... despite my worst intentions, that cat has managed to usurp my medical suspicions (prayers), lose weight (down to a svelte 25 pounds), and live a long and fruitful five years with us.

Have I mentioned things can sometimes get little chaotic in our house?  This is how it can go down:  baby pulls cat's tail, cat screeches, dogs bark at cat for screeching at baby, cat hisses, dogs then chase cat, baby cries from all the ruckus.  Mommy cries.  Mayhem.

And to make it worse, somehow over the last few months, Baxter has become our default creature to blame when things go wrong in our house.  Fur everywhere?  Baxter's fault.  Carpet is dirty?  Dumb cat.  Kids are grumpy?  Grrr, daggum Baxter.  Flat tire?  Baxter, how dare you?  Seriously, we do, we blame him for pretty much everything.  And there is a lot he can take credit for.  I know he is systematically dismembering the beautiful floral centerpiece on my dining room table gifted to us by my sister-in-law Julie who is a designer with excellent taste.  He's yet another nocturnal creature in a house run by two people who greatly value their sleep.  He has a lot of fur, much of which accumulates regularly on the hardwood floors, the sofa, and any dark-colored clothing.  Unfortunately, he also has a sensitive digestive system, which is how I know he is responsible for the mutilation of the aforementioned centerpiece.  

It is because of all this alleged trouble-making that my husband has decided the cat has to go.  (In fact, for the time being, we're putting a moratorium on all things that poop).  We have a friend who shall remain nameless (you know who you are) who found a new home for his wife's cat on craigslist, and now Chris wants to do the same.

Which puts me in the unfortunate position of having to defend the honor of a creature I'm pretty certain has none. 

I mean, we can't give him away - I haven't even entirely decided if I like him or not, right?  He can be pretty cute when he wants to be.  What if I miss him?  And he's awfully sweet.  What if his new owners are some kind of cat-traffickers?  What if he misses us, tail-pulling and all?  Sure, my gut tells me there's not a big market for overweight ten-year-old cats on craigslist right now, so the rabble-rouser will probably remain a member of our family for many more litter-box changes, er, I mean years, to come, but you never know about these things.  He could be just the unhealthy, overweight, nocturnal, beautiful centerpiece-consuming pet a person has been looking for.

Therefore, in order to do my due diligence to Chris, and avoid the crazy catkillers on craigslist (read:  assuage my massive guilt if my husband unloads him to someone on the internet), I'll "look" for a home for him via this blog, on the off chance that somebody might want to take him off our very tired, very busy hands.

Any takers?

No?  Ah, well.  See, Chris?  I tried.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More Lovelies

Some photos of the babies.  I know!  Prettiest babies you've ever seen, right?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Red, White and Poo

I set myself up for failure. 

Growing up, I have the most marvelous memories of our July Fourths spent at my most favorite place on earth, Blowing Rock, NC.   My grandparents have a weekend mountain cabin on the 3rd hole of the Blowing Rock Country Club, and every year, the Wood side of my family would gather at this home, appropriately named The Wood Shed, to celebrate Independence Day, southern-style.  The house has an abundant wood-planked front porch bejeweled with creaky rocking chairs.  The entire attic of the house has been converted to a loft-like living quarters, which of course is where the "kids" always wanted to stay.  We cousins made so many wonderful memories up those steep, groaning stairs.  Like the time our freezer went out, and the grown-ups woke us up at midnight to eat all the ice cream before it melted.  Or my baby cousin learning to walk for the first time.  Or when, the summer after she was widowed, one of my grandmother's gentleman friends coming to ask the grandchildren for permission to marry her (we said yes; she said no).  Long before we had central air, we'd keep cool with the windows open and the ceiling fans whirring, drifting off to sleep inhaling air scented with pine and mountain laurel. 

How I love that place.

On the Fourth, we would make our merry at the annual Boathouse cookout, overlooking one the golf course ponds.  It also doubled as the driving range, so we had 500 yards of open space to shoot fireworks at will.  Fireworks were illegal to buy and sell in NC, so my dad and the other dads would drive over the mountains to Tennessee to buy our entertainment.  I can still remember the terrified shrieks of my two-year-old brother when the firecracker booms scared him.  Those were good times.

My memories of those Blowing Rock Fourths will always be filled with sparklers, hot dogs, parades, and laughter with the cousins.  I so wish the same happy memories for Caroline and Aria as we celebrate the 4th through the years.

So can you see how I've set myself up to be disappointed?  I'm expecting to make lasting memories for the girls, Aria in particular, thinking this will be the first Fourth she'll really remember. 

Sadly, though, my takeaway from this July Fourth weekend is not fireworks or hot dogs or sparklers. 

My memory of July 4, 2010,  is that all but one member of my household somehow, some way, managed to...

Slime me...

With ... pee... poo... waste... byproduct ... Number One... Number Two....

You get the picture.


It all started when we were invited to a holiday party at my friend's farm in East Texas.  (Hmmm... All About Farms.   This could be where Aria gets her farming obsession from...).  It rained all Sunday long up until about an hour before the festivities began, so needless to say, Aria had a mild little case of cabin fever.  When we finally got to Miss Debwa's (her words) she was so excited to romp and play outside with her friends that she forgot to - er, potty.  As it was, Mommy and Daddy, ourselves so happy to be watching her bounce on a trampoline outside and not on the bed cooped up inside a tiny lakehouse in the rain, forgot to remind her.  Oops.  My bad.  Additionally, my friend Miss Debwa, our gracious host, picked Aria up and carted her around on her hip for about ten minutes before I held her myself and discovered the little ... problem. 

Dear Miss Debwa, I don't know if you read my blog, but if you do, please take this as as an official, sincere apology for having to host the remainder of your party with my child's pee all over your clothes.  I know you are too polite to every say anything to me about it, but please know that I know.  And I am so sorry.  And I think you throw awesome parties.  And I want your baked brie recipe.

Had I prepared for this moment?  The moment of the one-month-potty-trained-three-year-old wetting her really cute blue and white madras patchwork dress with matching bow and shoes?  Absolutely not.  In our haste to get out of the rainy lakehouse when we saw a moment of sunny weather, we just bolted.  No extra pair of big-girl panties or a change of clothes.  Therefore, Aria and Mommy (and Miss Debwa, bless her pee-stained heart) had to spend her Fourth of July coated in pee.

And it didn't end there.

Now, here I will admit, I had an inkling that Lexi and Cooper weren't feeling too well before we left the house.  Cooper didn't even finish his breakfast, which is totally unlike him, the dog who will eat anything:  aluminum foil, baby diapers, pyrex glass, you name it.  I wish I was kidding.  As it was, we impounded the dogs in the lakehouse garage for the duration of our absence so they wouldn't go running off hollering at a fishing boat, or a heron, or a raccoon, as frequently happens at the wilds of Lake Cypress.  When we got home from Miss Debwa's and I lifted the garage door, they both greeted me joyfully, sniffing, licking, rubbing themselves against me. 

Then the scent hit me.

I turned on the light and saw to my horror - sorry to offend here but I'm just keepin' it real - doggie diarrhea all over our garage floor.  And apparently, they had rolled around in it too, because they were COV-ERED in it.  All that bouncing and sniffing and rubbing against me?  Yep, all over my cute Ann Taylor blue Fourth of July dress.

Did I say Ick?

I corralled the dogs down to the dock of the lake, and tossed them both in the water to let mother nature rinse them the heck off.  Cooper weighs 90 lbs, and Lexi is about 75 lbs, so when I say "tossed", I really mean more like, heaved with the full force of my weight, shoulder against fur, which resulted in an increase in the cute dress to doggie diarrhea surface-area ratio.  Finally, splash, they're both in the water and I am in desperate need of some toweling off.  Up at the house, Chris and our friend, Thomas, were watching this entire episode take place through the window, snorting at me, in a dress trying to wrangle two large, resistant, dirty dogs into the water late at night.

I marched straight up to them and said, "Hey, y'all smell dog poo on this dress?"  Probably not the comment Ann Taylor had in mind when she designed it.  After laughing for what seemed like a full minute, Thomas answered, "It doesn't matter if you smell it or not -  if you have to ask, it needs to be washed". 

Point taken.

Dear Miss Ann Taylor, I don't know if you read my blog, but if you do, please take this as as an official, sincere apology for soiling your dress tonight with my daughter's pee and my dogs' diarrhea.  I have the utmost respect for your designs, and I am hoping and praying that this situation will never happen again.  And your petites are the perfect length for me.  And what's up with skinny jeans?

The final offense occurred last night as we were arriving back home from our excrement-filled Fourth of July trip to the lake.  I unstrapped Caroline from her carseat, hoisted her onto my hip, and went about the unloading all the crap stuff that a family of four and two dogs require for a weekend at the lake.  It's a very delicate balancing act to get everything unpacked without eliciting a temper tantrum from one or both children (and one or both parents).

Then the scent hit me.

Right about the time Aria said, "EWW, Mommy!  Caroline poopied in her carseat!" 

I deposit her on the floor for a closer look and sure enough, there it was.  An up-the-backer.  Poop coming out the sides and top of her diaper - all over her clothes, all over her car seat, and all over - you guessed it - me.  I started calling to Chris for help - why, I have no idea, it's not like he could do anything at this point.  Of course, when he delicately pointed this out to me, I hollered at him, on the verge of tears, "Well, why don't you just poop or pee on me too??  Then we'd be five for five!"

Ah, yes.  The beautiful memories I long to make for my children of the Fourth of July. 

I guess there's always next year, right? 

Remind me to bring my gas mask.  And wear a poncho.

Happy Fourth!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

TiVo NoMo

We woke up Thursday morning to an enormous blessing here in North Texas in the dead heat of summer:  rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Enough to make me think those brainy weather channel dudes had missed the boat, and Hurricane Alex was making landfall right here in my very own backyard, four hundred miles north and west of where predicted.  Thunder and lightning and howling winds.  And lots of rain.

All this rain altered my plans just a little.  I had anticipated a busy day filled with errand-running, commingled with naps, a swim, maybe a visit to the park, but staring at this ensuing monsoon out the window, I decided there was no possible way I was buckling and unbuckling two children into and out of their respective carseats over and over all day long, while we tried to stay warm and dry in these hurricane conditions. 

I decided, instead, we would have a cozy picnic in the family room and watch movies while I folded and ironed umpteen loads of laundry. 

Can I just mention here that with the whole introduction of baby food into Caroline's diet, I go through a minimum of four bibs a day now?  FOUR.  And that's not even counting the washcloths and paper towels I have to use to clean up Chicken Green Bean Apricot Wild Rice Compote from that tiny little angel face.  They actually use the word compote on a baby food label, as if it makes combining three food groups together for the sake of baby nuturition okay.  Even Aria told me yesterday, "Ew, Mommy!  Caroline is a really messy eater!"

So, I had TiVo'd the animal movie Babe for Aria. Except she can't ever remember the name Babe, so she calls it, All About Farms.   The child is obsessed with farms.  She loves farms.  She told Chris she wanted a chicken farm for her birthday.  I have no idea where she gets this from.  We are not farm-y people.

If you are reading this post and you do not have TiVo, can I just say, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM???    TiVo is arguably one of man's greatest inventions (second only to the Graco Soothing Swing.  Our swing was on loan, and I think I actually shed a tear the day I had to give it back to my friend when she gave birth.  I still miss that thing).  But TiVo.  Oh, how I love my TiVo.  The running joke in our family is that our TiVo is one of my dearest friends.  He knows what I want and when I want it.  He can make me laugh or cry.  He doesn't make me watch pesky, boring commercials.  TiVo, he gets me.  He really gets me.

By ten AM, I had an enormous pile of clean clothes ready to be pressed and folded and the kids dressed and positioned in front of the TV ready to begin our First Official Thomas Family Movie Day on a Rainy Day and watch All About Farms.

This is what I saw on my TV screen instead of All About Farms.

What?  You don't see anything?

That's right!  It was a blank screen.  I ran to the TV in Chris' office.  Same thing.  The TV in our bedroom.  Nothing.  Black nothing-ness.  No cute, cuddly pig trying to save Farmer Hoggett's land.  Not even a pesky, boring commercial.  Blank.  Void.

On a stormy, rainy day.

With piles and piles of laundry to do.

And two young children.  One of whom is desperately anticipating All About Farms.

No, no, N-o-o-o-o-o.  Not the TiVo!  Anything but the TiVo.  Anything but the Graco Soothing Swing and the TiVo. 

After going through the usual female knee-jerk-panicky-technology-reactions (turn it on and off, press every button, unplug it from the wall), and swallowing the mounting fear in my gut, I shakily dialed the number of our provider, to whom we pay lots of money every month to not have this happen, and who, for the sake of this blog shall remain nameless (AT&T Uverse).  After having to choose from about five million options, the easiest decision of which was my language of origin, and waiting about oh, I don't know, forty-three minutes, I finally got some nice, faceless person on the phone who directed me to do the following:  turn it on and off, press every button, and unplug it from the wall.

By this time, the laundry is still glaring at me unfolded, Aria and Caroline are beginning to climb the walls, I'm having to dedicate my attention to what cable guy is telling me, the rain is still coming down outside, and our All About Farms day is turning into All About Receivers day, because apparently ours was dead.  At least this is what I learned an hour-and-a-half later after "troubleshooting" the stupid thing on the phone with faceless (AT&T Uverse) guy. 

During this period of time, my somewhat undersupervised 3-year-old decides to help Mommy out by changing the baby's diaper. 

Yeah... not pretty.

Lucky for me, cable guy tells me he has a technician "in the area" who can be at my house to fix the offending receiver at some point within the next four hours.  "Oh and remember", he warns me as we are hanging up the phone and I am preparing to wait out the next four hours as the Settlers did - you know, with lots of rain and two irritable kids and no TV, "All that troubleshooting we did erased all your TiVo recordings, so you'll need to be sure to reset everything". 

Um, 'scuse me?

At this point, he must have misinterpreted my silent shock as acceptance, because he then brightly added, "Thank you for letting AT&T serve you, Mrs. Thomas, I hope you have a wonderful day!"

Is that what you say to someone when you've just killed their best friend, Mr. cable guy?  Is it?  Is that what your mama taught you?  I highly doubt it.  You just instructed me to murder my friend TiVo, and then you get to casually say goodbye and go on guiltlessly about your day?  Have you no soul?

Needless to say, I was distraught about my friend TiVo.  Aria was distraught about All About Farms.  And we had to stay pinned to the house with no TV or movies, waiting for the in-the-area repairman to show up by 4.  And my baby just had her diaper changed by her 3-year-old sister.  Yeah... Juuusst like the Settlers.

Taking both kids anywhere in Hurricane Alex is looking like slicing warm butter.

Now, I'd like to point out that we are not a family obsessed with TV.  We can go days and days without ever turning it on.  Aria loves to read, and we plow through about a dozen books a day.  But when you suddenly know you can't do/have/eat/watch something, it just makes you want it all the more.  Interesting paradigm, isnt' it?  That was me on that particular Thursday.  I wanted our TV to work so badly because I knew it wouldn't.

Do I really have to tell you that by 5 he still wasn't at the house?  And doesn't it go without saying that at 6 o'clock there was still no cable repairman anywhere to be found?  Of course it does.  Or, how about when, at 6:05, I get a recorded phone call telling me they were able to fix the problem "from a remote location", and they'd canceled the repairman?  Sure enough, I run to the TV, and there oh there, is the picture.  But when I turn on my TiVo... nothing.  Soulless cable guy was right, TiVo was void.  Empty.  No All About Farms, no VH-1 Behind the Music, no Sesame Street, or Real Housewives of New Jersey (please DO NOT JUDGE).  Gone.  

So the First Official Thomas Family Movie Day on a Rainy Day was a bust.  All our movies and shows were erased, and we are having to start over with my new friend TiVo the II. 

Just like my Settlers forebears. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad for the relief from the heat, but I do hope this rain clears up soon. 

On the upside, however, I did learn that Aria knows how to change a diaper....