Friday, December 28, 2007

Mr. Lucky's Out of Town (Again)

Mr. Lucky went up to Georgia yesterday to visit his parents, taking our firstborn and the smaller dog, Jasper, with him. Baby Bear and I are staying home because things can become very volatile between our two autistic sons, especially if they're together for too long and in less than familiar surroundings. It's the main reason the older boy now lives in a group home.

Jasper's a sweetheart, especially when he turns onto his back, looks at me upside-down with those huge brown eyes, and beats his tail. But Buddy chews up everything that doesn't belong to Mr. Lucky (why is that?) and is always digging his way under the fence and into other people's yards. Needless to say, I wanted Buddy to go to Georgia. But it's precisely because Jasper is the smaller dog that he was picked to go, to my everlasting chagrin.

Instead of the minivan which would've had plenty of room for Buddy the Beagle From Hell, the husband took his snazzy black, two-door, sun-roofed, playboyish Buick Riviera, which I do not want to be stuck with should the necessity arise because it has a tire that's always running low on air. In fact, when Mr. Lucky was deployed for four months last year, he asked me to take the Buick out once in a while, "just to keep it in running condition." But after he left, I had to e-mail him that I found it sitting in the driveway with a flat.

"It gets that way sometimes," he e-mailed back. "It just needs air now and then. We have a pump for it somewhere out in the garage."

Somewhere, he said. I loved how he waited till he was halfway around the world to tell me all of this.

I'll stick to my reliable Chrysler minivan with the warranty, thank you.

Once again, it's just me and Bear--and the troublemaking dog. So far Buddy has knocked over the Christmas tree (not even Bear has ever tried that), figured out how to jump onto the kitchen counter, and has now maimed half of Bear's Teletubbies. While Mr. Lucky was out of town earlier this month, Buddy chewed the ear off Dipsy. This afternoon I found Tinky-Winky missing his nose.

Meanwhile, Bear was up at four in the morning, rocking on his bed while his electronic keyboard played an annoying rhythm full blast. I had to unplug the keyboard and remove it from his room, but after breakfast he hauled it back into his room, plugged it in, and resumed rocking.

Around mid-morning he dropped the remote control onto our ceramic tile kitchen floor, and it burst into pieces like Humpty Dumpty. Ordinarily I would say good riddance to this annoying object which is usually attached to Mr. Lucky's hand, but thanks to his powers of programming, we cannot switch from the DVD player or Playstation to the TV or vice-versa without it. So I had to figure out how to put it back together, and without any help from all the king's horses or all the king's men. Only once it was reassembled, I couldn't get it to work. It was dead.

This was not good. Baby Bear literally screamed in horror when I pointed it at the TV, and nothing happened. When he gets upset, he tends to either hit himself or bang his head into the wall--and we have lots of cracks and holes in the drywall to prove it.

Eventually I figured out that one of the batteries was reinserted backwards--but not after a new hole appeared in the living room wall, only inches above the back of the sofa. That kid is so tall for his age--if only he could make the holes higher, then I could cover them up with pictures. If I rearranged the furniture, swapped the sofa with the electric Charmglow fireplace, then either the mantel clock would conceal the hole, or I could use that picture of my children that sits next to the clock and needs a new frame after I caught a certain dog chewing on it.

Only I can't move the sofa or fireplace by myself, and Mr. Lucky doesn't like to rearrange the furniture unless it's his idea. Yeah, I know what I have to do--make it his idea, and remember to tell him how brilliant he is for thinking of it.

He called this morning, not only to make sure I wasn't entertaining any of the aforementioned king's men in his absence, but to announce the low tire was officially flat. Oh, he and the Crown Prince and Jasper made it to the in-laws' house all right yesterday, but when they tried to go out for breakfast this morning, that perpetually low tire finally blew out. The spare tire, meanwhile, was like the one in A Christmas Story. It was round, it had once been made of rubber.

At least I have four bags of chocolate to get me through Sunday, when he comes home. (He bought them for me the day before he left, wasn't that sweet of him? Of course, they were on sale.)

Number of times I had to get up while writing this post: 4

Nothing like a full moon to make Baby Bear bounce off the battered walls!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Update: This Entry Should Be Full

LADYBUG SIGHTING: On our sliding glass door yesterday.

My goal is always to have everything ready for Christmas by the last day of school for this year (which was today) and I met the deadline.

The Christmas tree is up, and the dark-haired angel who sits atop it is holding a giant (for her) candy cane in her arms.

The Christmas cards have gone out. I never like doing them. And no, I do not do those newsletters. The fact that I made it through another year without getting my picture on the evening news accompanied by the voiceover, "If you've seen this woman, authorities ask that you call the number at the bottom of your screen," is the only accomplishment worth bragging about, and all any of my long lost relatives need to know.

My Christmas shopping--as opposed to Mr. Lucky's--is done. I know he's already bought stuff for me, but he still likes to go out at the last minute and buy more stuff.

Earlier this week, I did all the Christmas shopping accompanied by Mr. Lucky. I know I said I needed to be on my own, but darn it, now that he's been retired from the military for almost a year, I've grown accustomed to having him with me on trips to the Great Shopping Vortex. I actually welcomed his company.

After Baby Bear boarded his school bus, we went out to breakfast at the Village Inn, then headed for the GSV. We decided to start with the mall, and work our way outward. At the mall we split up, agreeing to meet at the carousel near the food court. During this time, I would be spending money on my husband, while he would be spending money on me and the boys.

It wasn't as crowded as I expected, perhaps because it was a weekday morning. But I was totally creeped out by some of the vendors who have booths or carts down the middle of the mall's length. They were unusually aggressive, accosting me with either a spray bottle, brochure, or a tray of UFO's (Unidentifiable Food Objects) stabbed with toothpicks. They wanted to sell me makeovers, scents, lotions and potions, vinyl siding (I didn't pause to ask if it was for me or my house), and the secret of happiness. I actually thought one of them was going to grab me--and she wasn't some old hag with a basket of poisoned apples, either, but a skinny young thing with a bottle of snake oil.

I nearly freaked out. All I could do was keep walking, and fortunately, perhaps because I'm very tall, I walk with long, swift strides. My husband is always exhorting me to "slow down" and "wait up." I was relieved to meet up with him again, and he said he'd been similarly bombarded.

We fled the mall for Toys-R-Us, where Mr. Lucky drooled over an officially licensed Star Wars light saber. It lit up and made the same noise as the ones in the movies, but we would've had to buy two to have any fun with them, and just one was too expensive.

Baby Bear already has a fire truck, but Mr. Lucky considered buying him another until I pointed out it came with a real water cannon.

It's bad enough that kid is always spraying water from the sink, drinking water and then spitting it everywhere like a human fountain, flooding half the house and generally trying to turn the whole place into his own personal water park. The last thing he needs is a toy to help him do it.

Then my husband came across a huge box full of "shake and go" car characters from the Disney/Pixar movie Cars. According to the packaging, all you have to do to make these cars run is shake them up, but they're a lot more sensitive than that. Mr. Lucky had only to start sifting through the assortment of little vehicles to rev them up and make them talk with catch-phrases from the movie. That whole big box came alive with noisy toy cars, drawing everyone's attention as he picked out some cars for Bear.

With all our purchases loaded into the minivan, we headed home. Every time my husband made a sharp turn, put on the brakes, or stepped on the gas, the little cars in the plastic bag in the back seat revved up, they were that sensitive to movement. Most hilarious was The Sheriff, a police car. The Sheriff would either holler, "You can't run from the law!" or "Son, you're in a heap o' trouble!"--and the police siren would go off. Every time that happened, my husband glanced in the rearview mirror, thinking he was about to be pulled over for something.

Once we were home, the cars continued to chatter as I carried the bags into the house.

Yesterday I spent three solid hours wrapping presents for Mr. Lucky, the Crown Prince, and Baby Bear. Those cars made a lot of noise as I wrapped them.

But I'm ready. Now all I can do is hope I've been good this year. I'll find out Christmas morning.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fiona's Birthday

Dear Fiona,

Tomorrow would have been your 18th birthday. You might have been as tall as me, perhaps even taller, God help you, if your brothers are anything to go by. I'll always wonder, but never know.

This will be our eighth Christmas without you. We miss you always, but never so much as at this time of year, with your birthday and Christmas only five days apart.

That first Christmas without you--two months after you left us--was awful. We didn't even put up the tree that year. We drove up to Georgia and spent the holidays with your dad's parents, siblings, and their kids. I didn't send out any Christmas cards, nor did I do any shopping, except for your two brothers. Even then, I shopped online, because I couldn't set foot in Toys-R-Us or the Disney Store--or anywhere I might see toys and little girl things--without bursting into tears right on the spot. What made it even worse was the sudden explosion of Powerpuff Girls merchandise, right after you left. Fiona, you would have gone nuts! (While your dad, who so loved to spoil you, would have gone broke.)

The second Christmas, we did put up a tree, but with one change. Instead of a brightly twinkling, multi-colored star, we topped the tree with a dark-haired, blue-eyed angel. Do you know how hard it is to find an angel who's dark-haired AND blue-eyed, just like you? But I finally found one at Target.

That year, I still shopped only online. But I did send out Christmas cards--and I signed not only my name, your dad's, and your two brothers', but your name, too. Because you're still a member of our family, still with us if only in spirit. And such spirit! You've always had it.

All these years later, I still sign your name to the cards. I always will.

It took about five years before I could set foot in a toy department again without going into a tearful meltdown. I don't know what hurts more--going to the girls' section only to set off my waterworks, or avoiding the girls' section because I'm afraid of setting off those waterworks. One could argue that either way, I have no business going to the girls' section anymore, and that there's no point in dwelling over what might have been, simply because it will never be.

Indeed, if you were still here, I might not be going to that girls' section anymore, anyway. You'd be a young lady now. What would catch your fancy nowadays?

Every time I see a picture of this girl, born only 93 days after you, I think of you and what you might look like now. But I know you'd be just as beautiful as she is.

And you're certainly, forever and always, just as much a princess.

Though it saddens us you're no longer here, know that the memories of you always bring us joy.

We love you, Bunny Buttons!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

If I Want to Be Frazzled, I'll Stay at Home

As is our usual custom on Sundays, we packed Baby Bear into the mini-van this morning and went to the drive-thru at Dunkin' Donuts, where he got a box of twenty-five "Munchkins" (donut holes), while Mr. Lucky and I shared a box of half a dozen donuts.

My mother would say we were spoiling our son, giving him donuts every weekend. Sometimes I find myself channeling her.

As I handed the box of Munchkins into the back seat, I said to Bear, "Do you know how many donuts I'd eaten by the time I was your age? Why, I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number I'd eaten by the time I was ten."

Mr. Lucky added, "Do you know how many times your mother has made this speech? At least as many times as you've had Munchkins, kid."

He's right.

Baby Bear, of course, didn't say a word. For one thing, he was too busy scarfing down his weekly ration of Munchkins.

Upon returning home, Mr. Lucky turned on the TV to find one of the Turner channels playing a movie he liked. "I wouldn't mind having this on DVD," he said.

"Why? Seems to me you can see it anytime right here. This must be the third time this weekend they've shown it." It drives me crazy when they do that. Nonetheless, I know the hint for a Christmas gift when I hear it. "Of course, to buy you Christmas presents, I have to be able to go out on my own."

"Then go out now. This is the perfect time."

"On a Sunday, less than ten days before Christmas? Are you crazy? The whole world is at the Great Shopping Vortex. I probably couldn't get near it by now."

"Everyone's at church right now." Oh, like we were? "And after that, they'll be watching the football game."

"Not the wives," I said. "The wives will all be killing each other for parking spaces and Red-Nosed Santa Specials."

"This is the South. Southern wives are more likely to sit at home and watch football than Yankee wives."

This was news to me. Even though Florida is the southernmost state, I didn't know it was considered "The South" the way my husband's native Georgia is considered "The South." And I certainly didn't know this about "Southern wives."

I'm a Yankee who welcomes recipes from my Southern mother-in-law, and enjoys thumbing through my Southern mother-in-law's back copies of--you guessed it--Southern Living. But I don't recall ever seeing my Southern mother-in-law watch a football game. My own mother, on the other hand, was big on football--and she lived in the state of Washington--definitely NOT the South.

To hear Mr. Lucky talk, you'd think I'd have the Great Shopping Vortex all to myself. On Sunday, December 16th?

"Besides," I argued, "someone has to watch your son. The minute I'm gone, he'll empty all the closets and drawers and disassemble everything while you're happily changing channels. Then when I get home, you'll claim he must've done it all just as I pulled into the driveway."

"Well, he does," Mr. Lucky insisted. "The rest of the time he's asleep."

Alas, Baby Bear is so quick and stealthy, Mr. Lucky is probably right. Only I can't let him know that--just as he can't let me know that the extra sheet of air freshener he removed from the air conditioning vent was asphyxiating him, too. (Refer to my November 2nd blog entry here.)

Either way, I will do my Christmas shopping on a weekday--right after Baby Bear leaves on his school bus.

Sunday is a day of rest, a day of donuts. But for me, it is not a day for shopping.

Come to think of it, it's not really a day of rest for me, either, is it?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Update: This Entry Should Be Blank

Except for the festive wreaths on the doors--I'm one of those people who likes to hang seasonally-appropriate wreaths all year round, both indoors and out--I haven't done a darn thing for Christmas yet. Not even the tree.

I have some beautifully lush, silk poinsettia arrangements that I like to put out every year, but they're still put away because I'm afraid the dogs will chew them up the second my back is turned. They've already chewed up two "year round" silk flower arrangements I had in the living room, and last week one of them chewed a hole in one of the sofa cushions.

I don't even want to think of what they might do to the tree. In previous years, our biggest problem has always been Baby Bear's penchant for plucking off the ornaments and using them as bowling balls.

Aside from the wreath on the front door, we don't do much in the way of exterior decoration. Mr. Lucky just isn't into it, though one year, he did manage to conjure enough holiday spirit to put up a string of lights. When we lived in houses that had posts along the front porch, I would wrap those in tinsel, but our new house doesn't have posts.

When the Crown Prince was still living at home, he would start the Christmas mantra right after Thanksgiving dinner. No sooner did he swallow the last bit of cranberry sauce, than he would start rapping out, "Christmas tree up, Christmas tree up, Christmas tree up," beating away like that beefy guy in Ben-Hur who sat at the front of the ship with a hammer in each hand, banging on a well worn drum to keep the galley slaves steadily rowing, and making them go faster by yelling, "Battle speed!" followed by, "Attack speed!" and finally, "Ramming speed!"

Now that the Crown Prince has moved out, our ship is adrift. Not only is the tree not up, but I haven't done the Christmas cards, and I haven't done the necessary shopping. Not even online, and I'd be cutting it pretty darn close if I tried to do it now. I'm not willing to chance it.

I'm going to have to go out next week, and fight the mobs. By myself, without Mr. Lucky who, since retiring from the military, likes to go with me everywhere.

Not that I resent that, for I actually like going out with him. But how am I supposed to buy him that obligatory ugly necktie or soap-on-a-rope when he's always hovering around me? I absolutely must be on my own to do that, so I can savor that precious look of surprise on his face when he opens those gifts Christmas morning.

Much like the one on my face when I open my gift to find The Magic Soap Scum Remover that folds up to fit in your gym bag, your purse, even your back pocket; and when you turn it upside-down, look! It becomes The Magic Dog Hair Remover! Now you can throw out those wads of masking tape.

Says Mr. Lucky: "But the guy on the commercial said it makes a really great gift!"

How much do you think he shelled out for it? Don't ask until I show you what else he got me--a mini-vacuum with special attachments for dusting ceiling fans, removing cobwebs, and even those hard to reach louvres in the air conditioning vent!

Says Mr. Lucky: "But the guy on the commercial said the special cobweb removal attachment was free if I called in the next ten minutes!"

Never fear, we usually get each other what we really want (though he's still not getting that big flat screen TV this year). But no way will I go Christmas shopping on a weekend. First thing this Monday morning, I'm getting into the minivan by myself and driving out at battle speed.

Once I get into the Great Shopping Vortex that swirls around the local mall, I'll shift into attack speed.

Let's just hope I don't go into ramming speed out in the parking lot.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wine, Women, and Ladybugs

This last Saturday I went to the annual Christmas party for my local RWA chapter, the Tampa Area Romance Authors (TARA) at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, which is almost an hour's drive from where I live. Mr. Lucky drove me all the way out there, and after the party, all the way back. Why? Because that party is probably the only time all year that I drink alcohol.

This is partly because the special care and feeding of my Baby Bear, and the constant vigilance he requires, demand that I keep a clear head and a sober disposition at all times. That and I married a teetotaler for whom I also gave up smoking when we became engaged--but there is NO WAY Mr. Lucky will ever get me to give up coffee.

As a rule, I'm not a very outgoing person. I always tell people not to be fooled by my writings, which would strongly suggest otherwise. One glass of wine, however, will make me very sociable. I drank two on Saturday. I will leave it to my TARA sisters to say how I behaved, but I think I managed to stay off the tables and the top of the Christmas tree.

Fellow TARAn Vicki Lane does an excellent job on her blog explaining our ornament exchange and the drawing for our annual Book Challenge--which I won last year, and congratulations to Vicki's critique partner, Laurie Kapkowski, who won this year! And thank you, Vicki, for the clever bookmarks!

This was the first year I brought an ornament that was fought over and stolen multiple times. It was a large, faux Faberge egg to represent a historical romance I wrote years ago, that is set in St. Petersburg, Russia in the 1890's. Apparently the fake eggs are as highly prized as the real ones. I also included a box of chocolates and a signed copy of True Pretenses in my gift bag.

The always funny, exuberant, and bling-flinging Kathy Carmichael brought one of those fancy holiday tins that usually contain candy or cookies, but instead contained earrings that looked like those striped peppermint candies so popular this time of year. They even look sugar coated, all glittery and frosty, as if she picked them out of the snow--which I know she didn't, because we're in Florida. She offered them to all of us, and I noticed Erica Ridley wasted no time donning hers. Thanks, Kathy!

Wendi Christner gave me a wonderful surprise: A glass ladybug. At last month's TARA meeting, we'd been talking about our personal superstitions and the crazy, quirky things we do to conjure good luck. I told the story of how not one, but two ladybugs landed on me one day. I'd heard that ladybugs were supposed to be lucky, so I wondered if that was a sign something good was about to happen to me. Sure enough, Mr. Lucky proposed marriage to me the very next day--and I've believed in the luck of ladybugs ever since.

Fast forward fifteen years to 2002. We celebrated our wedding anniversary, and Mr. Lucky surprised me with a ladybug pin made of gold and crystals. "Maybe it'll help you sell a book," he said. Shortly thereafter, he was shipped overseas--and while he was gone, I sold True Pretenses.

Then last year, I forgot to remove the pin from my dress and it went through the laundry and fell apart. I'm very upset with myself for that. I still have the pieces, and can't help wondering if that's why I've been in such a rut writing-wise since then.

I'm hoping Wendi's beautiful gift will help change that. I'm so touched she remembered the story, and made this thoughtful gesture. Thanks again, Wendi.

I'm starting to see all sorts of signs that I might finally be getting out of that rut, and the ladybug is part of it. Even Mr. Lucky mentioned recently that he had a dream that I sold a book to a certain publisher whose name I haven't mentioned in months, but I would love to be published by. "It was a Cinderella type story," my husband said.

I love Cinderella, but if that's the next story I write, then she's going to have to be a very special Cinderella, because I don't want any more "pumpkins" in the form of unsaleable manuscripts rotting under my bed.

I have lots to think about--and lots to write.

Speaking of lots, did anyone notice I made lots of links? Let's hope they all work!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mr. Lucky Comes Home Today! (And Not a Moment Too Soon)

One of my favorite scenes in Planet of the Apes--perhaps because I can so easily identify with it--is the one where Charlton Heston is in his cell being blasted with a giant waterhose, and he howls, "It's a madhouse! A MAAA-AADHOUSE!"

I must have one of those moments at least once a day--only without the waterhose, though Baby Bear, with his love of spraying water, creating puddles, and causing floods, comes pretty darn close.

By Day 7 of Mr. Lucky's business trip, the dogs have dug more holes than I can plug in the backyard fence. In fact, I don't even know what's keeping that fence up now. There's one long trench running along its length.

We live in Florida, where maybe three days a year we have to wear jackets. Yesterday was one of those days, so I sent Baby Bear to school in his jacket. When he came home from school, I went out to meet his bus, which--because he is autistic and developmentally disabled--stops directly in front of our house.

"Mrs. Lingefelt, we need you to come aboard the bus," the driver said. "He's taken off his pants."

I didn't even blink, even though he usually takes off only his socks and shoes on the bus. Nonetheless, I boarded the bus. The driver led me to the very back.

Well, no wonder he does these things. The back of the bus is where you want to sit if you're going to goof off. In the past, the driver has also reported to me incidents of him spitting--and he could win contests doing that. He can sit in the very back seat of our minivan, and hit the dashboard with his spittle.

Miraculously, he was still wearing his socks and shoes. But the pants were gone. We found them under the seat and after the attendant unbuckled him, I struggled to put them back on him. His shoes made it very difficult. HOW did he get them off with the shoes still on?

Only he knows--and he's not talking.

It wasn't till this morning--even colder than yesterday--that I realized he was missing his jacket--a common occurrence. When it gets cold down here, by afternoon it usually warms up enough that jackets are forgotten at school. I had to put a sweatshirt on him. The dogs have broken both zippers on their crates, so when his bus pulled up in front of our house this morning, I had to:

1. Unlock the front door (it must be kept locked at all times for the boy's security).

2. Grab both barking, thrashing dogs by the harnesses and tell Bear to pick up his backpack and go out the door. He's only too eager to comply with the latter command, but not the former.

3. Somehow grab both harnesses in one hand, pick up the backpack with the other, and hurl it out the door. I didn't have to worry about it hitting my son. He's too fast and I throw like--well, like a girl.

4. Take a deep breath and on the count of three, release both dogs as I lunge out the front door, grabbing the knob and closing it before they could charge out on my heels. Fortunately no tails or ears were caught in the door.

Scooping up his backpack, I ran to catch up with Baby Bear and make sure he really did get safely on the bus, instead of dashing for the nearest cliff, railroad track or alligator swamp.

I don't even know why I bothered to clean the house in anticipation of Mr. Lucky's return. The dogs will likely undo everything while I'm picking him up at the airport this afternoon.

And what they don't undo, Mr. Lucky will. Baby Bear just dumps water over everything.

But I'll be glad to have that man home again.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I'm Ready for My Straitjacket, Mr. DeMille (Day 6)

It all started with a horrific thumping noise at 6:30 this morning. Was some axe-murderer banging (or hacking) at the door? Why weren't the dogs barking?

Like the too-stupid-to-live actress in the slasher B-flick who knows there's a serial killer on the loose (and he's even warned her that she's next on his list), but still investigates a strange noise in a dark basement while clad in a sexy negligee, I burst out of the bedroom in a not-so-sexy nightie, only to realize the thumping came from Baby Bear's room.

He was kicking his race car bed as the electronic keyboard auto-played an obnoxious tune over and over, full blast. The blinds had been yanked all the way up, baring the bedroom window.

He was ready to get up and conquer the world--until I tried to get him dressed for school. He barricaded himself in his room and hid under his blanket in the apparent belief that I'd never think of looking for him there.

After he left on the school bus, I put clean sheets on his bed, vacuumed the carpet and plugged the four new escape routes in the back yard, then foolishly thought I might get some serious work done on the computer.

When I came out of my office an hour later, the recently vacuumed floor was covered with stuffing from a plush toy frog the dogs had purloined from Bear's toy box. The frog himself was a tattered, inert rag--as if he'd shed his skin, and I don't know if real frogs do that.

Also, one of Bear's stuffed Teletubbies was missing an ear. I assume one of the dogs sent it to his girlfriend--likely that Jack Russell terrier on the other side of the fence that they're always digging to get to.

When Bear came home, he was barefoot (he always takes off his socks and shoes on the bus), and he greeted me by throwing the shoes at me. As I picked them up, he took advantage of the diversion to take off down the street. Though he's only ten years old, he's 5'6" and 140 lbs--and getting stronger every day. He's not chubby by any means, just . . . BIG.

I somehow got him into the house. I'd crated the dogs in anticipation of his arrival, but Buddy broke the zipper on his crate and was loose. He barked and jumped all over Bear, which Bear does not like at all, leading to more screaming and head banging. I put the dogs out back until everyone calmed down and--no no, that's an exaggeration around here--until everyone . . . well, I don't know--till there wasn't so much barking and screaming and banging.

By now it was after 5 pm, and I was trying to watch the news. At the commercial break, I noticed Jasper had slipped out of his harness again. This time he wasn't such a good sport about letting me put it back on him. I was still struggling with it when the local TV station just had to choose that moment to run a commercial for Domino's Pizza.

"DING DONG! Get the door--it's Domino's!" At the sound of the doorbell on the commercial, both dogs took off barking to our front door, with Jasper dragging me behind him.

Then after dinner--remember those clean sheets I'd put on my son's bed? He dumped water all over the bed and his floor.

Race car beds look really cool, but it's an imperial pain in the rear trying to put fresh linens on them. I have to stand on my head and do backflips just to get the bottom sheet on. And while I was occupied with that, what do you think he was doing out in the kitchen? Why, he was pouring my glass of iced tea onto the floor.

The upside to all of this was that by now he was in a much better mood than when he came home, all giggly and silly.

I have to admit, that's better than the head banging and screaming, and I'm willing to put down a few towels for it.

In less than 48 hours, Mr. Lucky will be home . . . and I'll be in a mental ward.

Number of times I had to get up while writing this post: 5

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mr. Lucky's Out of Town: Items 6-8 (Days 4-5)

Whether you read this blog or something I've posted on a message board or group/list/loop, or even if you've received a private e-mail from me, you can be sure of one thing: If it's more than one sentence long, chances are good to excellent that it was not written in one sitting. In all likelihood, I got up several times during its composition because of something to do with Baby Bear. (Future post there.) So I don't get much writing done on weekends.

New items for the list of things I would rather see go wrong (if they must go wrong at all) when the husband is at home:

6. Dogs are digging at least two new holes under the backyard fence.

7. The sliding glass door is starting to stick along the track. This is not good, especially if it gets bad enough that I can't close the door. The only other access to the backyard is through the windows in my office and the master bedroom. Going out the front door and through the gate is out of the question. We keep that gate padlocked on the inside because Baby Bear is an even bigger escape artist than those dogs. (Another future post there.)

8. Jasper got out of his harness. Our dogs don't have collars, but harnesses. Mr. Lucky says it makes it easier for both dogs and master when they're leashed and out walking. I can put a collar on a dog no problem, but the harness presented quite a challenge, especially with my limited fine motor skills (see last blog entry). It took me half an hour to put that tangled mess back on the dog, and I'm still not sure it's even on right. To his credit, Jasper was very patient and cooperative at first, but after a while he got a little perturbed with my inability to figure out which part went around his neck and which behind the legs, and what to do with the middle strap. I had to check the other dog's harness to see how it was on, and he was never cooperative at all.

And while I was thoroughly distracted and frazzled by this, my son the opportunist went into my office and started rummaging around stuff. He knows I keep chocolate stashed in there, but that's the last thing he needs. I don't drink, because I have to stay sober and keep a clear head to look after that boy--so I must have the chocolate. (Cherry cordials, both dark and milk chocolate, 97 cents a box at Wal-Mart. I cleaned them out.)

Last night he dumped a bowl of macaroni and cheese into the sink full of dirty dishes--I think he rejected it because it was the wrong brand (yet another future post there). I had a lot of fun picking the macaroni out of there. Then he was up at 4 a.m. playing his electronic keyboard with the volume turned all the way up. I don't count these as numbered items, because these two incidents, believe it or not, are all in a day's (or night's) work for me.

Number of times I got up during the composition of this post: 3

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mr. Lucky's Out of Town (Day 3)

Except for one little incident this evening involving a package of crackers, today was surprisingly calm considering it's Friday.

I probably never would've thought to plug in the computer screen on the main desktop if my husband hadn't told me about it. It flashed on, I logged in, and without further ado the printer promptly spewed out three copies of Chapter One. I only needed one copy, but apparently I made three tries to get it to print yesterday, and the computer remembered and took those commands to heart. The entire manuscript printed without incident.

The plumber called around noon to tell me something you don't often hear: He was running early, and wanted to know if someone was home so he could come over now. It took him about half an hour to fix the problem with the outside faucet--a valve needed to be replaced. He said it was one of the easier jobs he'd had. Indeed, Mr. Lucky remarked that he probably could've done it himself, but that leak was getting worse and neither of us wanted to contemplate how bad it might get between now and his return next Wednesday. My husband and I agreed that under the circumstances, $120.00 (mostly labor) was a small price to pay for nipping in the bud a potential disaster that might have cost us hundreds more had we waited.

In the end, the most exciting thing today was when Baby Bear brought me a package of round crackers to open. He doesn't have the fine motor skills to deal with the wrapper, but as it turns out, neither do I. I tore it open and crackers flew in all directions.

The dogs were immediately on the case, but when my youngest child is carrying around food, they always follow him like those little spooks after Pac-Man, usually for this very reason. The Bear can always be counted on to leave a trail of crumbs, but tonight they hit the jackpot.

3CH Logic: Still lit.

Let us close by knocking on wood.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mr. Lucky's Out of Town: Item 5 for the Log (Day 2)

UPDATE FROM DAY 1: Dogs' new passage to China plugged with three bricks, but I'm still leery. Backyard suspiciously spongy under my feet. Because the leaky faucet is on the exterior wall of the master bedroom, I have an irrational fear of waking up and getting out of bed only to plop my bare feet into a soaked carpet (I'm still scarred for life from last year's Great Flood. Sometimes I wake up at night and think I hear water running. Have yet to wake up screaming, though.) "3CH Logic" still glowing illogically on stereo receiver.

Today's addition to the Log:

5. The computer printer doesn't work. And I need to print out a 100k word manuscript by the end of next week. When Mr. Lucky called this evening to make sure I wasn't entertaining any Chippendales in his absence, I told him about the problem. (With the printer, not with the Chippendales' failure to show.)

"Oh yeah, it was giving me problems too, the other day," he said. "I couldn't get it to work with my new laptop." (Which he took with him.) "Did you turn on the main computer? You have to have it on to make it work with your laptop."

"Of course it's on!" I exclaimed. "Except for the desktop screen. And that's another thing. I can't get that to work, either."

"That's because it's unplugged," he said in his best everyone-knows-that voice. "The on-off button stopped working, so I always have to unplug it when turning off the main computer."

NOW he tells me! I've been using my laptop exclusively for almost two years now, so I didn't know any of this.

"You may have to log on to the main computer to use the printer," he said.

Only I can't do that until tomorrow. Not with Baby Bear running amok throughout the house.

Then my husband told me he was in the midst of driving back to his hotel. I gave him holy you-know-what for talking to me on his cell phone while he's (a) driving a rental car (b) after dark (c) in a strange metropolis.

Later this same evening, I was watching Survivor: China. (I think Jeff Probst has the cutest dimples.) Jasper came up to me and started barking.

"What is your problem?" I asked him. "There are no old mills or abandoned wells nearby, so Baby Bear couldn't be trapped in one." (Though you never know with that kid; he can always find something.) Turned out Jasper needed "to go," so I let him out back and wondered what had become of his partner-in-crime.

I went into my son's room to find Baby Bear playing a video game, and Buddy chewing on a picture book. I yelled. Both dog and boy fled the room while I picked up the soggy scraps of the book. After throwing them in the trash, I realized the TV was off (a common trick of Bear's when no one is in the room), and I seemed to be the only one in the house.

Then I realized I'd left the sliding glass door unlocked after letting Jasper out. I dashed out into the dark backyard. I tell you, that -20 watt bulb next to the patio door couldn't light a beehive. The next door neighbors, on the other hand, have a floodlight on their patio that could guide ships from 300 miles away. Unfortunately, they never turn it on till we go to bed.

But sure enough, both dogs were out there, along with a certain boy who was in the far corner of the yard, rocking on the lawn swing in his underwear.

Thank God we have that fence. I somehow managed to herd everyone back inside, then collapsed on the sofa to finish watching Survivor.

All season I've been rooting for James, but tonight he was voted off. I wondered why everyone on the tribal council and jury were laughing as he walked out, and I think I got the answer when he made his farewell speech to the camera during the end credits.

He had not one but two "hidden" immunity idols in his possession, and didn't bother to play either of them! Reminds me of the time I was playing Monopoly and had two "Get Out of Jail Free" cards, but still paid the $50.00 to get out because I didn't want to waste my two freebies. How dumb is that, I ask you? No wonder I'd been rooting for him. He was a kindred spirit.

That said, don't I at least deserve a reward for tonight's challenge on Survivor: Chez Lingefelt?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mr. Lucky's Out of Town: Let's Keep a Log of What Goes Awry! (Day 1)

As a military wife, I've had my share of separations from my husband. He had to travel to a different time zone during the third trimesters of my first two pregnancies. Another time I had to deal with not one, but two hurricanes in his absence. (Future post there.)

Now that he's retired from the military, I thought those separations were over, but no. Today he left town on business which we hope will lead to a more prosperous future, and he'll be gone a week.

Things have a way of happening when he's away. Here's today's tally so far:

1. The outside faucet in the back yard is dribbling. Not dripping--dribbling. I hooked up the hose to it, and put the nozzle end in a large bowl, which filled up within minutes. I then placed the nozzle in the middle of the lawn and called a plumber. Someone will be out here on Friday between one and four pm.

2. Baby Bear was home from school less than ten minutes when he dropped his computer mouse, and it broke into every possible piece. I had to move furniture to retrieve the batteries and the plastic cover that keeps them in place. It still works, but after the last time it malfunctioned and Mr. Lucky spent hours trying to fix it and get it to work on the Bear's computer again, I was one big pathetic knot of whimpering anxiety until I established that the mouse still worked fine. A bullet dodged, but I didn't need it.

3. Caught the dogs digging a new escape route in the back fence. I can almost see the twinkling lights of downtown Beijing. Until I can get to Home Depot or Lowe's tomorrow to find something to plug that hole (e.g. maybe a big brick), I'll have to watch them when letting them out there to do their business. This is going to be lots of fun after dark, because the only light on our patio isn't brighter than -20 watts.

4. I turn on the stereo receiver to listen to music, and it shows an unfamiliar red light that says "3CH Logic." I've never seen that before, and have no idea what it means. I did find a button that says "Dolby 3CH Logic" but when I pressed it, the red lit words continued to glow. Whatever it is, it's not going away. The stereo still functions to my satisfaction (though I'm sure Mr. Lucky would detect some nuance of aberration in the sound), but who's to say that if that light glows for too long, the whole thing won't blow?

Stay tuned for more updates. If experience has taught me anything, then I know there's more to come.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


After my last post, my plan was to sit down after Thanksgiving and write about leftovers, and the fact that this year, there weren't any beyond Friday. I may write about that yet, but in the meantime, something else happened to delay it.

My mother went into the hospital the day before Thanksgiving. The diagnosis was lung cancer, which had spread to her liver. She passed away late Sunday.

I hadn't seen her in seven years, the last time being my daughter's funeral. My mother lived three thousand miles away, and we had many differences that kept us even farther apart emotionally. Yes, we were estranged.

A friend of mine advised me to think of one good thing about mother that I could hold in my heart, one good thing that would ease the pain of self-recrimination.

Darned if I didn't come up with something. If my mother left me with one good thing that is life-lasting, one thing to thank her for, it's the love of reading.

She loved to read. So did I. When I was a teenager and grew too old for children's books, I raided her library.

She had hundreds, perhaps thousands of books. I sit here surrounded by hundreds, perhaps thousands of my own. I've never counted; however, she maintained a list of what she had, in part to avoid buying copies of books she already had. I've never sat down to make up a list--and I know for a fact I have some duplicates!

There's a scene in the movie City Slickers, where one of the characters wistfully recalls that even when he and his father couldn't communicate about anything else, they could still talk about baseball.

If my mother and I couldn't communicate about anything else, we could still talk about books.

Love of reading might well have led to my love of writing, who knows. Either way, it's something I likely owe to her.

Thank you, Mother. I'm glad you gave me this legacy--and that you've found peace.

And thank you, Cheryl W, for being that wise and understanding friend!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Thanksgiving Gift

Our ten year old Baby Bear, who is autistic and non-verbal, had a doctor's appointment today. The nurse led us to a consulting room with small toys piled in one corner, mostly stuffed animals and dolls.

Usually Bear is more interested in making sure the light switch works; unfurling the roll of paper covering the exam table and seeing if he can make it stretch all the way down the hall to the elevator; and dumping the jar of tongue depressors to test each one for quality. Today, however, he was mysteriously drawn to the toys--and not just any toy in particular.

To my surprise, he picked up a doll, about six inches long and resembling a miniature newborn. He brought it to me, tapping his finger against its face. That was his way of asking me to name the object he was tapping.

"Baby," I kept saying, as he continued tapping it. "That's a baby. Baby!"

Tap, tap, tap. He pressed the baby's face to his cheek, then to the other cheek. He rubbed noses with it. And then he gave it a "bump"--touching his forehead to the baby's. These are things I do with him every night when tucking him into bed.

He likes all the usual boy things--fire trucks, motorcycles, police cars, anything that makes noise or causes mass destruction--but he has no dolls of his own. I'm wondering if we should get him one. Just a plain, soft, huggable baby doll, the kind I always liked when I was a girl. Those are my favorite dolls.

I was half Bear's age when I visited Disneyland for the first time, and went on the Small World attraction. The adults thought I'd like it because of the dolls. I did not like it one bit. My biggest complaint? The dolls were too loud.

I honestly didn't mind the song they sang (back then). I liked the different costumes--the Dutch girls were my favorite; there's just something about tulips and those winged lace caps that make my eyes go googly--but the dolls sang TOO LOUD. Those high-pitched little voices hurt my ears. This vexed the grownups, especially a decade later when they ranted about my loud stereo. Why, they wondered, couldn't Elton John hurt my ears?

Maybe if he were a doll, he would. I don't like dolls that sing. In fact, I've never liked dolls that do anything. Talking? No. They're usually limited to no more than eight phrases. Nor have I ever been wowed by the ones who walk, crawl, pirouette, do gymnastics, blow bubbles (I can blow my own bubbles, thank you very much), or grow a long hank of hair down to their butt when you push your thumb into their belly button

I've never cared for dolls that cry "real tears" or "wet." Did you ever actually feed water to your drink and wet doll? And how many days did she pee? Did you and your siblings take turns leaving the D & W doll on each other's pillows? We did where I grew up.

And who can forget the "growing up" Skipper doll who shot up an inch and sprouted boobs with a simple lift of her arm? (If only!) Some people fret over the so-called wrong message Barbie sends to young girls with her totally unrealistic bod, and I couldn't agree more--who among you has your manufacturer's trademark and the name of the place where you were made embossed on your butt cheek? But did anyone ever stop to think about "Growing Up" Skipper's signals? Or did they consider it a good thing if more young girls were raising their hands in class?

My favorite doll is the doll who does nothing. Who requires no batteries. Who runs on nothing but imagination . . . and needs nothing but love. That's the kind of doll our Bear picked up today--and he knew just what she needed.

That's something to be thankful for this week.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Who Really Lives in the Doghouse?

I don't mean to whine, but I can't help feeling my husband spends more money on the dogs than he does on me.

He completely reorganized the utility shelves in the laundry room--not because I could never find whatever household cleaner I needed at any given time (though that's always made a handy-dandy excuse for not doing housework)--but so he could make room for a large assortment of dog treats. I had no idea there was such a shortage that he had to buy in bulk.

We can't keep them in the pantry, because that's more easily accessible to Baby Bear, who's been known to confuse doggie bacon bits and biscuits with his own supply of Cheetos and Triscuits.

Mr. Lucky tosses the dogs treats for every occasion you can think of. They get a treat when he comes home. They get a treat for going to the bathroom in their designated spot. They even get a treat just for sitting and doing nothing.

So where's mine?

Don't I deserve a chocolate when my husband comes home? He says I'm always in the bathroom. And I'd be just as willing as the dogs to sit around and do nothing.

"Yeah, but you don't get as excited as they do when I come home," he said. "You don't wag your tail or lick me all over my face like they do."

Maybe I'll get chocolates if I stop certain bad behaviors. Like always barking at him about the dirty socks and wet towels on the floor. Jumping all over him to take out the garbage. Digging holes in the backyard to bury the remote and that DVD he found in the "Please Take This Inventory Off Our Hands!" bin at the dollar store and always wants to watch every Saturday night.

As for the tail wagging and face licking, I guess we'll have to work on that, though it might mean going through some back issues of Cosmopolitan and a visit to Victoria's Secret.

Hey, it's for chocolate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Married a Man Just Like My Dad

When I was a kid, our TV was a big wooden box on four legs with an on-off switch, a volume control, and big fat dial to change channels--all twelve of them. There was also a secret panel that no one but my father was allowed to touch. That opened to reveal a row of smaller knobs controlling such esoteric details as color, tint, tone, light, dark, etc.

Ask anyone in my family, and they'll probably tell you the TV picture was always just fine . . . until father decided to sit down and watch. Suddenly the color was way off. Only he could see that the people on the screen were either (a) suffering from severe jaundice; (b) glowing green as if exposed to radiation; or (c) about to lose consciousness because their skin tone was somewhere between blue and purple.

My father would get up out of his recliner, march across the living room to the TV, squat down and open that secret panel, and start fiddling with the knobs. For a good five minutes, no one could see the screen or more importantly, the set-up of the movie being watched, while he turned knobs this way and that and grumbled, "Why don't they show me a face already, so I can adjust the flesh tone?" Eventually, he'd get an actor's face and make the adjustment, then return to his recliner.

A few minutes later, he'd get up and beat another path to the TV's secret control panel. "It still isn't right," he'd assert. "Those faces look just a little too pink."

Would you believe I wound up marrying a man just like my father?

Today, Mr. Lucky and I have a much larger TV that takes pride of place in a huge entertainment center along one wall of the family room. Like an intensive care patient on life support, it's hooked up to all sorts of fancy, expensive electronic gadgets that blink and glow and sport scores of buttons and switches, most of which I'm told never to touch because it might cause an explosion that would blow out the speakers and send me flying into the opposite wall.

Whether I watch TV, a DVD, or just listen to music, I don't need anything more than an on-off switch and a volume control. Hit the play button, give me a picture and sound, and I'm happy.

When I was a single girl, I had a compact stereo system that fit entirely on the top of my steamer trunk, speakers included. I had only to hit the power switch, put on a record or turn on the radio, and voila! I had music. I was happy. I never felt like ripping out all the cords and smashing the equipment with a sledgehammer. Life was simpler then.

Now it seems as if every time I want to listen to a CD or watch a DVD, I need my husband to push all the required buttons in the proper sequence for me. If he's not at home, then I have to do what Homer Simpson did when the nuclear power plant was in danger of meltdown--push buttons and flip switches at random, going "eenie-meenie-minie-moe" until I get lucky (or "succeed despite idiocy" as they say about Homer). It's almost like trying to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile. All we need is a red phone with a direct link to the Oval Office, and a pair of keys that my husband and I have to turn at the same time.

Once I do figure it out, I sit down, relax and enjoy . . . until Mr. Lucky comes in, looks in dismay at the entertainment center, and says the words that always make my heart drop like an anchor: "Oh, this isn't right at all. Where's the remote?"

"It's fine!" I exclaim.

"No, it's not. You simply have no sense of great sound, no sense of the visual. I'm going to fix it. What did you do with the remote?"

"The sound is fine. The picture is fine. You don't even like this movie!
I specifically selected it in hopes you wouldn't bother me about the sound or the color."

"I may not like this movie, but it's the principle of the thing." Remote in hand, he aims it at the entertainment center and starts pushing buttons. A menu drops down on the TV screen, completely blocking my view of Colin Firth and thereby violating my human rights. The sound goes in and out. At one point Mr. Lucky will hit the wrong button and switch the TV to one of the shopping channels. Every once in a while the menu will disappear, allowing me to see Colin who looks perfectly healthy to me, but my husband insists he looks near death.

"That's because he's about to fly his plane into Ralph Fiennes!" I protest.

But my protests are for naught. Down comes the menu again. Finally my husband pushes the exit button, proclaims, "That's better," puts down the remote, and leaves me fuming. Meanwhile, I've just missed half the movie and can't for the life of me see or hear the difference in what he did.

It's much the same when we sit down to watch a DVD together. He insists on fast-forwarding through all the previews, then when the main feature begins--so do the adjustments. Menus drop down, pictures flash on and off, sound goes in and out. He trots back and forth between the speakers, putting his ear to them, tilting them this way and that, reaching behind them to toy with the plugs and cords.

Then he wants to turn out all the lights so it'll feel like "a real theater." I argue that it's already enough like a real theater, what with the floor all sticky and covered with trash, and the screaming little kid who keeps kicking my seat and throwing popcorn everywhere. All that's missing--besides the punk with the laser pointer up in the balcony--is the party of ten people (not including the two dozen kids and babies they invariably bring with them even though it's an R movie), who come in twenty minutes after the movie begins, and ALWAYS take the row of seats either in front of us or behind us.

After all that, Mr. Lucky is worn out, and ends up falling asleep before the movie is over.

I seem to recall my dad usually did, too.

Friday, November 9, 2007

First Anniversary of the Great Flood

It was one year ago today that it happened.

Around 6 in the morning on November 9th, 2006, I woke up to hear 9 year old Baby Bear making his noises. Still drowsy, I didn't want to get out of bed, and lolled for a while, dozing on and off before I decided I'd better get up and make sure the refrigerator door wasn't hanging wide open, and that he hadn't upended a jug of juice somewhere.

It was so much worse than that.

He was in the bathtub with his blanky (which acted as a plug for the drain), and the tub was overflowing all the way out of the bathroom, into the hall, the kitchen, and into the two rooms on either side of the bathroom--Baby Bear's bedroom and the home office I shared with Mr. Lucky. That room held not only the computer, but all my books.

And I have a lot of books. Hundreds.

Baby Bear seemed to be enjoying himself. He smiled and looked as if he were relaxing in a spa, totally oblivious to the disaster literally swirling all around him. How easily he could've slipped beneath the water and drowned!

God was obviously watching, but still I screamed: "NOOOHHH!!!!"

This alerted Mr. Lucky (and trust me, it takes a real scream to get him out of bed this early). He ran out buck naked and nearly slipped on the kitchen floor.

We hauled Baby Bear out of the tub. He was bright-eyed and laughing, happily stomping through the water on the floor.

Mr. Lucky pulled out the wet-dry vac and started sucking up what water he could. I lost count of how many trips he made to empty the tank outside. (Yes, he donned clothes before doing so.) He estimated 60 gallons of water were transferred from inside to outside, not counting what the water removal people sucked out when they showed up 3 hours later.

As a military family, we've made our share of moves over the years, and the onerous task of deshelving, packing, unpacking, and reshelving books has to be the worst thing about moving. When we bought this particular house with the idea that this would be our home after my husband retired from the military, I was certain I'd never to have to move any of my books again.

Alas, nothing in this world is certain, save for death, taxes, and the destruction wrought by my youngest child.

Fortunately, the bookcases were on the far side of the office, but the carpet was soaked a few inches short of them, and it had to be ripped up. Everything had to be removed from that room, and the Little Bear's bedroom.

As expected, the books were the worst. I learned that your average laundry basket doesn't hold very many mass market paperbacks. I didn't even bother to stack them neatly in another part of the house; I had to get them out of there before high tide at mid-morning. I just dumped them into a huge pile on the floor in another room. Many hours later, I finally found a use for that tall stack of brown paper grocery bags out in the garage, and bagged the paperbacks.

I also have hundreds of "coffee table" books. They were all shelved, because we simply don't have the space for all the coffee tables we'd need to display them.

We refugeed the books and shelves to the bedroom previously occupied by the Crown Prince, who'd moved out a few months previously. The Bear had to sleep in there until he could get his room back. Even this was a problem: He quickly discovered it was fun to remove books from the bookcases, and use the shelves as ladders. I'd like to think that keeping the heavier coffee table books on the lowest shelves prevented them from tipping over altogether, as seen in The Mummy.

I sometimes wonder if, on occasions like this, Mr. Lucky has ever lamented hitching up with a bibliophile who, when she's not reading likes to write, when he could've enjoyed a less stressful existence with a TV addict who spends most of the day watching soaps, talk shows, and Judge Judy.

Fortunately, our insurance company paid for the damage. It wasn't till the day before Thanksgiving, however, that new carpeting was installed (we put vinyl flooring--a sort of "faux hardwood"--in the Bear's bedroom), and everything could be put back to whatever constitutes "normal" in our household.

We did not move the books back to the office. The Crown Prince's old room became my own office and library.

The oddest thing of all? Only the day before this disaster, I told Mr. Lucky how glad I was we had the Bear; otherwise we'd have an empty nest now. . . and I'm just not ready for that yet.

Earlier this evening, Mr. Lucky himself mentioned how glad he was we had the Little Bear--and he cited the very same reason. He isn't ready for that empty nest, either. Maybe that's why he got the dogs--who, if we'd had them this time last year, would've surely alerted us to the brewing catastrophe. Heaven knows the Crown Prince, who has zero tolerance for the slightest upset in any routine, would've raised holy hell about it and hauled his brother out of the tub before he could even turn on the tap.

Sometimes I think we're gluttons for suffering. That might explain why I'm a writer . . . and why Mr. Lucky still keeps me as a wife.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Of Bowling Balls, Hammers, and Hangers

All three of my children were born with varying degrees of autism. One of the features of this mysterious disorder is a tendency to develop an attachment to a particular object. My daughter never did this, but her brothers are two different stories.

When our firstborn, the Crown Prince, was about six years old, we gave him one of those toy "whack-a-mole" things that came with a plastic red hammer, and a plastic indoor bowling set because he liked bowling. Alas, he wasn't interested in whacking any moles, or in bowling with something that was obviously a cheap imitation of what he'd seen at the bowling alley. But he carried that hammer and bowling ball with him everywhere he went. Even to bed. Even to the table, where he'd shovel food into his mouth while still clinging stubbornly to the bowling ball and hammer. He did figure out how to hook the hammer over his shoulder, giving himself just a bit of freedom, but at least once a day, that bowling ball would go clattering across the floor or counter.

He allowed BB & H to stay home while he went to school. But once he came home in the afternoon, he scooped them up and did not let them go until he fell asleep. He did an excellent job keeping track of them; very rarely did we ever have to search for them.

He and his sister occasionally fought over the only computer in the house, but she figured out how to lure him away from it. One day she snatched the red hammer from his shoulder and took off at a quick, sideways skip--her idea of running.

She skipped into the family room. The Crown Prince, bowling ball in hand, charged after her. She headed straight for the middle of our curved sectional sofa, and hurled the hammer into the space behind the section that curved.

That space! It was the household dump, the Black Hole of Chez Lingefelt, full of toys, socks, crumpled magazines, and old crackers left over from the housewarming party. Sometimes the girl herself would hide back there and rummage. She knew that throwing her brother's plastic hammer in there would buy her plenty of time to usurp the computer.

Sure enough, while he scaled the back of the sofa and dived into the junk pit to retrieve his hammer, she blithely side-skipped back to the computer like one of those maidens who dance and toss rose petals in the path of a victorious returning warrior.

She liked to draw, and whenever she drew pictures of her family, she invariably portrayed her older brother with bowling ball in one hand, hammer in the other, like orb and scepter.

The Crown Prince is now nineteen, and in the past couple of years has managed to abandon the hammer and bowling ball. His much younger brother, meanwhile, has developed an attachment to hangers.

We've managed to eliminate wire hangers in favor of the plastic ones, which I really like--the ones you can buy in bundles of ten from Wal-Mart for only a dollar. Trouble is, Baby Bear also likes them--not to hang clothes, which he thinks belong on the floor, but to dangle and twirl in his hand everywhere he goes, just as the Crown Prince did with his hammer and bowling ball.

The dogs like them, too. Apparently plastic hangers make better chewing than squeak toys, beef strips, or even genuine bones. I've got hangers scattered all over the house because Baby Bear likes to pull out a new one every day, and let the dogs have the one from the previous day.

Every time I open the hall closet, I see one more jacket either draped over the vacuum cleaner or crumpled on the floor. I had to remove all the shirts hanging in Baby Bear's bedroom closet, and move them to the closet where Mr. Lucky has his office--that is, the closet is in his office, not the other way around.

Heaven help me if that child ever makes it past the crocodiles to MY closet.

There's ony one thing to do before he and the dogs go through all the other hangers in the house: Start setting aside a dollar a week to buy him his own bundle of hangers from Wal-Mart.

Friday, November 2, 2007

They Kill More Than Odors

LAUNDRY UPDATE: So much for my "How Big is a Load of Laundry?" experiment. Big Detergent is obviously monitoring my posts, for when we went grocery shopping, I couldn't find any jugs promising this many loads or that many loads anywhere. (That, or we bought the detergent at the USAF base commissary this time, instead of a certain well known major retailer whose name rhymes with "Mall Tart".) Alas, the jugs I wrote about the other day had all disappeared, only to be replaced by jugs that promised nothing--well, they still claim to leave my laundry smelling like a mountain fresh tropical rainforest blooming with lavender and citrus blossoms.

Which makes a convenient segue to the topic of today's post.

Mr. Lucky brought home a packet of air freshener sheets to be placed in the filter of the air conditioner. He picked gardenia, knowing how fond I am of that scent.

"I'm going to put two sheets in the filter," he said. "And that should eliminate the dog smell in the house."

"Why not put in just one?" I asked. "Those things only last a day or two anyway, and then you'll have to replace it again."

"They're supposed to last a month," he replied. "You just get used to the scent and don't notice. Two sheets are sure to kill the dog smell."

He put the two sheets in the filter, and soon the sweet scent of gardenias wafted through the house.

"Now isn't that better than the dog smell?" he asked. I agreed it was. He then left to run some errands.

I remained at home, where the sweet scent soon became cloying and annoying. Two sheets were too much. My nose started hurting, my throat felt a bit sore, and while my eyes never watered, I'm sure I started seeing giant gardenias blooming out of the walls.

Two hours later, my husband returned home, breathing deeply as he stepped in the front door. "Mm, gardenias," he said. "That's all I smell, no dog odor at all. Now aren't you glad I put two of those sheets in the filter, Karen? Karen . . . ?"

I staggered before him. "I am the Gardenia Queen!" I slurred.

He slammed the door shut behind him. "Oh no, not again? Didn't I tell you not to drink that cup of lemon juice because I was soaking my lucky Liberty coin in it?"

"No, not that," I gasped. "The gardenia is too strong. Can't you remove at least one of those sheets?"

"But I thought you liked gardenias. And it's killing the dog smell, isn't it?"

"Yes and yes, but that's not all it's killing."

He stepped over my writhing body to check out the refrigerator, even though the contents hadn't changed since the last time he checked. "The scent is always strong at first. You'll get used to it in a day or two."

He settled down in the family room to watch TV, while I suddenly wanted to spend more time with the dogs in the back yard.

About an hour later, Mr. Lucky got up, went out to the garage, and brought in the step-ladder, placing it beneath the air conditioning vent in the hallway.

"What are you doing?" I inquired.

"I decided to remove one of those gardenia sheets," he said.

"So the smell is getting to you, too?"

"I didn't say that. You said it was overpowering, so I'm removing one sheet. I'm only being considerate and sensitive to your needs."

Now I knew the gardenia scent had fried my brain. Did Mr. Lucky just say what I think I heard him say? As he came down the ladder, I pressed my hand to his forehead.

"What are you doing?" he asked. "I'm not running a fever. And why are you lifting up my shirt?"

"I'm checking for your belly button. I want to make sure this is really you, and not some defective clone. Since when did you ever go to so much trouble out of sensitivity to my needs?"

He averted his gaze. "Since--um--since today. I decided today was the day I should start acting like those romance heroes you write about."

After twenty years of marriage? I hope he knows my romance heroes also pick up their socks, take out the garbage, and watch Doctor Zhivago and Steel Magnolias with my heroines. And stay awake the whole time.

Sooner or later, Mr. Lucky will have to crack, and admit the extra sheet of air freshener was killing him, even if it--well, kills him--to admit it.