Monday, March 31, 2008

As If My House Doesn't Stink Enough Already . . .

Mr. Lucky has acquired yet another dog, a chocolate beagle. Unlike our other two beagles, this one has a brown nose.

When I said I wanted more chocolate, this wasn’t exactly what I meant.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t like dogs. I do. In fact, last Friday night we watched
I Am Legend with Will Smith, and for me, the most heartbreaking scene in that movie—the one that nearly drew tears from my eyes—was canine-related.

I just don’t like having to do extra housework to keep down the odor. Unless you’re one of those clean freaks (pardon the redundancy), who amongst you cannot appreciate my dilemma?

Mr. Lucky proposed we use potpourri to keep down the odor. The words were barely out of his mouth when I started having visions of Baby Bear dumping baskets of potpourri and scattering trails of it all through the house.

After I vetoed that idea, he suggested scented candles. NO WAY! I will not have open flames of any kind in the house because of—who else? Baby Bear.

Mr. Lucky argued that scented candles didn’t have to be lit to be effective. I countered they had to come with wicks for a reason.

We used to have “plug-in” deodorizers, until Bear figured out how to unplug them.

In the end, we went shopping in search of a compromise, and decided to try some jars of “odor absorbing gel.”

Our new chocolate beagle is a good dog who's bonded well with the other two beagles. Mr. Lucky is happy, and I’d rather have a happy husband than not. He says he likes having three dogs. “There’s just something about the number three,” he said. “We had three kids, now we have three dogs.”

Methinks I'd better keep my mouth shut, lest he gets some harebrained notion about having three wives.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Not only is she one of my favorite authors, but she’s high on my list of kickbutt women I admire. Julie Leto’s brand new paranormal romance, PHANTOM PLEASURES, is coming out next month, and she’s offering some super giveaways at her blog, Plotmonkeys, beginning Monday, March 24th.

Each day for the next week, Julie will be posting a chapter from PHANTOM PLEASURES at
Plotmonkeys, and offering readers the chance to win a $20.00 Amazon/Borders gift card per day to anyone who leaves a comment.

Julie is a longtime member of our
RWA chapter, the Tampa Area Romance Authors, and I’ve often thought of her as the heartbeat of TARA. She’s always been generous with advice and assistance to other writers, both published and unpublished. Frankly, if it weren’t for the unflagging faith and buttkicking of straight-shooting friends like her, I’m not so sure I’d still be writing books, let alone this blog.

She’s always helped me and been there for me. It gives me great joy to do the same for her.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Baby Bear Goes Naked

The long awaited phone call finally came at about 4 pm today.

It was the school bus driver. “I need you to be out in the driveway when the bus pulls up,” she said. “He’s naked.”

I don’t think I even blinked when she made this announcement. In fact, I couldn’t have been more blasé than if she were yet another telemarketer offering to refinance my house. The only thing that surprised me was that it took the Bear this long to do it.

Almost every day he steps off the bus in his bare feet. A couple of times he was bare-chested. Once, he kept his socks and shoes on, but still managed to take off his shorts.

Around the house, it’s an ongoing battle to keep clothes on him. I’m desperately worried that when he reaches adulthood, he’s going to make the Guinness Book of World Records—for the most arrests for indecent exposure. “He’d go naked 24/7 if he could,” is a favorite catch phrase of mine.

I told Mr. Lucky to come with me. He was playing a game on the computer, and was two cannon blasts away from sinking a Spanish galleon. My bad timing may have cost him four million doubloons and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth I. But I needed backup in case the Bear slipped my grip—which he’s done many a time—and ran streaking down the street.

The bus pulled up and I was invited to board. Baby Bear danced in the aisle as if The Price is Right announcer had just called him to come on down. All his clothes were scattered on the floor beneath several seats, and I collected them all and dressed him in the middle of the bus, while the driver told Mr. Lucky, “She’s always saying he’s going to come home naked someday!”

Fortunately there weren’t too many kids left on the bus, maybe four or five, all special needs children. One of them would have been rolling in the aisle with laughter if he hadn’t been securely strapped in his seat. I couldn’t blame him. Even I was more amused than horrified, which was out of character for me. Maybe it’s the full moon.

But I hope it doesn’t happen again. (The public nudity, not the full moon.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Saga of the Shorts Continues

Yesterday, those mysterious red shorts finally disappeared from Baby Bear’s backpack. Either his teacher reads this blog, or the mother of the student who owns the red shorts does. I wonder if she drove down there and knocked the fire extinguisher off the wall with her purse.

This afternoon, I went out as usual to meet his school bus. Because he’s disabled, it stops right in front of our house.

Baby Bear jumped out in his bare feet. There was nothing the least bit unusual about this, since he almost always removes his socks and shoes during the ride home. If he comes off the bus socked and shod, then I have to tell the driver there’s been a mistake, and that this is someone else’s child. It beats trying to read nametags.

The bus attendant handed me the socks and shoes, and wished me a good day. I asked, “What about his backpack?”

She searched the bus, while I turned to see which way my son had fled this time, as he seldom goes straight into the house unless I’m right at his side or directly behind him. Today he plunged into his dad’s Buick Riviera and laid on the horn.

The attendant reappeared empty-handed. She couldn’t find a backpack. They must’ve forgotten it at school.

This has also happened before.

I thanked her and the driver, and removed the Bear from the Buick before he could figure out how to hotwire it and go joyriding.

That’s when I noticed he was wearing his extra pair of shorts—the spare set I always put in his backpack each day.

That meant the ones he’d worn to school this morning—the same brown denim pair I had to track down last week and bring back like Indiana Jones retrieving the Holy Grail—had obviously been soiled . . . and left at the school.

Time to fetch my whip and fedora. Here we go again.

UPDATE 3/14: Friday afternoon he came home with his backpack--and the brown denim shorts were inside, secured in a plastic bag.

So all is right in the world chez Lingefelt . . . but for how long?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Baby Bear: Short on Shorts

One of the unique aspects of having a special needs child is the necessity for sending an extra change of clothing to school each day.

At a minimum, Baby Bear’s backpack always contains the following items: Shirt, shorts, two pairs of disposable underwear (adult diapers), at least one plastic bag for soiled items, and a notebook used for correspondence between teacher and parent.

This has been the case for all three of my children; but in the case of Baby Bear, we’ve had a bit of a problem with clothing going astray. He’s non-verbal and would happily go naked 24/7 given the chance, so he can’t be relied on to keep track of his stray clothing.

Recently, I had a problem with not one, but two missing pairs of denim shorts. (Living in Florida, he can wear shorts all year round.)

On February 14th, he came home wearing his spare pair. The pair he wore to school that morning—presumably soiled—should’ve been secured in a plastic bag in his backpack. They were nowhere to be found. So I wrote a message in the notebook, asking them to please return the dark brown denim shorts he wore on that date.

No response. No shorts.

On February 20th, I sent him to school wearing a pair of royal blue denim shorts. That afternoon he came home wearing a pair of flaming red satin shorts. The royal blue denim shorts were not in his backpack, though his spare pair (tan cotton) was. I laundered the red shorts, put them in his backpack for return to the rightful owner, and wrote another message in the notebook, asking them to please return the royal blue shorts, “and the dark brown shorts he wore on 2/14 (see entry above).”

Again, no response. And no shorts, except for that wild red thing that remained in his backpack like an omen of more, similarly colored tape to come.

I scribbled another note, adding that he was running out of clothes. (Not really, but I figured a little hyperbole couldn’t hurt.) I drew a big, thick black outline around it to make it stand out.

That afternoon, when Bear came home, I opened his backpack. No shorts, save for that devil’s pair. However, the page had been turned in his notebook, where the teacher had written on a fresh leaf that Bear “had a good day today.”

Since he’s classified as trainable mentally handicapped, he attends an “exceptional center” which is annexed to a middle school—though if not for his special needs, he’d attend a regular elementary school. I called the school. I identified myself, my son and his teacher, and explained the problem of the missing shorts. Or at least I tried to.

The woman on the other end of the line said, “Ma’am, are you saying your child gave his clothes to another student?” Apparently a ten year old will do that in exchange for a Twinkie from the other kid’s lunchbox.

“No, he only came home wearing someone else’s shorts,” I replied. “In the meantime, he’s missing two pairs of his own, because—”

“Oh, you mean he and the other student went into the school lavatory and swapped clothes?”

I didn’t know whether to bang the phone or my head against the wall. But as I tried again to explain to her, I sort of gathered the middle school, at least, had a bit of a problem with students going into the lavatory between classes to swap clothes.

Finally she said, “Oh, you want to talk to someone in the Exceptional Center!” Though at this point, I was thinking of a stronger verb than talk.

She connected me to the Exceptional Center, where another secretary said she would let my son’s teacher know that I was looking for those shorts.

Several days passed, and still no shorts. Exasperated, I drove to the school, where I endeavored to conduct myself in such a manner that after I left, they would not glance at each other in horror and whisper about what a nutcase I was; how I could be heard all the way out in the cafeteria, and, “Did you see the way she swung her purse and knocked that fire extinguisher off the wall?”

The two pairs of shorts were found still in the classroom. One was in a basket and missing the button, while the other—which had been laundered at the school—was in the top drawer of a file cabinet. The aide also pulled out of that same drawer a third pair that looked very nice, but I had to tell him they weren’t my son’s. I said he had a red pair in his backpack that the rightful owner could have back with my compliments.

I took the two missing pairs home after accepting apologies from the teacher and his aide. Later that afternoon, Baby Bear came home from school with his backpack—and those scary red shorts still nestled in there like an incubating alien life form.

I can’t help wondering if this happened because of male teachers and male classroom aides who, being men, aren’t as focused on tracking dirty laundry as the average mom. I have no scientific evidence to support this theory, though Mr. Lucky says—begrudgingly, of course—that I’m probably right.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

When Humans Collide: Reality vs Romance

My ten year old son, Baby Bear, has autism. He's five and a half feet tall and weighs close to 140 pounds. (I suppose I should change his nickname to "Big Bear." Maybe when he turns thirty.) He's come up with a new stunt that he thinks is a lot of fun, but I don’t: The Body Slam.

He likes to run up to me and wham! Bump into me with enough force to make me lurch back a few steps and leave me breathless for a moment. But he’s never done it hard enough to knock me to the floor. For that, he’d have to run a lot faster, and from a greater distance—at least as fast as a football pro dashing down a hundred yard long field to the end zone.

If Baby Bear had the strength of a quarterback (he’s getting there), I’d probably end up in the emergency room, clutching ice packs and a cup of milk with my front tooth clinging to life at the bottom of it. In fact, that’s exactly why football players, who knock each other to the ground on a regular basis, wear all that protective gear—helmet, mouth guard, padding, etc. The injuries they do sustain would be more serious without it.

And that brings me to the subject of today’s rant: Romance novels where the hero and heroine meet by literally running into each other. The heroine invariably lands flat on her butt with nothing to break or soften her fall, and except for her pride, she is never hurt. She never howls in pain, she never rubs her tailbone, she never limps away groaning, and she never wakes up the next morning wincing and mumbling, “Damn! I can really feel that bruise on my butt now!”--before twisting and contorting herself in front of her full length mirror to see how bad it looks.

Several years ago, while judging the
TARA contest, I read not one but two entries in a row, back to back, where the hero and heroine met by colliding with each other in a hallway. In both cases, the heroine was carrying a huge stack of papers that went flying everywhere, and she landed on her tush. In neither case was she injured—except for that delicate, fragile pride.

More recently I read a romance novel that started out with the heroine at a ball. With a rustle of her skirts, she rounded a corner where she ran into—who else? The hero!—and she “was knocked to the ground.”

Miraculously, she wasn’t hurt—save for the old pride. Possibly she wore enough layers of petticoats beneath her ballgown to cushion her fall. The only thing more annoying than the clichéd collision was the so-called hero who stood there for the better part of the page, gazing down at her and admiring how cute she looked with her skirts in disarray. I had to yell, “Help her up, you jerk, before I throw this book against the wall!”--and even the heroine had to ask, before he finally did so. He never apologized, and I never warmed up to him after that.

But at least she wasn’t carrying a big stack of papers, a bag of groceries, or a purse that she forgot to zip or snap shut.

If you’re a romance writer, I beg of you: Please don’t let your protagonists meet this way. Or if you absolutely must have them crash into each other, consider the speed of movement and force required to send her flying onto her butt. Think of what football players do, and why they wear all that protective gear.

You don’t need a degree in physics to understand this.

Every time I watch the movie
Notting Hill, I can’t help cringing at the triteness of Hugh Grant smacking into Julia Roberts and dumping his café latte down her shirt. But while I think the writers could have given Hugh a more original excuse to get Julia into his flat, at least they didn’t have him knock her to the ground.

Landing flat on your butt hurts like hell. I know. When I was four years old, I went out the back door one winter morning to find the back porch all silvery white and glittering in the sunshine. It looked like an enchanting little fairyland to me, so I thought I would dance on it like Cinderella, my favorite storybook heroine. Whoosh! I landed right on my little tush, and have not set foot on an icy surface since. At age twelve I put on roller skates, and in seconds I was sitting on the hardwood floor, howling in pain. My tailbone hurt for days afterward—and I haven’t put on a pair of skates since.

My pride, on the other hand, is very tough and seems to withstand just about everything. That, or I have none at all.