Kidneys of Steel

I keep putting off writing this post. It's a beautiful day, where I am, in a bright room with a breeze, and yet here I sit, sad for no reason. My normal coping method is to lean into it, to hunker down and find a way to enjoy the bluer moods. Don't feel like smiling? Then don't. The only problem is that I work in a public place and it's 50% of my job to be welcoming and helpful. If I were the boss of me, today I'd have sent me home.

Peewee died ten days ago, and I have to figure that's at least part of the sadness. I keep thinking I've cried all my tears when, whoops, here come some more. 

He almost made it to nine years old, which is a good, long life for an English bulldog. I read an interesting article a few years ago that talked about how bad the breeding has gotten for many English bulldogs, and as an example they used Uga, the mascot for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. There have been a string of white, male bulldogs named Uga who trot out onto the field while people cheer, and then hop back into their crates and die. At young ages, like two and three. Yay for over-bred dogs. Peewee had congestive heart failure for the last two years of his life -- not a disease bulldogs are known for, surprisingly -- and I threw thousands of pills down his throat to keep him alive and snoring in Jackson's bed at night. (If you live north of L.A. and need a good veterinary cardiologist -- and I sincerely hope you never do -- I recommend Dr. Nick Russell without reservation). With Dr. Russell's guidance, my willingness to max out a credit card, and Peewee's kidneys of steel, we gave him two extra years of life. Our regular vet said she was amazed at how well we took care of him, when most other dogs would have been long dead by that point. Most people have a $500 limit for what they'll spend to save a pet's life, I'm told. I respect your $500 limit, but we exceeded that to a laughable degree. Did we love our dog more than you loved yours? I don't know. Ours was a pain in the ass. He barked at strangers, and at people he'd known for years. He produced impenetrable walls of gas from his butt. He also had the softest ears, and the biggest, brownest eyes, and when he liked you he'd sit on your feet. And he had just as much of a spark as you or me.

Suspicious pecker.

Suspicious pecker.

Remember Cookie? She's dead, too. I stopped writing about her a long time ago, though occasionally people would e-mail and ask what had happened to her. 

Sick for eight days straight.

Sick for eight days straight.

They say there are no bad dogs, just bad owners, but you don't have to be abusive to be a bad owner, all you have to be is dumb. Cesar Milan would have wept to see how lost I was with Cookie. Me trying to tell her what to do was a joke. She'd listen to Jack all day long, but I was mildew to her; I was a mushroom.

Cookie and Alice.

And yet Cookie was a cuddler. She was the neediest, lap-sitting-est bulldog on earth, and everyone loved her. I took her to three different trainers, and they all said, What a wonderful dog! She's so sweet! She sits, she's gentle with children. Enjoy her! But she had no respect for me whatsoever. I did not deserve to control her leash, and she made sure I knew it. She was constantly nipping at my hands -- "correcting" me, I'm told -- leaving bruises but never drawing blood. I had no idea why until I read that you're never supposed to hold a puppy over your head, because they'll take that to mean they're superior to you. I don't know if it's true, but I know that I hoisted Cookie up into Jackson's bunk bed every night so she could sleep with him, and I can imagine, every night, Cookie looking down on me and thinking, Yup, I'm the Alpha Bitch. Sleep tight, Beta.

The struggle I continually lost.

The struggle I continually lost.

In the morning I'd take her down and then put on her leash so she could go out to pee and she'd nip and yank and drag me up the stairs and then I'd cry because I didn't know how to grow a spine and dominate her -- be the pack leader! -- like I guess I was supposed to. I called Marcel, the breeder we'd gotten her from, and asked him what he thought I should do. Like any good breeder, Marcel is involved in rescue work and he said he knew the perfect home for her, if I wanted to let her go. There was no judgment on his end, so I let her go. The people in her new home named her Roxy, and they had a little girl who loved her until Cookie/Roxy died of bone cancer two years later. So thanks, Universe, for sparing us that, at least. We'd already done the cancer thing with Katie anyway. Katie Potatie. I think I have a few tears left for her, too.

Tortoises smell delicious.

Tortoises smell delicious.

I might as well come clean about Peanut, while we're at it! Remember our tortoise? We had some good times.

I wish I had video of this.

I wish I had video of this.

Peanut was entertaining as hell but she must have hated us because as soon as we moved to a new house in March of 2012, she R-U-N-N O-F-T. It was, again, my fault. I took her outside to our new brick patio and said, Look at all this space you have now, Peanut! Thinking our fence was tight and secure; thinking, She can't move that fast and I'll only be gone a minute. I went inside to get her some lettuce, and when I came back she had vanished. I was frantic. I hoped she might be hiding under a hedge or something -- I thought she'd be back when she got hungry enough, but now it's been four years so maybe she's not hungry anymore.

BEFORE YOU WRITE THAT ANGRY E-MAIL: about a year after she'd disappeared I saw a post on a neighborhood message board asking if anyone had lost a tortoise. I immediately e-mailed and said, Yes! I have lost a tortoise! and asked them to send me a photo of the tortoise they'd found, and I will bet you my last bottle of Wolfgang Puck Caesar Dressing that it was Peanut. Her shell looked a little dry, but she had all the same markings, I couldn't believe it. Somehow she'd made it out of our neighborhood and ACROSS A BUSY STREET and into a new yard. But someone else had already claimed her! The lady who posted the "lost tortoise" announcement apologized to me, but I guess the other people said Peanut was theirs so she let them have her. I forget what they called her, something fancy. Maybe she has a little velvet bed now, and her own princess phone. I almost mounted a protest to get her back, but I let Peanut go, not wanting to break someone else's heart.


So now we have this little bit.

Jackson named her Cassidy, but we call her Cassie. She's teeny and she sleeps with him every night.

She's indoor-only -- I will not have her carried off by coyotes, thank you very much -- and she likes everybody.

I think we really lucked out this time. I mean, she's going to live forever, right? 

Creepy little thoughts

I don't ever really think about my archives because once I get something off my chest I'm usually done with it. But the other day I was thinking about the post I wrote when my son told me he liked to hurt dogs. Those were the days! When I could admit difficult parenting moments and get the almost-full support of the Internet. I got some anonymous comments from what we used to call "concern trolls" who were worried that Jackson would grow up to be a serial killer, one of whom suggested I take him to an abused animal shelter and show him what it looks like for dogs to be horribly mistreated, which -- would they even let a four-year-old into a place like that? If I had explained to them that he liked to pinch his dog's ears, would they have said, "Oh, by all means, let's show him some bait dogs that have been starved half to death so that you can teach him that grown ups can be far more cruel than he'd ever imagined, because we want to make sure he feels just as helpless and traumatized as these puppies." I am so glad I don't blog about my kid anymore.

Rita read that post and ended up including it in her parenting anthology, Sleep Is For The Weak. Knowing what I know now, that Jackson was going through a phase that's weirdly normal for a lot of kids, and that he was not on his way to becoming a sociopath, I am tempted to delete that post because it could end up embarrassing him when he's older. I am also tempted to rewrite it because I come off as fairly desperate to reassure myself that he was just kidding. He wasn't, of course. I simply had no idea how to handle what he was telling me.

Fortunately, the Internet can smell insecurity on you. Then they pinch your ears until you cry! Who's the sociopath now, Internet?

What made that post necessary for me then and the reason I'm leaving it up for now are the comments that said, Oh yeah, I used to do that as a kid but I grew out of it, and, Thank you for writing this because my kid is doing the same thing and I am freaking out.

Now, I'm not an expert in anything, but -- okay, would you like to know what irony is? My dog was just sitting in the living room barking at nothing and I said, "Oh my God, Peewee, I am going to fucking kill you if you don't shut up!" and then I took two chew toys and I dangled them over his head to get him to follow me into the bedroom, and then I threw them on the floor and ran out of the room and closed the door. He is now trapped in a squeaky, quilt-filled prison.

People used to ask me and Alice if we were going to do a sequel to Let's Panic About Babies!, something that would take you from toddlerhood through teenagers, but since neither of us knew anything about parenting a teenager the idea never got out of the gate. I still have no idea how to parent a teenager. It has occasionally occurred to me that I wouldn't mind swaddling Jackson, who is now eleven, but only because I think it might make it more of a challenge for him to play Grand Theft Auto IV.

Swaddled, by Oslo Davis


I've also felt guilty for drawing a mustache on one of his baby pictures and putting it into Let's Panic!

creepy baby

He said it was okay that I did this -- and please believe me when I tell you that I asked for his permission at least a dozen times before the book went to print -- but then when the book came out he was all, I don't like that you did that! and I was all, Goddamnit I asked you a hundred* times!

I just looked into the bedroom and Peewee was lying on the bed with his head on my pillow, snoring. HE'S NOT DEAD AND I DID NOT KILL HIM, EVEN THOUGH IT SEEMED LIKE A GREAT IDEA TWENTY MINUTES AGO. But now I have another idea.


swaddled dog

Excuse me while I go register

Rita is doing a giveaway because it's the fifth anniversary of Sleep Is For The Weak and the second anniversary of Let's Panic About Babies! Alice is doing one here, and I am doing it, too, because that seems to be what I do these days, give away books in exchange for you leaving your life story in the comments! It's in honor of Mother's Day, which is coming up pretty soon. If you would like to win a parenting double whammy of Sleep and Panic, leave a comment telling us the thing that worried everyone most about you when you were a kid, and how you grew up to be okay anyway. I mean, yes: unless you're dead we won't really know how it all works out, maybe the urge to put beans up your nose will return when you're 73 and make fools of us all. But if you feel relatively sure you're in the clear, psychologically and spiritually.

UPDATE: Our winner is frequent commenter and long-time Fussy supporter DGM. Thanks to each of you who spilled out a small portion of your guts in contribution to this post.

How are you!

Today was a very, very, very busy day at the library. We'd been closed for three days because of the New Year's holiday, which gave all of our patrons time to read the books they'd borrowed, then scour their own shelves for more reading material, then think about all the books they don't really need anymore, fill several boxes with them, and bring them down to donate to the library. I lifted, scanned, toted, flipped through, checked in, checked out, and redirected all the books today. All of them. In the world. Anything left over was moldy and I recycled it, but if you go through the bins behind our branch you can have them, spider nests and all. You're welcome. The other thing that happened today was people kept asking, "How are you?" On a normal day, maybe three people ask me that, and I say, "Fine. How are you?" But as the day wore on and my mood wore on in an equivalent manner, people kept asking me, "How are you?" like there was something going wrong with my face, and the more they asked the more I wanted to say, "I don't feel like answering that," or "Why do you care?" or "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear you," because I really didn't want to say, "Fine," I wanted them to stop asking. But I couldn't because they were always so nice about it, and filled with holiday cheer. Finally, I just turned my back and started reading a donated Cesar Milan book, because if he could save Banjo the anti-social lab rescue dog from euthanasia, maybe he could save me, too.

An Idea, an Announcement, and a Raffle!

First of all, every time I get into my car I have to hook up my iPhone to the car's cassette adapter so I can listen to music or podcasts or whatever, and every time I do that I think, "Why can't my car just be a giant iPod?" I mentioned this to Jackson the other day when I was driving him to school and he immediately flipped open the glove compartment. "The keyboard could be here," he said, miming typing on the flipped down glove compartment door.

"No, but then how am I going to control it from over here while I'm driving?" I said. "Maybe there could be buttons on the steering wheel."

"No. Voice control," he said. "Duh."

"Oh, duh," I said.



Jackson delighted at the thought of us screaming at the car not to play what the other person in the car wanted to hear. Clearly the iCarPod would have to be wired to respond only to the voice of the person who made the last car payment.

Whip that up for me, would you Apple? Because with iCloud I can't imagine why this wouldn't be possible. I would dump my Volvo in a heartbeat for one that was basically a giant speaker on wheels.

Secondly, don't forget that NaBloPoMo starts Tuesday! Oh, no! Even though I sold it to BlogHer last spring, I'm still going to post every day in November because what kind of a blogger would I be if I abandoned the very thing that once gave my life meaning, and also gave me an excuse to post pictures of all of my shoes?

Lastly, I'm going to Camp Mighty in a couple of weeks, not because I am ready to plow through my life list (I have fourteen things on it so far, none of which I particularly want to show anyone at the moment) but because Maggie is always creating something interesting and I like being a part of how it all plays out.

When I signed up there was an option to get a discount on the weekend if you raised $200 for a group called Charity: Water. So, I signed up for that, because saving money is always a thrill. And how hard could it be to raise $200?

It turns out that it's sort of hard.

I have raised $50 so far by selling shoes on eBay, but I need to come up with another $150, so I'm following the lead of a few other Mighty Campers* and I'm trying a raffle.

Here is what you could win:

  1. A $50 Amazon gift certificate
  2. This necklace that I made out of random beads in my bead box:

3. An Instax Mini 25 instant camera and one roll of film:

4. A calligraphy kit!

All you have to do to enter is buy a $2.00 raffle ticket. You can buy as many as you want, and every dime of ticket money will go to Charity: Water. And yes, technically, by buying a raffle ticket you are helping my weekend in Palm Springs cost $200 less, and I completely understand if that rubs you the wrong way. But your $2.00 is going to an amazing cause, so I hope that knowledge rubs your fur back in the right direction.

The raffle will be open until midnight Friday, November 4, 2011. Thank you! Good luck!

THE RAFFLE IS OVER, THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO DONATED! *As mentioned on Boston Mamas, some of our fellow and sister campers are fundraising creatively if you want to support them:

  • The aforementioned Amy's raffle is live until November 2.
  • Lisa Congdon is selling gorgeous prints.
  • Erica is baking banana bread
  • Linz is offering 20 percent off her design services.
  • Alison is selling greeting cards.
  • Bike Swapping

    First of all, congratulations to Autumnalyssa, who won the random drawing for a Let's Panic! bag filled with all kinds of stuff, and whose mom taught her that you shouldn’t grow pot in the backyard if you have a gregarious six-year-old who might invite the mailman around to see her snail collection. Autumnalyssa's mom might have been interested in talking to my mom, who tethered our dachshund in the backyard. Dachshunds + irrational barking = NO MAILMEN. I don't know if dachshunds eat pot plants. Actually, never mind, they do. Secondly, because I seem to have this need to blog all of a sudden but nothing in particular to say (WHY SHOULD THAT STOP ANYONE??), I will share with you my latest Craigslist selling success. And cause you to wonder why I did it, and for how much, and wouldn't I have been so much happier keeping it?

    I know, but listen. Jack bought it as a gift for me a couple of summers back and it took me two years to admit to myself that I liked the idea of a seafoam-green Electra Amsterdam so much more than the reality of it. I still feel sort of bad about selling it, and not just because I probably could have gotten $75 more than I asked, but because Jack went to a lot of effort to get me something he thought I'd like, and that riding bikes would be something fun that we could do as a family. So by parking this in the garage and letting it gather dust for two years I didn't reject just the bike, I rejected marriage, family, exercise, all the bike paths put in by the city at great expense to the taxpayers, and the entirety of Dutch culture.

    I learned a valuable lesson, though, which is that some things are so very personal that you need to pick them out for yourself. This rule applies to:

    • bicycles
    • maxi pads

    unless you are highly communicative and the person shopping for you has a complete grasp of how your brain works. I guess I'm not communicative enough for Jack to intuit my many highly specific needs; certainly we don't talk about feminine hygiene nearly enough for me to send him to the store to purchase "the usual."

    Ironically, we all tried to take a ride downtown together the other day, but Jackson was so nervous riding on the side of a busy street (we had no other choice -- actually, our other choice would have been to put all the bikes in the back of Jack's truck and drive downtown, but taking the bikes for a Sunday drive would have given Jack an aneurism) that halfway into town we had to turn around and go back. So, going for bike rides might not be the happy family activity we'd hoped for after all. Sigh. The good news is, once my new eBay'd bike basket arrives I can probably start biking to work. If I can convince them to build me a shower in the parking lot.

    Coddled egg (head)

    I would like to take a moment to acknowledge this web site's status as a MOMMY BLOG. God, I hate that phrase, but there it is. My own child doesn't even call me "mommy" -- he prefers to poke me with a pool cue, or throw something light at my head, like a pack of cards or a handful of dog kibble. However distasteful and infantilizing the term, I would like to belatedly thank for giving me the #28 spot on their list of 50 top MOMMY BLOGGERS. Since I don't actually write about my child that much anymore, it feels like they put me on there as a sort of acknowledgment for prior work. Like when they finally gave the Oscar to Martin Scorcese for The Departed, even though he'd made at least five films previously that were far more amazing, and not merely for slow-motion bodily fluid explosions, or putting duct tape over Jerry Lewis's mouth. Not that a link from Babble is like an Oscar. Not that I'm the Martin Scorcese of mommybloggers. If you are reading at grade-level I probably don't have to make that clear, but I find that making things like that clear is sometimes not a bad idea.

    This is all a preamble to the fact that I am about to write about my child. My child who is on his fourth fifth day out of school this week and napping doing his homework on the couch next to me at this very moment. The child for whom I bought an 8-pack of Puffs Plus With Lotion because he asked for that brand by name, hoping that the ads were true and that they'd heal his shredded nostrils. (They didn't.) The child who was out sick from school for a week two weeks ago for a sickness only half as bad as this. (It's beginning to feel like we're homeschooling him.)

    But I'm starting to question my own motives. MUST CALL IN TO WORK SO I CAN STAY HOME AND NEST WITH CHILD. Is this 24/7 cuddle party for him or for me?

    Whatever the underlying motives, I'm afraid that all this snurgling and reading and watching cartoons has made him think that having bronchitis and an ear infection is absolutely the best, most loving and emotionally rewarding thing that can happen to a boy. Sure, I want him to feel the healing power of motherly love, but I'm a little concerned that I'm creating a self-indulgent recluse who is going to grow up looking for a way to spend his life on disability. Of course, I could be creating another Proust! Whose magnum opus will hinge on recovering the long-lost taste of apple juice and liquid Zithromax.

    Have yourself a guilty little Christmas

    I spent a deliberate amount of time this holiday season thinking about how to be grateful. I was trying to get beyond, "We're so lucky to have heat and jobs and three kinds of cheese and cable TV." We are incredibly lucky to have all those things this year, but I was hoping to get below that, to dig underneath the stuff and find something less (and thus, I suppose, more) tangible. I didn't completely succeed. I succeeded enough to conclude that I am a Hard Nut to Crack. Earlier this year I was fortunate to spent some time up at the White Lotus. I talked and laughed and did yoga and jumped into a pool of freezing-cold water and then fell into the hot tub with all my clothes on. I sang and I was silent and I breathed and I wept and when I was done I had sudden, unexpected, overwhelming sense of how lucky I am simply to be who I am. I felt like my whole being was a throat, like I was a strange but uniquely shaped instrument that words flowed through, and I wasn't the origin of the words, but my shape shaped the words and I was so lucky to have this particular shape so that these particular words could come out in this particular way.

    I imagine there's probably a drug you could take that would lead to a similar realization, but instead I chose to let moving and breathing and whatnot do their hammering at me and voilà! They cracked me open, but now, only a couple of months later, I've simply grown a brand-new candy-coated shell to protect my insides from the outside world. I feel like a snail or a hermit crab or a small animal with bad eyes that hates the sun.

    So it wasn't gratitude that swelled up and flopped over my belt this holiday season. (Yes, I may have eaten seven pounds of Christmas cookies last week. What are you implying?)

    Instead, having missed the gratitude train, I hopped on the bus to feeling disgustingly overprivileged. Vilely comfortable. People the world over are living on beans and covering themselves with tarps, yet we have not just warmth but firelight, and not just cable but Netflix, and my son has a radio-controlled helicopter that it took a small group of neighbors to rescue from the roof of a nearby garage. We have stuff and friendly people who help us recover our stuff! And we're all alive and riotously healthy. Except for the hamster, who's still in the freezer. (Poor Wheelie, waiting for the ground to dry out before he can R.I.P.)

    A friend who volunteers at a shelter told me a terrible story about a man who came to Christmas dinner there last Saturday. There was no bus service on Christmas Day in Santa Barbara. As a result, people who don't have cars had to hitch a ride or hoof it, as did one particular man who walked from Highway 154 to the Unitarian Church so he could have dinner. It's about 4 miles, or a ten-minute drive. A healthy person could walk it in less than an hour. On crutches (the man was on crutches because of his foot cancer), it did not take ten minutes, it took roughly eight hours.

    After doing all that work for a delicious meal and a warm bed, he could probably teach a doctoral-level course in gratitude.

    I don't know what you're supposed to conclude from all this. I was feeling pretty rotten because on Christmas Eve I discovered that a good friend had died in 2009 without me hearing about it, someone I'd lost touch with but had fond feelings for all the same. I'm suddenly feeling like everyone's dying and it's all happening before I've finished loving them. Goddamnit!

    Here are two beings who love each other with all their hearts.

    Curious George and the Puppies

    Thursday night it was time to read books with Jackson before bed and I had picked out a small pile of stories I thought might interest him: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, a couple of old Golden Books, a Shrek comic based on the movie but about ten times more surreal, and Curious George and the Puppies, which is a post-H. A. and Margret Rey Curious George book put out by a faceless committee that appears to enjoy portraying George as some sort of branding solution with aggregated cross-platform framework solutions, i.e., let's get his face on as many lunchboxes as possible and screw the story line. We'd just seen the movie last weekend so Jackson wanted me to read Curious George first. Then, as he gets all snuggled into his pillows, he says, real chatty-like: "Sometimes I like to hurt dogs."

    Sometimes I like to shove lit firecrackers up cats' asses, mom. Would you hand me the remote, please? Seriously, that's the next step, right? And I'm all, this is the first sign that he's going to turn into a serial killer. Likes to torture animals. I'm raising The Iceman.

    But I keep it cool. Because if you freak out about the freakiness the kid will begin to hide and thus intensify the freakiness and we don't want a pet torturer on our hands. So I just calmly ask, "Why?"

    And he says, "I don't know. I just can't help it. There's something inside that makes me do it. I can't stop."

    Here's where my left arm goes numb and I need a warm blanket and a defibrillator.

    "Are you angry at dogs?" I ask. I don't even know where I'm going with this, I just want him to keep talking out so I can look at this from all angles, possibly under the guidance of a professional.

    "Just read the story, Mom."

    So I read a few pages of Curious George and the Puppies but I'm so distracted I'm not even listening to myself. I'm one quarter panicked, one quarter wondering where the hell he heard the phrase there's something inside that makes me do it, and fully one half disgusted at the fact that this pleasant little rip-off of a book has no sense of the anarchic narrative magic that the original stories had. I wonder if Jackson's a little bored, too, because he interrupts me to tell me again that he agrees with Roger Ebert, although personally I think the movie would have had wider appeal if it was live-action and Will Ferrell actually flew over a lion's den clutching two dozen giant balloons with a chimp clinging to his face.

    And then I have to admit, when I have thoughts about how entertaining it would be to see Will Ferrell eaten by wild animals? I can sort of see where Jackson gets it from.

    Anyway, we're getting toward the end of the book now, and I think it's clear by now that underneath my stoic exterior I am COMPLETELY DISTURBED by what my four-year-old son has revealed to me. But I can't help it, I need to hear more.

    "So, how do you like to hurt dogs?"

    "Oh, I just jump on them, or pat them real hard on the head, or squeeze their ears."

    "Like when you squeezed Katies ears that one time and she yelped?"

    "Not that much, just a little bit, like this." He demonstrates with a slight pinch on my arm. I know he's not giving me the full-strength pinch; he knows I'm starting to freak out; neither of us is telling the other one the truth. So I just barrel forward and tell him that if I ever see him hurting a dog I will stop him until he learns to stop himself. I'm quoting almost verbatim from Touchpointsand I don't even care. He shrugs.

    I grudgingly read the last two pages of Curious George and the Puppies, where the director of the animal shelter asks George if he'd like to take a puppy home, and George sure would!

    And Jackson goes, "I hope he hurts it."

    By this point I'm really, WTF little man! I am frankly pissed off, and I refuse to read him any more stories, I just sit there in his bed with him, brooding, until he falls asleep on my faithless arm.

    I tell Jack about it the next day and he says, "He's yanking your chain."

    I'm all, You think? And Jack just nods and looks at me sadly, a look that says my life is going to be sheer hell when this boy becomes a teenager.

    Today I asked Jackson if he still thought about hurting dogs, and he said, No? with that little uptalk swing, like, What the hell are you talking about, Mom? And then he skipped to the playground with his Spider-Man blanket to help make a tent with three neighborhood girls.

    My god. Jackson is in preschool. He knows all the state capitals of the original thirteen colonies, and he will bluff me until I'm on the verge of brief reactive psychosis. And then he falls asleep hugging my arm.

    So either I'm raising a little Ted Bundy, or I'm raising a normal little boy who is totally honest with me about the vagaries of his growing heart and mind. Or he’s just fucking with me.

    Goddamnit. I'm screwed.

    But I've still got my eye on you, buddy.

    MONDAY MORNING UPDATE I asked him again this morning, if he still thought about hurting dogs, and he laughed and said, "Yes! I still like to hurt dogs!"

    So I was all, You know that's not right, right? And then I thought of something. Are you scared of dogs? And he goes, "Yes!" Is that why you think about hurting them? "Yes!"

    So we went through a list of every dog I could think of, to find out which ones he was scared of -- Are you scared of Katie? No. Oreo? No. Are you scared of Jasmine? No. Daisy? Jose? Tyson? Angel? Rocky? No, no, no. So who ARE you scared of? And I quote: "Big dogs with fangs coming down." Like you see on TV? "Yes. Or in your imagination."

    My son wants to hurt imaginary dogs. Today. That's the story today. We may find out more tomorrow; I can't decide whether to pick this scab until it bleeds or let it fall off by itself.

    First of all, this beautiful artificial food [via] reminds me of the time I ordered a fake hamburger, fake fries, and a fake lump of green peas, as well as four slices of fake Swiss cheese, from the Archie McPhee catalog. When it arrived I arranged it all on a plate and put into the refrigerator. A month or so later, when it was starting to look good and weird, my then-boyfriend came home late and loaded with his biker guy best friend from high school. Boyfriend came to bed, Biker Guy made himself comfortable on the couch, but before he passed out I guess he needed a snack, so he got up and opened the fridge. "Mmmm, cheese," I heard Biker Guy say. Then silence. Then, "Mmmm, fake."

    Last night I was reminded once again that despite my best intentions, political discussions make my eyes glaze over like two yummy little doughnut holes. I never feel like I know enough when it comes to politics; I can discuss aesthetics with you until your tongue swells up, because no matter how ignorant I may be about Cubism or Pina Bausch or whatever the hell, I am confident in my taste and opinions. Not that they're "right" by any means, but if we're talking about art or poetry or dance we can all find something we like or dislike about a work and take it from there. Unfortunately, it's hard to be taken seriously if you approach the nuking of Iraq from an aesthetic point of view.

    So last night as I was trying to rustle the Nut back into the apartment for his dinner, two pierced-face intellectual chicks representing California Peace Action stopped me on the sidewalk to frisk my brain, looking to see where I stood on the latest Bush foreign policy outrages. They went on quite spiritedly and fact-filledly about jobs at the local Air Force base and Republicans this and Democrats that, and as my brain turned into Bavarian creme I finally just looked at them, weary guilty political Bush-loser apathy filling my heart, my one-year-old son heading straight for a fresh pile of dog shit on the lawn, and I said, "I am only processing about one-fourth of what you're saying, so let's make it quick. What do you want me to do?" They wanted me to talk to people, to organize!, to join their club, to make phone calls. Nope and nope, I said, thinking, (a) The last time this happened I finally had to give the guy a check to make him leave, (b) They are half my age and twice as smart as me, and (c) Please, God, make them give up and leave. "We take credit cards," chirped the tall curly brunette -- the weaker of the two -- who was quickly silenced by a withering glance. The shorter sweeter bleached sharpie surf babe hurriedly offered me the option of letter writing. I agreed to that, so she handed me a boilerplate and the addresses of my rep and senators. "It's done," I said, free at last, practically running away with the Nut under one arm like a squirming sack of gerbils. The letters were actually quite simple, just asking that our Women in Washington (Capps, Feinstein, and Boxer) vocally oppose bombing Iraq, and it only took me about ten minutes to write them, which I did gladly while ravioli and strawberries splattered all around me (I have excellent powers of concentration). But Jesus Fuck, it felt like the time I spent half an hour at the door with two Jehovah's Witnesses telling me how the Jews ate their babies: two against one, overwhelmed and helpless in the face of facts and agendas.

    Well, it was nothing an hour of The Sopranos couldn't fix.

    The moral of today's story: Give me brochures or give me death.

    I hate Jackson's play group.

    There, I said it. I joined the group because (a) my mother-in-law seems to think that Jackson will grow up to be a social retard because he spends most of his time in the care of another social retard (i.e., me), and (b) my next-door neighbor already belonged to the group. It took me almost a year to warm up to my lovely neighbor, which is my problem, I know, I KNOW! I AM a social retard (or there's a kinder word for it: shy). I like my neighbor, she has a master's in statistics, she lets us use their sand box whenever we want. And I like one other mom in the group, she's like the fourth Dixie Chick, she's a kind of flaps-down, says-what's-on-her-mind person who thinks almost everything I say is funny (at least that's how I imagine a Dixie Chick is in person, based on a partial viewing of Behind the Music). But when I try to relate to the other moms -- and these are moms with good kids who play nice -- after about ten seconds of a nuts-and-fucking-bolts discussion about booster seats I am stifling yawns and blinking to keep the tears of boredom from running down my cheeks. And they sense that -- they're like dogs, really, and I am slowly being ostracized from the pack.

    Which is another way of saying that I'm turning into my mother.

    Let me tell you why I've been driving around for six months with a ten-pound purple crystal and two tuning forks in my trunk.

    A couple of years ago I was stressed out from working long hours with a bunch of total nut-bags, so once a month I'd take a long lunch and get my hamstrings haikued and my chakras shuffled. The massage guy I'd go to, whose name was Jedediah ("Jeda" for short -- like Jedi -- may or may not have been just a teeny, weeny bit intentional) was a big, jolly guy who was totally unembarrassed about the fact that he heard voices, talked to angels, bonged Tibetan singing bowls over people's heads, and laid out intricate patterns of cold little rocks and crystals on my back while I was on the table. It all sort of tickled me, because he never took it too seriously. He would say things like, "This anthracite will heal the wounds from your past lives," and then he'd chuckle, as if to say, Isn't that completely insane! And yet I persist! Maybe it works! Why not try it! The massages dropped off once I got pregnant, because as the baby got bigger it became less and less comfortable to lie on my back, or side. (How did I sleep? I have an antigravity chamber. Really!) But when I sailed past my due date without a contraction in sight, I called Jeda, thinking he might be able to prod at some pressure point that would put me into labor. (I have heard from more than one pedicurist that a simple foot massage has hastened the arrival of many a baby.)

    So I went to Jeda's office and hoisted myself up on the table and he said, "I had a conversation with this child last night." Oh, really, I said. "He wants to get going as much as you do. He's just waiting for Mercury to go direct, it's much more difficult to be born when Mercury's retrograde. But it goes direct tonight," he said. Oh, good, I said. Then he looked up at the ceiling and started going, "Uh-huh, uh-huh, okay, I'll tell her, jeez." Then he looked at me and said, "This child comes from the highest ranks of angels." Hmmm, I said. "Don't let that intimidate you," he said. It doesn't, I said, thinking, It can be Jesus himself and he'll still need me to wipe his butt and sign his report cards.

    So Jeda gave me a disappointingly light going-over, but before I was out the door he pressed several things on me: two bottles of flower essences, one for the child and one for the midwives; a huge purple crystal, meant to be, if not in the birthing tub, at least somewhere in the vicinity; and two tuning forks, which I was supposed to bang together and wave around the room to, quote, clear the space.

    Well, once labor hit I was a little too elsewhere to start offering people hits of flower water, and there was no way on God's green earth that Jack was going to start leading the pagan rites, so Jeda's paraphernalia got buried under some teeny weeny t-shirts and forgotten, not to resurface for three or four months. I kept thinking that I'd put the stuff in my car and drop by Jeda's office when I was in the neighborhood, but at some point he moved out of his office and left no forwarding address, and I haven't seen him since the day last winter that I was stopped at a light on Carrillo and he was standing in front of the Salvation Army smoking a cigarette. It was such a strange sight, him with his hair all scraggly and twenty pounds heavier, puffing away, talking to some girl with a bad blonde dye job, that suddenly I really didn't want him to see me, especially since his crystal and his tuning forks in their velveteen bag were home gathering dust on my bookshelf. So as soon as I got home I put them in my trunk, thinking that the next time I ran into him I could finally give him his stuff back, but it's been six months, and Jeda's phone is no longer in service and I don't know what to do. Is there a crystal rescue, with a drop box? A local hospital that needs equipment for hearing tests? Or should I get them back out of the car and just keep them as some sort of cosmic baby gift?

    Pardon me, but I feel guilty about yesterday's post.

    I feel bad for saying that Mr. Noodle and his brother, Mr. Noodle, act "gay," even though both actors are known for having played gay roles in films, and are obviously comfortable with bringing a little sass to their Mr. Noodles, as are the producers of Sesame Street. So why do I feel bad about pointing it out? I'm not sure. I have stereotypes, and I guess I brought it up because I admire the way Jack is able to embrace his and make fun of himself for having them all at once, the way he can love you for your gayness/blackness/latinoness/womanness/guyness and give you a big ration of shit for it at the same time.

    There is a widespread contention here in Southern California that a certain ethnic group should not be allowed behind the wheel of a car. It's a stupid, insulting stereotype that 75% of the time is right on the money, which makes me absolutely furious.

    I don't want everyone to act the same or look the same, but I seem to want some people to quit doing the things that other people make fun of them for, to protect them from something I can't explain or defend.