Sunday, January 31, 2010
"THAT PUPPY won't stop barking and I can't sleep," she groused, standing in our doorway with a fuzzy blanket, a relic of her baby days, trailing over her shoulder.
I floundered up from sleep. "Puppy? Puppy not sleeping and barking? Whose puppy?"
"Ours," said my husband with a groan. "She's really at it and she's never done that before. She must have to pee or poop really bad." He threw back the covers, allowing an icy blast to creep in and grab me by the feet. "I'll take them all outside and then let them come up here."
One thing we've learned is that the dogs are very happy to come upstairs after their early morning sojourn and sleep on our bed, lolling in heavy slumber for hours on end, as long as a human is there with them. This knowledge has allowed my husband to sleep in later than he anticipated several different times in the three weeks since we rescued Zuzu, so my rule about no dogs on the bed, ever? Well, it is a thing of the past and I always put my pillows on the armchair in the corner so that none of the three of them can get them dirty. Gross.
He was gone for forty-five minutes on that walk and after the first twenty, I began to worry. Had he and the dogs frozen solid to a fire hydrant due to all ill-aimed stream of dog pee? Did they get run over by a milk truck, the sound of which is one of my favorite early-morning sounds? Did the three dogs see a maurauding squirrel up for an early nut and sweep my husband off his feet, dragging him at the end of their leashes across town like a cowboy in the Wild West being dragged across the prairie by his horse with his boot stuck in the stirrup?
By the time he got back, freezing and irritable ("On WARM mornings, they all pee and poop FIRST THING, but on the mornings when it is TWO DEGREES? They have to sniff each blade of grass in a five-block radius to see which one is going to win the honor of being anointed WITH THEIR URINE," he said bitterly), I was wide awake. I generously lent him all my pillows and my two microwave heating bags and then decided to just go ahead and take my shower.
Religious ed class, I noted wearily, was due to start in four hours. No harm in getting ready a bit early.
Once downstairs, I found that I wasn't in the mood for coffee. Coffee, in my mind, is a fun drink. It's so good and rich and sweet -- at least it is the way I drink it -- and it is enjoyable in a "let's get a cheese danish and have a cup of coffee!" kind of way.
This morning, tea was definitely indicated. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Giles once noted, when Xander noticed him drinking a cup of coffee, that "tea is comforting, and I don't wish to be comforted." Well, I wished to be comforted, so I went to the cabinet and looked at my many choices:
Orange/Spice...Earl Grey....English Breakfast.....Irish Breakfast....green tea....green tea with peach...Darjeeling....Chinese Oolong.....regular ol' tea....the interior of the cabinet smells like tea when I open the door. It smells....comforting.
I brewed the tea, leaning my face over the pot so that the gentle fragrance of Orange/Spice could touch my face. Once in the mug, it warmed my hands that had turned cold in the chilly house. I drank it. I felt better.
In the bleak midwinter, when sleep is far away and car sales are the worst they've been in two years, and sad things happen that make our souls wince in pain, tea is a tangible comfort.
Friday, January 29, 2010
DE-CAF herbal tea.
Jacob goes all wolfy at this bit of unwelcome news and begins to undergo transformation right there at the reception, which is slightly more awkward than someone slipping and falling down on the dance floor. He threatens to kill Edward as the other members of the wolf pack try to hustle him away into the woods behind the Cullens' house, but I myself was still right there, thinking What a really stupid thing to say. She is such an idiot.
I proved to be the idiotic one in about thirty more pages, because Edward and Bella did it. They consummated their marriage despite the fact that Edward knew beforehand what the likely outcome would be -- Bella injured, if not killed. To be quite clear, Bella knew beforehand, too, but she is so pathetic and stupid, I didn't really count on her to do anything that made sense, relying on Edward to be the rock of self-control he's always been, in spite of his indications of being a potential abuser.
And somewhere in the murky fade-to-black of page eighty five, this book completely and irrevocably lost me.
Meyer chastely refuses to describe what ensues, but the morning after the night before, Bella awakens to a brooding, haunted Edward, a bed full of feathers and, "large purplish bruises...across the pale skin of my arm...up to my shoulder" and relates that her naked body was "decorated with patches of blue and purple" and admits that she'd "look even worse tomorrow." The whole scene, in which Bella soothes Edward by telling him that the experience was "wonderful and perfect" and that she's "totally and completely blissed out" and that "[she] can't imagine that life gets any better than [this]" was utterly ghastly, a total mockery of two young lovers meeting one another for the first time in the sweetness of their wedding night.
Edward feels so remorseful. He vows that it will never happen again. Aaaaand...does anyone have that checklist for Things Abusers Typically Say and Do handy? Because Edward, you see, is no longer a potential abusive partner.
I didn't get actual bile in my throat until the next night, when Bella and Edward do it again. She wakes up from a powerful dream about makin' the sex and boo-hoos and begs and whines until he finally gives in and nails her.Okay. Could there be anything sicker than lovemaking on one's honeymoon that ends with one spouse battered? That is wrong and bad on so many levels, I'd be hard put to list them all. Let me just start by saying that a decent person would NEVER DO SOMETHING that would put something he loved in danger of being physically or emotionally harmed. Edward knows how physically fragile Bella is compared to him, but he goes ahead and gives in to her infantile pleadings for sex and PHYSICALLY HURTS HER.
That's sick, Stephenie Meyer. Really, really sick. Especially since Bella's extra-mature way of dealing with her aching, black-and-blue body is to basically tell Edward it's okay if you bruised me because I know you love me. God help us all.
Since this book is seven hundred fifty-four pages long, I'll spare myself the anguish of exploring every nuance of this unbearably hefty plot line. Frankly, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense in places anyway - events happen here and there that simply don't hang together, are left unexplained, or are referred to once and never mentioned again. So I'll hit the low points from here on out -- after that honeymoon, I can't bring myself to call them high points -- designated numerically.
1. While Edward and Bella are still on their honeymoon, a curious thing happens: Stephenie Meyer breaks another rule of vampire lore, only in this case it's her own vampire lore. According to Stephenie, vampires have no liquid inside them except for their venom, so imagine everyone's surprise -- theirs, Carlisle's, Alice's, yours and mine -- when Bella suddenly gets nauseated, develops a stubborn appetite for certain foods and discovers a baby bump between her hip bones. Yes. In spite of the fact that Edward supposedly cannot produce sperm cells, Bella is pregnant.
The two of them head back home, where Carlisle and Edward press for an abortion: they know that any child created by this union is likely a monster of unknown quantity. Bella allies herself with the baby-wanting Rosalie and refuses to consent, protecting her "little nudger," which is growing at a pace that is faster than the speed of a vampire running through the forests of Washington state with his girlfriend clinging to his back. And not only is the baby growing fast, it's also killing Bella. The story takes over in Jacob's first-person narrative and he describes Bella's weakness as she lies on a couch in the Cullen's living room, fading away by the moment. Edward fades right along with her, becoming a total helpless wreck, moaning and brooding and generally doing all that he can to make sure that the family has two invalids to care for.
Until, of course, someone thinks that maybe the baby and Bella aren't really being properly nourished on pickles and ice cream and those giant vitamin pills pregnant women have to swallow. No, this baby and this mother need some blood. Big ol' cups of it, with straws. Straws that will allow Bella to gulp it down and burp gently.
I'll pause to let you process that and maybe go find a small wastebasket to vomit into.
There. Better now? Oh, too bad, because you're going to be sick again very shortly.
So the Little Nudger gets stronger and starts nudging her a little too hard. Jacob relates that Bella's entire body is bruised, and before long, the baby starts cracking her ribs. When Bella experiences placenta abruptio and vomits "a fountain of blood," the Cullen gang realizes that it's now or never and they whisk Bella to Carlisle's study, which has been turned into a birthing center. Jacob performs CPR a little too roughly while Edward struggles to deliver the baby (Carlisle is not at home at this crucial moment) and CHEWS THE BABY OUT of Bella's uterus WITH HIS TEETH.
I found it very ironic that Meyer, who did that coy fade-to-black on Bella and Edward's honeymoon sex just freaking UNLEASHES on the birth scene, with blood and anguish and broken spines and floppy legs and a cracking pelvis and the sound of Edward's diamond hard teeth scraping and rasping and tearing through his wife's flesh... It's not the kind of thing you'd want to read while eating a bowl of chili. And it goes on for pages, like my gosh, the soldiers who stormed the beach at Normandy didn't see this level of violence.
2. Slightly before the baby is born, Edward and Jacob have a conversation at the Cullen's house. Jacob is there because he can't bear to be away from Bella, which is.....huh? I mean, she is another man's wife at this point, right? So Jacob's continued worried presence is there and he makes himself useful by sitting next to Bella and warming her up when she gets cold.
Not many husbands I know would be all that thrilled to have their main rivals for their wives' affections before marriage present and accounted for in order to warm her chilly pregnant body, but whatevs...By this time, who expects any sense out of all this?
Given what Edward does next, though, you may want to find that little wastebasket you just used, because what's coming now won't make any sense, either.
Out on the front porch of the Cullen residence, Edward suggests to Jacob that perhaps, if this baby, erm, DIES and Bella survives, that she's going to want children someday. She loves her little unborn devil-baby, after all, and he, Edward, just KNEW that the maternal urge would grab her someday, so if Jacob could be so kind as to oblige....
I think the charming way Edward put it, this whole notion of putting his wife out to be bred, was "She can have puppies if she wants them." With a sidelong glance at Jacob. The shape-shifting wolf.
Jacob takes a personal moment to consider how awesome it would be to make the weekend sex with Bella and give her a little pack of wolfbabies to cuddle and then send them all back to the Cullens on Monday mornings. And could there be a bigger EWWWWWWWWWW!!!! than this?
Honestly, just when you think Stephenie Meyers has already hated the idea of independent, strong, smart women enough, you find out that she has deeper levels of loathing to explore.
Fortunately, Jacob sees that this preposterous and SICK idea is going to be absolutely unworkable because how are they ever going to get Bella to agree to it? At this point, I had a mental flash of Spike and Angel discussing Buffy in this manner and both of them saying nervously, "She's going to stake both of us with a telephone pole for even thinking such a thing," but come to think of it, there's no way they'd ever have such a conversation because their respect for Buffy and who she is and what she can do is so immense. It would never cross their minds, this kind of perversion.
The fact that Edward could even come up with an idea like this and be serious enough to entreat Jacob to help him convince Bella that this plan could work is just.....wow. Edward has no respect for Bella as an autonomous person, like, at all. This is his wife, his companion for eternity, and yet he feels free to come up with a plan like this behind her back? Stephenie Meyer, what the HELL is wrong with you??!!
3. The baby is born alive, but Bella is dying quickly after the traumatic birth and Jacob tells us that Edward goes to work on her with a syringe full of vampire venom so that it can spread throughout her body while her heart is still feebly beating. She is going to die, but the venom will heal her. And it will take a few days, but then everything will be like, YAY! because being a vampire is something only very, very special people get to do and aren't you sad you're not one?
While Edward is injecting deadly venom into his nearly-lifeless bride, Jacob is holding the baby. If you read New Moon and Eclipse, you might guess at what's getting ready to happen: Jacob imprints on the newborn baby. Yup. He looks at the newborn baby and is all SCHWWWIIING!!!
Yeah, you made it past the honeymoon and you struggled through the idea of Edward and Jacob sharing Bella for sex and you hung on through that revolting birth scene, only to arrive at the place where Jacob decides that this baby is the person destiny has picked out for him to spend his life with. The bewilderment and gagging just start all over again, don't they?
What kind of life does Stephenie Meyer live that she can think up all of these unbelievably disturbing male-female relationships and present them as if they're acceptable? Like, sure it's okay for a little girl to grow up with a young man that she would probably perceive as a brother or even a father figure, someone who's poured juice into her sippy cup and taken her to the potty and then....marry him? The fact that an imprinted relationship between a baby and a teen wolf pre-supposes that someday, they're going to be sexual partners is just so messed up, there aren't enough negative words in the English language to convey how wrong that is.
4. Thankfully, Stephenie ends with the crazed and possibly illegal and definitely immoral relationships and we move on to Bella, who is now a vampire.
Through all three of the previous novels, we've been warned repeatedly that not only is the process of "turning" very painful and difficult, but that the first few years of vampirism are difficult to navigate: the new born vampire will be a creature of enormous strength and thirst, making him/her a danger to everyone around, both human and vampire. So Bella goes through her change -- and of course, we have to go with her, this heeeeyooooge rite of passage Meyer has been preparing us for, and I was expecting Bella to fly up off that table in Carlisle's study and start with the killing, maybe making that snotty Lauren she graduated high school with her first victim.
But guess what? Meyer lets us down flat. There is no conflict. None. Anywhere. There was a great opportunity here for Bella, who has been possibly the lamest, weakest and most clueless heroine in post-modern American literature, to grow into a character of substance and depth. The biggest conflict we experience in Bella's turning is the fact that, while she was out of it, Alice dressed her in a gorgeous, shimmery dress that made it hard for Bella to run in the woods on her first hunt with Edward. So guess what? She had to tear the dress. OH THE AGONY!
As she moves into vampire life, the Cullens are stunned and incredulous that Bella can control herself. Sure, there's a brief moment of wanting to indulge herself in a yummy-smelling hiker out in the woods, but Bella just claps a hand over her nose and runs in the other direction: problem solved. And they're concerned that she might attack Renesmee, who has a heartbeat, but her great love and bonding with the baby lead her to be able to see past that moist and luscious sound and cuddle her daughter protectively. And Esme's antique dining table is in a moment of danger as Bella and Emmett consider it as a place for an arm-wrestling match, but that's all.
That's all. Really. Truly. There is no conflict. Bella is the most beautiful, the most strong, the most gifted, the most graceful vampire ever, like, in the whole world. Her voice is like the music of tiny bells! Her ability to leap over the river surpasses even Edward's, and as for speed? Well, up until now, Edward has been the undisputed Speedy Gonzalez of the Cullen clan, but Bella leaves him eating her dust. No one has to buckle her seat belt for her anymore; no one has to carry her anywhere because she can't twist her ankle; Charlie is a little freaked out by her but prepared to accept the unacceptable; brown contacts hide her bright red new born vamp eyes; who knows what happens with Renee and Phil, because they're never mentioned again; and it's really kind of too bad that Bella doesn't have to poop anymore, because you can be certain that Meyer would go to great lengths to tell us how beautiful and fragrant her bowel movements are.
I mean, really, girls, who wouldn't want to be a vampire? Bella can die and go through this incredible change that makes everything different and yet there's not one single consequence. She has everything! Supermodel looks! The most perfect husband ever! A lovely baby, who's so perfect, you just want to brush your brain with toothpaste to get all the sticky sugar out of your mind after reading about her! The perfect adoring family! Who are, like, mind-blowingly rich! Closets full of designer clothing! A perfect little rose-covered fairy-tale cottage! A Ferrari! An alliance with the werewolves! Amazing talents that surpass the talents of everyone else around her!
There is a tiny misunderstanding with the Volturi and Meyer builds us up for pages and pages, leading us to think that there's going to be an epic battle, like the one between Voldemort's followers and Dumbledore's army, or the one between the forces of Mordor and Aragorn's troops, but it all amounts to nothing. Just a misunderstanding. The Volturi literally turn around and drift away sulking and go back to Italy. And it's all because of Bella.
This is just.....unconscionable. At nearly eight hundred pages, you'd think there could have been room for some real plot and character development - that Bella would have to go through some massive internal and external struggles to make her ready for her new life, to help her grow and change into the person she is going to be, um, ETERNALLY. Harry Potter had to do that along with all of those Hogwarts kids we followed from the first book to the last. Bilbo and Frodo and Sam had to do it; it took Aragorn three thick books to come to terms with his rightful place as the king.
But Bella? She can just jump from one milestone to another with no struggles whatsoever. Oh, sure, she had to wear the brown contacts. And the stupid things kept dissolving on her, because of the venom filming her eyes. And she had a difficult time figuring how to meet up with J. Jenks and discerning his relationship with the Cullen family. And she was pretty ticked with Jacob for imprinting on her baby, but that actually turned out to be a blessing. I was ready to see her go on a killing spree and for Charlie to be caught up in the investigation for this string of brutal murders and for the Cullens to be providing moral and physical support and then for the Volturi to show up and for there to be casualties on either side.
Bella was perfect from the start of her vampire life and when the book ends (with Edward referring to Jacob as -- PUKE! -- "My son"), everything is just like a really stupid fairy tale. It is the laziest and most shiftless writing I've ever read and it galls me that Stephenie Meyer could write this pap and be smirking all the way to the bank with her stupid books and her stupid Bella and all those woman-hating, freakishly messed up male-female relationships. This, my friends, is what passes these days for stellar literature for our young adult readers.
Read it and weep.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Monday -- Mexican chili (didn't end up having this last week, so it was this week's little bonus)
Tuesday -- Baked Spaghetti and homemade bread (spaghetti and meat sauce left over from Sunday)
Wednesday -- Crunch-crust baked fish fillets (from freezer section of grocery), baked sweet potatoes and green beans
Thursday -- roast beef in slow-cooker with potatoes and onions, croissant rolls
Friday -- Inexpensive dinner out with family (Think "Arby's new dollar menu.")
Grocery shopping was accomplished on Saturday afternoon, as mentioned. Ve-e-e-ery tight budget this week. Gaaaaahhh....HATING this recession.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I know that the Colts play in Indianapolis, of course. I've seen the awesome Lucas Oil Stadium from the outside and deplored the silly name. And I casually watch the Masters every spring, but mostly because of the azaleas. And I am vaguely aware that there are lots of people playing basketball, particularly at this time of year, but the only one I have any interest in is Kieren.
So today, when Aisling and I went to Kroger after we left the church (religious ed from 9:00 - 10:15...sighhhhh), it dawned on me that something important must be going on because we were the only two people in the store not attired in Colts gear.
I self-consciously drew my long coat around my spherical frame to cover my burgundy top and said out of the corner of my mouth to Aisling, "If anybody looks at you, say, 'Colts! Yeeeaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!'"
"Why?" she asked absently, checking a package of fat-free crackers made of twigs and sphagnum moss for their calorie content. "Are the Colts playing today?"
I furtively glanced around. "I think so," I whispered. "And it must be big, because look at all the balloons."
Aisling put the crackers back on the shelf and glanced upward, where she took in the sight of about three thousand blue and white balloons cheerfully bobbing away, trailing their curling-ribbon streamers. "Whoa.....I think I kind of remember something about some off-plays, now that you mention it."
"Play-offs," I said helpfully. "I think they're called play-offs. Not off-plays.
"Great," she said in a bored voice. "Can we get some fat-free ice milk?"
I laughed shortly. "Not in this lifetime."
"Well, what can we get?"
I thought for a moment. "I think I'd better make something festive. How about some queso dip and tortilla chips?"
She eyed me with disdain. "Isn't that, like, fattening?"
"Yes, heaven be praised. It is entirely full of fat and calories and therefore will be worth eating," I said tartly, heading off to the aisle where the salsa lives.
On the way to get the chips, we passed a bakery table with chocolate cupcakes frosted with blue and white. And sprinkles. I put them in the cart with a feeling of satisfaction. Because, you know? I like to do my part. So I am ALL ABOUT supporting our local sports teams, especially the Colts, with that nice Patrick Manning boy.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Here's a nice picture of some students from Ave Maria University, which is Katie's oldest daughter's alma mater, marching in the cold and supporting the right of the most innocent and vulnerable among us to live.
And here's a quote from Mother Teresa, spoken at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washing D.C., February 1997, with President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton sitting right there behind her, trying to look like they hadn't just been slapped across the face with a pair of wet, dirty gym socks:
"What is taking place in America," Mother Teresa said, "is a war against the child. And if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?"
Please pray for an end to abortion.
Here's a link to a video on YouTube -- I can't get the video to format right, so I didn't post it here -- so that you can hear him for yourself in all his contemptuous, sexist, it's-way-past-time-to-retire-and-grow-hollyhocks stupidity. It never seemed to occur to the old coot that telling someone to "act like a lady" is JUST AS OFFENSIVE as being interrupted. Maybe even more so.
With the weather doing its weird thing lately -- temps in the teens, temps in the thirties, temps in the forties, sunshine, rain, sleet, snow and who knows what-all else -- it's just a fact that my head is going to hurt. It is my faithful barometer, one I've been able to depend on ever since I first starting getting sinus migraines in the second grade: My pediatrician thought I had a brain tumor or more likely that my GREAT BIG BRAIN was so smart that it was just, like, overflowing my head, I'm sure that's right, and sent me for x-rays. But no....it just turned out that my sinuses hate me.
My headache remedy is this: I start out with four ibuprofen tablets and a cup of coffee or tea for the caffeine. The microwave heating bag Katie made me -- Katie, bless you a THOUSAND TIMES for that wonderful thing -- feels very good on my neck. After I get those first four tablets down, I eat something with protein in it so that I won't get sick. Those of you who get bad headaches, whether they're sinus migraines or some other sort of hideousness visited upon you, know that there's a delicate balance between so much PAIN that you get sick to your stomach, or so much MEDICINE that you get sick to your stomach. Keep a little bit of food going, I find, and nausea is held at bay.
I swallow two acetaminophen tablets about half an hour after the ibuprofen. Then I wait about an hour and if I feel any better at all, I just stay in a holding pattern, applying caffeine and protein-y food judiciously. I am violently allergic to both aspirin and naproxen sodium (Aleve), so those meds are both out for me. I'm not really a candidate for actual migraine therapy, so I don't need the high-octane medications that several of my friends use.
If I don't feel better, I take two more ibuprofen.
The best thing I can do for a headache is to keep as still as possible -- walking or driving just make things worse -- and trying to distract myself from the pain, which is what I'm doing right now. Unlike "real" migraines like my friend Beth gets, I don't see an aura, which is the typical precursor of a migraine headache, I'm told, and I'm not sensitive to light, but sound? I'd prefer that all three dogs NOT bark at every single passerby that walks by the house. And even though I deeply love Chris Daughtry, there's only so much of him I can take when my head hurts.
If I just sit and do nothing, it makes my head hurt worse because all I can think is "Ow. My head hurts." The best thing for a sinus headache is listening to the television. Reading is second. Being on the computer is third best, which is why I'm planning on logging off...
What's your remedy for a bad headache?
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Pictured to the left, there, are Romola Garai, who plays darling, lovable Emma, and Jonny Lee Miller, who plays her devastatingly sweet and handsome (yet somehow overlooked) childhood friend George Knightley. I can hardly wait to see this version, knowing what a completely excellent job Masterpiece Theater did with the giggles-and-swoons inducing Pride and Prejudice, starring COLIN FIRTH OH MY HEAVENLY HANDSOMELY COLIN OF FIRTHISHNESS and that girl who played Elizabeth. Uhhhhh....Jennifer Ehle. Not that she wasn't completely adorable as Elizabeth, because she was, but COLIN FIRTH OH MY HEAVENLY HANDSOM-.....
Anyhoo, Emma will be airing in three episodes on your PBS affiliate from January 23 through February 7. Check your local listings and get those DVRs and TiVos set, ladies and girls. I would venture a guess that if you loved Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1996 cinematic version (which we surely did) and/or Kate Beckinsale in the also-1996 made-for-TV version (which we haven't seen), you will undoubtedly like Masterpiece Theater's version. From past experience, I predict that the costuming, scenery, screenplay and acting will be just about flawless.
Jane has redeemed January. I am happy now.
Monday, January 18, 2010
The thing that surprised us about the bath is how utterly filthy Zuzu was. Maybe because she's kind of brownish-tannish-greyish, she didn't really look dirty. She didn't smell dirty, as if she'd rolled in something unpleasant. But she did have a general air of insouciant bedragglement that reminded me of Anya leaving the orphanage in the movie Anastasia. Apparently beneath that jaunty surface, she was encrusted in grime, because the water that ran off her little body was the color of charcoal and fireplace ashes.
As with most first dog baths, she was not a happy camper. The water was warm, the shampooey massage comforting, my authoritative voice was low and pleasant. Zuzu didn't squeak, but she trembled so hard, it wrung our hearts.
"Do you think she's remembering being outside with all that snow and ice caked in her poor fur?" Aisling asked, lip trembling.
"I hope not," I said fervently. "I think I'll skip the conditioning rinse this time."
Aisling handed me the towels we'd warmed in the dryer and I wrapped Zuzu like a burrito and lifted her out of the sink, cradled in my arms, speaking soothingly in dulcet tones. We took her to the couch where I sat down with her in my lap and rubbed her gently. Her bones were still so very evident, particularly her ribs and her sharp little breastbone. Poor baby.
Wimzie and Hershey were totally underfoot, expressing their DEEPLY FELT CONCERN for the baby. Hershey planted his big hard paw right on my instep to give himself a little boost up so that he could sniff and make sure that I hadn't washed Zuzu in cheese or bacon fat. Wimzie stood up with her front paws braced on my knee and made sure that I hadn't washed Zuzu with plutonium soap or rinsed her with vodka.
"Ow, will you get off?" I said to Hershey, pulling my foot out from under his. "And Wimzie, back off, honey, so I can set the puppy on the floor."
Once on her feet, Zuzu careened around the downstairs like some kind of wind-up toy run amok. Her long floppy ears flew out behind her and her scampering paws thundered on the floor.
"This bath thing?" she indicated. "Not so much on the fondness for the wet and the bubbles." She expressed her exhilaration at Freedom from Sinkishness by jumping straight up in the air and pouncing on Hershey's back.
He shot me a sidelong glance and did everything but say, "Kids. What're you gonna do?" Then they chased each other around the coffee table four thousand times.
Wimzie, on the other hand, barked in a fussy, bossy manner. "You get right back up there and get wrapped in that towel. Go on! Do you want to catch your death-a cold? Don't make me come up on that couch! Don't make me tell you twice! And I'll thank you, young lady, not to roll your eyes at me."
After a few minutes of zooming around, Zuzu allowed that she'd like to be picked up and cuddled in the warm towel. We naturally obliged and she promptly fell asleep, yawning widely with her long, pink tongue poking out and a contented "wo-o-o-o-o-owww!"
We are so happy that she has joined our family. Sometimes I still find myself shaking my head and thinking, "Three dogs? Are you kidding me?" but it's okay. It's all good. Even if it does up the housework so that the living room won't smell like a kennel.
I know I did. And Meelyn and Ailsing sure did. Observing my niece, Kiersi, opening up her presents at her fourth birthday party recently, I found myself having as much fun watching her as she did exclaiming over the contents of all the boxes and bags. She was, appropriately, tickled pink.
Happy birthday, Miss Girl! We all love you so much.
The amazing thing about the FlyLady concept of cleaning, whether you follow her instructions to the T or whether you cobble together your own plan using her basic ideas, is that it really works. What I take from FlyLady is that you don't need to spend a million hours cleaning your house on the weekends, which is when you want to relax and have fun. Well do I remember the days of my youth when my mother would bang the vacuum cleaner against the bottom of my bedroom door to wake me up, insisting that I hit the deck and strip the sheets off my bed and get a can of Pledge in my left hand and a clean cloth in my right and MOVE-MOVE-MOVE!!!!
Geez, it was just terrible. It wasn't how I wanted to spend a Saturday morning then, and it sure isn't how I want to spend a Saturday morning now.
Instead, the girls and I made our plan so that we each do about twenty minutes of housework on the five workdays, with about ten minutes on Saturday and some laundry on Sunday. We start with the upstairs at the beginning of the week, ending with the downstairs by Friday, because that's the area guests are most likely to see.
Home schooling, I've found, is a synonym for clutter and clutter makes me crazy. To that end, we pick junk up as we clean, putting it away where it goes instead of stacking it on the stairs or on the dining room table.
Meelyn and Aisling work on a revolving schedule and I do the same chores every week.
Carrying on in this manner, we have managed to stick to our schedule and keep the house looking very nice for six months now: dirty dishes rarely in the sink, laundry clean and folded -- SHOCK! -- actually put away in closets and dressers, bathroom sinks and toilets cleaned several times weekly, bathtub and shower shiny-clean, stove un-spattered and microwave gleaming inside and out. Dust is whisked off all surfaces and the sofa pillows are attractively plumped -- unless a dog's head is resting on them.
It really has made the most amazing difference, that little bit of daily work. And its amazing how much more high def our television actually is whenever there's not an inch-thick layer of dust covering the screen.
Our success became the most apparent this past weekend when Mee and Aisli had guests over. In the past, the imminent arrival of company would have precipitated a storm of desperate cleaning that would have ended with flaring tempers, tears and exhausted frustration as we tried to dust, vacuum, clean the toothpaste flecks off the mirrors, wipe some spilled soup out of the fridge and try to make the living room smell like something other than wet dog.
Instead, Meelyn went off to work and Aisling and I took a calm, leisurely forty minutes to do our daily chores and a few extra tasks like setting out new hand soap in the bathrooms, pile some freshly-washed bath towels in the upstairs bathroom, stow away the dog toys that Zuzu had scattered all over the place and start a pot of coffee. It was so restful and it made me feel like an actual hostess -- a chatelaine, perhaps -- who had everything running smoothly for her guests' comfort and her own peace of mind, instead of a wild-eyed four-in-hand driver whose horses are careening madly out of control and headed for the edge of a cliff.
And I can't tell you how lovely it was to open the front door and be warmly smiling and free of care instead of sweaty, disheveled and clenched of jaw. Must have been better for the guests, too. Heh.
To help us keep things looking spiffy, check out the picture above:
Front row: Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, Satin Smooth fabric softener, Spray-and-Wash Stain Stick, The Works toilet cleaner, Freshine glass cleaner and Tundra bleach.
Back row: Freshine disinfectant wipes, Cascade dishwasher detergent, Tide laundry detergent and Tandril laundry detergent.
Here are some individual comments on these cleaning supplies:
Mr. Clean Magic Erasers -- These things are just, well....magic. I've never seen anything like them. Whether I use them on the fridge, on the woodwork, on the stove, or on the bathtub, they have this amazing ability to clean stuff like nobody's business. I've tried the knock-off brands, but I find that the originals last the longest and work the best. I just wait 'til they go on sale.
Satin Smooth fabric softener -- This is an ALDI product and honestly: I've tried the expensive stuff and I do agree that the fresh scent does last longer with the name-brand products, but that is the ONLY difference I can discern and since this bottle of Satin Smooth comes in two pleasant scents and lasts for a loooong time, PLUS is so inexpensive, I cheerfully buy it instead of the spendy stuff.
Spray-and-Wash Stain Stick/OxiClean Max Force Laundry Stain Remover Spray -- I use both of these products interchangeably for stain removal and they both work really well. If I had to pick a fave, I'd probably plump for the OxiClean, but the Stain Stick is no shirker. These are both name brand products, of course, and you can find knock-offs that are cheaper, but these two friends are the ones who have stuck with me through chocolate and blueberries, spaghetti sauce and mustard.
The Works toilet cleaner -- I find this stuff to be amazing. Now mind you, it smells just terrible, just exactly like those sanitizing disks that go in the men's room urinals at interstate rest stops. Utterly dreadful. But if you can just kind of, I don't know, hold your breath a little, you just won't be able to find anything to make your toilet cleaner, especially if you have hard water like we do. Seriously, our water is so hard, we practically suffer from internal bruising when gulping down a cold drink on a hot day. The Works removes and and all hard water deposits and here's my big secret -- it not only does this on toilets, but will also do this on sink or shower fixtures.
Listen up, though -- I use it VERY CAREFULLY on my sink and tub fixtures. I don't go squirting this stuff with wild abandon all over my marble tile surround, mostly because I don't have one, but even if I did, I'd know better than to use a caustic substance like an alkaline toilet cleaner on porous stone. So be careful, you know. Test the area with the hard water deposits beforehand. And wear gloves, okay?
The best thing about this product? You can buy it at Dollar Tree for yep, you guessed it, one slim George.
Freshine glass cleaner -- Yes, you can buy the name brand product and we all know what it's called and it works great. But the thing is, so does the Freshine, which is another ALDI product. And it is so very, very inexpensive. Give it a try!
Tundra bleach -- Bleach is bleach is pretty much bleach. Chlorine bleach! Very simple! Smells kinda yucky! Makes stuff white again! Disinfects all kind of germy junk! Don't spill it on your favorite black pants! Tundra is an ALDI product and super-cheap, works just great.
Freshine disinfectant wipes -- Oh, the ten kazillion happy uses for these little cloths. They're about the size of a baby wipe and come in a similar canister-style container. We use them to wipe down the outside of the toilets several times a week. We also use them to wipe out the sinks. I wipe down the kitchen countertops with them. If someone has a cold, I use them on the computer keyboard, the phone, the doorknobs. You get thirty-five wipes in two different fresh scents for about $1.79, which seems a little bit cheaper than the name brand or store brand products you can get at the more expensive chains. Maybe not, but they're convenient to grab when I'm picking up the rest of the ALDI cleaning stuff.
Cascade dishwashing detergent -- Because of the aforementioned hard water, this is the only kind of detergent that works well in our dishwasher. If we use cheap stuff, whether liquid or powder, the plates and glasses have a nasty streaky residue left on them that is just really unappetizing. The Cascade is really expensive, although it is slightly more reasonable at Wal-Mart than at the chain grocery stores. But it cleans the dishes, utensils, glasses, pots and pans better than anything else, so I'm willing to pay the extra.
Tide laundry detergent -- Ditto everything I said above about the Cascade, except substitute "clothing" for "dishes, utensils, glasses, pots and pans." It is 'spensive, but it works so well, I can't complain.
Tandril laundry detergent -- I use this ALDI product to wash the bath towels, kitchen towels, sheets and dogs' bedding; the Tide costs too much to use for the second-tier laundry. This was actually Kayte's idea because she washes so many towels, what with Matt being part fish and all with the swim team. It has really cut down on our laundry expenses, and everything gets clean and smells fresh and although I don't think the Tandril has quite the quality of Tide, it is a reasonable facsimile.
Do you have any favorite cleaning supplies that have stood the test of time and toughness? Please leave a comment if you do, or if you don't want to do that, email me at InsomniMom at live dot com.
It's my second week of Menu Plan Monday, and I have to say, everything was much easier last week. I mean, I always have a general idea of what I'm going to serve everyone for dinner, but having it posted on the internet made it feel so....official. And I am ALL ABOUT following rules and plans and schedules and schemes, except for Weight Watchers. Shut up.
This week features a lot of winter-type food, I noticed. Probably because it is. Winter. Blame it on the unrelenting streak of gloomy grey days we've been having, although I should probably bake some sort of celebratory cake that the single-digit cold snap is finally over. For now, anyway.
Monday: Chicken and homemade noodles with mashed potatoes and peas
Tuesday: Sausage gravy and biscuits with scrambled eggs
Wednesday: Mexican chili topped with shredded cheese, chopped green onions and corn chips
Thursday: Baked pork chops with dressing (maybe some green beans with that?)
Friday: Poured crust pizza with pepperoni, extra diced onion and mushrooms, with jalapeño peppers and maybe barbecue sauce instead of regular pizza sauce
This particular Monday in January, we're also a little sad because the weekend was so fun: the teen girl sleepover was a great success and our guests were lovely and we were sad to see them go.
Not even a cheerful printable calendar page with smiling snowmen can redeem January. Because for all we know? Those snowmen were insulting one another's mothers and kicking dirty snow onto each other right after their picture was snapped.
What I'm getting at is this: There are some mornings -- January mornings -- that even a snuggly puppy and cup of hot coffee with real half-and-half can't redeem. Ugh. It would be so nice to be able to go back to bed with the puppy and my microwave warming bags and sleep until, oh, I don't know.... April.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Mixing the end of the joyous Christmas festivities with the onset of the truly horrible weather we've been having -- snow out the wazoo, temperatures plummeting into the single digits -- and the resumption of SCHOOL has been a bitter, bitter pill.
"I hate school," Aisling declared frankly. "I hate biology, I hate Spanish, I hate algebra, I hate grammar, I hate-...."
"I sense you're working on a theme, here," I interrupted.
"Yes," she said shortly. "I hate history, I hate American Literature and, oh yeah, I hate doing chores and having chili for dinner forty-eight times a month." She opened her Biology I book with a snarled-up look on her face and said, "OH GREAT. AN EXPERIMENT. Do we have clear dishwashing liquid, an onion, some meat tenderizer, isopropyl alcohol and some sugar?"
"Yes to all of those things. Why is this experiment coming as such a surprise?" I queried, typing an email to Carol and Susie while I talked. "You told me you had an experiment for today on Monday and asked me then if we had all that stuff."
"I forgot," she said. "Hey. Why do you get to mess around on the computer while Meelyn and I have to sit here doing schoolwork."
Silently, I lifted one hand from the keyboard and pointed at my college diploma, which I have displayed on the top shelf of my desk's bookcase.
Aisling heaved a heavy sigh, grabbed up her biology textbook and left the room, murmuring. Meelyn, suffering in stoic silence, bent her head a little farther over her U.S. History text, so close that her forehead was almost touching the page.
"Didn't you put in your contacts this morning?" I asked.
"Yes," she replied wanly. "But life is so bleak and meaningless, all the words are running together in a dark grey blob."
I sighed and brought out my Secret Winter Weapon. "Why don't we plan a sleepover and invite a few of your friends over in a couple of weeks?"
Meelyn's head snapped up and a happy smile irradiated her face. Aisling burst through the kichen door, similarly glowy. The very air suddenly began to sparkle and the sweet golden warmth of a May morning suffused the room. I looked around, startled. It was like the spirits of fourteen Disney princess had suddenly invaded my home.
"Can we, Mommy?" they chanted, eyes bright. "Oh, can we? We won't complain about anything. We'll do all our chores really nice the first time and we won't complain about chili or school or the dumb weather, we promise. Oh, Mommy, you're the BEST MOM IN THE WHOLE WORLD!"
So we planned the party and three girls were invited, although one wasn't able to come. Because the girls both dearly wanted that one particular guest, I was somehow talked in to letting them have another sleepover at the end of February. I don't know what I was thinking. It must have been that sudden change from the frowny faces and the general air of doom and being made to feel as if I should be turned in to Child Protective Services for requiring my two home schooled teenagers to do algebra. I don't know. I guess I'm easy that way.
So! Sleepover! Home made pizza and monkey bread and popcorn and Season One of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The guests will be here between three o'clock and three-thirty and I'm guessing that the waiting for that time to arrive will be almost as difficult as waiting for Christmas a month ago.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Here's how Zuzu has spent her time today:
7:00 a.m. -- Bark! bark-bark-bark! Time to go outside, so hurry-hurry-hurry!!! (No mess in the crate for the third night running, excellent.) Pooped and peed outside, much praise from Dad.
7:15 - 9:00 -- Time for breakfast, two little scoops of puppy chow and a little warm milk. Fresh water. Gobble breakfast, gobble-gobble-gobble. Check out older dogs' breakfast. They do not wish to share. THEY DO NOT WISH TO SHARE. Feelings hurt, run to Meelyn or Aisling.
9:00 -- Find stuffed duck in toy basket. That's a duck that needs some killing. Throw duck in air. Pounce on duck. Chew on duck. Grip duck in teeth and shake-shake-shake. Grow bored with duck, remove rest of toys from basket and leave strung all over the living room floor.
9:30 - 10:00 -- So tired. So veryveryvery tired. Must find place to snooze. Mom is sitting on couch reading book. Looks warm. Looks comfy. Sleeeeeeeep.......
10:00 -- Wha-...??!! Whoa. WHAT'S GOING ON??!!! Is that the next door neighbor? And doesn't she appear to be engaged in the heinous crime of strapping her one-year-old baby into a pink polka dot car seat??!! THE GALL OF THAT WOMAN. SHE MUST BE BARKED AT. A LOT. IN A HIGH PITCHED REGISTER THAT MAKES ALL HUMANS IN THE ROOM CLAP THEIR HANDS TO THE SIDES OF THEIR HEADS! BARK! BARK-BARK-BARK!!!!
10:05 -- Garbage truck arrives. Ditto.
10:07 -- Pedestrian. Ditto.
10:20 -- Lawyer briskly strides by carrying briefcase on way to city court. Ditto.
10:21 -- Mom sternly threatens to send puppy to the crate. Works on teaching command not to bark. Not that it works with the older dogs or anything, couldn't help but notice, but will try to appear attentive.
10:40 -- Alternate playing and barking, barking and playing. Then napping.
10:57 -- Oops. Puddle.
11:30 -- Lunch!!! More scoops of food in bowl with milk!! Very tasty!! Older dogs still not inclined to share and reject friendly offer to help them eat their food.
12:00 -- Outside! Beginning to recognize what that means!! A chance to smell the smells of all those other dogs in the neighborhood. Have never met, nose-to-butt, but already feel familiar. Cozy feeling. Much better than wandering country lanes, scared of coyotes and hawks. WHAT THE FREAKING FREAK IS THAT SMELL??!! A FREAKING SQUIRREL??!! NO WAY. [barks until tumbles over in snow, is borne ignominiously away into the house by Meelyn, barking over her shoulder] Squirrels will not be tolerated.
1:00 - 2:15 -- Girls gone to gym. Very sad. Very lonely. Except, wait! There is mom! Can sit with her! Lick her face! Bite her hair! Press puppy nose into side of neck! Snuffle at ear! Then fall asleep, flat on back, with all paws dangling in the hair. [Mom pleased to note that tummy is growing rounder]
2:15 -- My name is Zuzu. I recognize it. Will even respond to "Zooey Bear" and "Zuzulicious." I am much smarter than my brother, Hershey, who finally learned to respond to his name after FIVE MONTHS. He really is as dumb as he looks, but don't tell the family because they seem fond of him.
2:30 -- Am very fond of Cheez-It crackers. Delicious. Excellent snack for afternoon.
2:35 - 3:15 -- Sleep on couch with older dogs, all in a heap. Very warm. Feel loved. Yawn with tongue out and make squeaky sound; girls and Mom all laugh.
3:15 - 3:37 -- Play game of chase with Hershey. Run-run-run!!! Bark-bark-bark!!! Try to keep him from taking my tennis balls. Jump clear over him at one point, like cow jumping over moon. Wimzie reluctantly joins in, fearing she will be accused of being boring and elderly. She is, but it's probably best that we not tell her. Our little secret. Shhh.
Lots of day left!!! Playing is fun!! Eating older dogs' food is fun!! Chewing on pencils is fun!!! Trying to sleep on Wimzie's special own bed is fun!!! Being forcibly kicked out of that bed by its owner is not all that much fun!!!! Dragging Aisling's sneaker around by the laces is fun!!!
Looking into front of dishwasher and barking at that strange puppy there is fun, but also disturbing. Where is this other dog? Why no smell? Friend of squirrels? Highly likely. Sworn enemy.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I don't know what the weather's like where you are, but here? It has been awful. Beyond awful. All the way to completely and utterly sucktastic, what with the single-digit "highs" and the wind chill factors that make the inside of your nose freeze up when you take a breath and the house constantly being cold and not being able to put enough clothes on, feels like, to ward off the chill. Ugh. I have hated every single second of it, and if you live someplace where it is currently 82 degrees and you're getting ready to go to the beach, just hush yourself right now. No one likes a bragger.
From the Indianapolis forecast for this week, though, I have taken heart. It's still going to be pretty darned cold today, but tomorrow is looking better. Thursday's nicer still, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday? I might be able to get away with only one pair of thick socks underneath my snow boots. I couldn't help but notice that the low temperatures for the week are higher than the high temps for last week. Brrrr.
My fellow blogger Sharon of The Bird's Nest alerted me to this bit of web-wide fun, started by Laura on her blog, which is called I'm an Organizing Junkie. Last week was an unprecendented week for Laura, since she had over five hundred people participating in Menu Plan Monday and linking to her blog, which would be very exciting. I'm thinking of starting my own web-wide bit of wonderment, perhaps titling it "Flounder Flop Friday" and encouraging people to link to InsomniMom with their stories of how their energy has totally given out by the end of the week. Think it'll be a success? Hmmm.
Anyway, I may be an excellent candidate for the motivational hints and general helpfulness of Laura's excellent blog because here is my list for Menu Plan Monday.... and hello, Tuesday? All I can say in my defense is that, well, I was busy. Doing stuff. Oh, not my chores or anything, but just busy. Maybe playing with the puppy. Shut up.
Without further ado, then, here goes - my very first Menu Plan Monday. All food was shopped for yesterday afternoon, so see? I did do something.
Menu Plans for the week of January 11, 2010
Monday - Ham and Corn Chowder with Soft Pretzels. This soup was so bad, I am not including a link to the recipe because none of us did more than pick at it. It could be used in battle as culinary warfare. The pretzels were good, though.
Tuesday - Spaghetti and garlic toast (with the ragù sauce made from my mom's recipe) Whole wheat pasta is what we use.
Wednesday - Fifteen-Bean Soup and cornbread (made from beans from N.K. Hurst, which is right here in Indianapolis. The recipe, which is fabulous, can be found on the bag the beans come in and it is so perfect for a frigid, snowy night. And listen, I've eaten a lot of cornbread in my day, including the authentic kind you bake with bacon drippings in a skillet? And I've never found any cornbread better than what comes from an inexpensive little box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix.
Thursday - Breakfast for Dinner - scrambled eggs, sausage links and potato puffs (baked in the oven, not fried).
Friday - Meelyn and Aisling are having a sleepover, so the girls and their guests are going to make Poured Crust Pizzas in my cast iron skillets, decorating them with the toppings of their choice.
I'm going to have a couple of different kinds of shredded cheese available for the pizzas, plus diced onions and green peppers, mushrooms, pre-cooked sausage and pepperoni. For dessert, the girls want a dish of M&Ms and some of Dorie Greenspan's Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters, which can be found on page 73 of her excellent book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. For snacks later on, I'll just pop a big bowl of popcorn.
Monday, January 11, 2010
We have had two of the inevitable puddles and one incident of poopy, but so far, she has followed the example of Hershey and Wimzie and done all her business outside. This morning when my husband went downstairs at 7:30 to take the dogs outside, her little sleeping area was clean, so we were very proud of her.
We taught her how to go down the steps this morning; going up didn't pose a problem, but down? The very idea of going down made her bark in a sharp series of violent squeaks, like someone stepping repeatedly on a rubber ducky. It only took her a moment to figure out how to do it, largely due to the example of Hershey, who grew weary waiting for her to go down and pushed past us all with an apologetic look at me. "I'm sorry, but I am late for an appointment with the couch," he indicated as he went by.
Last night, Zuzu slept on a blanket on the floor covered by an inverted laundry basket. We pushed it right up to the doors of the older dogs' crates, knowing that being with them would comfort her. She yipped unhappily for about half an hour but then settled down and slept all night, which I thought was pretty impressive.
She's eating four small meals daily of IAMS puppy food slightly soaked in milk. The milk probably isn't necessary because her adult teeth are coming in, but it just makes me feel better to know that she has warm food in her stomach. We had to teach her how to drink out of the water bowl and she doesn't really understand the concept of dog treats -- it's funny to see the singular habits of a pup who's been out in the wild for who-knows-how-long.
Zuzu seems to be a mixture of several kinds of dogs. Her face is shaped like a Scotty or a schnauzer, complete with the beard and mustache and eyebrows. Her bangs and body, however, are curly like a poodle's, and her long, thin tail is feathery. Her eyes are the peculiar greenish-gold of a Weimaraner and her fur is a mixture of cocoa, gunmetal grey and caramel, kind of like the color you might get if you smeared a Twix bar on a rifle. I know that sounds hideous, but she's really terribly cute, especially when beating up on the large stuffed duck she stole from Aisling's room.
She and Hershey had a lot of fun chasing each other through the living room, around the coffee table, into the dining room and around the dining room table and back again. They were making a lot of noise, what with the thundering paws and Hershey's beagle bark, which sounds like "Booooorrrrk! Booouuurrrrrrrrrk!" and Zuzu's bark, which sounds like "Squeak! Squeak! Squeak-squeak-squeak!!!" Only high and shrill enough to make you feel like a screwdriver is being stuck through your ear, especially if you're holding her and she's looking over your shoulder when she does it.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Last night, with temperatures plummeting into the single digits, was definitely a three-dog night around here, but it ended up being much more literal than we'd ever figured.
Aisling and I both grumpily got up yesterday morning for our first week of religious education -- she in Confirmation class, me teaching 7th/8th grades -- since before Christmas. With the outside temperature hovering at a balmy SEVEN DEGREES, it was not my favorite sort of morning for getting into the cold van and driving, even though we took the sensible precaution of heating up many microwave heating bags and taking them along with us. Also by stopping and getting very large cups of coffee at our favorite mini-mart.
"Do you think the people arriving for 10:30 Mass would find it odd if I went into the coffee room after religious ed and warmed up a few of these bags for the ride home?" I asked Aisling, whose teeth were chattering.
"Yes, they will think you are weird," she shivered from behind her scarf. "But I will think you are weird too, and that's what really matters."
We drove on, sipping our coffee and luxuriating in our heating bags and faithful Anne was pumping out hot air at a steady pace not too far into our journey. After class, we climbed back in, disconsolately noting that not only did no heat remain, but also that we had no hot coffee and no microwave heating bags.
"I could just slip right in there-..." I began hopefully.
"No," said Aisling firmly interrupted. "No, you cannot use the church's microwave for heating up these dumb bags. Just suck it up and drive, Mom."
So we set off, noting that the country roads and lanes around the church weren't plowed nearly as efficiently as our in-town roads. The snow is deep and the ice is treacherous, and all in all, I was looking terribly forward to getting home to the warm house and having a nourishing bowl of soup while wearing my fuzziest slippers. It was truly not a morning outside for man or beast.
We found this out for certain approximately three seconds later when we turned onto a small road, a snowy country shortcut that lops a few minutes off our time. As we rounded the corner, Aisling and I simultaneously caught sight of a small, curly puppy struggling in the deep snow of a large front lawn, headed for the road where the going wasn't as difficult.
"MOMMY, THERE'S A PUPPY!" Aisling shrieked.
"AISLING, THERE'S A PUPPY!" I yelled.
I brought the van to a halt and said, "Aisling, get out and grab that puppy. It can't stay out in the snow in this kind of weather. It's going to freeze to death."
Aisling hopped out and the puppy floundered through the last few remaining yards separating it from the road. It was a friendly little thing and wagged its way up to Aisling, who scooped it into her arms and received a thorough face-kissing that was very endearing.
As she climbed back into the van with the dog, we heard a volley of outraged barking. Looking out, we saw a mother dog: thin, so horribly thin that I could see her ribs beneath her ragged coat even from a distance. Her fur was dirty and matted and there was a dark spot on her left side that looked like a wound, as if she'd been hit a glancing blow from a car or tangled with a coyote. The mother barked and barked as Aisling and I sat uncertainly there in the van, cuddling the pup.
"I don't think they could possibly belong to the people in one of these houses," I said, indicating the two four-acre properties on our right, each gorgeous house set well back from the road with sweeping drives approaching gracious entrances.
"That mother dog looks so skinny and filthy," Aisling said as the puppy relaxed in the warmth of her arms. The poor baby's bony little body was literally encrusted in snow, big matted balls of ice tangling the curly fur. We warmed my big scarf at the vent as we sat there and wrapped her in it (I did a quick underneath check to determine the gender); Aisling warmed our gloves on her hands and then used her body heat to melt the ice off the sturdy little legs and tail. Through all this, the puppy vibrated with chills like she was running on batteries, her golden eyes anxious in spite of her placating demeanor.
I looked out at the mother, who retreated to a greater distance, still barking loudly. Her frailty was even more apparent as we watched her shaking from the cold. All of a sudden, I knew the explanation for the presence of these two dogs on this lonely road: they'd been abandoned there by their former owners in the hopes that some kind, animal-loving family in one of the beautiful homes in the area would take them in. Obviously, that plan hadn't worked.
I've seen this kind of wretched treatment doled out to dogs before: Every dog Ma and Grandad ever had in their house out in the boondocks of Henry County came to them as an abandoned stray. Ma couldn't resist a hungry dog -- truth be told, neither could Grandad, although he did his share of grumbling about the hundred-pound bags of Purina Dog Chow that sometimes tipped over and scattered nuggets all over the garage floor.
Strangely enough, I'd just heard a local news report on Friday commenting on the enormous numbers of abandoned pets in the area; due to the horrible economy, people are having to move out of their houses and either can't take their pets with them to a new place, or can't afford to feed them. Maybe both. The humane society and animal rescue agencies in the area are full to overflowing, with far more pets being dropped off than being adopted. But better to leave a dog to the mercies of an animal shelter than to just open the car door and leave house pets to the miseries of a cold snap in an Indiana January.
"We can't save the mother," I said, tears in my eyes. "She's too timid to approach us and she could be so sick and hurt and hungry that she'd be a danger if we tried to catch her." The mother dog was a bit bigger than Hershey, maybe a fifty to fifty-five pound dog when in health. With the instinct of a mother to protect her young plus the other factors, I knew it just wasn't possible, but it just about killed me. I put the van in drive and pulled away.
"We can save this one, though," Aisling murmured, tucking the puppy under her chin.
We did take the step of calling my husband and alerting him to the fact that we were coming home WITH OUR NEW DOG, giving him about twenty minutes to process that information. Predictably, he spluttered, "Huh? What? A new WHAT? Where did you- ...oh, crap. Do you know how much it's going to- .....oh, crap. Puppies are a complete pain in the- ......ohhhhh, crap...."
Meelyn, who officially graduated from mandatory religious education classes last year with her confirmation, met us at the back door. "Oooohhh," she breathed, taking one look at the damp, bedraggled baby in Aisling's arms. "Look how sweet she is!"
Hershey and Wimzie were entranced by the new arrival, circling around us and sniffing with interest.
Hershey: "What the heck is this thing??"
Wimzie: "Oh. One of those things."
The puppy stared down from the shelter of Aisling's grasp and went, "Squeak!! Squeak-squeak!"
Hershey and Wimzie were both struck dumb with amazement. They looked at each other. They looked at the puppy. Then they both turned and looked at me.
"You brought me a new baby sister!" Hershey wagged, prancing up a bit on his back legs like a circus dog to smell the puppy.
"What fresh hell have you visited upon me now?" Wimzie asked dourly and plopped down on the floor to lick her nether regions.
Following the advice of Cesar Milan, we let the three dogs get to know one another in their own way. The puppy was scared to death at first, but Hershey and Wimzie lazily sniffed her and then wandered off to take naps. Within an hour, the puppy was snoring blissfully on my left, wearing one of Wimzie's old fleece jackets and enjoying the comfort of a microwave heating bag and a swaddling blanket and Wimzie was on my right, snoring blissfully and covered from nose to tail with the same throw blanket that was covering me. Hershey was stretched out between Meelyn and Aisling, his head on Meelyn's lap and his back feet on Aisling's.
"Now all we need is one more dog so that you can have one to cuddle too," I said slyly to my husband.
"All we need is one more hole in the head," my husband opined gloomily. "Or maybe I should make that one more hole in my wallet, to make it easier for the money to pour out."
I know. I know. It's going to be expensive. But I honestly don't know what else we could have done. I don't really believe in coincidences, so my thought is that we happened along that country road at exactly the right time to rescue that puppy. Jesus knows us, and he knows that we are not the kind of people who could leave a defenseless puppy there to freeze to death in the cold and snow. It was already bad enough leaving the mother behind, but we were given the chance to save that little dog, so we took it and I guess we'll have to hope that blessings will come from it and that this baby will be a sweet addition to our family.
We named her Zuzu, after George Bailey's youngest daughter in It's a Wonderful Life. Zuzu was George and Mary's little girl who came walking home from school with her coat unbuttoned and caught a cold; George visited her upstairs in her bed and put Zuzu's ruined flower petals in his pocket. Zuzu knew that whenever you hear bells, that means an angel has won his wings. Long live Zuzu!