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I’ve been so busy over the last two weeks that I have hardly had time to breathe, let alone write. Rest assured that I have been reflecting upon many deep thoughts and if I can ever retrieve them from the recesses of my brain, I will be sure to post them. In the meantime, I give you this little bit of crazy:

Yesterday, like so many days, was a whirlwind. Unlike so many days, my scheduled activities required that I fire the few cylinders left in my head. By late-afternoon, I was mentally exhausted. I mean I could barely speak. In fact, I stopped speaking altogether after leaving the very expensive, yet-healthy-and-delicious grocery store where I purchased two pounds of grass-fed, organic, locally butchered, pre-cooked meatballs from their deli case because I could not bear the idea of making dinner from scratch.

If you follow OINKtales on Facebook, you know that I have been carbohydrate-free since Monday and that I have been more tired and even crankier than usual (if that’s possible). How I miss my beloved bagels, pastas and cereals! I agreed to try this experiment at my husband’s suggestion. “Let’s do it for a week,” he said. I’m pretty sure that he wanted me to do it so that I would cook for him. When he’s done Atkins’ in the past, I told him he was on his own in the kitchen and then continued to prepare delicious meals like lasagna and homemade macaroni and cheese for the kids and I. (If it was for any other reason, he hasn’t said…and if there is one, he had better not.)

But I digress. Back to the story. Small and Medium are in the midst of a tickle fight in the back seat of my car. I am trying to ignore them while I drive and daydream about beef. As I turn into our neighborhood, my cell phone rings. It is one of Large’s friends asking to set up a playdate. My carb-deprived brain stops listening when it registers that it’s seeing two escaped prisoners. I toss my phone on the passenger’s seat and slam on my brakes. My next-door neighbor’s golden retrievers are headed for adventure on the open road. They are the picture of happiness – tongues lolling and tails waving. For a long second I debate: should I let them go or try to catch them?

I spring from the car whistling and calling to them. I don’t know their names. They come over to me anyway and I grab their collars. They are huge dogs. I am wearing heels. Neither dog appreciates being caught and they begin twisting and pulling to get away. I struggle to keep my balance and hang on. In this moment, I come to the instant and awful realization that with both of my hands full of furry beast, I can do nothing else. Thankfully, I am rescued by another neighbor who weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet. “Can I help?” Neighbor #2 shouts.

“Yes!” I yell back, relieved. “Can you grab a dog?”

In the transfer, one of the dogs escapes. Neighbor #2 runs after him. I look back at our cars and see that my children and one of her two children have unbuckled their seat-belts and are standing in the middle of the road. “Get back in the car!” I say sharply. Neighbor #3 drives up, dodges me, the children, my other neighbor and the dogs all the while gawking at us and continues on his merry way. Neighbor #4 pulls up in her SUV. “Everything okay?”

I explain the situation. Neighbor #2 has caught the other dog again. Neighbor #4 generously offers to put the dogs in the back of her SUV. We get one dog in; the other dog runs off. Neighbor #2 chases. I tell Neighbor #4 which house to drive to and follow her, scolding my children to buckle in as we’re driving, hoping the dogs’ owner is home.

I bang on my next-door neighbor’s outside breezeway door. Just when I think no one’s there, the inside breezeway door is opened by a bare-chested, pajama-panted teenage boy that I have not seen in the seven years my next-door neighbor and I have been neighbors. The teen takes one look at me, blanches, and before I can say anything, closes the door in my face.

Now, I don’t think I’m scary looking. At least most of the time. And in this particular instance, I was wearing pants and a shirt that required ironing before I donned them, the aforementioned heels, lipstick and mascara. Maybe he thought I was a Jehovah’s Witness come to proselytize. Maybe he thought I was a Mary Kay representative. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. All I wanted was to return the damn dog whose origins I was now questioning. Incredulous, I turn to Neighbor #4 who, because of me, is late for an appointment. “I have no idea,” I say to her. “Maybe he went to get a shirt.”

I send Medium home to get our dog leashes, then bang on the door some more, pace, and think dark thoughts about teens today. Neighbor #4 supervises her children and mine and checks her watch. Medium returns with the dog leashes and her father. We leash the dog and encourage Neighbor #4 to get going but she can’t because I unthinkingly parked behind her. I ask my husband to take Medium and our car home.

The door opens half-way and the teen – now shirted – sidles out. His eyes widen at the number of strangers in the driveway. “Dude,” I say impatiently and probably a little shrilly, “We have your dog!”

“Whaat?” He acts baffled and is seemingly unable to look at me. “I didn’t know even know they were out,” he mumbles.

I am irritated and indignant. “It IS your dog, isn’t it? The other one is running up the road and another neighbor is trying to catch him.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Uh, yeah!” I snort.

Neighbor #2 pulls up in her car with the second dog. The teen brings the first one into the house. As he is wordlessly bringing the second dog inside, I call to him sarcastically, “Thank you!” He doesn’t respond.

I need carbs. F#%k this diet.

By the way, in case you’re interested, the house on the other side of ours is for sale.

My daughter was born with an old soul. She is more mature than her six years allow and generally conducts herself in a manner above reproach. She notices the smallest details while keeping the big picture in mind. She plans ahead; laying out her clothes the night before she wears them, making sure her bookbag is packed and ready for library day, spotting and collecting items for future projects of her own design. She is a quiet, but undeniable presence in our house. A smile from Nora is a true gift.

She also has a mile-wide stubborn streak. Once she has made up her mind, there is no moving her. And Lord, I have tried. Her dissents are typically measured and yet, forceful. To wit: the other day, we disagreed on a point. I wanted all the kids to go outside and play. She lobbied to stay inside. I gave her a choice: Go outside for a while and then play video games or stay inside and find something else to do while the other kids played video games. She firmly informed me that these options were unacceptable and stalked off to her room. She did not slam the door.

Hours later, after the cycle of diplomatic entreaties, acknowledgements and apologies was long completed, my husband came home. “Did you see Nora’s note?” he asked me, laughing.

“What note?”

“Oh!” said Nora, looking up from her snack. “It’s kind of funny, now.” She seemed a little sheepish.

I went upstairs. This is the note she wrote to me:

She’s a pistol; there’s no denying it.

I am reluctant to ring in the new year. For when I do, I will be that much closer to someone’s teen years.

Here’s to 2011, anyway!



Robert Frost meet Taro Gomi

I’m fairly certain that this is considered an inappropriate subject but I am going to talk about it nonetheless. This is one advantage of being a little-read blogger. Another is that you don’t have to send out the annual Christmas newsletter because your friends and family have been reading installments all year.

I want to talk about poop. Every member of my family has a poop thing. A few of us like to disappear into the bathroom with reading material and hang out for an indecent amount of time. One of us doesn’t check to make sure he has wiped well enough and so another of us is constantly finding skid marks on his undies on laundry day. Somebody has to be constantly reminded to flush. But when it comes to making Number 2, no member of our family can top the pooping rituals of our family dog.

I’ve explained previously that Paco is a runner. He is, therefore, leash-bound. I am thinking he has some beagle in him because his nose is permanently attached to the ground as soon as we step outdoors. Three seasons of the year, this is fine. Our neighborhood is close to wooded walking trails and in the woods, he is happy. His curly tail bounces, his mouth splits in a doggy grin. When he sees an evergreen scrub tree he circles it like a predator, pees on it several times and then, if the leash holder is lucky, one of his “marks” will turn into a three-legged poop. It’s bizarre. He balances his weight on his front paws (the same paws that he tends to pee on) holding one of his back legs out to the side while arching his back. If a scrub tree is not available, woe is the walker for Paco will only drop the bomb if he is backed up into something prickly. He prefers hemlocks over spruce and pine; he eschews all hardwood varieties. Occasionally, he’ll decide mid-spin that the setting is not quite right and will abort the poop by tugging his human companion to another tree, thereby causing him or her to complain loudly about how weird he is.

Winter has just begun and Paco has already decided that the fluffy white crystals covering his static prey have made them undesirable. The white stuff has so muffled the smells of the woods that it is taking him longer and longer to do his business. When his handlers’ fingers and toes are numb, they beg him to poop on something. When he doesn’t, they conclude he has had ample time to go and will trudge back to the house through the knee deep snow muttering obscenities. On these failed poop days, he will attempt to sneak away to a corner of the living room, release his bowels, and then frolic around in a happy dance. He is often successful. Once, he squeezed out a stealth poop on the cushion of our friends’ couch minutes after we arrived at their house where we were staying for the weekend.

I am at wits end. He is making me crazier than I already am. My children are no longer in diapers. I am done with other mammals’ poop. Is there such a thing as Metamucil for dogs?

Small has his heart set on a being a bad guy this Halloween. He wants to be a Goomba.

“A what?” I asked.

“Mom, they’re the little mushroom guyth on Thuper Mario Brotherth.”

I hadn’t a clue. Showing more patience with me than I often do with him, he flipped open our Nintendo DS (yes, we have one – I relaxed my stance on hand-held video devices after the kids saved their allowances for three months to buy one).

“Look, I’ll show you,” he said.

Thanks to the internet and an inspired mom who blogs at What I Made Today, I now know exactly how to turn Henry into the creature of his dreams.

As soon as his father came home, Henry danced over, exclaiming, “I get to be a Goomba for trick or treat!”

Brendan shot a confused look over at me then scraped the backs of his fingers under his chin in a gesture he must have picked up in college. “He’s gonna be a mobster for Halloween?”

“A mon-ster, Daddy,” Henry corrected. “A Goomba monster!”

I think the mobster costume might be easier to make.

The backpacks are packed and lined up in a row next to the front door, which is open so I can listen for the whine of the school bus’s brakes. The kids are up, washed, dressed and picking at their bagels like birds. They are too excited and anxious to eat. It’s the first day of the school year.

Large leaves first, pushing his glasses against his face as he trudges to the bus stop. He is nervous about riding a school bus full of high schoolers (“They’re animals, Mom. Some of them shave twice a day!). I reassure him. Then I tell him to find a seat in the front of the bus.

Medium goes next, after happily posing for first-day-of-school pictures with her younger brother. She can’t wait to get to her classroom and see her friends.

Brendan and I drive Henry to his pre-school. In no time at all, he is busy in the sandbox playing with another kid, whose name I didn’t catch even though I made him tell me three times.

I drop my husband off at work, nod when he reminds me to call the repair shop that is holding our other vehicle hostage, and loop home. From the couch, the dog acknowledges my return by briefly opening his eyes and twitching his tail a couple of times. He continues to nap as though I hadn’t interrupted.

The silence is deafening.

I take a deep breath. And then another. I do not turn on the radio. I do not turn on the television. I allow the quiet to envelop me and I revel in it.

Last week another mom said to me, “I’m so sad when they all go back to school. I miss them so much during the day.”

I managed to hold my tongue but my eyebrows hit my hairline. “Mmm.” I said.

I love my kids. I do. But I do not spend one minute of the nine hours a week that I get to be alone missing them.

Someday, I am sure that I will re-read these posts and remember my children when they were still children and I will, in fact, miss them.

But that time is in the distant future. Right now, this man’s joy is my own:

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