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Mom, Growing Up

October 15th, 2006

One of the blogs that I regularly read for its gorgeous prose and thought-provoking posts, The Wallpaper of My Mind, caught my breath tonight.   Her entry from Friday,  speaks some of the most beautiful words a mother could about the lovely and sometimes heartbreaking sacrifice it can be to put all of your life’s ambition on hold to stay home a raise a child.   Not that this sacrifice is not both noble and exciting.   The rewards are priceless, the thrill of watching your little one morph from a helpless infant into a little person is incredible joy.   And yet…

And yet there are things that you may want to do that you slowly realize you may never will.   Pieces of yourself, preferences, idiosyncrocies even, that you have to deny and suppress, all for the greater good of staying home to be with your child.   There are no lazy afternoons, sitting at cafes, reading and writing, sipping coffee and letting the air and the setting envelop you.   That was something I used to do several times a week when I was single… and I kind-of know that those days won’t really come back again for a long, long time.  

Oh, but I wouldn’t trade a minute, a second of this blissfully wild life of motherhood for a thousand sun-soaked afternoons at a sidewalk cafe.   You see, Kenny fills me up with something I didn’t know was missing until I had him.   Just like my marriage to Casey has made me  more than I was before, and deeper than I could have been alone.   Just like God created us to become man and wife, no longer two, but one.   Just like He called us to live in community, to have families and to put others before ourselves.   That’s why I stay home.   I want to watch my little one in all his triumphs and trials; I want to take care of my home so that Casey can come home to a haven.   I want to give more than I take from the people I love most in the world.

But just today I caught myself several times in a silent “woe is me” state, staring into space  with tears threatening to spill out of my eyes.   Why?   Because I couldn’t sit through a whole church service without pulling out cheerios and toys from my purse, only to end up in the fellowship hall  anyway during the sermon.   Because I couldn’t go for a long bike ride in the autumn air and forget about the clock.   Because I remembered all the housework I’m behind on and laundry to fold instead of just enjoying the day and loving on my man and my boy.  

After reading Misha’s post, I find myself contemplating the depth of love that I have for Casey and Kenny.   Remembering the miracle that is my marriage, the miracle that is our child and the incredible blessing that our life is.   Is it possible to remember to keep that at the forefront of my head all the time, instead of indulging myself in the selfish attitude I so often find myself in?   I resolve to try.   Because I really wouldn’t trade any of this for the world.

The Agony of Success

October 14th, 2006

Kenny is thirteen months and five days old, and is still nursing.   Yes, I had planned to “nurse for the first year” in that vague, wholesome sounding way.   But little did I know that the reality would be a much more difficult undertaking… my boy is hooked!

However, today is the first day that I have seen evidence that the end is really in sight.   You see, he woke up at 12:23 AM and screamed and screeched until I gave into going into his room and nursing him back to sleep (why is he suddenly waking up in the middle of the night, after beign an all-nighter for so long??), and he didn’t want  my milk  again until 6:30 PM this evening, when it was time for bed.   I even tried to  get him to nurse  at 3 PM, partly because of my own discomfort, and partly because he was getting cracky, but he was way more interested in playing with the helium balloon in the living room than in cuddling close to Mommy.

This is the first day that he didn’t have at least a little milk at breakfast time, or at least a little during the “witching hour.”   One feeding in the whole day, and even that was half-hearted and sleepy.   I can’t believe it.   I’m a little hurt, and hurting a lot.   That is to say, my feelings are a little wounded, that he didn’t want Mommy at all for nourishment today (though that is my goal, right?), and I’m hurting because my poor body isn’t quite ready to go it cold-turkey.     I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I think that it might be a relief if he wakes up in the middle of the night tonight and wants a little of  the good stuff.

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A Day at the Pumpkin Patch

October 12th, 2006

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I never thought that a day at the pumpkin patch could be so much fun. I never would have believed that Kenny could enjoy it so much:

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…The maze of haystacks, which he ran through after the “big kids”…

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…the “Pumpkin Bowling,” which showed off his pitching abilities…

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And the beauty of the autumn day…

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Yet another reminder that my little boy is no longer a baby, but a little kid! You’d think after all that running around, Kenny would crash into a two hour nap when we got home, but I think all that fresh air energized him. He was more of a joyous circus today than the last week combined. By dinner time, though, he was a Rascal with a capital R. Pizza (which I fixed as a treat, by the way) went flying off his tray, the sippy cup was catapulted into the air and and skid across the hardwood floor, and Dudley ate more than his fair share of cheese. I actually gave into the war cry of “CRACKER!” only to be thanked by Kenny practicing his discus throw with the first three of them.

So bedtime was a little early, Casey is at the Met’s vs. Cardinals playoff game (lucky man) and I am wiped out, sitting on the couch, belly unsettled from cold pizza and mushy crackers. ( I still can’t make myself throw away all that food! I’m hopeless.) I’m wondering if there is a way I can justify going to bed at eight PM. You see, the weaning is going “well” – Kenny is down to three feedings a day, and none of them are very significant. But he has somehow gone from a kid that would sleep straight through from six-thirty to six-thirty, to waking up at three-thirty every morning, wanting milk. And not just a little. We’re talking thirty minutes worth. I can’t believe how exhausting it is. I was finally taking sleeping through the night for granted! I tried letting him cry a few times, but he will go on for an hour, more frantic and insistent as each minute passes. I know I need to be strong and just not get up for him, but I always second guess myself… is he cold? wet? did he poop? Did he lose his “Baa” (the stuffed sheep he sleeps with)? Is he stuck in the blanket? Is there a bee in his pjs?

You see how exhausting that is. So I can hardly convince myself to ignore his cries and go back to sleep.

Maybe I can figure out a way to get Dudley to go in and check on him.

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Monster Kisses

October 11th, 2006

Kenny has become quite fond of giving kisses.   And you usually know when they’re coming because he’ll rear back, open his mouth as wide as possible, and smack his entire face right into yours with the full velocity his little body will allow.   It really is a little terrifying, even in its adorableness, to see his head coming towards you with such force and speed.   And his teeth are sharp!!   Hence the “monster kisses” moniker.  

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He is also starting to love giving hugs.   Is there anything sweeter than being wrapped in the arms of a little person that you have been holding and cuddling for the last thirteen months, who has finally decided to hug you back?

I love this kid.   He’s got me wrapped around his little finger.

PS – Keep the emails and comments coming on advice on dealing with “The Rascal.”   Thanks!

The Rascal, Part II

October 10th, 2006

Today started out as the toughest one I’ve ever had with Kenny.   I’m not dismissing the trials I went through trying to figure out the brand new born baby thing… but this  morning was the most challenging time  I’ve had with him since he has become his own little person.   He was a pistol, a brute even.   Screaming to get his way, pounding his little fist into the stereo and wailing because I couldn’t figure out how to turn it back on after he reprogramed all the buttons.   Turning over his breakfast AND his lunch plates because I didn’t give him any crackers.   Writhing his kinetic 23 pounds in all directions as I tried to carry him upstairs for a nap.   Screeching like a pig at slaughter when I put him in his crib for a nap.

At that point, I went downstairs, disolved into a defeated heap and ate a huge slice of triple layer chocolate cake, fat salty tears turning it to soup.

And yet, ten minutes later, after piling him and Dudley into the car just to get out of the house, his sweet little face resigned to sleep and I stared in awe at the angel in the backseat.   I even managed to turn the car around and get him back upstairs and into his crib without waking him.   And I had 40 blissful minutes of solitude in which I charged around, vacuuming, making phone calls, opening mail and picking up lost lego pieces from under the couch.

And then everything was fine.   We took a sunny walk, Kenny in the backpack, and strolled through our neighborhood playing “I spy.”   (Kenny’s favorite are the mailboxes.   And the pickup trucks.)   We rubbed noses, he kissed me with his big slobbery kisses over and over on the face, and we hugged and tickled.   We got back in the car and ran errands, he joyfully and exuberantly charming everyone in sight with his banter and mega-watt smile.   When we got home we found Casey already there, pulling his jetski in for the season, and surprising us with an early work day.   Kenny tramped through the yard, ate a huge snack and danced all around the living room.   We all sat down for a steak dinner and then the little guy went to bed with a happy grin on his face, ready to rest up for another day.

Is it possible that this was all the same day?   How do I turn those awful mornings around sooner?   What do I do when he infuriates me to the point of absolute frustration?   I won’t yell and I’ll never, ever hit.   So what do you do to discipline a rascally 13 month-old?   How do you show him you mean business?   I don’t like the idea of “time out” because I want him to learn that it’s ok to play alone or have quiet time; that solitude is a great thing and that his room is his haven.   I think that “go to your room!” and “time out!” undermine those goals.  

Do I ignore his bad behavior?   Do I calmly listen to his tantrums and then move on?   He’s just starting to get to the point where he understands that certain things that he does are wrong.   He knows it’s wrong to throw his food on the floor, to feed it to the dog, and to knock over things on purpose.   He knows when I say, “No” to something, and yet he will do it ten times more, earnestly watching my reaction.   I know that he is testing his limits.   That he is wondering if my reaction will always be the same, or if I’ll start to yell or if I’ll take something away.   From a child development point of view, I can mentally understand all that he does, and yet when I’m caught in the thick of him stomping his feet in the kitchen, banging his hands on the cabinet screaming, “CRACKER!”, or shaking the contents of his sippy cup onto the carpet for the 40th time in one day, what can I do?   (Right, I know.   Take the sippy cup away, don’t let him walk around with it.   See, I know the answers.)

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So maybe I know the right answers, but my goodness, it’s not easy.   Moms of one-year-olds…. HELP!

The Rascal Emerges

October 9th, 2006

Kenny is 13 months old today.   And not a minute too soon, his sweet little personality is suddenly getting very big.

I always secretly hoped that I would have sons.   I thought that it would be so much fun to raise a boy.   And miracle of miracles, I got my wish.   The only problem is… he’s a boy.   Oh my goodness, he is 100% BOY!   He charms me, sweet talks me, flirts, teases, and infuriates me at intervals so fast that I feel my head spinning.   One second he is giving me warm, wet smooches, and the next, grabbing a sandwich right off my plate and hurling it onto the floor, all the while a stealthy eye checking my reaction.  Here are some real snippets, all from today.   Consider this  a mere sliver of the chaos this little circus is becoming:

6:30 AM ~  Halfway through  his waffle this morning, he looked right at me and handed the rest  to the ever hopeful Dudley, who was sitting like a good boy at  the ready.   I sternly looked him in the eye, and said, “No, Kenny.   Do not feed the dog.   You eat your food.”   He giggled and dumped his orange juice onto Dudley’s head.   I responded with a cheerful, “All Done!” and took his tray away, at which he screamed, “CRACKER!!   CRACKER!!”   (the only word he says with absolute clarity.)   I lifted his writhing body from the highchair as he pointed frantically at the cabinet where the crackers live.   And what did I do, professional Mom that I am?   I put him back in the chair and gave him a cracker.   “Deee DEE!” (dip)   And a bowl of hummos.   This is all he has eaten in any measure, besides apples,  for two days straight.   I can’t let my little treasure starve, can I??

11:50 AM ~ We had to go to LabCorp for Kenny’s one-year-old blood work.   I’ve been putting it off, but finally dragged us there today, trying to be brave.   Kenny spent the entire 42 minutes that we were waiting  in the reception area by putting on a show  for the geriatric contingent, who were absolutely delighted and competing for his attention.   He toddled around, waving his unpealed banana like a sceptor, talking with  such passionate vigor that one might think he was reciting  the Gettysburg Address.   When we finally were called in for the draw, I held his tiny body tight while the nurse cinched his arm and stuck the needle in.   He screamed like a  banshee, then  when the needle was removed, looked sweetly at  the nurse  and said, “Ahhhhh.”    He practically got a standing ovation when we walked back through the waiting room.   He smiled and nodded like a homecoming king  passing through a throng of cheerleaders.

12:50 PM ~ I took  us out to lunch to celebrate surviving the torture at the lab.   Once a week or so, I like to take  Kenny out for a lunch date.   He always seems to know that it’s a special time, and usually charms my socks off.   We went to  our usual haunt, Panera Bakery, and ordered our usual Tuscan Chicken sandwich with an extra slice of gouda.   Only instead of his usual happiness at sharing my sandwich, bits  of bread and chicken and all of  the cheese, he turned on me.   First he grabbed a whole slice of bread off the top and threw it onto the floor.   I  chalked it up as stress from the needle, and calmly started handing him his morsels.   He took the entire pile of cheese and shoved it all  into his mouth at once, looking at me with a huge, cheesy grin, pieces of  cheese falling out through the gaps in his teeth and dripping down his shirt and  onto the floor.    He then started frantically signing, “MORE!!” and ended up eating all of the chicken off my sandwich, then grabbed the rest of my bread.   I had fortuntaly also bought bagels, so I started eating one in self defence.   He looked me right in the eye and threw the rest of the bread on the floor and knocked over my water bottle.   “All Done!” I said cheerfully, and got him out of there as fast as I could.

2:30 PM  ~   Playing in the living room with his padded baseball bat, he  walked over to Dudley and clobbered him on the head.   Dudley, too his credit, played dead.   I start to reprimand him, and he walks over to me, throws his arms around my neck, kisses me and nuzzles into my ear, whispering, “Cracker??”

3:30 PM ~ Kenny walks into the kitchen and starts  screaming, “CRACKER!   CRACKER!!”   Ok, so I  gave in again.

5:00 PM ~  I lovingly prepare Kenny’s favorite penne with marinara sauce and peas for his dinner.   I set it down, piled with  cheese, fully expecting him to do his usual face dive into the pasta with joyful abandon.   He takes one bite, spits it out, throws his plate onto the floor and yells, “CRAAAAAACKER!!”   I start to  wimper.    Then he gets red in the face, starts grunting and looks at me in a panic.   Yep.   He’s constipated.   Too many crackers will  do that  to you, kid.

Fading Summer

October 8th, 2006

Yesterday brought 48 degree temperatures and relentless rain.    As a family, it was the coldest day we have experienced since last February; we managed to live in Arizona  from the end of last winter until the summer, so we missed the dreary and chilly Maryland spring.   The sudden unexpected chill lead me to roast a chicken, so the house could smell warm and wintery, and the four of us (Casey, Kenny, Dudley and me) spent the bulk of the day cuddled in the living room, sweatshirts and long pants dragged out of the back of the closet, playing with blocks, watching baseball play-offs and eating.  

september 183.jpg                  Even Dudley was chilly, and was happy to snuggle in after Casey took him out on a  rain-soaked  run,

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……and Kenny was happy that Daddy was there to keep him warm!

Today is the exact opposite: 70 degress, not a cloud in the sky, boaters out for the last Sunday cruise of the summer, and Casey and Dudley are catching some rays on the dock.   Kenny decided to take a late nap, and I am on the deck looking out at our little piece of paradise.   The living room, strewn with blocks and baseballs, lays abandoned, and the thought of roasted chicken with gravy, so desperately needed yesterday, has been forgotten in favor of BLTS and ice cream.

Sitting out here, as the wind carries a little chill and the leaves fall from the trees, reminds me of those first weeks of having Kenny home with us.   I remember bundling him up so we could bring him down on the dock in early October, two layers of blankets and a hat, as we held him close.   It makes my heart ache a little, remembering his tiny warm body, fuzzy head and constantly rooting little mouth.   And to see him now as he runs across the room, throws baseballs (a surprising distance, too, given how little he is!) and talks so earnestly  in his baby babble makes me see once again, that time flies and I need to savor every minute of this precious time.

And summer is over, fall is here, winter is coming and my baby is growing up before my eyes!   Slow down, baby.   Slow down.

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All American Boy

October 5th, 2006

Of all of the things a new mom has to worry about in the nurturing and cranial development of her child, the last one I thought would come up is my little guy’s true love of Country Music.

To be fair, Country is primarily what Casey and I listen to, so he hears it whenever we ride in the car, or whenever the radio is on in the house.     I do make a concentrated effort to expose him to all types of music, because music is a big part of our lives.   Casey and I both sing and Casey plays the guitar; we have even lead worship at church from time to time.   I am a former college music minor, so I am also quite fond of various types of Classical music, and I love Broadway tunes.   Oh, and I am a closet Abba fanatic.       All that to say that I am thrilled that Kenny  is already getting into  music.   But it’s solely the Country tunes, the more Honky Tonk the better, that gets this kid up and wiggling his little body with a joy that is uninhibited, a million dollar smile on his face, and  even squeals of glee escaping from his throat.

So what’s the worry, you ask?   Grammar, people.   English syntax.   Verb conjugation.   Proper use of adverbs.   You see, I may be a Country music aficionado, but I am also a grammar freak.   And  Country music lyrics aren’t always the best lesson in learning the English language.    Of course, living south of Baltimore, I am a virtual prisoner in my own neighborhood of the worst of the Maryland accented dialect  known to man.   You could hire a linguist to come in here for an analysis, and he would leave shaking his head, wondering what on earth, “Git R Done!” which is plastered on  the back window of  every truck  on our street, is supposed to mean.   That, and why everyone ends every sentence with, “Hon.”

Sorry, tangent.   I was writing about Country music, right?

His current obsession is Rodney Atkins.   He wants to hear his CD over and over, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, since I’m pretty fond of it myself.   But there are two  hit songs on  the radio that cause a physical reaction in Kenny that is nothing short of adorable ~ he wags his head, waves his arms and sings along.   And I can’t believe I’m going to admit it, but they are “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”” by Trace Adkins (no relation to Rodney) and Steve Holy’s “Brand New Girlfriend.”  

Here’s where I wonder if I need to start censoring his listening material, based solely on the verbiage (or lack thereof):  “It’s so hard not to stare / At that honky tonk badonkadonk / Keepin’ perfect rhythm / Make ya wanna swing along / Got it goin’ on / Like Donkey Kong / And whoo-wee Shut my mouth, slap your grandma.”   And, “I love it when she calls me butter cup, laughs and says I left the toilet seat up / she pops the top for me a cold beer, and says my buddies always welcome here / When I get hungry, she takes me out.   I’m ridin’ shotgun like a shitzu hound / My tail’s a waggin’, my tounges hangin’ out, it makes me wanna shout…”   respectively.

And yet, how can I deny Kenny the joy he so obviously reaps from the catchy tunes that accompany these grammatically horrid lyrics?   I promise that I’ll teach him proper verb conjugation when the time comes.   For now, the unfettered beauty of watching him wiggle is just too priceless.

Heart-Pounding Drama

October 4th, 2006

Just as I sat down to write tonight, I heard the most bizare sound.   At first, I thought it was a cat.   Then I thought that it must be Kenny, except that it sounded like a small animal screaming.   I raced upstairs, and the sound became louder, more urgent, higher pitched and pretty close to terrifying.   I burst into Kenny’s room, but he was sound asleep; not even a snore or hiccup.

I’m alone in the house this evening, as Casey is working late again, and I started to think about how much of the day I was gone today.   And even with the alarm system and Dudley keeping guard, could there be a chance that someone was in the house?   Or did an animal manage to get in undetected through the dog door, get attacked by Dudley, and crawl into a wall to die a slow and terrible death?

I finally got the nerve to walk outside, because the sound was loudest by the laundry room door.   The screech continued, and I clutched onto Dudley’s fur, forcing myself to look around the corner.

And there next door, sitting in the dark on a porch swing, was the world’s sweetest thirteen-year-old kid, Justin, with a clarinet in his determined hands, furtively blowing into the mouthpiece  and emitting the sounds that horror movies are made of.   He saw me staring at him from the driveway and sheepishly lowered his instrument and his head, annd crouched further into the shadows.

I almost called out to him, to reassure him, to tell him it was ok if he practiced, I was just “checking on something” in the yard.   But I could see from his dejected frame that he was hoping that I couldn’t recognize  him in the darkness, and I decided that it would be best if I made a quiet exit.   This is a kid who lives with his grandparents, even though his own mom lives across town, and would do just about anything for anyone.   He is apparently a fantastic baseball player, recruited onto various traveling teams, and yet his Grandmother tells me that he’s bullied in school, that he secretly hurts from not knowing his Dad, and that he doesn’t have many friends.   He spends his free time practicing his pitching in the backyard and fishing off the pier, and helping his grandma with her enormous garden.  

My heart hurt as I watched him hiding on that porch tonight, no doubt banished from practicing in the house because of hte horrific racket he was making.   I wanted to walk over there, put an arm around him and tell him that the clarinet must be really hard to play, and that I didn’t mind if he practiced as long as he wanted.   I wanted to encourage him, tell him that he could be whatever he wanted to be, no matter what anyone told him, and that music was just as cool as baseball.   I wondered if he just needed a hug.   I pictured my little Kenny at thirteen; in between a kid and a grownup, caught in  the middle of  wanting to be a child and wanting to  be more, yet always knowing that Mom and Dad think he’s the greatest thing since sliced cheese.    And I wondered if anyone ever told Justin that.

So I’m back inside, locked up and settled in.   The only sounds are the washing machine and Dudley, whining because  his bone is stuck behind the couch.   It’s funny, but a part of me wants to wake up my little boy, just to tell him again that I love him.

The Ringmaster is Reinstated

October 3rd, 2006

Ah… the second day back from our vacation, and I find myself unexpectedly alone, drinking good wine, dining on wine-poached sole filet and asparagus and watching the sun set on the water.   Kenny is fast asleep (a little early), Casey is working late, Dudley is chasing the giant blue heron off our dock over and over, and I am enjoying a gourmet meal for one, which I forced myself to prepare in place of the convenient bowl of cereal that is my usual staple when I have dinner alone.

The whirlwind of activity since our return on Sunday night has been relentless.    A small picture:   Yesterday at noon, I had two noisy workmen in the house finishing the demolition of our laundry room, two non-English speaking men delivering the wrong new mattress into our bedroom, Kenny playing peek-a-boo between my legs with Dudey, who was anxiously wrapping his leash around and around my  torso in effort to alternately lick pizza sauce off of Kenny’s face and attempt to attack the bubble wrap that was floating down our staircase.   As I tried to explain to the customer service guy on the phone at Mattress Warehouse that my new mattress was too small, the five foot three delivery guy in a grungy wife beater started tickling Kenny’s chin, making  Kenny cackle with glee and Dudley lunge at  the strange man’s  throat.   The guy on the phone was ranting something about getting a tape measure to check the dimensions, the construction foreman was using a chainsaw on the last of the old ceiling, and my cell phone started ringing the cheery tune assigned to my own Mommy, who was about to embark on a mission trip to Russia.  

Just writing that made me need to get up and refill my wine glass.

Ok, so the whole past 48 hours haven’t been that hectic, but pretty close.   There is an upside: Kenny has gone back to being Mommy’s little guy, extra snuggly tonight, when we realized that Daddy wouldn’t be home in time to tuck him in.   Dudley is going through definite vacation withdrawl, though.   I am, too.   Walking back into a house that was not only not empty for the past week, but was instead home to  a remodeling project, there is an inch of dust on every visible surface, drywall  footprints all over the floor, and the entire contents of our laundry room / storage piled in  one  end  of the living room.   There are cobwebs and dead bugs in every corner (a caveat of living on the water – spiders are rampant!), drooping houseplants, laundry to be folded, suitcases to unpack and a tower of mail to get through.

But the joy of having my little guy play and cuddle with me all day has made all the Things To Do temporarily disappear.   He’s started saying, “Hi-ah!” with this gloriously huge grin on his face everytime he makes direct eye contact with anyone, even if it’s me and we have been together all afternoon.   And he’s started to really babble, convincing me that his toddler mind is just bursting with things to say.   This morning when I went  in to get him from his crib, he was sitting up, facing his two teddy bears and his stuffed sheep, who were also sitting at attention, and was apparently giving them their morning marching orders.   The words may have been incomprehensible to my ears, but his inflections and tones were as if he were delivering the State of the Union address.   And you better believe he gave me an earfull at dinnertime tonight when I wouldn’t let him dump his water glass onto the pasta.   I would have paid a small fortune to have an interpreter for that one.

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So the sun has set, my dinner is eaten and Dudley has just brought me the entire contents of the bathroom trashcan, in an effort to remind me that he wants dinner, too.   And I should really take advantage of this time to dust, vacuum and start the assortment of household damage-control that needs to be done.

Good bye Vacation, hello Circus!

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