kids

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Banished from the Plastic Princess Kingdom

Published May 22, 2012 by April Fox

Off with her head. (This is not one of baby girl’s new dolls.)

Baby girl got a set of Disney Princess dolls from her father’s girlfriend. I don’t have anything in particular against the Princesses, although I vastly prefer Grimm’s Cinderella tale to the sappy sweet animated cartoon versions, simply because I prefer the dark and slightly macabre to the fluff and fabricated happy endings. The argument that the Disney Princesses teach little girls to be dependent on men and only care about beauty and riches is just dumb-if your daughter is learning her values exclusively from a movie and a hunk of plastic with Velcro clothes and tiny shoes (see also: the Barbie Is Ruining Our Daughters’ Self-Esteem movement) you have serious parenting issues and should probably get you, your kid and the innocent scapegoat dolls into therapy, quick. So yeah, my kid likes to dress up in sparkly clothes and imagine life in a palace. Whoop-te-doo, she’s a kid. Imagination is a good thing. Still, I knew as soon as she started pulling them out of the box by their synthetic hair, I was in trouble. I don’t hold any ill will toward the Princesses, but that doesn’t mean I’m into the whole Demure and Helpless role-playing thing, either. I’ve already been banned from playing Barbies (apparently Ken is not, as my Barbie expressed, a simpering wanker) and My Little Pony (well, they should all talk like Cartman. Shouldn’t they?). I could guess what was coming. I tried, though. I really did.

She started by asking me which one was my favorite. Good, this was easy: “Belle, because she likes books and is a good friend, and fell in love with someone because he had a good heart, not just because he was handsome and had a big castle.”

“Mine too,” says baby girl. I knew that. Belle has been her favorite since she was five and declared Snow White “kind of stupid, but pretty.” Even in kindergarten, baby girl knew better than to take an apple from an ugly old hag and eat it, and why didn’t those little guys do their own laundry?

She let me pick whichever doll I wanted to be, except Belle. She snatched Belle up before she finished telling me to choose, the sneaky little vermin. I chose Princess Tiana, since Snow White is stupid, Rapunzel’s hair is too hard to keep up with, Cinderella’s shoes are dumb and Jasmine’s boobs kept falling out of her top, and the last thing I need is a sexual harassment suit filed against me by Disney. Back in the box, hussy. I’m not even trying to keep your top up.

It started out okay; I asked, in the prerequisite princess falsetto, what we should do today, since we had the day off and didn’t have to do all the usual princess stuff.

“I don’t know,” replied Belle. (Perhaps, like Snow White, Belle is also stupid.)

“We could go to the animal shelter and play with the poor homeless dogs,” suggested Princess Tiana.

Baby girl hit me with her trademark skeptical look.

“Because they need friends. Because, you know, they’re homeless and sad.” Dammit, Princess Tiana is as bad at this cheerfully optimistic stuff as I am. One last try, and then I’m giving up. “We can keep them company till they get adopted and live happily ever after,” I add. That perks up baby girl, and Belle bounces on her wee yellow shoes while she talks.

“We could do that,” says Belle, “Or we could go find the princes.”

Oh boy. Tiana’s about to get exiled.

“Why would we do that?” Tiana asks, “When we have the day off and can do whatever we want?”

“Because,” says Belle. “They’re princes and we’re in love with them.”

“Well,” says Tiana, “That’s fantastic, but we should hang out together today. We don’t need those princes.”

“Yes we DO!” insists Belle, who is starting to sound less and less like a princess and more and more like a pissed off ten-year-old.

“Nuh-uh,” says Tiana, and everyone knows that “Nuh-uh” is about as close to a royal decree as you can get.

Belle bounces on her toes again and makes a noise that sounds oddly like a little girl about to chuck a princess doll out the window. “Yes. WE DO need the princes.”

“Why?” asks Tiana, “Is the toilet clogged or something? Do we need them to fix it? Cause princesses don’t have to do that.” (Hey, I’m allowed to fantasize here too, right?)

“MOM!” demands Belle, sounding eerily like my own angry child.

“Yes?”

“This is why you’re not allowed to play. Princesses don’t have TOILETS.”

There’s a long pause while we both ponder that, and then we break out in a bad case of the giggles. She does have a point. I’m assuming that the princesses, like all the related plastic dolls that my friends and I examined as kids, have no need for toilets. (Related: or a need for princes, for that matter, but that’s neither here nor there and certainly not something you discuss with your ten-year-old.)

After that the Princesses just sat around on the couch for a while, their static knees held stiffly out in front of them and their molded hands placed at their sides, painted eyes staring blankly into space. It was kind of creepy, and I was glad when baby girl stuck them back in their box and toted them off to her room, where they will no doubt engage in appropriate princess conversation about Justin Beiber’s cuteness and what the royal drudge crew should make for dinner.

I, of course, will not be invited.

In Which I Save My Child From A Tarantula, Inflicting Major Psychological Damage on Myself

Published April 19, 2012 by April Fox

Butterflies and spiders are natural enemies, right?

Caution: This post may be traumatic for arachnophobes. 

So the other night, there was a spider in baby girl’s room. We live in an old house, you may remember, with cracks and gaps and a dirt basement below and the outdoors all around, and occasionally, crawly things wander in and decide to hang out for a while. Unfortunately, this wanderer ended up in baby girl’s room. Was he suicidal? Venturing into the Room of Death on a dare from his friends who had heard about the Big Scary Girl Human Who Shrieks When She Spots Things With More Than Four Legs and Sentences Them to a Vicious and Expedient Death? Simply out for a stroll, and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time? We’ll never know.

I’m in the kitchen when baby girl comes bouncing in. “Moooooo-ooooom! Come here!”

Sigh. I’m cooking, or cleaning, or… okay I was probably texting my best friend, but whatever. “What’s up, baby girl? Can you wait just a second?”

“No,” she says. “It’s an emergency. A real one.”

It doesn’t really sound like an emergency, or look like one, with the way she’s poking through the cabinets looking for cookies while she tells me this. But still, “What’s the emergency?”

“There’s a spider in my room,” she says (or more accurately, “a spidow”). “It’s huge and scary. Go kill it. Please.”

So off we go to investigate. Sure enough, there’s a spidow in her room. It is, in fact, huge and scary. It’s at least a quarter inch long, legs and all, and his fangs, though imperceptible to the naked eye, are certainly bared and ready to devour us all. “I’ll put him outside,” I tell her. I have this weird aversion to killing things that aren’t full-grown humans who have pissed me off. [Disclaimer: I would not actually do that, and have not actually done that.]

“NO! Kill him.” Well. I’d rather not. I suggest again that I just put him outside so he can go back to his family. Unfortunately, my little one feels no compassion toward eight-legged trespassers who have the potential to crawl on her face at night. If he was in the living room, he’d be safe. The bathroom, sure, I could put him outside. But this vicious behemoth of an arachnid is in her room and therefore, he must die.

After weighing the agony of killing an innocent creature against the agony of listening to a ten-year-old freak out over the potential spider infestation of her bedroom when it’s already past time for her to be in bed, the solution is clear. “Okay, go get me the spray bottle of bleach. I’ll keep an eye on him so he doesn’t get away.”

“Bleach? You’re going to bleach the spidow?” Baby girl clearly does not pay attention to the way I operate.

“Well, yeah. I don’t think we have any insecticide and I wouldn’t want to spray that in your room anyway, and I can’t squish him.”

“Squish him,” she demands. “Why can’t you squish him?”

“Because it’s gross.”

“Spraying him with bleach isn’t gross?” My logical child… of course it’s gross, it’s a horrible way to die. Even a child knows this. But.

“They crunch when you squish them,” I tell her. That sends her off in search of the bleach.

I contemplate trying to capture the spidow and chuck him out the window while baby girl is out of the room, but I’m old and slow, and also if the spidow disappeared, baby girl would never sleep in there again. So I spray him, and he goes into horrible convulsions, and I’m omigod going to be sick from watching this poor creature suffer but then he’s dead, it’s over, and baby girl says “Yay, he’s dead, thank you mom AAAAAAAAAHH he’s not DEAD he’s MOVING!”

Great. Zombie spider, what the fuck. Not only did he move, but he moved somewhere among the pile of papers that baby girl uses to decorate the floor under her vanity table. “FIND HIM AND KILL HIM.” Baby girl is seriously upset. She’s sobbing, clinging to my back; I have one arm around her, trying to calm her, using the heel of a discarded hand-me-down stripper pump to poke through the papers in attempt to find the spidow and complete the hit.

No spidow. Anywhere. Baby girl climbs on top of my head and jumps onto her bed, grabs her pillow pet and her blanket, and takes a flying leap into the hall. [I knew six years of dance class would pay off eventually. The kid can move, I’m telling ya.] “I am NOT sleeping in there. If you need me, I will be sleeping on the couch.”

This calls for a little bit of acting. I make a big production out of rifling through the papers, and then pick up the shoe and smack it against the floor. I gather up the papers and carry them to the trash, and lie through my teeth to my kid. “I squished him,” I say. “You can go to bed now.”

I know, bad parenting. Whatever. I know the spidow is dead. Anyone who ever read “The Far Side” knows what a spider looks like in the throes of death. I’ll spare you the details, but this guy didn’t make it, I was sure. And anyway, it didn’t work. “I don’t care. I’m not sleeping in there.”

Again with the weighing. It’s not going to kill her to sleep on the couch. She will no doubt declare that she is never sleeping in there again (she did) and she will sleep in there the next night (again, she did). So I tuck her in and give her a kiss and five minutes later, she’s sound asleep, and I go into her room and poke around until I finally find the spidow corpse and hide the body in the toilet, flushing away the evidence.

The next night, last night, I had a horrible nightmare. I was in baby girl’s room trying to kill a spider. This one really was huge, kind of an ant-shaped tarantula. I kept trying to smack it with a shoe, and it jumped on me. Landed on my shoulder and crawled around up there and every time I knocked it off, it jumped back on. I finally half-woke up, realized it was a dream, and snuggled back up to beloved. I was almost back to sleep when I felt it again-the soft tickle of spider legs. It makes me queasy just thinking about it. And then it stopped. And started again. And I realized it wasn’t a spider, it was beloved, breathing on my bare shoulder.

Moral of the story: Bad parenting will haunt you. Just squish the damn spidow and deal with the crunch.

The Unremarkable Saga of the Potential Half-Eaten Banana

Published April 10, 2012 by April Fox

Baby girl decided she needed a snack before bed tonight. She didn’t want any more of the soup we had for dinner. She didn’t want a sandwich, or one of her Easter eggs. What she wanted was a dark chocolate cookie with dark chocolate filling. I can’t say that I blame her, but she’s been munching on chocolate eggs, jelly beans and marshmallow bunnies for two days, and the poor thing  is already running out of baby teeth. If the big ones start to go, she’s in trouble.

I suggested she eat a banana for snack. Now, bananas have this strange power over my kids. When we’re in the grocery store and we pass by the display of bananas, the kids are drawn to them like Nick Nolte to a crack house. “Ooooh, bananas! Can we get bananas?” they cry, like orphans in the beginning stages of scurvy, or whatever it was all those pirates got from never eating fruit.

I always grab a bunch, temporarily thankful that my kids love fruit so much. Then I come back to reality and pause with the bananas halfway to the cart. If I set them down in the cart, I’m obligated to buy them, and I’m not that great with commitment. I need to be sure about this.

“Wait a minute, guys,” I say. “Are you actually going to eat these if I get them?”

“Um, yeah. I like bananas,” says thing two.

“Mmhmmmm, I suppose,” says thing one.

“Duh, yes,” says baby girl. “Why would we ask for them if we weren’t going to eat them?”

“Are you SURE? I don’t want them to sit around turning black so I have to do the creepy housewife thing and make banana bread, okay?”

“Yeah,” says thing two, “I’ll eat them.”

“Mmhmmmm, I suppose,” says thing one.

YES,” says baby girl. “We will EAT the bananaaaaas,” stretching it out so I can hear just how ridiculous I’m being, doubting whether these wonderful, healthy-food-loving kids of mine are going to eat the delicious fruit they’re begging for. What kind of rotten mother tells her kids that they can’t get bananas? What am I, one of those moms who makes them eat hot dogs and cellophane-wrapped cupcakes twice a day, and thinks that Froot Loops are somehow a vegetable? Of course not. The bananas-organic, even!-go into the cart. They come into the house. They land on top of the microwave, where the bananas always live until they turn black and gross and become theoretical banana bread before becoming compost, which is a euphemism for “throw it off the porch with the moldy tangerines and the head of cabbage we found under the couch last week.”

So tonight, I offer baby girl a banana in lieu of the cookie she wants.

“I don’t want a banana,” says baby girl.

“You said if I got bananas, you would eat them,” I remind her.

“Well not all of them, and I just don’t want one right now. I just want a little snack.”

“A banana is a little snack,” I tell her. “It’s a banana. It’s not like I’m telling you to eat an entire watermelon.”

“I like watermelon,” says baby girl.

“Not the point, and we don’t have any. Go eat a banana.”

“But I can only eat like half a banana. What do you want me to do, eat half a banana and then just throw the other half away? That’s wasting.”

“You can wrap the other half up,” I tell her.

“Then it will get gross. Nobody will ever eat it.” She does have a point. It would sit in its little plastic bag home until it was brown and slimy and we had to play guess-whether-this-was-a-banana-or-string-cheese before throwing it out.

“Someone else might eat the other half. Ask your brothers if they want it.”

“Why would anyone want to eat half a banana?” she asks.

“Baby girl… you’re going to eat half a banana.”

“But they won’t,” she says. “They don’t want half a banana.”

“Just ask them,” I tell her. “One of them might want a little snack too, and you can split the banana.”

Baby girl heaves a great, melodramatic sigh that makes me wonder whether I slept through her next three birthdays and she somehow turned 13 without me knowing, rolls her eyes and flounces-yes, she flounces-into the living room.

“Thing one,” she begins, and I can tell by her tone that this isn’t going to go quite like I planned, “would you like a half-eaten banana?”

Oh good grief. Really, child?

“Ummm, no,” says thing one.

“HUH.” says baby girl. Another melodramatic sigh, and then, “Thing two, do you want a half-eaten banana?”

Thing two manages to tell her, “Nooo, I don’t think so,” before bursting into laughter.

Beloved has his head in his hands, laughing so hard he has to wipe his eyes. I have to commend him for at least attempting to hide his amusement from her.

Baby girl skips back into the library, wearing a smirk she could have stolen right off my own face. “See?” she says. “Nobody wants a half-eaten banana.” I don’t even remember how I responded to that. I just know that when she marched back into the kitchen, rummaged through the cabinets and asked if she could have a tube of squeezy, berry-flavored applesauce, I was afraid to say anything but yes.

I figure Friday will be about right for baking that banana bread.

How the Naughty Poo Got In, or, Ape Gets a Dog

Published February 8, 2012 by April Fox

In a little red hut in my little white house in my little shit town, there is a little spotted dog with no legs. This is the story of that no-legged dog.

I am in possession of two people with charming smiles and big blue eyes. One of them uses me as a backrest while she watches iCarly and gets her hair rolled. The other uses me as a footwarmer while he steals the blankets and giggles at me in his sleep. Both of them have spent the past forever or so asking me if we could get a puppy. They do this, of course, while aiming those big eyes and charming smiles at my face. I’m used to telling the little one no, because I’m her mother and that’s what mothers do so that their children don’t turn into entitled little demon brats who can evacuate an entire Toys R Us with the screaming borne of being told that they can only get one Super Deluxe Hoochie Doll Complete With Tanning Bed and Antibiotics. I’m used to telling the big one no because, well, we live together now, and I don’t have to say yes.

Still. There’s this ad. And this picture. And this omigod puppy and it would teach the baby responsibility and it would only cost like, five bucks a month to feed and wouldn’t it be great to have a dog to take hiking and omigod the dog has a beard and goddammit fine I’ll call the people.

Several hours later we’re in the Wal-mart parking lot meeting these people who I really hope aren’t those black market organ harvesting guys, and they’re not, and the dog really does have a beard and two minutes later he’s up on my shoulder like a baby human and beloved and I are all googly-eyed like, “Awwww, we got a puppy. Together. Wow…” [Insert hearts and flowers and sparkly things over our heads. We’re disgusting.] And the dog is crate trained, yay! No doggie poop in the house.

An hour later there’s doggie poop in the house.

I am not the most fastidious housekeeper. Right now, I should really be washing the dishes or using that thing with the bristles and the long handle, what do you call it? The broom. But I draw the line at doggie poop in the house. Beloved knows this and agrees that the living room floor is not the best place for this goddamn mutt darling pooch to relieve himself, and he sets about remedying the situation.

“I read that you’re not supposed to scold the dog. You’re supposed to scold the poo,” he says. I’m not sure, but I suspect this earned him what he calls my Nina Simone look. “Dude,” I say, “I am not talking to the poo. I am cleaning it up. If you want to scold the poo, knock yourself out.” And thus, I set off to find the Pine-sol and paper towels.

Upon my return, this is what I see: My usually-rational and mostly-sane beloved is standing over the poo, clearly trying not retch while he gives it the scolding of its life: “Bad poo! BAD poo! Naughty poo! NO! You don’t belong here! Bad poo!” This is effective in stopping the mutt from making any further messes, because he’s too busy trying not to laugh to even think about going poo again.

So here’s this dog, right? I mentioned that he has no legs. That’s not quite right. He does have legs, they’re just about a quarter as long as they should be. According to the black market organ guys, mutt is a Jack Russell-shih tzu mix. You know how funny that looks in your head? Make it twice as odd, and you have our mutt. He has smooth fur everywhere but on his face, which is covered in tufts of white hair that make him look like the billy goat version of Albert Einstein, with a freaky little underbite. When he smiles, he looks like he’s contemplating eating your face and molesting the hell out of your soul before trading it to Satan in exchange for a bit of cheese and a liver treat. And his legs-his legs look like he got his shins shot off like Hank Hill’s dad in King of the Hill. He is, to put it simply, absolutely freaking adorable.

See? He clearly wants your soul.

So here I am with demon dog, who is actually quite sweet, despite his fangs and mental-patient hairdo [I know, I’m one to talk] and I’m not quite sure what to do with him. He’s just like, staring at me. Beloved has retreated to our bedroom-office to do whatever he does in there among the granola bar wrappers and empty bottles of aloe juice, and I have to deal with Pooper McFaceEater alone. Maybe he’s smart, I think.  Maybe I can teach him to play. So I show him the little tennis ball I got him, made especially for dogs who don’t know that dogs are supposed to be bigger than cats. “Look,” I say, “It’s a ball. You’re a dog. When I throw it, go get it, okay?”

I throw the ball. Mutt trots three little half-legged steps toward it, stops, and looks at me like, “Huh?”

“No,” I say, “You’re not supposed to look at me. You’re supposed to fetch it. Fetch the ball. Dude, you’re a dog. You chase it and pick it up with your little demon fangs and bring it back to me. That’s what dogs do. Did you miss the memo? For real, dog. Go get the ball.”

Mutt cocks his head in that cute way that dogs and babies have that keeps you from sending them to the pound, and hop-hops back over to me.

Okay, screw the fetch thing. Maybe I can train the mutt to sit. I mean, it’s sitting. Dogs do that naturally, especially in convenient places like doorways and on your head while you’re trying to sleep.

“Sit, dog,” I tell him.

Mutt looks at me like he just had a spontaneous lobotomy.

“Sit.” And I push down on his little puppy butt. Great idea, except he has no legs back there. “Dammit,” I say, “You don’t have any legs. How am I supposed to tell whether or not you’re sitting? Dogs are supposed to have legs. I don’t understand you, dog.”

Mutt wags his tail and his butt wiggles, so I know it’s not on the ground. Okay, so demon dog can’t fetch, has no legs, doesn’t know how to sit, and on top of all that, his poo is unresponsive to negative reinforcement.

I’m not seeing much use in this dog, to tell you the truth. If it doesn’t eat bad guys, rescue people in an avalanche, or count to fifty on the Late Show so that we can get rich and quit batting our eyes at the meter reader to get our light bill knocked down, what good is it?

In the morning, we discover that mutt did wonderfully in his little red hut overnight. He’s calm in the car, doesn’t snap at the kids, stood perfectly still while he was bathed, and only peed on the floor four times before lunch. In the morning, we discover exactly what mutt is good for. Remember the little girl with the big blue eyes and the charming smile? The one who hardly ever asks for anything, despite the fact that we are very rarely in a position to give her anything more than what she absolutely needs? The one who really really wanted a puppy of her very own? This is what mutt is good for. I think he’ll have to stay, naughty poo and all.

He serves his purpose.

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