parenting

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Attack of the Baby Mutant Cows

Published February 20, 2012 by April Fox

I have a confession:

I am a meanie. Not a small-time, eat-your-vegetables meanie, but a big time, mafia-grade, clean-your-room meanie. I was informed of this fact today, and not for the first time.

My kids are usually pretty good about chores. They know what their jobs are, and they do them when they’re asked to, most of the time. At most, all it takes is for me to hit them with “Dude, seriously? I asked you to do this ten minutes ago,” and they’re on it. [Around here, my “dude” is what yelling is to some moms. That’s how the kids know I’m serious.] The two things they can’t seem to grasp are picking up after themselves-the basic every day stuff, like throwing away their empty juice boxes instead of leaving them scattered around the house like relics from the Hello Kitty Belly Washers era-and cleaning their rooms.

O god, the dreaded room cleaning.

The other night, baby girl fell asleep in my bed watching a movie, and I carried her to her room. At her doorway, she lifted her head and said in her precious sleepy voice, “I’ll walk from hewe. My woom is too messy.” She was right, her woom was pretty messy, but I managed to get her to her bed. Today, though, it was time. Her room needed attention desperately. If her bedroom was a celebrity, it would be Kanye West at the Grammys, okay?

I sprung the bad news on her in the kitchen:

“Hey, baby girl.”

“Oh no. What?”

“Your room needs cleaned.”

“Muuuuuuuunh.”

“What?”

“Muuuuuuunnnh. I knew you were going to say that.”

Thing one then decides to join the conversation.

“Haha, you have to clean your room.”

“So do you, actually,” I tell him.

“Muuuuuuunh.”

“Listen! What is that? You people aren’t humans, you’re like mutant baby cows. What is that noise?”

“I don’t want to clean my room,” says thing one.

“Duh,” I tell him. “Nobody does. But it needs done, and it won’t take long.”

“Muuuuuuuuunh,” says thing one.

“Moooooooo,” I say, hoping that’s Mutant Cow for just quit whining and do it already. I must have mispronounced it, because the kids just laughed at me.

“Go on,” I say, reverting back to my native English. “Get it done.”

“Why?” asks baby girl.

Seriously? She’s not two, she’s ten. Why is not a question at this age, it’s a stalling tactic and an attempt to make you grow tired of the conversation and tell her whatever, who cares, just leave me alone so I can take a bath.

Doesn’t work with me. I’m old and cranky and unfortunately for her, she’s the youngest of a huge litter and I got bored with the tricks a long time ago, back when her oldest siblings were silly enough to think they’d work. “Because it’s messy. Duh. Go.”

“Your room isn’t clean,” says thing one.

Oh, but see, they’re smart kids, but I’m experienced at this. Normally, what thing one said is true, but I knew what I’d be up against. My room is clean. Ha. Now what, kiddies?

Baby girl finally resorts to that last, desperate hope, the thing that all kids fall back on when they know they’re in the final stages of a losing battle.

“It’s not fair.”

Oh reeeally, child. “What’s not fair?”

“That I have to clean my room.”

“No, see, here’s the thing about that. It’s your room. It’s your mess. It’s your stuff all over the place in YOUR room. It’s totally fair that you should have to clean it up. What wouldn’t be fair is if I had to clean it up, or if I asked you to clean my room.”

At that point, the fight goes out of her, thing one knows when there’s no chance of escaping, and the room cleaning commences.

Briefly.

Five minutes later, thing one is back. “Thing two isn’t helping,” he says. [Note: thing one has asperger syndrome. He is brilliant and stubborn and while he can probably take your computer apart and reassemble it while you’re figuring out which end of the cord plugs into the wall, logical reasoning isn’t always his strong point. He is also 13. That just adds to the hilarity. Har har.]

Apparently thing two is still outside on his bike, not having been informed that it was room-cleaning time. He’s gathered up and brought inside, and they get to work. Two minutes later, thing one is back again. “There’s a bunch of clothes everywhere,” he says. “What do I do with them?”

“Put them away,” I tell him.

“Oh. Okay. Yes, that makes sense,” and off he goes with his little scientist voice and skinny wrists sticking out of his cuffs. [If you watch “The Big Bang Theory,” you have seen my child in action. He is Sheldon, down to needing His Spot to sit on.]

One minute later, he’s back. “Some of the clothing appears to be dirty.”

“Put it in the dirty clothes, then.”

“Oh.” Thing one considers this for a moment. “Would it be okay if I placed them in a pile and then carried them to the laundry all at once? That might be easier than taking each item one by one.”

“I think that’s a fabulous idea. Make a pile. Good job.”

“I know. I’m full of fabulous ideas,” he says, and of course he’s correct.

Eventually, the rooms got clean…ish. As clean, I suppose, as they’re going to. The kids have more stuff than places to store it, and they might possibly have inherited my tendency toward creative organization. Most importantly, though, they survived my incredible meanness and unfairness relatively unscathed, though the scars may linger forever.

Poor, poor baby mutant cows.

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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