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Wednesday afternoons are usually my napping time.  Mr. Apron works late, so I usually come home, let the great grey beast out, and crash on the couch for 45 min to an hour.  Wednesday is also my nap day, because Tuesday night is our TV night.  Rather, we watch “SouthLAnd” on Tuesday nights from 10-11pm, so I’m always tired on Wednesdays.  I think a 10pm show is pushing it for a non-coffee-drinking human who works 8am-4pm, but we watch not only “SouthLAnd” at that timeslot, but also “Project Runway” on Thursday nights.  So my Wednesday and Friday morning kiddos must think the bags under my eyes are just part of the scenery. 

You know that series of Johnson & Johnson commercials where their heart-warming tagline is “having a baby changes everything”?  Well, having an unhouse-broken puppy might, too. 

Today’s affairs consisted of fighting through traffic precipitated by gorgeous weather, which seems to let the whacko drivers out of bumper car driving school early.  I was greeted by a very excited puppy who left marks of “excitement” on my arm with her tiny stabbing claws.  Did I mention she’s learning to sit and not jump?  I outed them both; they both made.  I fed them both; they both ate.  Then I settled down for a nap with the snuggly girl.  Ordinarily she is bar-none as a napping companion.  She usually flips onto her back, wedged into some crevice in the couch, and instantly becomes comatose.  So long as you don’t utter her name (“Molly” means instant and extremely positive verbal praise.  Her reaction: “You love me?  You love me!  I’m a good dog!  You said my name!”), she’ll stay there, warming, snoozing, breathing softly.

Today she might have been a little wound up from being in her crate for 4 hours.  She would have none of the submissive napping posture.  Instead, she wanted nothing more than to lick my face.  My nose, my eyes, my ear.  She nuzzled and licked till I was falling off the couch from trying to escape her tongue’s firing range.  Finally I gave up on the snuggling, and kicked her off.  As I prepared to put myself to sleep sans dog, I noticed a too-familiar wet oval on one of our only good rugs.  This meant, of course, I had to abort the napping plan altogether, spray the spot, leash her up and take her out, and then, failing any poop/pee in the appropriate locations, toss her back in her crate, whee, of course she would cry and whine in misery.

On our dog-training log, I wrote: “Sometime before 6pm — peed on the rug.”  She’s a sneaky little bitch.  I bet she was all kissy because she was trying to distract me long enough so she could get away with peeing on the rug. 

Of course, now she and Finley are passed out on the floor, keeping me company while I keep vigil for any squatting.  Such perfect angels when they sleep.  Just like me.  All I wanted was my nap.  Sigh.  Having a puppy changes naptime.

I came home last week to some malfunctions in our little lives.  I was greeted by voicemails from Mr. Apron to the effect that the car wouldn’t start and he now was using the butt of his shoe to encourage the key to start.  When I came upstairs to the office to listen to the voicemail and check my e-mail, I was greeted by a computer virus called “Virus Protector”.    You know, one of those ones that masquerades as something you’d want to install.  Thankfully, I clicked on nothing, but the damage was done.  As soon as Mr. Apron dealt with crisis #1 (car), he came home and we dealt with crisis #2 (computer).  Then on Wednesday, with the car part ordered and the computer safely at the shop, we went out to acquire crisis #3 (puppy), admittedly self-imposed. 

And all throughout the weekend, we made trips to Petco, opening up our bank accounts as Molly left presents around the house and destroyed all plastic water bowls we put in her crate in an effort not to be cruel.  And all throughout the weekend, we house-trained our Golden Girl, through the unceasing rain, the horrendous winds, the leaky window that drips into our kitchen, and my ill-temper at being stuck at home dealing with the above. 

But today, after discrete trials with food reinforcers, Molly is learning “Sit down.”  And, because I am a speech-language pathologist and think of such things, I shall report to you that she sat down on the rug with verbal prompts, 0 or 1 repetition, and a gestural cue in 15/15 trials with Finley as a peer model.  Also, because I think of such things, I know I will have to increase the difficulty to include different situations such as feeding time, getting her leash on,waiting to go outside, and crossing the street. 

But today, after Mr. Apron picked it up and hooked it up on his lunch break, I am blogging from our very new computer. 

The car part has yet to come in, though the mechanic did call to tell us he forgot to order it.  And the window installation guys finally called yesterday to make an appointment.  New windows tomorrow mean a drier kitchen, and a juicier tax credit for energy savings in the year to come.  Woohoo!

Unfortunately, our new computer uses a USB-exclusive hook-up system, so the printer is sadly waiting for a converter, and my beautiful marvelous ergonomic keyboard sits, um, somewhere, until we get a converter for it, too.  Until then, my poor fingers are cramping up.  Pity me.  Please.  Don’t get me wrong; the new keyboard is sleek, small, flashy, and its black with silver trim matches the computer, but I’m one of those wackos who prefers ergonomic.  I actually asked for it for a birthday present in college.  My nails are so long I keep hitting the caps lock by mistake and I can’t find “End” or “Home”.  I am one of those who learned to type before we had  a computer, using a piece of paper my father traced 26 circles on using a penny.  And I’m one of those who uses keyboard shortcuts and get compliments on her typing position and speed.  So don’t tease.  Just point me to a USB-keyboard converter cable, and be on your merry way. 

Welcome to our home, new computer.  If I could only find the key labeled “House-training”.

Well, folks, we’ve done it.  We’ve upended whatever calm was left in our lives (after a week where the car wouldn’t start, the computer came underattack by the new “Virus Protector” virus, and Corey Haim is dead) by adopting a new dog.  She’s an 8 month old cockapoo-lab mix and her name is Molly and she’s gone and stolen our hearts.  She already knows her name (which has been swiftly changed from Miley.  Rawlf.) and comes running whenever we coo at her.  All words aimed at her are perceived as praise, and she loves nothing more than a snuggle session on the couch as she lumps from lap to lap, licking necks and hands, and covering us with blond fur. 

Here’s our pretty girl:

Finley is less than thrilled.  We did bring him down to the shelter on Saturday for the requisite playdate, and they tolerated each other just fine, which was as good as we knew it was going to be with Finley, the dog who doesn’t care a lick about other dogs.  Ever.  Molly was slow to warm up, having been surrendered only on Friday, but she rebonded with us last night as we drove home from the shelter, her seal-shaped head poking out from between the seats as she begged for a ride in the front. 

Once at home, she became almost robotic.  Didn’t eat, didn’t drink, didn’t chew, didn’t pee (indoors or out), didn’t poop (ditto), didn’t bark or whine or howl.  Almost like a Zhu-zhu pet, I remarked.  Then, as we were brushing our teeth, she decided the hallway would be a good bathroom.  As I have been trained to do, I stomped my foot to disrupt her stream, threw a towel over it, and ushered her outdoors, where she spastically sniffed and pounced and prowled around.  And decidedly did not squat. 

And then, a half-hour later, as we sat unwinding with a little Law & Order, she had a repeat performance.  Luckily Mr. Apron saw her intentions before our rug did, and he, too, pushed her outdoors, where she played in the pachysandra. 

She did leave us a pungent present at midnight, which I tried to ignore, but finally succeeded in asking Mr. Apron to clean up, and we managed to spend a few anxious hours asleep, fearing the ginormous puddles that would await us in the morning. 

It only took three trips outdoors this morning for Molly to finally pee on the driveway, outdoors.  And after a carefully choreographed feeding session at 7:45am, she was all set to poop at 8:00am, which she did.  Outdoors.  And there was much rejoicing. 

As I write, Mr. Apron is off to Petco to buy a crate.  I was really hoping to avoid the annoyance and eyesore of crate-training, but I’d also like to be able to sleep at night.  I think 12:45am was my watershed moment.  When something messes with my sleep, I reach my breaking point. 

But instead of turning her in, as her former owners did last week, we’re taking positive steps.  We’re picking up where they left off, and giving her a happy Forever Home with two people who are madly in love with her, and an older dog who really couldn’t care less.  And that’s just the way we planned it.

I have figured out the secret of applying passably mediocre eyeliner! 

1) Arrive 10 minutes before the rest of the cast, and plan to devote all 10 minutes to drawing 4 black arches around your eyes.  If time is leftover, it will be spent on eye shadow.

2) BYOM.  Bring Your Own Mirror.  That way you don’t have to fight for space by the 1-way mirror that is actually a window for every passing by in the hallway and gets to see the awkward squinting face of your jabbing yourself in the eye with a pencil. Repeatedly.

3) Use a sharpened pencil, not the easy roll-up eyeliner.  While the latter is easier to apply to other people (as in, when doing make up for small children) or when doing age lines on less-delicate skin, the former makes a darker line with ease, so you don’t have to push as hard, and it actually looks less sloppy.

4) Angle the pencil with precision, so it neither hits upper eyelashes, nor jabs the eyelid, nor slips into the eye proper.  This angle is more or less 72.3 degrees from horizontal. 

5) Move like molasses.  Slow and steady will use all 10 minutes, but will get you the desired raccoon eyes. 

6) Try not to forget your make-up at home by the front door, thus sending Mr. Apron home to get the bag and therefore negating the ability to use 10 full minutes on your eyes, and cramming the entire beauty preparation routine into the 10 minutes before warm-ups.

Three shows done, three to go. So far, a few normal mishaps that go with the territory of community theatre – a late entrance turning a trio into a duet, a retiree tripping up the stairs as he came on stage, my forgetting that I had put my glasses on during my break backstage, and coming onstage in Victorian dress with spectacles c. 1965. Oops.

 But so far, nothing major, nothing bringing the house down or canceling the show. Well, except that opening night was canceled due to snow. But really, what I mean is, um, it’s happening, whether we like it or not.

And that’s kind of how I feel about make-up. I never wear make-up in real life, and I mean never. I’m not one of those modest femmes who insist it only takes me five minutes to do my concealer, mascara, and “lipshine”. I literally just don’t. Whenever I embark on a theatrical adventure (Halloween costumes, a play, Rocky Horror, dressing up as Bert & Ernie for our annual Valentines), I state, very honestly, that Mr. Apron has worn make-up more often that I have. For this alone they should revoke my license to being a girl.

When I attempt to do my make-up for a play, I feel like I’m being asked to perform surgery for which I’ve never trained. No older sisters playing dress-up with me. No made-up mommy whose vanity I could raid. My own mother swears by one beauty product alone – bright red lipstick. Its ever presence on my mother’s face was enough to turn me off of lipstick in general. Until I entered the world of theatre and was suddenly expected to know how to apply such things as lipstick, blush, mascara eye shadow, foundation, and, my nemesis, eyeliner.

Luckily, in high school a friend dragged me to the home of a Mary Kay lady who made one futile attempt to sell me things, and taught me to apply mascara. Luckily, I do enough make-up for children’s theatre (ironic, n’est-ce pas?) that I can suck in my cheeks and apply blush. And, for better or for worse, years of watching my mother have taught me more than I’d care to know about lipstick application. Yet eyeliner and eye shadow evade me. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve tried, rubbed it off, tried again, used different tools, found better lights, looked up, looked down, opened my eyes, closed my eyes, pinned my eyes half-closed, blinked, and rubbed it all off again. It’s just embarrassing. I can kind of line my lower lids, in a crude, theatrical way, but I absolutely positively cannot line my upper lids. Complete and total fail. Which led me to beg my little sister to do my eye make-up the night she came for the show. (Goodness knows how/where she learned to do it.) But I’ve had to do it myself every other time. And poorly, I might add. I feel like a kindergartener drawing all over my eyes with a stubby crayon. I blink, I stab, I flinch, I rub. And, in the end, I probably look like a raccoon-eyed whore who has been crying in the rain after her pimp punched her. In other words, ready for the stage.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I were in a dressing room full of other former marching-band geeks who were also declaiming their novice states. But, of course, I’m in a show with, among others, one former pageant competitor who’s also an esthetician. Opening night, I walked into the dressing room to see her pull out an attaché case filled with enough brushes and tools and a commensurate color palette to paint a mural. Effortlessly, she tucked her impossibly long and thin legs under her as she sat on the floor and made herself up. Not all the girls have quite her resume, but most can at least draw a straight line on their eyelids.

I don’t want to wear make-up, but I want to be able to put it on when I need to.

I am good with my hands. I enjoy crafting, sewing, decorating cupcakes, working closely with an X-acto knife – myriad tasks requiring a steady hand and precision. That’s what makes it even more frustrating when I struggle with a stupid eyeliner pencil and a q-tip loaded with eye shadow. I want to be good at it. I guess I’ll have to find other ways to maintain my girliness credentials, like painting my nails, French-braiding hair, and wearing twirly skirts.

Every time I see a Kia Soul on the road, I think of hamsters.  I wait for the car to round the corner, craning my neck for a glimpse of the driver and passengers, because I clearly expect to see a furry rodent at the wheel.  This is either a colossal success in advertising, or a full-out failure.  I understand the point of the commercial — stand out, move beyond your boring “hamster wheel” of a Cobalt, or a Civic.  Instead of just spinning your (hamster) wheel, burn some rubber.  Well, that last point is a bit ambitious, given the 122 horsepower, but I understand their mission.  Stand out, with your weird ! and + trim lines.  Set yourself apart with “alien” colored body paint.  Define yourself with a houndstooth interior.  Express your angst with a USB jack hooked up to a raging iPod. 

I understand all this, but I didn’t think of originality when I saw the Soul turn a corner out of the school’s parking lot this afternoon;  I thought of hamsters.  When I think of hamsters, my stream of consciousness goes thusly — Habitrail plastic tunnels, Zhu Zhu pets, mice, mouse poop, snap traps — and then all the nightmares of that year we spent living among the filth and stench of being infested by mice.  The year we spent throwing out ruined clothing, checking traps every time we came home, falling asleep listening to skittering little feet, and drowning mice in Finley’s water bowl. 

I’d rather drive my Honda Fit, which,  for its meager 117 hp, at least manages 39 mpg highway, to the Soul’s 31 mpg, and doesn’t ever remind me of hamsters or mouse poop.  How many car companies can make that claim?

The other night I had a dream that my parents had a baby.  Knowing full well that this is currently biologically impossible for them, I relaxed, but realized that this was probably my biological clock alerting me to my duty as Only Married Child, and Eldest Child, to produce the first grandchild. 

My mother will be over the moon when we have a baby.  I just know it.  She’s been ready to be a grandmother since my youngest sibling was out of diapers.  Not that she’s ever pressured me (save for a passive aggressive note in our House Warming card) to make her some grandbabies, but I know it’s her calling in life.  She wants to spoil them, to coo over them, to dress them and bake for them, and play with them and feel the warmth that a houseful of sarcastic twenty-something children (home for the holidays and whatnot) seems to have left behind with the My Little Ponies and Pound Puppies. 

I told her about my dream, and she completely missed or ignored the flashing neon sign of its meaning.  She went for the “truthiness” instead, telling me that, biologically, she could very well still serve as a vessel (or whatever euphemism she used), blah, blah, blah.  And really?  So not the point. 

So ready is she that she has acquired yet another dog, which my siblings and I know are surrogate children/grandbabies.  Never mind that she invites chaos into the house, and seems to be satisfied only when impossible situations anre brewing with regularity, she just wants to save the world’s strays.  I guess I’m relieved on 2 accounts: 1) that the city where they live only allows 3 dogs per household without kennel license; and 2) that’s she’s chosen dogs, not foster children.  I don’t know of any such limits on foster children.  Soon after my sister removed her dog from the family home and took it with her to college (thus liberating the poor thing from its oppressively smothering dog sibling, and giving it a new leash on life, pun intended), my mother realized she could not live with only one dog, and had not had only one dog since 1986.  Literally.  When we took in a stray border collie who was the best dog in the world.  Literally.  Well, the newest stray border collie (see: oppressively smothering dog sibling) turned out to be insane, and when the opportunity presented itself two weeks later, Mom adopted a dog she heard about through a co-worker — an abandoned 90 lb chocolate lab.  Mom was thrilled when the lab exuded quiet and adorable dominance, which seemed to put the border collie in her place, or at least cow her suffiiciently that humans can now hug in her presence without getting humped.  What to do, though, about the chaos level?  It was too low.  So, with a week to go before a 1200 mile weekend roadtrip to see my sister’s play, and with a sprained ankle for the regular dogsitter, Mom brought home Jellybean, a fox terrier who ought to spice things up sufficiently. 

Maybe she’ll stop with the surrogate insanity once we produce an heir, but at least the city won’t let her get any new canines until one of the current ones goes to Doggie Heaven, and the eldest is only 7 years old, so it’ll be a while. 

Unless, of course, she figures out how to get a kennel license.

After seeing everyone’s Facebook statuses, I know I”m about 10 days late with this post, but it’s been percolating in my brain without the opportunity to get out, so here it is. 

Before the last storm, I very purposefully parked at the end of our block, since I knew I’d have an easier time shoveling out.  Mr. Apron and I worked our tails off so I could go to work when at last the school district finally crawled out from its snail shells and let the busses go pick up the school children.  And it was good.  We though we lived in a nice neighborhood, a neighborhood where people are largely respectful of person space and keep their lawns and homes reasonably well.  During the December storm the entire back alley (which is decidedly not plowed by the township) was carefully shovelled out by all who use the alley.  It was a regular community event.  Other than that, we rarely speak to our neighbors, but on those days we worked together, lifting snow for the snow blower, allowing excess snow to be piled on each of our yards, so we could all park and escape with relative ease. 

On the street, there was, I hoped, a tacit agreement that the parking space you shovelled out was your own.  I leave the house on the early side in the morning, and am therefore rewarded with being able to come home around 4:30 and have my pick of the street spots not taken by the retirees.  On Monday, I got my spot.  On Tuesday I again came home to my spot.  And Wednesday as well.  Thursdays I work late, so I arrived home around 6pm to find that some jerk had parked his SUV in my spot.  A spot which was so unmistakably mine I could have had Mr. Apron piss on it.  I had thought we could have avoided the trashy jockeying with lawn chairs, but apparently not.  With pride and defiance, I greeted the spot on Friday afternoon only to find someone else’s porch furniture in my space.  Oh, this meant war.  I grabbed the wire framed piece of shit and heaved it into the snow bank.  Then, I parked my car, and dared the chair owner to come bang on my door and tell me whose spot he thought he was saving.  It’s not so daring, but I had to hope we didn’t live in a neighborhood where they slash tires. 

It’s all peace and civility till you mess with my Fit. 

Finally, thanks to above-freezing temps and glorious sun hitting the curbside where we park, the snow is melting in our neighborhood.  I wish I could have said the same for downtown Philly, and the neighborhoods where I work.  Each daycare, home, or preschool I approached was surrounded by a plethora of lawn chairs, milk crates, stolen traffic cones, and kiddie chairs.  I knew I was only going to be there an hour or two.   I knew it was most likely no one would come to claim their spot during that time.  But I didn’t dare risk it.  Instead, I circled for 10 minutes, praying I didn’t get stuck in the slick spots, till I found an unclaimed spot.  A meeting that was to have happened at a daycare was moved to a Dunkin’ Donuts because there was no parking by the daycare itself. 

Now, even the new snow we got last weekend has melted, and when I go back into the battlezone of Philly on Wednesday, I pray those chairs are gone.  I can just imagine the file note I’d have to write if I couldn’t park and missed an appointment:

“Johnny was not seen at his school today because there was a toilet and a coffee table preventing me from parking near his school.  Will try to make-up next week, assuming the toilet is gone.”

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March 2010