I am sure that it is not just chance that the only toy that has ever stood up to the jaws of our bulldog, Wonderbutt, also happens to be the most annoying toy on the face of this planet.
My daughter and husband have plotted to make Squeaky Toy disappear. Permanently. So far, I’ve held them back. Wonderbutt is just so darn happy when he plays with it, and it’s not very often we get to see the pudgy little guy actually smile. (I told my husband the other day that we should have named him Bob Newhart.) See, look how gleeful he is when he plays with it?
Oh, right. I forgot. I have no pictures of him playing with it. As soon as I pull the camera out, Wonderbutt, races to me so he can shove Squeaky Toy in my face. There is nothing quite as enjoyable as having a stinky plush toy smashed into your nose.
The main problem with Squeaky Toy is that Wonderbutt refuses to allow me to schedule the playdates. Instead, Wonderbutt chooses the time and place that Squeaky Toy is invited to make an appearance – and those times are not what the rest of us would call ideal.
Yesterday, our elderly friend, MILlie, came for dinner. To keep Wonderbutt from leaping on her, I tried to distract him with Squeaky Toy. Wonderbutt sat next to MILlie, and stared at me like I was insane as I danced around squeezing Squeaky Toy enticingly. He finally sighed, and returned to the more pressing job of figuring out how to hump our guest.
An hour later, we sat down to dinner. Five minutes after we started to eat our spaghetti, Wonderbutt came racing into the room, merrily chomping down on Squeaky Toy. He pranced around the dining room table, and dashed through the curtains behind us, back and forth, now completely devoted to playing with Squeaky Toy, his long lost friend who had been annoyingly silent for entirely too long.
Short squeaky bursts, and long high-pitched wails emitted from the toy as Wonderbutt eyed us peripherally for our reactions. Then, he walked too close to my husband’s chair. Squeaky Toy hit a leg of the chair, and popped out of Wonderbutt’s mouth. With quick reflexes, Cap’n Firepants kicked Squeaky Toy under a low side table.
Wonderbutt realized that his attempts to remove Squeaky Toy from the table dungeon were only making things worse. So, Wonderbutt began to whine.
Which is worse – the joyous, ear-splitting shrieks of a Squeaky Toy being chomped on by a happy bulldog, or the less-deafening but amazingly depressing sound of a canine parted from his very best friend in the whole wide world?
We pulled out Squeaky Toy.
Yesterday was supposed to be a Whole Day of No Obligation according to the orthodox Firepants Family calendar. Friday night, I informed the entire family, since they never pay attention to the Firepants Family calendar. I generously offered that all members were welcome to participate, but to keep in mind that, no matter what, I was not obligated to do a thing.
(I was telling one of my girlfriends about this sacred day, and she asked what it meant, and I said that I don’t have to clean or cook for my family, and she said, “Since when do you ever cook for your family?” which was a very good question, and made me think that I probably need to redefine this whole unHoly day.)
Everyone seemed on board with the idea. Cap’n Firepants was going to be out all day anyway, and Dimples was more than happy to accept a 24-hour respite from me nagging her about chores. There was only one problem…
According to our bulldog, every day is one of complete obligation – to him. No holidays allowed.
A WDoNO begins with me sleeping as late as I possibly want. Cap’n Firepants very quietly got ready for his meeting and left the house around 7:00 a.m. I sunk back into luxurious sleep.
A persistent moan started to interfere with my dreams. I opened one eye, and looked at the clock. 7:45.
I didn’t have to look far for the moaner. Wonderbutt was right next to the bed, staring me down. (I would like to point out that Wonderbutt does not whine. He moans. Like Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter. And really not less annoying.)
I tried to explain that he should have gotten up with Cap’n Firepants to eat breakfast, but Wonderbutt does not like to eat with Cap’n Firepants. In fact, when invited to eat by my husband, Wonderbutt gives Cap’n Firepants the same look that I was probably giving Wonderbutt at that moment. A not very nice look that anyone trying to coax me from my bed is very stupid.
But the pillow I placed over my head did not cancel out the moaning.
I got up, and fed the dog.
Then I went back to bed.
Wonderbutt returned. With his squeaky toy. I took it away, and threw it in the sink.
Wonderbutt moaned. But he finally gave up and decided to fall asleep on the floor next to the bed. And snore.
Snoring is easy to block out with a pillow.
Then the doorbell rang.
Wonderbutt woke up.
I couldn’t tell him to stop barking because then the person at the door would know that I was home. And I didn’t want the person at the door to know that I was home because then he or she would know that I am a very rude person who refuses to answer doorbells. And that I am very lazy to still be in bed at 9:00 on a Saturday morning. I forgot to put the sign up on the door that I was observing a Whole Day of No Obligation, which included not being obliged to answer the door.
The person at the door was very persistent, ringing the doorbell 4 times. I realized that he was a burglar trying to make certain that no one was home. I debated whether I would break my vow of a Whole Day of No Obligation to whack a burglar over the head with a baseball bat. Then I realized that was silly. We don’t even own a baseball bat.
I went back to bed.
My phone vibrated off the nightstand.
It was our neighbor.
“It’s National Margarita Day, and we are inviting you over tonight to celebrate!”
I panicked. Socializing with neighbors is an obligation. Drinking margaritas is not. Unless it’s actually a day that requires it. How could I have been so ignorant as to schedule a Whole Day of No Obligation on the same day as National Margarita Day?
Note to Self – Next year, schedule Whole Day of No Obligation for day after National Margarita Day.
And lock Wonderbutt in the pantry with his dog food.
The other day I got a lovely teaching award, and had some very nice things said about me. Which is even better than the Oscars when you think about it – because no one says nice things about you when you win the Oscar (they just read your name off a teleprompter), AND you’re expected to then get up and say nice things about other people. That’s kind of a raw deal and almost makes me feel sorry for Meryl Streep – even though the whole time I was watching August: Osage County, I was thinking, “I bet she gets an Oscar for this.”
Anyway, I missed half of the nice things that were said about me because I obsessed over the first one, which had been said by a student. ”She is very patient.”
Even better than receiving an award is being proven right – especially when your husband and daughter, who both declare that you need to work on your patience, happen to be standing there and witnessing the right-proving of the woman they repeatedly malign with accusations of impatience.
“Did you hear that?” I asked my family after I received the award.
“To be honest, I didn’t hear very much,” my husband said.
I was somewhat prepared for that answer. Before joining my family, I asked the speech-writer if I could have a copy of the speech.
“Look!” I pointed to the line about patience. ”See what they said about me? I’m patient!”
They both shrugged. ”I guess they don’t know you very well,” one of them said. I’m not sure who. Because steam blowing out of your ears tends to interfere with your understanding of the directionality of voices.
I did a bit of self-reflection to try to figure out how this could happen. I thought about the time I kept my cool with my daughter when she stayed in the shower for 30 minutes even after I told her to take a quick one because it was time for bed. I thought about the incident(s) when I stifled by huffs of exasperation when my husband changed his mind thirty times about the restaurant we were going to grace with our company for a rare date.
I thought about this exact moment when my family came to witness my award presentation and they didn’t listen to a word that was said.
I thought about the many times that I closed my eyes and counted to infinity when I really wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.
And it all became clear.
I deserve an Oscar way more than Meryl Streep.
I’ve been having trouble sleeping. Ironically, I think the culprit is my anti-depressant. The medicine that is supposed to make me less depressed is keeping me from sleeping which is making me more depressed.
I decided that I needed to cut back on my caffeine. I like my Diet Coke, though. So, I started chugging Caffeine-Free Diet Coke. The problem is that most restaurants don’t carry that. So, I was thrilled to see that several of my favorite restaurants carry Coke Zero.
Now, I’m not sure what possessed me to think that Coke Zero would be helpful. For some reason, I got the insane idea that the “Zero” meant there would be zero calories, zero caffeine, and zero aspartame. Healthy, right?
I did not connect the fact that I was completely wired at 2:00 AM every night to the fact that I was ingesting Coke Zero like it was water.
One day, I was getting a can from the machine at school, and someone passing said, “Need a caffeine hit for the afternoon?”
“No. As a matter of fact, I’m trying to avoid caffeine,” I said.
“Oh, that doesn’t have caffeine?”
“Of course not. That’s why it’s called Coke Zero.”
That got me thinking…
So, I consulted my friend Google later that afternoon. Here is what I found regarding the comparative caffeine levels:
O.K. Then why the heck is it called “Coke ZERO”?!!!!!!
Because there is zero sugar in it.
Of course, there is zero sugar in Diet Coke as well. Apparently, the difference between the two is that the Coke Zero is supposed to taste more like Regular Coke due to a “different flavor base” from Diet Coke. Hence, the “Zero”. That makes sense, right?
From now on, just call me “Beyonce Zero”. We’re practically the same except for every part of us that’s not the same.
Works for me.
So, I’m just going to come out and say this.
I HATED Cheerios when I was a kid. HATED THEM.
To this day, I cannot understand the appeal of Cheerios. They taste like round paper to me. And, yet, every toddler in the world seems to love them. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that my unique-ness was obvious at an early age.
I did like Froot Loops, though. I mean, what’s not to like? They’re colorful, they taste like mini sugar cookies minus the cookie part, and they have a wonderful toucan named Sam touting their product.
Now people are all up in arms because it’s been revealed that Froot Loops has been bamboozling us this whole time. Shockingly, we have learned that just because the loops are different colors doesn’t mean they are different flavors. In fact, they are all the same flavor.
So, all of the people – and I am not one of them – who always used to separate their loops by color because they didn’t like certain flavors are feeling betrayed. They are probably the same people who liked Cheerios. Obviously they have disabled taste buds.
I don’t really care if Froot Loops are all the same flavor. It’s not like they’re M&M’s, for crying out loud. M&M’s are obviously different flavors – and it’s no secret that the blue ones are the best.
I learned a long time ago, when I dug to the bottom of a box for my prize and found a stupid coupon instead, that the cereal business is full of smoke and mirrors. Nothing surprises me any more when it comes to breakfast food that you pour into a bowl.
But don’t. mess. with. my. candy.
So now that I’ve been on this new medication for awhile, it’s become clear to me that my occasional lapses of memory are probably not caused by terrorists poisoning my food. I mean, that’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it. It’s not like terrorists are that subtle. They bomb restaurants; they don’t sprinkle memory altering drugs on the filet mignon.
Clearly, I have Mad Cow Disease.
The problem with this is that I used to be a vegetarian. So, I only have myself to blame. I hate blaming myself. It’s really not healthy. Although I don’t think it’s quite as damaging as Mad Cow Disease.
Before you pooh pooh my occasional lapses of memory, you might want to hear about the most recent example.
I forgot to take my clothes out the washing machine.
Don’t worry, there is more to the story.
When I finally remembered, I opened the washing machine – only to find it empty.
This was perplexing, to say the least. Puzzlement turned into fury, however, when I opened the dryer to find all of my clothes. Very dry. And very small. Because they are not supposed to go in the dryer. But my loving husband, thinking he was doing me a favor by not pointing out that I forgot to transfer my clothing from one appliance to the next, did it for me.
“Fine, I guess I’ll do him a favor back,” I thought in a not very vengeful way. At that point I was actually feeling remorseful because between finding out my clothes would be better suited for a Barbie doll and thinking that I should do my husband a favor, I had already sent a slightly sarcastic and biting message to Cap’n Firepants not exactly thanking him for his “favor.”
On the slight chance he really did mean to do me a favor, I realized that I might have been somewhat rude.
Cap’n Firepants had a heap of jeans on his side of the closet, so I decided that I would apologize for my sarcasm by washing them.
Now, although we don’t actually take our clothes down to the riverbank and beat them, the procedurefor washing clothes in the Firepants household is nearly as labor intensive: 1. Turn on the washing machine, 2. Pour in detergent. 3. Put in the clothes. 4. Run around the house and grab more clothes from various nooks and crannies to make sure you do not waste water on a load that does not quite exceed the weight limit of a service elevator. 5. Add the bra that you extracted from the dog’s teeth. 6. Close the top of the machine. 7. Come back in 5 minutes and realize the machine stopped. 8. Open the top and let it drop hard in a very dramatic way to restart the cycle. 9. Kick the machine to show it who is boss.
I got the whole process rolling, and patted myself on the back for being the bigger person. Even though I was really not bigger; my clothes were just smaller.
Thirty minutes later, I passed by the laundry room, and realized it was awfully quiet. I looked in and, sure enough, I had forgotten to close the top. I closed it. I kicked it. Noise ensued.
Don’t you see? Total proof that I have Mad Cow Disease.
Oh, need more?
So, a couple of hours later, we returned to the house after having taken Dimples to and from piano lessons. I proudly remembered that I needed to put the jeans of Cap’n Firepants into the dryer.
I opened the washing machine. No clothes.
Now, Cap’n Firepants was still at work, as far as I knew. But, it seemed clear to me that he had driven twenty minutes home, put his clothes in the dryer, and then gone back to work. Obviously.
I looked in the dryer.
Oh. My. God! Someone stole Cap’n Firepants’ clothes. While we were gone, someone snuck in the house, stole 5 pairs of jeans and my bra, and left.
Nonsense, I realized – after a few minutes of complete panic.
Obviously, Cap’n Firepants came home, put his clothes in the dryer, waited for them to dry, put them away, and went back to work.
Easy to prove. I’ll just walk into the closet and there will be the freshly folded clothes.
I walked into the closet.
There was the heap of jeans.
Oh. My. God!
He came home, put his clothes in the dryer, waited for them to dry, put them away, got them all dirty, put them back on the floor, and then went back to work. In the space of 2 hours.
Or I forgot to put them in the washing machine.
Oh. My. God.
I just did a load of laundry with no clothes in it.
And that, my friends, is why you should not eat meat.
One of the many attributes that my daughter inherited from me was a love of reading. This can be good, but also has a bad side. We get addicted to books. We wallow in them. As a result, we both have the horrible habit of reading during meals. Since my husband is not a big reader, and it seems a bit rude to completely ignore him the few times a week he is able to join us for a meal, I established the “3-Person Rule.” When there are 3 or more people at the table, no one can be reading.
According to my daughter, this is the equivalent of being banished to Guantanomo. At least 3 times a week, it’s only the two of us at the table because I have to feed her before one of her extra-curricular events and my husband is not home, yet. So, she is happy. And I am happy. Because the book takes her mind off my bad cooking. And I get to read, too.
But when we have “family dinners”, she reads until I, the last one, finally sit down at the table, then glares at me, sighs dramatically, and pushes the book to the side.
That’s when it gets fun.
One of the many attributes that my daughter inherited from my husband was an aversion to small talk.
So, we sit in silence, the three of us, until my daughter says to me, “Don’t you have any stories to tell?” Not because she wants to hear them, but because she is bored. And she refuses to reveal anything about her personal life. And my husband just doesn’t really want to talk. So, it’s all on me – the woman forcing my family to socialize with each other.
And then I rack my brain for a story that I haven’t told a million times that’s appropriate to talk about at the dinner table.
My supply is being quickly depleted.
Today, I couldn’t think of anything. But, right when I ate my last bite (being a teacher who usually has 20 min. to eat, I’m always the first to finish), I remembered something. I regaled them with a true story from a book that I was reading. It involved someone who had been treated terribly as a child by his parents. Not exactly great table talk. But it was all I had.
“So, you see? You are so fortunate to have great parents like us!” I observed.
Without missing a beat, Dimples looked pointedly at my empty plate and said, in her best exasperated tone, “Who won’t leave the table even though they are done eating!”
Ah, the mistreatment that poor child has to endure.
Twenty years from now, she will show up for an appointment with some unsuspecting therapist who will be subjected to an hour of unrelenting anguished tales about the parents who abused her by forcing her to put down her book at the dinner table.
Oh, wait a second. No he won’t.
Because she’ll be too busy reading a book.
One of my depression-combatting strategies is to watch hours of sitcoms with my bulldog, Wonderbutt, snoring and farting in my lap. I’m not really sure if it’s the sitcoms, Wonderbutt, or the inhalation of gases that actually help, but I’ve been too lazy to change any of the variables in the attempt to conduct a scientific investigation. The most recent sitcom therapy has been “Modern Family” for the sole reason that one of the networks has been running “Modern Family” marathons during the past couple of weeks. However, they alternate them with “NCIS” marathons, which seem to have the opposite effect on my temperament. I tell you, this T.V. watching can be a real roller-coaster for the psyche.
The other problem with watching “Modern Family” is that I’m not sure it’s actually improving my mood, so much as altering my personality. After watching for a few hours, I have a keen desire to go to dinner with the gay brother that I don’t have or to call Claire and challenge her to a battle of the neurotic perfectionists. Even worse, I start speaking in a thick Colombian accent, saying things like, “Aiii! After all those years with Peg, who knew Al Bundy could be so sweet and charming?” I have a tendency to immerse myself in fictional worlds, in case you couldn’t tell.
These issues could be avoided, of course, if someone just decided to make a sitcom out of my own life. I already mentally explain things to a camera-man half the time, anyway, so putting an actual camera in front of me would not be a stretch. Then I would could watch my own show for hours with Wonderbutt snoring and farting on my lap, and become myself – which would be a welcome change.
Or I might become Wonderbutt.
Some might say that would be an improvement.
It’s Like Driving Miss Daisy – Except She’s a He and in the Front Seat. And Her Butt is Thirty Times Larger than Her Head.
So, you know how you open the pantry door and take out the leash, and your dog dances the happy dance and practically trips you as he races to the front door? And then he sighs loudly as you wander around the house looking for your keys? And then he starts whining and barking at you when you tell him to wait a second because you lost your phone and he lets loose a barrage of doggie expletives because you are wasting precious time interrogating everyone in the household? And then you finally get to the point where you can open the door, but you can’t because he has wedged himself in front of it to make absolutely sure that you don’t leave without him? So, you have to pull the door open and slide him across the floor until he realizes that the moment of departure has finally arrived? And then, he races out the door and you yell at him to wait and to stop running because he has a broken knee?
And he does. Wait, I mean.
By the car door.
Because he does not want to go for a walk.
He wants to go for a ride.
Chauffeured by you.
And even though it’s raining and cold and you have absolutely nowhere to take him, you feel sorry for the poor guy who, despite his torn ligaments, has been dancing by the front door every time you put on your shoes for the last three days. So, you let him jump on to the passenger seat and you ignore his muddy feet, and you ignore the seat belt beeper that warns you that someone more than 35 pounds is sitting next to you, and you ignore the fact that you should not be rewarding a dog who ate your book of strategies for winning Scrabble out of pure spite for anything that takes your attention away from him.
You drive your silly dog to the neighborhood nearby where the houses are far from the road, so maybe no one will notice that you are on a joyride with your bulldog. And you slow down to let him watch deer grazing in the yards. You even roll down the window so he can inform the deer that they better watch out because, if he feels like it, he’s going to heave his 60 pounds through that window and plop onto the ground and then there will be trouble.
And then you move on.
After wandering around for about fifteen minutes, you finally pull back into your own driveway. Your dog lumbers out of the car slowly. He follows you to the front door. Exploring the neighborhood on his own four paws holds no appeal. As soon as you get inside, he sprawls out on the floor with a sigh.
You can’t tell if it’s a sigh of contentment or disappointment.
But at least he won’t be eating any more books any time soon.
Wonderbutt the War-Waging Bulldog has been on a literal tear lately. Markers, socks, Rainbow Loom rubber bands – nothing is safe from him. I would threaten him with coal in his stocking, but he would just eat that, too. The coal and the stocking.
We came home the other day to find that the kitchen was Ground Zero. Placemats, kitchen towels, newspapers, and Dimples’ book were all victims of Wonderbutt’s fury. And just when we thought we had it all cleaned up, we found one of Dimples’ birthday cards right outside the dog door, like a welcome mat for the Poop Pen.
Does Homeowner’s Insurance cover this? Or is it considered an “Act of God”? Maybe an “Act of Dog”?
(Click on the thumbnails to see a larger view of mass destruction.)