Category Archives: Family
The appliances in my house have obviously observed my recent concerns with making my house look presentable just in case I get serially killed, and have chosen the last few weeks to rise up against me. Being bullied by inanimate objects with tremendous electrical power has made me long for the days of childhood where the only thing I had to give up to appease my antagonizer was my milk money. Now the stakes are a bit higher.
Our kitchen sink backed up. The garbage disposal refuses to eat garbage. The washing machine stopped spinning the water out of the clothes. And the dishwasher’s top rack fell just enough to start whacking the dishes on the bottom rack with its spinner, taking nice chunks out of any plates we are dumb enough to put down there.
I drew the line at the shredder. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by this beast who is just waiting to chomp my hand off the next time I dangle a ream of unwanted credit card applications near its eager fangs. However, I started getting too comfortable with my daily brushes of danger this summer as I cleaned out a filing cabinet of paperwork from the Nixon era. I thought I was being clever by shredding things until the machine over-heated, and then waiting until the next day to continue with the stack. But it was only a matter of time before the shredder decided to stop playing this game and conk out on me altogether.
I’m no fool. I knew the shredder was just biding its time, hoping I would stick my fingers in its mouth to try to pry something loose. And I did. But I unplugged it first. Because even though it has a safety that is supposed to guarantee it won’t suddenly start grinding things up when you take it off the base, I learned a long time ago that things that should be safe for the majority of humankind are never safe enough for me.
But nothing was stuck in there. And, gosh-darn it, the stupid thing was working fine in reverse. It just refused to suck any paper in.
I thought about turning it upside down to see if I could reverse the reverse, but that seemed like it probably was just a recipe for disaster.
In our house, when something breaks, we have three choices: my husband fixes it, we call a repair person, or we buy a new one.
It seemed unlikely that it would be worth calling someone to the house to fix a $40 shredder. My husband was in the middle of trying to fix our toilet, and didn’t want to hear about the tragedy that would unfold if we could not get crosscut our paper waste so thieves would be unable to go through our garbage to steal our identity. And I did not want to buy a new shredder.
So, I decided to take matters into my own hands. The thing was already broken, so it’s not like I could make it any worse.
The first step was to unscrew the top. I grabbed a Phillips and went to town. Six screws later, I tried to pry it apart. Nothing doing.
I called in my husband. After he checked to make sure I had unplugged the appliance because he knows my history of ending up in the emergency room when I attempt DIY projects, my husband tried to pry the top off. He investigated the entire piece to make sure I had unscrewed everything. But it still wouldn’t come off. He shrugged and wandered back to his precious toilet.
I glared at the shredder. I went to the computer and typed in, “stupid top of shredder won’t come off even though I unscrewed all of the thingies.”
Yeah. So that’s a thing, I guess. Other people have experienced the same frustration, according to message boards.
“I got it off!” I yelled to my husband minutes later after reading one clever reader’s advice. He was suitably impressed. I think. It’s hard to tell when he just mumbled, “How?’ while he glared into the bowels of the toilet tank.
“The last screw was hidden under the warranty sticker!”
My pride did not last long. I realized when I popped the top off that I had absolutely no idea what to do next. Plus, it was kind of greasy and yucky in there. And those nasty sharp teeth were in the perfect position to take a chunk out of me.
Back to the internet.
“Now that I got the top of the shredder off, how do I make it start eating paper again?”
I found a lovely page where a man actually posted photographs of what the inside of my shredder should look like. He even added helpful arrows to the pictures. I love this man and maybe would consider divorcing my husband to marry him if I thought he would be as understanding as my husband about women who get in strange cars in the parking lot or dogs who can’t figure out if they want to come out of the closet or not.
An hour later (I’m spatially challenged so even pictures on the internet take me awhile to translate to real life) I ran victoriously into the living room where my daughter and husband (who had not fixed the toilet but actually made it worse) were watching t.v.
“I fixed the shredder!” I yelled, waving the screwdriver around happily.
I didn’t really get the reaction that a woman who just saved her family from wasting $40 on a new shredder should receive. I didn’t even get the reaction that a woman who avoided turning her hands into bloody stumps because she was super careful to unplug the shredder first should receive. It was pretty anti-climactic.
Maybe they would be more impressed the next day when I rescued our 300 c.d.’s from the disc changer that stubbornly refused to change or even open…
(No, they weren’t. Repairing things is really a thankless business, I’ve decided.)
While I was at swim practice with my daughter (I like the way that sounds – as though I was actually doing laps with her…) my husband was doing yard work. For some reason, he does not find it very beneficial to have Wonderbutt in the yard with him at the same time. Apparently, Wonderbutt likes to poop in leaf piles. I wish I had known that a long time ago, because that knowledge could be useful for the times when I want to take the Dog Who Poops as He Walks for a little saunter around the neighborhood.
Anyway, Cap’n Firepants texted me this photo, and said, “He’s barking at me.”
To which I replied, “Poor guy.”
To which he replied, “Me or the dog;)”
To which I did not reply.
And that, my friends, is one of the many reason why we’re still married.
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.
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 turns out my anti-depressant only works when there is nothing to be depressed about. Which seems kind of ineffective. I mean, if your medication isn’t going to help you look on the bright side of things when you find out that your dog probably needs $1500 surgery – TWICE – then, really, what’s the point of taking it?
As I mentioned in the last post, Wonderbutt has been limping. Cap’n Firepants and I could not agree on which leg was hurt, which was embarrassing to admit to the vet. We were pretty sure it was a back leg, but the darn dog has two of those. I was certain he was favoring the left one, and the Cap’n was equally sure it was the right one. It turned out that I was right. And I’ve never been so depressed about being correct. Because the Cap’n was right, too, apparently. According to the vet, it appears that Wonderbutt tore the ligaments in both of his rear knees.
So, first of all, I didn’t even know that Wonderbutt has knees. I still can’t find them. Who’s the stupid idiot who decided to give dogs knees? Next, you’re going to tell me they have elbows, too.
Secondly, the vet does not know this for sure. So we must pay $500 to be certain with X-rays that must be done while Wonderbutt is anesthetized. (Apparently, the vet is doubtful that Wonderbutt will be relaxed enough to get good X-rays done while he is awake.) Then, we get to fork out the $3000. Which should be very interesting since we don’t happen to have that in our Swiss bank account right now.
I came home from the vet, and decided that the best way to deal with this information would be to take a nap.
Another astounding revelation – naps at 10:30 in the morning really don’t help to combat the threat of oppressive veterinary bills and a hobbled bulldog.
In the meantime, our daughter, Dimples (who has a “touch” of scoliosis, and needs to go to a specialist so we can get more specific bad news) is alive with the Christmas spirit. She is cheerfully dancing around the house, decorating, and delighting at placing ornaments in unusual spots for me to find. Her birthday happens to be in a few days, so nothing is going to dampen her good cheer.
And my mother-in-law called this morning to see when we were going to pick her up for Thanksgiving. Which we did. Yesterday.
We all find our own ways of avoiding reality, I suppose.
Well, it’s sex education time again in the Firepants household. This year, our daughter, Dimples, gets to keep us involved by asking us questions each night for homework. I dutifully answered last night’s questions, so I assigned her dad, Cap’n Firepants this evening’s responses. They were fairly innocuous questions, (“What do you remember about the friends you had when you were my age?”) so I felt like it was a fair request. While Dimples was interviewing him, I took a peek at the ones for tomorrow night, knowing the responsibility would fall back onto my shoulders. The theme for tomorrow seems to have something to do with self-confidence, asking questions like, “How did you feel about yourself when you were my age?” I think I can handle that.
Then I saw the ones for Friday night. Haha, Cap’n Firepants. You’re in for a treat…
“What do you know about sexually transmitted diseases?” I asked Cap’n Firepants right about the time he was feeling like he’d dodged a bullet with tonight’s interrogation.
“Nothing,” he said quickly. The teacher in me was about to reprimand him for lack of elaboration. Then I thought about it. What, exactly, is the right way to answer that question when asked by your 10 year old daughter? Is it better to claim ignorance than to risk implying that we know a bit too much? If I pass the buck to Cap’n Firepants, is he going to shame our family forever by saying too little or way too much? NOBODY WARNED ME THAT I WOULD STILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS INFORMATION 30 YEARS AFTER I TOOK THE CLASS.
Can someone do me a solid and slip me the crib notes?