Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sharing Wanderlust - London, Here We Come

Chloe and I are off to London tomorrow evening, our first vacation as a mother-daughter team. I have been anticipating this moment since our babies were born, hoping that someday I'd be fortunate enough to travel with them one-on-one when they were old enough to enjoy and appreciate it.

London has been at the top of Chloe's hit list since she first read the Harry Potter series. After much procrastination, she finally put her nose to the grindstone yesterday to figure out what she'd like to see and do while on the other side of the pond.  Her list is a great amalgam of off-the-beaten-track sites, from vintage clothing shops to obscure museums, that will complement what we already have planned.

While we've left plenty of time for serendipitous exploration, we've programmed a few special events that should make this vacation one we'll both remember for a very long time. On tap: opening night of the world tour of "Hamlet" at Shakespeare's Globe on the Bard's 450th birthday, the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour, a day trip to Salisbury and Stonehenge, and "The Mousetrap," the world's longest-running show.  The last one made the list because (1) hello, Agatha Christie, (2) it's an institution and (3) why the hell not?

I'm very curious to see how the two of us will get along.  I don't doubt that we'll aim a good amount of exasperated eye-rolling towards one another.  But we share many of the same interests - her list contains several bookshops and outdoor markets, for example - and humor.  She's willing to do a lot of walking, at least in theory. She's much more adventurous when it comes to food than she was even a couple of years ago and is looking forward to exploring the ethnic restaurants near our hotel in the East End.

While we're galavanting around London, Sophie will be with her Grammy annoying (Sophie's word, not mine) her favorite uncle in Austin.  My husband will benefit from a house devoid of his daughters and wife, and will have Truffle, the only other source of testosterone in the house, to keep him company.  At least he'll meet lots of neighbors when he walks the canine monster around town.  There's nothing like a cute puppy to generate conversation. I hope they won't drive each other too crazy.

Stay tuned for dispatches from the UK. Cheerio!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"NUTS" - a Comic Book by Sophie

Sophie took a class called the "Art of Comic Books" at our local museum.  She's always been more of a graphic novel-type girl than a traditional novel kind of girl, and the result of her weeks-long effort at writing and illustrating her own story are spectacular, in my not-so-objective opinion.

Without ruining the surprise, just know that there's a nut thief loose.  He's a squirrel, of course.  And there's a super hero who comes to the rescue. Her name is Super Kitty. And notice that Super Kitty is a she, not a he.  Girl power and everything.

Click on the individual images to enlarge them if you are unable to make out the text.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Trials & Tribulations of Super Truffle

Greetings, friends. It's been some time since I last took over human mom's blog, but I've been saving the stories for just the right moment.  And it now seems that moment has arrived. 

In a few short days I will be eight months old. There are days when I feel like I'm still a wee baby and then there are days when I feel like a senior canine citizen, an old pro just doing my thing.  

I'm increasingly comfortable in my very fluffy fur. Human mom tried her best not to let the weather get in the way of her taking me on lots of walks during these last weeks of winter.  I couldn't get enough of the snow but she would have curled up in a ball and hibernated like a bear for several months if it was considered socially acceptable behavior.  However, since hibernation is not particularly recommended, she sucked it up and indulged my love for the white stuff by bundling herself up every day, several times a day, in order to get me moving.  She even slipped on the ice and bruised herself a few times, all for my sake.  I am truly humbled by her commitment to my well-being. 

Although the snow has disappeared, I'm quickly realizing that spring isn't so bad. Now that the weather is warmer, human mom leaves the back door open so I can go out to the yard when I please.  I catch rays on the deck whenever I can.  The sun feels glorious on my fur. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was out on a walk and someone we passed said to human mom, "blah blah blah blah blah." Like the teacher in the "Peanuts." I didn't understand a word of it, but I heard human mom repeat the same "blah blah blah blah blah" - with guffaws - to everyone else she spoke to that day. It wouldn't have been noteworthy except for the fact that I knew it was about me. I was getting paranoid. I mean, the guy was looking straight at me when he made his comment. He pet me, too. According to human mom, the guy said, "Your dog's so well-behaved!" 

Yes, indeed. That was my first official compliment unrelated to my strikingly good looks. I strutted around, confidence at an all-time high, tail wagging, for the next couple of days.  But I'm a dog. And I forget pretty quickly. And let's just say that the man must have caught me when I was temporarily possessed by my doppelgänger, who happens to be a remarkably obedient puppy.  You see, although my leash manners have greatly improved and I'm making strides with the resource guarding (human mom and dad are still holding my food bowl when I eat, however), I'm still a puppy doing lots of dumb puppy things.  For example...

Running Out the Front Door

Any dog owner's worst nightmare.  Human mom and my favorite Sophie have been training me to stay in place at the door, but last week my puppy curiosity got the best of me.  Human mom opened the door and forgot to give me the proper command and restrain me. I shot out of the house like a cannonball out of a cannon and ran straight for the street.  In her panic, human mom forgot everything she had learned about just this kind of situation - namely why is she so diligently teaching me the "curb" command if she doesn't use it when it really matters? - until I was a few feet into the road.  Suddenly, I heard her plaintively yelling my name, as if she was hurt. And her tone freaked me out. And I came running back to her to make sure she was ok. Human mom was beside herself with worry. She blamed herself for what happened, but gave me the cold shoulder afterwards, too. I guess I should have known better. But I'm just a dog and there are no guarantees when it comes to predicting how I'll behave, especially when I have the opportunity to run with a gentle, cool breeze coursing through my fur.

First Road Trip

The family dragged me on a road trip to Boston this weekend.  My first road trip and hopefully my last.  What in the hell were they thinking?  It was the worst 24 hours of my life.  Human mom, in her obsessive-compulsive way, insisted on how important it was to acclimate me to traveling with them.  The car ride was bad enough - four hours!  That photo below, where I look relaxed and happy in the car with Chloe?  That was me play-acting for the camera.  I hated it.  I only managed to settle down after my favorite Sophie let me use her legs as a pillow.  Then I immediately felt better.  

That is, I felt better until they abandoned me in my crate in an unfamiliar hotel room as soon as we arrived.  They had some family thing to attend. Aren't I family? Why couldn't I go, too?  I was a wreck.

One of my proudest accomplishments is that I've NEVER had an accident in my crate. I kid you not. Not since day one. Until this past Saturday at that godforsaken hotel.  I crapped in my crate. It was absolutely disgusting.  When my human family returned, they smelled it right away.  And they felt awful. As well they should.  Mom immediately started to fret that she'd have to give me a bath - which she's never done (the groomer gives me baths, ugh).  But then they noticed something remarkable amidst the stench. I was perfectly clean.  That's right, my friends. I may have crapped in my crate, but despite my fragile mental state, I had the presence of mind not to lay down in it.  Which made my family feel even more guilty.  They cleaned everything up (at least they had the foresight to bring lots of extra towels) and I started to relax. Finally.

Mom spent that evening in the room with me while everyone else went out for dinner. She took me outside in the pouring rain several times. She was not happy.  I hadn't seen her that stressed since those first few weeks after they brought me home.  In the photo below, I'm lying down on my first hotel bed. It wasn't comfortable. I can't believe my favorite Sophie had to sleep on that thing. She would have been better off sleeping with me in my crate.

On Sunday, they wouldn't let me out of their sight.  The weather was still awful - it was teeming outside.  I got to visit my human cousins' apartment.  And play with their 1-year old daughter.  Mom kept me on my leash, but I was charming, if I do say so myself.  Didn't get into any trouble at all. And then it was time to get back in the car for the ride home. It was interminable. But I was feeling a lot better. No whining this time. I remained calm. Except at the end of the trip. I wanted to make sure my family understood - once and for all - that their behavior towards me this weekend was simply unacceptable.  So about 1/2 hour before we arrived home, I puked on my towel.  Because I'm a nice puppy, however, and didn't want them to suffer too much, I proceeded to eat most of my puke to limit the mess. They were grossed out. But when we arrived home a few minutes later, I was ecstatic. I've never been so happy to smell those familiar smells.

Note to human family from Super Truffle: never, ever do that to me again. Or else....

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chloe in a New Light

Chloe is a jeans teen.  She loves her jeans. She only wears jeans, except in the summer when she wears shorts. She used to like to primp, but that was when she was seven and shopping for her was an absolute nightmare.  I will never forget spending almost five hours at the mall in a tearful (she wasn't the only one crying) quest to find a dress she'd actually be willing to wear.  I firmly believe that the trauma of trying to find "fancy" clothes she liked in 2007 turned her against dresses and skirts for the next six years.

In the words of the inimitable Bob Dylan, however, the "times they are a-changin'." Chloe attended her first bat mitzvah last weekend.  And while she could have worn a nice pants outfit (I have to dig up the photo of me at my bat mitzvah, where I wore a very trendy pair of purple velvet knickers. I kid you not.), she expressed a willingness to shop for a dress.  With the memory of the shopping debacle six years ago still very much making me tremble with dread to this day, we went to the mall, this time with my mom, and less than an hour after arriving, she found the perfect dress. On sale.  I was gobsmacked. No drama, no tantrums (which she is still wont to throw from time to time, albeit without hysterical tears), no eye rolling.  Just smiles.

The dress hung on the door to her armoire for several weeks as the big day approached. The night before the party, she finally shaved six months' worth of winter growth from her legs and armpits (she was very proud of the hirsute look she had cultivated under her jeans and shirts) and donned the dress for the first time on Saturday morning.  She put up her hair (also without any fuss, a non-event that was about as shocking in its non-eventness as the painless dress shopping last month), borrowed my red shoes and was ready to go.  And she was only a few minutes late.

I couldn't believe how lovely she looked. All grown up. Happy. Animated. Relaxed. And I suddenly had a vision of her five years from now, when she'll be graduating from high school. It's hard to believe that six years have passed since she made me question her sanity (and my own) with the dress shopping. It's even harder to believe that only a short five years from now she'll be ready to leave the house for college. I've said it before and I'll say it again, where in the hell does the time go?

After the party, Chloe admitted to enjoying playing dress-up and even expressed a desire to be invited to another bat/bar mitzvah so she would have the opportunity to wear the dress again.  The following day, she ordered a skirt. Of her own volition. This represents a milestone in her fashion evolution, as the only skirts she's ever owned have been foisted on her by me.

While I am the last person to play into stereotypes about how my daughters should dress (this blog is called "Pink Me Not" for a reason), I must admit that I am a wee bit giddy at the prospect of Chloe occasionally wearing something other than jeans. It's about freakin' time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Who Was I in 1989 & Do I Really Want to Know?

Find old journals and letters.

This was one of items on my every-growing to-do list since I left my job almost one year ago.  It's not that the letters and journals were lost - I've always known that they were stored away in boxes in our basement, but until recently, I hadn't given them much thought.  I started journaling in high school and continued it on and off for many years.  The last time I regularly recorded my thoughts in hard copy tomes was during the two-year period just after my father died in 2000 until Chloe turned one in 2002.

As I combed through the thousands of old photos on my computer last week, I started to think about those old journals and all the letters I had received from friends and family when I was in high school, college and living in France in the 1980s and 1990s.  And how I should dig them up and read through them and discover who I was all those years ago.

I found the box of letters the other day and the box of journals a few minutes ago. My heart started pounding in anticipation. Do I dive in? Am I ready to dive in? What will I think of my younger self? Will I like the 'me' of 25-30 years ago? Do I even want to revisit the 'me' of 25-30 years ago? What stories will the letters from my friends - some of whom I lost contact with ages ago - tell about our shared experiences together when we were teenagers and college students?

Letters and More Letters
I took the covers off the boxes and peered inside. I quickly glanced at a couple of journals and letters. I read a poem I had written when I was 17 and I blushed. And just as quickly as I had opened the boxes, I closed them and put them back on the shelf.  I'm not quite ready.

As my fingers touched the thin stationery and turned the pages of my old journals, I couldn't help but think about what our kids are missing in this era of texting, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Their lives are a series of ephemeral soundbites. Here today and gone tomorrow. When they are adults with kids of their own, they won't have boxes of letters and journals to remind them of who they were when they were young, which is a bit heartbreaking.

I am both excited and terrified to travel back in time. I know I will find many conflicting emotions: hope and despair, optimism and pessimism about the future, love and hate, confidence and insecurity...essentially all the drama of a teenager turned young adult trying to find her way in the world.

Although I wasn't ready to face my past today, I won't be able to resist much longer. The letters and journals beckon me. It's almost time to take the plunge.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happily Drowning in Nostalgia

The task has been on my list of projects since I left my office job almost one year ago. The photo files on the computer. Almost 10,000 pictures memorializing our family's adventures since 2006. Plus a few stray photos from many moons ago when my husband and I were kids ourselves, scanned for posterity in case the paper versions someday disintegrate into thin air.  And lots and lots of garbage - blurry photos, duplicate photos, ugly photos - that have no business taking up valuable computer memory.

After about one week of sporadically dipping into iPhoto to organize and clean out the mess, I'm about halfway through the archive. And a project I dreaded has become the highlight of my day.  Yes, Chloe and Sophie were adorable when they were younger, like most kids. Yes, they were silly when they were younger (and they remain silly today). None of that is surprising. But what is surprising to me is how much has changed. And how very little has changed.  I've discovered thousands of wonderful moments that seem to support the theory that personalities are formed young and don't tend to evolve hugely over time.  

Take, for instance, these two photos of Sophie lounging in forts she built out of our couch cushions - the first from 2009 when she was four years old and the second from last week at the tender age of eight. Sophie has matured and grown into a caring and confident 3rd grader, but she remains our little Sophie Bear at heart.  And she still loves her forts.

Fort by Sophie, December 2009
Fort by Sophie, March 2014
And Chloe still loves her books. In the photo below, taken in June 2008 when she was seven years old, Chloe is enjoying "The Witches" by Roald Dahl. It's the oldest photo I found that captures her engrossed in a book.  Her favorite pastime has not changed, as evidenced by the June 2013 photo below. She now takes a book with her everywhere, mostly as insurance against our conversation not being interesting enough to engage her.

Chloe Reading June 2008
Chloe Reading June 2013
Chloe and Sophie do have at least one thing in common. They love amusement park rides. They shared their first ride together in Paris in December 2006, which also happened to be Sophie's very first non-car motorized adventure. Their most recent thrill together took place last summer at the New York State Fair. Sophie had a little anxiety about the speed of the ride, as evidenced by her hesitant smile, but wanted to go a second time as soon as it was over.

The girls' first ride together, Paris December 2006
New York State Fair, August 2013
What is most striking to me as I sift through the photos is how happy the girls look in almost every single picture.  I like to think they're generally happy kids, but when you're living in the moment and dealing with their daily drama - and believe me, there is daily drama (it's not weekly or monthly, it's every single day) - it's sometimes hard to imagine that they're actually content with their lot in life. But the photos don't lie and that, in turn, makes me very happy indeed.