Tag: Parents

Coming to America, and Other Challenges

“Is this Plymouth?  We’ve just come from Plymouth.  We’ve gone round in circles, lads…”
– Eddie Izzard

I’ve decided to just stop panicking.  First of all it’s exhausting and unsustainable, and second panicking will have absolutely no effect on my fate anyway.  For all I know, Chief is just as puzzled as the rest of us seem to be and just wants to get my side of the story.  Of course, he could also be preparing the Iron Maiden and Rack, but I’m choosing to be optimistic.

So, we’ll continue as if nothing is wrong until next Monday.  Play along.  There’s every chance that I’ll lose my cool and completely disintegrate into a useless puddle sometime over the weekend and I may need you to drag me out of whatever darkened corner I’ve thrown myself, in the fetal position, into.

In other news, my whole family seems to be finding life Stateside a bit of a chore.  Mum is putting a house together, Dad is job hunting and running his small business, Gio is pacing rings in the carpet trying to work (in spite of torrential rains at our Uncle’s house where he is staying) and waiting for university to start, Buddy and Snickers are “looking forward” to (another) new school.

Everything Must Go

“To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
– Albert Einstein

Small Dog is not coping well.

Venice, leaving in just a week (cue fits of rage and denial), is in the process of packing up and getting rid of things. It’s stressful.  I have personally benefited in the form of several pairs of pants which she wanted to get rid of…which does nothing to lessen the approaching pain.

My family, hopping the world as we did, got really good at moving.  The formula is very simple: keep the necessities and get rid of half of your personal belongings each time you pack up.  To explain: books stay, your old T-shirts acquired from work, community events, and concerts must go.

The funny bit about moving is when you are going through your things and sorting your treasures from the expendables.  You will inevitably come to the realization that half of the clothes in your closet haven’t been worn in months, a third of your shoes have ragged heels, give you blisters, or are too ludicrously high/colored/pinching to be kept, and you have a wealth of old garbage (shopping bags, boxes, receipts, hair pins, loose change) taking up an inexplicable amount of space.

And thus, The Great Purge.  You sit down in the piles of the stuff you had utterly forgotten you owned and have a candid talk with yourself (which can border on the schizophrenic to outside observers).  The end result of which is that several large garbage bags are stuffed with the things you don’t use, don’t want, or can admit you don’t need.  These items are either claimed by friends, donated, or unceremoniously chucked.  The remaining items are lovingly horded because, after all, you have carefully and considerately come to the conclusion that you absolutely need them.

"What do you mean, Kyrgyzstan? I said Kazakhstan, you fool!"

And a few years later when NATO, the UN, James Bond’s M., etc. tell you that you’re off to Zanzibar, Tokyo, or Belgium, you go through the same harrowing, soul wracking process all over again.  And invariably, all of the things you saved previously will be looked over with disdain (“Why on earth did I keep this?”), and end up in a garbage bag by the front door.

And, depending on the country you’re off to, a good portion of your household belongings will have to go as well.  All of your electronics, for example, because for some reason the world cannot get it together on matching plugs to outlets, much less voltages.  In our area of Suffolk, the building codes demand four houses per quarter acre, an unthinkable thing for the US, which meant that when Dad left NATO and Brussels, a good portion of the house went into storage in Switzerland, or something.

Soon the things we’ve left in small hordes all over the world will converge on our new US doorstep.  Mum, already thinking of decorating, will have boxes, bins, and whole trucks of tables, chairs, bookshelves, books, antiques, artwork, and knick knacks to contend with.  I’m willing to bet the entire family will be surprised to see what turns up.  I certainly don’t remember half of it.

People don’t need nearly as much as they think they do.

Soundoff Part II

“Nothing but heaven itself is better than a friend who is really a friend.”
– Plautus

Remember this list?

Well, J. took the GMAT today and scored a 720 (way to go, love!), Venice is going to be interviewed by the local paper tomorrow for a petition she’s started, Lexie is engaged, Hennessy is getting married any second now, my brother Gio got an impressive scholarship to virtually any school in the US and he’ll be making a final decision about where to go by the end of the week, my father retired and has decided to move…to the States!  Which makes little sense to me, I’d have picked Tuscany, personally.  My mother, her Classics degree from Cambridge fresh under her belt, is in the US already going through an intense Latin program that should make her a nice candidate to teach Classical Studies Stateside.

Our family is already dreading moving.  Apparently, one of the highest accolades that the kids’ school gave itself this past year was getting in fewer fights than the year before.  And they chief form of entertainment was lighting fires in the school and then calling the bomb squad.  Interesting.  “We’re going to be the weirdos now.  Don’t tell them where you’re from, where you’ve lived, or what you’ve done,” is my father’s advice, “LIE.”  You know that when your pretty spectacular family, though I say so myself, is planning very hard to be inconspicuous that life is about get odd.

My whole family and I are going to be on the same continent for the first time in six years.  Permanently.  Bizarre!

Liberal. Education

“A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”
– George Santayana

We here at Small Dog Syndrome got some fun  emails from a previous post (the post about things one’s kids ought to know.  Not the post about beating one’s kids.  Very different).  And so, because it’s summer and I need something to do on my lunch breaks and weekends, I think I’ll start up a bit of a series on the subject (again, about what’s one’s children out to be exposed to, not domestic violence.  Just so we’re clear).  Nothing formal, and certainly not organized; that’s just not the way we do things around here.  Let’s think of it as an ongoing project that will intermittently interject into our regularly scheduled reading.

Do you have something to share with the class?

I’m opening this up for discussion as well, be free with your comments, accolades, scathing rebukes towards my taste, etc.  And by all means, add your own suggestions!  I’m looking for books, movies, TV shows, vacation spots, and the like, all I ask is that you keep it culturally-minded.  Meaning while Spongebob Squarepants may have been your favorite drivel growing up, I’m looking for the quality things that you’d truly want your future spawn to know of.  More importantly, why.

You Ought to Know, Kiddies

“A painting.  Moving.  Spiritually enriching.  Sublime.  ‘High’ art!  The comic strip.  Vapid.  Juvenile.  Commercial hack work.  ‘Low’ art.  A painting of a comic strip panel.  Sophisticated irony.  Philosophically challenging.  ‘High’ art.”
“Suppose I draw a cartoon of a painting of a comic strip?”
“Sophomoric, intellectually sterile.  ‘Low’ art.”
– Bill Watterson,
Calvin and Hobbes

While my opinion of having children in the near future is well known, J. and I do like to theorize on it.  And occasionally I do something that I find completely baffling: I nest.

Not in the physical sense, in the intellectual.  See, I have it in my head that there are certain things I was exposed to growing up (mostly books and movies) that I found absolutely necessary to my happiness and that influenced me profoundly.  And therefore they will naturally be necessary to my children as well.  No discussion permitted.

And so, every once and a while, when no one is looking, when I run across one of these Necessary Items For My Future Spawn on sale, I snatch it up.

Luckily J. understands because one of the things that I think is absolutely necessary is quality cartoons.  None of your Spongebob Squarepants inanities and annoying Scrappy Doos, if you please.   Which is why he’s slowly building my collection of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons!  Behold one of my birthday presents! Looney Tunes – Golden Collection, Volume Three

Future spawn be darned, I watch these during Saturday morning chores!

See? Is this not required viewing? "Kill the wabbit!"


“Check and see the oven inside.”
“Something in the oven there is.”
“…wait, what?  What did I say?”
“Something along the lines of, ‘Do or do not, there is no try.’  Don’t worry, I speak C. fluently.”
“Go die.”
– C. and J.

I swear I have a speech problem, and not just Foot-In-Mouth disease (a tragic, incurable illness wherein the sufferer is constantly choking on their own stupidity and awkwardness).  I frequently speak in Spoonerisms.

Pictured: a Dad Face.

I blame Dad.  He has a bit of a goofy sense of humor, and one of the things he finds most funny is to switch up words.  Depending on how much sleep the siblings have had, our response to this can vary from a pity-chuckle to uproarious laughter.  So when Mika misbehaves and Dad sighs, “Dupid sog,” accompanied by a Dad Face, we will probably all find it pretty funny.

The irony is that I can’t make a Spoonerism off the top of my head the way Dad can.  But, without even trying, I CAN completely rearrange a sentence into one that utterly defies logic and grammar.  In fact, I do it quite regularly.

More’s the pity for me, J. is just as quick as my Dad in the comebacks.  Curses.

My Love-to-Hate Affair With Mac & Cheese

“At least she’s eating better things than macaroni and cheese.”
– Heidi Klum

Translation of fragment: "Mac and Cheese is food fit for dogs. And Gauls. Go Rome!"

Throughout my life my mother has been in school, in some capacity or another.  When I was about three or four, she had to leave Dad and I for a few weeks to finish up something or other with one of her degrees (I misremember which.  Which isn’t me being a bad daughter, it’s her having one in Asian Studies, one in American History, and now another in Classical Studies from Cambridge because she decided to learn Greek and Latin.  In other words, my mother is exceptionally awesome).  Time has blurred the details a bit but as I recall, this was an absolute highlight of my short life because Dad and I subsisted on mainly pizza.

I didn’t realize this during the Great Pizza Blitz, but it turned out that my Dad hated cooking.  Really hated it.  He encouraged my Mum to go to school, continue her education throughout her life, and work if she wanted, but by golly the one thing he wanted was dinner to be on the table, because left up to him, dinner would come grudgingly from a frozen package.

So, a few years down the road when she decided to teach for a semester or two at a local university, I thought the Pizza Affair would be reborn.  I was sadly, terrifyingly mistaken.

This is NOT food.

Mac and Cheese.  From a box.  Every night.  Some days even for lunch.  Sometimes we varied it up with chunks of hotdog, but mostly not.  Again, I’m sure both time and horror have worked their magic on me and the vile orange sludge was not as prolific as I remember, but it sure seemed like it at the time.  When my mother’s teaching finished, I refused to eat another disgusting, processed bite, and I’ve never touched it since.  Once when shopping J. picked up a box for himself on days when I’d be at school late or he needed a lunch, I had to swallow escaping bile.

However, watching Food Network the other day, I saw a recipe for ‘Grown Up Mac And Cheese’ and thought suddenly to myself, “That doesn’t look so bad.”  It sounded pretentious enough that I could assure myself that it would be as un-Kraft-like as possible, but looked really easy to make.  So, on Sunday I girded my loins and made Mac and Cheese for the first time in years.

And you know what?  It was pretty darned tasty!

**I’ll still never make the packaged stuff again.  My children will not be subjected to this powdered cheese monstrosity, except to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.  And even then, I might choose death.

The Not-So-Fantastic Fox

“With foxes we must play the fox.”
– Thomas Fuller

Apparently I have pets (namely dogs) and foxes on the brain! 

I had a dream the other night that J. and I had a pet fox named Gordon.  The major drama of the dream was keeping him a secret from our landlords who were snooping around tried to prove his whereabouts.  Gordon was a sleek, sophisticated animal with delightful house manners, directly at odds with what I understand a pet fox to be like. 

See, one of my favorite pre-us-kids tales of my parents is that when they were newly married and at university, they rescued a little fox from a fur farm and brought him home.  Stanley (for that was his name) repaid their generosity by instantly behaving like a demon from the ninth circle of Hell.

Train ME will you?!

He destroyed things.  He ran away multiple times.  He chewed everything.  He was so hyperactive that they eventually tried tying him up while they were at work/school and he tangled himself in the cord to the point that he dislocated a hip (costing a hefty vet fee for starving newlyweds). 

My father thought that foxes were sort of feline so Stanley might be litter-box trained, but that plan backfired.  With a dog you can stick their nose in their mess, put the mess in a litter box with them, etc. and they will eventually connect the dots.  Evil Stanley, however, only learned to infuriate my dad by trotting into whatever room he was in, defecating on the carpet on purpose, and then running to sit in the litter-box with a smug expression as if to say, “What can you do to me?  I’m already here!  Pthfffbbt!”

One day, Stanley ran away (again) and my parents disgustedly got in the car to search for him (again).  After driving for a while, they spotted a furry smudge in the road, a tail fluttering in the traffic wind.  My mother peered at it for a second before throwing her hands triumphantly in the air (which my dad likes to impersonate when telling the story) and crowing, “It’s STANLEY!”

Such is their hatred that years later, when they took me to their old university stomping ground to show my their first house, the church they got married in, and so forth, my mother pointed eagerly to a spot on the road and said, “There!  That’s where we found that miserable fox!  Ha!”

It’s too bad they are such terrors; I think a pet fox would be, well, fantastic!