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Let’s Judge a Few Books by Their Covers.

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The Encyclopedia IdioticaDo you love the mall? Are you entranced by the pink glitteriness of LibbyLu? Are you lured by the dark emo moodiness of Hot Topic?

Or do you find yourself oddly nauseous after about a half an hour of that weirdly strong buttered pretzel smell that somehow manages to float its way from Macy’s at one end to Sears on the other?

Like me, do you find yourself gazing in the windows of Wet Seal and Express, wondering when you were thrown into that time machine and got sent to the seventies?

I was in Borders Books, one of the few stores in the Galleria Mall where I live that I can actually tolerate, a dangerous store, since I am prone to spend virtually all of whatever is in my pocket.

The reason I was there? I am raising two voracious readers, both of them girls who just LOVE the mall, and one of them, while waking me up for school – okay, yes, SHE woke ME up for school, what’s it TO you – stepped on and crushed my eyeglasses.

Having no vision insurance, I needed to go to the Get ’Em Quick & Cheap Eyeglasses R Us Store, which is not all that bad, and they know me there, besides. Don’t you LOVE places That Know You There? Don’t you LOVE Special Treatment?

Not that I am in the least bit deserving of any sort of Special Treatment, but like my dog, I galumph through the world, expecting everyone to like me. (And if they’re cute, they can pet me.) I talk to absolute strangers as if I’ve known them my whole life – sometimes as if we’re already having a conversation, for example, today:

Me, to strange (as in unknown – for all I know, she could be very nice) older woman, admiring my dog, who is with me at said Galleria: He’s great, isn’t he? And he’s quiet, too – except for the other night.

(I should add that we were headed opposite ways in the mall, as well, so my speaking up has forced the poor woman to stop.)

Her: Well, you know, someone could have been poking around your house, then.

Me: That’s EXACTLY what I thought. My kids were complaining they got woken up, but when a quiet dog barks, I say: let him bark, and lock the doors, don’t you?

Her (with a you-said-it-sister grin): I couldn’t agree more.

That was all. Nice little exchange.

Either way: we end up at Borders Books, Charybdis whirlpool of money-sucking peril – so I sent the kids to the kids section with the usual admonition: ONE BOOK EACH, which they know is total B.S., since the quieter and more invisible they are for as long as possible, the more likely it is mama will gather more and more books of her own – and mama can’t very well buy five books for herself and limit them to one, now can she?

Outsmarted them this time.

Pretty Little PincushionsI got sidetracked when I saw a book by this title: Pretty Little Pincushions. Who, I wondered, buys this book? Who, I wondered, needs more than one – maybe two – pincushions.

Now: I sew – a lot, and I sew well. My pincushions are neither little nor pretty. Purely functional, and if I were to put in the time on a sewing project, it surely would not be wasted on a pincushion.

Then I saw this one: Pretty Little Potholders. Yikes. I just bought new potholders, Pretty Little Potholdersafter the last ones I had finally went rancid, at one of the stores I actually like – the Dollar Store. Those, at least, are guaranteed – relatively – to keep my hands from burning.

What an awful lot of effort on frivolity. Plus the expense of the book.

Then I decided to grab my moleskine, tie the dog’s leash to my waist, and collect some more titles that I thought – purposely without opening the book – seemed absolutely silly to me.

You've Got MaleIn the romance section: You’ve Got Male, by Elizabeth Bevarly. This was annoying not only for the title, but also by the stupid way she spells her last name on what I hope is a pseudonym.

Texas Loving, by Leigh Greenwood. Also in romance. In fact, I personally wouldn’t read anything in romance, but then again, I get to have Peter.

The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 Facts About the World’s Greatest Human, by Ian Spector. Even if it is a humor book, that’s not funny.

Then there was one that sort of seemed funny – just the title – but not worth buying. The Mystery of Sausage: And Other Ridiculous Blueprints. Paul Osborne, a magician, wrote this, whose other claim to fame is that his ancestors invented the Ferris Wheel. Okay.

The Mystery of SausageOne book I wished I’d had the money for was The Encyclopedia Idiotica. That one grabbed my attention. If any reader wants to send me that one, I’ll be very grateful.

Later, at dinner, I pointed out how ridiculous the pincushion book seemed to me.

My oldest brought up what I thought was an excellent point.

“It might not be ridiculous to everybody.” she said. “Old ladies might love it. Maybe they collect them. Maybe they even trade them. You know, like old lady baseball cards.”

So – every book has some use.

In the bookstore itself, I saw a man perusing the Sausage book. “What about that book made you interested in it?” I asked.

He smiled, sheepishly. “I’m just interested in a lot of weird stuff,” he said. “I have a lot of weird books.”

I pointed out another to him. “Did you see The Physics of Superheroes?”

He reached for it excitedly.


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Gonna Stomp Me Some Kittens, Right Soon.

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kittenOne of our cats, Louie, is not a boy cat. We know this because kittens sprouted on her teats six weeks ago, to my horror and the girls’ joy.

Louie now sports the moniker “Lulu.”

It all began in a semi-nasty puddle on my old wedding dress, which I’ll admit was no actual tragedy. Unlike some anal-retentive brides, I’d never gone to great – or any – lengths to preserve what had once, in my lily-of-the-valley childhood insanity, been the biggest dress in the room.

It wasn’t even hanging up, to tell you the truth. One thing Lu knows, though, is the importance of comfort. Silk fluffiness? She’s all over it, literally – at least until she got sick of her claws catching in the tulle. As a matter of fact, that was just how I felt that day. Except I could kick off my heels and be the barefoot bride, scandalizing my family.

Lu, not caring about scandalizing anyone, simply snuggled up and oozed all over the thing.

Still – like I said: no tragedy. I’m ludicrously small, at five-foot, one inches tall, a size six on my fat days. Everyone is bigger than I am. Strangely, even as an adult, nodding acquaintances are often seized by the extremely annoying urge to lift me up in the air. Formal announcement: this is only fun for me when Peter does it. Otherwise, it is officially creepy.

My daughters? Not only are people bold enough to take me in their meaty paws and bench me, they are also bold enough to say things like: “Holy cow, they don’t look a thing like you. Does that bother you?”

As if I would burst into tears and unload right there to them if it did, which of course, it doesn’t. Neither of them look anything like me, nor do they look anything like each other. The three of us, together, look like the random assembly of pieces you use when you lose the top hat, the racecar and the other metal game bits in Monopoly and have to make do with whatever’s lying around. We like that about us. Variety.

The one thing they DO have in common, that they DON’T have in common with me is that they’re tall. They’re built like their dad’s side of the family. Even their maternal grandmother is five-ten. My eleven-year-old is already a few inches taller than I am. My nine-year-old is catching up. So the prospect of either one of them ever wearing the aforementioned wedding dress is laughable. Almost as laughable as the idea of those sleeves ever coming back into style.

The best they’d get out of it would be a sentimental hanky scrap. So we’re still fine; there must be an ooze-free section left.

Amongst the ooze, though, slept how many? Three, four, oh, no! Five, count ’em, five! Five kittens. I’d never seen kittens this new; uglier creatures – besides my own newborns – I’d never seen.

Newborns are hideous; there’s a reason the body floods a new mother with hormones that make her go giddy-stupid with love. They’re covered with something that looks like ricotta cheese. They’ve just gone through the equivalent of a pasta maker, which is not the best look for a creature whose skull is still soft. Their skin has not yet settled on which color it wants to be, so it’s still experimenting with the cooler shades of the color wheel, like purple and blue. Their eyes are squeezed shut, giving them an angry-looking grimace, and they’re usually crying.

Nevertheless, biologists have determined – I know this, because my kids are addicted to the Discovery Channel – that we are wired to find all this overwhelmingly, compellingly adorable.

Even satirists. The three of us, as different as we are, in looks, in build, in temperament, all responded exactly the same way: “AAAWWWW….”

The little things got cuter every day, stupid things. Two of them had the nerve, even, to be long-haired cats, to weaken our knees, although to my enormous relief, the really beautiful black and brown one is a nasty son of a gun.

“We can’t keep them.”


“We cannot keep them.”


“We already have three cats…”


“One large dog…”


“Two ferrets…”

“Nobody likes the ferrets.”

“Then let’s get rid of the ferrets!” I suggested happily.


“Okay, then someone ELSE change the cat pan,” I suggested happily.


“We are NOT keeping them.”


“Okay, maybe ONE.”


Since then, the kittens have grown – and grown. Still incredibly cute, but it makes them look hilarious when they’re not quite done nursing, but Lu’s had quite enough, thanks. They hang by her nipples, dragging along the floor. Lulu gets up, nonchalantly striding away as if she barely notices she’s got five other cats a third her size dangling there.

They eventually give up and dart for the kitten chow. Although Tucker Dog, who seriously thinks he IS a cat, has a serious taste for seafood, so the cat food doesn’t last long on the floor. The dog food languishes in the bowl, but the cat food? Forget it. They all compete for it. You’d think Tucker would win, seeing as how he outweighs even the adult cats seven to one – but he’s terrified of the geriatric cats, who treat him like the dorky kid in school, and won’t let him eat lunch at the cool table.

Even the kittens swagger around Tucker, who dotes on them like a massive, slobbering uncle. He even babysits for Lulu – Heaven only knows how they worked this out – and herds the kittens into the dining room, watching them like the part Shepherd he is, while Lulu naps upstairs, blissfully ignoring her offspring.

It’s quite a sight, watching a giant black dog, the pressure and anxiety clear on his face, kittens in his mouth, setting this one here, running after that one…

Tucker is tuckered out by the end of the day.

But that’s not why I’m ready to stomp the kittens. Heck – whatever Lu and Tuck have worked out between them, it’s none of my business.

Although technically my “bedroom” is upstairs, it’s currently in a state of utter disaster. I started “renovating” it (see my other blog, The Cool Tool Girl) and so I am currently sleeping in my studio on the futon, which turns into a very comfortable double bed.

Cats – and kittens – are nocturnal animals. So while they rest adorably in laundry baskets and on couch pillows during the day, charming the pants off of all who gaze with eyes a-watering, at night, while I am desperately attempting to get some much-needed shut-eye, they gallop through the house like a team of Budweiser Clydesdales.

This part is not a joke. You simply would not believe how much freakin’ noise a set of five kittens makes on a one-hundred-year-old hardwood floor from underneath.

You would think they were all wearing tiny engineer boots, or Doc Martens or something.

Either way, it’s a struggle each night to remain in bed, and not to stumble up the staircase in my own engineer boots, flick the lights on and start stomping out the noise.

Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat!

Ah. Blessed silence.

Clean up this mess in the morning.

Saves me a trip to the shelter.

Oh, wait – take back one thump. Meow… Splat! We’re keeping one of the longhairs. Since Anne wanted a name in French, we’re calling it “Touffu.” Means “fluffy.”

Lucky Fluffy.

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