Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Obligatory End-of-Year Recap

So the idea is that we put the obligatory holiday letter on the blog, you can read it at your leisure (or in installments – like a serial in the newspaper!). Additional 2009 photos are in the “year in pictures” section to the right (click on the slide show to enlarge it and view captions) and elsewhere on this site. Hope that you stay awhile and visit us often!

We’ll start with the youngest (human) member of the family (who, oddly, refers to people AS humans – as in, “The other humans at the party were Camden and Zachary”):


Pop culture counterpart: Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother.” Parker has a – shall we say healthy? – sense of self-worth. (“Mom, know why I always beat you in the Uglydoll game? ‘Cause I’m awesome.”) He also loves the ladies and won’t leave the house until he is sure that he “looks handsome.” We still haven’t stopped laughing at the pick-up line that he unleashed on one of his little friends at the tender age of three: “Ella, your hair looks pretty today. By the way, I’m wearing underwear; I don’t wear Pull Ups anymore.”

His best girl (well, perhaps on par with preschool girlfriend Avery, “best friend who is a girl” Lauren Grace, and family friends “Baby Greenleigh” and “Baby Allison”), I am proud to say, is his mom. He frequently tells me that he loves me, that I am pretty, that he likes what I am wearing, etc., and of course I just melt. Both parents are treated with the same endearing morning ritual Monday through Friday – before going into preschool, we “high five, fist bump, ear honk [a couple of rapid tugs on the earlobe], kiss and give a BIG SQUEEZE.” (Pretty sure that Dad’s fingerprints are all over this ritual – the ear honk bears a certain Parnell signature – but I’m honored to be a participant nonetheless.)

Nickname: The King of Chicken (a title that he gave himself, in recognition of the fact that he would eat chicken at every meal, every day, day in and day out).

Favorite word: “Actually.”

Favorite things: Batman. Also Batman. And Batman. Honorable mention goes to other DC Comics superheroes* (but they all take a backseat to Batman) and Transformers. But we really, REALLY like Batman. Did I mention Batman?

(* For some reason that cannot be fully explained, we are DC snobs. Connor got offended when Parker received Marvel Comics action figures at his Justice League birthday party, and I was embarrassed to acknowledge that I had the same reaction.)

Hobbies: Does annoying his brother count? Or watching Justice League cartoons on a continuous loop? Like Connor, he swings a mean tennis racket, both in the real world and in the virtual “Wii Sports” world. (Actually, Parker’s quite adept at all of the Wii Sports games, and if you ever see him play Wii boxing, you’ll think twice about crossing him in a dark alley. He’s little, but he’s very, very scrappy – and pretty much a natural athlete. No doubt we have soccer games in our immediate future.) He loves to sing, and he is looking forward to joining the children’s choir at First Methodist next year.

Current employment: Preschooler at Baylor All Saints. He was a little confused when he turned five in October and did not immediately start kindergarten the next day! He is very much aware of the fact that Connor’s beloved kindergarten teacher, Ms. Sylvester, is postponing her retirement for a year just to have the privilege of teaching Parker. Mom is pretty shameless about throwing this in the child’s face: “You know, you’re really going to have to get out of the habit of [fill in the blank], because Ms. Sylvester won’t allow that in her classroom.” (Hey, whatever works, right?)

Future career: We probably have an actor on our hands. Big brother, with his distinct engineer’s bent, was all about designing layouts for Thomas the Tank Engine, but could not have cared one whit about the characters. Parker is happy to put the track in a circle (or do without track altogether), but all of the characters have distinct voices, and they all have back stories. Ask Parker to sing a children’s (or any) song for you, and you are likely to get several bonus verses – whatever springs spontaneously from his creative brain.

If the performing arts don’t pan out for him, he could make quite a career with the Webster’s Dictionary folks, having already added to the lexicon such gems as “graymote” (referring to the gray DVR remote), “to-morning” (contraction of “tomorrow morning”) and “random oranges” (you have to admit, mandarin oranges are sort of random).

CONNOR, Age 10

Pop culture counterpart: Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory.” Same strict dietary requirements, same fashion sense and low maintenance grooming regimen, same obsession with science, and same relentlessly logical brain. A Sheldon quote from the second season: “I couldn’t become Green Lantern unless I was chosen by the Guardians of Oa, but given enough startup capital and an adequate research facility, I could be Batman.” Actual Connor quote (age 4): “Spiderman is a superhero because he was bitten by a radioactive spider. Superman is a superhero because he was born an alien. But Batman is a superhero because he is smart and good in business.” After Connor broke his arm in September, I sought to reassure him while we waited for his x-rays with a motherly (and entirely honest) “if it makes you feel any better, my right elbow is aching in sympathy for you.” Connor’s response: “Why would that make me feel better?”

Nickname: Well, I call him Mr. Spock – and it fits (see above).

One more Sheldon/Spock-ism for the road - while (appropriately?) watching a scene from “Star Trek Zero” where Captain Kirk is marooned on an ice planet by his own crew and then chased by two vicious ice beasts, Connor leaned over and whispered, “Why would they maroon him on a planet where his life would be at risk?”

“Well, the onboard computer warned him of the danger and told him to stay in the ship until the authorities came for him, but he was a hothead and blew the hatch.”

“Mom, it’s an ice planet. Anyone’s head would be hot in comparison to the outside air temperature.”

Favorite word: All of them. Apparently he thinks he has run out of English two-dollar words, as he has begun to work French into conversation, and he has asked his mother to teach him German.

Favorite things: LEGOs, Star Wars, LEGO Star Wars (and all of the other LEGO computer and video games – Indiana Jones, Batman, Rock Band), the Beatles, the Percy Jackson book series and anything related to Greek mythology.

Hobbies: Tennis and swim team at Ridglea Country Club (he will be adding diving to his repertoire next summer), Cub Scouts (Connor and Dad are quite the pinewood and space derby team – Connor brings the passion for engineering, Dad brings the natural competitiveness that comes with being one of four boys!), art, music, and Junior Worship Leaders at First United Methodist Church (“Junior Worship Leaders” being code for “choir for kids who think that they are too cool to be in choir”).

Current employment: Fourth grader. And, like most fourth graders, he tends to be, by turns, a little forgetful, occasionally distracted, and more than a little cocky. Result: he completed his history fair research well in advance of the deadline, but he didn’t commit any of it to paper (at least, not in a way that could be glued to a backboard) until the night before. We try very hard not to be helicopter parents, so we recognized a “teaching moment” when we saw one, placed him in front of the vast, empty backboard and said, “It’s all on you, bud.” Two days later, he came home and announced that he had won the school prize. A week after that, he came home with the Olympic-sized medal awarded to him for winning the district competition. Mom and Dad couldn’t decide whether to be happy or surly . . . .

A month later (what is it with fourth grade teachers and projects?), he waited until the last minute to put together his Invention Convention submission – and forgot that a backboard was involved with THAT project as well, remembering it two hours prior to bedtime the night before. (Note: The backboard was in dad’s car. Apparently, the backboard was QUITE forgettable.) Once again, we warned Connor of the likely consequences of his procrastination. And, once again, he came home with a prize, remarking to his eye-rolling mother, “You know, you keep telling me that I need to change my study habits – but so far, they seem to be generating pretty good results.”

Future career: He’s a born engineer, but if you ask he will tell you that he plans on being a cryptozoologist (translation: he wants to chase mythical creatures, and prove that the Loch Ness Monster is real). He also has a good head for business and is constantly creating business and marketing plans for . . . well, lots of things.

KATHRYN, Age 39 and holding

Pop culture counterpart: Wonder Woman. Or Elastigirl. See below.

Everything else: Work is great, all things considered, and I’m both amazed and pleased at how much work I have on my desk at present, given the state of the economy. However, on the assumption that things would be at least a little slower this year, I agreed to serve as president of the Junior Woman’s Club of Fort Worth (taking office 6/1/09) on the theory that there would never be a better time, so really I have been juggling three jobs – attorney at the office, “development director” at home with the kids, and JWC prez in the space in between. I haven’t regretted the decision, though – what a wonderful group of women, and what fun we have had thus far! I selected “Young at Heart” for this year’s clubwide theme, and my officers have taken that concept and run with it, putting a “Sandlot” spin on our softball tournament in October, throwing a high school homecoming bash (in a real gym!) in November, and hosting a Candy Land-themed holiday open house in December. Morale and membership are up, but I have to give most of the credit to the ladies around me – I just stay out of the way and offer support as needed! One of the perks of the job is that I get to throw a Christmas party for the 50 some-odd executive committee members, standing committee chairs, department presidents and Woman’s Club advisors – so on the evening of 12/17 we are bundling up, boarding a luxury coach (translation: bus with a bathroom!) and heading to Grapevine, Texas to view Christmas lights and attend “Ice” (indoor winter wonderland, complete with ice slides) at the Gaylord Texan Hotel. Did I mention that I have a budget for said event? Bonus!

PARNELL, Age . . . a year older than last year

Pop culture counterpart: The married guy/father on “The League” (that incredibly funny new show about fantasy football, which seems to be biographical).

Everything else: Parnell is still playing fantasy football with the same group of guys from law school. Football is big on his mind this holiday season, as both his Horned Frogs and his Longhorns are headed to BCS games. We have a classy and not-at-all-clashing orange-and-purple Christmas light scheme going on in the front yard as a result – and those of you who remember last year’s Christmas light-related fall “with” (not “off of”) the ladder, resulting in a broken arm and two broken ribs, will be pleased to learn that this year he stuck to the archway leading up to the porch, dispensed with the roof and let me spot for him. (Proof that an old dog can learn old tricks! By the way, when we took Connor to the aptly named Dr. Rapp to get his cast in September, long-suffering Dr. Rapp just took a look at us and sighed. Whereupon my ornery husband inquired about the availability of a “frequent faller family discount” . . . .)

Parnell continues to thrive as a solo practitioner and is building his client base at an impressive rate. Most important of all, he is truly happy being on his own, and can I tell you how wonderful it is to be married to someone who is happy in his own skin? He enjoys harrassing his office-dwelling, clock-punching wife with mid-afternoon Friday phone calls announcing that he is laying himself off (or “furloughing” himself) with the expectation that business will pick up and he will rehire himself on Monday. (Okay, perhaps not that funny in the larger context of a bad economy, but he’s earned the right to make some jokes, having fought his fair share of uphill battles to get to where he is today.) I THINK he enjoys his role as JWC “First Man” . . . most of the time, and I am tremendously fortunate that both my spouse and my kids value my JWC friends (and their husbands and children) as much as I do.

I am also fortunate that I married a great father, son and son-in-law who takes advantage of his flexible schedule to serve as a PTA officer (long after I quit that noise!) and assist his mom and my parents and grandmother with all manner of things.

THE BEASTS, Ages . . . various

Our newest Ani-Pal addition has not been assigned a permanent name (Rusty? Ace the Batdog? Cinco?), but he is adorable, and he took to the menagerie like a dream (and they to him). He is a dorgi – half long-haired dachshund, half corgi – and is the living embodiment of the phrase, “the tail wags the dog.” He is so happy to be with a family, and his tail is so large in proportion to his sausage body, that when he gets to wagging, his hips swing back and forth to the point that he crawfishes when he walks. A very funny visual! “Ace” (we’ll use it as a place holder) loves big sister Ruby (nine year-old Sheltie) and follows her to the front door, on constitutionals around the yard, etc. Ruby, for her part, seems pleased as punch to have a minion, and is always looking over her shoulder, making sure that he is following behind.

Max, the youngest (and biggest) of our black-and-white Maine Coon cats, is, like many Maine Coons, convinced that he is, in fact, a dog. Thus, when I get home and call for the dogs, I usually end up with Ace on my lap (I have to pick him up – legs are too short for jumping!), Ruby on one side and Max on the other. Much head- and chin-scratching ensues . . . .

The older cats (Barkley and Gabby, both 13 years old) tolerate the younger crowd. (Barkley did hiss – once – at the newest beast, whereupon Ace barked – once – and we all discovered that he has a surprisingly deep and commanding voice for a little guy. Barkley conceded the point, and harmony was restored.) All five animals are amazingly well-adjusted, loving to one another and exceedingly tolerant of our kids. Hopefully this delicate balance will not be disturbed if/when we finally pull the trigger on the addition to our house, which (I am told) will give us room for fish, a rodent and a bird. (Yeah, Dad threw in the bird request – some help he is! I think he promised the kids the fish and rodent with the expectation that their whining would force me into making a decision on construction plans. What he doesn’t realize is that I have always been fascinated by lizards – so, Parnell, I’ll see your fish, rodent and bird and raise you one gecko.)

Love to everyone, and blessings of peace to you this holiday season and throughout 2010!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bat Hound

"Mom, Ruby needs a companion dog."

My flawlessly logical oldest child then laid out his case: Our nine year-old Sheltie is slowing down (a fact that was confirmed by our vet, who put her on a regimen of glucosamine and chondroitin - the same stuff they give less hairy middle-aged folk). While two of our three cats (the Maine Coons) are quite doglike - and bigger than a great many dogs - they just aren't that keen on a romp around the dog park, or having a fetch. And, busy humans that we are, we simply aren't doing enough to keep her occupied and active.

So the search for dog #2 began, with local city ordinances (our three cats put us at the city-mandated upper limit for feline ownership, but we were two shy of the canine maximum) and Petfinder on our side. First candidate: Hoku, a Sheltie mix hailing from the northern environs of Big D. Her Petfinder profile looked promising - complete fetch monster, loves kids and cats, etc. I contacted her host rescue group and completed their adoption package, which MIGHT have been a page or two lighter than the adoption package that you have to complete when you adopt a human child . . . but I kinda doubt it. After enduring what I call a "full cavity search on paper," I was instructed to wait for a phone call that I would receive within twenty four hours. I followed up with an e-mail, explaining that Hoku would be a companion animal to our existing dog and that it probably made sense to introduce Ruby and the kids to her before we proceeded, to see if things would gel. I also asked them to call me on my work phone. Person that I have to assume is an unpaid volunteer called a day later than specified, called Parnell instead of me, and asked when we were available for our home study. Parnell essentially read her my e-mail over the phone and, oh-so-politely, suggested that we bring dog and children to them, thus saving the rescue dog a stressful trip in the car and a visit to a strange home if nothing was going to come of the exercise. This idea . . . DID. NOT. COMPUTE. Stepford Volunteer abruptly veered in another direction and made the apropos-of-not much pronouncement, "If you adopt this dog, she will need a job." (One has to assume that she was reading off of some sort of breed standard applicable to herding dogs?) Parnell swallowed several obvious sarcastic responses and advised Stepford Volunteer that he is self-employed and has the ability (and, frequently, given that he helps his mother with business issues, the excuse) to visit the family ranch property during the day. Thus, if Hoku was a herder, she would have multiple Herefords at her disposal. Parnell: "Does she like to herd?" Stepford Volunteer: "I have no idea." Ooooohhhhhkaaaayyy.

Then Stepford Volunteer mentioned that Hoku was still in the middle of her heartworm eradication treatments and would not be available for some time. Ummmmm . . . . Petfinder profile clearly stated that she had had heartworms in the past but was now "heartworm-free." Present tense. We started to wonder what other artistic license had been taken with her profile. Was she actually a dog? While her adorably fuzzy face in the profile pic appeared doglike, it did bear a certain resemblance to a publicity still for Wicket the Ewok from "Return of the Jedi" (which I continue to maintain is the THIRD Star Wars movie, because those God-awful prequels don't count . . . but I digress).

Biggest problem was that, given pending heartworm treatments, Hoku would have to be kept absolutely calm during our introductory visit with her, as an increase in heart rate and body temperature could result in the heartworms squirming through the lining of her heart, resulting in death by embolism. Ummmm . . . hmm. So our options are to (1) meet the dog while she's sedated, thus getting no accurate read on her personality, or (2) kill her? Thanks, but we think we'll look elsewhere.

So, unbeknownst to me, Parnell - who now is in full-on "dog acquisition" mode (he gets this way about lots of things - flat-screen TV's, computers, mammals - he's a born comparison shopper) - starts visiting Animal Control, and bonds with our second candidate (and eventual winner - but, oh, it was a LONG way from candidate to winner). Only, he can't exactly explain to me what the second candidate IS. "He's, like, REALLY burnt orange and kind of corgi-ish? And he's sort of so ugly that he's cute." (Hey, I said he was a born comparison shopper; I didnt' say anything about his salesmanship skills.) Yes, I could have gone to the pound to personally inspect him, resolving all doubt as to what "he" was, but that would involve me going to the pound, and I don't do the pound. I have a very strong sense that if I went to the pound, I would go bat-you-know-what crazy and run around opening all of the cages shouting, "RUN! RUN TO FREEDOM!"

Instead, Parnell took both kids, one at a time, to meet Mystery Dog. Both kids took to Mystery Dog, and Parnell informed Animal Control that we wanted to adopt him. (I'm glossing over a good part here - he showed up early in the morning to fill out paperwork, based on Web site information that said "Office opens at 8 am, but no animals will be shown before noon." Since he had already been shown the animal, and liked - whatever - it was he saw, he figured it would be possible to fill out paperwork at 8 am. Wrong. "We don't let people fill out paperwork until noon . . . . but I suppose I can get it for you." After a fifteen-minute delay, Disgruntled Office Worker - who just might have been Stepford Volunteer from the other place, post-job change - disappeared into a back office, returned several minutes later, sat in her chair, and SWIVELED IT AND RETRIEVED THE ADOPTION PAPERWORK FROM A TRAY IMMEDIATELY BEHIND HER. Then she disappeared again, never to return. So Parnell took the paperwork to go . . . . Oh, and one other chestnut - when he asked if Mystery Dog got on well with cats, the person showing Mystery Dog to him said, "Let's find out," and essentially tossed Mystery Dog into the cat enclosure. I am not making this up. Fortunately, the experiment worked out well for all parties.)

AFTER three-fourths of the family got attached to Mystery Dog (who, by then, we had identified as a dorgi - half-dachshund, half-corgi), the Animal Control brain trust tested him for heartworm. Yup - positive. "Okay, you'll have to keep him absolutely calm for six weeks, or he'll die." Nice. A dog, two kids and three cats . . . . Plans for a slumber party involving multiple ten year-old boys . . . . Yeah, can you say, "Death sentence for poochie?" Parnell inquired as to the availability of a volunteer who could foster him during the six weeks; DENIED. (I hear that the ASPCA does provide this service, which is good information to have, but a day late and a dollar short in our case.) Helpful Worker then reminded Parnell of the thirty-day money-back guarantee on all animals: "You can take him to your vet, and if the vet says that he just needs heartworm pills, there's no problem. If he needs more than that, you can drop him back off and get a full refund." SERIOUSLY????? WHO DOES THAT????? So, needless to say, we decided to part ways with Mystery Dog, for his own good.

And then the crying jag (mine) started. I wept, on and off, for four days over a dog that I technically had never even met. In my fevered imagination, this dog had identified my sweet husband and precious children as his "forever family," only to be cruelly kicked (back) to the curb. It got to be comical - I would be going around my daily business and, suddenly, I would think of Mystery Dog and the waterworks would start.

So two weeks pass, I meet Parnell for lunch on his birthday, and - being congenitally blonde - I see the envelope marked "Adoption Papers" in his car and think nothing of it when he hastily flips it over before we head into the restaurant. Hey, I was thinking it was something he just received from a client (he's been known to do some family law occasionally), and he wanted to safeguard it from prying eyes. However, I did think it odd that immediately upon finishing our tacos at Yucatan he said, "Let's go." Huh? This from the man who accuses me of too infrequently including me in my lunch plans? He elaborated: "There's something that I want to show you in the car."

"Is it a dog? Because I don't recall you cracking the windows?"

We get to the car, he hands me an Animal Control bandanna, and I start freaking out . . . in a bad way. It's too soon, I'm still grieving (bizarrely and irrationally) for Mystery Dog, and then there's the whole "I'm never going to step across the threshold of the pound, EVER" thing working against us. So he hands me the "Adoption Papers" envelope - and, slowly, the pieces floating in my blonde brain start to click.

He to me: "I'm telling you this on my birthday, because it's my birthday, and you're not going to get really, REALLY mad at a fellow on his birthday, right? I'm somewhat insulated, on account of how it's my birthday."

Me to he: [Sobbing noises.]

He to me: "Okay, are those good tears?"

Me to he: [More sobbing noises, coupled with vigorous up and down head motions.]

Turns out that, at some point during day four of my "I think we just sent a dog to the death chamber" pity party, my dear, sweet spouse took a leap of faith, adopted Mystery Dog, and threw himself at the mercy of our dear, sweet vet . . . who agreed to give Mystery Dog the heartworm treatments AND board him for the duration.

So, for the last five weeks, we've had another dog. Who I still haven't met. Because various delays keep getting thrown into our path . . . . We were supposed to have him by Thanksgiving - but the vet decided to wait another week in an abundance of caution. We called to pick him up on Monday, and they told us to wait until Wednesday. Wednesday came, and they told us that they wanted to do one more test, and to schedule pickup for Thursday. Thursday came, and we were told to wait until 3 pm when Dr. Tierce would be in the office and, I guess, available to talk about follow-up treatment stuff.

Now it's 4:45 pm, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, we'll have our Mystery Dog shortly after 5. Kids have no idea. Oh, and Mystery Dog is now named Rusty, because Parnell choked when they asked him for a name at the vet and blurted out "Rusty," because he's rust-colored. One has to assume that they have been calling him Rusty for the last five weeks, so Rusty it shall be. We're big fans of the show, "Greek," on ABC Family, and we love the main character, Rusty "Spitter" Cartwright. We're also big fans of the National Lampoon Vacation franchise, so full name most likely will be Rusty "Spitter" Cartwright Griswold Batdog McGlinchey. (I have to throw in Batdog, because I'm advised that he has the most ginormous ears . . . . And, yes, I've seen cell phone pics, but he was moving his head around in all of them, so I can confirm that he has a body, a tail and a blur in the facial region.)

Photos to follow . . . hopefully.