Down Vests: Not Cool

DSC_0088Charlie: I think I saw two down vests in my closet when I was looking for one of my flannel shirts.

Cassie: Yea? What about it?

Charlie: Down vests are not cool.

Cassie: They are totally cool. It’s a whole style. Uniqlo sells a gazillion vests.

Charlie: Whatever. The ones in my closet are old-fashioned and dorky. Definitely not from Uni-whatever-it’s-called. I have no idea where they’ve come from or why they are housed in my closet.

Cassie: They’re old ones…from Max. One vest is green. Green is a good color on you.

Charlie: Doesn’t matter. I will never be wearing a down vest.

Cassie: Max wore them.

Charlie: I can’t help it if my older brother has some uncool times from his past to get over. That’s his problem.

Cassie: Charlie, these are perfect to wear during those in-between-seasons times.

Charlie: Not really. I’ll just wear my leather coat when we’re “in between seasons.” (makes air quotes to emphasize his use of the phrase)

Cassie: Fine. Who knew Charlie The Kid was so particular about clothes?! It all seems so privileged and kind of snobby. There are probably a lot of little boys on our street who could use these vests.

Charlie: Excellent idea. Please give these vests to them right away. Just don’t say they’re from me. Say they’re from Max.

Cassie: What about that old leather coat that’s getting too small for you? I think I should give that one away too.

Charlie: No. No. No. I’m wearing that one until the bitter end.

Cassie: The bitter end?

Charlie: Yea. Until it can’t possibly fit anymore. I LOVE that jacket. Leather jackets still look cool even if they’re a little tight.

Cassie: Hmmm.

Charlie: Besides, I want to save all my leather jackets to give to my cool kids that I have someday when I’m a Dad.

Cassie: Well, okay, I guess.

Charlie: Good. Now, can we, like, remove these vests from my closet? They really bother me.

Cassie: Fine. But I’m not sure you’re right about down vests, that they’re not cool.

Charlie: Oh, I’m absolutely right. They are definitely not cool. You can ask anyone.

The Dogs Discuss Surgical Staples

Dogs Snuggling

Daffodil (the Terrier Mutt): What are those metal things on your abdomen?

Simone (the Bull Dog): Staples.

Daffodil: You have staples in your stomach?

Simone: Yes. To hold my gut together after abdominal surgery. There are twenty staples.

Daffodil: How do you know? You counted them?

Simone: The human mother did. Then she told me in that sing-sing voice she has.

Daffodil: You got all these staples during the vomiting time, right?

Simone: Yes.

Daffodil: Why did you need staples for the throw-ups?

Simone: Because I ate part of a dog toy and they had to remove it.

Daffodil: They? The human Mom and Dad?

Simone: No, you imbecile. The vets. Dog doctors. I had to go to a hospital and have surgery. It was a totally serious situation.

Daffodil: The toy got stuck in your abdomen?

Simone: Yes. In my stomach.

Daffodil: Why’d you eat the dog toy?

Simone: I don’t know pipsqueak. I just did.

Daffodil: That probably wasn’t such a good idea.

Simone: No kidding, Dum-Dum.

Daffodil: I’d be careful who you call “Dum-Dum.” You’ll notice I have NO staples in MY abdomen.

Simone: Just lucky. I’ve seen you eat stupid crap many times. Now be quiet, I need to rest and heal and rest and heal. Move over immediately. You’re crowding my limited space here in the snuggle chair.

Daffodil: I didn’t sleep in the red snuggle chair once while you were away.

Simone: You missed me.

Daffodil: And it smelled of vomit.

Simone: Yea. Whatever.

Daffodil: The human mother cleaned for hours while you were gone. You really wrecked the place.

Simone: This conversation bores me.

Daffodil: But I guess they love you. There’s been no scolding over the mess you made. They just keep hugging you and stroking your back and ears. I’ve noticed you get to eat like fifty times a day.

Simone: Have to get my strength back. I lost some weight.

Daffodil: Hmmm. Maybe I should try to swallow a toy.

Simone: I wouldn’t advise it.

Daffodil: Nah. Right. I wouldn’t be that stupid.

Simone: Did you just call me stupid?

Daffodil: If the staple fits….

Simone: As I said, this conversation bores me. Move over. Time for sleep.

(Simone stands up in the red chair and rearranges her body parts to settle into a more comfortable position. Daffodil is forced to stand up in the chair herself while Simone moves around, pushing and kneading the blankets to accommodate her body.)

Daffodil: All set, princess?

Simone: I am.

Daffodil: Should I lick your wound site?

Simone: There is absolutely no staple licking.

Daffodil: Fine.

Simone: Fine.

(Within five minutes, both dogs are snoring loudly.)


She’s In a Sunday Mood

(On Sunday mid-afternoon.)

Cassie: That’s the seventh time you’ve played the song, “Let It Go,” Genevieve. I think that’s enough for now, okay? I can hear Charlie The Kid moaning down the hall.

Gigi: Stop saying that! I HAVE to play it. I’m in a Sunday mood.

Cassie: What’s a Sunday mood?

Gigi: It’s all gray and boring and the long minutes never go by. I have to play the song and sing it and get over my mood.

Cassie: How many more times will it take?

Gigi: Probably twenty.

Cassie: (sighing) Fine. Turn it down, though.

Gigi: Nope. It has to be LOUD. Very loud.

(I walk past Charlie, who is pacing and holding his head as if in severe pain.)

Cassie: (shrugging) Hey, I tried.

Charlie: I heard the whole thing. Sunday mood. God help us all.

It’s Not About You

(Charlie The Kid recently had a lunch date with his Godmother.)

Cassie: So was that fun? Where’d ya go to eat?

Charlie: Some diner. It was awesome. The best burger. It came with this side plate of a ton of stuff you could pile onto your burger. Like a whole salad, really, on your burger. And I had a hot chocolate.

Cassie: What did ya talk about?

Charlie: Life.

Cassie: Life?

Charlie: Life experiences. You know, stuff.

Cassie: Did you talk about what a great mother I am?

Charlie: Umm…no.

Cassie: Did you talk about what a bad mother I am?

Charlie: No. You didn’t really come up.

Cassie: Great.

Charlie: It wasn’t about you, Mom. It was about ME and MY life. It was separate.

Cassie: Did you talk about music?

Charlie: Of course. She gave me these amazing comics from East Side Comics and two CDs that she and J made just for me — of all the music they like the best. Sometimes she and J couldn’t decide which ones to put on the CD, she said.

Cassie: Now that’s cool.

Charlie: I know it. We also talked about the trouble our pets get into. P, her cat, thinks he’s so tough and he has these macho fights with other animals.

Cassie: Yea. P is a tough cat. Not afraid of anything. Could kill a dog if he wanted to.

Charlie: I told her all about how Simone swallowed the dog toy…the whole drama. M is so cool I can hardly tell she’s a mother. You know what I mean? Is that what happens, your kids get older and then the mother becomes cool all over again?

Cassie: I don’t know. It could be.

Charlie: You have a long way to go before Gigi’s a grown up.

Cassie: So, a long way before my cool can come back?

Charlie: Yea.

Cassie: The price I pay for being a mother of four kids, I guess. Well, I’m really glad you got some special time alone, just you, to talk about life with one of your coolest adult friends. You deserve it.

Charlie: I know, right? I love to talk about things and do jokes and tell funny stories. M really listens. She doesn’t get tired of my jokes. Ever.

Cassie: She IS the best…and the coolest, and I know she adores you. She’ll probably want to visit with you again soon.

Charlie: Yea. We’re going to go see a movie some time. Probably PG-13.

Cassie: Okay, then.

Charlie: Okay, good.

This Is Life


Tough 48 hours at Chez Bollinger. Simone the Bull dog ate part of a dog toy. Simone the Bull Dog tried to throw up the dog toy about 17 times. (We need a new couch, lounge chair and rug….all in good time.) Simone the Bull Dog was rushed from here to there yesterday as we x-rayed and analyzed with vets/surgeons the best way to extract the toy part. (Note the top vets in their field curse and fret as much as the dog owners over bad luck, poor positioning and life/death decisions that have to be made.)

As Simone literally collapsed in the Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, NJ, the medical pros and I decided that exploratory surgery was the only option for the best outcome. The Bollinger children manned the household (homework, Daffodil Terrier Mutt dog walks, getting themselves to and fro Wednesday activities by bike in the coldest of weather) as the most critical moments of care and decision-making seemed to occur during the after school into early evening hours and I was away to tend to the crisis. Scott texted and called and gave his level-headed analysis from his desk at work, then came home from NYC as early as he could. In the midst of all the emergency car trips, I brought Simone home to our driveway so the kids could sit in the back seat with her to give her hugs and strokes of love and support before I whisked her away to the hospital.

The vets/surgical team called during surgery last night to explain what they had found in Simone’s stomach…then they sent pics. The toy part wouldn’t pass and was totally blocking the entrance from her stomach into her small intestine. Simone made it through surgery splendidly, was doing well in post-op last night and I am now awaiting a call from her primary doctor at the animal hospital to see how she is fairing this morning.

Yesterday, I made it through all the tricky drives with my very sick dog in tow, found my way from this medical facility to that one (Google Maps is my friend) and even managed to serve dinner to the Bollinger three (Max had to be at Orchestra practice with Scott in Bergen County — their usual Wednesday evening thing which they decided to do anyway since Simone was in surgery and we were all just waiting). It was a dinner of homemade Minestrone Soup and crusty Peasant Bread that I had prepared earlier in the day (while Simone was monitored at Vet #1) for a visit from my high school friend, Celia McAllister Sandbloom. The visit from Celia went awry completely as the dog emergency unfolded and worsened. Sorry Celia! Thanks for being so understanding.

So what have I learned from the past 48 hours? Nothing really, except that when pushed to the brink in terms of stress and anxiety about a possible family dog death in the midst of the usual daily chaos that is our life at Chez Bollinger, I guess I have the stuff to handle it pretty well…and so do my kids and husband. We’re strong in our family unit and that solidity is so important and lucky to have and feel as we make our way (together and separately) in life. Because, even as we head down our own individual paths (and here I’m thinking especially of my two high school-aged children, Max and Chloe) it is so valuable to have that solid structure of family to brace you for the challenges and mysteries that surround you. This is life.

I’ve also learned that a vomit stained rug, chair and couch are just things (and smelly things at that!) But a Victorian Bulldog named Simone? She is a treasure to behold….and she’s alive and continuing to do well post surgery (just got the call now).

This is life. Rejoice!

Kindergarten Conference and Firecrackers

Teacher: Genevieve is a pip! I love her. She’s pragmatic. She’s an asset to this classroom.

Cassie: How so?

Teacher: It’s obvious she has older siblings because when one of her class mates has a fit about something minor, she tells them to get over it.

Cassie: That sounds tough.

Teacher: (smiling) Yea. She’s a little tough. Don’t get me wrong, she’s kind, but she tells it like it is. She’s a firecracker. Comes back with these zingers. Nothing overwhelms her. Like, she’s seen it all before. She helps to keep any small moment of hysteria from, you know, getting blown out of proportion.

Cassie: So she appears to have some “street smarts.”

Teacher: Exactly.

Cassie: What about book smarts? Is she on par with her reading and math and all that?

Teacher: She’s getting there.

Cassie: Uh oh. That sounds like–

Teacher: It’s kindergarten…there’s no “uh-oh”…she’s doing well. It’s kindergarten.

Cassie: Right. How about the indecision regarding use of left hand/right hand?

Teacher: I’ve observed her numerous times…asked her to hand me this thing or that….it’s always with her right hand. From what I can tell, her first inclination is to use the right hand. I haven’t noticed much switching to the left.

Cassie: Her writing seems messy. Extremely so.

Teacher: Yes. Well, I could say the same for most everyone in the class. Again, it’s kindergarten and we’re only three and a half months in.

Cassie: Hmph.

Teacher: When I’ve modeled a letter, a word, a sentence, most of the children print beautifully, but when they are on their own, to do their creative writing pieces, for example (pushing some papers toward me), this is a lot of what I see.

Cassie: Dear God! What is that word? (I point to a mish-mash of B-K-L on the paper before me.)

Teacher: “Basketball.”

Cassie: Basketball?

Teacher: Yes. There’s the B and K, another B and L.

Cassie: How do you get Basketball from that?

Teacher: I’ve been doing this for a while. It definitely says basketball. Look, she drew a picture of a basketball in the illustration here.

Cassie: Oh. I see. (I think.)

Teacher: She is a leader in the class and can certainly hold her own with her fellow class mates.

Cassie: There’s a gaggle of girls she talks about a lot.

Teacher: A gaggle…yes. I have to separate them from time to time. A lot of talking going on there.

Cassie: Oh no.

Teacher: I want them to venture out of their comfort zones…work with other students.

Cassie: I want that too.

Teacher: Let me clarify, Gigi has no problem venturing out, but she has become the comfort zone for others. And the talking…when they are supposed to be quiet or listening… can be problematic.

Cassie: That sounds like Charlie.

Teacher: I’ve told her that she should probably stop using the phrase, “Dang it.”

Cassie: Oh dear God.

Teacher: (giggling slightly) She’s got the whole class saying it.

Cassie: I’ve told her before that it’s not okay to say that. I’ll have another talk with her ASAP.

Teacher: Yes. Good, Maybe, together, we can stop that one in its tracks. Like I said, she’s influential in the classroom.

Cassie: Right.

Teacher: All in all, we’re good here. Genevieve has an incredible sense of humor. She makes me laugh.

Cassie: Sense of humor?

Teacher: Yes.

Cassie: That sounds like Charlie too. Yikes.

Teacher: I’ve never taught Charlie, but (laughing) I’ve certainly heard about him.

Cassie: (sarcastically) A legend.

Teacher: (more laughing) He’s a legend alright. (Pause) Gigi’s having a very successful year in Kindergarten so far. No problems here.

Cassie: Great. Thanks, teacher.

(I leave the elementary school in a daze. While I know, of course, that Genevieve is her own person, some of my long-held suspicions about her overall personality have been confirmed at this first official parent-teacher conference. What I suspect we have here, in my youngest child of four, is a little girl version of Charlie The Kid. The talking, the humor, the crowd of fellow-student fans…..Suddenly, I am very tired.

And grateful. Grateful for the quiet grace of my two oldest children, who have each found their learning paths and successes over the years with what seems like a lot less fanfare…and definitely a lot less noise. My memories of Max and Chloe’s early school years bring visions of quiet, calm waters with only the slightest of ripples shifting a glassy surface.

Visions of my future with the “Youngers,” on the other hand, paint a very different picture. There are streaks of bright flashes and color. Firecrackers explode loudly in a black night sky. To be honest, I’m a little afraid of the loud pops and bright flashing lights. My future with Charlie and Genevieve – these noisy and energetic learners – appears far too explosive. I’m sure to be singed by the fiery hot firecracker embers trailing each loud fire burst.

I’d like to take a long winter’s nap and avoid fireworks. I’d like calm waters with only an occasional ripple to peacefully lull me to sleep. I’m so drowsy.

But there’s no time to rest. The Youngers are already in 5th grade and Kindergarten. As I walk along the brick walkway leading me away from the front door of the elementary school, I tell myself that, instead, I must embrace these pending fireworks wholeheartedly. Open my eyes. Uncover my ears. Before me is the once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the explosive noise…the piercing lights…without fear, but rather joy. The best fireworks display of my life. Wake up!)


Genevieve Talks to the Doc During her Six-Year-Old Check-Up

First day of Kindergarten GigiI - Sept 4, 2014Doctor: How is school? Are you in Kindergarten or first grade?

Genevieve: I’m in Kindergarten. (Sighing) But I should be in first grade. I’m six! I just had my birthday.

(Oh no. We’re going to have the Kindergarten versus first grade conversation.)

Doctor: I see that. You should be in first grade?

Genevieve: Yea. I’m already six. Don’t you see? The other kids (some are my friends) they’re only five. I’m six. Can you tell the school?

Doctor: (chuckling while she examines) I can see that you are quite grown…certainly six years old.

(I pipe in about birthdays and official school cut-off dates for starting kindergarten. The doctor nods but she’s having a conversation with Genevieve.)

Doctor: Do you have friends in kindergarten?

Genevieve: Of course. I have “besties” but I try to be friends with all the kids. C really misbehaves but he tries. I never get in trouble. I’m very well-behaved.

Doctor: I’m sure of it.

Genevieve: Are there going to be shots today? I can totally handle shots. I’m the best in my family about shots. My Mommy said I would recognize you, but I don’t. Are you new? Are you the newest doctor here?

Cassie: (sighing) Dr. K is one of the three doctors here…who are all always here. She used to take care of you when you were a baby. I told you that.

Genevieve: Mommy, I’m talking to the doctor by myself.

Cassie: Fine.

Doctor: (widely grinning) No shots today. Okay, now, what about your diet? Are you trying lots of vegetables? Did you know that you should have five servings of vegetables a day? What are your favorite foods?

Genevieve: Steak and pizza.

Doctor: I see. What about vegetables?

Genevieve: Those aren’t my favorite.

Doctor: But which ones do you eat?

Genevieve: Peas and broccoli.

Doctor: Excellent. How about salad?

Genevieve: I’m not ready for salad.

Doctor: But you’re six years old.

Genevieve: (mulling it over) True. I might try salad tonight.

Doctor: And if it doesn’t work out. Keep trying it. Sometimes it takes a few tries.
(Moving to a new subject) Do you dress yourself? And pick out your own clothes to wear?

Genevieve: Of course.

Doctor: Of course. Now what about wearing your seat belt?

Genevieve: Yes. That’s a rule. I think it’s the law…my Mom said.

Doctor: That’s correct. And a helmet for biking, sledding, skiing, skateboarding?

Genevieve: Just the biking. I don’t do any of those other things.

Doctor: Well, if you do, you need to wear a helmet, okay? You need to protect that beautiful brain of yours.

Genevieve: I know it.

(The doctor asks me a few questions about this and that.)

Doctor: Now back to Genevieve. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Genevieve: A doctor, of course.

Doctor: I hope you will stay in touch with me when you’re grown and a doctor. You can take care of me when I’m old, if I get sick.

Genevieve: Oh, I’m not going to do old people. I’m going to be a kid doctor.

Doctor: (pretends to be hurt) Oh.

Genevieve: (seriously) Alright. I’ll take care of you too.

Doctor: Phew. (Finishes exam). Any questions you’d like to ask me?

Genevieve: No, except the part about whether you can call the school and make them put me in first grade. Or, you could write the school a letter. Send an email.

Doctor: You’ll go to first grade after you finish Kindergarten. See you in a year! When I see you again, you’ll be in first grade.

Genevieve: But then I should be in second grade! All the years, I’ll be behind…even when I go to high school like my brother, Max.

Doctor: You are quite advanced, Miss Genevieve. (Giving her a hug and a squeeze) It will take you far. Maybe to medical school. You can go get a sticker up front if you want. (To me after Gigi’s gone off in search of a sticker) She’s a doll. What a delight! Good job, Mom. But I hope you’ve warned the first grade teacher what’s coming!

(Ain’t that the truth!)


City Girl Stacks Wood

Wood in Ring

Scott: Who stacked the firewood ring?

Cassie: I did.

Scott: You did? Why?

Cassie: Because I’m awesome.

Scott: You are. You’re also a “Farmer Jane.”

Cassie: True. But watch out. I’m a very sophisticated farmer. I can go all “city” on you at a moment’s notice.

Scott: I guess so. (Examining the firewood ring.) How come you didn’t stack the firewood all the way to the top of the ring? There’s… like… a space.

Cassie: (Rapid blinking)

Scott: Just asking.

Cassie: Because. A rather large log slipped from my grasp and crashed onto my foot. It hurt a lot. I got mad at the wood.

Scott: You got mad at the wood?

Cassie: Yes.

Scott: Sounds like “City Girl” won out in the wood stacking project, huh?

Cassie: Pfft.

Appointment: The Holiday Card Photo

DSC_0309Cassie: We have to do the Holiday Card Photo.

Scott: Now? I haven’t had coffee. It’s not the kinda thing you do on a Sunday morning.

Max: There are some zits.

Chloe: Hello! I just got braces. We couldn’t have done this last weekend?!

Max: There were some zits last weekend too. I mean there’s no weekend without at least one zit, right?

Cassie: We won’t do closeups on pimples. (To Chloe) Just keep your mouth closed with a hint of smile.

Chloe: Awkward.

Charlie: Don’t you think we should just skip the photo this year? It sounds like there are way too many issues.

Scott: The kid’s right.

Cassie: (to Scott) Be quiet. (To all) We’re doing a holiday picture. End of story.

Genevieve: I’m wearing pajamas.

Cassie: No you’re not. You’re wearing clothes.

Genevieve: Nope.

Cassie: Yes!

Charlie: As you can see, lotsa issues remain. Just send a card. No photo.

Cassie: We’re doing the photo on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I mean it. Mark your calendars. Make sure you have coffee-d up! Solve the zits! Practice smiling with braces! Make sure you have the proper attitude! Pick out appropriate attire! Nothing weird. No pajamas. Got it? We are doing the picture..same as every year. (Stomping out of the kitchen.)

Scott: She has spoken.

Max/Chloe/Charlie/Gigi: Pffft.

Charlie: There are still issues.

Chloe: And braces.

Max: And zits. I mean, how does one “solve” zits? Totally unreasonable.

Scott: Yea, well the photo is happening. Everybody get over it.

Charlie: All I can say is thank God the photo is not today since it’s going to take at least a week for an attitude adjustment.

Scott: Yea, you better keep your stubborn in check, Charlie. The more we cooperate and produce the kind of picture she wants, the quicker we can be done with the whole project. Got it? Everyone?

Max/Chloe/Charlie: (begrudgingly) Yes.

Genevieve: I look beautiful in all my pajamas. I’m wearing pajamas. End of story.

Caught Up in “Duh”

Cassie: That is NOT a good idea.

Charlie: Duh.

Cassie: Did you hear me?

Charlie: Duh.

Cassie: Stop saying “duh” in response to everything I say.

Charlie: But it’s so applicable and fun.

Cassie: And annoying.

Charlie: Duh. (Giggling) See how it fits as a response to everything you utter?

Cassie: Stop it! I’m going crazy!! Total fresh!!!!

Charlie: (Silence)

(I know, I know….duh.)