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Felix Adamo / The Californian

Heather Ijames

I'm not a fan of taking my children with me to the vet for the simple fact that they act more rabid than most animals. But our dog was sick, and I nabbed the last appointment for the day, children in tow.

Prior to the vet's arrival in the exam room, everything was fine. The boys and I chatted; we even played a hand game. But when the vet came in, something triggered in them.

It had to be that same crazy button in them that's activated when I'm on the phone, or when someone's at the front door, or even when we're standing in a grocery line. It's as if there's this sudden, unequivocal license conceived in their tiny boy brains that if mommy's distracted, it's time to scream like banshees, punch each other in the collarbones, and then wrestle until someone cries or loses consciousness.

Yet, I had already warned the boys that if they acted up when the vet entered the room, I was going to feed them leftovers for dinner, because leftovers consisted of a delightful and savory corn chowder. While this might not seem like torture to most, my children believe that carrots are like fiery daggers of death, and corn, well, corn is the devil. When my husband and I enjoyed our soup the night before, the children opted for chicken nuggets in the shape of a T-Rex. They even looked at us funny for the rest of the evening because of our culinary preferences. "Veggies in liquid? For dinner?"

I suppose then, from their behavior while I was talking to the vet, they figured I was bluffing about feeding them leftover soup. They kicked my purse, pushed each other into the walls, messed with the X-ray light, messed around with the vet's dog hair trimmer on the counter, and then, of course, they wrestled. A lot.

They did most of their shenanigans behind her back, thank goodness. I figure this is because they're ornery, not stupid, but I did constantly shoot my crazy eyes at them, letting them know that they'd pay, by golly, they'd pay! I think, on occasion, the vet was more disconcerted with my facial twitching than the banging going on behind her, but overall, she seemed to tolerate the ruckus pretty well. (I think that may have had a lot to do with the fact she didn't get to watch them hold the dog hair trimmer to each other's rear.)

Then, they brought the wrestling match in her line of sight.

"Ow-wee!" she called out to them. "That's not nice. Did you just punch your brother in the kidney?"

"Nah, it's just his spleen," the thought echoed in my head, "He's fine." But, I figured voicing the correction wasn't going to earn me any motherhood points, so why bother?

By the time we were walking out, they had absolutely earned what I had threatened: a healthy and nutritious dinner.

The older one tried bargaining with me, but I was done. I told the both of them that if they weren't going to eat the soup, they could take their showers, get in their pajamas, and turn in for the night, even if it was only five in the evening.

When we arrived home, the younger one hopped out of the car, told me goodnight, and went to his room, only adding, "This is to show you how much I hate corn."

Then, the older one started crying. He'd not only lost his accomplice, but he's also a bigger fan of the whole eating process. He must've realized that if he wanted dinner, he'd have to cave under all the black and doom and looming minerals such as magnesium and Vitamin A.

"I'll do it," he said. "I'll suffer and do it."

He started by picking out the carrots. Then the onions, celery, basil and finally the corn. He had nothing but broth left on his spoon. He put it in his mouth and then ran to the trash to spit it out.

"It tastes like corn!" he wailed.

"Hence the corn part of corn chowder," I replied.

"Oh my gosh! It's like you're trying to kill me!"

"Hmm, yes. Me and the whole state of Iowa."

He, too, went off to bed. It wasn't even six on a Monday evening and the kids were already done for the night. It was a strange, unsuspected gift. It was like finding a twenty in the washer or finding your favorite chocolate, first grab, in the See's box. The quiet time to myself almost made it worth it that the boys made me look like a wild-eyes loon in front of the vet.

No, not almost. It was absolutely worth it.

-- Heather Ijames is a community columnist whose work appears here every third Saturday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian. Send email to her at