Lessons From Little Me

Last time my mom came over (Easter), she brought a box of old photos and keepsakes that I promptly deposited in the middle of the dining room table and forgot about. This tells you a few things about me:

1. I’m not big on nostalgia

2. I’m not big on my dining room table.

But last time I checked, Easter was IN APRIL so yesterday I finally I decided it was time to find this box a new home. Perhaps on some other barely-used surface, like the stove.

But before beginning the relocation (an arduous process of picking up the box, turning around and walking eight feet), I couldn’t resist taking a peek inside. Predictably, it was full of old photos, school projects, letters from camp, and ribbons and medals (mostly ribbons) from my days as a competitive swimmer. Strolling down memory lane, I was happy to see that my girls are already taking after me in several ways. As an adoptive mom, you’re always thinking about nature vs. nurture and I was pleased to see that, for now, nurture seems to be winning out. Here’s some proof that they’re coming by it honestly.

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Lesson: When in doubt, go naked. Or at least remove your underwear.

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Lesson: Cats are awesome and they love to be held. Also, faux brick and brass fireplaces are savvy decorating decisions.

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Lesson: Thick hair, decent fashion sense and teeth are not required to be successful in Sr. Kindergarten.

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Lesson: A pot belly and thunder thighs should never prevent you from wearing a bikini if that’s what makes you feel good. Side note: your Grandma is beautiful.

 

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I Think We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bridge.

There’s a beautiful story making the rounds online about Duke Roberts’ last day on earth. Duke was a beautiful, three-legged, cheeseburger-loving black lab who had to be put down because of a large tumour growing inside him. Duke’s owners tenderly documented his last day as they took him swimming, to the park and had goodbye visits with all his favourite people. If you haven’t read it (and you feel like sobbing), grab some tissues and look it up.

Duke on his last day

Duke on his last day

Duke’s story hit me hard, not just because he we had a similar experience three years ago, but because we recently said goodbye to two feline family members and I wish I’d thought to document and honour them in this way.

Before I get to recent events, here’s a bit about our late lab, Buster – aka B, B Dog and Sir Fartsalot. Like Duke, Buster was also a rescue, which is ironic because that’s what he loved to do most when you were swimming. We let Buster go when he was 14, after discovering a large mass on his spine. The vets predicted he would never walk again and most troubling (to Buster) was that he would need to be fitted with a catheter and have his stool manually removed for the rest of his life. When he heard that I swear he looked up with his big brown eyes and said “Guys, I’m good.” On Buster’s last night, we ordered him a meat-lover’s pizza, hand fed him cat food and slept beside him on the dog bed.

Buster

Our boy

Like most black labs, Buster loved to eat, run, eat, lick, eat and snuggle. He LIVED for the cottage where he spent his days chewing sticks, chasing ducks and “rescuing” swimmers. He never made it to PEI but I know he would have loved it so we christened our ocean-front “Buster’s Beach” and every summer we go there to strip down and lick our privates. (Just kidding, we have a champagne toast and lick our privates inside.)

A friend comes to pay his respects

Beach sign courtesy of Jim Millard

Like all certifiably crazy dog-lovers, we always assign our pets thoughts and feelings:

“Look at Buster, he’s like ‘No way I’m eating that shitty kibble. I want what they’re having’.”

“Check Buster out. He’s sad because it’s raining and he can’t go swimming.”

“Buster is NOT happy about the olives on that pizza. Could you please pick them off for him?”

Always with a Scottish accent.

When we adopted Buster at age 9, we were told he “loves cats” which we later understood meant he loves to chase and ideally eat them, like ALF. But they soon found a way to coexist and eventually formed an interspecies alliance (now legal in Ontario and 20 States!) against puppy Scout.

Technically, the cats belonged to me. Lucy (short for Lucifer) and Avery were mine before I met Daren (who still rues the day he didn’t pretend he was allergic). The cats (aka “the girls”, “fish breath” and “God Dammit!!!”) turned 14 and 15 this year and they were as much a part of our growing family as the dogs and binge drinking.

Ready to pounce

Ready to pounce

Lucy and Avery were put down last Monday and it’s taken me a week to be able to write about them without blowing snot bubbles all over my keyboard. With multiple health issues coming to a head, we made the difficult decision a month ago but it took a few weeks to summon the courage to actually go through with it.

Anyone who’s ever euthanized a pet knows it’s one of the Worst. Things. Ever. Relieving pain and making “the right decision” amounts to nothing but a crock of shit when you’re waiting for the vet to enter the exam room. And when you have to do it twice in one sitting you can expect to spend the rest of the day lying in a dark room clutching catnip mice and babbling to yourself. Trust me.

Approach with caution

Lucy. Approach with caution

My cats weren’t like the adorable yet hapless Cirque-trained acrobats you see in homemade videos. They were stone cold nasty and about as cuddly as a box of weasels. Trying to pet them was like playing Russian roulet, but with a worse potential outcome. Adopting bobcats would have been safer. Even our vet had to use gardening gloves and two assistants to handle Lucy at routine visits. If our family wasn’t singlehandedly financing her niece’s Ivy League education I’m she would have fired us as clients.

When we went on vacation and had the gall to leave them with capable in-home caregivers, they used their liquid vowels to voice their displeasure forcing us to spend thousands of dollars in replacement mattresses, furniture, clothes, hockey equipment and autographed memorabilia. The last two went over real well. And the liquid bowels? They turned up at other times too, like the night before our wedding when about a dozen family members were looking for a place to sleep.

Avery sleeping soundly

Avery sleeping soundly, dreaming of bloodshed.

They hated most people, especially children. It took them years to warm up to Daren (no connection to the previous comment, I’m sure). And because cats love change, the parade of dogs and multiple house moves – not to mention the general pointlessness of life – made them a tad surly. They were like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the Golden Globes: no one was safe.

It was the kind of relationship (ie. abusive), where I took whatever they dished out and kept coming back for more. It was like the colonoscopy you know you must have but can’t quite bring yourself to accept with open ….. arms. To quote the Bandaid Christmas song, it was a world of dread and fear.

But it wasn’t all bad. Before the double D’s (Daren and dogs), they were the ones I came home to and the ones whose fur I sobbed in when my Dad died. They might have used their claws to say “no thank you” when I suggested we sit together, but they also kept me company in the bathtub and slept on my head.

But as the house filled up and life got busier I spent less and less time with them. Three dogs and two kids take up so much physical and emotional space that I had very little left for Lucy and Avery.

There’s a lovely verse that many people find comforting when grieving their pets. It’s called “The Rainbow Bridge” and it’s named after the place we’re supposed to meet our animals before we  cross into heaven together. So I imagine them there now, with Buster, healthy and happy, throwing out sarcastic one-liners like the two old guys on the muppets. Waiting for me.

Me and Lucy.

Me and Lucy.

 

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Version 2.0

Today was Leila’s first day of pre-Kindergarten. Here she is looking perfectly adorable and ready to kick some academic butt.

Doctor? Astronaut? Prime Minister?

Fact: 89% of successful women brought kitten suitcases to school.

Someone sent me Robert Fulghum’s “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten” and even though it’s chocked full of wisdom I’ve taken the liberty of suggesting updates for a (less) mature audience. Here goes:

  1. Wear underwear everyday, no exceptions. They’re called privates for a reason.
  2. Do not put anything in your nose, ears, mouth or anus that doesn’t belong there. This includes play doh, lego, crayons and your fingers (all of them).
  3. Don’t follow the big kids. They’re all following each other and pretty soon it’s going to be like the zombie apocalypse in your school (without the flesh eating). So do your own thing.
  4. Don’t let your mom talk you out of wearing fleece pants underneath a taffeta Christmas dress if that’s what makes you feel good. It’s not your fault you’re the only one in the family with any fashion sense.
  5. It’s okay to have pet hair all over your clothes. The kids with goldfish will be jealous.
  6. Brush your hair only if the mood strikes you. You’ll spend plenty of time in front of the mirror when you’re older.
  7. When it comes to lip gloss, less is more. Mommy should not need a spatula to get it off you.
  8. Your mom has no idea where your library books are so don’t bother asking.
  9. It’s okay to poop at school. It’s not okay to hold it all day then run home screaming, clutching your butt.
  10. Wash your hands 30 times each day. 50 if the turtle/chicken/lizard is in your classroom this week.
  11. Change your food preferences daily. Just because you begged for it yesterday doesn’t mean you have to like it today. And if you’re not hungry, just take a small bite out of everything in your lunch bag so it cannot possibly be reused the next day.
  12. Include everyone in your games, invite everyone to your party. You never know when you’re going to be the one who needs a friend.
  13. If mommy goes out with her friends you are probably going to find a bag of chips and a brownie in your lunchbox the next day. Embrace it.
  14. If it’s not blood, broken bones or barf mommy will not be coming early to get you so don’t bother calling.
  15. Know that mommy and daddy don’t expect you to get straight A’s but they do expect you to try your best.
  16. Good behavior is EXPECTED and will not be rewarded. Deal with it.
  17. The promises mommy makes when you are screaming and clutching her leg may not always be honoured. It’s never too early to learn that life is full of disappointments.
  18. Don’t bother asking to bring the turtle/lizard/baby chick home. The answer is no.
  19. Be especially nice to the kids who aren’t nice to you. They are sad and could use a little bit of your smile and your light.
  20. If those kids are still mean to you, kick them in the shins and run away.

 

Liar, liar pants on fire.

“Mommy! Mommy! The tooth fairy didn’t come.”

Right. I knew there was something I forgot to do last night.

And this is how we start the day. H close to tears and Daren and I locking eyes, simultaneously mouthing the F word.

Did I mention it’s not even 6:30 am?

Did I also mention the tooth had already been lost several times, including once at the bottom of the pool?

"A little to the left Daddy. I think it's over there."

“A little to the left Daddy. I think it’s over there.”

All last night this thing was coveted like the Hope Diamond. I even dreamt about an old lady on the side of ship, standing in her jammies, on tippy toe, throwing Harmony’s tooth into the ocean. Which was okay because at that point I’d fitted it with a GPS tracker and insured it with Lloyd’s of London.

I had one job after the girls fell asleep, and I failed miserably. Now I know how Al Cowlings felt 20 years ago. YOU HAD ONE JOB.

white bronco

But all was not lost. Daren managed to slip a few toonies under her pillow for her to find before school, so thanks to some trickery, dishonesty and a modest cash payment to our 7 year old, the day was back on track. Now I’m forced to wonder…. If my 7 year old is that gullible, what can I put over on the 4 year old? Broccoli tastes like chocolate? Pizza is good for you? There will be plenty of money left for you to go to college? The possibilities are endless.

 

 

Solo Mission COMPLETE

I did it. I survived. 13 days of solo parenting has come to an end. (Actually it came to an end 2 days ago but the whole experience has been too raw to talk about until now. I’ve also been making sweet, sweet love to my bed for about 48 hours).

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Now, watching the post-game press conferences for the Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals and the US Open*, I’m reminded how important it is thank those closest to you after a victory. Especially when you’ve triumphed over adversity and beaten the odds, as I clearly have.

So here are the people and things (I’m talking to you, corkscrew) who helped along the way:

First and foremost: Daren. Not just for getting his ass home (we’ll overlook the lack of duty free booze for now), but for working so hard for our family. It sounds glorious (really, REALLY glorious) to be away for days on end but I know it was hard, especially with so much going on at home. I often tease Daren about how “tough” it must be to watch hockey for a living. It’s not easy to live in hotels, sleep alone in king size beds, eat at nice restaurants, visit New York and LA. Those things really take their toll on a person. Not to mention the …. wait, what was I saying?

But on the bright side, Dad's watching mixed martial arts...

But on the bright side, Dad’s watching mixed martial arts…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZdcaCRtJIQ

A close second, if we’re keeping score (which you should NEVER do in a marriage, even if you are the one who took out the recycling the last 6 times) is everyone who has ever encouraged me to document our family adventures. Even if you just read the first one post, got the gist, then pretended you read them all, thank you. It’s been a blast and it will continue.

Third, my beautiful, fun, spirited, crazy, adorable and amazing girls.

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We are hiding from mom in the car.

And thanks to Leila and Harmony as well.

These angels endured 13 days of wake up, go to school, make a terrible craft project, get yelled at, eat mac and cheese, watch mommy drink wine, get yelled at again, go to sleep, repeat. And they still seem to love me. I don’t care what Daren says, kids ARE amazing!!

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“Let’s see if we can get her to cry BEFORE lunch.”

And then there’s my mom, who called almost every day under the auspices of chatting with her grandchildren when we all know she was carefully assessing the situation, like Bruce Willlis in “Hostage” (except not with a penis). Like my bathing suit and my yoga instructor, mom did not judge. Just kind, soothing words and reminders as to where the emergency numbers are located on my fridge. Thanks mom!

Lastly, I would REALLY like to thank my single-mom friends who somehow resisted the urge to get in their cars, drive over here and PUNCH ME IN THE FACE for all my incessant whining. You ladies have always had my respect and admiration, and now you have my tears (and also my Xanax, if you’d like).

Honourable “thank you” mentions go to:

Wine, who I love with all my heart in a non-sexual way (most days).

The dogs, who got just three walks in 13 days (two of which were to the end of the driveway).

The guys renovating our basement, who worked a solid 11 hours in 13 days. Way to go guys.

Netflix, because you complete me.

And finally, coffee, for giving me something to do before wine o’clock.

I’ll leave you with a shot of the parade they held for me today in LA. So thoughtful.

Ticker tape? You shouldn't have.

Ticker tape? You shouldn’t have.

 

*HAHAHA. Me watch golf. That’s hilarious.

Solo Mission, Day 5

Back from a quick overnight to Muskoka where I spent the night with some good friends, some of them humans, some of them liquids. You’ll be pleased to know that I had the foresight to put myself to bed when I took it upon myself to use a BBQ lighter to light my host’s electric candles. Oops. Took my time getting home with a few stops at some old haunts including the Muskoka Store where I purchased nothing.* Batteries recharged, head pounding slightly, I returned home to a somewhat less green pool and NO ONE WORKING ON THE BASEMENT. Grrrrr….. Now enjoying a mommy and Harmony night with toe painting, hair braiding and chicken finger eating. Perfection. I miss L like crazy but Harmony is confused as to “why she has to come back.” Perhaps she thinks we are renting Leila part time for her amusement?? Must deal with that in short order. And in other sibling rivalry news, this is happening right now.

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I guess this is Austin’s way of saying she would prefer Sam find another place to sit.

*Total lie.