Friday, December 23, 2016

'Twas the Night Before Ratmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,

The creatures were stirring – dear God, please, not a mouse.

The children were nestled … in my bed, stealing the covers.

Because uninterrupted sleep? Yeah right, I’m a mother.

When from somewhere below, I heard a strange sound.

Like something was dragging and scratching the ground.

A ghost? Or a burglar? Maybe Santa was near?

But deep down, I had a more hideous fear.

I crept down the stairs to see what was the matter,

As a body slammed into the hearth with a clatter.

When his tail hit the floor with a sickening splat,

I knew in a moment – it must be St. Rat.

He was hairy and gray, a nasty old gent.

But what else do you expect from a giant rodent?

His claws, how they glistened, his teeth were quite shocking.

And he spied me, as he flung bits of trash in our stockings.

“Hey Deirdre,” he hissed, his voice scratchy and low,

“Glad we've met – you’re big in the rat world, you know.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed the attention,” I sighed with a groan.

“What can I say, we can’t leave you alone.”

“But you ate my car's wiring, I had to buy new.”

“Oh, we feasted like kings on your Subaru.”

“I tried mothballs, I called Geico -- you don't know what it took!”

“Yes we read all about it...from your posts on Facebook.”

Defeated, I looked St Rat right in the eye.

And was tempted, I’ll admit, to sit down and cry.

“We’re rats, D,” he said. “Wreck and ruin’s what we do.

But there’s nobody we like messing with more than you."

And here’s where my revulsion dwindled to almost affection,

I asked, “St Rat, did you by chance rig the election?”

He spoke not a word, but gave me a wink.

“We once wiped out Europe… what do you think?”

Then, extending his paw, he said, “I want to be friends.”

And shook my hand (as I wondered if the world was at end).

"Just remember," he urged, "next time all hope is fallen,"

"Ignore those sounds in the walls -- watch a movie with Colin."

Then he squealed to the air, “Come rats and come mice,

Let’s leave her alone, boys, it’s time to be nice.”

And as he rose up the chimney and into the sky,

He called, “Merry Christmas to all – and yes, rats really can fly!”

Friday, December 16, 2016

All I want for Christmas is ten minutes

Dear Santa,

It's that time again. You know. When good intentions turn quickly into panic as I can't remember what I did with those @#$$ football-printed sheets I bought for Luke over Thanksgiving. I'd like to say something lovely about peace and love and goodwill toward man, but we both know better. I mean, between the puppy and the election, I was already screwed. And then came The Elf. Here's a thought -- next year, how 'bout the Elf and me trade gigs? I'd gladly sit on a shelf for a month, hang out, wait for people to move me in adorable, ironically whimsical locations inspired by Pinterest and wine. #momonthemantel #boxwineonashelf #theelfdrinksincarpool

No? In that case, there is one thing you could get me. The ten minutes back that somebody shaved off the start time for school. I don't know if you heard, Santa, but this year, they changed it -- and making it to school by 7:50 instead of 8 is KILLING US. Really. I realize ten minutes should not make such a difference, but Santa, it does, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

I know this is a big ask. So, to help make my case, I've put together a little snapshot of my morning schedule. I think it might help explain why those ten minutes are so important to me ... and pretty much every other parent I know.

Here's how my morning goes:

4:30 am: First alarm goes off. Hit dismiss.

4:45 am: Second alarm goes off. Hit dismiss. Have internal argument over gym vs walking the dog. If walking, can sleep in till 5:15. Except won't. And will instead sleep till 5:30 and then decide screw it, and skip exercise altogether.

4:50 am: Cursing, drag self out of bed. Get dressed, hopefully remembering to remove night mouthguard before leaving (TMJ is sooo sexy).

5:00 am: Start to pull out of garage.

5:01 am: Realize have forgotten towel. Stop car. Run back in house. Because getting out of the pool with no towel during winter? Hells no.

5:11 am: Walk into gym. See that three out of four pool lanes are already occupied. Practically fling off clothing while running into locker room in attempt to score last lane. Make it. Phew. #winning. Except. OMG THIS WATER IS FREEZING.

5:12 - 5:40: Contemplate all of life's problems while swimming laps. Solve none of them. Try to take mind off fact am still FREEZING by pretending am in awesome winter spa somewhere and that a dip in a hot tub and a mimosa awaits me. Doesn't work. As last-ditch effort, imagine am meeting Colin Farrell. Only not in stupid lap swimming suit. Obviously. Would be wearing something infinitely more flattering and fabulous. Look at clock because have been so occupied envisioning the outfit one would wear to a totally ridiculous imaginary meeting that will never take place, have lost track of time. Realize that if I get out in next 5 minutes, could have enough time to dip in jacuzzi really quickly. Except. Pool guy walks in. Dumps chemicals in jacuzzi. There goes the hot tub. Then begins skimming pool. Really? Imagine texting boss, "Hi, can't come to work today, have concussion from pool skimmer."

5:41: Get out of pool, conceding defeat. You win this time, pool guy.

5:55: Get home, turn on coffee maker, let out dog, feed dog while attempting not to get licked, scratched or otherwise molested by family pet.

5:58: Unable to wait for coffee maker to stop, pour quick cup, spilling half of it on counter. Imagine sitting on couch to drink. Ha. No.

6:00: The "omg I overslept" alarm goes off. Be grateful that today is not one of those days. Pour juice and milk. Bring milk to Child #2 huddled under afghan in den. Child attempts to engage in discussion of legendary Pokemon, then asks where the Elf is. OMG THE ELF!!!!!!!!!!! Distract by promising to make breakfast after shower, back quickly out of room, close door and find where you put Elf last. Try to come up with some clever pose. Fail. Prop Elf on top of bourbon bottle. Again. The Elf likes his Knob Creek.

6:05: Bring juice to Child #1 who is playing video game in the office. Child attempts to simulate symptoms of Ebola/tuberculosis and says he cannot possibly go to school. Do not engage, as this will only end in "you don't care about me because you are the WORST MOM EVER" conversation. Smile. Promise breakfast after shower. Child asks for Golden Chik for breakfast, which is not even remotely possible at this point. Say no. He hates you now. It's official.

6:10: Shower. Almost trip over matchbox cars lined up in shower. Because of course there are matchbox cars in your shower. Duh. Move tiny metal death traps to ledge, where they will probably fall on toe. With luck, the toe that appears to have sustained a stress fracture due to last June's half marathon. Because that is what happens when you do a half marathon without training, and who has time for that?

6:12: Remember have forgotten to buy more conditioner. Again.

6:25: Get dressed to the tune of incessant barking by the dog, who is not happy to be outside right at this moment. Remember there are bobcats in the neighborhood who eat family pets. But apparently not at your house, where rats eat cars and dogs eat the back yard. Sigh. Slap on mascara in attempt to look awake.

6:30: Breakfast. Child #1 wants a bagel with cream cheese. Which would be great. Except. Forgot to buy bagels. Offer English muffin instead. Fine, child sighs, as though you offered chopped liver. Run downstairs to pop muffin in toaster, then ask Child #2 in den same question. Bacon. Which is actually in fridge. Microwave bacon while smearing cream cheese on muffin.

6:45: Dog goes berserk, flinging self against patio door. Apologize to dog, but at this point, you'd have to be suicidal, masochistic or both to let dog in while bacon is cooking. Deliver breakfast to Child #2 in den, closing door to establish bacon barrier between child and dog, in case he gets in. Dilemma: let dog in and put in crate. Which seems cruel, but will allow you to finish getting ready and children to eat their food. Or, let dog in and don't put in crate, which seems nicer but will require mad dash to ensure all doors closed and breakfast secured. Pick the crate. Apologize to dog again. Deliver breakfast to Child #1 in office.

6:50: Warn Child #1 he'd better get dressed and no, you don't mean the same shirt he wore yesterday and yes, it is too cold for shorts... oh fine, just not shorts he wore yesterday or retrieved from dirty clothes hamper. He claims he has no clean clothes. Which is not strictly speaking, the truth. There are clean clothes, but no magical laundry fairy has transported them from the dryer to his drawers.

6:55: Warn Child #2 same thing. He claims not to have any pants that fit, because if they are long enough to fit his legs, they are too big in the waist and fall down. This is actually the truth. Point out they might fit better if, say, he wore underwear.

6:58: Warn everyone in vague shout that you are about to dry hair, please be ready and please, please, please -- DO NOT FIGHT.

7:12: Finish hair to the tune of loud screaming from office, where Child #2 has joined Child #1 and a massive fight (quel surpris!) has broken out because Child #2 is "not making good plays" in Madden 17.

7:15: Yell that you are leaving in ten minutes with or without them. Go downstairs, load up backpacks with lunches and water bottles. No sign of life from upstairs. Yell again. And again. March back upstairs and threaten that this time you really mean it. Child #2 stirs and races to room for last-minute wardrobe change. Child #1 is unmoved at first, then asks how can you be so mean to make him go to school when he is clearly sick. "DO YOU EVEN CARE MOM?" Tell him you care about his brain and his use of it, so yes, in fact you do care. And you can discuss this more in the car. He says "you're just going to make me go to school." Yes, son. Yes I am. Change topic by asking if he has seen the Elf yet this morning. "I don't care about the stupid Elf. He's not even real Mom, he has a COPYRIGHT." Explain to your son that of course he does because the other elves who made him copyrighted him. What are you even saying? Realize you are just trapping yourself further in a web of lies and tell him you're leaving in 10 minutes and go downstairs

7:20: Agree to help Child #2 find the Elf if he will put on shoes.

7:22: "Mom, why is the Elf always sitting on that bottle?"

7:25 Holler at Child #1 who finally comes down, still dressed in yesterday's shirt. Give up. Tell him to put on shoes. Which of course he can't find.

7:27: Mad dash through entire house. Find Child #1's shoes in Child #2's room. Throw them at Child #1, while shouting, "Everyone into the car!"

7:29: Realize you are still wearing house shoes.

7:30 Shoo children into car, run back into house, race upstairs and into closet, shove on shoes, run back down, go through garage. Child #2 is in car with seatbelt on. Child #1 is shooting baskets. Screech something you shouldn't repeat.

7:34: Once everyone is finally in car with seatbelts, back out of garage in splendid 45 point turn because by now all hope of calm is completely shot and you're lucky not to hit the retaining wall. Child #1, once captive in car, announces that he hates how he looks. Tell him he looks fine. He insists he looks dumb. Child #2 pipes up with, "actually he's right, he does look dumb." Tell Child #2 that isn't very nice and tell Child #1 that "actually, you look a lot like me."

"Exactly," he says.

7:36: Turn up radio.

7:40: Referee an argument over who the better soccer player is: Neymar or Messi. Doesn't matter what you say; you're wrong. Turn radio up a little more.

7:44: Both children ask if you can pick them up from school... you can't. They then ask if you can tell dad to pick them up "early." Ask if there is a test today. Child #1 denies this, instead bringing up Ebola/TB symptoms. And "how can you make me go to school, Mom, I'm sick! I'm going to make everyone sick? DON'T YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE AT SCHOOL, MOM?" Child #2 just says school is boring. (At this point, you begin to think "boring" sounds like a spa day compared to this insanity)

7:46: Arrive at school

7:47: Child #2 exits vehicle.

7:49: Child #1 slooooooowly gets out of car, casting backward, sullen glare that shoots guilt daggers into your tiny "worst mom ever" heart.

7:50: Final tardy bell rings. Resist temptation to lay head on steering wheel. Instead, paint your nails in the school parking lot.

7:53: Pull out of school zone. Drive to work. And breathe.

So you see, Santa... those ten minutes could make a difference. I could maybe have a couple extra minutes to actually hug one of my kids before practically tossing them from the car. Maybe I'd yell a little less. Maybe we'd have more time to find shoes. Maybe I'd remember to change mine.

I know it's pretty unlikely that you could grant me this wish. And I get that it's pretty low on the priority list. You know, the kids and all. But thanks anyway, Santa, for listening. Good luck next weekend. And just in case you get a little thirsty, I'll leave some bourbon out for you.

After all, the Elf sure seems to like it.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

'Twas the Day After Thanksgiving

Twas the day after Thanksgiving and through the post-turkey fog,

Not a creature was stirring…except obviously the dog.

The leftovers were stashed in the too-crowded fridge

There was no room for pie, not even a smidge.

The children were nestled with snacks in between

On the couch, where since 5 am they’d played Madden ’17.

And I in my bed, the covers pulled up tight,

Sighed, wondering how to avoid a political fight.

What on earth could we do to spend another day,

Without all our opinions getting in the way?

Suddenly a magical idea took shape.

A movie… one written by the one who made Snape.

I leapt out bed, shouting,“Y’all, we survived the feast,”

“So let’s go to the movies and see Fantastic Beasts!”

“Away to the movies?” my kids grumbled. “No way.That sucks!”

“We’re playing football, we don’t want to; we’re stuck.”

But the sun from the window on this cool autumn day,

Gave me strength to fake a smile, and reply, “Oh, kids? Yes way.”

With a movie review so much like Harry Potter,

I knew in a second… we really just oughter.

More rapid than quarterbacks we flung into the car,

(While my husband calculated when he could escape to the bar)

Now Parker! Now Luke! We don’t want to be late!

For the love of God, someone put that dog in the crate!

To the top of the theater, to our assigned seats!

Shut up everyone, I swear to God, this is a treat.

So up to the chairs, the kids, how they flew…

We want popcorn, we want soda, we want pizza, too!

And then, in a twinkling, I heard from the screen,

About 20 minutes worth of ads, which made us all a bit mean.

As I sucked in my breath and said “yeah, guys, I know,”

The sound blared and FINALLY the lights turned down low.

The film started with music that I knew in my heart

Hello Harry soundtrack, my, what a good start!

The characters how clever, the bad guys so scary

(Though Colin Farrell, I confess, always makes me so merry)

On Colin, On Eddie, on Tina and Queenie,

On Jacob, on Grunewald … my God, what a meanie.

The effects were amazing, couldn’t pick which was best

And they put all thoughts of politics to bed for a rest.

The story was sweeping, it took me away.

Until Luke said, “I need the bathroom, where is it, which way?”

I pointed to the exit, my eyes on the screen,

My mind consumed with each riveting scene.

The prancing and pawing of all magical creatures,

Obliterated the election in this fabulous feature.

Hours (and bathroom breaks) later, the movie scrolled to an end.

And I wiped away tears … yeah, I know, just pretend.

But as we rose from our chairs and half my family complained,

Luke whispered, “I liked it,” and I winked, no agreement feigned.

So from my house to yours I send this silly Christmas carol,

And remember, in a pinch, we've still got Colin Farrell.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Top 3 Things my kids Learned from this election

Because it's Monday....Top 3 things my kids have learned from this election:

1. That you can’t respect women if you call them names on live television. Parker watched the last debate with me. I did not talk to him during the debate, I wasn’t trying to color his views, and it was too hard to explain issues while trying to listen. But the next morning, I asked if he had any questions. Just one, he said. “Mom, is Donald Trump a liar?” I told him that I thought both candidates probably said some things that weren’t 100% true and it wouldn’t be fair to pretend that one was totally honest and the other was not. Then he said, “But he said likes women…and then he said ‘such a nasty woman.’” Yep, son. There’s that.

2. That you don’t touch people without permission. We’ve had a version of this conversation before, only it was me warning them about pervy pedophiles or creepy older kids. This went a little differently. You don’t really imagine, when you have a baby boy, one day explaining how you don’t touch girls in certain ways without their permission and that if you do, A. that’s totally wrong and B. you could go to jail. Glass half full – if my sons learn nothing else from me, EVER, I hope that lesson sticks.

3. That these things matter enough that I made them get out of bed, get out of the house at the unholy hour of 6:45 am, so that I could get in line on the 2nd day of early voting. And then, when it was my turn, I made them put down their fast food picnic on the floor of the civic center (because yes, I bribed them with breakfast, how else do you think I got them out of the house??) and I made them stand with me while I showed them how and who I was voting for. And that whether you like Hillary Clinton or not, it was a big deal that for the first time ever, a woman was on the ballot.

Of course, my kids being kids, they were all “OMG MOM, this is so boring.” But, I like to think one day they’ll have learned something from this election.
Because glass half empty: that dude could win tomorrow.
But glass half full: even if he does, I can still do everything in my power to ensure my boys turn into better men than that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

More Ridiculous Nonsense

There are many things I'm not good at.

I'm not good at making pancakes from scratch. Which is ridiculously unfair because my mother, my father and my brother are all effortlessly Martha Stewartish at pancake-making. But if I don't use a mix, mine are like hockey pucks.

I'm not good at chemistry, or any science for that matter. It's not that I haven't tried. Ok... I tried to understand chemistry, by the time I made it to astronomy, I was a lost cause. In my defense, when people hold class in a dark room with reclining seats, they should not expect me to stay awake.

I'm not good at anything that involves a trip to Home Depot. It's not that I'm incompetent; it's just that I spent way too many hours searching for the "right" wall sconce, counting stacks of backsplash tiles and a thousand other obnoxious tasks ten years ago during a home renovation hell, and I've never quite recovered. Also, any place that sells rat poison is simply not my natural environment.

I'm good at a few things, too.

I make a mean brownie. That's not bragging; it's just a fact.

I am good at getting my kids up at 2 am to watch shooting stars in a field across the street because somebody, somewhere posted about some massive meteor shower. Or maybe it wasn't a meteor shower. Maybe it's called something else. It doesn't really matter. What matters is we laid on our backs on an itchy blanket and looked up as tiny blinks of light shot across the sky, and (shhh, don't tell anyone I said this about anything scientific) it was sort of thrilling. For me, at least. My kids were complaining that ants were biting them and they were scared. They'll thank me later.

I'm good is where I should come up with something to redeem my Home Depot phobia, but I can't. I could say that last week I took my kids and a friend to that cutesy little "First Saturday" craft project that Home Depot hosts. Which is supposed to be fun, but they actually expect us parents to help our kids make these adorable projects. Things that involves hammers and nails. First of all, giving my 7 year old a hammer is like offering fireworks to ISIS. Second, all these dads are sitting around zen-like, patiently helping their children to carefully guide the nails in correctly. Me, on the other hand? I pull up a paint bucket stool, immediately all 3 kids I've brought need me to open their craft kit, the nails go everywhere, nobody can understand the directions (and by "nobody" I mean me, because they aren't even bothering) and I start to sweat and finally blurt out, "Screw it boys, we're using the wood glue." So yeah. Not good.

But. I am sort of good at finding things funny. This may not seem like much of a skill, but it certainly makes life more entertaining. And then I tend to write ridiculous nonsense that if I'm lucky, sometimes makes people laugh. And believe me, I know it's mostly nonsense. I'm not posting any deep thoughts; I haven't had one in about ten years and there are plenty of others far better at conveying depth and important things than me.

I just like to make people laugh.

I will post silly things on Twitter, on Facebook, in instant messages to coworkers or in texts to friends. And I know it's shallow, but life is already deep enough. I mean, glass half full - we're not in Syria. But glass half empty - life can feel hard sometimes. If I can make someone laugh with me and we can forget our problems for a moment, it's worth everything.

So yes, if I go to the Miss Texas pageant with my neighbor and we giggle hysterically while drinking champagne, I will write about it. If another friend and I are having a hard day, and Twitter serves me up a book cover for -- I'm not making this up -- bigfoot erotica (yes, it's a thing), I will make a bunch of really immature jokes about "Sasquatica" until we giggle like we're twelve. Which, is frankly, about the emotional age of any one of us, at any given time.

If I attempt a hideous new diet and fail, I will write about it (I'm still bitter about the beets, by the way). And if rats eat my car? Please. If you can't see the humor in that, you're not even trying.

Occasionally I slip and post something above my pay grade. Like politics, which I keep swearing I won't ever comment about in public anymore, but to me it's like this giant Kardashian-esque train wreck and it's soooooo tempting sometimes. But I'm working on it.

I might have a few other things to work on, truth be told. Change is hard, and I'm not particularly good at it, though I am trying.

But one thing I will never change is trying to find the funny in the chaos that surrounds me. Because it's not going anywhere. I mean, come on. Rats.Ate.My.Subaru. That should go on my tombstone.

And in my humble, silly, perhaps ridiculous opinion,sometimes all you can do in this life is make the choice to laugh or cry.

And crying? Ruins my mascara.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


I'm not a dog person. It's not that I don't like animals; I just don't care that much one way or the other about being around them. I don't even really like cute videos of kittens. Incidentally, this is why cats love me. I suspect they have a grudging respect for anything that cares as little for animal affection as they do.

So when my husband and kids began campaigning for a dog, I held them off as long as possible. Because I knew. I knew who would walk and feed and clean up after the dog. Oh, they all said they'd do it. "I'll clean up after her, Mom, I promise." I knew better. But it was only a matter of time.

One day I gave in and the next thing I knew, my husband had brought home a seven-week-old golden retriever puppy. Even I had to admit she was cute. My son named her Daisy. It suited her.

That first night around 11 p.m., when she cried in the makeshift kennel we'd made in our master bathroom, I sat on the floor and petted her until she fell asleep. And then I did it again around 1. The third time, I just scooped her up, took her into the bed and put her on my chest. Because she was a baby. And that's what I did with my babies.

Little did I know that letting her fall asleep on me would be my undoing. Because then, of course, the dog thought I was her mother. She followed me everywhere. And she insisted on sleeping on the floor, next to my side of the bed. I thought she'd grow out of it, and she would learn to sleep in my son's room. But she never did.

She got bigger. We moved into a house with a pool. As much as I do not like cute kitten videos, I do like swimming. Turns out, so did the dog. She would swim back and forth, knocking into the kids and scratching them with her paws. She never scratched me. All I had to do was shake my head and hold up my hand and she would turn around and paddle in another direction.

I got sick last summer and couldn't make it to the gym. So I started taking her for walks in the early morning, while it was still dark. She would always lunge after rabbits, sometimes tripping me over the leash, and I would scold her. "You're never going to catch one, you know," I told her. She never listened.

After those walks, she and I would head straight through the house and onto the back patio. I would flip on the pool light, which made the entire pool glow green. I'd go for a swim, and she would watch at the edge, dipping her head into the water for a drink. Sometimes she would join me. We could spend 20 minutes swimming laps, side by side. It was dark and hot outside, but the water was the perfect temperature. Eventually, my phone alarm would go off, and I would get out. So would she. I'd pour food into her bowl, and tell her to wait for me downstairs. But nine times out of ten, I'd get out of the shower and she'd be waiting for me in my room. Sometimes, the kids would have climbed into my bed, and she'd have joined them. "Dogs don't belong on the bed," I'd tell her. She didn't listen to that, either.

This past spring, I started getting ready for a half marathon. Some people would say "training" but that implies a lot more work than I put into it. I increased the length of our walks and she seemed to like the extra time. A few months later, I decided to do another one. This time, I was determined to actually run some of it, instead of just walking. So I tried running with Daisy. The first couple of times she kept right up with me. But then she started slowing down, panting. I chalked it up to the heat, since it was already 85 degrees at 5 am. And the extra 15 pounds she was carrying, not because of the food we actually fed her -- but the food she snatched off the kids' breakfast plates. Or the pizza slices she would steal off the counter if you turned around for even a minute. She would eat anything. I saw her eat a DVD once. It was a Lego Star Wars movie, which doesn't even sound the least bit edible. But she didn't care.

Then about a month ago, she fell down the stairs. I heard the noise, but I didn't actually see what happened so I assumed she'd slid down on her paws. She walked a little funny afterwards, like maybe she had sprained something. Then a week later, it happened again. Only this time I was standing right there and saw her stumble, lose her balance and then watched her entire 90 pound body flip over and over, smacking the stairs before I had a chance to reach for her.

My husband took her to the vet. Ear infection was the initial diagnosis. But her head was tilted, her body was cockeyed and crooked, and she was having trouble walking. She went back to the vet. "Neurological" was the diagnosis, so we took her to a second vet. Inner ear infection. More drugs. We were about to go out of town -- my husband and the boys first, and then, four days later, me. We arranged for neighbors and a pet sitter and hoped for the best.

She moved very little during the day. But she kept trying to go up the stairs at night. I realized she was going up to find me, at bedtime. So I slept on the couch downstairs for a few nights. She curled up on a dog bed next to the couch. Then everyone else left for vacation, and it was just me and Daisy. She sat next to me that first night, when I was thrilled to have the house to myself for the first time in ten years and spent the evening reading trashy tabloids. Daisy tried more than once to lick my glass of Chardonnay. Guess swimming wasn't the only thing we had in common.

She kept me company for four nights. She was there when I sang Madonna way too loudly for someone alone in the house. She was there when my girlfriends and I stayed up too late drinking Prosecco. She was there the night I kept waking up, with too many thoughts in my head, and jumped in the pool at 4 am. She could barely walk, but she made it to the side and hung her head over the edge. She just looked at me, as if she knew what I was thinking. And liked me anyway.

Then I left for vacation. My husband returned two days later and reported she seemed okay at first. Then she got worse. The night before the kids and I came home, he took her to a vet hospital on the advice of the specialist our vet had recommended.

The next morning, I got up at 330 am. We had an early morning flight. We landed, tried to eat some lunch, and he told the kids something was wrong with Daisy. Then we went to the hospital. She was unconscious. I talked to her, petted her, but all she did was twitch her leg. My oldest son started crying. I told him maybe she was dreaming about swimming with us. I hoped it was true.

Seemed like we were there for hours, waiting to talk to the doctor. Cancer, or maybe meningitis, he said. Either way, the problem was in her brain, and the options didn't really sound like options, but like lengthy, painful things you do to delay the inevitable. We told the kids to say goodbye, but by this point, they just wanted to leave. "I don't want to hear anymore, I just want to go."

I wanted to stay.

They put a soft pad and blanket on the floor of an exam room. They wheeled her in on a cart and lifted her, placing her on the pad. The social worker asked me a bunch of questions and kept saying stuff about how hard these decisions were. She was all of about 22 and she was very sweet, but I just wanted her to leave. Because I loathe letting anyone see me cry, and because I wanted Daisy all to myself one last time. The social worker finally left, giving me a button that I was to push when I was ready for the doctor to come in and give her the medicine.

I petted Daisy, who still had not woken. I told her I was sorry for getting annoyed every time she tripped me on the leash. I said I hoped the rabbits were way slower in dog heaven. And then I hoped that dog heaven was even a thing. I sat there for a while. And I finally pushed the button.

The doctor came in. He was very nice and explained how the first shot was a sedative and the second would stop her heart. He gave her the sedative. I kept my hand on her neck. I told her I loved her. He gave her the second shot. Then he checked her heart and told me it had stopped.

I sat there with her for a while, again. I just couldn't seem to make myself leave. But eventually I got up and walked out of the room. I sat in the lobby, grateful for the sunglasses hiding my puffy eyes while I waited for a ride And then I was grateful that I didn't get a chatty Uber driver.

Later that night, after I sat with my kids while they cried themselves to sleep, I went outside by myself. I drank some wine. And I swam. But it didn't feel right, without Daisy there, sitting by the side of the pool with her head hanging over the edge.

The next day, everyone started crying all over again. And then they played video games. Because that's what boys do. I unpacked, unloaded the dishwasher and put away her clean food and water dish before anyone saw them and started crying again. I looked outside. The sun was too bright and it was already hot. I don't really care that much for swimming in the daylight; I prefer the night, when it's quiet and dark. But I couldn't think of anything else to do.

So I put on my swimsuit. I went out back and looked at the cushion under the table, where Daisy used to nap. Looked at the edge of the pool where she used to sit and dunk her head. Put on my sunglasses to hide my still-puffy eyes (because grief? Is not a good look on me).

I thought about all the times she'd followed me out here, followed me everywhere, really. How I could be at my lowest point and she would just look at me, as if to say, it's ok. You feed me, I'm yours. It's that simple.

I thought about watching the vet give her that shot. And I thought about putting her on my chest when she was seven weeks old.

And then I got in the pool. And I swam.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Of Tiaras and Texas

As many of you may remember, last year's Fourth of July post detailed my family's hideous adventure at Kaboom Town. Well, fool me once, fireworks, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. This year, I chose instead to pay tribute to our nation's birthday in true Texas fashion -- with pomp, circumstance and hair extensions.

In other words ... the Miss Texas Pageant.


It started, like so many things do nowadays, with a text. "Want to go to the Miss Texas pageant?" asked my neighbor Carrie, about a month ago.

"Sure," I said, because, really? Ball gowns, big hair, and batons ... how could I possibly say no?

I'll admit to watching my share of Miss America as a little girl...every year, Mom and I would make popcorn and hunker down in front of the TV for a night of sequins and swimsuits. I "may" have posed in front of the bathroom mirror and given an imaginary speech..which for some reason always started with "I'd like to thank the Academy" instead of, "my greatest wish is for world peace." Which is funny because I've avoided the stage since I was 10 and singing with my dad's band, forgot the words, ran offstage and hid in a ladies' room. But that, as they say, is another story.

As an adult, I hadn't watched a pageant in years. Until last night, during the Uber ride to the restaurant when Carrie brought up footage of Miss South Carolina's answer from the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant. "Such as the Iraq" will forever hold a special place in my heart as the Best.Worst.Answer.Ever.

This pretty much set the tone for the night, which had begun with several giggly texts back and forth while getting dressed. I mean, obviously we had to chat about what to wear. Because duh. When one attends the Miss Texas pageant, one must dress accordingly.

After exclaiming over each others' dresses and shoes, Carrie asked her husband to take a picture of us for posterity. Because if there was ever a night for ridiculous late night selfies, this was going to be it - best to attempt a "normal" picture before the drinking started.

We ubered over to Jasper's. As we got out of the car, Carrie said, "I just hope there's at least one baton twirler tonight."

"Me, too," I replied.

"And puppets," she added.

"Oooh, do you think?" I asked, giddy with anticipation. "That would be amazing. And possibly a dramatic reading from Gone With the Wind. Because that would be epic."

Giggling, we made our way into the restaurant. As we took our seats, the waiter greeted us and asked how we were. Carrie asked him the same, to which he replied, "Actually, I'm sublime." Or maybe he said he was "supine." Or possibly "sub-prime." Basically, I've no real idea what he said.

He asked if we were celebrating anything. "Miss Texas!" Carrie said, and he looked surprised for maybe half a second, and then he recovered and said, "Rock on. Do you want to start with some Prosecco?"

I don't think I need to tell you what we said to that. Because the only acceptable answer when someone asks if you want Prosecco -- is yes.

As he walked away, I whispered, "did he say he was sublime?"

"I don't know, I couldn't understand him!" Carrie whispered back.

"I think he just made up a word!" I whispered.

And then we giggled. Again.

Our bubbly came and we ordered the blue cheese potato chips. Our waiter described several specials and something very complicated the chef was doing to a pork tenderloin that involved sous-vide and sauerkraut. I'm not really sure what all that was about, but it sounded very Iron Chef. Only German. And sauerkraut? Is so not pageant food.

We asked for a recommendation, since we wanted to split a salad and entree. (Hello, we were about to watch anorexic 20 year olds, we had to drink .. ahem, I mean "watch" our calories). He suggested the surf and turf, which was medium rare tuna and steak. I'm not a big fan of fish that hasn't been cooked, mainly because A) I grew up on beer batter and B) It's fish and C) I prefer my tuna in a can. But I do have to say -- everything was really good. Once I got past the fact that the tuna was purple.

We asked the waiter to take a picture. It looked hideous. We asked him to take another. Also hideous. But we thanked him anyway, and I said (still giggling), "I bet we're the most ridiculous customers you have all night."

To his credit he said, "Nah, you're just having a good time."
And yes. We were. We tried to take a selfie before we left, but the lighting was just all wrong. So, my restaurant review in a nutshell:

Jasper's has excellent service and food.
But terribly unflattering lighting for pictures.
You're welcome.

Dinner finished, we headed to the Eisemann Center, and discussed perfume with the uber driver on the way. Because of course we did.

And then we opened the door and entered a pink and blonde cloud of hair extensions, gowns and sparkles, the likes of which I doubt I'll ever experience again in my lifetime. Family members clutched giant photos of their contestants. Past Miss Texas winners walked the red carpet. And little girls wore giant, fluffy white dresses that looked like some bizarre quinceanera. For ten-year-olds.

"Wouldn't it be great if they had one of those things where we could stick our heads in it and have crowns?" Carrie asked, because if there was ever a place for a rhinestoned photo booth, this was it.

We headed straight for the bar. Obviously. And ordered champagne. "Would you like to purchase a commemorative Miss Texas champagne flute?"

Why, yes. Yes we would. As we sipped our champagne, we asked a man wearing a lovely plaid jacket to take our photo. "Full body shot?" he asked. I had to smile. You know you're in pageant country when the men wear Madras and ask about your photo preferences.

We raised our glasses and as I took another sip, I mused, "I wonder if they'd just sell us a bottle? And would it be wrong to take that back to our seats?" Because a night like this? Was not a one-glass event.

We, along with our commemorative flutes, made our way to our seats -- which, thanks to Carrie, were amazing. Box seats right in the middle of the balcony, for the perfect view of the pag-sanity that was about to begin. Lights dimmed. We "might" have squealed in excitement. And yes, obligatory opening ceremony selfies.

And so it began. Miss Texas 2015 took the stage, lit only in profile as she turned, struck a pose and then began to swivel back and forth. "OMG, interpretive dance!" I whispered, "this is AWESOME!" Then Demi Lovato's "Complicated" blasted out as a slew of red sequin-clad ladies strolled across the stage. They joined Miss Texas 2015 in a choregraphed dance involving lots of snapping fingers and wrists. Think, "talk to the hand" only it was more like "talk to my pageant-walking sequin-wearing fabulousness." Because the pageant walk? Was in full force. If you don't know what I'm talking about, might I suggest this helpful guide to perfecting your pageant strut.

Our host was Miss Texas 2012 and she regaled us with the glorious history of Miss Texas. She introduced us to the Lone Star princesses, those little girls in white I had spotted in the lobby. Because dressing prepubescent girls in sparkly wedding dresses and false eyelashes? Is not creepy. At. All.

Then she announced a very special guest -- Miss Texas 1966. A video tribute played, showcasing her evening gown competition walk and her talent.

Guess what her talent was?

A dramatic reading from ...wait for it ... Gone with the Wind.

"As God is mah witness, I'll never be hungry again."

I almost spilled my drink as Carrie and I high-fived. Because Scarlett O'Hara? Is one of my all-time favorite heroines. "I can't think about this now. I'll think about it tomorrow." That phrase can save your life.

Between GWTD and the Lone Star princesses, they announced the 12 semifinalists, we met the contestants and I went downstairs for another glass of champagne. Because the swimsuit competition was coming up, and clearly, that required ... nay, demanded, alcoholic accompaniment.

Each of the contestants pageant-strutted down the runway in a biniki and a teensy little wrap, which they whipped off dramatically so we could all see their cellulite-free thighs and derrieres. All I can say is there were a lot of ab crunches that went into those bodies. And not much food.

Then we had evening wear. The ladies were grouped by the color of their dresses, because apparently most of them went for black, blue, red or white. There was one yellow gown and one sort of blue with gold side panels. Don't worry, I'm not going to wax poetic about fashion. Because I love a good gown as much as anyone, but let's face it. We weren't here to see the dresses. We were here to see one thing.

The talent competition.

I won't describe all the talents -- but I feel compelled to share a few of the highlights. The 90-second speed painting of Elvis was a personal favorite. As were the batons, because yes, more than one lady brought her twirlers. Miss Plano, I believe, was the best of the bunch. Three batons, or was it four? I can't remember -- it was all a blur of sparkles and sticks flung high into the air.

There were dancers. A celloist. (Note: don't play the cello for your pageant talent. Just don't. Especially if you have to follow a baton twirler. They will crush you). And yes, there was a ventriloquist. Carrie got her puppets! Fancy, dancing and singing puppets, no less!

At intermission, we both went downstairs. I headed for the ladies' room while Carrie held our drinks. When I finally pushed through the crowds to find Carrie (it was a pageant, for God's sake; of course there was a line for the ladies' room) I couldn't find her. Finally, I spied her near the doors, chatting with a cop. Who seemed really interested in knowing what she did. And where she worked. And where she lived. (Officer Stalker much?)

Then she spilled champagne on the floor and he joked, "Who's driving?" Ha ha ha, good one, Officer. Maybe you can give us a ride home after. Or ... maybe not.

As we left our new law enforcement friend, Carrie said, "did I really just spill champagne on the floor? In front of a police officer?"

"Yes, but I'm pretty sure he didn't care. I think he kind of liked you."

Giggle. Giggle.

Still snorting, we found our seats once again, this time for the interview portion of the night (AKA, Such as the Iraq). The first question was whether immigrants faced favoritism in this country. Or maybe it was racism. I couldn't really hear. All I know is the contestant used a word in her answer that I can think was meant to be "xenophobia" only it came out more like "funaphobia" which I'm pretty sure is not a real word. And if it is, how sad is that -- I mean, who has a phobia about fun?

Two different contestants were asked to "imagine you are moderating the first debate between Trump and Clinton, and what would you ask?" I believe it was Miss Park Cities who said she would ask Hillary Clinton about empowering women and how she was making history. That didn't sit well with the crowd, who booed and hissed, except for one person who cheered. Oh wait. That was me. Spoiler Alert: guess who didn't win Miss Texas?

Our mayor took the stage and talked about helping the contestants build houses. Or maybe they fed the homeless. IDK. They did something good for the community. I wasn't paying much attention at that point. My feet, in their 3-inch platform heels, were kind of hurting. Also? I was almost out of champagne.

Finally, the moment we'd all been waiting for arrived. The runners up were announced and then... drumroll ... Miss Plano was crowned Miss Texas 2016. She won a pretty small scholarship and the use of an Infiniti for a year. If you ask me, that's kind of a raw deal for years of starvation and hair extensions. She did get a standing ovation and a ginormous bouquet of yellow roses. So you know, there's that.

We decided it was too early to end the evening, so we walked over to the Renaissance Hotel for a drink. Where the bartender looked so young, I'm pretty sure I could have given birth to him. Which is kind of euww, so let's not do that math.

We both ordered the same wine. And apparently, they only had one glass left of that particular wine. But I think we scared him, so he wouldn't come back and tell us -- we had to flag down another bartender who broke the news. And looked nervous telling us. What did she think? We'd start a fight over cabernet? Then again, they had been hosting pageant moms all week so maybe they had reason to fear. I offered to have a different wine. Problem solved.

As we were drinking, a man in a sequined jacket (yes, you heard me right) leaned over the bar. Carrie complimented him on his jacket and he explained that he'd had it flown in from L.A. Then he introduced himself as the official pageant florist. That's right, people. We met a celebrity. Sort of. Not really at all, but whatever.

So of course, we had to tell him how much we loved the flowers and then he told us how he really wanted to do a more modern look but with the traditional nod to Texas via yellow roses, and we all agreed that baby's breath was so last century ... there was so much estrogen in that conversation, I'm pretty sure we could have reset the menstrual cycles of every woman within a 50-yard radius. He gave us his card. You know, for the next time we hold a pageant in our living room and need flowers.

We knew it was pretty much impossible to top the celeb florist encounter, so at this point we decided to call it a night. We ubered home, I took our commemorative glasses home to wash, and we giggled one more time over the evening.

Because yes, swimsuit competitions are insane.

So are beauty contests in general.

But nonstop giggling like you're twelve with a good friend and enjoying the spectacle of batons, speed-painting Elvis and yes, dramatic readings of Gone With the Wind?

Best.Mom's Night.Ever.