I guess 2021 is the year when I start blogging again, which I never would have guessed.
I just wrote the story in my last post about how we ended up with Ada, our beagle. She’s been happily living with us for so long, I guess I took for granted how much time she had left. A few days ago, she took a sudden turn for the worse. She couldn’t seem to get comfortable, she was pacing around the house and didn’t want to eat any treats I offered her, which is completely abnormal behavior for her. Normally when I tell her “go to bed,” she immediately flops in one of the dog beds, but instead she’d put one paw in her bed, then change her mind and go back to pacing.
The thing about congestive heart failure is that it’s slow. But her heart is now surrounded by so much fluid that she’s having a hard time catching her breath. She’s panting even when she hasn’t exerted herself at all.
Chris and I took Ada to the vet on Saturday morning, who confirmed what we suspected. They gave us some pain medication to try to keep her comfortable. But it isn’t really working, and she’s suffering. One of the hardest parts of having a pet is figuring out when it’s time to say goodbye to them. It’s even harder when you have kids who bond to your pets. Jack is particularly attached to Ada, more than any of his sisters, and this is really hard for him. It’s devastating and heart-breaking, not only to lose a pet, but also to watch your child grieve that loss. But it’s up to us, as the adults, to make the awful decision of putting our pets down so they don’t suffer anymore. And so, we’re going to have Ada put to sleep sometime this week.
It’s not really a secret that Ada has never been my favorite of our pets. She’s absolutely the most sweet-natured dog I’ve ever met, but she also never got the hang of being house-broken, despite my best efforts, and she ruined all of my area rugs with her messes. She’s the reason my house always smells vaguely of Stinky Dog, no matter how much I clean or how often I bathe her and brush her teeth. And I never really wanted a second dog, but Olivia brought her over and it was like: well, I guess she’s ours now.
But despite my best efforts to not bond with this dog, for whatever reason, she decided that I was her person. She follows me everywhere. She wants to be with me and only me, most of the time. I somehow inexplicably became the Alpha Dog of a pack that includes Ada and Roxie, which is a weird place for a cat person to find themselves.
So I’m really sad, and I’m really going to miss her.
A friend (who might read this, and if so, hey K!) told me this story: when they knew they were putting their dog down, they stopped at a fast food place and got him his own burger and fries on the drive to the vet. He died with half a Twinkie in his mouth, and if ever there was a better send-off for a dog, I’m sure I don’t know it. I told that story to the kids, and they want to do the same for Ada. I told them that we will absolutely do that too.
After all, it’s the least we can do for a dog who has done nothing but love all of us for the final two years of her life.
I got an invoice this week to renew the registration of my blog, and I realized that I haven’t written anything here in… uh… *checks notes*… over 3 years. So, hello! Here’s what’s been going on over in my little corner of the world.
We’ve been living through a pandemic for over a year now! If you’re reading this in 2021, you already know that! And it has sucked so much! You probably know that too! Ok, let’s move on!
There are a lot of things that have happened in the last few years that I never blogged about, like: we bought a house! The kids all have their own bedrooms, the backyard is fenced for the dogs (yes, dogs plural, more on that in a minute), I have an office with doors I can close, it’s in a beautiful neighborhood close to a community park and the schools here are great. It ticked every box of everything I wanted in a house. It’s also come with challenges, like finding that we suddenly have to buy a new water heater or some other major expense, but overall it’s been great and I love it here.
Dave also bought a house less than 2 miles away, so we have a super easy commute getting Catie and Lucy back and forth between our houses, which has been really nice. He and I are still amicable as ever – honestly, we probably get along better now than we did when we were married. I like that we can get along and have an easy relationship with each other; I think it really reduces any stress or tension that the girls might pick up on.
Work has been awesome. I was moved to a different team, but the move makes more sense for me, and I really like my manager. I’ve now been with this company for over 10 years, and I can’t imagine that I could ever find a job that’s a better fit for me than this one. I’m really happy on that front.
The pet switch-ups: I think when I last blogged, we had adopted Fifi and Sunny as kittens, and we also had Roxie (the Yorkie). Sunny unfortunately passed away from a disease called FIP that’s 100% fatal in cats. We were devastated to lose her when she was only 2 years old. We’ve since adopted another cat, Toby, who is just about the greatest thing on four legs. He’s so sweet and cuddly and just a hilarious goofball of a cat. I mean, look at this face.
We got him from the same rescue where we adopted Fifi and Sunny. They got him from a kill shelter where he’d been dropped off when he was 2 years old. I cannot fathom how anyone can interact with this cat and not immediately fall in love with him, so I don’t understand why anyone would ever surrender him to a shelter like that. I wish I knew more about his backstory, but the most important thing to know is that he’s ours now, and I absolutely adore him. I’d adopt 5 more cats if they were all like him.
As for the second dog: my stepdaughter, Olivia, found a beagle who’d been dumped on the side of the road, she was skin and bones at the time. Olivia brought her to us, and we thought that since she was so old, nobody else would ever adopt her, so we’d just keep her, take care of her, and give her a happy end to her life. We thought that maybe she’d live a few months at most. That was 2 years ago.
So that’s how we got Ada. She and Roxie get along great, which is surprising because until Ada came along, Roxie hated all other dogs. Ada is as dumb as a bag of hair, but she’s very sweet and just wants love and treats. We have no idea how old she is – she only has a few teeth left, she has cataracts and arthritis, she coughs all the time because she’s got congestive heart failure, but she keeps trucking along. She’s the age where the vet just shrugs and says, “Your guess is as good as mine.” We have a lot of jokes about how old Ada is – like: before us, her previous owner was a guy from the Old Testament named Methuselah. Or that she used to hang out with dinosaurs. And at the rate she’s going, she just might out-live us all. She’ll be hanging out with Wall-E after all the humans have vanished off Earth.
Because of her arthritis, she can walk around the house and to the backyard to do her business, but she can’t walk long distances on a leash. The pandemic meant that walking was our only escape from the house, so that’s how I justified making an insane purchase like a dog stroller.
My logic is that maybe she can’t walk very far, but she still likes to be included when I walk Roxie? She genuinely does seem to enjoy her little rides. I’m sure that I’m now known as the Crazy Dog Stroller Lady to all my neighbors, but all little kids we pass seem excited to see her. I figure the fresh air is good for her, and pushing a stroller with a 22-pound dog in it adds a little bit of an upper body workout to my walks, especially when we go up hills. (And our neighborhood has a LOT of hills!)
So that’s four pets we have now: two dogs and two cats. I think we’re good with that. It feels like we’re maxed out.
As for the four kids, there have been some pretty huge changes on that front. I’ll go from youngest to oldest:
Lucy is now in 4th grade, she’ll be 10 years old in May. And she’s still a hilarious little firecracker just like she has been since the day she was born. As she gets older, her sense of humor is maturing and she’s just an absolute riot. I don’t even have words to sum up how fun and awesome she is. I enjoy her a lot.
My stepson, Jack, has been living with us full-time for 2 or 3 years now. He’s 13, and he’s in the same grade/school as Catie. He’s had a huge growth spurt during this pandemic, he’s suddenly as tall as me and he’s needed all new clothes and shoes. He’s also matured a lot in the last year or so, and getting to be his “bonus mom” is turning out to be one of the great honors of my life. I always figured I was lucky to have two girls because I wouldn’t have known what to do if I had a boy. Raising Jack these last few years has taught me that being a mom to a boy is just as fun and wonderful, albeit in different ways that I find equally delightful.
Catie is 14(!) now. She’s artistic and sensitive and funny and lovely. She and Jack are starting their last quarter of 8th grade, then they’ll be off to high school in the fall, which is BANANAS. I still think of Catie as my tiny little blonde toddler, and it knocks me sideways to think that she’s going to be taking Driver’s Ed soon. Neither of us are ready for that. (Catie especially. She hasn’t changed much, she still hates trying new things, poor bug.)
Olivia, my stepdaughter, is 16, and she’s just a pure delight to be around. She’s so mature and easy to talk to. I always thought teenage girls would be a struggle, but it’s really not with Olivia at all. She’s also very private about her business, so that’s all I’m going to say about her. I don’t know if she’ll ever read this or not, but I want to be respectful of her feelings regardless.
In other news, Chris and I had our 9th anniversary a couple of weeks ago (of dating, not marriage – it took us over 5 years to decide to get married). I still think he’s the greatest guy in the world for me, and he seems to still like me despite the fact that I do things like impulse-buy a stroller for one of our dogs. So we’re pretty great.
It’s starting to look like there’s a light at the end of this pandemic. Chris got his second COVID vaccine today; I’ve had my first dose & I get my second in a couple of weeks. Our parents are all fully vaccinated now. It’s starting to feel, dare I say it, almost hopeful? There are so many things I want to do when this is over: host sleepovers for the kids, go on road trips, take honest-to-God/leavin’-on-a-jet-plane vacations, down to simple things like having my parents over for family dinners. Hopefully we’ll be able to do all of that really soon. Fingers crossed.
Catie was in first grade when the shooting at Sandy Hook happened. It gutted me at the time, all those babies who were lost, the same age that my little girl was. A friend’s nephew was one of the children killed; his twin sister was in another first grade classroom and survived. I can’t imagine what those families have endured.
This most recent shooting in Florida has been devastating in its own way, especially seeing cell phone videos and the screenshots of texts the kids sent to their parents and siblings because they thought they’d never see them again. I can’t imagine getting a text like that from one of my kids. It makes me sick to think about it.
Last night, Chris and I were watching the news, and saw one of the Newtown children’s moms being interviewed on TV.
I said, “Her son should be Catie’s age.”
Chris said, “Yeah, her son was the same age Lucy is now.”
Since Lucy was just a baby when Sandy Hook happened, I never thought of it that way. It just hit me hard, this awful feeling that none of our babies are ever safe in this world.
This morning, I asked the girls when was the last time they had a lockdown drill at school. Neither of them could remember, it’s such a common occurrence. They used to trigger Catie’s anxiety; the night after every lockdown drill, she would panic and cry, and I would have to lie in bed with her and rub her back until she could settle down enough to fall asleep. Now she doesn’t even really register it.
Since Lucy is only 6, I wasn’t sure how the school explained the whole lockdown drill process to them. I asked her if she knew why they did them.
She said, “It’s in case a bad guy comes in with a gun and tries to shoot us.”
And that, folks, is the story of how I ended up hugging both of my daughters and sobbing my eyes out at 7:30 this morning. (Until Lucy told me that I was hugging her too tight and she couldn’t breathe.)
I don’t know what else to say about this. I just hate that this is the world my kids have to grow up in. I’m watching these teenagers protesting, and I’m scared to feel anything like optimism, but I really and truly hope these kids can fix this mess, where all of the adults have failed them.
The end of 2016 was so depressing and bleak that I didn’t bother to do one of these recap posts, but so much has happened lately that I haven’t blogged about, that I feel like I should pick it back up.
1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
* Chris and I got married!
* Related to the previous point: I officially became a stepmom!
Honestly, this little blended family we’ve created is just about the greatest thing ever. We are so damn lucky.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
No and no. I tend to think resolutions are just something you give up by sometime in mid-January. Changes don’t always happen on a set calendar timeline.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Several friends had babies this year, and my cousin & his wife had a baby girl.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
It feels weird to mention a cat here, but Beaumont dying back in February really knocked all of us for a loop. I’m pretty sure I cried more for that cat than I cried over my own divorce.
5. What countries did you visit?
Jeez, this question is always so depressing. I don’t think I even left North Carolina in 2017.
6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
A home of our own. I moved into this house with Catie and Lucy in 2011, after Dave and I split up, and it’s been a great landing place for us for the past 6+ years. But it’s a rental house, so we can’t change things like the ugly wallpaper, pastel blue siding, etc. I want to buy a house that we can really make ours. One where the kids have their own bedrooms, a fenced backyard for Roxie, and where I have a home office with a door I can close (I currently work in the dining room, and it’s really hard to work when the kids are home because I have no sound barrier anywhere).
7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
* January 21st – Participating in the Women’s March the day after Trump was inaugurated.
* February 15th – The day we brought home our new kittens, Fifi & Sunny.
* November 22nd – The day Chris & I got married.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I’ve been kicking ass at my job, and I’m really proud of a lot of my work there.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I’ve been more short-tempered than usual, and that’s been weird, because it makes me feel unlike myself. I know a lot of it has been related to my health (see below), but it kind of sucks when I have to keep apologizing for being irritable and cranky.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I hurt my knee, which kept me from being able to run for a while. That was not fun. I’ve also been having a problem with recurring headaches, but my doctor referred me to a neurologist, and I’m cautiously optimistic that it might be getting better.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I don’t know if you can say that I “bought” it, but we paid for a marriage license. That was pretty great.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Until the day I die, I don’t think I will ever stop being angry that Donald freaking Trump somehow became president of this country. “Appalled and depressed” is an understatement.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, groceries, kids. The usual.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
It feels weird to keep mentioning my own wedding, but: that. Also my kids’ birthday parties. Adopting 2 tiny kittens. The new Star Wars movie. The new season of Game of Thrones. Lots of stuff, I guess.
16. What song will always remind you of 2017?
I’m going to say “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran – not because it’s a great love song (although it is). The real reason is because listening to my daughters sing it is one of the sweetest, loveliest things I’ve ever heard, and gets filed under that category of “man, I hope I still remember this when I’m old and senile.”
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? I don’t know that I have an either/or answer for this. Can I say angrier? Because I am. I’m so angry at the shitshow my country has become. All of the feminist ideals that my parents raised me with have just bubbled over into this endless internal rage-fire that I’m not sure exactly what to do with. b) thinner or fatter? Thinner by maybe 5 pounds, but not much. (Not complaining.) c) richer or poorer? Well, I got a raise, and my company’s stock price is doing so well that I’m about to use some of my stock options to buy a house. So definitely richer.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Being productive around the house. I did the “40 Bags in 40 Days” challenge during Lent, and I’ll likely do it again this year, because we really need to declutter if we’re going to move sometime this year.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Same answer as the past years, worrying about things that I have no control over.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
The usual. Christmas Eve church service with my family. My kids were with me for Christmas morning, then went to their dad’s to do Christmas with him. I took a nap and went for a long run with Roxie. My sister and brother-in-law flew in for a few days. We’ve had all 4 kids here since December 26th, which has been great, and I’m already sad that it’s going to end on Wednesday.
21. Did you fall in love in 2017?
Nah, the same guy. He’s still pretty aces.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
Game of Thrones.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Do political figures count?
24. What was the best book you read?
I’m going to plug a children’s book that a friend wrote: Bernadette the Brave by the amazing, lovely Allison Zapata. You should buy it for your kids. It’s really, really good. I’m not just saying that.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
He’s not new, but my kids got me into Ed Sheeran this year. It’s been a long time since I’ve had an album that I play on repeat. But pretty much everything on his last 2 albums has been my jam lately. (And yes, I’m probably too old to be an Ed Sheeran fan. Whatever.)
26. What did you want and get by year’s end?
I feel like Chris and I have been a good team for years, and I feel like our kids have been a blended family for a very long time, but having everything legal makes it all feel a little more solid.
27. What did you want and not get by year’s end?
A house. I wanted to buy a house last year, but it didn’t work out for a bunch of reasons. Chris & I decided to put off house-hunting until after Christmas, so we’re about to start searching again.
28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I want to say “The Last Jedi,” but I also really loved “Wonder Woman,” and I have to admit that “Thor: Ragnorak” was great fun.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 41. I don’t think I did anything particularly special? I think I just had dinner with my parents and my kids. The usual.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
Athleisure. I own more yoga pants than any reasonable person needs. But I mean, I work from home, so it’s not like I have to dress up on a daily basis to impress anyone.
32. What kept you sane?
* Having a partner who listens to me when I need to vent.
* A lot of various prescription medications. God bless medical science.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Chris Hemsworth as Thor, after his haircut. If you don’t get it, do a Google image search for pictures of Chris Hemsworth carrying his babies. You’re welcome.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
There is no way I can answer this succinctly. I’ll just gesture broadly at the world in general and say: all that stuff.
35. Who did you miss?
There are a few friends who live far away who I really wish I could’ve seen this year.
36. Who was the best new person you met?
This feels unfair to try to single someone out. There are too many people I like.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.
ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. (*hyperventilates with rage*)
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Not a song lyric, just a quote that I think sums up my year pretty well:
“Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”
And since I always finish these posts with a song, here’s an acoustic version of “Take on Me” by A-Ha, which I’ve listened to probably over 20 times, and I could easily listen to it 20 more.
Lucy has this habit of saying hilarious things out of the blue that just catch us completely off guard. Sometimes she’s intentionally being funny, sometimes it’s accidental. But I always mean to write them down, because I’m afraid I may forget them someday.
The movie “Sing” has taught her Sir Mix-a-Lot, because from the next room, I heard, “I loooove CATS and I cannot lie!”
When I dry my hair, the kids think it’s funny to have me shoot hot air in their faces.
Which is all fine until Lucy runs in out of nowhere and screams, “BLOW ME!”
And I cracked up because apparently my sense of humor is on par with a 12 year-old boy’s.
Back in February: “At school we learned about a guy who was shot & killed! His name was King Junior!”
Took me a second to realize she meant MLK, who they were studying for Black History Month.
Lucy: *attempts some ridiculous thing that’s too absurd to even try to explain*
Me: “Lucy, I don’t think you can do that.”
Her: “Maybe I can, you don’t know my life.”
3 stories about kids & technology:
1. “Mom, did you know you can make the screen bigger by pressing F11?” (Answer: yes, I did. But you’re only 5, so how did YOU know that?)
2. The kids were playing with Siri on their iPads, goofing around. Lucy said their dad’s name, so Siri (of course) pulled up his contact info & avatar. This completely blew Lucy’s mind. “CATIE! LOOK!! SIRI KNOWS DAD!!”
3. We installed Google Hangouts on their iPads so they can text me and their dad. This means I get a lot of this from Lucy.
Not gonna lie, I don’t hate it.
I was feeling stressed out about a small work thing, and I had a headache. Chris told Lucy, “Go rub Mommy’s shoulders to help her feel better.”
Lucy replied: “You do it, I’m not your slave.”
Reading a book at bedtime with Lucy & it had a scratch & sniff thing on one page.
Lucy’s assessment: “It just smells like book.”
I can’t explain why I couldn’t stop laughing for the next 5 minutes about that one, but it got me. From now on, every time I walk into a book store or library, I’m going to say, “It smells like book in here.”
And lest it seem like Catie isn’t funny, she absolutely is. It just happens that 10 year-olds are less accidentally hilarious than 5 year-olds.
So, here a few of my favorite Catie moments.
I’ve been thinking about buying a house (temporarily on hold, but it’s sort of in the back of my mind as a “someday” thing). A house went up for sale in our neighborhood, so we detoured past it one morning on our drive to school. Catie said the house looked way too small for us.
It was a Cape Code style house, so I explained that it was much bigger on the inside than it looked. Catie sighed, rolled her eyes, and said, “Mom. It’s a house, not a TARDIS.”
One of the “completely accidental” jokes: we were in the car and Catie was telling me about some book she had just read.
“Mom, you know those ass-fed hounds?”
I’m sorry, the what??? Turns out she meant AFGHAN hounds. I had a hard time recovering from that one & playing it cool.
We were in the car, listening to “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars on the radio, when he’s lamenting about all the things he should’ve done for his girl when he had the chance. Catie pointed at the radio and said, “Yeah, Bruno Mars! You SHOULD have done all that nice stuff for her! What did you think would happen? CONSEQUENCES, THAT’S WHAT!”
So yeah, kids are a riot. I highly recommend them.
Here’s a story that I should probably be embarrassed to share, but since it has a happy ending, eh, here goes.
Five years ago, I was separated and in the process of getting a divorce. Thanks to North Carolina’s mandatory “one year waiting period” before a divorce can be granted, that state of limbo seems to be longer and more torturous here than in other states. I had dipped my toe in the online dating world, but had only been on a few dates at that point.
This was before Catie started kindergarten, so both of the girls were in daycare full-time. There was a little girl in Catie’s pre-K class whose parents were divorced, and her mom, Tanya, and I became fast friends. Tanya sort of took me under her wing to help me through the process. We lost touch after our kids started school, since we live in different districts. But I think about her often, and I’m eternally grateful to her for some of the advice she gave me in the months after my separation.
In 2012, on St. Patrick’s Day, Tanya convinced me to join her and some of her friends to go out for dinner. My mom baby-sat the girls that night so I could go out with them. There were cocktails with dinner, then afterward, we ended up at a bar and had more drinks. (I guess it wasn’t really a bar – it’s normally a restaurant, but on Saturday nights, they have live music and it turns into sort of a dance club? It’s an odd place.) I’m a total lightweight with alcohol, I drink maybe 3 or 4 times a year on average, so it doesn’t take much to knock me for a loop. I don’t know how many drinks I had that night, but suffice to say, it was way past my tolerance level.
So, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m drunk in a bar. You know, as you do. I decided it would be a good idea to text a guy who I had a lunch date with earlier that week. It started off as just a, “hey, I really enjoyed meeting you, we should hang out again sometime,” friendly chat, and then turned into me confessing that I thought he was really hot and a whole bunch of other things that I would never have had the nerve to say if I had been sober.
I ended up taking a cab home, and my parents had to drive me back the next day to retrieve my car. Which was kind of embarrassing for a grown 36 year-old mother of two children, but better than the alternative of driving under the influence.
The guy I had been drunk texting? He texted me in the morning to ask if I was feeling OK.
Five years later, that turns out to have been the best drunk text I ever sent.
Chris is the guy who takes care of me, deals with all of my crazy hang-ups and anxieties, loves my kids, does the dishes and takes out the trash without me even having to ask, helps with the pets, and does a million other things that I try my hardest to never take for granted.
Chris is such a good guy that even my dad likes him, and my dad is a hard guy to win over. In fact, my dad likes him so much that he has never once told me that he disapproves of us living together even though we’re not married. (One exception: he did once say that he didn’t want me to talk about us living together on Facebook, because he doesn’t want some of his conservative Christian family members to know that I’m “a fallen woman.” Which didn’t offend me, it made me laugh, because it’s such a hilariously antiquated expression. And my dad is nearly 81, so I get that he has some outdated worldviews that I don’t share.) Meanwhile, my mom loves Chris so much that she automatically assumes any disagreements we have are my fault. So, yeah. Both of my parents are big fans. My kids adore him too. Hell, even Dave likes him.
Happy five years, babe. There’s nobody I’d rather be shacked up and living in sin with.
P.S. Neither of us can remember the date when we met for that first lunch, other than it was a few days before St. Patrick’s Day. But 3/17 was the night of the drunk texts, so that’s what we jokingly refer to as our anniversary.