How my husband and I (tried to) explain our beagle’s death to our young daughters:
Our beloved beagle died in early September. We all grieved differently. Here’s what happened with me:
A piece I wrote last year, about disassembling our last crib, published today on Mamalode:
…but that I’ve found very helpful/heartening in the last day or so.
This poem (by the late great Leonard Cohen):
The idea of Thank You notes:
My almost-five year old overheard me mention to a friend that I’d be writing a thank you note to Hillary Clinton for all of her years of service. Next thing I notice: my daughter, home sick with a chest cold, has written:
Here’s a link for where to send thank you notes to the most qualified candidate ever to run for president:
These links for articles/essays made me feel understood/safe/a sense of community:
and THIS personal anecdote:
Today, my youngest, while climbing the rock wall for the first time, screamed with pride: “I’m not giving up!!” as she climbed higher and higher.
And so we don’t give up. Life is change. This one feels especially hard, unnecessary, and terrifying, but we will survive. (I hope we’ll survive. I think we will. 70% sure right now.)
Our almost-12-year old beagle, Bowie, is very sick. Every day lately seems to present a different challenge, moving him further away from the hearty health he’s enjoyed for a long time. We tried to treat his cancer, it proved resistant. We took the cancer out through surgery, it still spread anyway. He got an infection from the surgery. It was dealt with, but then he stopped eating as of two mornings ago.
It has been a very tough summer. For him and, thus, for me, since he and I are attached at the heart. I know dogs don’t live forever, I never expected him to, but he’s not yet 12. For some reason I thought we’d have him for a solid 14 years. I don’t know why I thought that. Wishful thinking, I guess.
Every doctor and specialist assures me that he is not in any pain yet. But I can feel that we are quickly nearing the point where he might be, and I have always promised myself, and him, that I won’t ever let him suffer. It wouldn’t be right, since all he’s ever given us is love and (mostly) joy. So my heart has been very heavy, especially in the last three to four weeks. Every time anyone brings up his health, I feel a tightening in my chest and throat, a sort of anaphylaxis that comes over me, and I can’t breathe. I may need to start wearing a tee shirt that says: “PLEASE DON’T ASK ME ABOUT MY BELOVED DOG AS I AM FAIRLY CERTAIN I WILL DIE OF SADNESS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.”
Today, to distract myself and get some endorphins, I went to the gym. While I was entering my membership ID number in the keypad, a woman at a table directly to my left chirped: “It’s National DOG DAY!!!!” I turned, registered that she was there handing out free samples of a new brand of dog food, and I started to cry. Well, “cry” is putting it lightly. Is howl too strong? Wail? I was audibly crying, the ugliest face-contorter of all the cries, and I couldn’t stop. I also couldn’t move because I was heave-sobbing.
This dog has a room in my heart, just a few doors down from each of my human-children. He was our first born, our internship in parenting. His impending death has brought up so much. It’s not just the end of his life, it feels like the end of part of my own life. The end of an era, for sure. Almost 12 years is a long time to love someone, something.
At the gym today, the dog food lady came out from the other side of her table and enveloped me in a giant hug and never asked me a thing, because I don’t think she needed to – maybe mine is the international cry of dog-illness/loss. She hugged me so tight, this total stranger, that her incredible kindness (of course) made me cry even harder. Eventually I stopped crying long enough to thank her, take the dog food sample bag, and usher myself to the bathroom where I tried to stop crying. Never caught the woman’s name, but damn, she has to be one of the best good samaritans out there.
I went on to have a decent workout, drove home, tried to feed my dog again.
After that, I put together these two side by side photos. Of my boy and me, on his first day with us. (I’m 27 in it, he’s seven weeks.) And next to it, a photo from today, of us, in the kitchen, after he eagerly, and surprisingly, gobbled up the dog food sample.
I feel like this 30 second video accurately depicts what it means and feels like to be a parent:
Oldest, not yet five years old, said: “Take a picture of me with my six daughters. Being a mom is exhausting but SO worth it.”
I mean, come on.
You’re terrific and you’re doing a great job as a parent to our kids.
In related news: this sentiment is all I want for Mother’s Day in the future.
Doesn’t have to be included with flowers or a gift. Just a note would suffice, saying: “Hey Lady, you are awesome and rockin’ this motherhood thang.”
OR Put your own spin on it. Whatever strikes your fancy.
But whatever you do, PLEASE don’t make me go out to a meal, with our young kids, on Mother’s Day, as that is the fucking worst.
I dine with our children every OTHER day of the year. Sure, they’re usually meals at home, but for the most part our kids’ behaviors don’t get BETTER at a meal off the premises.
Tonight, dear husband, you took us all out to a mother’s day dinner at a fancy restaurant. SO nice of you. I mean it when I say that I appreciate the gesture and your generosity.
But never the fuck again.
Dinner out with our very young kids, as you know, is not fun. They’re ticking time bombs. I try to fend off their inevitable tantrums with my bag of tricks (their favorite snacks, sticker books, trips to the bathroom, chocolate milk) just so that you and I can get through the salad course without a soundtrack of screaming. But it never quite works, or if it does, we are on tenterhooks the whole time and can’t enjoy our meals. And it involves herculean efforts on my part – not just packing the bag of tricks, but also dressing them for said-dinner, and before that, bathing them.
It’s not like another meal of the day is better for going out on Mother’s Day. Brunch is the worst. Unless you’re a millennial and/or hipster with zero children, brunch can go to hell. It’s not a real meal, and my toddlers will certainly be hungry again at actual lunchtime.
What I WOULD like – nay, LOVE – for mother’s day, besides the aforementioned note above, is a few hours to myself. How I spend those hours will be up to me, though, spoiler-alert, I will likely spend them alone in a dark room, either sleeping or just relishing some peace and quiet, and feeling grateful for the fact that I am NOT policing our (precious but understandably age-appropriately rambunctious) toddlers at some God-forsaken bullshit brunch.
That is what I said to cartoon mice today. I said it under my breath, quiet enough that my kids couldn’t hear me. But the point is that something possessed me to say it out loud.We were piled on the couch watching Cinderella, all home sick. In the movie, the mice had just revealed the dress they’d created for their beloved Cinderella.
To refresh your memory, this is the dress:
It is hideous: white, pepto pink, and turquoise beads. It’s full of overlapping sashes and bustles. It looks like a mix between a crossing guard’s uniform and a canopy bed. I remember thinking this when I was 5, back in 1982, when I saw it for the first time. I guess it’s a noble effort, considering they are mice. But ugly enough to warrant my “don’t quit your day-jobs, Mice,” comment, no?
Two things immediately struck me, after these words left my lips:
1. When did I become so negative that I feel the need to shit all over the work of these poor, one dimensional mice who are not running for their lives for once and are trying their hands (paws? What do mice have?) at dressmaking,
2. When did I become so invested? It’s not just Cinderella’s outfit. It’s children’s programming in general. I have been catching myself rolling my eyes (so that my kids can’t see) at all manner of bullshit I let them watch – Caillou’s whiny, obnoxious voice, Daniel Tiger’s obsession with trolleys, Sid the Science Kid and his perfect family and freakishly small classroom – really, PBS? A 4 to 1 student to teacher ratio? Way to make us strive for the unattainable.)
Somehow, this Cinderella dress was the final straw, unhinging me. For better or for worse, I CARE about this. I used to care about important things. Politics. The world. Now, apparently, I have something to say about cartoon couture.
The step sisters don’t have many redeeming qualities, but they do Cinderella a great service when they rip it to shreds.
Every time I see that dress, I think of how I wish Andie from Pretty in Pink also had step sisters to do something similar to her self-made dress before she went to the prom with Blaine. That dress - seen here:
- was NOT created by rodents but, rather, a human being from start to finish, so what the hell was her excuse? It was a goddamned atrocity: the high neck with the choker built in, the unflattering no-waisted non-shape, the dusty rose color of it all. A crime against fashion. It still haunts my dreams: my anxiety nightmares aren’t about walking into school naked, they’re about showing up to the prom in that shit-show, blowing my chance with Andrew McCarthy.
But I digress.
The point is that this morning I realized that I have become a deranged version of the Fashion Police, snapping at a well-meaning mischief of mice who were just trying to help a sad orphan get to the ball on time.
“The world is SO wonderful!”
she exclaims one Saturday morning
as she and her sister ride their scooters behind me
on a walk to the coffee shop.
“But I could do without all the cracks,”
she says, pointing at the sidewalk.
Her scooter’s front wheel got caught on one once
and tipped her, face first, into the pavement.
She wasn’t even two when it happened,
but it doesn’t matter how old she was.
You don’t forget such things.
Gold Star Parenting Moment happened today:
My almost four year old daughter had a friend over for a playdate.
The friend: “Did you know, I’ve seen the movie Brave?”
My almost-four-year-old (full of starry-eyed wonder): “Really?! No shit!”
I’d love to be able to blame this on anyone but myself. But since I am the chauffeur of my children, they’re getting inadvertent earfuls every traffic-filled car ride.
Sigh. We do the best we can.
Featured in Mamalode magazine, Issue no. 21
First Person Present
I try so hard to live in the present while
raising her, to be fully there as we are
dancing around the kitchen, her arms
wrapped around my neck, celebrating her
graduation from a toddler class she hated
4/5ths of the time. I blast a pop song
about doing things you might hate
4/5ths of the time but doing them anyway.
We sing along together. I dip her.
“You hold me tight,” she says.
“I promise,” I say. “I will always hold you tight.”
She sighs, puts her cheek next to mine, says
”Cheek to cheek.” And just like that,
I’m leaving the present, moving into
a past perfect tense of my life, nostalgic
for moments still taking place. Then
I time-travel to the past, before she was here -
how did we live without her? -
then the future continuous, when she
won’t be dancing with me anymore.
Suddenly, I’m watching from the outside,
third person, through the lit window:
a mother dances cheek to cheek with her
sometimes shy, sometimes bold child
and I am already missing
her sticky hands,
the soaring melody,
and the sound of her singing along.
More from Mamalode:
A piece I wrote for the Washington Post:
A piece by yours truly, featured on Mamalode:
Kid: So she comes into my room?
Me: Yes, but while you’re sleeping. You won’t even know she’s there.
Kid: And she takes my tooth?
Me: And she gives you money for it!
Kid (eyes welling with tears) : She pulls my tooth out of my mouth?!
Me: Oh, no! Your tooth will have already fallen out! On its own! You’ll put it under your pillow. This won’t happen for a few years. Your teeth will get loose and eventually fall out.
Kid: All my teeth are gonna fall out?!?!?
Me (to husband, under my breath) : This is going south fast. Help me out, willya?
Husband: Oh, sweetheart, there’s nothing to worry about. When you get a little older, your teeth will naturally loosen to make way for your adult teeth! And each time you lose a tooth, you put it under your pillow and the tooth fairy comes and gives you a coin for it that you can put in your piggy bank!
Kid: What if I wake up and see her?
Me (to hubby): This is a very good question.
Husband: She disappears immediately! Poof! She’s a fairy who collects teeth and if the kids wake up, she ceases to exist.
(Pause. We all blink.)
Kid: What color dress does she wear?
Me: Uh, green?
Husband: Whatever color you want, sweetheart. The tooth fairy is a manifestation–
Husband: –of your imagination!
Me: Good lord. You are not helping.
Kid: So…the tooth fairy is a man?
can be found here, featured on Elephant Journal:
My three year old’s latest musical critique:
(We are listening to the oldies channel on the radio while driving to school.)
Her: “What is this nonsense?”
Me: “These are the Beatles!”
Her: “This isn’t singing, Mom. It’s screaming.”
And there you have it.
Beatles? Ya been served.
You know those articles in magazines like US Weekly and some fashion magazines called “what’s in my bag,” where we get a sneak peek inside the purses of the stars? For copyright purposes, I can’t attach photos of these, but they almost always include the latest greatests from big deal brands (La Mer, NARS, YSL) that usually result in a (or reveal a pre-existing) deal with the manufacturers.
The contents are always immaculately organized, and are usually eco-conscious face creams, totally biodegradable mascara, organic gum, “responsibly made” wallets.
BONE Up On Your Calcium:
Starlet Shailene Woodley doesn’t go anywhere without her thermos of bone broth! And when her lips need a little boost, she uses lipstick straight from her garden: Beets!
Stars! They really ARE just like us!
Every time I turn to it, I think: ‘How stupid is this page? Who cares to pay attention to what strangers carry in their bags?’ And then as I pore through the pics of things from these presumably spotless bags, I realize that, for some reason, I do!
If a gang of papparazzae ever stop me and ask me to dump out my own bag, this is what they’d find:
Trying To Keep It All Together:
My purse contents currently include a faint urine smell, a small sand toy, a crumpled up (but still useable!) Bed Bath and Beyond coupon, a theraband (obviously), random lists from years ago that I can’t bring myself to throw out, one adult sized sock, and a melted stick of gum wrapped around loose coins and safety pins. The key word here is loose. Everything is loose. I am a hot mess.
Be The Change You Wish To See:
Loose pennies! I forget I have them to pay odd numbered change, then the aforementioned gum inevitably melts onto the pennies making it change I can do nothing with.
Sock It To Me:
One adult sock. Toddler socks would make sense, since I have two kids and they step in puddles and pull them off in the car. But no, I have one adult sock, which opens up so many other questions. Mysteries, really. Where’s it companion? Was it so sweaty/stinky/vile it spontaneously combusted? Did I forget to pack the other one? I’ve developed a bit of A.D.D. since becoming a parent: I’ll be in the middle of a task, like writing a check or swallowing, and forget why I started in the first place.
Lint is The New Black:
I’m fairly certain that the dust and sand at the bottom of my purse account for five pounds of my purse’s weight. Every time I get a new handbag, I swear this one will be different. I will totally keep this one clean, I promise. But each inevitably ends up a veritable clown car: you never know what the fuck is going to come out of it next.
What’s in YOUR bag??
Get Me A Raft, For the Love of Dido, Because I Am Going Down With This Ship: