One kind word can warm three winter months. –Japanese Proverb
Anne Lammot once said that a dog’s love is the closest thing we will ever find to divine love.
A dog’s love is a love that is unconditional, forgiving and selfless. It is a love that is staunchly loyal and forever reliable. And it is a love that is only understood within the partnership, within the family.
My parents lost their dog two days ago. Sophie was a good girl. She filled the empty nest they had after my youngest brother went to college. When she was a puppy, she used to crawl inside the dishwasher. She once ate two large bowls of Hershey kisses with the wrappers. She loved chasing squirrels. She let my babies crawl all over her, tug her fur and poke her eyes. If you pet her (or even just looked at her and thought about petting her), she never left your side. Ever. My dad called Sophie “the most beautiful dog in the world.”
We rescued our pug Hutch six years ago. When I say rescued, I mean, literally, rescued. I flew to Oklahoma with only a dog carrier in my hand and brought him out of a very bad puppy mill life. Until he came home with us, he had never slept a night indoors. Since that day, Hutch has moved into three different houses and learned to love three different kids. He is truly the sweetest dog in the world. He seeks out the sunny spots in the family room for naps and he camps out under the high chairs during mealtimes. He lets three crazy boys trample all over him without so much a blink or wince. He likes bones, walks and every other dog on this planet. He is so incredibly homely that he is adorable. He is an intricate, indispensible, irreplaceable part of our family and he is loved, loved, loved. It makes me teary to think of the day we’ll have to say goodbye to our little super pug.
Pets come into our homes and into our lives for such a narrow window of time. But they weave themselves into our days, into our celebrations and into our heartbreaks. We grow so accustomed to their presence that sometimes it’s not until they are gone that we realize their constancy. And there really are so very few constants in this world.
If you’ve ever loved a dog, you know. And you’re lucky.
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. –Meister Eckhart
Gratitude abounds for this wonderful life of mine.
You know you’re having a bad day when even the I-Pad man poops his pants.
It’s been a pretty crappy week.
And when I say crappy, I mean, literally, crappy.
One of the highlights (or lowlights) of the week was collecting and dropping off a stool sample from one of the twins.
If you haven’t ever had a chance to experience this supreme parenting moment, be thankful. Though I do believe it should be designated a right of passage right up there with potty training and teaching how to ride a bike.
My favorite part was checking the boxes on the label:
Formed? Sort of. Loose? Well, yes, at least the parts that weren’t formed. Soft? Yes. Minus the raisins. Watery? Hard to say. Doesn’t water make something soft and loose?
I then proceeded to carry around the three vial sample (in a Ziploc, of course, because I’ve been screwed by a screw top one too many times) in my purse all day, fearful that the sun’s hot rays into my car might compromise all of my hard work. I had a little chuckle every time I reached into my purse for a handful of jellybeans (in another Ziploc, of course). What a glamorous life.
However, this crappy story doesn’t even come close to what I like to call my Zenith of Crappiness.
Cover your noses because this is gross.
One of the twins had one of those insane blowouts, the kind that even after an entire box of wipes, the subject is still covered in a nasty dark yellow film. I managed to get him into the bath with the other twin right on my heels and curious as to what he can be jealous of that minute. #1 remained siting calmly in bath and the nasty film slowly began to disperse. #2 decided he wanted to get in the bath too and started to crawl in fully dressed. I managed to catch him inches above the water, strip down his pjs and hold him over the water (and his brother sitting below). I was about ready to dip him down too but as I took off the diaper, his brother was showered with an even better blowout. Such a one-upper.
It’s raining poop. Hallelujah. It’s raining poop. Amen.
I stood there, surveyed these two babies, sitting in this poop “bath,” and heavily considered the better alternative of taking them out to the swampy gutter at the end of our driveway to clean up instead.
But they sat there, stared up at me, and howled with laughter.
And I laughed back. Because at that point, what else can you do?
It’s been a pretty crappy week.
But I’ve learned there’s a little bit of laughter and humility that comes along with the crap.
Happiness in the crappiness.
A little messy and hard to find, and you’ll probably get your hands dirty. But it’s there. Trust me.
I had a dream I left my kids at home (this is a dream, don’t call social services) and met my husband for lunch at Sushi Den. It was lovely. We meandered our way through the menu, savored a couple of glasses of wine and ordered two deserts. I even recalled placing a napkin on my lap. On the drive home from this dream lunch, it occurred to me that I probably shouldn’t have left the kids at home.
Interesting that this thought first occurred to me on the drive home.
Approximately seven hours before that very dream (now we are in reality), I was sitting at a restaurant with the husband. Except this time we weren’t alone (reality, remember) and the experience wasn’t quite so lovely.
Super Cal was with his grandparents for the evening and Ted and I decided to go to the mall with the twins, and get a little head start on holiday shopping. We figured we’d browse for jeans, make some returns, grab some dinner, stroll, and laugh. We also figured the babies would love all of the lights, people, and distractions.
Well, we figured wrong.
We had moved about five feet from the car after parking when the twins started howling, and not with excitement. The tandem stroller proved a bad choice because Goose in the back kept kicking Maverick up front, so much so that Mav had to contort himself completely horizontal (legs on the drink tray) to avoid the pummeling from his co-pilot in back.
The leisurely stroll around the mall turned into a moderate pace jog /relay race in which we had to take turns doing the “shopping” and the “makingsurethestrollerneverstopsmoving-ing.” The bright side was the babies’ cries were drowned out by a choir’s rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” blasting through the speakers (and apparently the clouds outside too). It was a good reminder because Christmas was a mere 40 days away.
And then came dinner.
To their credits, our dynamic duo lasted a legitimate 45 minutes at the table, approximately 42 minutes longer than I thought they would (mostly because we were shoving everything we possibly could (edible or not) into their mouths and even letting them play with knives). But, in the end, we stood at our table with our uneaten pizza in a to-go box, each of us standing with a marinara-covered baby in one hand and slamming a full glass of red wine with the other hand.
And then we laughed. Because sometimes, that’s all you can do. And because it’s funny.
Sushi Den, I will see you in my dreams.
For now, we’ll stick to the food court.
Love me some Sbarro and Orange Julius.
You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. —Unknown
I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.
Cal told me that he was filled with curiosity.
And I just about fell over.
I was so impressed! I couldn’t believe he knew the word “curiosity,” much less that he was “filled” with anything other than candy, mac n cheese, or complaints about how something isn’t fair. Are you kidding me? What a genius! Are we on the fast track to Harvard? What four-year old says he is filled with curiosity?
Apparently four-year olds who watch the movie The Croods.
The Croods follows a prehistoric family that loses its cave to an earthquake and must conquer fears of the unknown and outside world in search of a new home.
The curiosity scene goes like this:
Grug: Tonight, we’ll hear the story of Crispy Bear. A long time ago, this little bear was alive. She was alive, because she listened to her father, so she was happy. But Crispy had one terrible problem, she was filled with…curiosity! [everyone gasps] Yes! And one day, she saw something new and died!
Thunk: Just like that?
Gran: Same ending as everyday.
Thunk: I get it, Dad. I will never do anything new or different.
Grug: Good man, Thunk.
* * *
Cal told me he was filled with curiosity. And then he told me it was bad.
Spent the day trying to reverse the message and demonstrate that curiosity is, in fact, a very good thing. (Within reason, of course, but that message will come in a few years.)
Basic message in caveman speak: Curiosity good.
But how to explain in four year old (just one step above caveman) speak? Not so easy.
Curiosity is about learning and trying new things, and being excited about learning and trying new things. New foods, new places, new adventures, new activities.
I told him about Curiosity, the robot rover on MARS, sent to explore a planet far away, so far away it took over 250 days to travel there. Curiosity the Robot roams around the planet, trying to learn about the land and the sky and whether some day humans could visit there.
Curiosity is trying something new.
So we tried to find Curiosity at our home. We looked for Curiosity in the spider web on the back porch. We saw Curiosity in the little bits of green pepper in his spaghetti sauce and in the letter W. We tried to find Curiosity while riding a bike with no training wheels, but it wasn’t very fun. We’ll try again another day.
And for all of you who think I do this kind of gold star mommying all day, rest assured that we (as in he) also tried to find Curiosity in various Nickelodeon Jr. shows. Curiosity is hard work. For everyone.
Funny thing about helping someone to find Curiosity, is that you start to look for it on your own.
Curious to see if my life long aversion to beets had changed, I tried a beet salad and, curiously, I liked it. Curious to see if my post-three-baby body could sustain an eight-minute pace for a few miles, I ran, and found out that it could. After years of listening only to Top 40 music, I added a Chicago station to my Pandora shuffle and found the break from Pit Bull welcoming and a little easier on the ears.
For children (and NASA astronauts and robots), Curiosity may be found in the brand new, in exploring uncharted territory and the unknown.
But for the rest of us, Curiosity might be found in revisiting the old. Trying something again. Maybe not for the first time ever, but for the first time in a long time. Hitting the refresh button. Paying attention to all of those customs we’ve grown so accustomed to that it’s hard to know if the interest is still there. Stepping out of the worn-in, tried and true grooves. New, but negligible, beginnings.
And the best part is that we don’t even have to leave home.
Turns out Curiosity is quite fulfilling. And good.
Earlier this week I accompanied/chauffeured/chaperoned a preschool field trip to the Audubon Center.
I learned what the Audubon Center is about 5 minutes before we left. (A place intended to protect and preserve bird life.)
I also learned the following:
1. ALL (not just mine, thank God) four year olds think it is hilarious to use the words “poop,” “stink,” “butt” and “turd” in conjunction with other words (i.e. “stinkhead,” “poopface,” “turdtree”).
2. My own four year old somehow picked up the word “butler” and uses it at an alarming frequency. I feel no need to correct this, however, because although he thinks he is talking about his buttock, he is actually talking about a manservant.
3. Contrary to popular belief, owls do not turn their heads 360 degrees. Only about 270 degrees.
4. Four year olds are confused by taxidermy.
5. Auduboners have a lot of keys on their belts.
6. Owls eat entire animals and then regurgitate the bones and skulls of said animals.
7. When you go to the Audubon Center, you have the chance to dissect owl pellets (i.e. their turds) and find these skulls and bones inside the rest of their barf bits. This activity is enthralling, exciting, and, apparently, not the least bit disturbing, to parents and children alike. And you can take home these skulls and bones in a Ziploc bag when you are finished.
8. “Nature walks to find animals” at the Audubon Center consist mainly of inspecting various piles of poop and guessing at the makers of said poop.
9. Four year olds believe that large poops are created by elephants or rhinoceroses (truth: it was likely a rabbit or squirrel) and that small poops were made by dogs (truth: it was likely a dog).
10. When stopped aside a pond the size of my family room and asked what animal likely lives under the water but sometimes comes up to sit on a rock in the middle of the pond, four year olds believe said animal is likely a dolphin or a seahorse (truth: it was a frog.)
11. Ants are much more loveable when spotted on a nature walk, as compared to my kitchen floor.
12. Telling four year olds not to run is like telling an owl not to barf.
My biggest takeaway? A new appreciation for four year olds.
I sure could use some of their imagination and grander than grand thoughts. It’s so easy and familiar to assume the worst or prepare for the bad, for the loss, for the worse outcome. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to err on the side of seahorses and elephants instead?
I was struck by their complete lack of disappointment in the so-called ordinary and mundane. In fact, they demonstrated as much excitement for a red ant as for the potential of a rhino. And the beaver dam was fascinating, despite the absence of a beaver.
And I move too fast. Through my days, through my to-dos, through my relationships. I need to stop and smell the roses (or even the poop) a little more often.
I believe in the sun when it’s not shining, I believe in love even when I feel it not, I believe in God even when he is silent.
My heart breaks for Boston and all of the families forever marred by a senseless and selfish tragedy.
To run a marathon requires dedication, strength, and tenacity. It is an undertaking that spans greater than a few hours on a city’s streets. It reflects a commitment of hundreds of hours of preparation and thousands of hours of thought. It demands guts and grace and the ability to dig deep and to shut off a brain that tells you to stop, to walk, and to come back another day. It requires compassion, compromise, and consideration—of mind, of body, of others.
My heart breaks for the runners who made these sacrifices and should now be celebrating an accomplishment reserved for a select few. They should be limping around in street clothes back home, showing off their medals and jackets, and exchanging their war stories for our praise and admiration.
Instead their war stories are now real war stories.
My heart breaks for the fans that came out to respect and celebrate the success and inspiration of those runners. True allies, who put aside their own time and their own agendas and came out to cheer, to applaud, to embrace, and to share in the joy of one and also of thousands.
God bless marathon fans.
In 2011, I ran the New York City Marathon. Three dear friends flew out from Colorado and cheered me on in the race. They stood there on the sidelines with a bunch of pink and yellow balloons at Mile 6. I swear I must have levitated off the ground and floated for the next mile from the boost in spirit they gave me with such a generous gesture.
There are countless other examples of that solidarity in my own very mundane running career. I will never forget the “You Can Do It!” sign my Mom and Dad held on the sidelines in my first marathon. I will never forget the cowbell my Aunt and Uncle rang for me in St. Louis. I will never forget my husband’s t-shirt that read “Go Kim Go!” in Phoenix, and his hot pink “I Love NYC” hoodie in New York—just so that I could find him in the vast crowd.
The marathon fan is a truly special person. The runner may be putting one foot in front of the other but it is the cheerleader on the sideline who has his hand on her back and hoists her on his shoulders after the finish line. And all the days that follow.
As Will Rodgers famously said: “We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”
My heart breaks for Boston. For the runners. And for all of those who sat on the curb.
Everyone was a hero yesterday.
Sad to say, but we have miles still to go.
Many, many more miles still to go.