Conversations about life and death are never easy when you are dealing with a four-year-old. But, sometimes they are necessary. Like when a pet dies.
I always thought Emily loved her long-haired guinea pig named Shirley. Or maybe I was just assuming because how can you not love a GP, right?
Well, when Shirley's life came to an end, Emily had a lot of questions. I responded in a similar manner to when I explained where our dog, Baxter had gone. I told her that Shirley went to the farm. But, here's the thing...Emily was an entire year younger when Baxter passed, which means a huge difference in her tender little life. Every now and then she'd ask if Baxter was having fun on the farm, and the conversation was over. But, with Shirley...she wanted details.
And...she wanted to see the body.
You're probably going to think I'm a horrible mother...but I showed her. I showed her the dead body of Shirley. I felt that it was the only way that she would understand that Shirley was there but she wasn't there at the same time.
I prepared to embrace my sweet little Emily with open arms, certain that she would melt into a fit of sobs when she saw her unmoving guinea pig.
But, quite the opposite happened.
Instead, she laughed. She laughed hysterically at the dead pig.
I'm not sure why and I didn't really ask. Maybe she was nervous or maybe she is an extremely morbid child and found humor in the fact that the pig that she had been cuddling with the day before was now dead.
Anyways, months go by and the conversation of life and death comes up again. Out of the blue, in the format that most four-year-olds bring things up, Emily told me that animals die normally but the only way that people die is to get run over by a car and then they go to "Kevin's."
Now, I'm pretty positive there are no little boys named Kevin at her school, so I'm gonna jump to the conclusion that Kevin means, "heaven."
So, while she may be a tad morbid and has me worried about getting run over by a car...at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I'll get to go to Kevin's. ;)
What's better than seeing a pup romp in the snow?
Maybe seeing a pup having a drink in a ski lodge. Check out what Barnacle was up to during the snowstorm...
It all started with milk. My four-year-old daughter, Emily, asked for strawberry milk and my husband accidentally made her chocolate milk instead. Not good. And I was the unlucky one that got to deliver the "wrong" milk to the thirsty albeit moody girl. Some would say I was the bearer of bad news on this fine winter morning.
I delivered. She sipped. And then it happened. Her face transformed into what some would compare to the girl on the exorcist. Before her head started to spin she managed to get a few words out..."THIS IS CHOCOLATE...I ASKED FOR STRAWBERRY."
And that was it. I was sentenced to jail. She arose from the bed where she had been twisted and tangled in the sheets, pulled out a notepad from her nightstand and told me that I was going to jail. For giving her the wrong flavor of milk. She wrote out the violation, gave me her go-to eye roll, as if she couldn't stand to be in my presence. She ripped the fine out of the book and folded it up neater and more precise than I've ever seen her do anything before...and tucked it back into her book.
I've been told that I'm a mean mommy, a bad singer, and she's even pointed out the "stripes" on my forehead. But, until now, I had never been sentenced to jail for my parenting style. And by style, I mean, my mistakenly pouring the wrong syrup into the cup of milk.
I've officially reached a new low. Please send letters to my cell. And caramel flavored milk.
Something happened the other day that made me stop and think. Let me preface this by sharing how easy it is to forget how far you've come. Prior to releasing my first novel, I dreamed about it in a way that was surreal. I thought that writing for a living could never ever be a reality and that was only for dreamers. But, as the best writers before me have said..."keep writing no matter what."
I listened to Stephen King's advice and I wrote every day for the past three years. But, over time, it's easy to get down on yourself. It only takes reading one bad review to spin your day around from good to bad and it's so easy to forget how much I've put into my craft. It's like anyone else who has a passion for something. Singers spend countless hours fine tuning their voices, dancers continue to leap and stretch their way to perfection, and while we never think we are as good as we could be, there is something to be said about looking back and seeing just how far you've come. A moment like this happened to me a couple of weeks ago while Emily and I were in a book store that we frequent often. My book, "The Gift," was up on display and Emily got all excited and pulled me toward it. She grabbed my hand and pointed to the book and said..."Mommy we have that book on our shelf at home...it's the SAME book that we have!"
She was so excited, I was afraid that if I told her the truth about the book that she would easily melt with boredom. I thought about telling her that her favorite super hero wrote the book and magically placed it on her shelf at home. Then I thought about maybe telling her that it was Peppa Pig's favorite library book, which was why it was on display at this store.
But, instead I was honest with her and with myself and I simply responded with..."Mommy wrote that book." And for the first time I realized just how far I've come. I beat myself up every day for not getting enough done. I get angry and sad when I get a bad review from a complete stranger. But, what I don't do enough is give myself a pat on the back for working hard and doing what I love.
So, what is something that you should be applauding yourself for?
As a celebration of that Aha moment...I'll send the first five people to respond a copy of The Gift, in exchange for an honest review on Amazon.
Every year on September 11th, I reflect on the world and all that fun stuff. But I also think about myself and how different my life is today than it was on that day in 2001. Wow...has my world changed.
Back in 2001 I was living in Southern California with my ex-husband. I had a MUCH different lifestyle. I worked 12 hours shifts at all hours of the day and night at Los Angeles Air Force Base where I was stationed. At the time I was pretty set on never having children and I longed to live in California forever. I was chipping away at college classes toward a degree I wasn't quite sure about. I remember briefly wanting to be an actress but I feared facing the audition scene that is said to be brutal in LA. Then I had a brief love affair with wanting to study psychology. I think that was really more for my own benefit than helping others.Oh yeah, and I was all about being a broadcast journalist until I realized how much I despised seeing myself on camera. I did cover my college news station in Orange County for a semester or two which was fun while it lasted.
I was 22-years-old at the time and so lost is life I could hardly steer my own way through a single day.
Before September 11th rocked my world, I had these false fantasies about what the world was like and I was so blind to the destruction and pain that is driven by hate. Within seconds of seeing the breaking news of the crumbling towers on television, I was called into work and had to "hunker down" for more hours than anyone would want to spend in a command post.
And while that day has left a permanent painful tattoo on my heart, I can't help but think of how different my life is today.
I'm as far from a military lifestyle as I possibly could be. After dabbling in different careers, I finally found my niche and I don't want to ever leave this sweet little writing world that I am living in. Sixteen years later, I have the two daughters I swore I would never have and I'm living in New England, where I swore I would never move back to. The most shocking of all is the amazing husband that I managed to land. I'm not gonna get all sappy here but, I got pretty lucky when I scored Mr. Slinger. Several of my friends have called him a "Saint" for dealing with me.
Here's a few photos of my past life...
It happened. My almost 4-year-old daughter Emily, has finally started to accept her baby sister, Charlotte. It was a rough few months but after making it abundantly clear that we weren't sending Charlotte back to the hospital and that her sister would be a permanent fixture in her life, Emily has grown to love her. I imagine this is the first of many ups and downs in their sisterly relationship, but I feel success with this little milestone.
The transition from one to two children was harder than I had thought. It took awhile to achieve the balance that would allow us to tend to Emily's needs and answer her multitude of daily toddler questions while also juggling Charlotte's basic baby needs like...eating, rocking and changing diapers.
So, to sum up how these two feel about each other now...here is a photo...
Trips to the grocery store are never fun with a toddler. It usually end ups in tears because we all know that tots want what they want when they want it.
Last week I had no choice but to take my three-year-old and newborn to the grocery store, because we had to get some last minute items for my husband's "Sip, Snip and Dip," party. Yeah, that's right...I'm the crazy wife who welcomes her husband home after his vacsectomy with a surprise party complete with penis and ball-shaped appetizers and loads of friends to celebrate with. I mean, it IS a big deal-the quick operation seals the deal that we won't have any more little ones. And a great excuse for a little celebration.
So, thanks to some last-minute brainstorming done by me and my mom pals, we were armed with plenty of things to mark the moment, including a penis shaped selection of sandwiches, black and blue balloons, pickles and olives creatively placed, and of course a giant brownie with white frosting that read..."So long boys."
In order to get all the stuff for the party, me and my little ones headed to the store. My mission was to get in and out, tear-free, with enough time to set up for big daddy's arrival. It all started out great, until my daughter spotted one of those carts that have the kiddie car attached to the front. Yeah, sounds like a cute idea but they are TERRIBLE. Just ask the lady's heals who was walking in front of us at one point. I tried avoiding the car-cart but Emily is far too smart and doesn't miss a beat. So, I strapped her in and maneuvered us through the aisles, darting here and there for ball-shaped groceries while trying hard not to knock the end-of-aisle displays down when we turned corners.
After we loaded up our cart, we headed to the balloon counter. After nearly knocking over a card display, we stood in line behind a man who was getting a bouquet of flowers put together. The thing with having kids at the grocery store is that you have very limited time before they breakdown and beg to go home or decide they want to bust into their bag of Goldfish before they are paid for.
So, needless to say, I didn't have the freaking time to stand in line while the flower counter gal meticulously placed each flower stem in the bouquet like she was playing the game Operation, afraid to move her hand too fast.
I figured it would be best to leave this slothy moment and head to the checkout, buy the goods and come back to the balloon counter. Time management is key in these situations. So, we got in line...not without a little drama of course. A curmudgeon of a man with his middle-aged son started to stand in line behind us but they must've been deterred by the size of our cart and he said..."Ahhh we are never gonna fuckin get outta here if we stand in this line." Luckily his son hadn't yet reached the age of grump-nation and he had better ideas..."Okay dad well we can go to the self-checkout."
"How the fuck do you do that self-what?" said Curmudgeon.
By this point we had moved up in line and the car part of the cart was jammed between the candy shelf and the checkout counter. Perfect timing for Emily to want to make a move and get out...
"Mommy get me OUT OF HERE!"
Imagine this was repeated 800 more times, after I had told her that there was no way I could fit in between the remaining 2 inches between the car and the counter.
By the time it was time to pay, she had changed her mind yet again and decided she wanted to stay in the car. The twenty-something cashier gal didn't do a very good job concealing her impatience with my annoying toddler. That's okay, because if eyes could talk, mine said "Listen little know-it-all, this is gonna be you someday too." I was guilty of those same faces when I was twenty-something and in the presence of a toddler. I get it.
Of course she didn't have a bagger and now that both my baby and toddler were fussing up a storm I just started throwing groceries in the cart, bagless like I had just swiped them off the shelf without paying.
Groceries paid for-check! Now time to go back to the balloon shelf again. And OF COURSE no one was working at the counter. Maybe the steady hand sloth gal left for her lunch break. Luckily the pharmacy workers were kind enough to take a break from discussing their weekend plans to page someone for me.
The woman that showed up to be our balloon blower-upper ended up being a rainbow in our day. In the midst of having to rock crying baby Charlotte while reasoning with Emily about why she can't crumple the opened bag of Goldfish on the floor, this woman was our silver lining. She offered Emily a balloon and even let her choose the color. The two formed a rare bond...one that was laced with perfect timing and the color pink. She even told Emily that she could get a free balloon anytime she was working. Wow...to Emily this was like having Elsa over for a slumber party.
So, things were on the mend and our grocery store trip was looking up. Now all we had to do was walk to the car and unload the goods. Emily skipped along in front of me gripping the string of her pink balloon and the world was good. And then it happened...I misjudged the amount of room I had in front of the stupid car cart and Emily's little body. I hit her from behind (I swear it was an accident and just a light nudge-don't call Child Protective Services) and she went tumbling forward while dropping her balloon. All I could hear was her high pitched scream and all I could see was the balloon floating up to the clouds. I had two choices...run to my toddler and console her or sprint the few feet to the balloon and save it.
I chose the balloon and luckily some nice grocery store worker did the parenting duty for me (it takes a village)...he came running after us with one of the small balloons that we had dropped behind us in the flurry of events. He consoled her while I launched into an olympic worthy jump in the air to catch the balloon.
"Yay mommy you saved my balloon!"
And like the end of any good day of parenting...I was sweaty, Emily was happy and baby Charlotte was alive.
Oh, and the "Sips, Snips and Dips" party was a success...
One of the many great things about being the parent of a toddler is that life is never, ever boring. Tots are a form of daily entertainment and it usually has to do with the bizarre things that come out of their mouths. Take my 3 and a half year old daughter Emily for example. She said two things today that made us stop in our tracks and question her thought process. The first was rather humorous. She was letting out a series of farts and in the midst of her gas blasts she says..."It sounds like balloons popping."
Awesome. Just an awesome analogy. I respect her deep thoughts on what her farts remind her of and I will continue to urge this type of self expression.
The other thing wasn't so funny. So, as she was taking a bath and immersed in a sea of Mr. Bubbles she says..."Imagine if I walked into the street and a car hit me and then I was dead?"
What on earth!?
So, today we laughed, learned and questioned the information that our kid picks up on. Just another day of parenting.
Warning: if you're not an animal lover you may have trouble relating to this post and you may think I'm crazy.
A year ago today, my husband and I had to say goodbye to our very first baby...our boy Baxter. I've had dogs in the past and have been through the emotional wreckage of losing them, so these feelings weren't new to me. But Bax was special. He was our baby before we had our first human baby. He was there when Mike and I fell in love, and there for our wedding, through a move across country and through my first pregnancy. He was there up until our daughter was well into her toddler years.
In fact, he was so involved in our lives that my husband asked me to move in with him by way of Baxter. After a few months of living out of an overnight bag, and spending the majority of nights at Mike's bachelor pad, I was woken to Baxter who was just a few months old at the time. While he had smothered me with slobbery kisses on many occasions, this time was different. There was something attached to his collar. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was the garage door opener, and at first I thought it was very bizarre until I read the note that it was accompanied by. On a torn piece of paper, the following message was written in messy scrawl...
"Mommy will you move in with me and daddy?"
And the rest is history...I moved in, got rid of tacky decor like good girlfriends do and soon Baxter became a part of our wedding planning journey. Without much thought, Mike and I both agreed to include our boy in our engagement photos. It was only right...as that fluffy black and white fur baby was our past, present and future. He was our world. Soon, we took in another Newf and Baxter had a buddy and it's a good thing he did because life really started to change and he needed the support of his furry brother Brody.
Mike and I packed up our Jeeps, and we each had a Newf in tow as we drove from Saint Louis to Boston. Baxter kept me company for the twenty-something hour drive and was there when I cried along the way, missing what I was leaving behind. I'll never forget what Baxter looked like when we were on our final leg of the trip. We had reached Vermont and I rolled the windows down so he could get some fresh air. He was in his glory, sticking his big head out the window with his lips flapping in the wind. I'm convinced Baxter's heaven looks a lot like Vermont.
It didn't take long for Baxter to get accustomed to our new lives and soon he was a true New Englander, living his dream life by the water. When we were home, he had the perk of living by the beach and when we were up in New Hampshire he found solace in being on the lake. His natural water rescue instinct prevented anyone from enjoying the water when he was around, but we loved him for it.
And then came Emily June. Baxter was happy to take on the role of big brother with enthusiasm and in true Baxter fashion he discovered quickly what he could get out of it. He would trail behind Emily collecting dropped treats and even got her hooked on sending dog treats through her playhouse mailbox.
Mike and I had established Baxter's personality well and we soon built an entire life up for him. He spent his spare time smoking cigars and hanging out in the town center fighting off the stray dogs who bullied him. He was also known to leave a trail of nips behind him whenever he went into town, so every time we see an empty nip bottle,(which is often) we take that as a sign that Baxter was there.
I still think of my "little prince" every day and sometimes can't help but shed a tear.Especially when I see a wave crashing along the shore or when I hear our special song, Better Together, by Jack Johnson.
So, on this one year anniversary of Baxter's passing (AKA "Prince Ragamuffin, Baxter Bear, Prince, Baxtah)we celebrate his life and the many snuggles and smiles he gave us.
Since then, Barnacle has accepted the passing of the torch but he's got big paws to fill. The middle image below is of Barnacle holding Baxter's collar in his mouth...the official passing of the collars.