The Doin’ It Summer

doinitsummer
I kind of have a thing for lobsters

Spring has always been my favorite season, but that’s really only because it’s the precursor to summer. In my twisted psyche, I can’t say summer is my favorite because I won’t start enjoying it until mid-June’s summer solstice, and then it’s over in just a few short months. I guess I can compare it to loving to travel — during a long car ride to a destination or checking luggage at the airport, my mind is filled with visions of how great the location and ensuing days of leisure will be.

As is usually the case, we don’t have much planned for this summer. There’s a week’s vacation on Cape Cod in August with extended family that will most definitely be amazing, but other than that, we’ll be creating our own summer magic as it comes to us.

This is the first year my girls won’t be attending our town’s half-day camp for the month of July. Once school let out they were presented with a lot of free time. But the glorious weather conditions we had been waiting for since last autumn were completely lost on them as they preferred spending the majority of time in their room looking at the 5-inch screens of their phones. The shades were often still down and I’m fairly certain it was making me clinically depressed.

“Let’s go,” I said.

{in unison, without looking up from their phones} “Go where?”

“I don’t know, but we’re going. Figure it out. Where do you want to go? I’m not staying here – it’s amazing outside. Let’s do something.” This wasn’t optional.

Typically I’m more of a planner, thinking I require 24 hours notice of any type of outing, but off the top of my head I presented them with four different options. One reluctantly agreed she’d do one, the other reluctantly agreed she’d do another. At this point I may or may not have flipped out a little called one or both of my ‘tweens a pain in the ass. But, may or may not having done that aside, I caught myself and came up with this gem: “Each of you take a small piece of paper and write down two things you’d be willing to do right now – I’m going to pull one and that’s what we’re doing. Go.”

They did it. And I pulled “Boston.” And we went to Boston. (For the record, we’re in a suburb maybe thirty minutes away — it’s not like we had to hop a plane.) We had a great time because there was no agenda. We hit traffic and it didn’t matter. We strolled Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. We watched street performers and window shopped and I let them lead the way wherever we went. They chose to eat at Dick’s Last Resort because they liked the large hand made paper hats the patrons were wearing. It was fantastic because, if you’ve never been to Dick’s Last Resort, the staff are intentionally obnoxious and rude, and the waiter won their sardonic hearts with “Here’s your drinks, losers.” By the time we left both girls wanted to know how old they had to be to work there. My sarcastic babies make me so proud… sniff…

At the girls’ request – because they ended up loving this – we will continue with the bowl of ‘Summer Ideas’ (as my very organized daughter so neatly labeled it) so that we can continue to fill it with potential trips when the opportunity presents itself. Come September, I refuse to look back on this summer and regret letting these long, beautiful days go to waste. There have been so many times in the past when I’ve not acted fast enough, or thought I needed more time to plan, or involve more people. But I’m taking charge and when an activity, an idea, an outing is available, we’re doin’ it.

Now I have to go because I just signed my daughter and I up for a 5K that starts in an hour. #doinit

Cattiness: A Case Study

showers bring out the worst in all of us
showers bring out the worst in all of us

Back when I was spending most of my weekends – and my paychecks – on events related to the majority of my peer group getting married within a three to four year time period, I developed a discernible hatred for all things bridal shower. One clever couple decided to have a Jack & Jill shower (sarcastic yay!) so the guys could suffer along with all the unfortunate females in attendance. I think my husband thought I was exaggerating when I repeatedly warned him that it was going to be “such a bad time.” While I appreciated the idea of having him there to commiserate, I actually felt bad for him. One of the major advantages of being male is that, besides the wedding itself, their obligation typically ends with the bachelor party. Why torment them? It’s like dosing them with ipecac so they can experience a stomach bug along with you.

The weekend of the shower some of our out-of-state friends stay with us and, not surprisingly, we imbibed a bit too much the night before the wedding shower. In the morning, we dragged our sorry, hungover asses out of bed, attempted to re-hydrate, and got ready to make small talk with distant relatives of the happy couple. (another sarcastic yay!) One of our friends was lucky enough to be so sick she couldn’t get out of bed, so we headed out without her. (I was so jealous. Had I had the foresight, I would have started chasing tequila shots with white Russians at 2 a.m.)

We get to the godforsaken shower and I’m wondering if anyone would notice if I curled up in the fetal position in a corner of the function hall to sleep. But I stick it out and am seated between my husband and our friend – the one whose lucky wife is back at the apartment probably retching in agony. The soon-to-be bride and groom are sitting at the front of the room while we watch them open presents, feigning enthusiasm. (“Ooooohhhhh, what lovely silver bud vases!”)

It starts on my right, with my friend quietly commenting in my ear about the woman at the table next to us. “Oh my God, look at that bird’s nest of a hairdo! What a mess! Who let her leave the house like that? Doesn’t she have a mirror?” I had been too busy concentrating on not throwing up all over the centerpiece to notice. Meanwhile, my husband chimes in on my left. “What the hell is that? Look at the size of her bag! That’s luggage. How could she possibly need all that stuff with her all the time? I pack less when I’m traveling for a week…” These two are talking to me simultaneously because they can’t hear each other criticizing everyone like two stodgy old women at a strip club. After a few minutes of this, I break down. I start laughing so uncontrollably that my face is contorted and tears are streaming out of my eyes. After gaining enough composure to wipe the streams of mascara off my face, I tell them they’re the cattiest bitches I’ve ever known. And I can’t even blame them because being corralled into a room surrounded by judgmental women while watching someone open boring presents brings out the worst in a person — the nasty, catty, criticizing worst.

Should the opportunity ever present itself again, my husband has a free pass to NOT attend another such function. If it results in him acting like a mean girl with PMS, he can stay home.

When Life gets Hard

b&m
the stunning couple 55+ years ago

The past few months have been incredibly mentally draining. My sister, brother and I have been focusing on my father, his declining physical health, and the effects of the vascular dementia that was recently diagnosed. Additionally (and maybe more importantly) we’ve been concerned about our mother who acts selflessly as his caretaker, and the effect all of this must be having on her.

My parents have been married for over 55 years. My father has a fun, loving, generous, and silly side to him that is wonderful to be around but has been unfortunately overshadowed by his angry, explosive, irrationally short-tempered nature. With my mother’s calm and selfless personality they are a textbook example of ‘opposites attract.’ Whether due to the dementia, the natural progression of aging, what we believe to be an undiagnosed mental disorder, or some combination of the three, my father has become increasingly more unreasonably angry. Additionally, a series of hip surgeries starting in his thirties have left him more and more uncomfortable and physically limited.

My mother did get some help by hiring home health care aides to come in six mornings a week. The catalyst for what happened next was when one of the aides quit, claiming she couldn’t work with my father any longer because of the abusive language he used when speaking about my mother. While there has never been one instance of him being physically abusive to any of us, he finds an outlet in outbursts of swearing and screaming terribly hurtful things, defending his actions by claiming he’s ‘expressing himself.’ Knowing this woman could no longer work with my father one day a week due to the abusive way he spoke about my mother was my mother’s breaking point. The result was my father being admitted for an evaluation at the geriatric psych ward at a nearby hospital.

At first, they wanted to send him home that same night. Then, they ended up keeping him for two and a half excruciating weeks. During this time, they experimented with a number of different medications to calm his angry outbursts, one that left him so lethargic he was unable to feed himself, another that confused him so much that he didn’t know who I was. After a week we had to prompt the staff to shower and shave him, and they had stopped attempting to help him walk, opting to leave him stagnant in a wheelchair. It was heartbreaking to witness the horrible surroundings and the lack of empathy by the burned out staff.

Meanwhile, immediately after his admission to the hospital, my sister and I started researching assisted living homes, visiting seven in a three day period. We found a beautiful, new facility with amazingly supportive staff in a convenient location to all of us. My mom loved it, signed the paperwork, and we had his room set up and move-in ready within a week. The staff visited the hospital to assess my father and were ready to have him move in whenever the hospital was ready to transfer him. That process took an additional week. After a ‘discussion’ with the condescending psychiatrist who wanted to keep my father yet another day, I think my claim that they seemed to be holding my father hostage prompted him to sign the paperwork to move him that afternoon.

He has been at his new home for a week. Although the staff initially suggested we hold off visiting in order for him to adjust, we were able to see him after three days. He’s showered, shaved, and dressed every day. The wheelchair is long gone and he’s using a walker to get around. He’s definitely confused and the cognitive difference in his thinking has changed drastically since before his hospital admission. According to professionals (and endless google searches) this could be due to any number of things – a change in his environment and daily routine, new medications, a stroke, a sudden natural result of the vascular dementia, etc. But the anger and outbursts have also waned. We’re all finally feeling like we’ve stepped into the light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel. My mother is at peace knowing that her husband is so close by, content in a beautiful facility with supportive and caring staff providing him with the 24-hour care he could no longer receive at home. And the rest of us are finally letting out a collective sigh of relief that both parents are getting the care they need.

FOMO vs FOBI

The Disney Princesses of Selfies
The Disney Princesses of Selfies

The acronym FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – is prevalent now thanks to a negative side effect of social media (mostly facebook.) When a photo is posted on facebook, it is often the result of a group selfie, retaken because Cindy didn’t like her smile, retaken again because Kathy had her hand in front of Erika’s face (she’s always doing that,) retaken yet again because Sandra blinked, with the final result being a picture adequate enough to post what appears to be the most epic evening overflowing with lush cocktails, gourmet appetizers, and enough laughs and hugs and camaraderie to put everyone lucky enough to be in attendance in a state of zen for the next three months. Or at least until the next event, which will be equally – if not more – incredible.

I’m torn somewhere between FOMO and FOBI – Fear Of Being Included. As a human being, it’s only natural to feel a sense of… I’m not sure exactly what to call it… a twinge of jealousy mixed with a small amount of anger mixed with a larger dose of decreased self esteem. I know most of the people that were there so how come I wasn’t invited? I don’t get more than a few moments beyond that thought when I snap out of it, already knowing the answer. Had I had been invited, I still wouldn’t be in the picture because I wouldn’t have gone — I don’t want to be there. As a result of my textbook introversion (I’ve previously posted about it here and here) the idea of being invited to fend for myself in a social situation with a large group of acquaintances sets loose a crippling mix of anxiety and panic. I have forced myself to overcome this affliction in the past with mixed results. I have been known to have fun every now and again without the safety blanket of my husband or a close friend I can rely on to guide me through awkward small talk. On the other hand, there have been times where I have suffered through some unbearably stiff gatherings that left me lecturing myself the entire car ride home while I replay every single word I had said in order to berate myself for my social incompetence. (“Ugghh, why would I ever tell her that? I am Such. A. Loser!”) Then I get home and curl myself into the smallest ball possible while digging my head into the crevice between the couch cushion and my husband’s leg in an attempt to burrow underneath him and away from myself. He’ll laugh and tell me I’m a mental case while I agree and tell him I don’t want to talk any more words.

As I get older, I’m dealing with this less frequently, probably due to one of two things — either there’s so much other stuff going on that’s so legitimately more important that I can’t be bothered with worrying about my insignificant insecurities, or my attempts at avoiding such situations have been so successful that I don’t come across them very often any more. I don’t really know if that’s good or bad. But I do suspect that there are many more of you out there that feel the same way. Sadly, we won’t ever meet because it’s too scary. Hit me up, all you fellow FOBI’s so we can form a club of non-inclusion from the quiet comfort of our safe, isolated surroundings.

Which One are You?

it might be you... it's probably you
it might be you… it’s probably you

It has been my observation that often times in families, there is one parent with a significantly higher level of crazy/neuroticism/eccentricity than the other. In my case, it is most definitely my dad, who falls under the neurotic category with psychotic features and a side of narcissistic personality disorder. But that’s a therapy session for another day. My mother more than makes up for it by being so monumentally normal that I’m not convinced she’s human.

Alternately, my grandfather was a kind and quiet, hardworking gentleman. In contrast, his short-tempered wife was excruciatingly talkative and had very specific rules by which everyone should live or else they were stupid and useless. (This does not mean that I didn’t cherish every minute of being at their house — especially weeks I would spend there during school vacations being treated like royalty. I suspect I may have been obedient enough to avoid the ‘stupid and useless’ category.)

A friend of mine has a dad who was like the wise man on the mountain, speaking mostly in sage, thought-provoking sentences and phrases while his wife whirlwinded about the house waving her arms, pointing at things with a crumpled tissue in her hand and harshly commanding everyone to complete whatever trivial tasks she needed done immediately. She would enter a room full of people just to open or close windows and adjust the lighting before exiting to take a nap. We’d invariably readjust everything back to their original comfortable settings before the ‘attack,’ puzzled as to why she had gone through the trouble in the first place.

I had neighbors who were so strikingly different that I’m still stumped as to how they ever got past a first date. The wife was so lovely and polite and pleasant which was in stark contrast to her husband who was an obnoxiously rude, self-serving, raging drunk. Like, urinating in our front yard and passing out in a lawn chair in his driveway with vomit all over himself alcoholic (these were separate occasions, and the peeing thing happened more than once.) They did end up divorced, which is different than the other examples I’ve provided, but I can’t fathom how that lasted for any length of time. He has since cirrhosis-ed himself out of commission (shocker) and if I sound cold and unsympathetic it’s because he provided us with no end of grief as he was always a miserable bastard to my mother and we three kids.

In my house, I’m genuinely unsure whether my children would consider my husband or me the unstable one. I’m hoping we fall into the small percentage of balanced families with two emotionally anchored parents, but I’m more convinced that if I can’t tell which one of us is nuts, it has to be me. But I’ll try to put a positive spin on it by assuring myself that children having to deal with drastically contrasting parental personalities will be well adjusted to dealing with many different personality types in life. So, really, I’m doing them a favor. Long live the insanity…

You Need This in Your Life

slap-yo'-mama good
slap-yo’-mama good

I’m not a huge dessert person. I’d rather have more (and I say more because I’ve most certainly already had too much) butter-slathered crusty bread than a piece of cake — but that’s not to say I can’t down a black raspberry ice cream cone with jimmies before you finish reading this sentence. However, every so often I come across something so uniquely sweet and delicious and puppy kicking good that it’s frightening how little self-control I have as I proceed to stuff mouthful after mouthful into my fat face. These Coconut Coffee Blondies are a perfect example. (Take it easy, I’m not really kicking any puppies over it — but if those were my only options, I would consider it…)

My sister first made these several months back to give away as gifts, which meant we split one small one to make sure they weren’t awful (uh, they weren’t!) and then had to be crafty in cutting small slices off some of the larger bars in order to eat more, and more, and more. And then the amount going to each person was lesser and lesser as we uncontrollably diminished the quantity. I made another batch recently and was again astounded at how awesome they are (I was thinking maybe I was really hungry the first time I had them and they couldn’t possibly be as good as I remembered — uh, they were!)

The recipe is from Heather Christo’s website and the direct link to the recipe is: Coconut Coffee Blondies. Please make them right away. And get them to me immediately because I’m hungry. (I’m just kidding — I’m almost never hungry, but that wouldn’t stop me from eating the hell out of a fresh batch…)

50 Shades of Circus Peanut

Laura's first post! In a perfect world, she'd sleep on a bed of circus peanuts.
Laura’s first post! In a perfect world, she’d sleep on a bed of circus peanuts.

They are firm yet spongy, shaped nothing what they taste like. The neon orange color doesn’t even give you the right clues. What are Circus Peanuts made of? Who cares? Why are they shaped like a peanut, colored like an orange, yet taste sort of like a marshmallow banana. No idea… again, who cares? According to General Mills (yup, I did a little research) in the mid 1960’s an employee cut up a few circus peanuts and put them into a bowl of Cheerios. This is where the idea for Lucky Charms came from. I hate Lucky Charms, so that was just a fun fact. Back to my obsession… I love everything about Circus Peanuts… the texture, the flavor, the stupid shape. My family members have to hide the bag so I don’t eat them at one sitting. Don’t ever bring a bag of this poison to my house. (ok, wait… here’s my address…)

Wow, That Sucked

aquarium or bust
aquarium or bust

Have you ever had a day that was so monumentally bad that you weren’t even mad because the screwed up series of events were so ludicrously set before you that you felt like you were witnessing it as a bystander instead of being directly involved? (No? Probably because that sentence was too long and confusing and you don’t really have any idea what in hell I’m going on about.)

Let me take you back to Monday, April 19, 2010. You’re probably wondering how someone so old and frail of mind can be sure of a specific date almost six years ago, but there are reasons that will make themselves clear as the story unfolds. You see, in and around Boston, Patriots’ Day is celebrated on the third Monday in April to commemorate the first battles of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. This is the first Monday of public schools’ April vacation week and is also the day the Boston Marathon is run. My husband was home from work and, since our daughters didn’t have school, we planned to take them to the New England Aquarium in Boston, but only after I finished a couple of things that had to be done that morning. My older daughter was scheduled for an audition of sorts with a modeling agency (I feel like that sounds braggy but it never amounted to anything so don’t get all ‘God, she’s so braggy’ on me.) I loaded up the TomTom with directions — for those of you who remember this archaic form of navigation, it directed you to where you needed to be, but was really kind of a jerk if you deviated from its instruction, and it didn’t take into account any traffic issues — and piled my six-year-old into the Nissan Quest to get her to Newton to play with a battery operated fuzzy chick that made irritating, distinctly non-animal-sounding noises. (Had her picture been chosen, she would have been featured as the kid on the box looking deliriously happy to be playing with the stupid thing. She might be lacking a little in the delirious department like her mother.) On our way, the navigation is stubbornly trying to get us from one side of the marathon route to the other, but everything is blocked off. Like, seriously, everything. After swearing at every white and orange barrier I encounter (some repeatedly) I’m sweating with panic because we’re so late. By the time I manage to find my way to our destination, I’m hoping my daughter doesn’t need to include this in her growing list of incidents to discuss with her future therapist.

The appointment itself is fine and when we leave I’m calm enough to get us back to ‘our side’ of the marathon route. The other thing I needed to do was to stop at a nearby hospital to check in on my father who had been there for about a month after a botched surgery. This was his last day at this hospital before being moved to a rehabilitation center for another extended stay. We visit with him for a short while and go back to the car (the miserable mini-van that I hated so much but was so practical but I still hated so much) to get home so we could all go to the aquarium. Someone in the parking garage who shouldn’t have a license was doing a terrible and excruciatingly slow job of maneuvering his vehicle so, in an inpatient attempt to bypass him, I scraped my passenger side sliding door along an enormous concrete post, denting and scraping the right side of my stupid minivan. Awesome. At least I don’t have to take the time to exchange insurance information with anyone as the post remained unscathed.

I’m kind of numb at this point and have no one to blame but my fractious self, but I’m determined to get to the damn aquarium. We navigate back to the highway and I start to wonder why the car is driving so badly. I’m hoping I didn’t bend an axle grinding against the parking garage (because of how tremendously bad that would be) so I pulled slowly into a gas station to investigate. The car wasn’t driving poorly because of the axle, it was because of the flat tire on the rear passenger side, undoubtedly due to the post scrape. I start pulling all the junk out of the various areas of the stupid minivan that I hated to put the spare on the car. A couple of questionable-looking gentlemen (I try not to be judgmental but they would have been perfectly cast in Deliverance and didn’t have a full set of teeth between the two of them) take over and change the tire for me. (See — that’s why you shouldn’t be judgmental! They were incredibly helpful and super friendly. What is wrong with you??) I thank them immensely and, yet again, we’re on our way and finally make it home without further incident.

By the time we get home, my husband assumes that I’m junk and don’t have it in me to leave the house again – possibly for a month or two. But it’s just barely noon so I explain that now “it’s a quest” with the attitude of Clark Griswold’s “we’re all gonna have so much fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your a$$holes!” The rest of the day is lovely and, in distinct contrast to the morning’s events, all four of us enjoyed a leisurely afternoon in Boston. (Later that year, I ditched that stupid minivan for a small, white Honda Civic and have successfully navigated my way through numerous tight spaces since then. Stupid minivan.)

My Job in Hell

trampoline park hell
trampoline park hell

When I die, despite my best efforts — or at least a mostly good intentioned lifestyle — if I end up in the fiery depths of hell, I know exactly what I’ll be doing for eternity. My job will be to supervise the hordes of disheveled, screeching children at Satan’s Trampoline Pit while the same three nondescript pop songs play on a loop, all by untalented, tone deaf brats who rely on auto tune to achieve the level of fame their parents will remortgage their house for.

There was nothing but selflessness that brought me to this popular indoor trampoline park during winter school vacation week. I’d like to point out a clear ‘you’re-doing-it-wrong’ parenting moment when, upon asking my daughters if they’d like to go, I was met with enthusiastic, yet puzzled faces. They asked why I was offering to take them as if it were a trick and I really planned to sell them both for their organs. How bad is it that I had to explain to my daughters that I’d like to take them because A. I know it’s something they like to do B. it will be nice to get out of the house and get some exercise C. they haven’t had gymnastics for a couple of weeks so they’ll be able to practice a bit. They were stunned (if not still suspicious) but ran to put on socks and shoes.

From the outside, all looks subdued and peaceful (except for the guy who came screaming into the parking lot apparently nervous that his kids would miss a precious minute of jumping time – probably the same spoiled kids whose parents are hoping their horrendous songs will be playing on a loop here within ten years.) But upon entering all my senses are overwhelmed. It smells of sweaty feet and deep fried chicken strips (and not even good ones but the ones that are bland and tough and have probably been under a heat lamp since mid-November.) There are seizure-inducing, flashing neon lights and children of all ages and sizes running at various speeds in every direction. The floors are sticky with spilled soda and fruit juice. But the worst part is the noise. The Godforsaken overabundance of noise. The aforementioned awful pop music sets a background rhythm to the machines that beep and ring in sync with the flashing lights, cell phones alerting calls and texts, kids yelling to everyone and no one in particular — and we haven’t even made it past the lobby. Once we’re in, the girls find one small, empty cubby to share and cram in their boots and coats. There isn’t an area to put anything down, so I juggle my laptop and my bag (which is extra heavy since I smuggled in a liter of seltzer water past the ‘No Outside Food or Drink’ sign because I refuse to pay $18 for a pint of their water) while I put the older one’s hair in a messy French braid.

They head off in one direction to the trampolines while I go the opposite way to the ‘Observation Deck’ to sit with the rest of the parents stuck biding their time until they can escape this torture. Miraculously, a couple is leaving as I approach and I’m able to commandeer their table. This is where I will hide out for the hour until I can escape to sweet, sweet freedom. From what I can see the girls are having a great time, which is the whole point of this excursion, so I’m glad for that. But when I notice a young boy and his father enthusiastically gesticulating sign language to each other, I’m genuinely envious of their deafness.

The hour goes by fairly quickly thanks to a combination of pointless games and web surfing on my laptop, along with the joys of people watching. (Although I do notice that none of the other adults there look as miserable as I feel and wonder if I should have smuggled a flask with my seltzer.) I’m relieved when the girls’ time is up and they come to me, flushed and sweaty, to let me know I’m allowed to leave. The car ride home is delightful for the girls, who are happy to be giving their tired legs a much needed break, and me, who is relishing the quiet of my placid car.

A Christmas Miracle!

genuine Christmas morning surprise faces
genuine Christmas morning surprise faces

This post is a journal of my journey to create a perfect Christmas scenario by presenting my daughters with a kitten for Christmas. I have visions of them waking on Christmas morning to twinkling lights displaying piles of festively wrapped gifts, Johnny Mathis caroling his version of “Sleigh Ride,” the mixed scents of our Holiday Bayberry candle and a fresh pot of coffee wafting through the air, and a soft snow falling outside. The girls will muffle their squeals of delight so as not to alarm their precious Christmas gift — a sweet sleeping kitten bundled in a basket of soft fleece. In all reality, the girls will wake up before us and be annoyed when we tell them they can’t go downstairs yet. I’ll remember there are a few more gifts that I forgot to put out and stub my toe rushing to bring them up from the basement. My husband will fumble with his phone for at least ten minutes to set up the music through the wireless speaker and the song that plays will be Madonna nasally whining to Santa Baby for diamond rings and yachts while I fight with the timer to get the Christmas tree lit. I’ll forget to both light the candle and brew the coffee so it smells more like morning breath than holiday festivities, and despite the warnings of a brutal winter, it’s been like Florida in May for the past couple of weeks so we’ll have the storm door propped open, letting in the hoards of moths that have been plotting to fly off with our house. By the time the girls get downstairs, they’ll be confused by the cat stuffed animal thrown under the tree with a note tied around its neck that reads “I tried.”

How did a former cat-hater end up here, you ask? A little over four years ago, my husband and I encountered a perfect storm of wanting a pet for our daughters (something about teaching them responsibility but, who are we kidding, I’m the main caretaker,) requiring a pet who would be lower maintenance than a dog, and chipmunks overrunning our yard and nesting in my car’s engine, chewing the hoses and rendering it unusable. After paying to fix the car, we agreed that a cat would be a good solution to chase small critters out of the yard (and my car!), and found Spenser (you can read about him here) through craigslist. (I KNOW! I looked at shelters but I was lazy and the high adoption fees and tedious paperwork vs. going to someone’s house and paying $40 for a kitten was too easy.) We knew the girls would love him, but we didn’t expect to like him as much as we do. He’s awesome.

Sunday, November 29th

We spent the afternoon at a family friend’s house and they were fostering a neighbor’s one-year-old cat that was in need of a home. She was a stunning medium haired black cat (my husband even thought she was gorgeous – who is this guy, liking cats and giving them unsolicited compliments?) that didn’t even have a name so the girls decided to call her Saige. (I don’t even… and why that spelling?) They begged for this cat the whole time we were there and when we left Saige-less they cried the. entire. ride. home. Both girls walked in the house, took their Christmas lists off the fridge, and sniffled while they updated them with a simple word: “Saige.” What they didn’t know was that during a conversation I had with my husband at the party, a seed had been planted that sprouted about a week later. Because his main argument was that ‘Saige’ might not get along with Spenser, I quietly mentioned “if it doesn’t work out, they’re okay with taking her back…” His response was, “If we’re going to do this, we need a kitten. This cat is too old.” That means he’d been considering the possibility of a new cat so I stopped right there.

Monday, December 7th

He caves, with conditions. A) it needs to be a kitten B) no long hair C) the house can’t smell like cats D) “pick a good one”

The pressure’s on.

Tuesday, December 8th – Monday, December 14th

I’m scouring the internet for kittens. I start on petfinder.com and adoptapet.com looking for shelter animals. I also look on craigslist because it served me well in the past and those pets need homes too! I email, text, and call no less than 17 different places making inquiries. The most luck I have is with a shelter in a nearby town. I speak with a woman on the 14th and email her an application. And then I wait impatiently.

Wednesday, December 16th

Still waiting. The woman was very nice but has not gotten back to me. I call and leave her a message. I send her another email asking to verify if she received my application. In the message and the email I apologize for bothering her, but I’m not really sure how this works so I’m freaking out. Did she decide I was bothering her too much? Am I too needy? Am I not a good kitten person because I’m following up? Does she know about the time I accidentally stole eyeliner from Target? I didn’t even really steal it — while unloading the shopping bags I noticed it was still in the cart, unpaid for, so I left it in the cart when I wheeled it into the corral. A better person would have taken it back into the store and hung it back with the other eyeliners, so all I’m really guilty of is not restocking and I don’t think that makes me unqualified to adopt a kitten, does it???

Thursday, December 17th

STILL NO CONTACT FROM NICE-BUT-PROBABLY-OVERWHELMED SHELTER LADY. Haven’t heard from her since Monday. She has to hate me or she’d get back to me. I’m officially a stalker if I contact her again and I’m afraid she’ll take our a restraining order and I’ll be blacklisted from every shelter if I keep harassing her. I’ve got a week to work this out. I find kittens listed with another shelter that are being kept at nearby PetSmart and drive there to look at them. I find her. I FIND HER. She’s the coolest looking cat I’ve ever seen (I sound so hip to the jive) and is available. The woman cleaning the cages tells me to fill out an application and come back on Saturday at 12:30.

I don’t know how this works, so I’m still looking at craigslist and other adoption sites online. I’m obsessed with this search and panicked that my kids will notice a page I’ve accidentally left open on my computer or see an email from one of the numerous people I’ve contacted with the subject line “kitten.”

Friday, December 18th

Still nothing from shelter lady that I spoke to once. But with this new lead, my focus is on #5 (the name they’ve given the cat I saw at PetSmart.) I follow up with an email and a voicemail to verify the application I received the day before was received by the right person. I’m wondering if I should camp out in the parking lot overnight to make sure I’m first in line (if this is, in fact, a first come/first serve situation — but since no one responds I have no idea how this works.)

Saturday, December 19th

I’ve given up altogether on original shelter lady and fixate on #5. I get to the pet store early and am in full blown stalker mode but attempting to keep it cool. There’s a guy cleaning the cages and my furry friend is still there. A woman comes in pushing her her two toddlers in the shopping carriage and they’re eyeballing #5. I’m still playing it cool, but panicked as hell on the inside — will she get preference on the cute cat because she’s with two little kids? That’s dirty pool… The woman who’s supposed to show up for ‘visiting hours’ is running late. Cage-cleaning-guy asks me which cat I’m interested in and tells me she’s still available. Toddlers-in-carriage-woman asks about adoption and is told they’re out of applications here so she’ll have to print one out online. He asks me if I need an application, too, and I calmly respond that I already filled one out on Thursday (inside I’m feeling smug as hell.) Carriage-Toddlers leaves. A small victory for me. (Or is it? I still have no idea what’s going on!!) The woman with the authority to show the cats finally shows up. She’s very nice (sadly, this always surprises me as I imagine them all to be militant adoption Nazis) and, after spending way too much time chatting it up with store employees, lets me in to hold #5. I’m done. This has to happen. All I can think of is my girls’ reactions to this sweet thing on Christmas morning. We have a nice conversation and she’s make me feel confident that there’s still a chance of me adopting her. But not today, apparently.

Sunday, December 20th

Send another email about #5. Still searching craigslist and petfinder for backups because if #5 falls through I need options.

So far:

-I’ve texted someone who was asking $400 for shorthairs and &750 for what are probably not Maine coon cats.

-I’ve emailed someone who listed a kitten in Boston but was actually 3 1/2 hours away in New Hampshire.

-I’ve sent four emails to someone the next town who has consistently reposted a listing for kittens on craigslist for two weeks who has never responded. (make that six — six emails with not one response)

-I’ve called our vet to ask if they knew of anyone with available kittens and they referred me to an agency that I had already contacted.

-In total, I’ve emailed and/or texted no less than 23 (update – 28) separate people regarding kittens. A few appointments have been tentatively set up, but always fall through as someone else has apparently come in to swoop up the kitten faster than I could.

Monday, December 21st

Left another voicemail about #5. Am keeping my nervous self busy by hard core cleaning my entire house. Like, pulled-the-fridge-away-from-the-wall-to-vacuum-and-steam-clean-underneath cleaning. Waiting fanatically for a phone call and/or email. Resisting the urge to leave yet another voicemail about how it’s easier to have a child than it is to adopt a kitten. Practice breathing exercises to thwart an oncoming anxiety attack. I have three days to get this done!!! I tell myself I’ll wait until 7:30 p.m. to call again (because they’re volunteers and probably working all day — seems like a legit strategy, right?) At 7:07 p.m. I get an email. I GET AN EMAIL! I’m thrilled but am with my kids so I have to contain my excitement. The woman asks a few questions and says she’s sorry for the rush but would like to get this expedited to get #5 home and adopted tomorrow. (Sorry for the rush??? I’ve been staving off coronary heart failure for five days!!!)

Tuesday, December 22nd

I’ve already had too much coffee. I’m not getting responses and am positive I’m going to need high blood pressure medication before the end of the day. I send another email at about 4:30 p.m. Two hours later I get an email back with a phone number and instructions to call “asap.” (I put that in quotes because I hate that term and wanted to be clear that she typed it, not me.) I have yet another mini heart attack and hide upstairs to make the call where my girls can’t hear me. The conversation goes something like this:

“Karen?”

“Yes, I’m so glad to hear from you! How are you?”

“I’m good. You were asking about adopting #5, right?”

“Yes! Yes, absolutely. I’m definitely interested…”

“Well, she’s a beautiful cat and we got a lot of applications for her and some of them did come in before you…”

“oh…”

“So you can come and pick her up!!!”

“WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS???”

“hahaha — I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist!”

Remind me to send her my medical bills.

I head to the pet store at 8 p.m. and pick up this unbelievably beautiful kitten. I take her to my sister’s house because she has agreed to keep her there — despite the fact that my sister hates animals and both of her sons are highly allergic so they have to stay doped up on Zyrtec — so I can keep this a surprise on Christmas morning. #5 is in her crate on the front seat next to me and nuzzling my fingers that are stuck through the grate. She’s painfully adorable and there’s a good chance I’m in shock that I actually got her.

Wednesday, December 23rd

My sister reports that #5 only slept for an hour and “jumps and hangs on curtains, falls behind the tv, crawls on stair railing garland and knocks off ornaments.” Oh boy… just one more night…

Thursday, December 24th (Christmas Eve)

New report from my sister. “I kind of love kitty. She is so friendly. When you walk in to see her she jumps up at you like a puppy. Me likey.” #5 is turning around this animal hater.

I feel like a seven-year-old eager for Christmas morning to see my girls’ reactions. Still can’t believe I’m pulling this off. She’ll come home with me tonight after church while my husband and the girls go to his cousin’s for Christmas Eve festivities. His job is to come home late enough for me to be able to hide the kitty while they go straight to bed. #5 better be quiet and not screw this up!

(Thought it was worth mentioning that at about 2:00 p.m. I get a call from the original shelter lady that I hadn’t spoken to in ten days asking if I was still looking for a cat. I kindly explain that she’s a day late and a dollar short and wish her a Merry Christmas.)
#5 is here. Spenser’s feeling her out by letting out a low growl if she gets too close and hissing if she gets even closer. The girls come home and #5 stays hidden in the basement while they go to bed.

Friday, December 25th (Christmas Day!)

I wake up ridiculously early – about 4:30 a.m. (because that kind of happens a lot) – and tiptoe to the basement to check on #5, who is being crazy-adorable. I cuddle up with her on the couch for a while until she falls asleep and then leave her snoozing while I tiptoe back upstairs to bed. The girls wake up at about 6:15. We make our way downstairs and the tree is already lit. I put on the coffee, light the candles, turn on the music (it’s not “Sleigh Ride” but Nat King Cole’s singing about chestnuts so it’s equally delightful.) It’s the warmest Christmas in the history of the world, so there’s no chance of snow, but I have no control over that.

The girls start with their stockings gifts and are having a great time ripping open the colorful packaging and comparing presents. They open almost everything and my husband goes down the fetch the cat-in-the-box. As he brings it up, announcing that there’s one more gift for the both of them to open, they reply that they’re going to open it after they finish with the gift bags they got each other. I’m still in awe that they haven’t figured this out and haven’t a clue that there’s a warm bundle of fluffy cuteness just inches away. We wait patiently, cameras poised and ready.

They kneel in front of the trunk and fumble with the clasp together to get the lid open. Up pops #5’s furry head and up pop the girls gasping, hands in front of their mouths. The older one exclaims, “This isn’t real!” The younger one says, “No. No, you are lying to me right now,” and starts crying. They kneel in front of their new friend and history has been made. This whole event may have shaved a few years off my life, but to witness the looks on my daughters’ faces made it 100% worth it. Best Christmas ever. ❤

Merry Christmas from two relieved, yet exhausted, parents, their two thrilled daughters, an ornery cat named Spenser, and a kitten named Scarlet.