Waiting for the Acorn to Drop

As I sit here, preparing for the New Year’s Eve countdown, I should be reflecting on the past year and making resolutions for the year to come. There were certainly some ups and downs in 2017, but what I find myself thinking about most is how did I end up in Raleigh, and what am I still doing here?

When I moved here for work, I thought I’d give it a year or two and then see if something better came along. Now, this city is actually starting to feel like home.
Oh Raleigh, I may never understand why your Christmas parade is held in mid November, why vanity license plates are so popular, or why there are so many mattress stores.
But I’m starting to get you, City of Oaks.
Despite your love of tobacco products and barbecue, you often rank among one of America’s healthiest cities.
You love your nature trails and your food trucks too.
Perhaps it’s because of my New Orleans upbringing that I enjoy cities that defy logic.
One thing you’ve been able to do for this Gulf Coast girl is to make me a fan of snow. You treat that stuff with the respect it deserves, by shutting down and not making me drive in it.
It’s true that there are still big swaths of the city I have yet to explore. So maybe that should be my resolution for 2018. I resolve to go shopping in Cameron Village, eat at the Angus Barn and maybe even attempt the state fair again.
In the meantime, pass the red hot dogs while I wait for your giant acorn to drop.
Happy New Year!
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My Favorite Kind of Dog

I wasn’t ready to let her go.
Lola was such an adaptable little pug. She moved from Grand Bay, Alabama to River Ridge, Louisiana, from house to apartment, just to be with my husband and me.
She didnt mind our odd work hours, and we enjoyed her limitless energy. She made the long trip with us to Gainesville, Florida charming strangers along the way. We moved from house to apartment to house. She was my first baby, my little pug baby.
She was not perfect, but she was exactly what I needed. She was fiesty, noisy, stubborn and demanding. She once tried to pick a fight with a St. Bernard because he dared to sniff our mailbox.
But she was also sweet and snuggly, and did anything for attention. She was a funny little pug, with all the snorts and grumbles pug owners love.
She wasn’t one of those TV dogs who instictively knew when I was sick and stayed by my side ’til I was better. No, she’d bark at me to make me get out of bed and take care of her, no matter how I was feeling. It was good practice for when I’d have a baby.
When I did get pregnant, she became a bit gentler. She stayed by my side as I wretched in the toilet for three months and slept next to my belly at night. But when the baby was born, she barked at every cry until I wanted to throw both her and the baby out the window. (I didn’t.)
So afraid I’d forget to feed her during the newborn haze of motherhood, I overcompensated by feeding her every time she pawed her metal bowl. I think she ate five meals a day for two months.
When we moved to our third floor apartment in Raleigh, Lola’s energy began to slow down. When she was recovering from dental surgery, I had to carry her up and down the stairs. After anestesia wore off and she was fully recovered, she still insisted on being carried, at least on the way down. Even after we moved into our house, she still didnt want to walk down the porch steps.
Before I ever had a dog, I had a bit of a pug obsession. Their round faces, short noses and curly tails made them my favorite kind of dog. But when I met my Lola, it was her cleverness, her boldness, her determination that made her my favorite kind of dog. Even in her old age, she would spring into action to chase a frog or a rabbit. Of course her puggy build prevented her from ever catching her prey.
I knew she wouldn’t last forever but I kind of had this odd fantasy that I’d have enough warning to make her last day special. I was going to cook her a steak, take her for a long walk, maybe even let her stand on the kitchen table.
Instead I scolded her for barking and left for work in a hurry only to come home and find her limp and lethargic, barely able to lift her head. She showed no interest in food not even for a French fry. I had not prepared for this.
I knew in my gut it was time, though I still held on to a shred of hope as the family loaded up in the car to the emergency vet. I held her on my lap as she gently wheezed.
I thought about how she snuggled into my lap in the car the first day we brought her home. She was so much smaller and lighter than I had expected.
Now she’d never felt so heavy. I was not ready for this. I was not ready to explain it to my son. I was not ready for my husbands heaping sobs or my own. The rest of the night was surreal.
We came home without a dog.
The next day I went to work, a dull ache in my right arm from where I’d been supporting her the night before. The ache worsened throughout the morning, a physical manifestation of my grief. At lunchtime I lost control of my emotions and had to come home.
You don’t realize all the subtle ways a dog changes your life. The way I open and close doors, the way that I eat, my morning routine, my bedtime routine, all changed.
And now I am left with that terrible feeling of now what? I can’t get another dog. She was my favorite.

Ode to “Mommy Monkey”

You were around when he was born, though mostly ignored ’til he was one.
You took the place of a pacifier,
and sacrificed your limbs to a teething crier.
Over the years, you’ve slid down slides, been dunked in a toilet and lost one eye.
You’ve been dragged through the dirt, taken to school, snuggled in bed, covered with drool.
You lost your red strings and almost all of your cotton.
One vacation too many, and you were forgotten.
Oh Mommy Monkey, he loved you so, but now you are gone, and he doesn’t yet know.
There may be tears ahead, but you’ve done your job well.
May you rest in peace at the hotel.

Everything About You

People warned me about this age. Beware the threenager, they said. But right now, I love you and everything about you.

I love that you climbed into bed at 6 a.m. and whispered, “God, please keep mommy safe.”

I love how you try to perform magic tricks and say “octa the zebra!” instead of abra cadabra.

Three is worse than two, they said, but right now, in this moment, I love you and everything about you.

I love how you created your own super hero called Super Ba-bam, “a good guy who drinks coffee in the car on his way to fight bad guys.”

I love to see you developing hero worship for your own dad, bragging to your pre-school friends how tall he is, and how high he can count.

Maybe I’m not in love with the daily teethbrushing battles, or our opposing views on naptime.

Some days your defiance is maddening.

But right now, I am living for the little moments, like when you sing a song about going camping and eating spaghetti, and I have no idea where you get this stuff.

I love your dance moves.

I love how you memorize your favorite books and are quick to correct me if I skip a word or two.

I even love how you somehow always have rocks in your pockets. 

Though I am holding on to the little moments, I don’t want them to last forever. I know there will come a day when I stand over the washing machine checking your pockets for rocks and there will be none. When that day comes, I may even shed a tear. But I don’t want time to stand still, because I can’t wait to see all the loveable moments that lie ahead.

Signs Your Toddler Might be Addicted to YouTube

It starts out simple enough. You pull up a clip of The Wiggles or maybe a little Elmo. It keeps your ever-moving toddler still for five whole minutes, so you can breathe.

Then those other videos start to creep in. Your child is suddenly mesmerized by a pair of hands opening a shiny new toy. The voice of a grown woman narrates all the wonderful attributes of said toy, as the hands creepily play along.

Before you know it, your YouTube recommendations include everything from Bad Babies to Spiderman and Elsa inexplicably playing pranks on each other. And your little one eats it all up.

Here are five signs it may be time to cut ties with the Tube:

1) He is disappointed every time you crack an egg.

2) He refers to all his toys as “surprises.”

3) He wants to change his name to Ryan.

4) He calls his thumb “daddy finger.”

5) At the end of every play date he tells his friends to “Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe!”

If this list makes no sense to you, consider yourself lucky. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m kind of starting to miss Caillou.

Forty Days Without Facebook (More or Less)

A couple months ago, I dreamed I was walking down a sidewalk, and a parade of vaguely familiar faces blurred past me. The faces shouted things like, “Look at my kids!” and “Hey, remember me from high school?” Some of the faces were attached to bodies, some not. Many were holding up photos. I tried to slow down and chat with these people, but they kept moving and kept shouting. “Look what I had for dinner!” … “It’s my birthday!”

I woke up and thought, OMG, I just dreamed in Facebook. This is not a hackneyed comedy sketch. This actually happened.

That’s when I realized I could use a break from this weird version of condensed reality.

When I first joined Facebook, it was a fun way to stay in touch with people, but over the years, I’ve simply become addicted to the scroll. I was looking at pictures of children I’ve never met, becoming angry at political opinions of people I haven’t seen in more than 10 years, and clicking on all my notifications just to see that little number outlined in red disappear.

Being the good Catholic that I pretend to be, I decided to give up Facebook for Lent. Surely I would accomplish something more important than reading about slut shaming, mom shaming, fat shaming, skinny shaming, snowflakes and sanctimommies.

So here is what I accomplished with all that extra time:

  • I watched five seasons of Blue Bloods on Netflix, so I now know how to order a bus forthwith before me and my partner get jammed up.
  • I read Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub, a book of book reviews, so I have now added approximately 324 books to my shopping list.
  • I started paying more attention to my son, which led me to discover that he may be addicted to YouTube. Relax, sanctimommies. I’m on it.
  • I obtained political news from C-SPAN instead of Internet memes.
  • This may just be coincidence, but I vacuumed my house twice in one week. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

I did allow myself a sneak peak every now and then, only on Sundays, because as good Catholics know, Sundays don’t count as a day of Lent. But I must say, even most Sundays, I stayed strong, and I’m pretty proud of myself.

I’m guessing I didn’t miss much while I was away. Are there still a lot of people who love Donald Trump, and a lot of other people who don’t?

If not, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

A Southerner’s Guide to Snow

Having just survived my third snowfall* in Raleigh, I feel I’m now qualified to share some tips with my fellow southerners* who may be new to the experience.

1) Those sheets of cardboard you may have used to “sled” down grassy hills (or levees) do not make great sleds when there is actual snow on the ground, but a silver platter does. I suspect a crawfish tray might also work, but I have yet to try it.

2) You know all those cute and charming accessories like scarves, gloves, boots and earmuffs? They actually serve practical purposes. The most important accessory, however, is the one you’re already using: sunglasses. When the sun shines down on a fresh snowfall, do not look at the ground without protection unless you want to burn your corneas.

3) You don’t have to rush out and build a snowman right away. You can wait until the snow actually stops falling, because … get this … it sticks to the ground. It will even be there the next day, maybe even the day after that. In fact, second day snow is the best consitency for snowman building.

4) Speaking of snowmen, beach toys make great snowman building tools. Keep plastic rakes, hoes, buckets and shovels close by. If it can be used in the sand, it can be used in the snow.20170110_223416

5) Snow is crunchy. Ice is slippery. Invest in shoes with good traction, like hiking boots, or soccer cleats. To my Louisiana friends, this is not the time for your St. Bernard Reebocks. Save the shrimp boots for after the snow melts, as they might come in handy when your backyard goes from winter wonderland to wetland. Also, when people tell you to stay off the roads, for the love of God, please stay of the roads! Your car does not know how to ice skate.

 *In this context, the term snowfall means the kind of snow that falls in North Carolina, not necessarily the kind that falls in Ohio.
*In this context the term southerner means anyone who is from a state that has no other state below it, primarily the Gulf Coast states.