Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bad Boys

Last month, my brother came to visit with my niece and nephews. It was the weekend of our neighborhood garage sale and, given that my family loves to spend their hard-earned money on other people's trash, it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
One of the great things about children (at least small children), is that they have no concept of money. To them, quarters are worth more than dollars and checks have about as much value as the wrapper to their chewing gum. So when you send them down the street with a bag full of change, you really have no idea what kind of "treasures" they will bring home. Unless, of course, one of your nephews is almost 12 and knows all about money. And 4-wheelers.
By some sort of magical alignment of the stars, Dylan happened upon a women who was selling two of these little guys for $ Not each, not for 12 easy installments, just $25. There was some confusion as to whether they ran or needed some additional parts, but Dylan was confident his dad could get them running.
The thing about my brother is that he is a bit of a self-taught mechanical genius. He fixes cars, lawnmowers, and washing machines (along with computers and chain saws), so this project was right up his alley. Not surprisingly, all it took was a trip to Auto Zone, about an hour of tinkering, and these guys were road ready. As I watched the evening unfold, I couldn't help but notice that Dylan was actually the least excited of the bunch.
At first, he was ready for action. He watched his dad work, periodically checking for updates.

But then his confidence started to wane just a bit once he saw how loud and fast the machines were.

So Shaun, like any good father would do, kicked Dylan off and began riding around the neighborhood in the dark. David served as his trusty sidekick, watching longingly as Shaun whizzed past him.

I, like any good sister, chased after Shaun, trying to both yell at him to quit driving on the neighbor's lawn and to get him to slow down long enough to take his picture. After all, a grown ass man tearing through the subdivision on his son's teeny tiny 4-wheeler is worth capturing.

It was just a matter of minutes before my own overgrown kid wanted to go for a spin. I spent the next 20 minutes listening to him scream like a girl as he caught the wind in his hair and narrowly missed two parked cars and a mailbox. David was clearly a natural.

If they never ride them again, I will still say that was $25 well spent. I am just grateful they weren't BB guns...I think we all know how that would have ended.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


In navigating the adoption process, most people know about our desire to grow our family and our goal to help a child in need. What most people don't know is that I have an adoption story of my own.

My parents met when I was 9 months old. My mom had bravely decided to get out of an unhealthy marriage and was forging along as a single parent. My dad was the son of farmers, still living at home, looking for a reason to get his bell bottoms out on the town. It was 1976 and things were about to change for the two of them. And for me. Forever.

Dating a woman with children takes a special kind of man, particularly if you've never been married and have no children of your own. Not only do you have to win the heart of your new lady friend, but you have to gain the trust and friendship of the rest of the family. To be honest, winning over a baby probably wasn't that hard for my dad. Throw me a jar of pureed sweet potatoes and I was putty in his hands.

It was just a matter of time before my dad decided he couldn't live without me, so he proposed to my mom. After all, we were a package deal. Shortly after their wedding, my mom began to talk with her ex-husband about terminating his parental rights. This would mean no more child support, no more visitation, no relationship with me. Ever. He decided to sign. I will never know his motives, whether it was money, convenience, or just the simple realization that my mom had gotten re-married to one hell of a guy. But he signed. And I am so grateful.

I have always known my dad adopted me. I have always known that he made the willing choice to love me as his own and accept me as his daughter. That alone has made me cherish him that much more. I don't often talk about my dad. He's a quiet man who spent much of my childhood saying, "Go ask your mother." or "Pull my finger." But he was always there, working hard for our family, giving us horsey rides, letting me and my sister fill his beard with barrettes.

As a grandfather, I see how much he loves his grandchildren and I am certain. I am certain he would love any child we brought into our home, certain he would welcome them with open arms, and certain he would accept them the way he has always accepted me. Because my dad is a good, good man.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad. And no, I will not pull your finger.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Just Like That

Getting Chloe was the first big decision David and I ever made together. We spent months visiting shelters, looking for a puppy that would fit in our tiny little condo. Then I found Chloe. She was a mess. She had a ridiculously long body attached to short little legs and huge paws that she tripped over with every step. The shelter told us she was pure basset hound, but we knew better. Her mama had clearly been sleeping around.
Before they would let us adopt her, the shelter made a visit to our home, expressing some concerns about our small space. We assured her Chloe would get lots of walks and would lead a happy and fulfilling life at our house. What we all failed to consider was just how hard those short little legs would have to work just to get Chloe down the street. Walks rarely materialized, as Chloe would spend much of her time lounging on the neighbor's lawn or sniffing the rear ends of the other dogs in the neighborhood (okay fine, and occasionally their owners).
Over the next several years, Chloe proved herself to be one of the worst dogs ever. She had travel anxiety and got sick everywhere we went. She bit my mom's dog and ran away from home on more than one occasion. Chloe would eat anything, including an entire package of hot dog buns...and the package. But I loved her. Oh, how I loved that dog.
Because she was part basset, Chloe would howl at every siren she heard. It quickly became her one and only party trick. As Morgan got older, she would play her harmonica and Chloe would sing along. They were two parts of an off-key harmony.
But when we got up yesterday morning, something wasn't right. Chloe couldn't walk very well and her belly more closely resembled a pot-bellied pig than a dog. I took her outside, only to realize that she had to lay down every couple of steps. I tried to get her to howl with me, but she just looked at me pleadingly, unable to muster the strength.
David called the vet and they immediately asked him to bring her in. I watched out the window, wondering if that would be the last time I saw my four-legged little girl. "It isn't good" was all he said when he called me 20 minutes later. David explained that they had discovered a tumor on her spleen that had ruptured and that her body was filling with blood. If we didn't move quickly, Chloe was going to bleed to death internally. Even with surgery, she would most likely die on the table or face months of treatment after the operation. It just didn't make sense to put her through that.
As I sat sobbing on the phone, I whispered to David, "I think we have to let her go. Stay with her. I just don't want her to be alone." And so he did. He laid with her on the cool tile floor, rubbing her head as she raised her chest for the last time. And then she was gone. Just like that.
Farewell, my baby girl. You were a disaster from the day we met you... and the most perfect fit for our family.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ski Patrol

I am not sure why I am posting this story, other than the fact I want to document that I conquered my fears and did something that took me more than 30 years to work up to. I learned how to ski.
Two of our good friends (the same ones who introduced us to snowshoeing) invited us to spend time with them one weekend so I could learn how to navigate the slopes. They tried repeatedly to assure me that we would take it slow; she even told me that she didn't learn how to ski until she was in her thirties. If I was going to learn, this was the weekend.
As we were driving up to the lodge, I was talking about how glad I was that I wouldn't be the only novice on the hill. I knew David had skied when he was younger, but I also knew it had been close to 20 years and that skiing in New Jersey was nothing compared to Idaho powder. David, trying to choose his words carefully, said "Oh, I didn't tell you I was on the racing team in high school?" No, asshole. You didn't.
After we got our equipment rented, I spent the next 30 minutes trying to "walk" to the bunny hill. By that time, our friends had been down two runs and David was clearly questioning his decision to be my instructor. Because I was the only adult on the bunny hill, I was just trying not to drop the F-bomb in front of any minors. It was a struggle.
Despite David's revelation that he used to ski competitively, I was holding out some hope that the years and pounds would work in my favor. Nope. David looked graceful and confident: 

I, on the other hand, looked like I was about to take a shit right there on the mountain:
Skiing on the bunny hill turned out to be less scary than I thought. The worst part of the process was trying to get off the lift chair. At one point, an instructor told me I would have better luck if I focused on the trees in front of me as I stood up. I jokingly asked him how he could tell I was new at this. He leaned in a little and said, "The screaming kind of gave you away."

David finally convinced me I was ready to get on an actual lift chair and try a real run. He was wrong. As soon as we started working our way up, I could feel my hands starting to sweat through my gloves and my heart beginning to pound through my chest. I just wanted to go back, get down, and drink beers in the know, one of my more natural skills.

Once we made it to the top, I finally got the perspective on just how high up we were. And then I totally freaked out. The bunny hill didn't really have enough of an incline to force me to learn how to stop, so I didn't know how to control my skis once I started to speed up.  I spent the next hour trying not to fall off the edge and lose my life in the side of a pine tree. Instead, I began intentionally crashing into mounds of snow that line the run. In less than 10 minutes, I crashed nearly as many times. We had gone approximately 20 feet.

Our friends were so gracious, trying to give me tips and helping me up every time I went down. My ass was full of snow and tears were filling up the bottom of my goggles. I was done. Like so done that I told David I was just going to walk down the hill. To hell with all of this. So I started walking. In ski boots, carrying my skis and my poles, hoping ski patrol would find me and drag my chubby self down in a sled.  That did not happen.

About 5 minutes in to my new plan, I heard someone yelling, "On your left!" I turned around to see a group of skiers headed my way. They were children. All of them. I was officially a skiing embarrassment. At that moment, I knew I wasn't walking one more step. I was gonna make that mountain my bitch. And I did.

There are no photos of me actually skiing. I took one picture to document that I indeed did not fall off the edge and spent the rest of the time trying to make sure the kiddy ski club didn't lap me (they didn't, for the record). At one point, it just clicked. I fell into a rhythm, sweeping back and forth as we worked our way down. I was a skier.

And then we got to the bottom. I was hot shit. And then I immediately ate my appropriately large slice of humble pie. You see, once I looked at the map of the runs, I realized I hadn't even gone down a legitimate run. I had just spent my entire afternoon trying to walk work my way down a run called "The Waltz" - the name alone should have told me something. 

At that point, I called it day. David went on a few actual runs, enjoying the fact that he got to go hang out with real skiers. I went back to the lodge and ordered a beer, enjoying the fact I got to hang out with real drinkers. It was a win all around.

For now, I am officially a skier. Until next year. When we take Morgan with us and she makes me look like an idiot all over again. See you on the bunny hill.