Ace

It’s been one month and three days since we brought this rascal home…but who’s counting!? In one month he has gained ten pounds, explored every inch of our backyard, and devoured a three foot long jerky treat, several snails and two large grubs. He’s already starting to retrieve balls, frisbees and sticks and is learning how to sit, stay and come. He’s a real character too…he barrels across the backyard after a ball, rolling head over heels, when he gets to it. He sleeps on his back, legs splayed, in front of the fan. And he yields a hearty laugh from his six-year old human while they play in the backyard.

But, I would be spinning a yarn if I acted like this change has been a walk in the park. It has been five years since we had a furry friend in our home and I bucked the idea of having another one join our family for a very long time. I knew I had only so much capacity in my life for chaos and that was now being filled by my kid. There was a reason why we chose to have just one kiddo…cause this mama likes order and predictability…and it turns out, she’s not a very good multi-tasker. So I knew, deep down, that adding another being to the mix would stretch me in some very uncomfortable ways. But you can only deny those puppy dog eyes from the hubby AND the kid for so long. I finally came around to the idea, but with some stipulations.

  1. I wanted a puppy who would see my son’s mach-3 energy level as normal. An adult dog might not be so forgiving of my rambunctious six year old…but a puppy would just fall in line with it.
  2. I wanted a boy. We had two girls before and there’s a reason why they call girl dogs “bitches.” I was hopeful that a male dog would mean a little less drama.
  3. I wanted to have a few months on my own with the pup before school was out for the summer. This way I could find my groove with him and hopefully get us past the potty training stage.
  4. I wanted to be able to anticipate his homecoming. We put down a deposit for him two days after he was born…which gave me eight weeks to warm up to this change.

And all of these still hold some level of legitimate, thoughtful planning. However, several have backfired on me. Not only has our pup, Ace, fallen in line with our crazy six year old son, but he has also upped the ante. Turns out he believes my kid is one of his litter mates and will nip and wrestle with him non-stop. My son enjoys this about 98% of the time. The other 2% of the time is spent crying and yelling to stop the insane play. The ownness for this maddening behavior does not fall on the dog alone. My son is the king of mixed messages right now, giggling and squealing while also screaming at deafening levels to “make it stop!” It’s tons of fun. *smirk*

Let me tell you, this new pup is a real mama’s boy. He is the definition of sidekick right now and is on my heels all. Day. Long. And don’t even think about putting him in the baby play yard when you need a break, especially if you plan to be in his line of sight at all. When the breeder told us that “he loves his people,” I should have known that particular feel-good sentiment would actually be a neediness that can be maddening to this introvert. And let me just say that this dog has a real stubborn streak too. I think it’s rather ironic that a synonym for stubborn is dogged…teehee. The first time I raised my voice at him, he barked back.

We didn’t have a single potty accident during his first weekend home. Turns out we were on a honeymoon of sorts. I proudly announced this to my dad and not one hour later, he squatted right in the middle of the kitchen, and it hasn’t stopped since. I would say, one month into this adventure, that we’re about 75% potty trained. He’s notorious for going out in the backyard, getting distracted and then coming back in and hunching just seconds later. Since his homecoming, we have removed all rugs, gone through about thirty rolls of paper towels, and no longer have an endless supply of plastic shopping bags because it’s a literal shit-show around here. I’ve lost count of how many times he has piddled in the corner while I have been cleaning up a deuce. I calmly reprimand and then take him outside, where I follow him around like a ninny, chanting, “go potty…go potty…go potty.” Then the wind blows, a bird sings, or a squirrel scampers across the fence…and all concentration is lost for the task at hand. We head back inside and the cycle continues.

If any of my stipulations for this dog have come to fruition, it’s that I had ample time to wrap my head around the changes to come. During that time, I doted over his pictures. I nested at home…preparing his crate and buying all manner of dog accoutrement. I mean, for Pete’s sake, I even washed my son’s old swaddling blankets for the new pup! And I might have even read a chapter or two about puppy care…something I didn’t even do when preparing for my human baby! I admit, in my mind, there was a level of bittersweet realization happening too. I knew, as soon as he arrived, that my days of being alone during school hours would soon be over. I would no longer be able to sit at the coffee shop, reading and writing, for hours on end. And as silly as it sounds, I grieved over the fact that my undivided attention my six year old was accustomed to would now be shared with his “new brother.” Life would change…but I had ample time to brace myself for it.

Thirty plus days in and I find myself falling in love with his sweet, little ways. Like how he can be starving in the morning, but will take the time to greet me before scarfing down his food. Like how he proudly runs around the backyard with his hula hoop. Like how I find sticks in my purse and carry a supply of plastic baggies for those ‘just in case’ moments. He’s an addition that I can get used to having around. An addition that could be with our family long after my son goes off to college. Someday we will long forget his wild puppy days and instead enjoy the fact that we have a very loyal companion.

As my son often says with a grin, “you’re outnumbered now mommy!”…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

She Said “Yes”

My husband proposed to me on April Fools Day.

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The year was 2000. He had just graduated from college in December and landed his first job in Dallas with a public relations agency. I left my first “real job” after college to move back in with my parents in Dallas so I could be closer to my beau. We had already dated for four years and felt pretty certain that we were moving in the direction of marriage so being in the same city was important.

Earlier that week, I got a call from my man saying that he had gotten an award at work and they were sending us to a fancy dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse as a way of saying “congratulations!” As new grads, we never really had the means to splurge on an extravagant dinner, so it was something we were both pretty giddy about. Turns out his giddiness was because he had something up his sleeve…my giddiness was just because I love a good steak that someone else is paying for!

Anyhoo, I worked that day, so I didn’t have a lot of time to fuss over my hair and make-up…not like I ever do…but I really didn’t that day. I raced home after work and managed to get changed right before he rang the doorbell. We jumped into his 1992 Ford Probe and took off for a night of celebrating his awesome start at his new job.

As we drove along, I thought it was a bit odd that he knew exactly how to get to the restaurant in downtown Dallas. These were the days before GPS, but he didn’t even have directions written down! It was like he’d been there before…but I just shrugged it off as luck and continued to dream about eating ourselves silly.

When we arrived, the maitre’d welcomed us to the restaurant by name. Now how in the world does he know our names? I thought. I blew it off, thinking, they probably know our names because we have a reservation and this seems like a “reservation only” kind of restaurant. He showed us to our table and rattled off the specials that night.

After a mouthwatering dinner, the waiter informed us that they would be bringing out dessert, special ordered by my boyfriend’s boss. About fifteen minutes later, we eyed the reward making it’s way around the restaurant. It was on a cart and had sparklers on it. They stopped in front of our table, picked up the plate and placed it in front of me. That is when I noticed the most perfect ring, a princess cut diamond set in platinum, sitting on top of the molten lava cake.

I’ve never been much of a squealer or a crier in joyous occasions. I remember smiling really big…looking at the ring and then looking at him. He looked at me, with a big grin, and said, “well?” I don’t remember if he put the ring on my finger or if I did? But in that unspoken moment, we both committed to spending the rest of our lives together.

People at the tables around us offered congratulations. The waiter stopped by to take our picture. And then we pulled out my calendar and picked a date…September 16th…one day before our fifth dating anniversary and just 4.5 short months away.

When we left the restaurant, we each made phone calls to our parents to share our big news…then we called our best friends and siblings. There were no Facebook posts or Instagram selfies to announce the occasion.

We spent the rest of the evening laughing about how the plan for the evening came together. My fiancé bought the ring at the beginning of that week during his morning work break. He later went to lunch with his boss and co-workers. While at lunch he showed the ring to a few of the girls, who shrieked with excitement and grilled him about his proposal plan, to which he admitted that he didn’t have one yet. They tattled on him to the boss who jumped at the chance to make it a company affair. He commissioned one of the girls to make all the arrangements at Morton’s, handed her his company credit card and the rest is history. This same boss also made dinner reservations for us in Sausalito during our honeymoon and handpicked our desserts for that night. I’d say my fiancé had made quite an impression during his first few months on the job!

We chuckle now about his decision to propose on April Fools Day. In hindsight, it was actually genius. If I said “no” than he could jokingly claim “April Fools!” But if I said “yes” than it would always be a story that amused everyone. To this day, it is still one of my favorite parts of our story.

Lemonade Out Of Lemons

“Mommy, yesterday our picnic got cancelled.” These were the words that greeted me today.

We had an unfortunate lesson about the consequences of others bad choices on Monday.

We set off around 10 o’clock in the morning for a nice, little hike with our good friends who are about to move to Denver. This would be our last time to see them for a long time. And while we were out exploring the nature preserve, some thug decided he would bash in our car windows and swipe our bags. He took my purse and snagged my friend’s lunch bag and library bag. I assume he thought hers was a purse too, so the joke’s on him. Unless he wanted to read a book while he munched on his stolen goodies…which just makes him an even bigger low life.

We spent the next hour with the police, cancelling credit cards, and consoling three hungry and sad kiddos. Of course, as Mr. Rogers says, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” And sure enough, some guy stopped to patch up our windows, the lady at the bank patiently listened to my six year old recount the events, and we had Gran who empathizes like no one I know. When it was all said and done, there were more people who were caring and good to us yesterday than the one hooligan.

So he may have busted out the back window of my car…which is crazy expensive to replace. He may have stolen Ben’s favorite backpack that I was using as a purse. And he may have scored all my birthday money and gift cards. BUT, no one got hurt and we got to experience the goodwill of many others all day long because of it.

Plus, when my dad got home, he made me a drink and donned the perfect shirt for support.

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“I hate rude behavior in a man. I won’t tolerate it.”

-Woodrow Call

Cowboy Poetry Festival

Birthdays have always been a big celebration in my family. The living room was always decorated with streamers and balloons. The birthday honoree got to choose where the family went for dinner that night. We then opened a pile of presents and topped off the festivities with cake and ice cream. It was some serious VIP treatment!

Fast forward to birthdays as an adult. When you get married, you merge traditions and the occasion just doesn’t look the same anymore. You go to work everyday, which makes the day seem like any other day. And if I’m honest, the need to highlight getting one year older isn’t as high on my list of ‘must-dos’ anymore.

So as I started thinking back on my grown up birthdays, I grinned big when I remembered the birthday my husband and I trekked out to Alpine, Texas for a Cowboy Poetry Festival. I learned about the festival from a local magazine that had a calendar in the back with a list of events all over the state. This was ten years ago…long before West Texas became the ‘place to be’. Before Marfa, TX was considered ‘Austin West’. We had no idea what to expect, but the idea of hanging out with a bunch of cowboys reading poetry was enough for us to pack up and haul six hours across the state.

We prepared for our time in Big Bend country by channeling our inner cowboy on the way. We listened to the audio book “One Ranger” written by Joaquin Jackson, a real life Texas Ranger who lived in Alpine, Texas. By the time we arrived, we were chewing tobacco and speaking with a drawl.

We stayed at the Marathon Motel & RV Park and drove into Alpine each day for the festival. The first morning, we rambled through a cow pasture in our Honda Accord to the chuckwagon breakfast. Before we even got out of the car, it was obvious that we were outsiders. But the brochure said, “open to the community – $5 a plate”…so we happily crashed their gathering. Two city slickers eatin’ their biscuits and gravy, milling around in our t-shirts and shorts, just trying to fit in.

After eating like a couple of ranch hands, we went over to Sul Ross University where the festivities took place. We were herded into an auditorium for a tribute to Marty Robbins, a popular country & western singer and songwriter from the late 40’s to the early 80’s. The audience reflected the guest of honor making us the young whippersnappers amidst a crowd twice our age. During the opening show, we watched all manner of talent showcase their music and poems to honor Mr. Robbins career.

It was a crowd that was eccentric without trying. When you think about cowboys, ranchers, horsemen and the like, one typically envisions a hard worker who is rough around the edges, not some abstract thinker who is so deeply connected to their feelings. Their artistry was not stuffy or convoluted. It came from experience, hard times and grit. There was a simplicity to their depth and it was like a breath of fresh air.

After the festival we spent several days exploring the area. We didn’t come close to making a dent in all that West Texas has to offer. I was blown away by how beautiful it was! Wide open spaces, cool weather, stunning mountains, and more stars than you could possibly imagine. It was peaceful and uncomplicated and left me feeling revived, which was just a good way to start my 31st year if you ask me.

Ten years later and I am more than ready to go back. I need a little low-key simplicity in my life right now and I know just the place.

“Uva uvas viendo varia fit”…“a grape changes color (ripens) when it sees another grape.”
-Augustus McCrae, one of the original cowboy poets

 

Ringmaster

Ask any parent of a former preemie and you’ll find that they very likely honor their kid’s due date as much as, if not more, than they celebrate their birth date. Once a mama finds out that she’s pregnant, the due date is the end goal, the day she will dream about and anticipate. When you best that date by more than two months, it can be a bittersweet occasion. For that very reason, I tend to commemorate my due date every year because it reminds me of the hurdles we went through and the sheer fighting spirit that our kiddo has as a result of his early arrival.

We knew from the get-go that our son had some moxie. His daddy has joked that he stared down the angel of death and gave him the middle finger on the day he was born. In fact, his middle name means lion heart which has proven to be a very fitting moniker. And since his birth, we have seen him continue in this fashion. He is no doubt his own person…adventurous, loud, imaginative, and tenacious with endless energy and an old soul. One minute he can be racing across the backyard, in full cowboy regalia with guns a blazin’ and in the next breath asking you some deep question about heaven and hell. He loves to wrestle with his daddy to music from Rocky. And he dreams of living on a farm where he can be a full blown homesteader. I love all of these qualities but the one I find most endearing is his ability to become whoever he wants to be and is not afraid of what anyone might think of him. Oh, to live life with such abandon…it’s a freedom that few people allow themselves to experience and one I hope he never surrenders.

We have built a rather massive dress-up box to feed this alter ego. Really, it’s more like a box, three drawers, and two hooks full of any imaginable hat, accessory, jacket, vest, or weapon imaginable. It seems excessive, but he is in character everyday, sometimes several times a day, so it seems warranted.

When we took him to see The Greatest Showman last week, it was impossible to say no when he leaned over in the middle of the movie and asked if he could get a top hat. Before we even made it home from the theater, Amazon was set to deliver his new hat just 48 hours later. And of course, it had to be accompanied by a ringmaster jacket…so we pulled that together the next day too.

Indulgent? Yes. But paramount to his persona and therefore essential for us to back? For sure.

In the same way that our son entered this world with a bang, he also lives BIG. So in honor of my due date today…I give you the first ten pics from my phone of him all decked out. And all of these are from last week alone! 😉

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