Kentucky Mom to Twins and More

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Uh oh. We got a DOG.

We got a puppy.

Ok, I know what you are thinking. It probably has something to do with me not having time to care for anything right now because I’ve got four kids with endless commitments, practices and games, a husband battling cancer and days where I don’t brush my teeth or shower until dinnertime. Yes, I know. My husband doesn’t want a dog either and keeps telling me not to get it – but then again he probably never planned to meet and marry an obnoxious, compulsive, high maintenance Italian girl either, and look how that turned out for him. I swear he’s close to divorcing me and kicking me out of the house over the decision I made about this dog, so I’m kind of holding my breath.
But hear me out. I swear I have good reason.

Coming soon… Juno
We lost our German Shepherd, Keeley almost a year ago. The days and weeks after that vet visit were heartbreaking. The kids were roaming the yard to find tufts of her dog fur, that they tucked away in their dresser drawers. One of the twins was so distraught she would lay on the dog bed, crying, “WHY GOD?” (She is the most likely in the family to win an Oscar.) They reminisced about playing with her and taking her for walks — because even in her old age, she enjoyed walking up the street, sniffing (peed on) mailboxes and barking at neighbor dogs.
We actually missed finding her piles of crap in the yard.

After 13 years of having a dog in the house, it was strange and sad to realize we would never again see that tail wagging at the front door. Then we saw that movie, A Dog’s Purpose, and each of us basically used an entire box of Kleenex before we made up our minds on this matter.
This house was due for either a puppy or a baby, and since there was no chance in the bluest of hells for the latter – puppy it was.

Everyone knows the past year or so has been pretty rough around here. Anytime cancer becomes a part of a family’s existence, things can suck. So we have been feeling defeated for quite some time. There isn’t a lot of laughter, there aren’t many smiles. I won’t lie. There is a lot of sadness in our house. I admit my grumpiness, anxiety and exhaustion make me a person I don’t like to be. I can’t remember a time recently when we were really “happy,” or content. The stresses of a grave sickness take an even greater toll on a marriage. I’m not always as strong as I let on, and “I’m fine,” is probably just something the autopilot in me tells anyone who asks about us. My husband gets frustrated with me and in turn I know I get frustrated with the way things are and then take it out on the kids and drag everyone down.
Some days I wish I could blink and make everything perfect. Don’t we all.

So, I’ve decided happiness needs to make a comeback here. I’m aiming to get fun, laughter and smiles on a leash and pull them all back into this house where they’ve been missing for too long. 
We visited the kennel quite a few times in the past year; we tried our best to find a pup that would fit our family. The first one wasn’t going to be good with kids, they told us. Another dog was snatched up by another family before we could get him. Many of the dogs at the shelter were elderly, and we didn’t want to risk getting attached to a dog who would leave us with another big heartbreak in a year. One dog was cute, but it was one of those yippy dogs, so you understand why that definitely wasn’t going to work. I found a perfect dog from a rescue – unfortunately in California – and the logistics of that made her wrong for us, too.
But then we happened upon a German Shepherd pup.

The puppy who saved us.
She and another litter mate were the only ones left in a family nearby. She was sort of “discounted” as far as the cost for this type of breed. My son fell in love. He made cooing sounds at her that I’m pretty sure 10-year-old boys shouldn’t make. He also made promises that HE would be the one to feed her, let her out and clean up after her. We all know 10-year-olds are made of lies though.

I admit, the dog was sweet. She didn’t jump all over us, or bark or cry or run around when we saw her. She just sat there, perfectly behaved and quiet. She gave us what people call the “puppy eyes.” I think she knew maybe this family just needs a chill dog. A dog who’s going to be a great companion on a walk, or to snuggle four kids who are dying for the compassionate hugs that only a patient, furry puppy can handle. I hadn’t seen a smile on my son like that in forever. But he didn’t have to sell me though, I was smiling too.

She sold us.

We’re bringing home a German Shepherd pup next week, and we’re going to name her Juno. The kids think we are naming her that because we’re getting her in June, but there’s a little more to her moniker than that.
The meaning of Juno is rooted in the word, “youth.” At this juncture, I want so badly to protect my kids from a lot of the harsh “adult” things going on in their lives. I want their childhood to have memories of love and fun and happiness. I fear so much for the pain and sadness of this time to hurt them in the long run. I want them to remember their youth with joy and happy times and I know this dog will give them a little bit of that.
For those who know Greek mythology, Juno was the wife of Jupiter – the protectress of marriage and women. That’s how I knew her name was meant to be. I need her, too. I need some healing. I need to feel a little love around this house. Sure, I’ll have to shell out money for fancy dog food, get through some sleepless puppy nights, some poop on the floor and maybe some chewed up furniture. But I think the trouble she’ll cause will be worth the love she’ll share with this hurting family.

On the other hand, you might just see a divorced mother of four, alone and dragging a shepherd pup along a Kentucky highway soon. In that case, please feed us.

My blog was originally published here at Cincinnati Moms Blog.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hey Cancer, You Suck.

I'm having a flashback. It's a good one. It was an energetic night. There was drinking and dancing and way too much fun for 30-somethings to be having. My husband and I met friends out for dinner, but one thing led to another and we ended up dancing well past the bedtime assumed for parents of four kids. There were probably a lot of inappropriate jokes told. There was definitely reminiscing about nights before kids. And then there was someone who laughed so hard she peed her pants but still didn't want to leave.
I'm remembering that side-splitting fun - when the smile on your face hurts so bad but you can't stop laughing. The laugh lines I acquired that night were so worth it. We were normal.

We didn't know your name back then.

I walked in this same bar the other day to pick up a sushi carryout; but I left instead with a memory of fun times so thick and heavy I could literally taste the sugar off the rim of those blue martinis I drank that night.

I look around at these people here now. Normal people. I remember that. I remember Saturday nights when we were people who went into a restaurant and ate good food, people who drank beers and Long Island ice teas. We were the kind of people that are here now, who talked and laughed all night.Sitting there waiting for crab rangoon that I'd later eat alone, it hit me that we're not those people anymore and we never will be again. Almost two years ago, a big, royal jerk named Cancer sent us normal people packing.

Now we are sad people - angry people, depressed most days. We are people that do hospital stays, doctors appointments and chemo treatments. Feeding tube formulas and countless crushed up pills replace what once was a prime rib dinner with mashed potatoes and a Manhattan - his favorites. It's not hard to see, we are people that don't talk very much to each other, or we do so with tears in our eyes. We certainly don't laugh anymore. Fun is a concept buried far in the past.

My kids didn't know who you were. I hate you for making me have to explain it to them. I know they feel the weight of sadness in this house because of you - the fear and the doubt. Our kids, all under the delicate age of 10, feel the palpable sadness in this house each day. I am tired of telling them night after night that "daddy doesn't want to be sick," or "daddy wishes he could play with you." With terrible heartbreak, I listened to one of the twins tell the other she wishes she had her "old daddy" back.

I hate that I don't have the courage to tell them everything just yet. You'll probably force me to do that soon, though, I know.

Cancer, you took every last tear I had. I'm at a point where the sadness has turned to anger. I'm furious thinking of all the things you took from us. Laughter, happiness, time with our children - I can't tell you how many promises to our kids - Disneyworld, a camping trip out West, boat trips and future father/daughter dances to name a few - now all hang somewhere in a sad cloud of uncertainty.

While I'm at it, let's not forget to mention our intimacy. Oh, do I hate you for taking that one. (Mom, look away). I'm a mediocre mother, I can't cook to save my soul and I'm an OK cleaner, but the bedroom thing was one aspect of marriage I was damn good at. Sure, we spent many years at odds over stupid stuff (what newlywed wife DOESN'T nearly burn down the house with an accidental basement fire?) but we loved each other like crazy.

I saw two old people walking together the other day and I got so mad. There's yet another thing you are taking. The doctors have told us we probably won't have that. I won't get to grow old with that guy I met at the altar 15 years ago. We used to joke about how terribly we'd get along when we are old and wrinkly. I've told him how I'm really looking forward to having him grimace at me putting a bikini on 70-year-old saggy boobs. He joked about my being late everywhere. I laugh, "I'll probably be late to my own funeral."
He reassured me, "Don't worry, I'll get you there on time."

He used to have a sense of humor - a sarcastic, dry one - but funny as hell. But you took that, too.
I'm mad that the nurses and doctors who care for my husband only see a frail, sick man - who some days is so weak he can't get out of bed. They don't know the person we knew before Cancer came calling. They will never see the Chris Farley impressions, or the dance moves when the DJ plays Rob Base... the guy whose biggest quirk in life was pinching cold fingers.

I'm ticked at you Cancer, that you're killing a man who was once known to breaststroke the length of an Olympic-size pool in record time. His name still hangs on a plaque at the local swim club for a record no one has broken since 1988. I'm livid that you are crushing the spirit of a guy who could drive a tractor and bale hay like a farmer but on weekends could maneuver a speedboat practically blindfolded around Lake Cumberland. You have crippled that beautiful, blonde boy I used to know who could slalom ski like an X-games athlete and still tackle a diamond level course in the mountains of Breckenridge.

I'm angry that people who see him now won't know him for who he really is - the strong man who years ago kicked kidney failure to the curb and lived a healthy, active life for 20-some years with a transplanted kidney. He is the champion who held my hand through 12 hours of natural labor, encouraging me without fail until I gave birth to his firstborn son. They won't know the tears he cries now were once tears of joy when he held newborn twin daughters in his arms nearly eight years ago.

Cancer, you really suck.

Yes, I miss when we were normal people. I know he misses it too. But in this time of despair, we have found there are countless people who hope for us - because our hope is almost gone. We have school families who pray for us because there are days we have nothing to say to God. We have fellow moms and neighbors who help take our kids to practice or bring us soup. Those are the people who keep us alive - not the drugs or the painkillers.

They are the ones who help us in the fight to carry on for our children - children who still do normal things like ride bikes and play soccer, who laugh at burps and whine about homework and my crockpot dinners. And even though you have taken so much from us, I'm letting you know, Cancer, that you can't have these memories that are left. You can't have those awesome cocktail-soaked flashbacks of us out with friends. You'll never take my recollection of the night he first kissed me. You can't erase those moments of hilarity he had with his college roommates, when I first discovered I loved him. You can't steal the vision of his old smile or the sound of laughter so deep it's just snorts. You can't take away the picture of him wrestling with our kids on the living room floor or teaching them to swim. I'm keeping all those.

The only thing left I can give you is probably just my middle finger. I think that's what any normal person would give you.

This post was originally published 6/4/17 at