Don’t Open The Brown Paper Bag Next To The Ice Cream

187f3776-4747-421f-b7b6-2ff156d465b2_400[1]“You’ll take care of the body?” she asked gently.

“It’s going next to the ice cream in the freezer,” I told her.

She chuckled.

I had thought about putting our cat Angel in the shed until the ground thawed out. But that seemed insensitive and physically too far away until she was put to rest in our backyard. Of course, I could have had him cremated. But I didn’t want to. Yes, cost was part of it though I didn’t even look up how much it was. More than that, it seemed weird to have one animal cremated and not the rest.

Yes, we have a few animals buried in our yard. I should ask for a discount from MN Pets – our go-to place for euthanizing an animal in our home. They do such a good job at it. Angel will make it one dog, four cats. MN Pets sends us a Christmas card each year.

With Angel’s departure we are now at our city’s limit for how many animals residents can legally have — five total. We have two four-legged cats, one three-legged cat and two dogs.

Though I did tell Buddy, our dog, that if he wasn’t careful, I’d make it a twofer. The vet wasn’t sure what to make of my joking.

She didn’t know that we had been waiting for Angel to die for a long, long time. He was the energizer cat that went and went and went for 18 years. I’ve never had a pet that lived that long.

Angel was my buddy. He’d meet me at the door when I came home from work and come sit with me every morning. He was MY cat.

R.I.P. Angel

R.I.P. Angel

He was also the reason we had so many cat brushes around. That was our time together. I told Angel, that I would know it was his time when the day came that he didn’t want me to brush him. And, sadly, that day did come.

I made an appointment with MN Pets for a Monday so all of us could have the weekend with Angel. I quickly changed it to Saturday when it became clear that waiting for Monday wasn’t the loving thing to do.

Angel isn’t the first animal I’ve kept in the freezer until the ground thawed. And, he may not be the last. What else do you do in Minnesota when a pet dies in the winter? Thankfully, we have small dogs. A German Shepard or full grown lab would take up too much room.

Having the cat in the freezer is working out okay. It just freaks out Antonio and Crystel’s friends when they tell them not to open up the paper bag next to the ice cream.

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Bam! Another one off the bucket list.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany, many years ago I heard a person say, “Do what you want to do if it is neither illegal nor dangerous.” I embodied that message, and for me, a dog show falls in that category. I’ve always wanted to go to one. I don’t know why. This was one of those wants that wasn’t a high priority but was always there niggling in the back of my head.

A dog show falls into, “Oh, that’s different” category. I mean, who goes to dog shows? Exactly.

When a family has so many options for weekend activities, a dog show could end up being too piddling of a niggle to ever come to fruition.

The funniest dog show our family has ever stumbled on was years ago at the Minnesota State Fair when we chanced upon an agility contest in the round barn. Agility is the ultimate game for a dog and its handler. I’ve always hoped that lucky accident would repeat itself, but it never happened again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJody has been interested in participating in dog agility shows. But, the closest we have come to being a contender is Jody teaching the dog to roll over and to shake hands. All my research shows that this does not make us a contender.

As you can tell already the ‘dog show sport’ only interests me as an observer and if I was ever going to get to a dog show, I would need to be purposeful.

In the Sunday paper I saw the advertisement: Land O’Lakes Kennel Club presents its annual dog show at Saint Paul RiverCentre from Friday – Sunday, January 3-5.

I could take care of a niggling want once and for all!

More than 2,000 purebred canines – from big to small, hunting to herding, working and terrier, and even lap dogs – would compete for American Kennel Club (AKC) awards.

It sounded exciting. I probed the Internet to see if I could find the schedule so the day could actually be a planned outing.

A schedule was not to be found.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStill, I planned, I even dealt in a little subterfuge with Jody, and we kept our outing from Antonio and Crystel until we were on our way to St. Paul. The only thing they could get out of me was that it was spelled d. o. g.

Now that the event is over, I need to tell you that the excitement was not the dog show itself but our clandestine approach to the event, the traveling in the car to St. Paul, parking in the RiverCentre parking ramp, and cartwheeling our way to the show.

A dog show is one of those things that you don’t have to do again. I kept wanting a bit more. But, a bit more was not to be had. You could say that it was all fluff and prettiness. None of the dirt and grit that I love.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat was most interesting about the dog show is that I saw two other writers who were checking out the show. That’s who go to dog shows? Writers? I made the most of it and introduced  my family to Stephanie Wilbur Ash and Geoff Herbach. Every opportunity I have I point out to Antonio and Crystel that real people write books. “Can you believe it,” I said, “You are standing next to I’M WITH STUPID and STUPID FAST?”

This year, if your want isn’t illegal or dangerous, go for it! Just make sure you enjoy the ride. That might be your take-away.

Truth Telling

Truth: Antonio doesn’t know that Crystel is providing rabbit ears. Truth: They love each other and are best friends.

I am adding an extra post this week and skewing a bit off the Guatemalan trail and onto the mommy track. I will be back online with another post on our Guatemala trip in a couple of weeks.

Truth Telling

I had been waiting for the right time to broach the subject with the children. I thought this was it: Sunday morning, quiet, not a lot going on yet, and we were all together. That’s another way of saying that I had them captive at the breakfast table. Antonio was reaching for more bacon, Jody was buttering her toast, and Crystel was eating her cereal.

I went to the livingroom and grabbed the book, My Two Moms, by Zach Wahls.

Sitting down, I flashed the cover. The front showed a young man in a suit jacket and tie being kissed on the cheeks by two women. This book wasn’t new to them. I had been reading the library book the past two weeks and it had sat around the house in plain view. One evening Antonio asked me what it was about. “This guy has two moms just like you,” I said. “He also has a sister. I am reading what it was like for him growing up. He’s in college now.”

There were a couple of things I read that surprised me. One was disturbing. I told Jody about it while we were walking the dogs. Zach said he felt bad that sometimes he lied about his home life when he was growing up. He wasn’t always truthful in responding to other children when they asked about his father (artificial insemination) or his family. This started when he was about the same age that Antonio and Crystel are now.

I was surprised to know that Antonio and Crystel might already be getting awkward questions. And if they are like Zach Wahls, they might already be making up answers. I told Jody that I didn’t ever want our kids to feel bad about being less than truthful about their personal stories. Children have enough weight to carry on their short little shoulders. I think it’s unrealistic to expect children to say, “I don’t choose to answer that question. My story is my personal story.” Sometimes it is easier for children to lie and that is the route they go.

Certainly that was the route I took when Antonio and Crystel first came home, as infants, even though I hold honesty in high regard. I got a lot of questions while standing in checkout lines. The most frequent was, “Are they twins?” At first, I answered with the truth and nothing but the truth. “No they are six weeks apart”. The truth didn’t feel right. It was incomplete and not acknowledging their bond as brother and sister. So I added, “They have been together since they were born.” I’d look at these two infants in their stroller shake my head and wonder what they were making of my conversation. I’d chastise myself for giving too much information. Information the children didn’t even have yet. I was afraid that I had a grace period to get the answers down before the children understood what I was saying. Sometimes I would just say, “Yes, they’re twins.” Neither answer was comfortable.

Since I had trouble responding to even the most basic inquiry, I didn’t hold any illusion that Antonio and Crystel could negotiate every question that came their way as grade-schoolers. Sometimes the questions weren’t so simple. One time, while bagging our groceries, I was asked, “How much do they cost?” They were referring to the toddlers and not the milk and eggs.

On our walk I let Jody know that this was a discussion I meant to have with Antonio and Crystel. It wasn’t a complete surprise to her when I came back to the table with the book.

“I want to talk to you guys about something,” I said. “You know this book? This is about a guy just like you who had two moms. He wrote about what it was like for him growing up. He said he felt bad when sometimes he would lie about his family.”

Crystel turned away from me, waving her hands, “Why do we always have to talk about this . . . ” she started.

I stopped her, “No, this is important.” The children know how I feel about them being honest. I think she was expecting that I was going to tell her and Antonio that no matter what, I never want them to lie, even if it is uncomfortable, even if it is intrusive, even if they don’t want to answer.

“If someone ever asks you about your personal story and you don’t want to talk about it, and you lie, that’s okay. I don’t want you to ever feel bad about that. You love your moms, we love you, and that is all that counts. When it comes to your story, it is your story. Don’t ever feel bad about not being truthful. We know you love us. We love you.”

Finished, I got up and put the book back on the shelf. Sitting down, we continued on with breakfast.