...from the fabulous Maria (and her equally fabulous husband, Drew):
...from the fabulous Maria (and her equally fabulous husband, Drew):
...Charmer Kurz broke our hearts three and a half years ago. Grace has huge paws to fill, but I hope she lives her life never knowing that. I do not know if I will ever love another dog as much as I loved Charmer, but I can tell you in the 36 hours that Grace has been home, a part of my heart that I worried might be closed opened up again.
So how did it all happen?
No, she is not one of Margarita's puppies, but Margarita and seeing my kids with her set something in motion. We decided to start casually looking for an "older" puppy or adolescent golden. With us, it will always be a golden. I started to contact breeders, seeing if they had any older dogs they were looking to sell. This is what happened with Charmer, a breeder had held her back for show and then an ear or a tooth or something was not just right so we got her at 10 months-old.
I posted on a few golden retriever message boards (some people are passionate about scrapbooking, some about golden retrievers) and someone sent me a link to a breeder in Virginia who was looking to place an older puppy. Named Grace.
This was the picture I found when I went to the breeder's website:
What's the line? "You had me at hello?"
I looked at that picture obsessively, e-mailing back and forth with the breeder. When we decided to start looking for another dog, I had told my friend Laura I was so excited to know that our next dog was out there, somewhere, and I was just waiting to open an email and see her. Two days later we drove down to meet Grace. This was a week ago.
She had a cowlick on her nose and big fluffy ears. She will be sandy in color, not as blonde as Charmer. They are two different dogs and that is good.
And yesterday, she came home.
She did not puke in the car, which endeared her to both of us immediately. To know Charmer was to love her, but to travel with her was not fun.
I got teary with some of my friend's references to Charmer. Especially this one:
She matches the hardwood floors exactly. Very camouflage:
And the kids? Oh the kids. I was a little worried about Charlie. New things can be hard for him. Clara just kind of rolls with it. But that little boy? He took to her immediately. "Race! Come here!" Because Charlie had just turned one when Charmer died, I had no idea how good it would feel to see your kids with a dog they knew was theirs. (I also think they both like having something to boss around).
Clara, attempting to read Grace a book. She didn't appreciate the literature.
The other great part is seeing Ken with her. There was one person in the world who loved Charmer more than I did, and that was Ken. He's a man who needs a dog. A golden.
Welcome home, Gracie.
...charlie was on his bike and clara on foot, hence more photos of the less-mobile child.
Telling a story about something:
Charlie would stop just so Clara could, "Give me a push!"
She also always wants to sit with her legs crossed and sometimes watching the effort it takes for her to cross them makes my heart hurt:
...a few months ago, I began the process of genetic screening. It was over almost before it started.
As I sat with a genetic counselor, it became clear that although there is a whole lot of cancer in my family history, there's no real pattern. There is breast cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, and now uterine cancer. But nothing showing a distinct genetic reason, which is what is needed for an insurance company to cover the $4,000 BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests (the tests that Angelina Jolie had done).
The best situation, the counselor explained to me, was to have my great-aunt Sally, my grandmother's only remaining sibling (and a breast cancer survivor) be tested for the gene. She went on to say that it's important for an older generation to get the test done so more members of the family can know if they are impacted (there are cousins I don't even know who if Aunt Sally tested positive for BRCA1 and BRCA2 could then get tested themselves). If I were to get the test, it would only be Clara and I who are impacted by the results.
My dear Aunt Sally, who hosted our family reunions in my childhood and braved frigid temperatures to come to my skating competitions and tell me how proud my grandmother would be of me, who is in her mid-90s, went for the test a few months ago.
And today we found out that all of the genetics tests came back negative.
I texted a few friends, who cheered. It was only Ken who said, "How does that make you feel?"
And this is what I said...
I know this is good news. I know it should feel like good news. I know I should be responding to texts and e-mails with words like, "Hallelujah!" and lots of exclamation points.
But if we had the gene. If we had the gene. If we had the gene, at least we could DO something about it. We could have a piece of paper, hold on to something concrete.
I know this might seem trite or insulting to those who have the gene. But you have to realize...not having the gene didn't keep my grandmother from getting breast cancer in her 40s, or my mom from getting cancer too. Environmental factors? Absolutely. Of the half-dozen cancer cases I discussed with the genetics counselor, most of them were at one point heavy smokers. Most likely they were exposed to asbestos at some point. But you can't look at a family tree, at my grandmother's five siblings, three of whom are dead from cancer and one from a heart attack, and not tell me that there's a genetic pre-disposition, somewhere, even if those environmental factors played a role too.
I am a very literal person. I like proof and evidence and truth. I like concrete things I can hold on to. I know I can eat right, I can exercise, I can get annual exams. But the truth? The truth is I am scared. The truth is I think about all the years I didn't get with my grandmother. I think about what my mom has lived through for the last three years. The truth is that not having the gene just makes me feel more like a ticking bomb than ever before.
My grandmother, Mary, and I circa 1980.
...let's pretend that we went to the beach this past weekend and I'm not more than a week late in getting this post up.
The last trip to the beach of the year is always beautiful. The crowds and the heat are gone. But it's bittersweet too.
Clara's first order of business when we arrive at the beach is always, always, always "Eat. Chips. Eat. Eat!"
Her first priority at the beach is never sleep, hence the dark circles under her eyes.
Charlie was really excited about a family picture. He suddenly lost all muscle tone in his body.
We took a trip to the kid's favorite park.
And yes, I wore my athletic shorts and sweatshirt the entire weekend. And no makeup. I did brush my teeth and hair.
I love this picture of the four of us. Charlie still prefers the "baby" swing even though his feet barely fit through the holes. Both kids love swinging. But I love this picture for another reason. You can kind of tell that Ken and I are talking to each other. I can remember exactly what we were talking about - something work-related. I love the conversations we have about work. He's one of my most trusted advisors. So glad my dad captured this and all of these pictures.
...If I could just be a blogger, I'd be a really good blogger.
If I could just scrapbook, I'd be a really good scrapbooker.
If I could just be a shopper, I'd be a really good shopper.
My pretty much favorite top of all time went on sale at Anthro this week.
If I could just be Clara's dance coach, she'd probably be on the Disney Channel already.
Move on over, Miley.
And if I could be a miracle worker and make my mom just feel better, I would be a miracle worker.
...we found out a few days ago that my childhood home is for sale.
My parents built the house in 1984 when we moved from Connecticut.
My brother and I nearly broke our necks climbing the trees and swinging from the vines in the woods.
I can still remember the feel of the wood paneling as I ran my hand across it running down the stairs. I remember scrubbing the front hall tiles as my chore and the heavy front door. I remember figuring out the rhythm of the front steps so they could be skipped just right. I remember getting a running start and sliding halfway across the hardwood floors in my slippered feet. And of course, there was the pink prom dress on the hill.
What makes it all weird for me is that, according to the pictures posted online, nothing (except for some landscaping and an added deck) has changed in the 12 years since my parents sold it. Not the 1980s peach carpet or the kitchen cabinets. Not the paint color or that tile I used to scrub. My basketball hoop is still in the driveway. It literally looks like my family just packed up its belongings and left. I feel like there's probably a pink sequin laying on a floor somewhere with my name on it.
And I can't trip down memory lane without a few awkward photos (because the pink prom dress photo isn't awkward at all).
And what's better than one awkward-clarinet-playing-photo?
(And yes, the plant behind me is threatening to eat me).
...we went to the ZOO.
Ha.We came home and took some photos on the front porch.
There's a reason we call you Curly, Curly.
What a difference a year makes:
We opened presents and had cupcakes. You were willing to share with everyone.
Ammy took our picture and I love it even though we're only in a third of the picture. It is us.
I don't think I could love you more than I do today, Clara Louise.
Today you are two. I just got home from the grocery store with donuts, broccoli and a Dora coloring book. Your three favorite things.
You rise in the morning asking for (in no certain order): Chawlie, Daddy, Maddie, and pictures. Some days you still take two naps (this is payback for the first 12 months of your life when you considered sleep optional). You finally tolerate the car as long as you have your lovey and titi (how “binky” became "titi" we do not know). You will eat just about anything, especially if it is covered in BBQ sauce, A1, Ranch, ketchup, or marinara sauce. You point to your bottom and say, “Poopy” when you’ve done just that. You say, “Ow, ow, ow,” the entire time your hair is getting brushed. And your hair. You have ringlet curls. When wet, it is halfway down your back, but it springs right back up. It’s the thing strangers compliment us most on about you (and your bright blue eyes). Most days you cry if we have to leave you with a sitter. Or if we leave the room. You are still pretty attached to momma and start most of your requests with just that. “MOMMA!” By far, “No,” is your favorite word. “Clara, can I give you a million dollars?” I ask. “NO!” you say. My favorite thing you say is “Daddy’s truuuuuck,” which you love to ride in. You still have an umbilical hernia and suffer from frequent ear infections, both things that will most likely require surgery this year. You are learning and constantly testing boundaries and sharing with your sensitive brother Charlie. Hearing the two of you laugh together is easily my favorite sound in the entire world. You can be exhausting. But to know you, to be around you, is to love you. Your whole face smiles. You want to do everything independently, including the things you shouldn’t like walking in the parking lot without holding a hand. You do not have a lot of fear. I just hope I am always there to catch you. You adore dogs and music, the pool and the beach, your family. You run and don’t walk. You gallop and wiggle. You like writing lists, preferably on lists that I’ve already written. “Touch it?” you ask when it’s something you know you can’t have. "Come here," you say when grabbing my pinky, my thumb, my shirt, to get me to come with you. “I do it,” we hear a lot. You are kind to your friends and teachers at school. You go to bed happy, talking yourself to sleep after requesting a little back scratch. “I nov you,” you say as we close the door behind us and let out a sigh. We nov you too, Clara Louise.
...we are back from almost a week and a half at my parent's house at the beach. I'd call it a vacation, but anyone with small kids, or who has had small kids, or spent any time around small kids, knows there needs to be a different term for, "vacation" when describing leaving your house for an extended period with an almost-two and and four year old.
And the two year old decided halfway through the trip that 4 a.m. was an appropriate wake up time.
Good thing she's cute. Really cute.
We went to the pool, the fountains, the park, the boardwalk, the bookstore. We carried 30 pounds of supplies for two hours at the beach. We ate french fries and quesadillas in an old train converted into a restaurant (random) and lots of blue "ice cream."
We picked peaches.
The blonde is not my third child, but, "Big Clara" as Charlie called her. My friend's daughter, Claire, joined us for a week. There were several looks of confusion on the beach as people thought I had two daughters named Clara. What can I say? It's a good name.
We rode bikes and watched movies. Alottamovies. Charlie made a move on Claire in the theater, holding her hand for a solid 45 minutes.
We played trains and practiced our scowl. I think she looks like Sam the Eagle from the Muppets when she makes this face.
We visited with family (that's Clara, just with a ponytail). Holding the kids is my cousin Patrick, who was petrified of the children as infants, but fortunately they are now at a stage where he can't break them.
We had a family yard sale. Sorry if you are a yard saler, but man, they are crazy. People started showing up at 6:30 and I did the majority of my sales before 8 a.m. (when the whole thing was supposed to start). My favorite part besides the interesting clientele? Charlie saying, "I need to get sumpin" and shopping out of his own toys.
We had several early-morning trips to Dunkin Donuts and a few late-night trips to Starbucks. You know your kids are up too early when you are googling how early DD opens.
On the way home, Charlie and I went to see Disney Junior Live (Pirates! Princesses! I wore my gold doubloon earrings!)
He was petrified at first. My Charlie. He was SO excited at the idea of this but that dark, loud theater? There might be monsters in there. You know, as he was clinging to me for dear life, I thought, this is actually logical. It is scary. And I rolled with it. We stepped in cautiously, his hands firmly placed over his ears and sat in the very back, working our way up to our seats close to the stage. And in the end? Mesmerized.
And my favorite picture from the trip: