Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween runs like clockwork

I'm about to disappear for a month.  I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year so if I'm in front of a computer, I'd better be working on the burgeoning Paris book.  The Paris book has been years in the making, written in fits and starts as inspiration strikes. It hasn't worked out so well in the productivity sense so it's time to f*ck inspiration and just hammer the thing out, like birthing a calf but hopefully with less slime.

That should be NaNoWriMo's new slogan:  F*ck inspiration, just hammer it out like birthing a calf.

Before I head off to dominate the month of November, a month that will undoubtedly involve seedy hotels and dark smoky bars and intermittent acid trips (it's possible I'm getting my information on how to be a good writer from the Wikipedia pages of my favorite authors), I'm going to leave this blog on a Halloween party note.

The preparations for our Halloween party become more streamlined every year. This year was the easiest because we hired a caterer. I should hire a caterer for my daily life.  I would like to come downstairs in the morning to find my toast artfully displayed on the table with an array of topping choices.  Plus caterers constantly re-warm everything; my scrambled eggs would never get cold.

The caterer was helpful in that she made food people actually wanted to eat.  I made the disgusting stuff nobody touches, per my usual, and yet my guests did not go hungry. Teamwork.

I made the brain bleed this year

As for the rest of the party, well, the caterer wasn't the only person to make things run like clockwork --

mercy, it's a Clockwork Orange

This year, Halloween was personal.  A Clockwork Orange is the only novel I've read that's made me physically ill.  I read it in college while sitting in a coffee shop. I was drinking a cafe mocha on a rainy Sunday morning, legs up on the chair across from me, stretched out all lazy-like.  All in all, a pretty cozy scene.  

But when I reached the myriad of "ultraviolence" scenes perpetrated by The Droogs early in the story,  I no longer felt cozy.  I felt horrified by the world and its occupants.  The disgust was so overwhelming, I ran to the bathroom and got sick.  I had never been nauseated by words before -- kudos on the powerfully written fiction there, Anthony Burgess.

Thanks to Burgess and his words I still can't catch a whiff of cafe mocha without feeling a pressing need to hurl.*

*It is not lost on me that my aversion to cafe mocha is a type of classical conditioning, similar to what Alex DeLarge undergoes in the novel to be rid of his violent tendencies. But I swear that is where the similarities between us end.

For whatever reason, Alex DeLarge was the first thing that popped into mind when considering a Halloween costume this year.  I enlisted some friends, told them this year it was personal, that I needed their help to exorcise this literary demon from my soul.

I'm glad I have friends loyal enough to follow me down this freaky rabbit hole.  We horrified many partygoers who shrank from us and hid in corners covering their faces.  Looks like I'm not the only person who has a visceral reaction to A Clockwork Orange.

It's also possible I have now classically conditioned some of my friends to have an aversion to me.

The tarot card/crystal ball reader returned this year.  My crystal ball reading involved delving into past lives, two of which appeared.  In the first life I was a swindler who was killed by an angry mob outside a castle.

The psychic reader said past lives only show up in readings to teach us something.  He said my past life was trying to tell me to remain honest and true to myself but that's not the lesson I took away from it; my takeaway was don't swindle, it won't end well, people will beat you.

My second past life was a dud.  He just kind of sat there, didn't do much of interest.  The psychic reader couldn't figure out what to do with him so I said, "Hey, what are you trying to tell me, past life?  Not to be boring?"  I love making funny jokes during psychic readings.

Halloween is the one party of the year where we parents get buckwild and stay up way past midnight. Alex and I awoke the next morning to a house that no longer looked like ours.  It looked like a trash heap.  It smelled like beer.  Several of my Halloween decorations were broken and all of the disposable cameras had been used to the fullest.  I'm cringing thinking about getting them developed.  Good Lord, think of all the butt shots.

Brady and a deflated football ha ha ha

the pumpkin must have read A Clockwork Orange too

We host the Parents Gone Wild edition of Halloween every year; our friends host the family-friendlier pumpkin carving party.  Both events are happily anticipated.  The parents like getting buckwild and the kids like flinging pumpkin guts at each other.

The Loosh carving with the besties he's known since he was a babe.  
They're more siblings than friends the way these kids bicker.

I loved the pumpkin carving party this year because I pilfered some handmade tamales and carried them home in my purse to eat later.  Is that considered swindling?  Because if it is, I am not doing a good job of learning from my past life.

in my defense, tamales are delicious

We got some rough news from the vet recently.  The writing's on the wall regarding our sweet old schnauzer, Oscar.  He's struggling, is already deaf and rapidly going blind.  He falls often and has a hard time standing back up when he does.  But sometimes we catch him running across the yard with his tail wagging.  Sometimes he still cozies up to us and licks our hands.

While it may not be "time" just yet, it's definitely time for us to give him a lot of love, and begin saying our goodbyes, and feed him lots and lots of his favorite thing in the world, grilled salmon.  It's all yours buddy, all the salmon, take it.

The ode I wrote to Oscar several years ago is here.

We love you, old man.  You've been a good, good dog for 14 years.
We'll send you off properly, promise.  

I'm off to hug my crabby old dog then WriMo the hell out of November.
Let's birth that calf.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I'm just too young

She's Back
I don't have much time to chat; I'm knee deep in Halloween party preparations.  That's a literal statement because I currently have my stockpile of Halloween decorations stacked in the entryway.

Our house is usually thoroughly decorated by the 1st of October but it's taking me longer to organize this year because of life and its numerous commitments and stresses. We therefore shuffle through scattered severed fingers and fake spider webs in the hall the way one would shuffle through crisp brightly-colored Autumn leaves on a park trail.

I've realized I can no longer decorate the outside of my house for Halloween, which has deflated my enthusiasm somewhat.  Last week I placed fake tombstones in their usual location in the yard but returned thirty seconds later to find my gleeful desert mutt Natani chewing through them with rapturous joy. It was a welcome present from the mommy to her dog child and she thanked me for it with many styrofoam-laden kisses.

My dog trainer comes frequently so, believe it or not, things are calming slightly on the dog front. My dog trainer is so intimidating that when she tells Natani to "sit" our whole family sits.  I've never seen her smile.  She told me once I'm being "a pushover, a total pansy" when it comes to the dog.  It's true but it hurt my feelings all the same.

There has not been a dull moment with this dog since the kids and I grabbed her out of the desert. For instance, she likes to chase bees but the recent day she finally caught one was the day we realized she has a serious bee allergy.  Her face puffed, her skin turned red, her eyes swelled, she gave up on life  --

her face is not supposed to look like that
but congrats, dog, you finally caught one of the little f*ckers

A dose of vet-directed Benadryl knocked her out cold but she still scratched at her face constantly in her sleep --

She recovered and has gone back to chasing bees.  Dogs can be stupid.

We've done quite a bit of hiking this fall.  We went to Mount Rainier with some friends and rented a cozy cabin with a fireplace, a dart board, and a hot tub.  Add a few bottles of wine, as we most assuredly did, and you have a recipe for either fun or tragedy.  Ours went the "fun" route but that was pure luck.

Mount Rainier is one of my favorite places to hike because I dislike "tree hiking." After five minutes of walking through trees, trees, more trees, I'm bored out of my mind.  I would rather hike through a parking lot because at least you won't get your boots muddy AND you can play the license plate game.

But Mount Rainier offers wide-open trails and subsequent wide-open views of the volcano towering above.  I will never tire of hiking there because it often looks like this --

However, when it's socked in by clouds, you get something more like this --

We did the fireman carry with Lucien when he got grumpy
which was often
because he did not believe we were on a volcano

Smile, son, I swear it's right behind us

We are lucky Mount Rainier is only a couple hours away.  We will return when weather conditions are more favorable and less likely to tick off the children.

Coco turned 6 and chose to have her birthday party at the gymnastics academy.  She paired her favorite sparkly blue gymnastics leotard with pink fringed Minnetonka boots.  I have always thought gymnastics paired well with cultural appropriation and am thrilled to discover she feels the same.

that's my girl

I can get mushy here and discuss the rapid growth of my children and how it both delights and depresses me.  Coco's age is mystifying; her current argumentative attitude suggests a much older person yet her huggable adorable self reminds me of the baby she once was.  I want to both reprimand her for sassing me and squeeze her face while babbling baby talk.  Sometimes I vacillate rapidly between the two;  it's a confusing time for both of us.

My feelings for Lucien are no different.  He holds my hand less frequently now and has begun rolling his damn eyes at his parents, how dare he!  He also now wears the same size shoe as me.  I don't want him to grow up, don't want him to stop cuddling with me on the couch, don't want him to leave me, ever, yet I can't wait for him to grow out of his current rain boots because they're cool and mine have recently sprung a leak.

Children aside, I also recently had dinner with President Barack Obama.

I attended a fundraiser for Senator Patty Murray and President Obama was the "special guest."  We have supported Patty Murray for years with our votes but we attended her fundraiser to see and hear the President.  She probably understood he was the bigger draw and didn't take offense.

If your politics differ, I hope you can still feel happy for me -- I'm a diehard liberal and a fangirl when it comes to Obama.  My besties feel much the same. We texted each other pictures of our possible wardrobe selections for the event beforehand and voted on each others options.  We've never done that before.

I ended up at the nurse's union table because my friends are affiliated.  I am not a nurse.  It's a long story how I wound up in that chair but they welcomed me with open arms and I'm filled with gratitude for the opportunity to join them for the event.

One of the women at the table was introduced as "the bookeeper" but I heard "the goalkeeper" and then imagined people in the nurse's union fighting each other in grueling sports matches during their lunch breaks.  I bet I'm not wrong!

Obama was great, though for me it's unlikely he'd be anything else.  We all know he's an incredible orator.  He was inspiring.  He was funny.  He also looks tired.  I do not envy him his job, what a thankless tedious thing it is.

We rushed forward and tried to shake his hand as he left the room.  "The goalkeeper" at our table scored a handshake but we all missed.  That's OK, I'm not sure I wanted the Secret Service guys looking at me like that.  Their jobs are also tough.

Alex and I are still shopping for an RV.  We can't decide on the model.  We want something small, super compact, yet able to sleep four people.  It's harder than we imagined.  There is nothing that's perfect, nothing that checks all the boxes, and as of now we can't agree on which boxes can remain unchecked.

In the meantime we will continue to attend RV shows and shrug at each other.  The kids will continue to get bored and say things like, "Oh my God, another RV show?"  It's a huge purchase and we will not commit until we are sure so just relax, kids.

This one's amazing but it's four feet longer than I'm willing to go 
since I'll be maneuvering it by myself much of the time around the Western U.S. 
Help me.  

I volunteered for a 4th Grade field trip yesterday.  It was an all-day field trip to a corn maze an hour outside of Seattle grown in the shape of Washington State.  The paths through it are the highways of Washington, marked with street signs and all, and there are landmarks built within with placards detailing the stories of Washington's towns, tribes, and significant events.  In theory, it's cool.

But when you're in charge of a group of 4th graders whose job it is to navigate the Washington State map you're given and told to find six towns/landmarks and answer questions about those very things before you can leave the maze, it becomes torturous.  The worst part was chaperones were not allowed to intervene.  If the kids made a wrong decision in their navigation, we had to let them make it.

That worked fine for the first couple sights because it was in the name of education and autonomy and skill-building.  I was able to hold my tongue.  But an hour in with four sights left to find, shit got real.  I'm only slightly ashamed to say I yelled, "WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU GO NORTH ON I-5 WHEN WE'RE TRYING TO GET TO OLYMPIA?"  because we'd been in there a long time and I was getting hungry.

I may not be the most mature chaperone but they have to love me anyway because I volunteer to go on all these damn things.

I blew off some steam that evening after the field trip by attending a concert by one of my favorite bands, Beirut.  I was tired, though, so didn't fight my way to the front.  Instead Al and I chose a wall we could sit against until the band took the stage, and when they appeared we could stand up but lean heavily against it when necessary to keep us upright.

Anyone surprised I love this band?  They're from Santa Fe with a heavy mariachi influence.

Sign me up, Santa Fe.  Indeed.

I'm off to finally Halloween the crap out of my house,

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Renounce your foreign princes

Our summer was nearly neverending because our teachers went on strike.  They were on strike for good reasons and we supported them -- go teachers, get 'er done, we love you, etc. etc. -- but what was coming out of my lips did not necessarily match what was happening in my head.  My head was more "please school now please school now please school."

After an extra week of summer, the strike was settled.  My kids are now happily back in the classroom and I feel like revisiting some significant summer happenings.  Don't worry, I'm finished talking about the road trip. The dog story was the climax of that tale.

Speaking of Natani, let's play a game.  It's called "Find the Dog" --

She truly believes I cannot see her under there.
She goes there when she's done something awful, which is often.
She is wide-eyed and surprised when I "find" her.
She thinks I am a Magic Lady.

The kids took more swim lessons over the summer, which was exciting because I got unexpected beer --

The best part of this photo is not the beer
It's the yellow frog pool float in the background
screaming its silent panicked frog scream

Our swim teacher holds swim lessons in private backyard pools all over the city.  There aren't many private pools in Seattle so you usually end up in the backyard of a very wealthy person. This particular wealthy person was the first we've encountered to offer beer to the parents.  In his world, swim lesson time = party time.

In other big news, Alex is now an American citizen. 

Rejoice, Americans, he's all ours.

The U.S. Naturalization ceremony is solemn and emotional because there are newly naturalized Americans crying all over the place.  Many people fight hard to get here and stay here. To them, the day they become a United States citizen is the culmination of a long-pursued dream.  It's beautiful to witness.

But to our family, it's more a technicality than a life-changing event. Alex has lived and worked here legally for over 15 years.  The official American status wasn't going to change much in our daily lives.  Plus Alex is Canadian, which is already like being American only less aggressive.

Our more relaxed approach to citizenship allowed us to sit back and embrace the humor of the event. Alex raised his eyebrows at me when part of the pledge asked the new Americans to renounce their allegiance to "foreign princes."  We also made the newbies promise to take up arms and fight for their new country if necessary.  I enjoyed picturing the 92-year old Ukrainian woman, who could not stand without the help of an aide, holding a machine gun.  Maybe she can at least toss a grenade or two.

U.S.A.!  U.S.A.!

That's Alex, second row back near the column,
pissing off Canadian Princes by renouncing them

We had an AMERICA! themed dinner celebration that night with some friends.  They brought Alex American-themed presents like a pair of American flag flip-flops and a six-pack of Bud Light.  We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, made mac-n-cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, potato salad, apple pie.  I even suspended fruit in jello -- that's being a true American -- and sent everyone home with a Hostess Ding Dong party favor.

Welcome to my country, Alex.  Our food is not healthy but our hearts are full of love.

Alex and I spent a weekend solo in Portland for the MusicFest Northwest music festival.  Portland is lovable in a pretentious hipster kind of way. One young woman brought a bag of knitting to The Helio Sequence show and knit through the entire set.  Another woman seated next to me at the Beirut show wore a prairie style dress complete with casually askew tied bonnet.

One woman stopped me as I walked past to tell me she loved the fabric of my shorts.  I said "thanks" and she said, "Did you make them?" I replied "Nope, I can't sew, I bought them" and immediately lost her respect.  Her mouth turned down a little and she turned away from me without another word. Only in Portland is the default -- and the preferable -- that you made your clothes instead of buying them.

The next time someone told me they loved my shorts (they are unarguably amazing shorts with a teal and orange Birds of Paradise pattern) I didn't wait for her to ask, just immediately said I made them.  The woman brightened and said, "Well yeah, sure, right on."  I'm a fast learner, you see.

I also told them I wove my own hat
out of vegan straw
on a loom used by my great grandmother
who was gluten-free before it was cool
and was a fan of that one band before they went mainstream

I convinced Alex to stand in front of the stage for over an hour to secure a front row position for The Tallest Man on Earth.  It was Alex's first time in "The Front" at a music festival and he soon discovered how tense it can be as people jockeyed and jostled into position.  People were so nasty standing in front of that stage, I'm starting to think the "making-your-own-clothes" and coy Laura Ingalls get-ups are brilliant covers for how brutal those Portland people truly are.

Alex, despite his claustrophobia and general disinterest in music festivals, was a trooper.  He held his ground and we threw elbows together, beating rabid Portlanders back until The Tallest Man on Earth took the stage.  We were so close to him we could look straight up his nose.  He played the best set of the weekend so it was worth the hassle and general snottiness of our fellow concert goers.

Speaking of rabid and out of control people, our annual "last hurrah of summer " weekend happened again on Guemes Island with the usual suspects.  We were 20 people in all, tents pitched on the beachfront lawn of a friend's property, refrigerator stocked, coolers full.  We were all set for relaxation and easy living. Nature, however, had other plans.

Our annual hike up Mount Guemes began nicely enough.  We saw the dark clouds approaching when we reached the top -- word on the island was a windstorm was headed our way -- so began our descent very soon after our ascent.

that sky looks all kinds of pissed off

Almost immediately, the trees towering above began swaying like drunkards on a dance floor.  The sounds of creaking wood and breaking branches from a hundred feet up are not welcome when you're on a heavily forested trail, trust it.

I was hustling down the trail with Seattle Mom and Seattle Mom 2 when we heard a loud *crack* overhead.  Seattle Mom and I took a leap backwards, Seattle Mom 2 a leap forwards just in time -- a large branch from way up yonder crashed onto the path between us.  We stood in shocked silence for a beat until Seattle Mom yelled "Let's get the f*ck out of here" and we began to run.

Our group had spread out on the mile-long path on the way down.  No one knew for certain where their kids were, or where anyone was for that matter.  We just yelled through the forest to MOVE IT, PEOPLE, MOVE IT and hoped like hell everyone hustled.  The relief was palpable when the last kid, the last Dad, the last Mom tumbled out of the forest onto the road below.  We were still in danger but at least we were in danger all huddled together in one big wide-eyed group.

We funneled everyone into cars and took off for our cabin.  We didn't make it more than a couple hundred feet before we encountered a giant tree down across the road.  We then gunned our caravan of cars in the opposite direction and sh*t -- another tree down, this time lying on what appeared to be a power line.

It's interesting to see how people you love respond in a crisis.  Some get anxious and frantic, some get quiet and focused, some get deer-in-the-headlights, some rock themselves quietly in corners and talk to themselves, some get pissed off, some decide it's hilarious and an opportunity to party (I'm looking at you there, Seattle Dad).

No matter our instinctive reactions, we all pulled our sh*t together enough to convince the kids "everything's fine! So fun and exciting!" and eventually made it around the downed tree on the power line (some locals coming from the other direction threw rocks at it, touched it, licked it, whatever their machismo directed them to do to determine there was no power, then nudged the tree slightly out of the way with their pick-up truck) only to get stuck farther down the road by yet another big downed tree.

We surrendered and decided to park on the road near the water -- no trees, for the love of god, no trees -- to wait for help to arrive.  It was a relief to be away from those wildly swaying death bombs but only slightly more relaxing to be fully exposed to the windstorm.  It rocked our cars hard; I passed the time trying to guess which friend would tip over first.

I'm betting on you, Seattle Dad

One Mom stayed back at camp that morning because she wasn't feeling well.  She wanted a nice quiet leisurely morning, a hot shower, a nap in an attempt to cure herself of her ills. WELL TOO BAD, SEATTLE MOM.

We instead got text after text from her saying our tents had collapsed and were blowing down the beach and she was trying her best to keep them in the area by throwing lawn chairs on top of them. The situation was dire and she was in need of backup.  We explained the tree situation, told her to do her best, that we understood if she couldn't save everything, and mentally prepared ourselves for the loss of all our stuff.

She sent this photo and said, "Guys, this is happening right now!"
And we were like, "that is actually kind of hilarious."

Eventually the island emergency crews arrived with chainsaws and bulldozers and got to work on the trees.  Our tents were no longer where we left them when we got back to camp but they hadn't wandered too far away. Our family's tent had blown into a thorny bush. The resulting bent poles and giant holes ripped in the sides rendered it useless forevermore but at least we were reunited with the stuff inside.  We thought we'd lost you forever, favorite camping lantern.

The brutal winds continued for hours. We dragged the remains of the tents into the garage.

(Fun fact: Al, Lucien, Coco and I slept on top of all that stuff in the garage that night.  
There was nowhere else for us to go.)

Then we sat on the back porch of the cottage, drank margaritas, hugged each other and watched a speedboat anchored offshore capsize.  You can't take your eyes off a capsizing boat, it's pathetic yet majestic as it tips bow-up, then slides slowly down into the water.

The winds eventually died down.  The sunset was amazing.  We were happy to be together.

All 20 concur; this was not our most relaxing weekend together.  
But it was perhaps one of the more memorable. 

We'll see you next year, Guemes Island.  
Please don't pull that crap again.

I forgot to mention something earlier about Alex's swearing-in naturalization ceremony day.  Coco went to a Jump Start program for Kindergarten that morning so couldn't attend the ceremony with us. Alex kissed her goodbye as she headed out the door and said, "Good luck at Jump Start, Coco" and she replied, solemnly, both hands on his shoulders, "Good luck being American, Daddy".

Speaking of which...
I'm sorry I ate one of your American Flag flip-flops, Human Dad.
I'm glad you can't see me.

Neverending summer has finally ended,

Friday, August 21, 2015

Natani the Navajo Dog

I was reluctant to leave the state of New Mexico even when given three other solid options at Four Corners National Monument.

Nearly three weeks in, the Annual Mother/Children Road Trip was drawing to a close.  It was time to head towards home where "real life" impatiently awaited with crossed arms and tapping foot. Can't escape it forever, though I sure would like to try.

perhaps if we hide out in one of the cliff-dwelling abodes
at Bandelier National Monument...

Alex flew back to Seattle after our week together in Santa Fe/Taos and the kids and I jumped back into our trusty duct-taped car.  We pointed the vehicle just slightly north because let's not be too hasty.

The first planned stop on the drive towards Seattle was a sunrise visit to Monument Valley on the Navajo reservation.  We awoke at our hotel at 5:30 am and were soon thereafter on the long, empty road headed towards the entrance.  The road to Monument Valley at dawn is well worth the early wake-up call, the several cups of crappy hotel coffee and the hours worth of yawns to follow from all parties involved.

It's peace in your face

I missed the entrance road a couple times thanks to the sun rising in my eyes.  When I finally turned onto it, and exclaimed at the magnificent landscape rising all around us, I spotted something in the middle of the road.  I slowed down, assuming it was a coyote and feeling excited for the nature we were about to experience.  But as we drew closer, I realized it wasn't a coyote.  It was a lot smaller.  It was more of a.....more of a...... it was a puppy, a stupid little puppy in the middle of the road running straight at our car.

I pulled over to the side of the road and got out to scold the puppy. "You stupid puppy!" I said.  "Get out of the middle of the road before you get hit by a tired person driving a car! Now go find your people!"  I picked her up and carried her to the side of the road where I made emphatic shoo-ing motions with my hands then turned back towards the car. She pounced, wrapped her paws around my ankle and began biting it, tail wagging.  She was very happy to spend some quality time with me.

I shook her off my leg, picked her up again and released her further into the brush.  I then jogged back to the car but when I opened the driver's door to climb back in, I looked down to see her face staring up at me.  She'd caught me.  Her long tail wagged like a windshield wiper in a very heavy rain.

I ignored my children's delighted cries.  I told them I was going to start driving and hopefully the puppy would get out from under the tires and run back to find her people.  I rolled slowly and she darted away.  As the car picked up speed and the kids assured me she was well away from the wheels, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I did not want to deal with a dog, I only wanted to drive my kids through Monument Valley at sunrise.  That was the plan.  I like plans.

I picked up speed but a nagging feeling compelled me to look in the rearview mirror.  And there she was -- running after us as hard as her little legs could carry her, tongue hanging out of her mouth, eyes fixed on our retreating vehicle with a desperate wildness.

"Mom!  Mom!  Stop!" began the hysterical cries in the backseat.  She'd been chasing us for over a quarter of a mile when I surrendered.  She needed help and she'd chosen us to give it.  F*ck.  I took my foot off the gas and put it on the brake, hard.

I chucked the puppy into the car.  She immediately fell asleep in Lucien's lap.

She was bone thin, no collar, and quite dehydrated judging by the dullness of her eyes and the cracked dryness of her nose and mouth.  But I still told the kids, "OK, we're going to help her find her owner" because I am delusional when I really want something to be true.

I rolled up to the Monument Valley entrance station and greeted the Navajo woman working within. "Well hello there!" I said cheerfully.  "We just found a puppy in the middle of the road.  May I have a list of campsites so I can drive around and find her owner?"

The woman looked at me with a mix of pity and regret and said slowly, "Ma'am, I guarantee you that dog does not have an owner."  She told me the Navajo reservation, Monument Valley in particular, has become a depressingly popular place for people to abandon unwanted litters of puppies. The wild dog population has exploded.  Judging from the looks of "our" puppy, she was either dumped there or was born of the wild dogs already dotting the landscape.

My mind reeled as I pulled into the parking lot of the Visitors Center, which was not yet open given the early hour. We were the only people in the parking lot save a group of hikers strapping on packs for what looked to be a days-long trek through the valley.

I walked around the parking lot holding the puppy, debating what to do and chatting about the situation with a few of the hikers.  The German woman leading the hiking group suddenly approached me and said sharply, "You cannot take that dog."  I was a bit taken aback by her tone and asked cautiously, "What do you mean?"  She responded, "You must put her back where you found her.  She is wild, it's just how it is here."

It seemed ridiculous to call the small puppy chilling in my arms "wild."  "She's just a puppy.  I can't leave her where I found her. It's a desert, there are coyotes," I said.  The woman shrugged and said "There have been many puppies and many coyotes before her. Take her back where you found her right now, maybe she'll find her mother and maybe she'll survive. It's all you can do."

I gripped the puppy more tightly as the woman spoke in an increasingly angry voice.  She was really passionate about abandoning puppies, it must be one of her hobbies and she pursues it with impressive vigor.  Her heartless response ignited a stubborn combative fire within me.  Do not tell me to leave a puppy in a desert.  Do not tell me it's all I can do. Because that is bullshit.

A decision was made in that second.  Because yes, "maybe" she'll find her mother and "maybe" she'll survive.  But she will absolutely survive if she comes with us.

let's get out of this drab hellhole, puppy

I walked away from the woman and whispered to the kids, who were by then wide-eyed and near tears, "Is the mean lady still glaring at us?"  And they whispered back, "No, she's putting on a backpack now" and then I whispered, "Get in the car fast, before she sees us and starts yelling again." The kids hustled into that car faster than I've ever seen them move and I tossed the exhausted puppy back onto Lucien's lap. "This is our puppy now" I said as I climbed back into the driver's seat, peeled out of the parking lot, and pointed the car Dead North.

And that's how we got a new dog.  I soon texted Alex the following: "We found a puppy in Monument Valley and I'm bringing her home."  A couple very long minutes followed in which I could feel Alex's initial shock then hear a long deep sigh before receiving the response, "Of course you are."  He then requested pictures.  Alex, despite his outward bravado, is also a soft touch when it comes to animals.  Thankfully.

The trip back to Seattle was....eventful.  At one point the puppy jumped into the back of the car and pooped on top of our suitcase.  That's tough to do at 70 mph on a twisty road but she's a survivor and probably used to less-than-ideal pooping conditions.

she slept a lot, which was preferable to the pooping

The hotels I'd booked in advance did not accept pets so the kids and I became co-conspirators for a greater cause, speaking in hushed voices and smuggling the dog into rooms in our emptied-out cooler.  The dog accepted this situation without complaint.  I think she knew we were trying to help her so she trusted us completely even when I (loosely, I'm not a monster) closed the lid.

The hotel staff thankfully never questioned why I kept carrying a cooler in and out of the hotel past the front desk.  If they had asked, I would have told them it was my "therapy cooler" and I needed it to get me through a difficult emotional time.

that's our puppy in a cooler
she was remarkably "chill" about the situation
ha ha ha ha

We managed to stop briefly at Bryce Canyon but didn't do the hike I planned because dogs aren't allowed in national parks and leaving a dog alone in a hot car is dog murder.

we'll be back someday
hopefully with no dog
but you never know

We named her Natani, a Navajo name for a Navajo dog.  She's a sweet dog but is also a total pain in the ass.  The most commonly heard sound in our house these days is a loud, "Natani!  NOOO!"  Then she goes streaking past with some forbidden object in her mouth, like a shoe or a cleanly chewed through laptop cord.

She is desperate to please yet she's not very good at it yet.

She digs holes the size of Texas in our yard.  She's eaten our sunflowers and pulverized our watermelon plant.  She's not yet housebroken.  She's eaten several socks and one pair of underwear. She broke the vase Coco made me for Mother's Day.  She jumps on all the furniture with dirty feet.  She sheds like crazy.  She's drawn blood from all of us with her sharp little puppy teeth. She scavenges and eats whatever she can find, especially if it's inedible.  You'll be like, "Hey, Natani, stop eating that plastic bag, it will definitely kill you" and she'll be like, "NOM NOM NOM." 

On top of all that, Oscar is very unhappy with the situation.  As a schnauzer of 14 years, he is not into this puppy bullshit.  She tries to play with him and he tries to rip her head off.  It's like a toddler constantly jumping on a crabby old man.  It's not a good match and we've managed so far with several baby gates to keep them separated.

Natani is making it her life's work to get on the other side of that gate and play with that damn schnauzer.  Lots of hurling her body at the gate, chewing on the gate, attempting to jump the gate and falling backwards.  Oscar, in a silver lining, has more pep in his step than we've seen in years.  He now lives for his white-hot hatred of her.  He's got renewed purpose in life and it's REVENGE and DESTROY HER.  He spends most of his time growling under his breath and plotting.

She's kind of a nightmare, I ain't gonna lie.  Alex just ran past the window outside, pointed at me sitting in here at my desk and yelled, "We did NOT need a puppy in our lives right now!" It appears Natani's gotten a hold of the garden hose and is having the time of her life.  Yikes.  

She's the worst.  Truly.  But she's home.
(And she's awesome)

Over 3800 miles traveled, three weeks, seven states, one dog.  It was an immensely successful road trip this year.  I'm not sure how I'm going to top it next year.  I may need to rent the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and bring home a bear.

See you next year, New Mexico

Goddammit, Natani!  NOO!