Day 83 – Dinner time shenanigans

Just a normal evening in the Romano house…

Day 77 – Stickergate 2018

So, tomorrow is Spring picture day at school. Stevie and I don’t get it. Growing up, we only remember being tortured with school photos once a year, usually in the Fall, and then it was over until the next year. But for some reason, our kids have school photos both in the Fall and Spring.

We’re usually okay when it comes to the Fall pics. It’s the start of a fresh school year, and even if we’re busy with a gajillion other things, we somehow manage to get the kids to school semi-prepared to take a decent yearly photo.

Notice I said “decent.”

Look, I’m gonna be honest. We’re not going to win any glamour awards here. We’ve got two very stubborn children who have a very…uh…unique sense of style. And, quite frankly, when you’ve got a Mom who hates being in photos as much I do, and who has questionable fashion sense herself, you’re going to get a helluva lot more leeway than most of the other kids whose Mom’s spend hours picking out a perfecting matched outfit and cementing their hair in place.

I mean, come one, it’s just a photo. And I’d honestly much rather it actually captures my kids’ goofy personalities than to look like some perfectly-arranged museum piece.

Here are the last couple years of Fall photos so you get an idea of what we’re dealing with…

And then, the Spring photos. Ah, this is where all hell breaks loose (and honestly Stevie and I are at the point we’re sort of embracing it and seeing just how crazy it gets). We affectionately named last year’s Spring photo extravaganza “Stickergate 2018” because somehow, Cadence managed to not only plaster herself and her brother with stickers in the car on the way to school, she somehow managed to get her photo taken WITH A STICKER STILL ATTACHED TO HER FACE!

It’s like the school photographers aren’t even trying anymore. I mean, we thought it was pretty hilarious when we got the packet of photos back and saw Cadence with the giant grin on her face and sticker clearly planted on her cheek.

She looks pretty satisfied with herself, doesn’t she?

And then we opened Henry’s picture packet and nearly fell to the floor laughing because not only is he rocking his old favorite (and damn near too small) U R2 Cool Valentine’s Day shirt with stickers, he also sort of looks like he’s drunk and just stumbled out of bed in time to run to class and get in a fistfight on the way (notice the busted bottom lip from falling off a tricycle at recess the day before). He was also about a month overdue for a haircut and his cowlick had broken free from the smoothing Stevie attempted on the way to school.

Look up the definition of “hot mess” in the dictionary and that just might be the photo you find.

Gotta say, I’m kind of excited to see what sort of Spring photo craziness tomorrow brings.

Stay tuned.

Day 74 – I can’t even

Stevie is convinced that he’s got Henry’s next Halloween costume all picked out…

What do you think?

No shit folks, this is just his hair! Now, I will say, it wasn’t quite this crazy when he went to school this morning. Just the usual patch standing straight up near his cowlick. But by the time the day was over, this happened…

I can’t even. Where do I start?

Day 72 – Seeing sound

Just one of those days.

My head felt a little heavier when I woke this morning, so I can’t say I didn’t know it was coming. I always know. I’ve gotten used to the signals. The heaviness, the constant need to squint even in a dimly lit room. The steadily increasing pressure that moves up the back of my neck and settles into the space at the crown of my head between my brain and skull, making me feel like I’m wearing a helmet that’s a few sizes too small.

On a good day, I can take some meds, rub a little peppermint oil on my temples, turn down the lights, and keep the pain relatively manageable.

On days like today, I can’t chase it away. It settles in, making me dizzy and nauseous, and (on the really bad days) making me see halos and sound.

Tonight I’m just sitting, waiting for the meds to take the edge off so I can actually get some sleep, and hoping this damn migraine is gone in the morning.

Day 66 – The evolution of Electra

You know, there was a time when we first got Electra that we worried she was mute. Electra wasn’t even a year old when we adopted her from the Arizona Beagle Rescue, and she was the calmest, most laidback dog Stevie and I had ever seen. We first met her at a foster mom’s house in Goodyear. Electra and a dozen other beagle and beagle/basset mixes ended up being rescued after their owner had a heart attack and was told by his doctors that he needed to get rid of all the pups he was training to track rabbits. Electra had gone to a foster home with six other young beagles, and when we walked up to the door and rang the doorbell, both Stevie and I jumped when full pack of crazy hound dogs started jumping and howling and falling over each other trying to greet us and lick us and sniff our pockets for hidden treats as we edged our way into the living room.

It was mass chaos.

But across the room, sitting demurely in the corner and staring at us with a pair of big brown eyes, was our sweet Electra. She just sat, watching, quietly waiting her turn. When we called her name she walked over, put her paws up on my thighs and invited me to scratch behind her floppy brown ears.

Five minutes later, we signed the adoption papers and took her home.

For the first six months or so, we honestly wondered if something was wrong with her. She wasn’t like any other puppy we’d ever known. She would occasionally get up and play and run around, but she never really barked or growled or made any kind of noise. And she was lazy as hell, right from the beginning, preferring to snuggle up in your lap and take long naps and follow us slowly from room to room, flopping down on the floor at our feet as soon as we stopped moving.

Hell, she even faked a leg injury to keep me from taking her for walks. Apparently she didn’t appreciate the pace I demanded, which is an average (and maybe even slightly slower than average) walking pace. But Electra simply isn’t interested in doing anything except meandering at a snail’s pace around the neighborhood, nose glued to the ground.

At that point, we were honestly thinking maybe Electra couldn’t bark. When we were going through the adoption process, we’d heard that there were several beagles at the rescue whose former owners had the dog’s voice boxes surgically removed because they couldn’t stand the way the beagle’s howled and barked.

No joke. That’s actually a thing some people think it’s okay to do to a pet. Pricks.

But the folks at AZBR assured us that Electra was in perfect health and there was no sign her former owner had done anything of the sort. In fact, before he had to surrender Electra, she was being trained to hunt and track rabbits, which meant she had actually been rewarded for catching a rabbit’s scent and then signaling her victory would a good ol’ hound dog howl.

The first time we ever heard Electra voice, we didn’t even know it was her. She’d been out in the backyard for awhile, when all of a sudden we heard a booming, rhythmic bark that was so loud and deep it rattled the windows. We went outside, thinking one of our neighbors must have a new pet, but all we saw was Electra, nose bouncing along over the ground and making some weird wah-wah-wah-wah sound, sort of like a small helicopter, her tail wagging so hard her entire ass-end was swaying back and forth and damn near knocking her off-balance. Outside, the barking was so loud it was echoing, and it wasn’t until Stevie walked right up beside Electra that he realized she was the one making all the noise. We tried calling to her, tugging on her collar, promising her cookies, but there was no stopping her until the scent ran out.

There was something about Electra’s deep, booming bark that just cracked me up, so I thought it might be funny to actually teach her to bark on command. And knowing how food whorish motivated she is, I decided to train her to bark on command and reward her with dog cookies and bits of kibble.

Worked like a charm.

But it also wasn’t long before I realized I’d unleashed a beast. As soon as Electra discovered that she could actually be rewarded with food for barking, she decided that it was perfectly acceptable to let us know LOUDLY each and every time she felt it was time for breakfast or lunch or dinner or second and third dinner (I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that we have to feed this ridiculous hound five small meals a day to keep her from acting sullen and waking us up every couple hours through the night).

And now that she’s entered her senior years and she’s getting old and ornery like a Betty White sort of old lady who just doesn’t give a f*** anymore and will do whatever the hell she wants, Electra does not give two shits whether we yell at her or scold her or plead for her to stop. She just announces her hunger and her impatience like this:

If she wasn’t such a great dog otherwise, this would be really annoying. 😉

Love you Electra!

Day 64 – Real life happens outside the highlight reel

Tonight was a late night at work so I could chat with a group of student leaders about the things we do in my office and all the ways we try to support students on campus. Great group. Great energy. And we ended up having a really great conversation about how we can help students be successful in college and in the world beyond.

As we were wrapping up, one girl asked how to help students who might be struggling but aren’t reaching out for help because they don’t want to admit that college is not turning out the way they thought it would be. And my response was this.

College is hard.

Hell, life is hard.

And everyone struggles at some point. There are always things that challenge us. There will always be obstacles and issues and stumbling blocks. But so often, all we get to see from others is the good moments. What we see is the highlight reel. Those are the moments people post on Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat.

What we need to start sharing and talking about all the moments outside the highlight reel, because that’s where real life happens. The highlight reel is great and fun. It’s filled with the moments that make us feel good. But it’s those in-between moments that are most important because they’re the moments where we’re challenged, the moments where we learn and grow.

I’m certainly guilty of sharing a majority of highlight reel moments on my social media. For a lot of folks it’s the default. You’re so excited for those moments that it’s natural to want to shout them from the rooftops. But if there is one thing this blog and some of my personal writing projects have been good for (my memoir-in-progress and my growing pile of journals and personal essays), it’s diving into a lot of my in-between moments and, quite frankly, some of the most dark and difficult moments of my life. And when I take a step back and look at my life as a whole, it really is those struggles that shaped who I am and who I want to be.

Because nothing that is really worth it is ever easy.

So get comfortable with your struggles. Own your mistakes. And show us more of your in-between moments. Embrace all those things that didn’t make your highlight reel, because that’s where the real magic happens.

Here’s just one of my MANY in-between moments.

This is the last time we attempted to take a Christmas card photo (note how little Henry is, because this was taken THREE YEARS AGO!) Let’s just say everyone’s patience was running thin before Electra pulled too hard on her collar and started hyperventilating.

Good times.

These ended up being “Happy New Year” cards that barely arrived in people’s mailboxes before Valentine’s Day.

Christmas card fail. It’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last. And you know what? I’ve made peace with it. And there’s a whole lot more where that came from:-)

So what about you? What are some of the moments that didn’t make your highlight reel?