Retrospectives: Pets and my need to nurture

Yes, I have four kids now. Did I EVER think I was going to have so many kids? No. Was I particularly good with kids growing up or even as an adult? Absolutely not. I never was good as a babysitter. And I never really ever wanted to hold my friends’ babies when they became mothers. I just wasn’t into the “baby” thing. I guess I thought I would break them.

But that doesn’t mean that I was uncaring – in fact, just the opposite.   From a very early age as a child, I have always had an undeniable urge to care for things. So don’t think babies… think animals.  Just to give you a GLIMPSE of how insane I was (am) about dogs and puppies, I was a complete sucker for ANY puppy walking down the street – even when I was living in NYC. Yes, I would get on the sidewalk and play with strangers’ puppies on the urinated streets of NYC. In fact, one night at about 1 AM I was waiting for a bus on the upper West Side with my boyfriend. Along came a stranger with a cute little lab puppy. I was immediately on the sidewalk playing with the puppy, rubbing his belly, scuffing his ears, wrestling with it, and talking to its owner — “what’s his name? How old? oh my goodness how cute this puppy is!!!” Over and over and over I was rolling around on the sidewalk with this puppy and loving life. Then the bus came, and I heard my boyfriend say, “Thank you very much….” to the man. When we got on the bus I asked him why he acted like that and he said, “Do you know who the f&%* that was? That was Conan f*^%*&%ing O’Brien!!!!” So there I was talking with Conan O’Brien for about at least 2-5 minutes playing with his puppy and I never even looked up at him or even noticed who he was. Maybe that’s why he stayed so long because I honestly did not give Conan the time of day…. just his puppy. So, that’s how crazy I am about animals.

My childhood was filled with little hairballs and fecal matter –some were official pets, some were orphaned wildlife. Some were saved because of my care, and some were lost because of my carelessness. But they were special to me and it’s because of my experiences with them that helped to build the kind of mother that I now am.

  • My first pet was a sorry excuse for a dog — a “peek-a-poo”. I didn’t like him. He was ugly and smelled bad. We “gave” him to my grandmother and she claimed he ran away. To this day I don’t know the truth behind that story.
  • We looked after guinea pig from school for a summer when I was about 8. He was missing a foot. He was cute and cuddly.   But I had to give him back to the school when summer was over.
  • We then progressed to a series of hamsters. “Rocky Balboa” was our first (I grew up in Philly) and lasted for 3 years which is actually a long time in hamster years. There were many times when I would forget to latch his cage but he always managed to come back… except once…. the poor thing made it to the basement but I guess drowned in the sump pump.
  • We also tried fish — Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. I think they died pretty quickly.
  • I adopted a baby wild rabbit from our backyard.  What a terrible idea. We had no idea what to feed it. After several days being trapped in a shoebox, the poor fuzzy guy died. I remember we had a funeral for it in our backyard. What a shame. I’m not proud of that story.
  • I once saved a nest of baby robin birds – there was a huge summer storm and their nest had collapsed outside of our door. I grabbed s shoe box and swept them up. We had to feed them a concoction of soft dog food, wheat germ (i think) and some other stuff by toothpick every several hours. I did this even throughout the night — I set my alarm and everything. It was such a strange feeling to lift that shoe box top up and to have these baby birds opening up their beaks real wide and chirping for me and my toothpick. I really felt like their mommy bird. After 3 days the birds flew away – I was so proud, but a bit empty inside.
  • When I was about 10 years old, I’ll never forget the day when my dad came through the door with this LITTLE puppy cocker spaniel, SOOOOOOO cute, with her little face and droopy ears hanging. She started running and jumping all over the place and then quickly pooped on our living room (white) carpet. We named her Lady (Lady and the Tramp) but then her nickname quickly turned to Aldo for no clear reason. She was beautiful.  We loved her. We teased her. She became a solid member of our family. She wasn’t that bright. We over-fed her and she became heavy. She lived to be about 15 years old (I think she started to small bad too towards the end). I heard of her death when I was at work — and was surprised by my reaction – I was sad, but I did not cry. I don’t think I ever cried over her because she lead a very long life and we were good to her. She was loved. I didn’t see her too much towards the end since I was living on my own in NYC so I hope she didn’t feel too lonely. I do feel bad about that.


Aldo, a cocker spaniel who was part of our family

Aldo, a cocker spaniel who was part of our family


  • We had a rabbit once that overlapped with Aldo. It was a lopped eared bunny and was beige, with hanging hears, so the rabbit actually looked like Aldo’s twin. This rabbit was great. He actually would hop over to me for attention and love. I would give him a bath which was totally unneccessary but again, I had a need to nurture. This rabbit did not last long – about 6 months — he was put outside one summer day and we thought he would enjoy it and had lots of water – but I guess the sun was too strong for him and he had a heat stroke or something. His name was Cupid.  I’m not thrilled about that story either.

    Cupid, a mini-lop rabbit who loved to give and get affection

    Cupid, a mini-lop rabbit who loved to give and get affection


  • I went back to fish when I went to college; it was very pretty and very colorful with hanging, flowing fins and a tail. I took him/her home on Thanksgiving break and was planning on giving him extra fish flakes for the holiday but he didn’t seem right after the car ride to mom’s house. I think he got tossed around too much with my driving. He wound up down the toilet before the turkey even came out of the oven.
  • When I moved to the West coast by myself I got lonely and decided to get TWO mini-lop rabbits — Lenny Kravitz and Sarah McLachlan.  I got two so they could bond while I was away traveling for work. I had them “fixed” so that the pair would not propagate. My experience with them was terrible. Instead of bonding with me, they bonded with each other and rejected me. So I had to deal with rabbits that hated me but still clean up after their hair, their poop, and they smelled terrible. When I started to date Hubby and then moved in with him, the rabbits made their exit. I interviewed several people until I found the right home for them.

Despite not being all that great with kids while I was growing up, having experiences with pets groomed an inner need to nurture – to care for another being, to be responsible for that being, and to say goodbye.  I guess some could say that these experiences got me started on a much bigger (and longer) road to the challenge and joys of REAL children.   But honestly nothing could prepare me for the real thing, let alone four of them!!!

When I was younger and thought about what my life would be like with kids, I always assumed that a dog would be part of that story…. but what a change of heart I’ve had. It is so much easier for me to say, “No more dogs!  I have enough mouths to feed!!”  Imagine my reaction when Big Bro innocently said just the other day, “Mommy, when are we going to get a dog for a pet?”   Of course I’m at some point going to give in to HIS “need to nurture”…. Uggggh.    But maybe we can start with a goldfish or something.

So, I guess the moral of the story is 1) listen and cultivate to that need to nurture; and 2) people’s attitudes change!   Any advice from moms who have been there with their kids??!?!??!

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

Retrospectives: Feeling free and acting bad-ass with my first car, a used ’78 SWEET Camaro

When I was in high-school, I anxiously awaited the day when I could drive and better yet, have my very own car. My high school was probably pretty big by some standards — over 2,000+ students.  My high school at that time, like many, was very much like the “Breakfast Club” movie.   There were the different groups and sets of people.   I was part of the “bad hair metal crowd” — tight jeans, high permed two-toned hair, lots of make up, high heels. I actually looked like Jon Bon Jovi.
Anyway, at the end of each day, a spectacular event occurred….. essentially all the people who drove to school, along with their friends, swarmed to the student parking lot and looked cool and blasted music.  I think I took the bus for a year but after that I usually found a friend or someone who would drive… so I was one of those people in the student parking lot in a friend’s car, ready to go.   It was such a scene.

Then, it was time for the exiting procession.  The first vehicles to exit were the busses.   There were two lines that formed… one exiting left, the other exiting right.   It was really very dramatic seeing all of those busses peal out of the parking lot and get into formation.   There was a winding road along the back of the school which led to the exit.  There were probably 15 busses snaking their way along the back road of the school towards the exit.  When we saw the busses starting to leave, that’s when our cars started their engines anxiously — the student car line ups were READY. Engines on, cigarettes lit, music echoing across the lot.  This exiting routine was always so dramatic for me. I loved it. I felt like an adult. I felt anxious for the motion. I felt pent-up but ready to be set free.   So through the years, leading up to my sixteenth birthday, I dreamt of owning MY OWN car and heading down that procession.

Parade of cars leaving high-school, we were SO COOL

I worked for this first car since I was fourteen – a job at a pizza joint that essentially paid me in cash but still took out “taxes” so the guy was obviously ripping me off. I then started working at a 24 hour diner which was when I hit the jackpot. Cold-hard cash — averaging ~$60 EACH night worked. It was awesome. I quickly saved up the cash to buy my first clunker.   I paid cash for the car and made sure I had enough for the insurance.  I did it all on my own.   The year was 1986 but I think my car was a 1978. It was blue. It was beautiful. It was a Chevy Camaro — and the best part was a spoiler on the back. It was so unbelievably bad-ass.

1978 Bad Ass Camaro with Spoiler.... so cool

I felt so free driving it. I also felt accomplished working for it myself.  I worked hard for my beauty and I appreciated it.   I remember clearly the feeling of leaving that high-school in the line up.    Hoping that I didn’t stray to far into the other lane.   Hoping that making a “left” would be easy and traffic-free.   Or if I felt too nervous, I would take the right hand lane out for an easier exit.   I had people in my car.   We were laughing and having a blast.   I remember sometimes driving nowhere just for the sake of driving.  I’d always volunteer to get pizza pick-up vs. delivery.   I remember warm summer nights, me and my car, driving the winding roads and listening to music.   Sometimes there would be friends with me and sometimes there would not.   I learned all the back roads very quickly.   I discovered parts of the town I never knew existed…. small bridges over streams… run down homes that looked haunted… and of course I did drive-bys of the homes of the boys I had crushes on.

The only downfall of this beautiful machine that I could see was that it didn’t have a tape deck (remember those things?).   Well of course I bought a tape deck and had a friend rip out the existing car stereo that was securely installed in the dashboard of the car.   He maneuvered underneath, pulled out wires, pulled back plastic, and somehow got the thing hooked up — however, during the installation process he completed fouled up the entire electrical make up of the car. I tried to overlook this the best I could – but it was difficult.

  • First, the radio would work fine — but only when driving UNDER 35 miles per hour. This was pretty annoying since sometimes it’s hard to look cool going only 35 miles per hour.  I eventually found a trick where I could accelerate above 35 and just tap on the brake and that was enough to get the radio going again.   But regardless, it was pretty annoying and was something I constantly had to pay attention to – it was a tradeoff.   Either drive under 35 miles per hour, or go faster but look like I didn’t know how to drive since I was always tapping on my break.
  • Second, the gas gauge never worked from that point out. This wasn’t such a huge problem since that just gave me more excuses to fill up my car more often.   It gave me a reason to spend more time with my beauty.   However there was a dark, dark time when I headed on a road trip (without my parents’ knowledge) to the Baltimore aquarium (4 hours away).  You guessed it, we ran out of gas on the way home and I had to pull over to the left on a major highway (I-95). At sixteen, and in the 80’s, none of us had much cash or credit/debit cards. To make a long story short, we had a lot of walking to/from the next exit and had to pool our cash, with fingers crossed that we would have enough gas to make it home. I think that was the last long trip I took with that car.

Anyway, I loved it. I loved the way it smelled in the hot summer. I loved filling the tires with air. I loved washing the windshield. I loved the featherclip hanging from the rear-view (and later the tassel from my graduation cap). I loved driving around with my friends aimlessly…. essentially driving just to drive. Exploring.   Being free.  Being on the move. Going places. And knowing that I worked for all of it. It was mine. So what I couldn’t go above 35 mph without touching on the breaks every now and then. Usually me and my friends were laughing so hard when cruising that we didn’t need the music anyway, or at least the breaking became funny after a while.

I remember this so clearly despite it being more than 20 years ago, because this is really the essence of who I am.   I have had to work for everything that I have – no one has ever had to come to my rescue to support me as an adult. I like to drive.   I like road-trips.  I like going places.   I love the feeling of freedom. I love the feeling of going somewhere – the motion. I like the windows down and music blasting.   I like the wind in my hair and the smell of sunshine.  I like the feel of the wheel in my hands.

Obviously things have changed a bit with four little ones.   Now, it’s a mini-van with four car seats in the back.    They know that sometimes certain songs come on and I suddenly crank up the radio, roll down the windows, and sing at the top of my lungs.   They do wonder why mommy is so excited over loud guitars and killer bass and drums. “Back in Black? What is that Mommy?”   But they laugh.   And the wind goes through their hair.  And the toddlers kick their legs and act silly.   And Big Bro and Red look at each other smiling, and then look back and me trying to hold back their smiles.  At least now I’m not smoking cigarettes, don’t have a featherclip hanging from the rear-view, and oh… the electrical system works just fine.   So I guess things have changed a bit but I’m still loving the motion and the music – and I’m happy to share these feelings now with my little ones.   I wonder though…. do mini-vans have spoilers?

Cruising with my babies

Retrospectives: Library to Vegas (baby, Vegas!!!) back to Library…

I remember a time in business school (this is 10 years+ ago I hate to say).    I was intensely working with a group to complete an assignment/analysis on one of the cases that continuously throw at you.   But I was anxious about my upcoming flight to Vegas, baby, Vegas.   You see, my college girlfriends (we call each other “Schmucks”) are still very tight and at that time, the first of the Schmucks was about to turn 30.    Such a  big milestone.   Of course I was going to help in the celebration, despite the intensity that B-school brings.

So on that day, I showed up in the MBA school library wearing a trampy little outfit, and carrying just one little handbag with NO COMPUTER!!!   In that handbag were several things — my license, some credit cards/cash, lipstick, a toothbrush, among some other items – you know, just the essentials.   No extra clothes.  Maybe a change of shoes, I forget.  I was traveling “light” for the all-night party.

So after the group meeting at the MBA school library (I lived in NYC at the time and went to Columbia University), I quickly hit the NYC Subway to JFK (big, big mistake taking the subway – I should have taken a cab, but money was tight).   The subway took longer than I thought and I wound up MISSING my flight – but, I had some alternatives.   Next flight was several hours away but that would literally give me just 5 hours of party time in Vegas.   It seemed that 10+ hours of travel time for a 5 hour party seemed really excessive.     I said to myself “hell with it…I’m going – the first Schmuck turns 30 only once!”.

The short trip was a blast.   When I arrived I had to find everyone and catch up with the drinking.   The Schmucks always make me laugh from the depths of my belly and it was awesome to see them.   I remember drinking quite a bit, dancing in a club, eating some breakfast, and then brushing my teeth as the sun came up — hugged my friends and headed back to the airport, with my one bag, tired feet, sore throat from laughing/shrieking, and hangover creeping in.   The sun was coming up and I was psyched that I decided to still make the trip.  I’m sure I slept on the plane on the way back.

That was how I lived my life back then.   Grab the opportunities, go for the gusto, don’t worry about what to bring, and the 5 hour party in the middle of the night to celebrate with my friends was obviously worth the pain of the trip and the suffering I would endure in the MBA school library the following day.   Worry about sleep later.    Worry about the work later.   Live for the moment.   Grab every experience you can with no regrets.

THANK YOU SCHMUCKS!!!!    When is our next trip???????

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