My hamster is starting to resemble Macauley Culkin

And sadly, I mean this Macauley.


Scruffy-haired, thin and always jonesing for … well, let me back up a little.

You guys remember Herve, right? Vivien’s sweet little pet rodent who has actually become such an important part of the family that he’s appeared on not one, not two but THREE Christmas cards. Even Milo loves the little guy. (Fine. I’m lying about that last part. Milo is a cat. And you can’t tamper with the food chain, right?)

Anyway …. last month, something sad happened. And I haven’t wanted to write about it until now. On Christmas night, after we returned home from a long day of gluttony and family togetherness, I went to Viv’s room to check on Herve. And what I found there was a little disturbing.

I took one look at Herve and knew he wasn’t right. His head was upturned to the right, he was woefully unbalanced and he was manically active. I panicked. And I called out to Dave and Vivien. They both came immediately but Vivien was so upset that she fled the room in tears. Dave thought I was crazy for calling her in to see him in the first place. Honestly, I didn’t think Herve was going to make it through the night. And I knew she’d never forgive me if I kept him from her on his last day.

She was crying. And I was crying. Me. About a hamster. Honestly, I was as surprised about that happening as you probably are reading that it happened. It’s just that we all really care about the little guy. Not only is he adorable, but he’s one of the sweetest, gentlest little creatures I’ve ever met. He’s only nipped me once (pardon the pun) and that totally was not his fault. Seriously, what’s not to love?

The next three days were sort of touch and go. Viv and I both stayed close to home and checked on him often. Truth? I was so certain every time that I was going to find him dead that I made Dave accompany me … every time. But then he didn’t die. We made it through Friday, Saturday, Sunday and even Monday … and he was still wobbling around a lot but still going strong.

I was stunned. I had already stashed a small red box from one of my Christmas presents in the back of my closet in anticipation of …. well, you know. (I still feel absolutely TERRIBLE about that, by the way.)

 When he was still with us on Monday morning, I decided it was time to take action. For those of you who have been around a while, you may remember that there’s actually an exotic vet in my neck of the woods. And, last summer, I actually took Herve to that exotic vet for a much lesser issue. So, needless to say, I called the veterinary office to explain what was going on with him. They agreed to see him that very afternoon.

Both kids came with me to his appointment. And, unlike Herve’s last visit, we all three got to go into the examination room with him this time. The doctor was great. It turned out she’s married to an old co-worker friend of mine. She was wonderful with our little guy. And she explained that, while it was possible that Herve was dealing with an inner ear infection, it was more likely that he’d suffered a stroke on Christmas Day. Exactly what I suspected.

We left the office with three different medications and special food that we were supposed to administer to him with a syringe. Were we up for it? Well, of course, we were. What you guys don’t know is that I had a diabetic cat named Toby who required two daily shots of insulin a day for EIGHT YEARS.

And how hard could it be to administer three prescriptions medications to a hamster, right?

Actually, it really was easy. Especially for one of the medications. The first  was for infection. He liked it okay. And now he’s finished with that one. The second was for imbalance. He liked it a little less than okay. But it’s also finished. And the third? The third is a pain medication. Notice I said “is” because he’s still on it. Think of it as a morphine drip of sorts. Something to “keep him comfortable for the rest of his days.” And he absolutely LOVES THE EVERLIVING CRAP out of it.

He knows when I’m coming in to give it to him. He runs to the door of his cage and jumps (read: stumbles uncoordinatedly) into my hand. He can smell it. Sense it. Already taste it.

Don’t believe me?


See those grabby, little hands?

That’s the pain meds at work. We never saw that kind of passion with the antibiotic. He’d take the whole syringe into his bulging cheek pocket if I didn’t keep such a a tight grip on it.

My poor little junkie.

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A Mother’s Confession (Spoiler: It involves cake.)

I went to the grocery store yesterday. I ran there alone to grab a few items to restock a household that has been existing on stocking stuffer food, Christmas presents from places like Harry & David and Hickory Farms and, if I’m being completely honest, canned goods that have probably been here since before we moved in seven years ago. It was time for some fresh produce … and foods that don’t taste like peppermint, gingerbread or pumpkin. (Not that I’m knocking that delicious trinity.) So I popped into the neighborhood store intent on grabbing fruit, vegetables, milk, a rotisserie chicken and, of course, a king cake.

I’m just going to assume you know what a king cake is.


Fine! (rolling eyes) It’s a “sweet, sugary and iced Danish type dough that is braided with cinnamon inside and a plastic doll underneath. King Cakes are made of a cinnamon filled dough in the shape of a hollow circle. They have a glazed topping and are sprinkled with colored sugar. Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in New Orleans during the Carnival season.” (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

King cake season starts right as the Christmas season ends (January 6) and runs through Mardi Gras Day. And here it was … January 11th, 5 whole days into the season … and my poor children STILL hadn’t had any king cake yet this year.* By New Orleans standards, this oversight puts me only a few clicks above Joan Crawford. (Please get that reference.)

To preserve my reputation as a loving mother, I went to the bakery section of the store to find the king cakes. There were two kinds. Which meant I had a decision to make. And this was an IMPORTANT one. Because it was about cake. To help me decide, I opened the boxes to examine the cellophane-wrapped cakes inside. Even though they were marketed as the same size, one was clearly bigger and more icing-laden than the other. “Well, THAT was easy,” I thought, placing the cake into my basket.

Then I saw something new on the shelf.

The store was actually selling individually-wrapped slices of that same delicious king cake. For years, I’ve been wishing stores, bakeries and coffee shops would package them this way (for the closet king cake eater on the go). “Finally!” I said aloud in the grocery store, probably to the dismay of several confused passersby.

I reached down to grab two that I could put into my kids’ lunches this week. “They’re gonna LOVE this,” I thought, praising myself for being an innovative genius. But in the middle of the applause in my head, I heard the familiar sound of a needle scratching across a record. (Please get THAT reference, too.)

“There’s only one left?!!?” I said, resuming my public conversation with myself. But then I smiled. If I was a cartoon character, a lightbulb would have appeared over my head. I picked up the single piece of cake and tossed it into the basket next to the full cake. I didn’t think about it again until I was in the check out line and I overheard the cashier talking to the bagger. “We still have some of these?” she asked.

I looked up from my phone to see her holding the individually-wrapped slice of cake. Then I interrupted them, “Well, you DID. That’s the last one. Of course, I have TWO kids so I really wish you had one more.”

“So what are you going to do with this one? Just let them fight it out?” the bagger asked, laughing and giving the cashier a why-is-this-woman-even-talking-to-us kind of look.

“No,” I explained very matter-of-factly. “That one is now for ME. Problem solved. But I need to eat it in the car on the way home.”

The two young female employees both looked at each other like *I* was the crazy one. “Why??” one of them finally asked.

I sighed before answering. “Because …” I spoon-fed the young fools, “if no one knows that I already had a piece, I can guiltlessly partake of the big cake with everyone else.” (And yes. I did say partake.)

I got it. I know YOU get it. The two mothers behind me got it. They even commended my efforts and decided to buy themselves Snickers bars for their own ride home. But I don’t think the two employees got it.

Of course, I could have mothered either one of these young girls. They’ve never had to give away their own food because a child is looking at it in a yours-looks-SO-much-better-than-mine-and-I’m-going-to-have-a-meltdown-if-you-don’t-let-me-have-it kind of way. They’ve never had to deny their children seconds while they secretly shove another helping/slice/scoop/hunk into their own mouths in the kitchen. And they’ve probably never had to pretend that one piece is “plenty” because they’re such ladies that they “couldn’t eat another bite!”

Please. It’s cake.

Who doesn’t want seconds?

So there. I confessed. Now, everyone knows about the extra slice of king cake I ate yesterday. Well, except my family.

Can YOU keep a secret?

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*Correction: After this post went “to press,” my daughter assured me that, prior to the cake purchased in this story, she had already had king cake once before this year. Further, she informed me that she had gotten the much-sought-after plastic baby within it. Guess we’re buying the next cake.

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2014 – Best Pictures & Posts (According to Me)



I revealed 5 of my favorite things. Spoiler: Only one of them was cheese.



I sent a friendly warning to Josh Hutcherson, or JHutch as cool people like me call him.



Fresh back from a trip to Disney World, I compared and contrasted my crew of four with the infamous Griswold family.



I pontificated on the evils of a 24/7 cupcake dispenser then secretly prayed one would open soon in New Orleans.



I recounted an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction story from my youth and probably offended PETA a little in the process. (But it was an accident!)



Channeling my inner Dana Carvey, I identified the five things you need to be a church lady.



I shared pictures of my trip to Memphis with my mom and daughter. (Which probably explains why I am suddenly craving a fried banana and peanut butter sandwich.)



I lamented the loss of one of Hollywood’s biggest talents.  This post was one of my most shared of all time.



I contacted the Hot Pocket Corporation to get answers to some hard-hitting questions. It’s about time, isn’t it?



I confessed to what is easily one of my biggest failures as a parent.



I faced one of my biggest fears head on and lived to tell about it.



In celebration of my 20th anniversary, I reminisced about my wedding day.

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Written in response to MamaKat’s writing prompt asking for “A year in review! Compile a years worth of your best blog posts and pictures.” 

Happy 2015, everyone!

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My Look “Into the Woods” This Afternoon

I finally got to see Into the Woods today with my girl. It opened on Christmas Day and, frankly, I’m surprised I was able to wait five whole days to buy a ticket. For those who have been paying attention around here, you know that the two things I hold dearest in this life (besides my family) are cheese and theater, specifically of the musical variety. There just aren’t enough movie musicals released these days. So I was more than ready.

Did I like it? Well, of course, I did. But then, I’m a sucker for this stuff. I love well-crafted lyrics. And Mr. Sondheim seldom disappoints. Plus the actors (some more than others) really weaved their storylines together well for me. Oh, and I should add that it didn’t hurt that Johnny Depp made a significant albeit brief appearance in the film.

But the most eye-opening part of the whole experience for me came at a moment most unexpected. For just as when I watch a play or read a book (yes, I DO read books), I often find myself identifying with at least one character in every movie I see. It needn’t always be someone in my age bracket or even a female for that matter.


But did it have to be the witch?

(NOTE: If/when Dave reads this post, he’s going to roar with laughter. “YOU??? Identify with the witch? Oh, come on. That’s just impossible!” he’ll say with more sarcasm than Roseanne Barr … Chandler Bing … Willie Wonka. I should probably start thinking now about good comebacks.)

Anyway … when Meryl Streep sings a song called Stay With Me to her “adopted” daughter  … well, let’s just say it cut a little close to the bone for me.

My daughter is 12. This holiday was already a hard one. Add that to the fact that my 15-year-old son just had his first DRIVING LESSON and … oh, just fit me for my damned straitjacket now. Black, please. If I’m going to look insane, I might as well also look skinny.

So I guess in the world of Into the Woods, I am the witch. Because, as weird as it might make me sound to so many parents counting the days ’til their kids leave for college, I’d sell my soul to freeze us all in time right now so nobody would ever leave the nest. (pregnant pause) Fine. You know what? As long as I’m making ridiculous, impossible, completely illogical requests, I’ll wish the clock back about three years and THEN freeze it. Before their teenage hormones kicked in and they learned to talk back. Might as well shoot for perfection, right?

* * * * * * * * * *

My two cents? Catch the movie when you can. It’s a good one. And when you see the witch, think of me. Frizzy blue hair and all.

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An Open Letter to Santa-Weary Parents

Dear Friends,

It’s Christmas 2014 … and I’m facing my first holiday season as a parent with everyone “in the know.” It’s been coming for years. I actually cried in anticipation of it the past two Christmas Eves, appreciating how lucky I was to get just one more each of those years.

Sure, it’s a lot of work. And it can be stressful.  And exhausting. But isn’t it one of those things we live for as parents? Creating the magic and wonder of a well-executed Christmas morning. I absolutely love it. And I was good at it. If I do say so myself.

I became a parent in 1999, when my son Dean was born. We welcomed his sister, Vivien, into the fold in 2002. The first few years were easy. I could literally shop FOR them WITH them. All I had to do was distract them long enough to shove something into the basket or the bottom of the stroller, wink at the cashier to keep our little secret and I was good to go. They believed so deeply that I could even get a little sloppy and no one would ever be the wiser.

Our family dynamic was interrupted a bit in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina. (Yes, I know you’re probably tired of hearing about it. I’m tired of talking about it, too.) My kids were now 6 and 3 1/2, a little older and fully invested in all things Santa. Thanks to the storm, they found themselves with more license for new toys than ever before. We had to work around a few borrowed homes and living situations for a few years but Santa didn’t miss a beat. And my kids were happy.

Once we settled back into a home of our own, we were really able to develop and dive deeply into annual family traditions. I’m pretty proud of some of the things we did as a family … like making a homemade gift for both the mailman and the sanitation department every year or blessing our Christmas tree together after we finished decorating it. I knew that each one of these things was special and would be remembered for years to come and maybe even replicated in my children’s families when they were grown.

Christmas Eve was always the hardest. But it was always my favorite. We knew we had to wait to get to work until the kids were fully asleep. And every year, that hour got a little later. And we were lucky if they waited until 7am to wake us up the next day. That was the rule. “The sun needs to be up before you are on Christmas morning.” Of course, as soon as the first sliver of daylight appeared on the horizon, my kids (who had probably been awake and staring at their ceilings for hours already) would burst into the room to wake two sleepy parents who might have gotten a broken four hours the night before.

I decided a long time ago not to care. If I was tired, I knew the contagious adrenaline would carry me through the day. It always did.

And last year on Christmas morning, I’m really glad I took the time to soak it all in. I had a feeling it would be our last year hosting a “believer.” And, sadly, I was right.

It’s a different kind of Christmas this year. Everyone knows. Fortunately, my daughter is very entertained by the whole “you’ve gotta believe to receive” mantra. So she’s indulging me. “Wonder what Santa’s bringing me, Mom,” she says, with a wink and a hug. No, it’s not the same. It’s the end of an era. But it’s the beginning of another one. It’s a new kind of special.

Why am I taking the time to write all of this down? Because I want to encourage all of my younger, sleepier, more cantankerous counterparts of the world to take note. This year, when it’s after midnight, and you’re wearily nibbling cookies on an already full stomach, making hoof marks with your slippers in the scattered reindeer food outside in the cold, stuffing stockings until you’re afraid the seams will bust and creating a toy display that rivals anything FAO Schwarz has ever seen, think of me. And know that somewhere in the world someone is actually a little jealous of you and all the work you’re doing at that very moment. I urge you to treasure it and imprint it forever in your memory. Take my word for it. It’s something you’ll never want to forget.


A Nostalgic Parent Who Has Reluctantly Crossed to the Other Side

* * * * * * * * * *

My kids and Santa

Then …


… and now.

(2013 actually. My last one. Thanks for humoring me, Dean.)


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Just in time for (insert name of occasion you’re celebrating)!

Just in time for Christmas! Or Hanukkah! Or Winter Solstice, flu season, your cat’s birthday … whatever you’re observing this time of year! Mel and I have a gift for YOU, our wonderful readers.

Have your heard of the film entitled The Good Lie starring Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon? It’s coming out on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 23. But YOU don’t have to battle the malls to get it. Because, thanks to our friends at Grace Hill Media, YOU could win your very own copy right here!

I know, right?


The movie tells the true-life story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, their lives torn apart by civil war, left to grow up in refugee camps, then given the opportunity through the efforts of church groups and other charities to embark on new lives in the U.S. And, in addition to Reese (Seriously, I can call her Reese by now, right?), the film features actual former Lost Boys from Sudan. Talk about injecting it with a huge dose of authenticity. But enough of my blathering on. Watch the clip. I’m sure it will hook you just like it did me.

And don’t just take my word for it. In addition to all of its positive press, when The Good Lie opened in theaters earlier this year, audiences polled by Cinemascore rated it an “A+.” In the last thirty years, only about 50 movies have received that prestigious honor. This is a good one. You want to see it.


Click here to win.


* * * * * * * * * *

So Happy Whatever-You’re-Celebrating. Please keep reading.

And thank you for your support.

(Hey, Mel, we sound like those old wine cooler dudes. Ooh, I call Bartles!)

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Random Fun Facts from My Wedding – TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY!

I drank NOTHING. From my rehearsal dinner to my wedding night, I literally had nothing to drink. I even faked my champagne toast picture. I was so afraid I was going to have to pee in that dress that I completely boycotted liquids for 24 hours.  (Good plan, Michele.)

It was drizzling on my wedding day. Drizzling! Isn’t the whole point of a December wedding cool, dry, humidity-free weather? (Stupid curly hair.)

My dress was new and modeled after a picture I saw in a magazine. My veil was my mother’s made by my grandmother. My garters were made by my aunt. And because it was Christmas, the one I threw was holiday-themed. And my shoes and purse were just some cheap, vintage-looking stuff I found on my own.


I still have them. And I’d still wear them if I didn’t think they’d disintegrate into powder the first time I put them on.

The band played the wrong song for our first couples dance. It was supposed to be Harry Connick Jr.’s I Could Write a Book. (Ironic, right?) But instead they played Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love. And I was fit to be tied. (What an idiot.)

The band (AGAIN with the poor band) was instructed not to play any line dances. Dave and I don’t like line dancing. But they played Strokin’. My guests loved it. Dave and I did not. Nor did we dance. (Couple of jerks.)

The slice of cake I cut for the traditional photo was so ridiculously thin that we almost didn’t get the shot. (Seriously, was I dieting that day?)


 I got better on the second one … also known as the one I never even tasted!

The photographer was determined to get the traditional handholding close-up shot with our new rings. Dave and I declined. More than once. The result was worse than any of us could ever have imagined. Between Dave’s nail-biting and my failure to get a wedding day manicure (or even paint my own stupid nails!), the picture was doomed before the button was ever clicked. (And I call myself a girl.)

As we ran out of the reception for our big exit, the last person I saw was my father. He had tears in his eyes. (I get it now, Dad.)

From the horse-drawn carriage ride we took after the reception in the French Quarter, Dave saw an old friend on the street. “Hey. Whatcha been up to, Dave?” called out the old friend. “Nothing really.” Then Dave stopped to think. “Well … except getting married!” he called back. (Nice save, Dave.)


There we are, leaving the very same hotel we would be returning to later that night. Because you need to make a grand exit, right?

It seemed so uneventful to have everybody throw rice at us in the elevator. 

Of course, one of the coolest things about my wedding day was sitting around in the bar at the hotel in my wedding dress with my parents and other immediate family … after all the festivities were over at the end of the night … just having a drink. Finally!

I can’t believe it’s been TWENTY YEARS.


Happy Anniversary, Dave.

(Photo #2 was a near casualty of Hurricane Katrina.)


Here’s what 20 years looks like.

(What? Nobody ever said it would be pretty.)

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