On The Consideration of Being a Pet Owner.

You know how kids go through that stubborn phase where they will absolutely not try anything you want them to, for no other reason than because you want them to?

“Seriously, son. You will LOVE this dessert, made with all the things you love – chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers, and more chocolate.”

“NO. I WILL NOT TRY IT.”

Whatever kid. I’m not going to shove sugar down your throat. 

And then, a month later, completely out of the blue and in no way related to any recent opportunities, the kid says “You know what I’d really love right now? A s’more. Mom when can we get s’mores? Can we have a s’more now? Hey do you think you could go to the store and get the ingredients for s’mores? I’m super craving a s’more.”

And you’re all like WHAT THE WHAT YOU ILLOGICAL BEING I TRIED TO OFFER YOU ONE OF THOSE A MONTH AGO AND YOU ACTED LIKE I WAS GIVING YOU MONKEY BRAINS SERVED ON AN ARMADILLO HALF SHELL.

That’s exactly how it went down with Noah, and I, and snakes.

I guess most of you don’t revere snakes on the level with s’mores, but we all know that I do. I’ve long held a great fascination and bordering-on-obsession with the species. And last year, we found snakes on almost every hike we went on – it was The Year of The Snake. Multiple times I was able to identify the snakes with 100% certainty so that I could pick them up and hold them, and I let the other children we hiked with hold them as well, and in some cases experience the delight of allowing said snake to wrap around their arm (all while I kept tight hold on the head.)

But my kids? No way. They wanted to have nothing to do with it. They didn’t scream and run away but they were NOT going to be touching, observing closely, or  experiencing a snake’s immensely cuddly qualities.

Fast forward a year. We haven’t seen hardly any snakes on hikes. And so it makes perfect sense that this year, Noah would decide, entirely unprovoked and without any experience whatsoever, that he
a.) Loved snakes,
b.) Desperately wanted to hold a snake (and regularly got irritable when I couldn’t locate said snake on a hike,) and
c.) Wanted his very own pet snake. AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

WHAT. THE. WHAT.

Why do children have to be so freaking weird.

But because of my own personal love for snakes, my enthusiasm over having someone to share my feelings with trumped my frustration and his craptasmic timing.

So we began by visiting our local quirky pet shop that specializes in reptiles, the only place in Birmingham where you can walk in without an appointment or a plan and end up with a large snake wrapped around your neck in ten minute’s time.

python on neck IMG_0908python on neck IMG_0910

When we arrived, the rickety screen door was open, and sitting a foot from the entryway was a teenage girl with a very obese skink on her shoulder. A giant tortoise was free-roaming one room over – the room that held the collectible toys. Yes, this was where we wanted to be.

We were there for an hour. In that hour, Noah held four different snakes, was fully educated on all sorts of things about pet snakes and snakes in the wild, and fell head over heels. As I watched his eyes, I saw them gain an amount of LoveLight that I’d never witnessed before in my son.

snake IMG_0688

A week later, after Noah having talked about his experience incessantly for said week, we took Chris back with us. This was the kind of decision that needed to be Father-Approved WAY in advance. Because I love snakes. Noah loves snakes. Ali likes snakes enough to say that she’s fine with Noah having one as a pet as long as it doesn’t keep her friends from wanting to come over. But what about Chris? He’s never really been on the snakey bandwagon. One could only hope that our obsession somehow softened the scaly blow for him.

We started out by asking to see The Big Snake – we’d heard of it on our last visit, but his cage was being cleaned on our last visit, so we couldn’t lay eyes on him.

As an aside, my own obsession with snakes started 21 years ago with a massive snake – a snake as big around as a large child. I met this snake when I was in Cyprus. He was in a rickety cage with a screen door latch and a crack in the opening. The whole thing looked like he could huff and puff and blow it right over any old time he wanted to. The thrill of seeing such a magnificent, gigantic creature so close to me and so able to squeeze me to death was oddly addictive. Perhaps I’m a Reptile-Specific Adrenaline Junkie.

So walking into a closet in Birmingham with no lightbulb (“The snake got in a fit and knocked the lights out the other day”) to see a snake the width of a telephone pole was right up my alley. We turned on our cell phone flashlights to see the cage at the back of the closet – or rather, the cage that was the entire back wall of the closet. Sure enough, he was delightfully huge. When inquired as to what he ate, they said “Oh, you know. Rabbits or Gerbils.”

…which explained the small furry animal section in the back of the pet shop. What a brilliant recycling program.

Then we went to the baby Ball Pythons, which is the kind that Noah wants. The employee handing him to Noah said that this particular snake was the only one that hadn’t eaten that day, so don’t worry if he was a little nippy.

(Noah: “I wanna be bitten by a snake!!”)

(Seriously. What happened to my son.)

As we held him, I inquired as to how many snakes the salesman personally owned.

“Oh I have 53 in my bedroom alone.”

“Umm…exactly why does one need 53 snakes in ones bedroom??”

“Because I’m working up to having 3,000. Because then I’ll have enough to breed them and make $150,000-200,000 a year. That’s what I’m going to do when I retire from here.”

I was then distracted entirely by the practicalities and the math involved here…

3,000 snakes means 3,000 mice a week. Except that he told Noah when you’re raising breeding snakes, you feed them every 5 days. So that’s 3,000 mice every five days. How do you keep up with who has had their mouse? Don’t you spend all day every day putting mice in tanks? And how do you possibly get that many mice? Is there a bulk mouse superstore somewhere that I don’t know about? Does CostCo have a Mouse Room in the back? Or is a mouse delivery service? Can you get 3,000 mice via Prime Shipping? That would be a fun overturned truck to see.

Now.

As for the explanation as to why one would do so well breeding Ball Pythons….

Ball Pythons are really popular right now – the most popular pet snake. They’re docile, they’re easy, they don’t grow too big (2-5 feet at full size), and breeders are creating some really wild and wacky colored and patterned Ball Pythons by breeding them with albinos and playing with genetic mutations. While a plain old Ball Python can be $50, a Morph can be $6,000 or more.

If you want to see all these bizarre creatures (there are ones that look like rotten bananas, ones that look like orange sherbet, ones that look like calico cats…), I recommend browsing the Morph Market. Careful – it might take the rest of your evening. They are FASCINATING. (At least to me.)

The thing is, though, I just have a bad feeling about the market for Ball Python morphs. What if it tanks like the Beanie Baby market? What do you do with 3,000 Ball Pythons in your bedroom alone at that point? I mean sure, it really makes for an interesting bullet point on your online dating profile, but…

Back to The Pet Shop.

rachel with snake IMG_0916snake kisses IMG_0920

We moved on to a “teenage” Ball Python, to experience how they feel once they’re nearly full-size. This was the one I insisted Chris get his feet wet with. And I don’t mean by peeing on them in complete fear, but he might have come close.

teenage ball python IMG_0875

Actually he handled it all very well and said he was open with having such a creature live in our house.

Finally, Noah really wanted to hold the larger Python he’d held last time – one that gets bigger than his Ball Python ever would. 

large python IMG_0905large python IMG_0893

The first thing the snake did was wrap around Noah’s neck and give it a little love squeeze. Noah’s reaction – one of a calm statement – “Ouch. He’s squeezing my neck.” and quiet “yeah.” when I asked if he wanted him moved – sealed the deal for me. This kid was ready for ownership.

He doesn’t have one yet – we’re making him wait until a little closer to his birthday to make sure the obsession sticks. But we’ve pretty much decided. Even though we’re a staunch no-pet family, snakes are easier than fish. You only have to feed them once a week (which we’ve practice with Not-Crazy-Renee’s snake), and if you leave home for vacation, you just leave them and they’re perfectly happy to be left alone to digest last week’s mouse. They don’t shed (except for their skin, that is), they don’t pee on furniture, you don’t have to let them outside, and they cuddle really well.

But for now, it seems like True Love.


noah mom snake IMG_0886

Ali just needs reassurance that it won’t keep her friends away.

The Definition of Mild Soreness.

“You might feel some mild soreness for the rest of the day. Resume your normal activities tomorrow.”

That’s what I was told on Wednesday, after having my Endoscopy with multiple biopsies and double dilation of my throat. Before the procedure, I wasn’t told anything – I just assumed that surely such a procedure would make me sore and planned accordingly for “mild soreness.”

I did not, however, plan for such extreme throat and chest pain as to leave me speechless, breathless, and trying all the old labor positions to find some relief for pain.

(Note: I’ve had a tonsillectomy,  well known as the most painful surgery for an adult on the planet, and found it to be not as bad as I’d been told. So when I say this pain was bad, know I’m saying it was worse than my tonsillectomy and bordering on Noah’s adventurous labor and delivery.)

Apparently they left an extra special amount of air in my stomach, air that they were supposed to suck out when they finished the procedure. Somebody forgot to suck on that straw. So I had an intensely bursting chest full of air – that pain was a 9.

And then there was my throat, which felt like it had been ravaged by killer wasps, and was burning and swollen beyond belief – to the point that I could not swallow my own spit, let alone water or medicine. I did attempt to swallow half a lortab, but it got stuck in my throat and just had to dissolve there.

Furthermore, due to the extreme swelling and narrowing of my throat (ironic since I had this procedure because my throat was too narrow and I choked a lot), the air trapped in my chest could not find any way out. I could feel giant painful bubbles make their way up, knock heavily on the door, then turn around and go back down, elbowing and grumbling as they reversed course. Every time I felt one of those bubbles approaching the doorbell, I braced myself for the worst pain of all.

So here I was, for hours, a spit spitting, doubled over, full of unwanted air, in horrific pain mess of a human.

I texted Chris at 12:30 and told him of my extreme pain (he’d dropped me off at home after the procedure and had gone to work, as I was only supposed to experience a little discomfort.) I told him I couldn’t talk to call the doctor. I needed him to do it.

He called, he left a message. He got irate and called again, then left another message. He got more irate and called and pressed all the buttons until he got the wrong human, explained my emergency situation to her, and she promised to contact the right human for him and tell her to call. Three hours in, no one had called back and he was sure his wife was dying.

So he called back, got the wrong human again, and said “I’m bringing my wife back right now.” 

“Um, hold on sir. Let me see if I can get Right Human on the phone.”

She found Right Human.

Right Human told him in no uncertain terms that you can’t go back. If you have a problem, go to the ER. Once you leave the Endoscopy center, you are dead to them. (Which was nearly true in my case.)

So my steamingly furious husband came and got me and took me to the ER.

We got to the waiting room, noting the four police cars surrounding it (comforting), and entered into a quiet place of moroseness.

One lady was holding her chest to make sure the front desk realized she was having chest pains.

Another woman had a big nasty looking bandage covering up part of her leg, but not the entirety of the purple swelling.

They shortly wheeled a wheelchair from the back with a hoarsely, phlegmily, and continuously hacking woman in it – and parked it directly across from me.

The Chest Pain woman’s husband inquired as to how long it would be.

“Well, they have an emergency back there, so it may be a while.”

The entire room murmured at the same time… “Of course they do because this is the…emergency room.”

An officer came through the door. His hat said SBI – assumably State Bureau of Investigation. He had a gun on his hip and rubber gloves and an empty paper sack in his hands. She nodded him back.

I whispered to Chris between air bubbles, “What do you think he’s going to put in the sack??”

“A gun? A hand? Lunch?”

They came to get Chest Pains lady. She tried to stand up.

“Do you need a wheelchair?”

“Well yes, I’ve been having chest pains for two hours.”

“Oh. Hmm. I’m not sure if we have one available.”

Phlegmy lady offered, “You can have mine, honey.”

She hacked a few more times and removed herself to the chair six inches away from me. I wouldn’t have sat in her wheelchair without a thorough Lysol dousing, but Chest Pains Lady must have been desperate because she gladly plopped in her sweet new ride, a late model Germ10x 4WD. I could feel the phlegm definitely reaching my airspace now.

Chris whispered, “I’m sorry. I know this is miserable. But it was our only option.”

They called me back to triage. Asked me what was going on. I explained that I couldn’t even swallow my own spit. The observant nurse chuckled and said “Sounds like exactly what you went in to get help for.” 

Pithy.

We walked down the hallway. SBI Guy was headed back our way – except that now, his sack was decidedly not empty. The room on the end of the hall was being guarded by three policemen. But I was still processing what all could be housed inside that paper sack.

585d91527de17.image

At least it wasn’t dripping. 

They put me in a room. I got all the usual visits. Questions. Repeating of my information to half a dozen people. Finally, their biggest shot of morphine mixed with Zofran, because morphine and I don’t get along. Then a CT scan to make sure I hadn’t had a perforation that allowed air into my chest cavity. They wheeled me and my gurney out of the scan room, down a hallway, and into a dark, abandoned hallway and put on the brakes. 

“They’ll come back and get you when they’re ready for you.”

I hope the police are guarding that doorway well. 

The morphine was really starting to kick in and the room definitely had an eerie horror movie glow. The lights were surely flickering. I expected the paper bag to come tip-toeing toward me at any minute, a dismembered thumb looking for its body.

A few minutes and/or a morphine nightmare nap later, someone was asking me, “Do you belong in the ER?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll get you back to your room.”

Thankfully, it wasn’t the murdurous criminal posing as a nurse. 

Epilogue:

…I didn’t have a perforation. I stayed in significant pain for the next 72 hours. My doctor said that my throat was the narrowest ever, and was narrow all the way down (the pain taught me how long esophoguses actually are), so he’d had to use some heavy duty tools on me. (Read: It’s all my fault. #ThroatShaming) 

…My diagnosis is EoE, an allergic sensitivity that creates a rigid and constantly narrowing throat due to food allergies that I didn’t know I have. So now I get to do food allergy testing and eliminate all the things from my diet. 

…After I finally quit hurting, I of course got an infection from all the medications he put me on post-procedure. Ironically, as that happened on Sunday, I called the office, got the after-hours answering service, and they guaranteed me a callback from a *doctor* within 20 minutes. If only Wednesday’s issues had been after hours, they might have actually called us back.

…It is now Monday, 6 days post-procedure, and I am starting to feel nearly normal. Which means it’s time to get my back pricked with 80 allergens to see what my problem is.

…And finally, somebody always asks if they should or says they feel guilty for doing so, so let me clarify: if there is anything humorously worthwhile in this post, please laugh. It makes it have some value, and makes me happy.

The Problem With Paris.

Last week, I was in Eastern Europe. I’m still mentally unpacking all of the beauty I saw and all of the beautiful people I met there. 

But getting there…was not so pretty.

Specifically, Paris.

When I saw our flight itinerary and realized we were going to be flying through Paris both coming and going, I groaned with missed opportunity. How could one land in Paris and never see anything but the inside of the airport? It just wasn’t right.

However, the airport staff, and the airport itself, assured me that we missed nothing.

Our flight to Paris began in Atlanta at 4:45pm eastern, 3:45pm central. It ended at 6:00am Paris time, which was 11:00pm central, meaning that it was *not quite* my normal bedtime yet. Our seven hours of lost time was exactly our seven hours of should-have-been sleep. Which was quite disorienting. 

We were herded in line with a bunch of people to go through French Security, which I wasn’t expecting, as we were just going from one flight to another. We had literally just walked off a secure airplane but apparently that’s enough time to get naughty enough to need to be subjected to a full body cavity search. 

I did not get a full body cavity search. But I might have preferred it.

My friend Kelly was in front of me, so I followed her lead as she followed the lead of those in front of her (security instructions are difficult to read in French.) I put my locked carry-on on the belt, then I put my camera bag on the belt, then I took off my watch and put it in a tray. Kelly walked through the scanny machine. As I glanced over to see if it was my turn, the blond haired whatever-the-French-version-of-TSA lady landed her icy stare on me. 

She was on the other side of the conveyor belt and she pointed to my camera bag and started speaking rapid fire French. Or maybe rapid missile French. Whatever it was it definitely didn’t sound friendly.

giphy-28
I did the wide-eyed dumb American stare and head shake and murmured something annoying like “What was that?”

She switched to thick English. And pointed to my camera bag. 

“Any laptop? Tablet?!”

”No.”

She looked at me with hatred and suspicion and downright disbelief.

“NO TABLET EVEN??”

“No.”

She shoved it through with a huff.

I walked toward the X-ray machine. 

As I got to it, the luggage scanner machine started beeping and Kelly’s carry-on came backwards on the belt. Another angry French woman started yelling.

“Whose bag is this? There’s a Laptop in it!! Must be taken out!!”

“Oh, it’s my friend Kelly’s. She’s already over there. KELLY! Come back!!”

As Kelly came back and fished her key out, I realized I should probably do the same. Because there wasn’t a laptop or tablet in my camera backpack, but there was a laptop in my locked carry-on.

Whoops.

So we both unlocked our cases and began pulling our laptops out.

Kelly put hers in the bin and all was fine.

But oh.

When Angry French Officette Number One saw me working at my bag, she descended upon me with the fury of the Frenchmen who shoved Marie Antoinette under the guillotine.

giphy-30

“YOU said no! You said you didn’t have a laptop!”

“You were asking about that bag and I wasn’t thinking about this bag. I’m sorry.”

My mistake was the last word. 

She was now chopping off all the gentry’s heads.

“SORRY. You SORRY, huh? SORRY!! No. Take bag! Go stand over there!”

tumblr_nkpelk2xIo1u0k6deo6_250

I was confused and hesitated.

“OVER THERE!! You think about what you have done!!”

She shoved my stuff at me and pointed me toward a bench in between the two lines.

I walked three steps backward and waited for my turn to be burned at stake, pondering poor Joan of Arc, who led the French Army to an impossible victory and they still burned that poor teenager on a woodpile. She prob had a laptop in her carry-on, too.

Kelly came and stood by me, a loyal fellow enemy of the state to the end. She whispered to me, “Ignore her. She’s just an angry person. It’s not your fault.

After a few people went by and a few glares in my direction, she shoved a few bins, made room for my stuff, and angrily waved me back.

I put my bags back on the belt, NOT saying I was sorry, NOT making eye contact, as she berated me repeatedly in her loud angry rant.

“You remember now? How about now?? YOU REMEMBER NOW YOU HAVE A LAPTOP??”

e69dd267d85d7418e7c4caca3bb11a8e

And I nearly sprinted through the X-Ray machine before she could lock me up in Bastille.

giphy-27

We wound our way through the insanely circuitous airport and found out we had to ride a shuttle to our next gate. We waited for the shuttle for five minutes, and then had a ridiculous nearly-hour-long shuttle ride, as our gate was the previous gate and we had to do the full circle of the monstrosity to get back to it.

During this ride, we were all laughing and enjoying the ridiculous situations I seem to find myself in. Perhaps a bit loudly, we were discussing and laughing about Angry French Officette Number One. There were a few quiet, sullen looking people on the other side of the bus. None of them seemed to be paying us any attention, but I did observe that we were being much more interactive and loud than anyone else.

As an older French lady hobbled between us to get off the bus, she spat one word at us with venom.

I don’t know what the word was (alas, my Googling didn’t help either) but I gathered the meaning by the hateful undertone in which it was delivered.

And I found myself humbled. Not by Angry French Officette Number One, but by the  quiet old lady.

And swore from then on to be subdued, mature, European Rachel.

(Which lasted approximately 1 day.)

(Good thing Eastern Europeans seemed to love me for who I was.)

On the way back through Paris, it all went wrong again.

We had just come from the Croatia airport, where my friend Nikki left a water bottle in her bag. The security man politely and kindly said, “Excuse me, but you seem to have left a water bottle in your bag. Could you please remove it?” 

I rolled my eyes at how easy her life was.

But the second we stepped literal foot into Paris, we got screamed at. For stepping off the line on which we were supposed to walk from the plane to the terminal.

When we arrived at hell-also-known-as-French-Security again, with much fear and trembling of running into my friend because she certainly would remember me nine days later (I dreamed of the second round of “YOU STILL SORRY?? YOU REMEMBER NOW?? HOW ABOUT NOW!?”)  But mercifully we didn’t see her, and mercifully (for me) it was Nikki that got screamed at this time.

They had the conveyor belt running too fast and the guy in front of me took too long to get his things off. Everyone’s bins started jackknifing and watches and iPads were about to start flying.

OddballHeavenlyFinnishspitz-size_restricted

But somehow, even though Nikki was behind me, this was all her fault.

Angry French Officette Number Three started screaming “Your valise!! YOUR VALEEEESE!!  YOU!!! Take your valise off NOW!!”

CanineVacantGoldenretriever-size_restricted

At that moment, or maybe it was after it took us an hour and forty five minutes (and 10,000 steps and two shuttle rides and two sets of incorrect directions by unhelpful French Airline Employees) to find our gate, or after we had a three hour layover in which we were going to get lunch but by the time we found our gate they were already boarding so we didn’t even get a bottle of water, or maybe it was when two out of three of us got pulled from the boarding line and it looked like we weren’t going to get to fly but they just wanted to do another security interrogation on us…whenever it was, Nikki and I made a blood oath that we would never visit Paris, never fly through Paris, nay, never meet a Parisian again, if we could help it. 

Sure, they may have cool buildings. But they’re not worth the Angry French. Pictures of the Eiffel Tower will do just fine for us.